Friday, August 19, 2011

Mountain Tropic Tri Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 28th Edition 
385.7 miles raced, 7480 meters swam and 202.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Mountain Tropic Tri
Place: Garden City, UT   
Miles from home:  127 miles
Weather: 60 degrees; sunny; 

At 6,000 feet there is only 81% of the oxygen available at sea level. That certainly will not help you get to a finish line faster. With about a mile left in a half Ironman, missing a reasonably well-marked turn and having to back track adding an extra .75 of a mile or so will also be detrimental to breaking any PRs that day.  Add in a plethora of other factors and my desire to get a faster time than ever at the Mountain Tropic Long Course Triathlon looked bleak.

Fortunately, I prefer to let the race play itself out before worrying too much.

Having said that, completing the Spartan Beast in Vermont the week prior to this 70.3 mile adventure left me so exhausted and sore that even on the Wednesday prior to the race I was still contemplating dropping down to the much shorter Olympic or Sprint distances.  But as this was my last triathlon of the year (I think) I figured I might as well go out with a bang.

Two massages the week prior to the race got my legs back into semi-decent shape and I figured I would just power through the race as best I could. The much higher elevation had me slightly worried as, contrary to popular belief, having your mailing address at 4,200 feet doesn’t really help you much unless you are actually around the mailbox to take in that thin air.

Race Day:

Having found a motel just a few short miles from the start of the race, I was able to enjoy the beautiful little town of Garden City, UT. Quite obviously known for its raspberries, the town was hopping with tons of seeming tourist sampling the raspberry ice cream and sundry other times. I figured after the race I would be happy to take all of those items in so I eschewed them all prior to running.

A 5:30 AM wake up call to contend with for a 7 AM race is what I started my race day with.  When I showed up around 6:40 AM, the RD of the race, who obviously knows me very well, asked why I was there so early. Ha, ha. It did allow me to grab a quick picture before the race started so at least I have that going for me.
Swim: 33:57 (1:48 per 100 meters)

While allowable, we definitely did not need wetsuits.  The water was a perfect temperature and if I had the proper tri gear and knowledge of how to use it, I definitely would have forgone my wetsuit for the swim.  I would have also prevented the chafing on my neck, which would definitely be desirable.  Why this continues to happen regardless of how much I lube my neck is a mystery to me.  But I digress.

Since my last triathlon on June 18th, I had swum a grand total of 5 times. I knew the swim was not going to be a strong point for me on this day.  I simply wanted to hold steady here and do what I could to get through. We often think of running or cycling at elevation being tough but never seem to associate the same difficulty with swimming. Believe me, it is as least as hard as the other two
So, while completing a rectangle in the much higher than usual Bear Lake I was simply focusing on trying to hold my place.  Swimming into the rising sun I could not see much in front of me but felt there were 4 or 5 people there. The times show there were closer to 9. I also got destroyed by two females in the swim who started 5 minutes or so behind us. That was humbling. 

Getting out in a time not too much slower than my Boise 70.3 (32:17) made me feel fairly good and thinking perhaps today might not be so bad after all.

Transition One: 1:52 (7th Fastest)

This transition was much faster than at Boise simply because of layout.  There was no long uphill ramp leading out of the bike nor some massive parking lot to run through in a wetsuit.  As such, I took my sweet ole time making sure I had all my PowerGels ready and my  NUUN filled water bottles filled.  Then off I went on the bike.

Bike: 2:29:35 (11th fastest)

I was hoping that the difficulty of the 6,000 feet above sea level bike portion would be leveled somewhat by the fact that the course was relatively flat.  In addition, there were very few turns in the course.  This would allow much more opportunity for me to be able to just settle in and bike as much as possible without being too tactical- definitely not a strong point of mine.

Heading north out of Rendezvous Beach State Park and through Garden City I was off to a good clip, averaging 25 mph or so.  I was able to reel in one cyclist who beat me out of the water and zeroed in on another.  All around us were people running, biking, walking and just plain exercising.  I did not know if there were other events going on this weekend (other than our own triathlon) or if this was simply just how Garden City is.  It turns out it is the latter. I cannot tell you how much that warms my heart to just see tons of people exercising for apparently no reason other than they wanted to. 

I played cat and mouse with one cyclist, Amanda, but was in no hurry to pass her for good, even if that was a possibility.  The road was open to traffic and while most of the cars gave us a wide berth, a few trucks with boat trailers passed by a little too close for comfort. I figured I was just use her a pacer as she was obviously at least a better swimmer than me.

Around mile 15 or so, I was spent.  I could not fathom doing another 40 miles of biking and then 13 miles of running. The quad muscle which had cramped so bad post-Spartan Race was yelling at me.  Increase my speed one MPH and it would sing.  So I stayed where I was.

The bike course was shaped like a smile with us starting  at the bottom lip and heading up to the left cheek before turning around again.  As we neared our starting point the desire to quit subsided and I evened up with Amanda again.  We spoke for about 2-3 miles and found we had a lot of coincidences.  She then fell back a touch and I told her I was sure I would see her again.

