Welcome to the 2017 Season
It was good to be back racing after a 7 month hiatus. We left off in Chattanooga last fall with heat stroke and a just-missed Kona slot. But here we are, early May, doing another race known for its temperamental weather.
Over the fall & winter I took some time off, enjoyed all things pumpkin spice, crewed for Max through a brutally hot 100k, visited home (Delaware) for the holidays, and went full hipster (minus the tight pants). In March, a few friends from Vo2 Multisport met up in Tuscon, AZ for a long weekend of boys, bikes, and beer. We rode Mt. Lemmon with Crowie. It was pretty sweet.
TL;DR: Have Fun
My goal in 2016 was to qualify for Kona 2017 at Choo, then spend all 2017 season ramping up. When that fell through, I had to re-evaluate some core motivations.
That brought me back to where this all started: Ironman Canada 2013. It was a great race 4 years ago, it won’t be 115°F, and I’ll get to catch up with friends & teammates in the Seattle area. Sure, Kona would be a great end to the season, but it won’t be the focus.
Ironman Canada 2017 is at the end of July, so an early May race within driving distance from Boulder was a perfect choice!
The race was on Saturday, so we took off early Thursday morning. The drive out wasn’t too bad, just under 10 hours including a number of stops to stretch the legs.
I had Friday perfectly planned out; do a quick swim/bike/run race rehearsal at T1, check in my bike, then spend 1:30pm onward with my legs up watching Netflix. But we all know how plans go.
The swim went well. Since it was still snowing in Colorado, it was my first open water of the year (as was the case for most athletes at StG). I was rocking a new Zone3 wetsuit and despite forgetting body glide, escaped feeling strong and unchafed!
Then I hopped on the bike. And after half a mile, I hopped off the bike. Flat tire. After extensive analysis (ok, 10 minutes of hopelessly pumping air), I concluded it was the valve extender. As T1 is the the middle of no where, I began the pilgrimage to the nearest town. 3 hours (and lunch, I was getting cranky) later, tire was fixed, ride & run done, and bike racked! Whew…
News of the day was the wind! It was going to pick up in the afternoon, so they compressed the swim waves to a 2 minute interval instead of 3.
Someone decided putting the young & strong M25-29 directly behind the M60+ was a good idea. (I have a feeling that someone has not competed in either of those age groups)
The swim start was ~75yds off shore, but you weren’t allowed to leave shore until the wave before you went off. I felt bad for a few of the M60+ who hadn’t reached the start line when my wave went off.
Warmup opportunities were limited, so I jogged a bit and did a number of shoulder exercises to get blood flowing & muscles loose, then had a whole 75yds of swimming before the gun went off.
Swim – 24:54, 1st AG
TL;DR: Choppy and heavy traffic, kicked in the face, but I’ve done worse
As usual, everyone started stupidly fast. I ended up with a foot to the face and enough water in my googles that I could sight OK but eyes were sure stinging by the end. After a few minutes, I worked my way through the 3-4 people who didn’t fully understand how pacing works and settled into my own rhythm.
My only mistake came at the first buoy. On paper, it’s a 90° angle. In reality, it was more like 135° and I went pretty wide.
I guess it was my first sustained open water of the year, but the swim felt super long (it wasn’t, I looked a some Strava files and they’re all 1.2mi. I’ve just gone soft). As the 12th-ish AG to go off, there were a lot of bodies out in front. It got more and more crowded (and significantly choppier) as the swim went on.
My favorite part was when I ran over the legs of someone was swimming perpendicular to the course.
T1 – 2:25
Having spent 25 minutes with my eyes partially exposed to questionably sanitary reservoir water (I tried not to think about how much pee is in the water at the start), my vision was super blurry the entire transition.
I was able to make out wetsuit strippers through the fog, which were a welcome surprise. Flop down on your back and BOOM the wetsuit is off.
My transitions are usually pretty slow, but I seem to be making progress. I didn’t tighten my left shoe quite enough and did a crappy job with my helmet alignment. Both needed on the fly adjustment once on course.
