13 September 2011

Timberman Race Report

Let's overlook the fact that this race was almost 4 weeks ago - better late than never, right? This race has been on my bucket list for awhile (and this is the year of the bucket list races). It's in my home state of NH in a beautiful area, they serve ice cream at the finish, and a triathlete by the name of Chrissie Wellington does this race every year. In addition to wanting the opportunity to to see Chrissie race in person, my good friends Tim and Ashley were doing the race and Timberman 2011 was suddenly too tempting to pass up. Signing up back in April, I conveniently forgot about the fact that it was only 4 weeks post-IMLP and, as my complaining in previous posts showed, 4 weeks really isn't enough to adequately recover from 12+ hours of swimbikerun.

Anyways, as much as I was looking forward to the race (I'd get to see my family AND my best friend Erin and her family and my goddaughter), things in the days prior to the race weren't going very smoothly. Work was super busy and suddenly I was going to need to drive up Friday instead of Thursday and drive back on Sunday (immediately after the race) instead of Monday. Plans for a place to stay fell through and hotels and B&Bs in the area were all booked. I was tired, cranky, and not feeling in peak shape for the race. But things have a way of working out in the end. I took Friday off and left DC early in the morning, arriving at my parent's house in southern NH at a reasonable time in late afternoon. I caught up with some of my favorite friends from high school, Heather on Friday night and Kathy on Saturday morning. And my friend Megan - her parents, the Bielawas, who are the nicest people in the world, had a lake house 20 minutes from the race site and opened their home to me for the weekend. Everything worked out in the end and I loved catching up with Megan's family, who I haven't seen in ages. Race weekend was turning out better than I ever could've dreamed.

Pre-race: I didn't sleep nearly enough the night before the race. Maybe 4 hours. I didn't fall asleep until 11pm and then I woke up at 2:45am and couldn't get back to sleep. I finally gave up at 3:45am, got my stuff together and drove to the race site. Parking opened at 4am and I arrived at 4:30 to snag one of the last spots - it was my lucky day! I munched on bagels, set my stuff up and checked and double-checked everything, chatted with the girls on my rack and discovered that one of them, Melanie, lives about 1 mile from me in Arlington and we have lots of mutual friends. She went on to completely rock the race, finishing 6th in our 30-34 AG and snagging a slot to 70.3 Worlds! I caught up with Tim and Ashley right before the swim start and before I knew it, it was 7:40 and time to go for a swim.

The swim:
The water was chilly enough for a sleeveless wetsuit and compared to Lake Placid's mass start, my tame wave of only 30-34 AG women allowed me to find clear water quite quickly. I did a decent job at sighting, and the swim on the way out to the buoys felt smooth and fast. However, the swim back in seemed to take forever and my sighting was less than stellar at that point. I had a feeling it wouldn't be my best swim, and it wasn't, but only by a minute or so. Disappointing, but c'est la vie. I was ready to turn my focus to the bike and run, which was where I really was hoping to do well and make up time.

Wetsuit strippers are awesome.

The bike:
I drove the bike course the day before the race. It was an out-and-back course. It started off hilly, just like I expected, with the first 10-15 miles being hills, hills, and more hills. Then the middle part of the race was flat, flat, flat, and the last bit of the race had a few hills, but more downhills than uphills. I've never gone sub-3 in a half ironman before and I was determined to go sub-3 during Timberman if it killed me. I would take a 2:59:59 and call it a winner as long as it was sub-3. I had my watch set on Multisport mode so I had no idea of my HR or my pace, just the overall time. I tend to race better this way, keeps the head out of the game. As I headed out of T1 on the bike, my mom, Erin, and my brother were right at the bike mount line cheering. It was especially meaningful to see my brother. He has had some rough times and we've had our differences, and it really is a post for another day, but seeing him there meant the world to me.
The bike portion was pretty uneventful. I did my usual nutrition of a gel every 20 minutes, sip on water with Nuun every 10, and take a salt tab every 30 minutes. It was a warm day and I wanted to make sure I got enough salt and electrolytes in me. I also wanted to make sure I was properly hydrated so I wasn't dreaming about water and beverages on the run, so I took in extra sips of water between the alloted 10 minutes. I passed girls and a couple would pass me back and we would play leapfrog. I actually enjoyed the hills (usually do), but the one at mile 10 was a little excessive. Once the course flattened out a bit in the middle and had fewer sharp turns, it was easy to settle into the areobars and go to town. The course was actually pretty crowded with racers, I was never alone out there. On the way back in from the turnaround, I really focused on concentrating on the race and making sure I was doing my best to pedal hard and work hard. Sub-3 or bust, right? I actually had no idea how I was doing time-wise, but when I rolled into T2, I was pretty sure I met my goal. When I talked to Mark that night and had him read off my splits to me, I was shocked with my bike split because it was faster than I thought I was capable of for that hilly course. Mission accomplished!

