Having come into this race with very little training (mainly swimming) since IM CdA, I had low expectations and a heavy concern about the state of my achilles. I knew that I did not have podium level fitness and had to find a plan that would allow me to race hard and yet not put any new damage into the already damaged tendon.
I arrived the Tuesday before the race (4 days) hoping that the altitude difference would be ok. My plan for the week was:
- Wednesday: Ride the race course with easy climbing and focus on getting the descents and technical sensations going well, an OW swim (before riding) and therapy
- Thursday: easy short run on the race course, an OW swim and therapy
- Friday: therapy only
The big issue coming into the race was my Achilles injury that has limited my cycling dramatically (no rides longer than 2 hours or any real hard efforts) since June. I have also not run since June, which is a big concern, both from a muscular/fitness point of view, but also not knowing how my Achilles would handle the ride and the run. My goal for the race was to swim hard, ride as hard as I could (with the goal of riding myself into the ground, thus not allowing me to have any energy to run fast and incur more possible injury to my Achilles). I also planned to bag the run if I felt any real Achilles pain on the bike.
Wednesday – My first ride was a good one and I found that I descended better than last year and my balance and lines were overall good. I felt a bit of the altitude, but had a good 2-hour ride. I didn’t have any Achilles discomfort to note, which was good.
Thursday – I did an OW swim by myself and felt good with decent speed. The water remained warm and I felt pretty confident I could do a sub 25min swim in the race, if I swam a good line. After my swim, I joined Noah for a short easy run where I walked the hills and ran the flats and descents. I kind of got carried away on the descents and ended running near race pace. My Achilles’ (both for some reason) were both a bit bothered during the run.
Friday – no training today, just some therapy. I did have a ton of soreness (in my quads and hips) from the run, which was not expected, but also not surprising considering the pace I went downhill on legs that haven’t run in 2.5 months.
Saturday (Race Day) came early with a decent night of sleep (not great, but not too disturbed). I had some moderate residual soreness, and some stiffness upon waking (minimal). Breakfast was yoghurt (140grams) with nuts, honey, granola and a few blueberries with OJ and then a coffee. I had a Gu gel before I got in the water (I forgot to bring the Gatorade shot).
The course was the same as 2012 and continues to be one of the hardest courses around. The swim is in Pineview reservoir, then the bike heads up Wheeler Canyon (a 12min climb with lots of rocks and loose ground), from there it crosses the Old Snowbasin Road and hits the singletrack climb up East fork to Green Pond where it then descends via a technical and rocky trail to Middle fork to the beginning of the difficult switchback climb up Sardine Peak, then tips over near the crest-line in some technical bits (and amazing views) and then descends back to the power station next to Snowbasin before a last bit of climbing the resort and T2
The swim started crowded for me and stayed crowded much of the first lap, which was far too long (I almost thought it must have been a one lap swim as my watch had about 1200m just after the lap was completed). I felt ok, and just stayed focused on keeping my stroke rate high and long and not swallowing the water, staying on a good direction. The first lap was strong for me as I had a good pace for the first 1200m, and I felt like was having a decent swim. On the second lap, my stroke degraded some as I fatigued a bit, but I was still swimming ok (it seemed) and I kicked hard to finish strong. As I ran up the boat ramp, I was running hard, so much so that my heart near exploded (felt like the altitude was an issue there) and I had to ease up into transition.
My transition was pretty good, not super fast, but was efficient, and only really struggled some when I tried to put my socks on my wet, dirt covered feet. Other than the sock issues, I got the wetsuit off without drama and was on my way feeling a bit recovered from the run up the boat ramp.
Getting on the bike is usually where I really feel like the race begins, but on this day, I had patience in my mind, not knowing what my fitness level was. Once the climbing began, I knew that I was going to have to be patient as my perceived intensity was too high at times and I had to slow to recover some. I did find that I was passing people and did not get passed, so I knew my pace was ok. I felt pretty good overall all the way up to the road crossing, where I took a gel (more for a psych boost than a energy need, but a good move in hindsight). On the climb up to East fork, I continued to crawl through the field and passed a lot of people, but never felt strong. Once on the Middle Fork descent, I began to feel better and I descended well with decent lines and balance. I did get caught behind some slower riders that I was hesitant to pass, and that cost me a bit of time. The descent was quick and it was soon onto the tough Sardine Canyon climb and some nasty steep switchbacks. I managed to go over the crest without drama, but made a mess of the rocky off camber section coming back towards the last peak before the main descent. I pretty much followed one guy (#279) for much of the ride from the descent from Green Pond to T2, as he was very close in fitness to me, although I think I could descend a little better. Two other racers caught back up with us on the last descent and it was the 4 of us together in the final mile before T2.
The last climb was a hurtful one, but I felt good and was glad to get onto the final part the race: the trail run.
I came into T2 pretty smoothly (except for my left shoe which came off the pedal when I tried to pull it out just as I was nearing the dismount line). I noticed that there weren’t very many bikes in transition and then put total focus on getting the helmet and shoes off, and the runners on. I didn’t have anything but shoes in T2 so it was an easy and simple stop. I took a gentle approach to running and got up to speed slowly. When I got to the first climb it felt like the climb was 2x steeper than it was in training and I was hurting super badly as I struggled to jog slowly up it. I just barely managed to keep a very slow jog until the hill topped out (with quads that were starting to cramp) and from there I tried to recover while picking up my speed. I pretty much held my position overall as I was passed a couple times but also passed a couple of racers. My quads were iffy, but held together and I pushed as hard as I could and kept my mind on the moment and not on how much farther I had to go. Staying in the moment was crucial for my psyche as I was running so slow that any thought of how much farther would have been depressing and/or irritating. I did really attacked the descents, letting my legs take a serious pounding in order to hold as much speed as I could until my left hamstring really tightened up and I had to hold back a bit to keep it from seizing.
The run went by slowly (it seemed since I was running slowly and trying to keep from hurting my Achilles) and even though I was really hurting, I had good motivation and kept the intensity up to the end. As I rounded the last switchback on the final descent, I was passed a fast racer and knew he could be in my AG but did not have any energy or ability (hamstring was seizing up at this point) to chase him. The final hill before the blessed descent to the finish line was horrible and I felt my eyes popping out, but seeing some family kept me together and I finished with a kick.
Crossing the finish line, I instantly hit the ground with seizing muscles and was helped to the aid tent where I was taken care of (light stretching and some rest and electrolytes). I was generally happy with my day, considering my low expectations due to the injury and the lack of running. When I saw the results, I was sad to see that I was off the podium, but in my heart knew that I faked that result and had to be happy
I was pleased with the result, despite not getting on the podium. I came 6th in my AG and was the 11th fastest amateur overall (41st including the pros).
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