07 June 2011

Rev3 Quassy Half Ironman - Race Report

I like hills. In fact, you could even say I love hills. But after Sunday's race, I also believe that hell is paved with hills (you would believe this too if your last mile in a 70.3 race was uphill...). I had so much fun at Wildflower that I didn't want to wait until August to do another half ironman. That 5:40 barrier has been staring at me in the face for the past few years and I wanted another shot at breaking it and I was too impatient to wait another three months. So, I signed up for Rev3 Quassy at the last minute. I read the course description, and there were words like "challenging," "rolling," and "hills," but I still found myself surprised at just how hilly the whole course was when I drove it the night before the race. Visions of big PRs weren't dancing in my head any longer. But no matter, I was there to race hard and test out my nutrition in preparation for Ironman Lake Placid.

In the days leading up to the race, I wasn't as focused and plugged in as I wanted to be. Mark was still out on travel and it had been a somewhat craptastic week (see previous post about Broken AC and Heat Wave). The cherry on top came on the day before the race when, upon my arrival in Connecticut, I found a text from my friend/co-worker who was watching Miles our dog. Apparently Miles had been sick all night, was hacking up a storm, and my poor friend took him to a vet (which was quite an adventure in itself, seeing as she had to take him by taxi since she doesn't have a car - apparently cabbies aren't big fans of sick dogs) and was told by her landlord the dog would have to go. I was almost ready to turn around and head back to DC to get Miles and bag the race - but my wonderful aunt Amy saved the day and took Miles for the rest of the weekend (thank you Amy, you are the best aunt EVER!!). Once this situation was sorted out, I picked up my packet, did my pre-race brick, and drove the bike and run courses. I'm so glad I drove them because it gave me the opportunity to mentally note the hills, condition of the pavement, turns, etc. There would be no surprises on race day. Finally got to the hotel after a fruitless hunt around town for a decent italian restaurant (found none, ended up eating a bagel and bakery breadsticks with hummus from Stop and Shop) and watched tv before falling asleep.

Race morning came and I woke up feeling... kind of like crap. Like I was coming down with a cold. There was lots of nose stuff going down the back of my throat and I kept hacking it up (Miles and I were kindred spirits, channeling each other). I'd had a similar experience with nose crap at Kinetic 2010 and that did not end well at all - but today was a different day and a different race and I was determined to have a different (read: better) outcome. I ate a bagel and drank water, got my stuff together and actually left my hotel EARLIER than I had planned - I had heard the race site parking was really small and I was picturing hoards of Type A triathletes clamoring at the parking gates at 3:30am to ensure they got a spot. Imagine my surprise when I rolled up to the race site, 15 minutes before the 5:15am transition opening, to find that the lot was practically empty. I snagged a spot right next to transition, which was good because I ended up going back and forth between my car and transition about 10 times because I kept forgetting important things like my nutrition and such. I parked myself next to the pro area in transition to put on my sunblock and wetsuit and simultaneously gawk at the pros (multi-tasking). Then headed down to the water in my sleeveless wetsuit (if it wasn't super cold the weekend before in Lake Placid's Mirror Lake, I was pretty sure Lake Quasa-whatever in Connecticut would be too warm for a full-sleeve).

The Swim:
I got down to the lake too late for a practice swim, so I contented myself with dipping my toes in the water and congratulating myself for going with a sleeveless. I started towards the front on the right side. It was a triangular swim and for part of it we'd be swimming towards the sun. My biggest concern was whether or not my fancy goggles would decide to leak, which they have a tendency to do. My wave started and I found some clear water and fast feet pretty quickly. I stayed right in line on the way out, got a little off-the-beaten path when we turned towards the sun, and then stayed on a good line on the way back in. I sighted every 5 strokes or so and focused on shoulder rotation and pulling hard. I couldn't really tell how many girls from my wave were in front of me, and it didn't really matter, I just needed to swim hard. Looking back, I think I could've pushed harder and focused a bit more, but I have come a long way from when I first started doing triathlons and just focused on surviving the swim. I felt like I was out there for awhile, so I was pleased to see my time when I got out of the water.
35:30 (1:50/100m), 13/54 in AG, 57/228 women. Next time I want to break 35.

T1:
I got stuck in my wetsuit again. To add insult to injury, it was caught on film by one of the Rev3 camera guys swooping around transition. He was asking me things like "how are you feeling" and "what do you think about the race" to which I grunted in return and asked if he'd like to be my stripper (wetsuit stripper - get your mind out of the gutter!)
2:22 - better than Wildflower, but pretty much anything is better than my Wildflower transition times.

