Sunday, June 7, 2015

Legendary Race Report: The Chop, The Wind, The Heat...

Today marked the official start of my third triathlon racing season with the Legend Triathlon in Lawrence, KS.  Before I get into the nitty gritty of this race report, let me first give some background on this race.

A Brief History
For a good number of years, Ironman hosted a 70.3 in this location:  Clinton State Park in Lawrence, KS.  Ben has done the Ironman Kansas 70.3 twice and I volunteered at the swim start both times.  There have been some amazing athletes who have raced the course including Ironman champion Chrissy Wellington and Craig "Crowie" Alexander most recently in 2013.  I had the honor of handing him a swim cap and telling him he couldn't warm up in the lake that year.  In 2014, World Triathlon Corporation added a race to their 5150 series on this same course.  I raced the 5150 last year and had a very good race, which qualified me for the non defunct Hyvee Championship.  In 2015, WTC announced that it would discontinue Kansas 70.3, and their 5150 Series basically got the ax as well in this same year. 

And so was born the Legend Free State Triathlon.  Managed by the same race company(Silverback) that managed 5150 and 70.3, Legend boasted a number of different course options including a Sprint, Olympic (almost identical to the 5150 course), a 70.3 half iron distance and a weird 100 mile distance that included a 2 mile swim, 80 mile bike and 18 mile run.   Great incentives for early registration (I got a free sweatshirt and a $75 race entry) and lots of course options resulted in really strong races entries.  Someone told me there were approximately 1100 athletes racing today.

And now, to the race report...
After my not-so-great Lincoln Half Marathon, I really wanted to focus on pre-hydration and sodium intake.  As always, I get such amazing advice from friend and pro triathlete Alyssa Godesky and she had given me some tips for making sure I had enough sodium and hydration before I even got on the course. I have been working on that for about a month and have had some good practice runs including a really strong Bolder Boulder race and training weekend.  I felt pretty confident going into this weekend. 

Ben and I arrived in Lawrence around 3p on Saturday.  It was pretty hot but this is not unusual.  I checked in and took it easy the rest of the day.  Ben and I did our traditional dinner at Free State Brewery and I was well-hydrated.  I had been drinking a lot of water and sports drinks for several days prior and I felt pretty good.  In bed by 9:45p.  Fairly restless night which is typical for me the night before a race.

Race Morning
Up without an alarm at 4:30a, slapped on some sunscreen, braided my hair and made myself some oatmeal.  We were on the road at 5:07a.  I usually do coffee pre-race, but I've been using an energy drink that's really great (XS - an Amway produc,t strangely enough) which goes down easy and sits well with me.  We got to the race site at 5:30 and it was jammed.  Parking took a while and then you have to walk literally 1.5 miles to the transition and swim start.  I got there with 5 minutes to set up my crap before they closed transition.  No worries, though - I have a system and it was fine.  I had 40 minutes until my wave started so I had time to lube up (ASIDE:  for non-triathletes, using body glide lubrication on shins/arms helps to get the wetsuit off easily and around wrists/neck/ankles to avoid nasty chaffing), have a wee (pee) and even do a little loosen-up swim.  I noticed the chop but it didn't concern me.

Gun went off for my wave and the water was incredibly choppy.  This was my ninth triathlon and I've done countless open water swims including a 4000 meter swim in Tempe and I never experienced anything like this.  I seriously thought I was going to drown.  It was a total panic/freakout and I really had a difficult time recovering.  About ten minutes in, I couldn't see the people in my wave any longer because they were so far ahead of me.  I breaststroked (which I don't really know how to do) to a kayak.  I got my breath under control and thought, "Ok, just a little hiccup.  I can do this." Started out again to the next bouy.  Within 2 minutes I was panicked and unable to properly do my breathing without getting slapped in the face with a wave.  I just kind of hung out for a minute considering what I was going to do.  A boat came over and asked if I was OK.  "Do you want us to pull you out?" they said.  I couldn't believe this.  "No, I got it."  Swam to the next kayak.  Break.  Breathe.  Chill.  This went on like this for 40 minutes until I got to the half way point.  As a point of reference, I swam the entire 1500 meter course, this exact same course, in the 5150 race last year in 36:05.

By the time, I got to the turnaround, I was able to properly freestyle without taking in gulps of waves.  The second half of the race took me about 19 minutes.

swim time:  1:00:31

At this point, I am seriously just happy to be out of the water.  The swim is typically my favorite event but today was all about survival.  I took my sweet ass time in transition, thanking the gods for getting me to dry land.
T1 time:  4:00

Uneventful and slightly slower than my 5150 time last year.  It was a lot windier than last year but I felt like I enjoyed the bike more.  I solidly stuck to my hydration and nutrition plan and felt pretty good getting off the bike.  Alyssa told me once that I should ride "like I don't have to run after."  I did not really do that today but I was kind of just getting through at this point.
bike time:  1:50:46, 13.2 mph average (CRAP)

After ingesting half of the Clinton Lake on the swim, I had to PEE.  Took my sweet time again and used the Porta John.  NO toilet paper?  NO problem - I have grit.
T2 time:  5:01

Although it was about 8 minutes slower than last year's 5150, I felt pretty good.  At this point, I wasn't really busting my butt because I kind of felt like the race was shot, but my legs were really fresh and it was HOT OUT THERE.  90 degrees when I finished.  Very little shade on the course, but I stuck to my hydration and nutrition plan and felt fine.  Note to self:  do this again.  As I was hitting the 6 mile point, I thought, "Yeah, if I had to do another 6, I could do it."  This made me feel so happy. 
run time:  1:15:52

Official race finish:  4:16:07
  • Things happen.  I'm really proud of myself that I kept going.  Me, 2 years ago, would have turned back at the first kayak.  Now that I've had this experience, I feel like I could better manage a similar experience in the future.  I pray that Steelhead 70.3 swim in Lake Michigan is not as choppy.
  • Hydration/nutrition planned worked.  This may be the first race where I didn't want to just quit when I got off the bike.  I really felt decent and I have to think it was partially due to sticking to the plan.
  • Overall, these are probably the most brutal race conditions that I have experienced in a triathlon.  It was also my slowest time of any of my Olympic races, including my very first one. 
  • BUT...I really can't believe I didn't quit.  I am gaining some mental toughness and grit.  and I felt so happy with myself for that.  It also gave me confidence that I can do this 70.3.  I have a lot of work to do in the next 9 weeks, but I know it is achievable.
Next up:  Lifetime Tri Minneapolis - 7/11. I won a free entry so I'm there.  Stay tuned!