The race season is officially under way. I raced the California Ironman 70.3 race yesterday, also known as a half ironman. Not sure why they can't call it a half ironman; it's supposed to be about not making finishers feel less adequate than the finishers of a 140.6 Ironman.
Forecasts were for rain all morning, so I was very happy to see the sun come out as we were setting up transition. It turned out I didn't have any need for my rain jacket and waterproof gloves: thank goodness!
The 54-degree water gave quite a blast to the face, but wasn't too bad after a few minutes of warm up. My feet went numb pretty quickly, but otherwise the swim wasn't too bad. I jumped into a decent group right from the outset, and I felt just fine holding the quick pace set by Olympian Andy Potts. However, he quickly put on the after burners, and broke up our chase group. I managed to hold on until about 800 meters in, at which point I popped out the back. I was then in the midst of a moderately paced chase pack: not where I wanted to be, but not bad.
Exiting the water, and tackling the abnormally long transition, I realized that it was going to be a while before my feet warmed back up. At least I wasn't feeling the pain of running barefoot on that much asphalt.
I made a decent change to the bike, but was not as lightning fast as I would have liked: just one of the few things that gets a bit rusty in the off-season.
Within a few miles, I realized that I was riding pretty well. I had power right away, and felt like I was on track to notch a solid sub 2:20 bike split. I reeled in some of the early leaders, and applied some pressure on the early rollers. By the first turnaround on the bike, I counted that I was in seventh place. With more than forty miles to go, I felt I was in great position. I moved my way to fifth place by mile 18 or 20, and held steady for a few miles. At that point, I was overtaken by a small group of four. An admitted weakness of mine is that I don't particularly like to ride in groups. I like to dictate my own pace and effort. In general I chose to ride solo, even if that means riding with less of an advantage. However, the decision I made at mile 22 or so--not to ride with this group--proved to be a bad one. I sat fifty meters back of the rider in fourth position for a few miles, and gained a bit of ground on them up an over the longest climb of the race. It was on the subsequent down hill that I began to lose more ground that I had intended. A badly timed bonk and a bit of lost focus cost me time to the group. Just as they were pulling away from me, they managed to pick up two more riders up the road.
At this point, I was losing ground, and their group of six was gaining steam. Perhaps I should have made the decision to tuck in, thus taking full advantage of the power of a group. Perhaps I'll learn from that mistake.
After slowing quite badly for a spell, I regained my momentum, in great part do to my added fuel. I knew that if the time gap wasn't too bad, I'd be able to notch a solid run to get back into the upper ranks.
Transitioning to the run, I felt terrible. On most occasions I move pretty smoothly to the run, as my legs come around quite quickly. This was an exception: my legs were tight and achey.
Looking up the road, it seemed that I was losing ground to a few folks, and in the least, was not closing any gaps. I would need to turn on some speed, or I'd be finishing out of the money.
I soon realized that I was being passed: Josiah Middaugh went by, and later Greg Krause zipped past. I stayed with them for a while, but as they caught Luke Dragstra, they gained steam, and I lost more ground. Things were not looking good for me.
At mile five I sucked down a PoweGel, and was instantly rejuvenated. By mile six I was a new man: I began to apply some pressure, and was finally running under six-minute pace. I was beginning to think I was stuck at Ironman pace all day. I got a bit angry, and I believe it helped me run. I was determined to finish strong in this race. I saw that I was gaining ground on Greg, Josiah, and Luke. Soon I passed each of them, and continued to apply some pressure. I finally felt loose, and was ready to push the pace, and really make myself hurt a bit.
I charged through miles six to eleven holding a quick pace; however, I did find myself bonking repeatedly. Unbelievably I took another gel at miles 8, 10, 11, and 12! I've never taken so much gel in any half marathon, and I will certainly take that into account in my nutritional prep for IM Arizona.
After securing sixth place on the course, I was able to notch it back over the last mile, still finishing strong, but not able to gain or lose a place.
Overall I was pleased with the race. I was strong enough to have some fun, smart enough to learn a ton, and tenacious enough not to give up when I was a bit off pace. I enjoyed getting back to racing, and am anxious to give it another go next month down in Tempe.
In the meantime, I'm going to get some good rest.
Until next time.