Things are starting to come together. This was my final race before Nationals. Last year I also did a sprint (Pumpkinman) three weeks before Nationals and it worked really well. It's far enough away to allow for a hard effort and recovery without affecting my taper.
First, a disclaimer- the Bethel tri is a bit of a throwback. As a part of that, the competition is not extensive. I knew heading in that Kurt P would not be there, but two rivals, Jeff F and Rob F would be. The three of us have swapped places several times the last two years. I excel at the swim, Jeff at the bike, and Rob at the run. My swim and Jeff's bike pretty much offset each other, and our run times are the same. Rob's a bit behind me in the water, close on the bike, and then kills the run. Typically, the winner among the three of us is determined by which leg is relatively longer. Just two weeks ago, it was Rob, me, Jeff. One week earlier, it was Jeff, me, Rob. Polarbear, it was Rob, me, Jeff. I should also note that they are both in the next older age group, and we never seem to start together. So we never know where we stand until the results come out. Bethel is a 1k swim, 25k bike and 6k run. So the swim is slightly favored here. Driving up to the race, I figured I would need to go strong early and just try to hold on.
Upon signing in, I saw that all of the men started together in the first wave. Ooooh, yeah. Now we'll know where we stand. Uh-oh. This is gonna hurt.
I saw Jeff and he mentioned he hasn't done much in the last two weeks because he's resting before he starts his big push before long distance (about 1/2 IM) Worlds. Knowing he's a strong competitor, I translated that to..."I'm rested."
The swim was a clockwise triangle with the start and finish in the same place. We started in waste-deep water, so I moved way left to shorten the first leg (Jeff & Rob were also there). People were much calmer (remember, it's a much less cometitive race), and there was minimal jostling. At "Go," I dove in and went strong. Not once did anyone touch me. No bumps, slams, not so much as a toe touch. The bouys were small 18" orange mooring balls. From my vantage point, I could hardly see them. Sighting the entire way was tough. I also had no one to follow because...well...I was leading, and we were in the first wave. I wanted to get after this swim and try to stay strong the whole way. I was pretty much successful, having to force myself to focus a few times. I came out of the water in the lead, and for the first time in many, many years, heard the excited cheers for the leader. That was cool.
In T1, one other guy came in before I left. That was the last time I saw another competitor the entire race.
As I started the bike, a pickup truck with hazards on pulled out in front of me. We all have have little goals, and one of mine was to have the escort vehicle with me. Very cool.
The course is fairly flat with some very tame rollers for the first 12 miles or so, then there are some more significant hills near the end. The bike started out pretty rough. I couldn't get my power up at all. I pushed, pushed, forced it, but it wouldn't come. My lower back and butt hurt. Effects from the last week of training? Will this go away after a taper? I found myself constantly shifting to find a power-cadence combination that worked. I looked for a few spots to glide for 10 seconds at a time, hoping my legs would reset. I stood up a couple of times on small hills to mix things up. It didn't start feeling better for a good 10-15 minutes. It felt like I was mashing the bike, moving around a lot, hardly smooth. But eventually, I returned to the simple "hard effort" feel of a race. It felt good to work through those problems. It's funny what happens when you think someone's chasing you. I didn't look back the entire ride, but pushed out of fear that "they" were gaining. Near the end, in the hills, there's one long and moderately steep one. I said to myself, "OK, this is where the race is decided...," and pushed a hard 295w. As it turns out, my normalized power and speed were:
1st 12 minutes 251w, 23.6
2nd 12 min 251w, 25.6
3rd 12 min 269w, 22.8
Total 256w, 23.6
Although the power should be 10w higher, I got better as the race progressed and that's the best average speed I've ever had. In the end, I don't care about power- the name of the game is to get around the course as fast as possible. Power is for training. Speed is for races. I'm satisfied with this effort.
The run was fairly flat, with two-thirds on a dirt road. It was actually a great course, other than the huge camber in the road for the first mile. It felt like my left foot was a good six inches lower than my right. On the dirt road, I was off in the woods all alone. I occasionally saw a race directional sign, so I knew I was going the right way. There were no spectators or volunteers out there, other than one water stop. A few people wandered out of their cabin and probably thought, "what the hell is this guy doing in that funny looking suit?" I didn't look back for fear of what I might see, and because there were no straight sections for me to see more than 100 yds or so. Finally I came to the marking for one mile to go. I was working hard, again, because unidentified people were chasing me. Then the half mile marker. I finally looked back, and saw...NO ONE. My mind said, "OK, push in the clutch a bit." My body kept going, feeling strong and smooth. I crossed the line in 1:17, then waited more than two minutes for Rob to finish second and another two minutes for Jeff to finish third. Woot!
As an aside, I'm not sure what Woot! is. It seems like an internal celebration for those from the midwest or northwest. Assuming I'm right, Woot!
The award was a huge glass inscribed mug worthy of about 3 beers, plus a two night ski & stay package at Sunday River. Woot!
As for my splits:
Swim 15:21, 1st
T1 0:54, 4 were under :50
Bike 36.47, 3rd
T2 0:33, 4 were under :30
Run 23:36 7th
Overall 1:17:08, 1st
Jeff's bike was :50 faster, compared to 2:37 faster two weeks ago over a similar distance. Rob's run was :34 faster, compared to :57 faster two weeks, same distance.
After the race, I had a really interesting conversation with a guy who happened to notice my Nationals shirt from last year. He was there too, and he qualified for Worlds as part of the CEO Challenge. So he's going to Gold Coast next month. He also did Kona last year, buying the slot through a charity auction. It cost him $45,000. Now that's some entry fee! He's coached by the same guy that coaches 2008 winner Craig Alexander. However he wasn't quite as fast. In fact, he was the LAST guy to finish, in 16:58, just before the midnight cutoff. If you have the video, they highlight him for a few seconds at the finish. Also very noteworth, he's says WTC is going to announce an Ironman for Burlington, VT. Not sure if it's for 2010 or 2011.
Next up....USAT National Championships in hot & humid Tuscaloosa, Alabama on August 22. I want to be a NOAD.