Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Florida 70.3 Race Report

Ok, so there was not a lot of singing and dancing around the old Real World House on Sunday night. The only true post-race highlights and excitement were centered around a heated match of mini golf between Luke and Lucy Bell and me. I ended up with the big-fat third place for that one. I sure did hit that back nine well, but taking too long to get my putt-groove left me well off the mark for the overall win. Congrats to Luke for taking the title (and third place in the race).

A nice bonus for this race was that my sister Stephanie and her boyfriend Huggy Bear Hays decided to drive down for the weekend. It's only about a five-and-a-half hour drive from Hilton Head, so they arrived late Friday afternoon. We had a great pre-race meal that night at the Black Angus. Funny thing about Central Florida: it's restaurant chain heaven! On race day Steph and Hays put on the Ironmanlive uniforms, and served as spotters for the mens' bike race. It was great having them down for the weekend, and I hope they are able to make it to Kona this fall!

The race at Disney has changed elements of its course each of the last four years, since its inception. The swim has remained the same, the bike has changed from year to year, and there have been three different run courses. In my opinion, this year's bike course was the best it's been, and the run was probably the toughest.

I was very excited to try out my new blueseventy pointzero3 skinsuit for the race. I received it two days before the race, so I was able to swim in it one time on Saturday. It felt great, and I figured it was going to be a nice little aid for a faster swim. Even if most of the other pros are using the same suit, it still seemed like it would give me an edge!

The swim start went off pretty smoothly. I jumped right into a good position with the front of the group, and put my head down for a hard swim. Unfortunately, about 400 meters into the swim, the guy in front of me got dropped from the pack. How many times does this seem to happen to me!! I need to take control of my own swim destiny, and go right to the best feet in the swim. At least then it will be my fault if I lose them! My swimming is in a good place right now, but I am only capable of holding onto the draft of the lead group. When there is a gap, I cannot close it alone. I watched helplessly as the group swam away from me.

The remainder of the swim was pretty easy and slow for me. I did not see the point in attempting to leave them to forge my own way. In retrospect, I should have done just that, as our group lost major time out there.

Heading out on the bike, I heard a split that we were close to three minutes down. I figured I'd do my best to minimize that gap, but knowing who was up the road, it was a long shot.

Within the first ten to fifteen miles, I reeled in a few of the faster swimmers who had been spit out the back of the lead pack. I was surpirsed to see that there were several athletes I did not recognize. Normally I have a pretty good feel for who is in the race; this time was very different. As we rolled through the out-and-back around mile 20, I got a good look at the leaders. There were five of them, and they were all riding pretty tightly together. The gap was growing, and I didn't figure I could ride a whole lot faster.

I kept on the pressure, while most of the dozen or so guys behind me sat in. A couple of guys came through for a token time at the front, with a grand total of about four minutes in the wind. The most frustrating part for me when these guys tried to take their turn was that the pace would immediately drop by a mile or two per hour. When a strong group of five was putting time into us, we could not afford to ride that speed. I finally made a bit of a break just after the 30-mile mark. It amazed me to see how far back the others fell, as soon as I had about twenty or so meters on them. I took advantage of a moderate head wind and some rollers to make the gap stick. Within five to eight minutes, I had a significant lead on my former group.

I was very pleased with my ride, and in particular with the latter 25 miles. It felt good to have my first solid bike ride of my 2007 season. Next up was the run, and a shot at the top five.

Within 400 meters of transition, I was back in sixth place (having been caught on the bike with two miles to go by a fellow who rode through my old group). My intention was to run hard from the outset, then let the chips fall as would.

I was pleased to get a nice pace going right away. Mile one was at 5:21 and the second mile was at 5:40. I felt very comfortable at this pace, and figured it would taper off to a mid 1:16 pace by the end of the run. That was not quite how it played out. Just after the second mile marker, the course made a turn to some rough and uneven grass. I didn't figure it would slow me too much, but I was very wrong there. My next couple miles were a struggle. The strange thing was that when I got back to the asphalt I was able to get back to 5:40 pace. Why was that grass stealing so much of my energy!?

I stayed focused, and continued to chase the leaders. WIth the deficit I faced, it was not likely that I'd see Craig, Simon or Luke again. However, with a swift run, I figured that TJ Tollakson and Bryan Rhodes were within my reach. Sadly, the return to the grass segments brought more of the same suffering. I just couldn't find my groove on that grass.

