And here it is for your reading pleasure.
As I have stated in previous posts and Facebook updates, St. Anthony’s is my barometer for how my training is going, if I have improved, what areas need work, etc. and this year proved no different. I entered the race with high, though cautious, expectations about what I would be able to do. I set my goal at under 4 hours, which would be a new PR, and even with the foot injury I felt pretty confident I could do it. Still, I have also completed enough races to know that anything can happen, and there is usually one thing that occurs in every race that will push you to the limit, or alter your plan. The trick is being able to over come these things as they arise.
After spending the day before the race hitting the water for an acclimation swim, checking in, getting our bikes set in transition, combing the expo for the one crazy deal, and checking in with quite a few people (Beth Shaw, Dave Scott, etc.), then doing our duty expected with Team in Training (with a very rousing speech by Gene Smith), we settled in pretty early to get some sleep before the 4:00 AM wake up call. The three years of racing have taught us many things, including what we need to have in transition, and what is nice to have but not needed. This has made our packing much easier. We have also learned to sleep much better.
4 AM still comes early, but we were up and out the door quick, Another thing we have learned is to have a Sharpie on hand and body mark yourself. Saves so much time not having to stand in line in the morning. The first SLIGHT curve happened due to the Boston Tragedy, which resulted in Bag checks and having to bring items in provided clear bags. Not a huge inconvenience, but was a pita lugging everything back that way after the race. The other thing we noticed right away was the wind. The flags were standing straight out, and the news said it was steady at 15 mph. You would think our immediate concern would be the bike, but what entered every one’s head was the swim. High winds equals swells, and waves pushing you into the water exit. Not good. Gene stated they may cancel the swim, but in 2011 we had similar conditions and they shortened the swim, so I had expected that before a complete cancelling. Turned out I was correct (as if there is a surprise there).
My goal in the swim was to do my training pace, which was around 36-40:00 mile. This has to be my
biggest improvement area. Not in how strong I am in it, but the panic issue. I have not had a panic in this area for awhile. I know that can happen at anytime, but it is nice to enter the water, hear the horn, and get your face in the water immediately with no issues. It was a strong swim with no issues other than one ear plug coming out in the final 200m. I exited in 18:00, which was about an 38:00 pace. Right on schedule, so was pretty happy with that. The big issue was after the swim. when they shorten the swim like this you come out of the water on the beach, which then gives you about a .5 mile run to T1. In bare feet. On sidewalks. When you already have an Achilles issue, running flat footed like this is a problem, so I had to walk. This did NOT help my time, but I think it was the right call. I would have hated to kill my race entirely only 18:00 in because I felt I had to run.
I got in T1 and back out in just under 12:00. Once I got to my bike my transition was actually pretty fast and I hot the bike feeling strong and ready. As much as I hate to admit this, because the Tri Gods have a way of getting you for saying things like this, but that was the easiest 25 mile ride I have ever had. Even with the heavier winds I was right on pace with last year. Now, this means a couple of things; I have not made any progress since last year, and I should have pushed harder. As far as the progress, I think I am wrong there, because last year I was beat after the bike, but this year, with winds and the same pace, I felt good and had plenty of energy. As far as effort goes, looking back I should have pushed harder, but there is really no way to know that while the race is happening. You push as hard as you feel you need to, but in looking now at how I felt, I know I could have done better. I finished in just over 1:30:00, which was what I expected.
The run portion I knew was going to be a problem due to the injury I had not run in over a month, but
I also knew the pain was going to be there. The plan was just to do what I could and try not to hurt myself further. I think it went OK. It was hot hot hot, laws yes it was hot, but I never felt like I was bonking. I set myself up at a 1:00/:30 run walk and just ran as fast as I could when I was running and let it be what it would be. I was planning on a 20:00 overall pace and ended with a 17:00, so in that I was successful. I know I can do better when healthy. The other good thing was that my foot didn’t hurt as bad as I expected, but the sole pain was back again. I think it was due to the non-running for a month.
I completed the race in under 4:00:00 which was my goal. I know there was a shortened swim, but after going through the paces I determined that even with the swim I would have finished in under 4, so I am counting it as a new PR for this distance. A good start to the season.
I do want to mention a couple of other things though:
It is an odd feeling to be recognized. Unlike other bloggers my picture is not a big part of my writing, so it is very … odd … to be recognized on course. This happened three times during the weekend. Once when I was waiting with Jenny (because after my transition is set I am blind due to my need of glasses) a woman next to us said “I know this is going to sound weird but is your name John?” Turns out she reads this blog (Hello to Jamie!!) and started telling me that I have inspired her, which for someone who just writes to keep himself on track is quite complementary. I think I had posted that once in Vinnie Tortorich’s
site that it would be nice to inspire people. I am not sure how I do it, Jamie, but if it does it makes me want to keep writing, so thank you for that compliment. The other two times were on the run portion with yells of “I am going to read about this in the blog right?” and “I want to read about this tomorrow!!”. I was in a state by that point and wish I could remember who yelled those things, so let me know who you are!
As hot and miserable as this race can be, the people who live on the course are beyond compare. They get out on the road and spray you with water, bring you fruit and water, and ICE. There was even people giving out beer and Jell-O shots (though I could not do that). I have not seen this in any other race, and it makes this race what it is.
The No Sugar No Grain lifestyle works. The weight is down, and using this stuff as fuel (i.e. no sugar except for an occasional trickle, fat based items) works guys. You may poo-poo it all you want, but you are missing the boat on this method. I talked to a few people on the run and touted this method. It’s one of those things you have to share with others once you see how it works and see the BS that is still out there (yes, Mr. Hines “Chocolate Milk” Ward, I am talking to YOU!).
It is NOT fun to be waiting for your partner and see, as she crosses the finish line, her go down to the ground. She had become dehydrated and was almost in heat stroke. Don’t do that again Jenny!
So, two races down for the year. All that’s left are the Crystal River races (which we use for training) and then Augusta in September. I am going to work my ass off this summer, because (I know I am going to get hell for this) I am sick of finishing last in my division (though I was actually 18 of 19 this time … with 10 DNF’ing).