Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'll Take It

Late August typically means cooler temps, the impending school year and Timberman 70.3 for me.

Well, this year, the weather was just about as hot and humid as it gets here in New England, I'm no longer a teacher so I don't have to worry about going back to school (too bad Michelle does!!!) but regardless, it was Timberman Time.

I made the trip up to Gilford with Michelle and Dean Phillips. It was smooth sailing up to Gunstock and registration and I had a blast seeing so many of my friends and fellow competitors once we arrived on site. I've hardly raced this year and had forgotten how exciting it was to be in that competitive environment. And competitive this year's race was: I couldn't believe the fire power that was assembled for this event; outside of Clearwater, this was the most competitive pro field that I had ever seen. I think that I counted 5 or 6 70.3 champs, a bunch of Ironman winners and some very fast international talent as well (i.e. Massimo Cigana who used to race for the pro cycling team Saeco-Cannondale).

Anyway, it was clear that this would be a very fast race.

Race day rolled around and we were greeted to a big line of traffic as we attempted to make our way to Ellocoya State Park. Not good. We abbandoned our cars out on the highway and ended up hoofing it down to transition so that we could set up shop and find some time for warm up. We managed to do so and then it was off to the swim start where I met up with Michelle who was carrying all of my swim gear. This was a non-wet suit legal swim for the pros, so I donned the BlueSeventy Pointzero3+ and spent some time warming up in the water and stretching out.

For me, pre race featured the normal mix of nervousness and that sickening realization of what I'd need to do for the next 4 hours of my life. I just wanted to race to start so that I could get to work and focus on my race. For Dean... his day started with what appeared to be a torn rotator cuff. He has been struggling with a shoulder problem all season, and right before the race, as he was putting on his skin suit, something POPPED. He was clearly in a ton of pain as he couldn't even raise his arm up to the side or the back. I felt terrible for him. But... being the soldier that he is, the guy gave the race a go anyway. I'm not sure if I'd chalk it up to unadulterated insanity or just an insane amount of courage (I think it's the later) but he more or less swam with 1 arm once the gun went off.

Anyway, back to my race... nothing much to report on the swim. The gun went off and I didn't go out as hard as I should of. I'm not afraid to admit that without the wetsuit, I was afraid of tightening up in the water so I didn't sprint out for the first couple hundred meters and, as a result, I was soon swimming by myself. About 1/2 way through the swim, I was caught by a female pro, so I worked along side of her and then caught a free ride once we turned the final turn buoy and headed for home. I tried to avoid tapping her feet but hit them a couple of times (sorry). She scolded me for doing so by increasing her kick a bit. My bad!

I came out of the water under 30 min. which pretty much tied my time from last year when I swam with a wetsuit, so the swim, although not very good by pro standards, wasn't a complete disaster.

Off on the bike and thankfully, the power was there this year. It took me a good 10 - 12 miles before I finally started feeling smooth, but by the highway, I was clipping off a steady 285 - 290 watts and feeling strong. I passed reigning IM Champ Chrissie Wellington shortly after the bike turn around and then set my sights on the next series of riders up ahead. Next up was a guy I respect very much, Mike Caiazzo. Mike was 4th at Ironman Lake Placid back in late July, and is always way up there in the mix at 70.3 events. When I finally caught and passed him, I knew what to expect and sure enough, it happened: He didn't let me go. Mike is a great competitor and he marked me for the next 15 miles or so. He remained at all times way back past the legal bike stagger limit, which I respect a lot. Drafting in the pro races is something that happens more often than you think, but Mike plays by the rules and rides clean and I appreciated that fact.

With Mike hot on my tail, I tried to keep the tempo high and we proceeded to pass a few more riders and roll into T2 in 9th and 10th place (or so) overall. I managed to beat him out of T2 but the legs weren't as sharp as I had hoped they'd be (too much IM training, No speed work!) so he caught me by the 1 mile mark. I had expected this as well, and accepted the fact that this was probably going to be the hardest 1/2 marathon of my life. The legs were already cramping a bit (the adductors to be exact) and Mike is a great runner. Combine that with the fact that we had been baking out in the sun/heat/humidity for the past 2+ hours and were now running in even worse conditions and, well, lets just say I knew this was not going to be a day at the beach.

At about the three mile mark, Mike started to fall off the pace a bit. Given the fact that neither of us were moving at our normal sub 6 min./mile pace, I knew immediately that he was simply still tired from IMLP which he had hit up just 4 weeks ago. I continued along and was feeling pretty good right up until I hit mile 6 and then suffered a MASSIVE hamstring cramp that stopped me dead in my tracks. It hit just as I passed my dad, Michelle and the QT2 athletes/coaches (watching on the sidelines) Tim and Cait Snow. I tried stretching but that didn't work. I tried walking and that didn't work either. The hammy was completely seized and I couldn't run. Mike went by me and I wanted to jump back on, but couldn't. So... since running forward wasn't an option, I decided to try running backwards for a while and thankfully, that worked. The hamstring released and I was able to continue on, gingerly. I was pretty pissed off in that I knew I had lost time and would had to shut the pace down for lap #2 or else I'd risk another major cramp that could very well end up knocking me out of the race.

A couple of miles later I caught and passed Mike again and was on my way. He was clearly way off his game, but I give him a lot of credit for having a go at such a tough race when he was only 4 weeks removed from an Ironman.

The remaining portion of the run was simply routine. I was on cruise control through the finish line and somehow managed to pass a couple more guys in the process (although I have zero recollection of doing so). I ended the day in 7th place overall. Given the field and cramping issue, I was pretty happy with it. I'm clearly NOT in top form yet as the body just wasn't nearly sharp enough, but then again, I haven't been training for 70.3s, so it's all good. If I could sum it up, overall, I felt "strong" but lacked those top end gears that I normally bring to the table when training specifically for the distance.

Dean: If a torn rotator cuff wasn't bad enough, he suffered 1 mechanical (bar end shifter broke) and 1 flat tire while out on the bike and then had to push his 195 lb. body through the heat and humidity that was hitting us all so hard. But.. he never quit. There were pros dropping out simply because they weren't having a great day, and here Dean was soldiering on despite a torn rotator cuff and about 7 or 8 min. of lost time on the bike. He would have definitely gone 2:06 or so for the bike split had he not suffered the mechanical and flat but as fate would have it, he was hit with a nightmare of a day. I've always respected Dean tremendously, but now I think that he's superman. I feel bad that he never had his chance to push that big bike split though, because it would have been right up there with what Bjorn Anderson turned in (and I have the power file to prove it - Dean's numbers were incredible).

So that's that. Another Timberman in the books. My left hamstring and SI joint are in bad shape right now, but I'll bounce back. Looking forward to the next race...

1 comment:

April Bowling said...

You guys are both supermen in my book...there's nothing more inspiring than an elite who does what needs to be done on a bad day just to finish out a race in respect to his/her competitors. Kudos to both you and Dean.