Up to the right cheek of the smile loop and I could see I was in about 10th place or so, based on the number of cyclist who came back at me after the turn-around. It was funny to turn around about 7 feet before the state line, showing that obviously the proper permits only allowed us to stay in UT; Idaho says NO! In the top ten, I just needed to hold my place during the bike and set myself up for the run. I felt I had a fighting chance to reel in some of the people on the 13.1 mile course and was hoping not to lose too much ground before I got that chance.

No other cyclists challenged me and hold my place I did. Soon I was coming into the second transition.  The RD was directing people through the zone and I told her “triathlons are dumb” with a smile. Looking at my stats afterward I noticed that my average speed of 22.5 mph was the fastest I have averaged for any triathlon distance so far, sprint and Olympic included. That was good enough for 11th overall cyclist which to me is a big deal.

Transition 2: 1:18 (4th fastest)

I spent a little longer than I normal do in this transition but I felt that the need to get fluid in me was very important.  On the bike I had accidentally dropped one of my bottles and didn’t have the electrolytes I had needed.  There had been ample water and Gatorade stations on the course but I still wanted my NUUN.  Here I drank deeply from my bottle and took off.

Run: 1:43:28 (4th fastest)

Almost immediately I passed one runner.  This made me feel good even as I struggled to get my legs under me.  As in Boise, I almost immediately had to stop to use the bathroom.  I am not sure I want to master the ability to pee on myself while cycling but it sure would have saved me 45 some odd seconds here.

Around the second mile I passed another runner. In the next mile I began to immediately hate every one of those doing the Olympic distance triathlon because soon they would be turning around to go back to the finish.  All I wanted to do was follow them.  For the second time in the race I was utterly spent. I wasn’t sure I had 10 more miles in me.  The loss of 19% of sea level oxygen was taking its toll. I walked through the third mile aid station. Way off in the distance I saw another runner.  I guess I could try and reel him in…

In no time at all I had passed the third runner of this half-marathon.  Almost immediately my spirit was lifted. I pushed hard up one of the few hills of the course and gave a look back.  No runners were in sight.  I was now running 6:45 miles now and praying I could keep it up.

As I got closer and closer to the turning around point, I was left out in the open, the sun beating down on me and giving me what would eventually be a nice little sports bra tan from my tri-top.  What it also gave me was a shock when I saw the first runner coming back my way was female. Her name was Malaika and she was killing us all. Finishing first overall in a time of 4:19 she was a force to be reckoned with.  I then saw two more racers and one other guy but in keeping with the theme of people out exercising, the latter had no markings and no bib number.  I assumed he was not in the race.
Suddenly two runners appeared before me. Shortly after the turn-around I passed one, an affable gent named Harvey and not too long after that I passed the other.  If I counted correctly I was in 4th place overall and the 3rd male.   Could I turn on the jets and catch that male in front of me to finish 3rd OA? I could try!

Over the next 6 miles I could feel I was speeding up and was going to negative split a run which I wanted to quit at mile 2. This shows why one should never get up. Energy ebbs and flows.  You must always move forward.  If I learned anything from my 202 mile run in 2010, this was it.  When I wanted to quit 40 miles in, I would have never guessed the second wind that awaited me just ten miles later.

Back to this race, even walking through each aid station, getting two glasses of liquid to try and stave off the rapidly warming weather, I was still going under 7 minutes per mile.  As my course began to mingle with the course of the sprint and Olympic triathletes I could no longer rely on seeing a body in front of me and knowing it was a runner I was chasing down.  So I simply pushed with all I could.

With a 1.5 miles to go, I flat-out missed a turn.  I got a solid third of a mile in the wrong direction before I realized I was running where the course did not go.  By the time I turned around and went back, I not only had lost a total of minutes but I lost my competitive juices. I knew there was no way I would catch the next guy in front of me. As it turns out, not only had the one gentleman who was unmarked with no bib number actually been running in the race but if I had not made the wrong turn I would have passed him with plenty of time to spare.  Instead, I had to settle for 5th place overall and fourth male. I have no done three separate triathlons put on by the BBSC people and each one has been quite superb in their organization and situation-handling skills.  I look forward to running more of their races in the future.

However, the most aggravating part of my wrong-turn mistake was that my time of 4:50:08
kept me in the “50s” for my time.  Now, this will allow me to really crush that time when I get in actual shape for a 70.3 triathlon but now I have to live with it.  Nevertheless, in the span of a month, I set a new PR in the 10k, 15k and Long-course triathlon.

That sort of versatility, while racing virtually every weekend in some far-flung part of the country, is something which continues to make me press on, even when the going gets tough. It shows us all what is possible. Ignore negativity and while success may not be guaranteed, the chances of it happening are greatly increased.

The rest of this year shows plenty of more challenges in store. Hopefully I will be able to master them.  Regardless, my first abbreviated triathlon season, consisting of a qualification for both the 5150 US championship race and the HalfMax National Championship race, is something I never would have expected. I am excited for my future in this sport and hope you all continue to chase your own dreams.

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