Nothing terribly exciting to report, except that I chose to pee while I was sitting in transition getting my run shoes on rather than go to a port-o-john (whatever, we are triathletes and we are disgusting when we race). In the end, this proved to be a wise decision because I eeked out a 1/2 Ironman PR by only 30 seconds. If I'd taken a proper pee break, that wouldn't have happened. It also proved I was hydrated, yippee! It's the little things, right?

The run:
I felt really good and strong out on the bike. Ironman, what Ironman? During the bike, my legs felt fine. And then I started to run. Oh, that Ironman. Apparently legs are like elephants - they don't forget. I wanted to start off with run splits in the 7:40s, but when my watch chirped at mile 1 it showed a split over 8:00, and proceeded to just get slower from there. I drove the run course the day before the race and it didn't seem too hilly, but when I was actually out there running, there were a number of gradual hills that weren't as noticeable from the car. Even though it felt like I was running at a decent pace, my splits were actually pretty slow. I never imploded on the run or walked, or dreamed about water, or cried uncle. So, in that sense, the run wasn't a total wash. I simply wasn't fully recovered from Placid and it manifested itself on the run, that's all. The course was two out-and-backs, and I saw Chrissie cruising to the finish as I was starting my run. She was smiling like she was out for an easy jog and her competition was pretty far behind. I was watching my overall time and as I got closer to the finish, I knew it would be close for a PR. In the end, it was only by 30 seconds, but I'll take that. Besides the legs feeling really tired, I didn't have any other major issues, nutrition and hydration were spot on. It was only during the last mile that I started to feel sick, and the whole way down the finishers chute I talked myself into not tossing my cookies. Chrissie Wellington was passing out finisher medals and now was not the time to toss cookies. I held it together, got a finisher medal and hug from Chrissie (she is COMPLETELY awesome - posing for pictures with anyone who asked and hugging sweaty, stinky triathletes), briefly chatted with blogger Frayed Laces, who totally had an amazing race, and took a quick swim in the water to cool off. Tim and Ashley both had fantastic races and while Tim said he was never going to do another 70.3 again, I know he is probably researching future 70.3s as we speak.

I really had no idea how I was going to do in this race - I didn't come into it completely expecting a PR, but at the same time, obviously that's something I wanted. And while I am really happy with my bike time and how much I have improved since my first 70.3 back in 2008, I really need to do something about my run. I don't know if it's a mental block or physical, or a combination of both, but I need to stop allowing myself to take it easy on the run, I need to stop allowing myself to make excuses and stop feeling like slower times are acceptable. This may be something I'll be focusing on in the off-season. Mental toughness on the run.

So, Timberman race weekend was great. Which was good because the following days were a bunch of crap, with my wallet being stolen from under my desk at work (WTH!!!), an earthquake, a hurricane, and a crazy schedule at work. Fortunately, however, another race (and a vacation to Ireland) was looming on my schedule, which is a post for another day!

Thanks for reading!


Katie said...

you left us in suspense!! what was the bike split?! :) congrats on your race!

Caroline said...

Thanks Katie - bike split was 2:48. I had zero expectations that I would go sub-2:50, so those extra two minutes were a giant bonus :)