Saturday, May 11, 2013

starting now, I'm starting over

After an extremely full eight days, I arrived home last night from a combination work and racing trip.  Here's the short version: amazing drive, awesome course, solid race with some PRs and a Vegas worlds slot.  The town of St. George, the volunteers, and the race organizers are awesome.  Here's the ridiculously long race report!

St. George has been my target spring A race since I decided to tri again.  My build went great, and I came in full of confidence.  The only let-down was my lack of swimming in April due to the nerve entrapment in my left arm.  Oh well, can't stress about these things.  I knew my fitness was there, so I focused on thinking of the dedication and sacrifices I made--the mornings I swam in 17 degrees.  The afternoons when snow accumulated on my swim bag (both extremely rare occurrences in Tucson).  My key runs, rides, and bricks had gone near perfect to plan.  Time to execute.

I drove up from Tucson on Thursday and in my typical fashion I decided on the scenic route!  And it was worth it!  Panoramic views for the entire trip and all smooth sailing.  Highlights included snow-capped mountains in Flagstaff, crossing Lee's Ferry, seeing the famous Kaibab mule deer on the Kaibab plateau, and the simply amazing rock formations in northwest Arizona and southern Utah.

 On the descent into Lee's Ferry.

Looking down on the Colorado River.  Quite the drop!
I was greeted at my hotel with a welcome banner.  Signs of things to come in St. George.  The town really caters to the racers!

Welcome Banner at the Hampton Inn.

Friday was a hectic day, as typical for pre-race.  First an early morning brick along the Virgin River.  A beautiful bike path with lots of wildlife along the way.

I had to call in to a work meeting, and then made it to packet pick-up.  I drove the run course, which climbs up above the town.  Brutal uphill for four miles, down for 2.5 plus to the turnaround, and then back the same route.

About mile 5 (and 8-ish) of the run looking out over St. George.
 I headed out to Sand Hollow Reservoir, the site of the miserable ironman swim last year with so many people pulled from the water.  The flag predicted a different day, and it was.

Glassy water with a few hundred new friends.  I was not the only one that felt like hanging out on the rocky islands all afternoon.  Decent visibility, perfect temp (60-ish) for a wetsuit in my opinion, and a beautiful day.

Looking out at two of the three small islands that the swim goes around.

Alas, time to move on.  After setting up my bike in T1, I drove the bike course, which was just as stunning as expected.  Just incredible.  Driving the course, I thought it would be ridiculously hilly--scary-fast downhill followed by punishing uphill.  I took a ton of photos along the way, but here are two of my favorites (the approach to and within the Snow Canyon State Park).

Oh well, everyone has to ride the same course, and I had been doing a lot of climbing specifically to prepare for this.  Made it back just in time for the last pre-race meeting.  Pasta dinner of course, and then back to the hotel.  I tried not to think about the fact that I was setting my alarm for 2:45 am Arizona time...

Up quickly in the morning for coffee, a couple bagels, and more coffee.  Off to catch a shuttle to the swim.  Uneventful setup, swim prep, etc.  Suddenly it was time to go.  My wave was one of the earlier ones, so there wasn't too much time to stand around and get nervous.  With about 6 minutes between waves, the warm-up was a frantic one.  I seeded myself right on the front thanks to my building swim confidence.  Off we went!  The swim felt absolutely fantastic.  I found my rhythm and clear water right away.  I was sighting frequently, but found that my line was staying perfect.  Just one of those days!  Without having a watch on the swim, I had assumed that I met my goal time of around 28 minutes, but no point in worrying about it.  Onto the bike!  I later found out my swim was just under 30 minutes.  Would have been a let-down during the race, which is the reason I never wear a watch for the swim!

The first four miles was really flat around the lake before a significant climb up out of the reservoir--around a mile of 6%.  I wasn't feeling it, but I wasn't dying either.  I knew that it would be rollers after the first climb, so I focused on not red-lining early.  After the climb, I started coming together.  The ride definitely wasn't as tough as I had pictured.  There was a good amount of climbing, but the rollers really suit my riding.  The Snow Canyon climb was tough, but more than manageable.  I pushed, but didn't waste myself.  The last ten miles back down to town I focused on getting my heart rate back down and mentally preparing for the run.  The bike ended up quite a bit easier than I anticipated, and I came in well under my pre-race guesstimate of 2:45.

T2 was very quick and uneventful, and I was off running.  Due to the early wave, the course was EXTREMELY quiet.  I focused on picking off people that I could see, and then I was in no-man's land.  I had prepared myself mentally for it, and focused on quick feet and maintaining a high heart rate.  I felt THAT feeling early on the run and knee a port-a-jon was probably in my future, but no point in worrying about it.  I am a strong uphill runner due to my short stride, so I pushed up.  My stride hurts my pace downhill, so I just tried to let go.  Quick cadence, leaning forward...just keep moving.  Before I knew it, I was at the turnaround, and on track for a PR run despite the uphill first half.  The awesome part about the run is that at the turnaround, you're only a couple miles from the finish as the crow flies, so you could hear the loudspeaker, music, and fans at the finish.  Great motivation.  There were highs and lows, but this is what I trained for.  I was not going to give into the urge to walk at the aid stations or lose focus.  At mile 8 I finally had to give in for a bathroom stop (or it was going to end very ugly).  I was there for two minutes before getting out the door.  After another mile, it was downhill to the finish.  Cadence, focus, quick feet.  Just don't stop.  I had not been passed much, but got nipped by one person in my age group about 1/2-mile from the finish.  I had no kick, which was disappointing, but also a sign that I had given it my all on the day.  I came in to the finish very satisfied, and immediately headed to the splashpad 100 feet away.  Perfect way to end it.  I spent an hour or so hanging around the finish, meeting a few new people, and welcoming friends across that had started in later waves.

I came across in 4:50:46, just a bit slower than my half PR (which came on a flat course), with a swim of 0:29:51, bike of 02:36:16, and run of 01:40:09 for a 16th-place finish in my age group (out of 248).  More importantly, despite my bathroom stop, I ran faster than two people ahead of me, and would have been faster than four or so more without the break.  Despite a much harder course than any other half I have done, it was a run PR of over 3 minutes (5 without the bathroom break).  I'm taking this as a huge gain, and I'm super happy about it.  My overall time was about 2 minutes faster than my PR for Vineman.  Good stuff.

I have to add in here that I am extremely impressed with the race organization/planning and the town of St. George.  I have not been in a race with such consistent crowd support along a 56-mile bike course.  There were SO many volunteers at the intersections and many business driveways.  I saw volunteers sprinting to keep cars from driving onto the course.  These are the small things that make good races great.  And this one was.  I can't wait to go back.

And here's the bonus.  Thanks to the roll-down, I punched my ticket for 70.3 worlds in Las Vegas in September.  With that, one of my three major goals for 2013 is in the books (the other two are still secret :) ).  This means I'll be able to race Steelhead 70.3 with nothing to lose.  12 weeks to go.  After a full week off (the longest break in 10 months), it's time to get back at it.  Current PRs are benchmarks.  Off to set new ones.

Some local fare.  No, I did not go for the polygamy porter.  But if I did, I'm sure I wouldn't have just one.  Cheers!

1 comment:

Joel Maley said...

Congrats again on a solid race Matt. We'll look forward to seeing you in Vegas.