Friday, September 23, 2011

70.3 World Championships

When I heard Ironman was changing the location of the 70.3 World Championships from Clearwater, Florida to Las Vegas, Nevada I knew instantly I wanted to do it. I do not know exactly what the draw was but something about the challenge behind the heat and hills appealed to me. My main goal for the 2011 triathlon season was to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships. Unfortunately this put a lot of pressure on the only 70.3 race I was planning to do but luckily I had a great race and was able to qualify at the Muncie, IN 70.3. It becomes a slight dilemma when your whole season is focused on qualifying for something but when you do are suddenly left goalless which is exactly where I found myself going into Vegas. Since this was the first year of the race there were no past results to analyze, no real chance to create expectations, so I found myself floundering a bit towards race day. Even now, two weeks after the race, people ask me how I did and the honest answer is I don't know. I felt good during the race and finished strong. Does that mean I executed the perfect race day or does it mean I could have dug deeper?  Hard to say but overall I enjoyed the inaugural event I am hoping to go back again sometime in the near or distant future.

Swim (27:51) -
Swim course going out
My wave was not set to go off for thirty minutes after the pros started but when transition closed we were all expected to line up. A full hour before the 30-34 females were set to start we were all in a line and some people already had their speedsuits on. I waited until the last minute to put on my BlueSeventy PZ3TX because I wanted to breathe while I was still on shore. Encouraged by my first time in the speedsuit at Lake Norman, I had great expectations for that tight but ridiculously fast little suit.

Needless to say we all lined up like obedient water-loving penguins and slowly made our way to the docks where we jumped in but still had about 15 minutes to float/swim to the start line. The swim course itself was quite nice with easy visibility and only three turns. I opted to wear my metallic BlueSeventy Elements and even though it was still dark when the race started the sun rose fast and we were swimming into it by . With so much time until the start I struggled a little bit to hold position on the front line but when the gun went off I was moving. I have been working on my get out speed and it has helped. In less than thirty seconds I was off the front with only one girl to my right and a small group way off to my left. By the 200m mark I was alone and had the luxury of a paddle board escort. I found this very encouraging and swam hard to stay in the lead. Luckily the waves ahead of me were stretched out so I did not have much trouble as I started picking off the previous waves but by the time I made it to the bridge I was starting to wonder if this swim was ever going to be over.

T1 () -
I am not sure on the logic of this transition but the swim started on the left side of the lake with the bikes. We exited on the right side of the lake and then had to run up a hill, over the bridge, and then down again to enter T1. I am not sure why they didn't just start the swim on the right side but maybe I should just shut my mouth since I did not major in logistics.

Bike () -

Pretty much sums it up
 The bike course, hands down, was the highlight of this race. We left the lake and immediately started climbing the road leading out to the main highway from the resort. Once out on Lake Mead Highway we turned right, rode about 0.5 miles downhill before we hopped on a trail under the highway and then back onto Lake Mead going the opposite direction uphill. From there all I could see was desert and mountains. There had been an early morning rain shower, while there was no moisture in the air, the smell of rain still lingered and the morning dew was still burning off in the distance. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever encountered during a race. I wish I had a helmet cam to capture what I saw. Looking at the spectacle before me all I could think about was how lucky and fortunate I was to be there. I spent a lot of time with these thoughts for the first half of the race. I was really conscience about taking the first 28 miles conservatively as the hill profile made the last 16 hills appear to be all uphill. I was passed by 6 girls in my age group before the ½ way point but I tried to not let it get to me. The bike isn’t over until mile 56, right? Ultimately the bike course proved to be more mentally challenging than physically challenging. The climbs are the climbs so you just have to be smart with how you take them but the false flats – those guys mess with your head. There were several times I would look at my speedometer and the surprisingly slow speed I was putting out on what seemed to be a perfectly flat surface was morale breaking. This is the course to take advantage of a powermeter.

Still feeling good during the second half, I found myself enjoying catching people on the uphills only to be passed again on the downhills. I was beginning to worry I had taken the bike out too slow but just as I was starting to feel it in my legs, I passed 2 girls who had flown by me in the first half. I felt a little more confident in my pacing.

T2 () -
Happy to be off the bike . . . not looking forward to the run.
Run () -
For the first few minutes of the run my legs did not feel good. Luckily the rest of the mile was downhill to the first turn around. After the turn around it was 1 mile uphill to transition/finish and then 1 mile uphill to the next turn around. Then it was the same downhill, and then again uphill, and then again downhill, and uphill, and then downhill 1 mile to finish. No the world’s most exciting run course but the 2 mile stretch was filled with spectators and Hal, who went out of his way to announce my arrival. The run course was simply fun and I pulled a lot of energy from being surrounded by other racers (much unlike LKN). The best part was feeling like the miles were flying by . . . a feeling I rarely experience while I am running. All of a sudden I was running the last downhill towards the finish line. When I saw the race clock at 5:29:50 I just had to give the finish everything I had. I was supposed to start 30 minutes after the pro men’s field so I had less than 10 seconds to squeak under 5 hours. I thought I made it but the timing must have been slightly off as my final time ended up being 5:02:00. Have I ever mentioned how much I like even numbers?

I just want to take a second to thank my mom and Charlottesville Dermatology for donating my flight, Hal Cobb for gambling so much my room was comp-ed by the staff at the Palms Casino and resort, Patrick Ray for letting me borrow his race wheels . . . again, Graeme Leiser and Martin Jones for their donations towards my travel expenses, and my brother Mark for his overwhelming enthusiasm and encouragement towards my racing. I am constantly reminded how lucky and fortunate I am to be able to do something I love with the support of those I love. 

My casino and car rental (I wish), oh yeah, dig it!