Thursday, September 5, 2013

Holy Hot Hy Vee (and Outer Limits Tri)

After having a disappointing result in Milwaukee at the USAT Age Group National Championship and taking a little time off, the next set of challenges was right around the corner!

Following a couple conversations with Rich and some contemplating about whether I was up to the task, I decided to go for a triple header! For three weekends in a row I would race. Week one was the Outer Limits Triathlon; a small sprint tri outside downtown Columbus. Week two I would finally complete the Hy Vee 5150 National Championship in Des Moines, Iowa (I had qualified for and registered for this race last year, but missed it due to injury). Finally, week three is the Ironman World Championship 70.3!

Best case scenario was that I would grow in distance each week and have solid results which would add to fitness and confidence. Worst case would be that my fragile balance of stress and recovery would tumble over the edge and my season would be over.

Week one was a solid week of training coming off my rest period and this culminated with the local Outer Limits sprint. I had never done this race before, but I was urged by a local triathlete to check it out - and I'm really glad I did! It takes place just south of downtown at the Anderson Concrete quarry. The day was incredible with bright blue skies, cool temps, and little wind. The 800 meter swim was declared wetsuit legal so I donned my DeSoto Speed Tube bottoms only and just sported my tri suit on top. This worked really well and was super quick to kick off in T1. I came out of the water in third and had been able to do a lot of drafting on the second position holder to save energy. I ran past my draft buddy on my way to my bike once I exited the water - now there was just one more. I was excited to pound out a solid bike split over the 16 mile course. I had done a really solid 60 miler the evening before and was feeling confident in my cycling legs. They didn't let me down. I was able to take over the lead about two miles in and I never looked back! I hit the run knowing I had a sizable lead, but still wanted to see what kind of 5K I would be able to produce. In a race first for me, I followed a duathlete, who was ahead of me, and we took a wrong turn. We sorted it out within a quarter mile, but it definitely hurt my pace average. Nonetheless, I got back on course and crossed the line still in charge of the leader position.

This race was largely attended by novices, so it wasn't a world class win, but it sure felt good! I wanted a quick pop of confidence and this delivered! This was a really fun and easy going event that I would like to do again if my schedule allows.

Week two was quite a bit more relaxed with several recovery days, which seemed like a good idea. I rode to Des Moines with my RWB buddy, Chris, on Friday. Chris and I picked up packets, attended way too many race briefings, and got in a short workout in all three disciplines before racking our bikes in transition and retreating to our hotel to feed and rest for an early wake up.

A little background: the Hy Vee Triathlon is two races in one. There is the 5150 US Championship and the general entry Hy Vee Triathlon. Both complete the same course, but they are separated for start times, awards, and results. My performance at the Giant Eagle 5150 Triathlon in July had qualified me to race in the 5150 US Championship and because of this, registration was very reasonable. The only downside was that I had qualified as an "Elite Age Group Male", meaning that I would not compete against only men 30-34, but men of all ages who had race winning potential. While I normally enjoy this, I had picked up this event as a total afterthought and my focus was very much on the half iron distance now, not short course - and with $5,000 on the line for first, these guys are real-deal fast. I went in knowing this was an appearance race and I wasn't there to win any awards.

A bonus of racing in the elite open division is that we were the first to hit the water following the male and female pros. This makes for very little traffic on the course and basically anyone you do come across it can be safely assumed that you're racing them.

Des Moines had been going through a major heat wave with record breaking temperatures.  On Friday night when we arrived, the air temp was 104*F (and that isn't a dry heat), which broke the old record on that day by an entire 5 degrees.  On race morning, a line of severe storms blew through bringing with it slightly cooler temps and a 45 minute delay for the start of the race.

From our race prep swim the day before, we knew this water was ridiculously warm. When we showed up in transition on race morning, official water temperature was announced to be 86*F... Holy Sh!t. I made the decision then that I would swim without my swim skin to eliminate an added layer and just rock my DeSoto Liftfoil Trisuit. When we hit the water, these boys didn't mess around. They hit it hard and hit it fast! My race plan called for going hard for 400 meters and then lengthening out my stroke and settling in. Knowing this, I went along with the ridiculous pace and threw my share of elbows and kicks to defend my space in the washing machine of brown water and human limbs. At some point before the first turn buoy, I caught a mouthful of brown bath water that went straight down my windpipe. This instantly brought on an attack of panicked thinking of "You need to stop immediately... You're gonna drown... For God's sake, begin breast stroking". It had been a while since I had heard these voices and it took me a minute to convince myself that I am a capable swimmer and I would be fine. By the time I got control of my thoughts, I had lost touch with the group and I knew I was in for a long, hot, solo swim.

Once I got out of the water and saw a time of nearly 28 minutes, I knew my day had just become a training day with a finisher's medal. I pushed some decent power on the bike, but nothing like I would have needed to contend in this event. I enjoyed the ride, caught a few guys, and worked hard without really hurting.

Hitting the run, I thought I would see what my legs had. The answer was not much. I ran the first mile at race pace and then backed it off to what I'm hoping will be my half iron pace this weekend. I had to swallow a lot of pride, but I knew there was no point in burying myself for a race that I had lost in the first 1.5K.

At the finish, Chris and I enjoyed a cornucopia of free samples, post race massage, an ice cream sandwich, and even a photo booth.

Even though this result will show as my slowest Olympic in two years, I'm really glad I went. It was a great chance to hang out with Chris (a fellow Navy vet), explore Des Moines, and race some uber talented guys.

As I type this from our rental house at Lake Las Vegas, all focus is on Sunday!


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