I was up by 4am and awoke after a fairly sound 5-6 hour night of sleep. I felt good, had a bit of tightness but it dissipated very quickly. I had a normal breakfast (Greek nonfat yoghurt with honey, nuts and granola, along with OJ) with a VIA coffee and we all departed for the race site a few minutes before 5am. The drive to the venue was the first indication that I had not studied the course enough as parking was a bit challenging (although we did recon the area the prior night after dinner). We ended up parking a few blocks from the transition area (and on a street that we would not find easily after the race). It was a slightly warmer morning than the prior days (and dry too), which raised my spirits immensely. The rain and cold temps on Thursday and Friday concerned me greatly and I ended up packed a long sleeve jersey, gloves and arm warmers in my T1 bag to be ready for a cold bike ride.
I got into transition relatively easily, and then pumped up my tire (with the help from another racer – a new tire is needed before I use that disc in Vegas). At about 6:10 I got into my wetsuit and then made my way to the swim start where I thought I would rendezvous with my family (but since I did not know the set-up, I was mistaken and would not see them until I came out of T1). At about 6:20 I had my Gatorade shot and chatted with Josh Lee while I sat on the concrete wall along the beach. I decided to slot myself into the 1-1:15 group (the groups/pens were in 15min increments). It was hard to tell if the groups were filled with people who were gaming the system or not, and I quickly put that out of my head.
The swim was a new rolling start, which meant athletes got into pens for estimated times (sub hour, 1hr to 1:15, etc) and then at 6:35 they all were moved through a chute into the water for a two lap counterclockwise swim (with a short beach run between laps). The process went well as I was in the second coral and was in the water by 6:37 or so. I started well and felt good even though I did not warm up (I was worried that the water might be colder than I expected and would be a problem if I warmed up, or rather got cold while loosening up). I was able to swim fairly straight most of the way (I did come off the course on the entrance to the second lap but otherwise kept a good line). The chaos was less than a mass start at the beginning, but it was kind of clogged the entire two loops, which was a bit annoying but not too much of a problem. Within 15min, I had to roll over onto my back and wash out my goggles, which was a bit annoying (I need to rinse them before the swim rather than starting with dry lenses).
I came out of the first loop feeling good, with only a bit of shoulder pain that eased as I warmed up. The clock looked good when I hit the beach (I snuck a look and saw 31min, which was spot on where I hoped to be, knowing that I would be slower in the second lap due to my lack of swim fitness). Coming around the second lap, I stopped thinking about the swim and began to get my head around the pain that was in the very near future on the bike. Getting to the beach was smooth and I felt good to the end, with no cramps or issues and once I hit terra firma, the race really began.
Because I had not really reconnoitered the swim exit and transition area I was not quite ready for the wetsuit strippers when I came running up the beach, and had to stop to get my wetsuit down to my waist before they could do their job. Once free of the wetsuit, I quickly ran (passed many people who seemed to think this was a leisurely affair) and grabbed my bag (I did know exactly where it was). Inside the changing tent, I found a free spot and then took the time to towel off as the air temp was quite cool and I did not want to spend the first 60min of the bike shivering. That added some time, but it was a worthwhile delay. Helmet and shoes on, and I was out into the open air.
My bike was easy to find, being right near the fence by a rubbish bin, and I got it rolling with no stress. I was at the far end from the transition exit, so it took some time to get out (I wish transitions were all designed to make it fair to everyone with the entrance and exit designed to balance things out).
My plan was to ride round 210-215 watts on the flats and around 250-260 watts on the climbs with the second 90km loop being slightly higher if I felt really good or slightly lower if I felt I had burned one too many matches. The course in CdA is a pretty fair course with rolling hills, fairly smooth pavement, but zero technical aspects. Starting out, it was cool and calm, but the temps warmed up (thankfully), as did the wind on the second loop (never more than an annoyance). The course had a few no-pass zones that were problematic as I got caught behind slower riders going out on the first long out and back, and then again coming into the finish the bike.