The Bike:
I was excited about the bike course. I was also wondering if it would seem as hilly on my bike as it did when I rode it in my car the day before. The answer - yes, it felt hilly, but not as bad as I thought it would be. The three mile uphill from 25-28 wasn't all that terrible. I started off aggressively and figured I'd do what I could to hold that pace through the race. Though, I had no idea what my pace or HR were because I don't have my Garmin programmed to show me that stuff - it's all about keeping my head out of the game; it gets in the way when it overanalyzes data. I took in a gel every 20 minutes and I only had one bite of PowerBar - this is the first time I've done a 70.3 with basically just gels and it worked really well. I tried to drink water every 10 minutes (I remembered most of the time) and I had a Nuun tablet in some of my water, so I alternated that with regular water. The weather was absolutely perfect and I felt really good during all but the last 5 miles (those were slow, uphill, and never-ending). I played cat-and-mouse with two women on the bike (both not in my AG) and was only passed by one girl in my AG - she passed me like I was standing still and I think she won our AG, so I don't feel all that terrible about not being able to stick with her). The bike course was super pretty, well-marked and the volunteers were great. The roads were in decent shape too in most spots. I did a better job at staying focused for the whole bike at Quassy than I did at Wildflower, so I'm pleased with that. I focused on pedal turnover, my goals, why I was there, and catching any biker that looked like a girl. Unfortunately, I didn't get the sub-3 that I wanted, but I blame that on the hills.
3:01:16 (18.54mph), 4/54 AG, 21/228 women.

T2:
2:06. I made it a point to grab my visor and race number belt and put them on while I was running, rather than standing around like a fool putting them on and wasting time.

The Run:
I did my best not to think about the run while I was on the bike. I also tried not to focus on the fact that I had a lot of nose crap dripping down the back of my throat, and was it a bad sign that I was already coughing and spitting on the bike - usually I save that for the run. The first three miles of the run are basically downhill. I ran out of transition and felt... pretty good. I settled into a pace relatively quickly and actually managed to catch two girls before the first mile marker. I expected them to stay with me, but they did not, and I kept plugging along. At mile 2, my Garmin informed me that, unfortunately, my lap database was full and it would now spend the next 11.1 miles beeping and buzzing angrily at me. It was amusing to watch the people in front of me check their watches in confusion when they heard me and my Garmin approaching. I tuned it out and it really wasn't a big deal - I just would have no idea what my mile splits were. Miles 4-8 were mainly uphill. Long, steady uphills. A few flats and a couple small downhills to make it interesting. There was a short out-and-back which gave me a chance to see where I was relative to the other girls. I passed both girls I had played cat-and-mouse with on the bike. The two worst miles in this race were miles 7-8 and then the last mile. All uphill. I drank a little water every other aid station. I started eating a little bit of a gel around mile 6. And every mile I would hack up a bunch of stuff, and while that's disgusting and I apologized to everyone around me, it made me feel alot better, and my pace would pick up until I'd have to do it again. I was surprised at how good I felt during the run. Both mentally and physically. Yes, it was uncomfortable, and towards the end I was suffering, but I enjoyed it. I never had the desire to walk or stop. I was in it - this was how I'm supposed to feel during a race. I was 100% plugged in - I focused only on the positives, not the negatives, and I just kept moving forward. The last two miles were a struggle. My legs were tired and I was ready to be done. That last mile, because of the hill, was the hardest of the day. I could see on my Garmin that, if I pushed it hard on that last half mile, I was going to break 5:30 (!!!!!). So, I ran like heck, told my legs to shut up and work, and I crossed the finish line in 5:28:54, a 15 minute PR! Just like when I qualified for Boston, I went from never being able to break that 40 barrier and then breaking that one plus the 30 barrier.
1:47:39 (8:13 pace), 4/54 AG, 18/228 women. This was one of my fastest runs in a 70.3 race - I think Mooseman 2009 was the only one that was even close.

Thoughts:
I'm really glad I did this race, even though it was a long drive up and back and the drama with the dog. I'm thrilled to have finally broken 5:40, and to have managed to pull it off on such a hilly course. It makes me want to do a flatter course, just to see if I could go faster and by how much. I REALLY want a sub-3 bike. I've never gone that fast before, but I know I have it in me, I just need to figure out a way to coax it out. I'm happy I stayed positive and mentally plugged in during the race - with my gagging and spitting, it could've become a repeat of Kinetic 2010, but I'm pleased with myself that I didn't let it. Besides Savageman, this 4th place is the best I've ever placed in my AG in a half ironman, and it was a relatively large race (larger than Savageman, anyway). Nobody in my AG was in the top 3, so I didn't get bumped up to third - too bad, as there were some good prizes that were being given away. Motivation for next time, I suppose :) I would totally do this race again and I'd recommend it to anyone - it's a super well-run race. Now it's time to focus on Ironman Lake Placid... though I might try to slip in one more Oly race if possible... This season has been so much fun with lots of races!

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