I reached into my bag of tricks in every attempt to make my way back to fast; however, without that great energy return from the roads, I was a bit whupped. I made every effort to keep the Portuguese and Spaniard from flying by on lap three, but I had very little response to their moves.

In the end, I resigned myself that the final money spot would have to suffice: another eighth place finish in a half! It was a good showing, and although it was not my best day, it certainly was a fun race to the end. There were many positives on the day, and one of them was that I was able to squeeze under four hours again: a bit of a consolation prize.

Thanks for tuning in!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I'm out here in Florida for the 70.3 race which is tomorrow. I've been here since Wednesday evening, and have been enjoying myself as a guest in a seven-bedroom rental house in Kissimmee. I'm not too far from the Wide World of Disney, and I am lucky enough to have some fun roommates here at the house. A couple years ago, Andrea Fisher and I stayed in a house just down the street, and we pretty much concluded that, with our other triathlete roommates, we were as close as we could get to living MTV's the Real World. This is season two for me, and I am having a lot of laughs.

To protect the identities of those involved, I'll not name any names as I describe the cast members.

The first to arrive is a young girl from New Orleans via Colorado Springs. She works for USA Triathlon, and is here to work registration for the event. She's the young impressionable type who seems to be absent most of the time. I'm thinking she's been out to Downtown Disney a couple times already, and is probably enjoying the night life a lot more than her fellow roomies.

Next to arrive is a foreign-born female triathlete. She came with one friend, who is clearly heading up her support crew on race day. These two have been in and out quite a bit, and it remains unclear as to whether or not they are but two parts of a bizarre love triangle. Housemates numbers five and six may or may not have overheard a loud lovers' quarrel late last night. And the arrival of a dozen red roses on our porch this afternoon indicate that someone has made an attempt at apology.

Guests number five and six come from far, far away, and they speak with funny accents. The only real drama surrounding these two is related to the fact that the one who is slated to race tomorrow is hobbling around like a wounded animal, as he rolled his ankle while packing. Yes, it was a packing injury. Other than that, the highlight for this twosome was the trip to the municipal pool where, had I remembered my camera, we could show proof that the pre-race activities of some pro athletes involves tackling the speedy 150-foot water slide. Ah, that was fun.

It is yet to be determined if this season at the Real World Triathlon: Disney ends with a bang or a bust. We've had fun so far, and we still have race morning (and any potential post-race parties) ahead of us. Should we end up playing beer pong (or beer ice hockey) or singing karaoke on the pool table, I'll try to remember to snap some photos.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Oops, I've done it again. I did not mean to let two weeks go by, but it seems I have done just that. After returning from Idaho, I jumped right back into some short, speedy training, and I am pretty sure the upped intensity is mostly to blame for my lack of posts. At least that's my excuse.

With the first part of the season behind me, I have begun to look forward to what's up next on the horizon. My recovery from Arizona has been very good, and I have been able to test myself with some very fast running riding. I have held up well, with the exception of needing a bit more sleep and a bit more caffeine!

The plan has evolved to where I'm spending a few weeks keeping the pedal to the metal. After a nice spring of base-type training, with some Ironman pacing thrown in there, it's time to work the high end. I've really enjoyed the regular Tuesday morning interval workout with Simon (and others!). It's been great to great having Simon make up the workouts, and, of course, to have him as someone to chase.

We've been doing some great riding lately as well. And except for Simon's crash to the pavement last Wednesday, we've sure had some fun. And in case you are wondering, no, I did not cause him to go down. I am thinking there was a rock to blame.

The next race should be a good one. The fourth running of the Disney Half Ironman, or Ford Ironman 70.3 Florida for the sticklers out there, is coming right up. Last weekend's races spread the competition out pretty well, so that neither St. Croix nor Wildflower had the depth of fields they typcially have; it seems that Disney is making up for that. Last time I checked, there were 35 men on the list, with several of the top guns slated to clash. Hopefully we're all ready for that Central Florida muggy heat!

After that one, I'll probably throw my hat into the ring for the US Pro Ironman Championships: Ironman Coeur d'Alene. I absolutely love that race, and the new bike course makes it that much more appealing. It seems to me that it would be a shame to miss out on al the fun. Plus, I really feel that the timing is great to race in late June, then plan a late-season peak in Hawaii. Last time I found my way into the top ten of Kona, it was on the heels of a win in Idaho. That is definitely a double I'd like to duplicate.

Thanks for checking in. I'm adjusting to the harder training, so I shouldn't be too whacked out to post again... SOON!