Sunday, September 14, 2008

Duke Half Race Report

Duke Liver Half-Ironman Race Report

Heading onto the second lap of the run. Feeling great!

Heading into Duke I knew that I had some good form. My workouts had been going really well since coming back from my back injury at the end of July/start of August. I spent ten days in Chattanooga in the middle of August, before heading back for the start of fall term, training hard. The base I built in Chattanooga carried over into a few more weeks of consistent mileage/volume. Marc had been very accommodating since my school/work/social life schedule has been needless to say kind of out of control. After a few weeks of ninja training (ie. training at ungodly early hours or late at night in the shadows with throwing stars) and training in the cold and rain, I had unfortunately come down with a very severe head cold that sidelined me last weekend. After a large dose of extra sleep and cold medicine, I was close to being back to 100% by Saturday. I still have a light cough but it is nothing to write home to mom about.
So on to what everyone wants to hear about, The Race! Marc and I felt that this race would be a good ‘dress rehearsal’ for Clearwater and devised a plan to test out a few new racing tactics that could be beneficial in November.

Well, Kristen and I left on Saturday for Cary, NC at eight in the morning expecting to arrive around 11:30am with plenty of time to check out the course and get some light workouts in. As we started getting close to Cary, I saw a sign on the side of the interstate that read, “Jordan Lake.” I thought shoot that is where we are going, let’s just get off here and drive over to lake, it could save us some time. After two and half hours of driving around in giant circles and being completely pissed off at each other, Kristen and I finally arrived at the race sight, New Hope Boat Dock only to find the transition area not set up. After driving for almost five hours (it was supposed to be a three hour drive max), I had to get out for some air so I threw on my bike clothes, Kristen went for a walk and we met back at the car shortly thereafter feeling a hundred percent better. Since there was no swimming at the boat dock, we had to drive to what I deemed Redneck Ravine, a beach area five miles away. I was only allowed to swim within the restricted area but did get in a good ten minute swim before I sensed it was time to get Kristen and myself fed. Back in the car and thirty minutes later (for those counting we are now up to almost six hours in the car), Kristen and I arrived at InsideOut Sports for packet pickup but more importantly we arrived at Panera for lunch. After inhaling two sandwiches and on better terms we were ready to grab my packet and head over to the hotel. Night before a race, Josh’s OCD takes over and I packed and repacked the car for the following day, ate dinner and got to bed all before 9:30 but not before pouring over some Biochemistry notes (I know, Saturday night, I am a nerd).

4:20am came quickly. Out of bed and straight to the coffee cart in the lobby (thanks again Zach). After not consuming coffee for ten days leading up to the race, the coffee hit me like a brick (thanks again Zach) and I spent the remainder of the morning between setting up my transition area, running/swimming warm up and racing to the port-o-let. The day before the water temperature had been measured at 77 degrees (which I found shocking having swam in the ‘bath water’ a few hours before). However, when we arrived at transition, we were informed that in fact the water temperature had warmed up overnight and was now a balmy 79.1 degrees. Therefore, no wetsuit and on top of that with my speed suit having been stolen at Florida 70.3, I figured that I was going to find out exactly how fit I was in the water since I had no apparent swimming advantages at my disposal. I had a great swim warm up of about 20 to 25 minutes. At 7:05am, the elite wave was corralled to the swim start. Knowing that Alex McDonald was the defending champion, I decided my best chance for a clean swim start was to line up next to him and draft off his feet for as long as possible. Unfortunately, this seemed to be everyone else’s plan too and as all the elites lined up behind Alex, the gun went off and we were swimming. Quickly, a swim pack formed and stretched out. I found myself in about sixth position holding tight through the first turn buoy (~800m). However, as we rounded the first buoy, the pack accelerated and I found myself about 5 to 10m off the back, leading the second pack. So for the remainder 1200m I put my head down and swam (in a straight line I will have you know!) trying to stay in reasonable contact with the lead group of swimmers, while leading the rest of the elites. I knew if I could simply come ashore 1min to 2min back I could make up some time in transition and bridge to the group in the opening miles of the bike. With about 150m left in the swim, I saw an age-grouper coming up strong on my right. I thought this was strange since they started about four minutes behind us and I was still swimming strong but I have come to not question anything while swimming. Since the guy seemed to be rolling mad thunder, I decided to jump on his feet and stroke out the final 100m. As we came to shore, I quickly found out why the guy was swimming quickly as he bent over and started to chunk. Assuming he cut the course short, I slipped coming out of the water trying to avoid the projectile throw up. Overall I ended up swimming 30min and change, which is about a five minute PR. Not too shabby.

I clocked a sub-1 minute T1 and was onto the bike. For those that have never been to Cary, NC or the surrounding regions, let me fill you in on a little secret, There is NO flat ground to be found anywhere. Well, onto the bike ride. I knew that I was close to the lead group since I saw them exit the water, so I put my head down and rode the first 15miles like I was racing an Olympic distance triathlon. At the nuclear power plant (yes, we rode around a nuclear power plant), I had closed the gap to the leaders but could not bridge up to the third, fourth and fifth man (I was in sixth) since they seemed to be sharing some of the workload. The bike all in all was pretty uneventful expect losing all my nutrition and almost crashing out of the race at a railroad stop around mile 28 of the bike. Humming down the road at 28mph, I saw a little too late that I was getting ready to make a right hand turn and then cross a railroad track. I am still unsure of how I did not go down but I lost both my Gu2O water bottles. So, no excuses, I put my head down and drove on without nutrition to the aid station at mile 36. I had only water the rest of the bike but that’s ok, Phelps swam the 200m final with his goggles filled with water. I more than likely could have biked a PR but ended up 2:27 and change.
Coming into the T2, I knew I need to pump electrolytes as soon as possible, since I had none during the bike ride aside from GU. After another sub-1 minute transition, I headed out to tackle what would quickly become the most challenging run course I have ever been on. Within the first mile and half we had trekked up a mile long hill that pitched in sections at 8%. Whatever sick bastard designed this race course obviously has not raced it. At each of the aid stations I took water and filled my jersey with ice to ward off the 93 degree heat. The course was all on gravel/high grass trails. I ended up feeling very solid throughout the run although I have not logged much running mileage since my injury. I negative splitted the run, which was a Marc’s challenge of the day. Total run time was around 1:30.

I crossed the line in fifth with a total time of 4:32 and change. Not bad after fighting off illnesses and losing my nutrition on the bike. Most importantly, aside from Kristen being at the finish line to congratulate me, was that I did not end up in the medical tent! First half-ironman I have not won a free trip to the tent! Good things.

Mile 1.5 and 7.5 hill/aid station.

I want to thank Alex for pushing the pace and making the run look easy. It is easy to see why he won the amateur world title at Kona last year. Also, thanks to my cousin Aaron and his beautiful wife for coming out and supporting me this weekend as well as Stephanie’s sister’s family! It was great to see you guys and I thanks for all the words of encouragement.

Wow, that’s a lot of writing! I am hungry so until next time…

I will close with some swimming observations:

It turns out for those that were wondering swimming fast comes down to being about 90% between your ears. I only needed to believe in myself that I could swim quicker. Thanks Marc for kicking my ass the last month in the pool.

300m repeats or 25x50m ties for the two worst swim workouts ever.

My next big event will be the Toronto Half-Marathon in October. Look out Kenyans, I am starting run training this week!

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