Door County Half Ironman – July 18th, 2016
Payback! I had this race circled in red on my race calendar at the start of this year. The course (particularly the run) absolutely crushed me back in 2013 when I first started to race triathlons. Boy did I have a lot to learn about long course racing! It was one of the most humbling and difficult days of my life as I walked the last three miles of the race with a vomit covered bike jersey… I crossed the finish line that day in 5hrs and 12mins and 131st place overall. Just three short years later, I crossed the very same finish line in 4th place overall.
All week leading up to the race I had calf strains that I was dealing with. Any time I start logging more training hours and start adding in speed work they tend flair up. Usually they settle down after a day or two, but they can be quite frustrating none the less. This time I wasn’t so fortunate… I spent pretty much the entire week in compression socks/tights with only minor improvements each day. By the end of the week, still feeling some discomfort, I said the heck with it and got a quick message on my calves. The day before the race I felt 100%, what a relief!
My cheering section doubled in size this weekend as my Mother-in-Law made the trip down from the Upper Penninsula to come cheer me on. It definitely gives you added motivation to bring your “A” game knowing people have come a long ways and dedicated a weekend of their time to show their support. I was looking forward to showing her what this sport is all about as it was her first triathlon experience. Thank you for making the trip, Terese!
Being a poor planner, we ended up pricelining a cheap hotel in Green Bay the night before as everything in Door County was booked up. It was an early dinner for us at the Olive Garden where I loaded up on carbs and a few glasses of wine to calm the nerves! When we got back to the hotel, there was a wedding reception going on with some live music. Man I hope there is an early curfew here… The music stopped at 7. This must have been the “pre” reception, lucky for me! I was out like a rock around 9 pm, I’ll be coming for you in the morning, DCT!
I was up at 4:30 am and put down the usual 800 calorie smoothie (chocolate almond milk, banana, peanut butter, honey, flax seed, ice). I added a couple of instant coffee packets for the extra kick! We were out on the road at 5:30.
All week leading up to the race the weather looked absolutely terrible. It was calling for heavy thunderstorms and 20+ mph winds during pretty much the entire race. The rain would likely be coming down sideways… I really didn’t put much attention to it the week leading up. Doesn’t do any good stressing about something you can’t control. Think about the controllables! Anyways, apparently the weatherman is pretty good at his job. Based on the radar, Door County was going to be in the heart of the storm while we were out on our bikes. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to experience my first tornado?!
We showed up to the race around 6:45. They were giving out bib numbers based on when you checked-in. I was one of the last ones to show up which put me at bib #882 and had an awesome transition spot right next to the run out location. It pays to show up late to the party apparently! I put my wetsuit on, slammed my Gatorade, and was about to jump into the water when the race director said that the race has been postponed until 9:30. This is the maximum delay they could do before having to cancel the race entirely… Considering we would be in the heart of the storm around 10ish, I was very skeptical I’d be suiting up to race today. I ended up tearing my transition down and going back to the car to wait out the delay.
At 9:10 we got the call that the race was on! Talk about getting my adrenaline going! I’d have 20 mins to re-set up my transition, get to the starting line and get ready to go with the elites in wave 1. Definitely didn’t leave much time but I managed to get to the line with a few minutes to spare. Phew!
Swim – 0.34 miles
Because the race director would rather not have a 700 racers spread out over a 1.2 mile stretch of open water if there was lightning, the course was shortened to about a 1/3rd of a mile. Smart call on his part! I got to the starting line right up front and in the middle. I was chatting with someone next to me when all of a sudden the gun goes off. Okay, I guess that’s our cue to start! I started off fairly hard but comfortably. I held a moderate pace knowing that there wasn’t that much time to be had or lost because of the shortened course. I was probably about 5th coming out of the first wave.
Results: 7:31, 33rd out of 700
Your transition champion, ladies and gentlemen! One of the things I’ve focused on this year is getting through my transitions quickly and efficiently. Every second counts!
Results: 0:49, 1st out of 700
Bike – 56.2 miles
This is where things started to get a little frustrating… I’ve started to leave my shoes clipped into my pedals and then doing a flying mount outside of transition. Although I have been quite terrible at it, today I took my terribleness to a whole new level… After jumping on my bike, I couldn’t seem to get my left foot into my shoe. After clumsily trying to jab it in multiple times I managed to get the single strap to come completely out of the hook. By this time people are already swerving around me. Now with my feet successfully in my shoes but with the strap off, I considered momentarily to doing the bike like that. After realizing that was an absolute terrible idea, I wrestled with one hand to try and get the strap back through the loop. Just to tease me, the strap got through the loop about ¾ of the way there but was hung up on the back side. I tugged the hell out of that strap for what felt like an eternity. Finally out of frustration, I slammed on my brakes and jumped off my bike to fix my shoe and managed to drop my bike in the middle of the road in the process. I am SO sorry for the people behind me that had to swerve around! Man did I feel stupid! I’ll be practicing mounting my bike this week, it’s the little things…
After this little mishap that costed me about 2 mins (but felt like 20!), I tried to erase that awful memory from my mind and get to work. My biking has been getting stronger each day and as a result, I set a goal wattage of 240 NP. For the first 15-20 miles of the bike, the rain was coming down real hard. At one point it started to get actually painful! I was feeling really good at this point and was biking a little bit higher than my goal pace as I started to pass the people that swerved around me. I made sure to not make eye contact out of embarrassment! At mile 10 or so, I ran into fellow BBMC’er Jess Jacobs who absolutely crushed it today and won the women’s title handedly. Awesome job, Jess! We biked together for about 10 miles or so until we got to Sturgeon Bay. At the first aid station, I managed to drop my Gatorade hand-off. Okay, I guess I’ll just grab a water from the next person. Managed to drop that too… Another rookie mistake. It will be another 20 miles before I have a chance to re-hydrate L
At the next aid station, feeling fairly low on liquids, I came to nearly a stand-still making darn sure I would have both a Gatorade and a water! At this point, we were midway through the race and was still feeling great. Although it was quite windy, the wooded terrain did seem to break up the wind fairly well, making it something I couldn’t really complain about.
