Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Race Report: Black Diamond Half-Iron

Okay, I'm finally ready to write this up. Since doing the race, life has been just crazy. Unfortunately the day after we got back, I had to put my 17 year old cat Noggin to sleep, the last of our two "first babies" to go (our 14 year old dog died 2 years ago). Then it was a whirlwind getting ready to have my two step-sons and their wives here for the weekend, a very exciting visit for everyone in the family - the first time we've all been together under one roof. Wow! We all went to the Ducks-Cougars game together, which was great fun. Then just after they all headed back for Washington it was time for the robotics team practice and then boom! it was right into Asa's 10th birthday yesterday. On top of that, we unexpectedly fell in love with and adopted a 9 week old Australian Cattle Dog - Australian Shepherd puppy that we've named Sophie. Of course, life never settles down around here like I think it's going to. Just when one thing smooths out, we seem to add something else to add to the craziness.

So anyways, on to the race report.

If you've been reading the saga of my summer's experimental triathlon training, you'll know that I went into this race with a big question mark hanging over my head about how it would turn out. Half-Iron is just not a distance you can bluff your way through. Undertrain and it hurts. Bad. Overtrain and it hurts. Bad. Nail it just right and you can have a great day.

Very short recap: Did my normal base training through winter and early spring. In late spring, decided to take a detour and try and experimental triathlon training protocol called Crossfit Endurance that focuses solely on intensity with no slower-paced long endurance efforts in the swim, bike, or run. After several months of this training, I raced an Olympic distance event at the Portland Triathlon. It did not go so well from an endurance standpoint. At that point I decided to jettison the Crossfit Endurance protocol as I was sincerely worried about using it to train for the half-Ironman and having enough endurance to compete at that distance. Then embarked on a totally experimental and crazy self-devised and self-inflicted program to bring myself back up to HIM endurance levels in 5 weeks or less. At the beginning of this time period, just a simple 45 mile bike ride felt overwhelming. But toward the end of the training, I could start to feel my old endurance flowing back, giving me some hope that the race would be doable.

So it was that with 4 weeks of training and a way-too-short 6-day taper, I stood on the lakeshore at Black Diamond and contemplated the day ahead of me. Complicating matters was a nagging left hamstring injury I picked up when I tripped while trail running with my sister. What would the day hold??

Swim: 30:06

For starters, the swim in this lake is always beautiful. The race directors kindly start us off at 9:00 am, a lovely time of day to be standing on a lake shore in the autumn sunlight (as opposed to the cold and almost dark of a 7:00 am start). The weather would be as near perfect a day as God hands out in the Fall in Washington: 70 and sunny. The race is extremely well-organized and the volunteers are plentiful. All is well. The men go first, women and relay swimmers 5 minutes later. I take off at a comfortable pace, the HIM swim is always so nice. You don't have to kill yourself with speed like in a sprint, yet you don't have to swim for an hour like in an Ironman. I felt like I hit my groove like I had done in Portland and swam strong and smooth. Out of the water in 30.06, about a 1:25 pace per 100y, which is reasonable.

T1: 2:55

T1 went well, although I don't care for the long u-turn chute you have to run through with your bike (on grass and mud). A couple of years ago my cleats jammed up with mud in this transition area, but this year's dry weather made for much easier going. Out onto the course in 2:55, which sounds slow for T1 but was one of the faster T1 times (it's a long T1 area to traverse). All is smooth. Practice has made good work when it comes to transitions today. Still, I see in the race results that a couple of folks manage to have sub-2:00 transitions, so there's room still for improvement there.

Bike 2:53:14

I love this bike course. They've changed it up from a couple of years ago, but it's still a very nice course. Course description says its 57 miles instead of the standard 56, don't know what's up with that. Lots of long rolling hills (which I like!), very smooth pavement, very good course marshalling (no drafting going on that I could see due to plentiful marshalls doing their job), wide shoulders for a lot of the course. There are a couple of strange out-n-backs with turnarounds that you hit twice, and this slows you down when you're in the groove. Early on in the bike, I go by the campground where we were staying and Wayne and the kids (and dog) are all out cheering. That was a big boost to start the bike with.

