I didn't really have any big expectations for the city of Lubbock, Texas and lets just say that it managed to just barely live up to them.
I did however, have some expectations or at least strong hopes for my race. Below is how it went. But first I want to get something off my chest.
We went down and swam at the lake on Friday. It was HOT. I don't mean like the water was warm, I mean it was HOT. I knew going in that it was likely to be a non-wetsuit swim. After taking a dip, I knew that there was NO WAY I would have swam in a wetsuit even if they allowed it. In the meeting they told us the average of 3 tests taken that day was 81 with the highest reading at 83. It was HOT the rest of the day. We walked out of the hotel room at 4am on race day and it was WARM. But somehow, "miraculously," the water had managed to drop 5 degrees overnight and it was wetsuit legal for the AGers. Excuse my going off on a tangent here, but I find it really lame that RD's do this. There is NO WAY the water was 76 on Sunday. I understand they do it for safety, I understand that when they have non-wetsuit swims they have a higher incidence of swimmer distress. But here's an idea; when the water is warm and there is literally NO REALISTIC chance of it dropping below the legal limit, announce it the day before that the swim will be non-wetsuit. This will give those who are uncertain about their unaided swim ability, a chance to back out, or a chance to "fall ill" on race morning and save face. Or better yet, announce it will be non-wetsuit, and give the option to do just the bike & run segments.
Now again, I ask for some leeway and forgiveness here. And I DO NOT intend for this to sound conceded, elitist, snobish, etc... But the real problem here lies with the athletes. If you are not able to EASILY swim 1.2mi in open water, without a wetsuit, and are not confident enough in your swim ability that you would not hesitate to do so alone any day of the week, you SHOULD NOT be on the starting line of a half ironman. Again, I'm not trying to put anybody down here, I don't care if you can swim the 1.2mi in 22min or 1hr, but if you are not 100% certain that you can swim it without issue, you should NOT be out there. Tragically, on Saturday a swimmer died at the Philadelphia triathlon. The swim for the Philly race on Sunday was cancelled. I am sure this factored into the RD's decision to make the swim wetsuit legal at Buffalo Springs. This is not to cast judgment on the swimmer who was lost, his swimming ability or to say he shouldn't have been out there. I don't know anything about him, and would not do so. Accident's happen, people get hit, kicked, take in water, have medical emergencies, etc... I have been in situations where I thought I was going to need help. But these would be much fewer if we, as athletes, were more realistic with ourselves, and came in to events fully prepared and confident that we can and will, absent some accident or medical problem, finish the swim whether in a wetsuit or not.
Sorry for my rant. Onto the race report:
I put my goggles on under my cap because I was pretty sure I was going to get so hot that I would need to rip my cap off. I nearly did, but was halfway through the swim and I didn't want to lose the draft I had just found. I got gapped at the beginning of the swim (need to work on my sprinting), and had to swim through one group before the 1st buoy. I found some feet, thought we were going to slow, swam through them, and promptly swam off course. I re-corrected and caught back up to that same group of 4 and just held their feet to the finish. I swam hard the whole swim, and while the course was definitely short, I was happy with my effort. Given the short course, the time is meaningless.
I got out on the bike and my goal was to try and hold higher watts than I did at Wildflower and to do so with the heart rate in check. For the first half of the ride things went well. I passed a few guys, was holding my watts and my heart rate was up. I am not sure if it was nutrition or fatigue, but in the second half of the ride (where I normally start feeling strongest), I began to crumble. My watts and heart rate fell and I struggled. I probably should have eaten a bigger breakfast or taken on more during the ride, and I had to really battle the rest of the way home to keep my power reasonably high. The headwind didn't help matters.
My 1/2 marathon PR continues to elude me. I WILL break 1:20 this year! In transition I had picked up a spot, but gave it back immediately out of T2 as I had promised myself that I would take the first mile easy. Well, that extended for about the first 3mi as I was having some issues in the first part of the run. Thankfully I didn't give up any other spots. Out at the turnaround I started feeling good. I had picked up one spot on an uphill, and gotten a gel at an aid station and things were beginning to feel good. On the way home in the "Energy Lab" we had a tailwind and this made for the hottest part of the run. I mad a deal with myself to just hold pace and once off that stretch (about mile 8), I would try and pick it up. I lived up to my end of the bargain, made it hurt, picked up another spot, negative split the run, and brought it home with the tank on empty.
I cracked into the Top 10 in the Pro field for the 1st time and I set a new (non-Clearwater) Half Ironman PR. I am happy with my race.
Maybe even more so than with the actual results, I am happy with how much, and what I learned in this race. I kept the throttles down even when I was hurting and wanting to pull back, and I had the Dirkinator's "You MUST make it HURT!!" running through my head all day.
However, I probably learned the most from the fortitude, perserverence and toughness
exhibited not by myself, but by Charisa. She came off a rough swim and a medium bike, to run herself into and through an IMMENSE amount of pain, and more than half the women's field! 16th to 6th with the 2nd fastest female run split (that makes 2 races in a row!). She could have easily chalked it up to a bad day in TOUGH conditions and compromised, and nobody would have known she didn't give it her all. But she didn't. She knew she had more to give, and she knew that SHE would know she didn't leave it all out there. Her performance was gritty and inspiring. Coming into the finish I could see her determination. Hugging her after, I could literally feel that she had pushed herself right up to the brink. Her body was shaking and wavering, but she was grinning from ear to ear. Inspiring and AWESOME!
I owe some big "Thank You" shout outs to those who make this racing thing possible. Zoot for making some incredible apparel and shoes and for standing behind their products and athletes. Blue Competition Cycles for building great bikes and putting performance and reliability foremost in their minds, ahead of the "bottom line." TriSports.com for making all the essentials literally a point a click away. PowerBar for making top of the line fuel for the human machine (next time I'll use more) and Steve, Miguel and the crew at Palos Verdes Bicycle Center for keeping my rig running in top form with little or no down time. Having confidence that one's equipment will perform as it is supposed to, day in and day out, is indescribably HUGE. I am beyond fortunate to enjoy the support of companies and individuals who pride themselves on ensuring just that. THANK YOU!
Next up the first BIG one... Ironman Lake Placid!