I had one other little issue that came up in the back third of the race. I had to go pee… For most seasoned vets, they would say so what? Just go! If only it were that easy for me… This was something I’ve never done before in a race and had no intention practicing at home. You could call it on-the-job training. I first attempted it while biking at my race pace, that isn’t going to happen! I then tried more times than I could count to trying to pedal easy, stop pedaling, sit down, stand up, you name it, didn’t work. I’d try for 15 seconds or so, get frustrated and start pedaling hard again. This went on for about 10 miles or so until suddenly I started going, and going, and going. While right in this process, sure enough, there is my wife and mother-in-law there cheering me on and taking pictures. They must be so proud… I’m sure my future kids will love to see those pictures someday. Anyways, I hope to never have to talk about these experiences in future race reports…
The bike ended fairly uneventful, although I could tell I had at least two people hot on my heels heading into transition in 3rd place overall. I hit my goal wattage, averaging just under 24 mph, and was feeling pretty good at this point.
Results: 2:22:23, 5th overall of 700
I kept my running shoes and socks in a plastic bag to stay dry. After wrestling them out and putting them on I was on my way out of transition.
Results: 0:55, 5th overall out 700
Run – 13.1 Miles
I had a goal pace of around 6:20 for the day. With the rain coming down slightly still I wouldn’t have to worry much about over-heating. I felt like I had a pretty good chance at hitting or even beating my targets. Immediately when I started running my body was not having it. My heart-rate was through the roof (>175bpm) even though my pace was quite a bit below target. At about a half mile in, I passed my coach, Blake Becker, who let me know I was a little less than 3 mins down from the lead. After that, it didn’t take long before the 4th place guy, BBMC teammate Dustin Leutenegger, to come up from behind me. He tried to convince me to join him in chasing down the two lead guys. Judging by how quick he caught me, I was thinking he was running closer to a 6:10 pace. I thought it was too early in the game for me to crank it up that much and he was on his way. He had quite the impressive run today and nearly caught the 2nd place guy at the end. Good work, Dustin!
I continued for the next three miles running very slow with an elevated heart rate. I was feeling pretty disappointed in myself at this point as I didn’t even have sight of Dustin now. Before long, I had the 5th place guy breathing down my neck… Luckily, things started to turn for the better around mile 4. My heart rate dropped to a manageable level (<165) and I was able to kick up my pace a closer to my target. The guy behind me must have felt me start to pick it up and matched my pace, keeping about 50 meters between us.
I passed my coach again at a mile 7. At this point, I was still running a fairly moderate pace and still dragging along the 5th place guy. He told me to get my head into the game and lock up my position. That is exactly what I needed to do… From here, I kicked it up a few notches to my goal pace. A pace that I felt I could finish the race at if I had to. It was totally awesome passing all of the other racers on their way out on the run. My team had over 40 racers going today, it definitely was a home field advantage! All you could hear was, “Go BBMC!” for a stretch of at least a mile. That was exactly what I needed to get myself to mentally focus.
At mile 9, there is a ridiculously steep hill. I ended up power walking it. By the time I got to the top of the hill, I turned behind and saw no sights of the guy behind me. The last four miles of the race I knew I was pretty much a lock in 4th place and ran a moderate pace to finish.
Results: 1:26:35, 5th overall of 700
I finished the day in 4th place overall. It was disappointing to lose a podium spot on the run, but I have nothing to hang my head on. All things considered, despite the few mistakes, I am happy with how I performed today. I am hungrier than ever for a podium finish at a big race. Luckily for me, I’ll not have to wait too long as I’ll be racing Chisago Lakes (Toughman Minnesota) Half Iron this weekend.
In the meantime, I need to get my body healed up this week. My calf strains are back with vengeance after this race, probably even worse than the week before… To top that off, I am now having lower back issues. I think it is time to get a message… Stay tuned for results at Chisago!
Thanks to Liz and Terese for cheering me on today! Thanks also to Blake for getting me ready to race and your support on the course.