Late last year I decided to pursue my life-long dream of trying to qualify for Hawaii Ironman. So what if I had only raced one triathlon (2009 Columbia Tri) since 2001, I have a bad knee, and I’m past my prime. I still have the fire burning in my belly to give it a go. I convinced a tri buddy from California to sign up with me for Ironman Louisville this August. We really didn’t have a whole lot of choices since most of the Hawaii qualifiers were already closed for 2011.
Although I raced tris extensively during the 1990s, most of my racing was done in California so I have little to no knowledge of the races in this region. Looking for another triathlon to sign up for to prepare me for Louisville IM, I stumbled upon the Kinetic Half Ironman. It seemed relatively local and cheap so I signed up. This is the only tri I plan to race before Louisville and I wanted to focus on the bike, nutrition, and gain valuable experience about racing tris again.
Thanks to my MMTC mentor Mark Yost, I got connected with Chuck and Michele Potter who were renting a house at Lake Anna for the race. I was able to crash on the floor there the night before the race and meet a bunch other MMTC members. After a 3-week cycle of high-volume training with some intense workouts thanks to Steve Levickas, I took a 1-week hard taper to prepare for the race. I was feeling strong before the race, but had no idea how I would hold up in a race setting. I’ve been trying to compare my workouts with what I used to do in my prime during the 1990s to gain a glimpse of my fitness level, but I knew the true test would be this race. Although there were threats of rain and thunderstorm, the weather turned out ideal with overcast skies and no wind. It was damp out and the roads were wet, but otherwise no complaints. My breakfast race morning consisted of a Balance Bar 2-hours before the race and a PowerBar about an hour later.
Swim: 34:54 for 1.2-miles (120/410). Walking up to the beach start, I felt like a novice since most of tri racing was from eons ago. Before the start of the race, I even asked a USAT referee some questions about race rules. This was the first time swimming in a wetsuit since the 2009 Columbia Tri, but my swim workouts have been going relatively well so I was hopeful for a decent time. It was a triangular swim course and it was overcast, so I was having trouble spotting the turn buoys. My navigational skills were atrocious as I zig-zagged along the course. Glancing at my watch as I came out of the water, I was disappointed with the time since I was hoping for a couple minutes faster.
T1: 3:24 (219/410). This is why I decided to do a prep race before Ironman Louisville…I have some bugs to work out. I struggled in T1. I had issues trying to get my shirt on. It got all tangled up. Then it was a series of awkwardness trying to get my socks and cycling gloves on. These are all kindergarten skills that I’m still learning!
Bike: 2:24:08 (16/410). I exited the bike transition and discovered that we had to run with our bikes for a stretch before we could mount. As soon as I mounted my bike I got stuck for half a mile behind 5 cars driving up the hill to exit the park. They were stuck behind a group of cyclists. As soon as I got clear of the cars, I missed a right hand turn and had to stop and turn around. So far my coming-out-of-retirement triathlon wasn’t going so well. However, from this point forward, everything started to click. The course involved an 8-mile ride out to a 20-mile loop which you repeated twice and then returning along the same 8-mile ride you began with. Although the course wasn’t flat, it was super fast. It had long, gentle inclines and declines which allowed me to stay aero and in my big ring for the entire ride. After one loop I was averaging 23.3 mph and I finished averaging 23.4 mph. My average HR for this leg was 150. I was very pleased with the time since it far exceeded what I had expected. I used Perpetuem and a couple swigs of PowerGel as my fuel sources and it seemed to do the trick.
T2: 1:15 (58/410). Thankfully, T2 was much smoother than T1. I traded my helmet, gloves, and cycling shoes for my race number belt and running shoes.
Run: 1:25:21 (8/410). The run course is 3 loops with a significant uphill to start each loop and a steep downhill to end it. The hilly nature prevented me from getting in a good running rhythm. Chuck Potter warned me about the hill to start the run, but its steepness and length didn’t register in my head until I was in the middle of it on the first loop. I ended up running 6:50s for the uphill miles, about 6:30 for the rolling miles, 6:20 for the downhill miles, and finished with a 6:08 for the downhill last mile. I finished strong and felt as if I could have continued longer for both the bike and the run. I loved that they had so many aid stations (about every mile) on the run course stocked with both Heed and water. I used PowerGel and a combination of Heed and water as my run fuel. I was hoping to run a couple minutes faster, but it was much hillier than I expected so I’ll accept it as a decent run. I felt weak on the uphills, but my legs still had plenty of fight left in them at the end.
Overall this was a solid race for me that exceeded my goals, but at the same time it revealed the glaring weaknesses of my swim and transitions. Next on the triathlon calendar is Ironman Louisville where I hope to qualify for Hawaii.