During the bike I found myself really unsure where the turn around was (on the long out and back) and it kept coming up in my mind whenever a bit of fatigue was felt. I guess that when I looked at the course map, I was so bored by the very slight rolling terrain and lack of turns or descents, that I failed to really note the distances or times it would take for me to hit certain segments. I always race better with knowledge of the context (in long course that is).
On the bike, I had a detailed plan for calories and hydration, as well as salt tabs, but once on the bike, I kind of did what seemed right and am not sure how much I actually consumed. I did follow the general pattern but lost track of some of the details and then had to improvise. I know I had a large and small Bonk Breaker bar, a Gu Chomps pack, 1+ bottles of Perform, 2+ bottles of water (very unsure as I drank a lot while coming out of aid stations, but then would drop the bottle there). I also had 6-8 Gu gels (probably) over the course of the second half of the bike. My plan was to eat the bars early, then switch to gels late, while taking on bananas as needed/available. I alternated between Perform and water and tried to time that cycle so that I would wash down gels, etc. with water. Despite not following the plan precisely, I finished the bike feeling good with no stomach issues and was only a tiny bit thirsty.
The sensations on the bike were not great overall, as I felt like 210 was a bit too much and had to back off a bit on the second loop. I was on pace for a sub 5 ride, but due to the slightly windier second loop and lower power, I ended up going just over 5 hours.
I came off the bike feeling fired up (always the case when getting off after 180km!) and moved very quickly to get my bag and into the tent where I was out faster than the volunteer could manage to help. I keep it real simple for T2, as I don’t have any real needs other than putting on my running shoes. I generally pull my feet out of my cycling shoes on the run into transition so my only real task is pulling off my helmet and putting on my runners, while grabbing my race belt and visor (putting them on while running).
The run course was a two-loop (out and back) affair with some stinging climbs that were a big surprise to me. The course starts from transition near the swim and makes its way east through the small city (and along the lake front past some posh homes) then comes out on the lake drive where it gets quite hilly. The turn around is about 6.5 miles out at the bottom of a fairly steep hill (you crest the hill, descend and the turn around right at the bottom – cruel). The course retraces its steps back into town and the start/finish area (but not on the same street as the finish that caused me some problems when I kicked in the final section).
I started out too fast as always, but 6:45 felt so damn easy, I could not find a slower speed. I had to take a piss (second of the day, once on the bike) in the second mile, which was nice (good to know the kidney’s were functioning this time around). The run course in CdA was a real surprise as I expected some climbing, but not what I found and I also found that I had zero run strength and the first set of hills destroyed my legs and my podium chances. I found running on the flat 3 miles into the first set of hills easy to run 7min miles, then after hitting the turn around (at the bottom of a hill!), I felt like the power was gone.
My energy levels were fine, and my heart rate was ok, it was just the lack of run training that included any kind of power work. I noticed this is Maui last year and somewhat in Vegas, but those were both short 10km efforts and so I was completely exposed over the 42km run in CdA. In the second loop, I began to just focus on not walking and even though my speed dropped to 10+min miles at times, I kept running (although I did walk part of the aid stations as I was getting too much air in my belly when I drank that it began to cause distress). The truth here is not just my lack of run strength, but also one of a bit of mental weakness. I am sure I had the fitness to run faster (considering how good I felt when I kicked over the last 1km), even though the hills were super hard on me.
This race is a good one and a fair one with the new Swim Smart start working ok. The weather and the potential for cold water are the only real drawbacks. The town really supports the race and the volunteers did a great job. I would love to come back and try again, sometime in the future. Thanks to Team BSR and my family for the great on course support! Thanks to Bonk Breaker, FuelBelt, ROCKTAPE, Spy and Athlete Octane for supporting our team.
Data & Splits:
- Overall Time – 10:04:27 (10th AG, 80th OA)
- Swim – 1:05:43(52nd AG, 327th OA)
- T1 – 3:46
- Bike – 5:05:09 (3rd AG, 29th OA)
- T2 – 1:19 (one of the fastest times overall)
- Run – 3:48:30 (24th AG, 76th OA)
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