For the most part, the bike is uneventful but not optimal. I can tell starting out that I haven't tapered for anywhere near long enough and my muscles are still feeling flat and a little tired. Nothing to be done about that as it was a limitation of my shortened training timeframe. Still, I manage to hold a 19.7 pace, which is reasonable for the day. My one regret is that as I pulled a gel out of my Bento box on my bike, another one went flying out. Being the nice little competitor that I am, I slowed to a stop, waited for cars to go past, circled back to get it, and carried on. Cost me about 2 minutes on the bike course though. I spend a ridiculous amount of time beating myself up mentally for taking the time out of my game plan to get it, alternating with being aghast that I would even consider leaving litter on the course in order to gain a minute or two. What can I say, you have lots of time to argue with yourself about such trivialities out on the HIM bike course. Eventually, I come around a bend and see the sun hitting the hills and turning the fields to gold and all is forgotten as I enjoy the sheer beauty around me and the fact that I'm still out here able to do this awesome thing. My head is back straightened on again for loop two of the bike.

In loop 2, the old hip starts giving me hell with the hamstring injury. I make a big promise to my hamstring that if it will hold together for the next couple of hours, I will give it a couple months off from all biking and running and let it truly heal up. All of the looping and out-n-back on the course lets me see where the other women are at. There's a bunch in front of me, but many of them are relay riders that I start reeling in. I can see a few really smokin' fast ladies out in front and I imagine there are a few behind me that either will or won't catch me until the run. It all makes for fun headgames on the course. I pass two women in the last mile of the bike course that passed me earlier, just for fun.

T2: 1:50

My cheering section was there again, giving me some great energy. I could've been faster in T2. I changed socks. Then forgot my hat and went back for it. Oh well.

Run: 2:12:19

Well, what can you say with a sucky run time like that? I just didn't have the endurance to run at the kind of pace I would've liked to. Only one run over 10 miles in the last 5 months is probably what I'd lay that at the feet of. But on the bright side, the weather was gorgeous, the course is very very pretty, and I had the extremely pleasant company of a relay runner (and Ironman) from Canby, Washington who kept my mind off it all with some nice chatter about various HIM and IM races.

Unlike my HIM of a couple of years ago, I executed my nutrition plan flawlessly and had no bonk to contend with. In the last mile or so, I left whatever I had left in my legs on the course, and broke into a sprint when I saw Wayne and the kiddos at the finish line.

Finish: 5:40:37. Very very close to my last HIM time - 55 seconds off. 3rd in my AG, 3rd overall Master's Female, 15th woman overall.

With what I had going into the race and all of those question marks, it felt like a respectable time to turn in. Doing this time now with so little preparation jammed into a few weeks makes me feel like I need to come hit this course again in full form and see what I can do with it. I continue to feel like my Crossfit training has been a real asset to my triathlon training this season, and I can't wait to see what I can do with another year of that under my belt as well. As always, I'm grateful to be out here, to feel strong and have this body that can do such an amazing thing, that's the real gift of the day.


cherelli said...

wow, what a wonderful day you had for your race - congratulations on a very fast time overall! Love that you swung back to get your gel; I remember at a HIM this year I saw a guy DUMP his gel pack on the road - I was very annoyed - but being a slow cyclist didn't have a chance in hell of catching him!!

Lyndsey Norr said...

Congrats!! I was actually at this race cheering on my mom the whole time.

It's probably a good thing you went back for the gel...that announcer at the beginning was pretty adamant you would be DQ'd if you were caught littering.

Hopefully sometime very soon I'll be competing with my mom, rather than just cheering. :)

TriGirl 40 Something said...

Congrats on an impressive race! You are so strong and made up that limited endurance training to have a race many folks (including me) would be envious of!

So sorry to hear about the loss of your cat - but a big welcome to your new puppy!