Kansas 70.3 Race Report
The Kansas 70.3 Half Ironman marked my first long distance race since August 2007, when I had raced at the 5430 Long Course. I took eight months off from swimming and cycling from April 2008 to January 1st 2009. I probably ran about 20 miles a week for a few months, but then going some months with no training whatsoever. I was trying to get healed from a bike/car accident in March 2008, and hopefully I am close to 100% at this point. I still have some reminders of the accident, like a stiff back every couple days, but for the most part I feel as good as a 40+ year old male can. Or should I say a 40+ year old male who chases a soon to be 2 year old around on a daily basis. This activity wears me out more than training ever will. ;-)
Going into this Half Ironman I was being conservative in my estimate of my expectations, and honestly, I had no idea what to expect! My swimming had been going well, but I had only done a handful of hard workouts. My running was going well, but I was averaging about 20 miles a week of running, so really, I had no idea what I could run. The bike miles have been pathetic and I changed up how I trained over the winter to see if I could offset the lack of training. This past winter I added in some power crank workouts on the bike, Tabata Intervals, and dead lifts. I don’t know if any one thing made a difference but something allowed me to bike post a decent bike split with limited cycling mileage. Since Jan 1st my averages were as follows: 8 hours per week of training broken down into 5300 swim yards per week, 49 miles per week on the bike, and 20 miles per week on the run. I also average 1 hour per week for weight training. This was going to be interesting indeed.
Race morning was pretty normal but I did wake up with a different attitude than I went to bed with. Of course the pre-race meal of pizza, coke and ice cream helped me load up calorie wise and enjoying dinner with Grant, Matt, Nick, Ashley and Todd made me very relaxed.
Per usual I was into and out of T1 early. I had the pleasure of having 5-time World Champion Simon Lessing zip up my wetsuit. How cool was that? When our wave was called I moved out to the start line and lined up with the inside buoys. When the gun went off I took off easy and was 3rd in my AG to the first buoy, but I soon swam to the right and was off course. This was a problem I would repeat over and over. UGH. I don’t start my watch on the swim anymore – it just doesn’t matter and it causes way too much stress. I swam what I swam and why worry about it. I was out of T2 quickly, held up briefly by the 45 year old who wanted to walk his bike in front of me, when I kept shouting, ‘Can I get by? Please move – can I get buy?’ – but to no avail. Of course the same fellow hammered up the first hill and once we go to the top, blew to smithereens. Red lining the first few minutes of a 56 mile bike isn’t actually optimal. :-)
Surprisingly, the bike went real well for me on race day. In the 10 days leading up to the race I did 3 x 3+ hour rides to get a little aerobic boost. I wasn’t lacking for endurance at all which was a good sign. I ended all those rides at 18.5 mph and around 185 watts. I figured on race day a 2:55 was possible. What changed was that when I woke up at 2am on Sunday morning I asked myself why I thought I was going to ride 2:55 when I had ridden all the hard courses out there and 2:42 was probably my norm. I’ve had a few low 2:30s and even one 2:29, but worst case scenario should be 2:42 for me. I knew that was 21mph or so. So, I rode by feel. I watched my watts and even kept them down on the uphills, but at 45 minutes into the race I was still averaging right at my threshold (253 NP), which was a bit unsettling. My goal going into the race was to ride at about 200-210 watts! I thought I was going to blow up after 40 miles but I felt good and kept on keeping on. I kept the watts around 220 for the remainder of the ride and it turns out I averaged 218 NP for the final 1:51 (38 miles)- right on track. At 35 miles I even decided to push a little harder to see if I could hold the watts above 220 for my overall average. I ended the ride passing and re-passing a few people I know and even came into T2 pretty mellow: small chain ring, lots of spinning and thinking about a quick transition and being light on my feet for the run. My total bike time was 2:42:34 and my watts were 229NP. I had to take a quick potty stop in T2, but I was out and onto the run course in 1:47.
Once on the run, I had Ashley Walker (one of our CU Tri Team Members) as a carrot and Amy Kuitse (one of the D3 coaches) ahead of her. I passed Amy around mile 1 and we started chatting and we were pushing each other a tad too hard as we went through 2 miles at 6:45 pace (!). Yikes – I just ran a 5k off the bike two weeks ago at 6:38 pace. So, I backed off, Amy backed off and Ashley kept on trucking. I left Amy at about mile 4 and I went through 5 miles in 36:00 (7:12 pace). I picked up the pace slightly and re-passed Ashley at mile 6 or so, went through 10 miles in 1:11:20 or 35:00 for the 2nd 5 miles (around 7:09 pace overall). The last 5k is where I like to put down the hurt and that is what I tried to do. But my watch was telling me different. I was tying up quite a bit – not leaning, not pushing off my back foot, but trying to pick up my leg – I was all over the place form wise. So, I just focused on my breathing and going as hard as I could. With 1.5 miles to go we hit our last turn-around. I looked for Amy and didn’t see her. Uh-oh, what happened to her? Well, not soon after I thought that, I heard a sweet voice in my left ear say, ‘Come one Mike, keep working, good job, keep going’ – yep – it was Amy – going by me like I was standing still. I kept her in sight as best I could, but there was no catching her. She went on to finish 3rd in her AG – even with the recent knee problems she’s had. Congrats Amy! You are so incredibly tough! I struggled the last mile, pushing hard for a 1:35 run split that was once in the bag – but it wasn’t to be. I ended up at 1:37:31 or 7:26 pace. I crossed the finish line and just took a moment to breathe in the finish line – all the pain I went through to get there – the physical and mental struggles of the past year – how I wasn’t sure I had the desire to race anymore , or even if I liked training at all.
I can tell you without question the encouragement I got from Amy, Ashley, the CU crew at mile 4, Owen Hammond (1:22 run split!), Gabe, Jordan, Drew (4:40 as 19 year old!), Grant, Matt (2:29 bike split!), David, Lyndsey, Ray, and many others, it was really FUN to be racing again. I missed it and I can’t wait to do it again!
Although triathlon is an individual sport, it’s been about T-E-A-M for me in so many ways these past 8 months. The CU Tri Team, which I have the privilege of coaching, has inspired me to get my butt back in shape. Thank YOU TEAM! Special 'Thanks' to Dan and Jordan for asking me to coach the Team. Thanks to Mel and Hope for supporting me in every way possible. Thanks to Michael Folan at Infinit – their product is 2nd to none. Craig at Boulder Max Muscle has helped me fine tune my nutrition and its getting better each week. Thanks Craig! Danny Suter at Boulder Performance Net has taught me how to deadlift – and I have every reason to believe that my strength on the bike Sunday is a direct result of the thousands of dead lifts I did over the fall and winter. Danny pushed me to a new pain threshold each week and to that I am grateful. Danny also keeps me from doing stupid things. Thanks Danny!
Keep On Fighting the Good Fight!