Bike – 2:31:44, 16th AG (Strava)
TL;DR: Tough course, windy by the end, should have biked harder
I went in to the race expecting a brutally tough bike course. Yes, there was a lot of climbing (~3k ft), but nothing unreasonable and it sure was beautiful through Snow Canyon. Traffic was really well controlled as well, they got my thumbs up in the safety department.
The ride loops around the res, hits some big rollers on the highway, then grinds up Snow Canyon before a big descent down into T2. It did get windy on that descent, enough that I was happy I wasn’t running a disc.
Despite what I thought was good hydration, I didn’t pee at all. (Sure, my cycling shoes smell nice, but at what cost?)
I’m a boring cycling. I work hard (mentally) to stick to my power zones and not “hammer” up climbs. So I do get a bit of smug satisfaction to take note of the occasional bib numbers of those who leapfrog me on climbs and soft pedal the descent. Spoiler alert, they don’t run fast. Though to be fair, I don’t bike fast. Maybe I’m just a jerk.
T2 – 1:30
Despite a minor hip cramp and racking my bike over top the gear I needed, it was a smooth T2. I saw John just as we were exiting, but then he hit the John (you’re shaking your head right now, but I laughed at that pun for at least a mile).
Run – 1:29:55, 1st AG (Strava)
TL;DR: Damn this run was hilly and hard!
I did not go into this race thinking the run was going to be too bad. Sure, there are some hills (yeah, over 1000ft) but how bad could it be? (Famous last words)
Out of T2, you climb for 4 miles. Then it’s either up or down (never flat) until mile 9, where you descend sharply, hammering your tired legs on the concrete path all the way to the finish.
After managing to put my racebelt on upside down out of T2, I assumed the identity of #E91. Finally around mile 6 I fixed that and become #163 again. Hope no one got confused. (Another bad joke that kept me going for a few miles deliriously thinking I was hilarious)
The wind made things interesting. Running into the headwind was brutal, but the tailwind felt equally as bad: dead-air. At this point, it was upwards of 85 degrees, so I was getting fried. Thankfully, seeing teammates John & Andre out on course was a burst of motivation.
You’d think (as I did signing up) that a downhill finish would be amazing. The run is basically over at mile 9, right? But there’s something about getting your enervated legs to tick over at 200rpm after 4 hours of racing that doesn’t work as expected. One minor quad spasm and I’d be tumbling down the hill instead of running. (Actually, is this allowed? It might be faster and less painful).
Overall – 4:30:28, 7th AG
12th in my AG coming out of T2, I was able to run down 5 for a solid 7th place finish. I won’t lie, I’m disappointed to not have made the podium; that’s always a goal going into a race and it didn’t work out this time. As it was the 70.3 North American Pro Championships, it was bound to be a tough field.
My swim and run are where they need to be at this point in the year. The bike needs some work (as you can see from the 16th fastest split in my AG). Don’t worry, coach Ben has that covered. I’ve made big strides in the past few years and will be ready to crush Whistler by the end of July.
The day after the race, I met up with Vo2 Multisport teammates John and Andre for a spectacular day at Zion National Park. We started off with a ride through the canyon on a road open only to shuttle buses. It was without a doubt the best and most beautiful recovery ride we’ve ever experienced. All I had to sacrifice to the canyon was my credit card, which mysteriously vanished during the ride. (Ok, I dropped it somewhere pulling my phone out of my jersey pocket)
We took a hike up Angel’s Landing, though skipped the ropes section at the top. Andre and my quads were destroyed. Going up was actually OK, but John had quite a laugh every time he heard us groan in unison when the trail took a big step down. (Again, is rolling downhill an option?). On Monday, we took a quick hike through Snow Canyon back in Saint George (nice to enjoy that park not in race-mode). Though the 11 hour drive back was brutal (especially through pouring rain the last 2 hours), I fortunately missed a rogue hailstorm in Boulder that destroyed a number of cars.