Tuesday, September 22, 2015

2015 Finish Strong Half Iron Race Report

As I've mentioned before I wanted to replicate my successful 2014 race schedule as much as possible in 2015.  This meant a half iron race 4 weeks out from my ironman.  So the FS Series Finish Strong Half fit perfectly into this schedule.  Plus it was basically local so there wasn't a lot of extra time spent being able to do the race.
Event Area
I had done one FS Series race back in 2011.  It was a sprint in Raleigh in April, that I froze my butt off at.  I had a terrible race, but the race was run fine.  I knew it wasn't a very big race, and it turned out that they only had about 60 people signed up for the half.  With relays and the "Odd" distance triathlon (0.6 / 35 / 6.5), they had about 110 people signed up.  I figured that I would win it, but that wasn't the point today.  I wanted to test my fitness and my setup for Kona.

Since the race was at Vista Point in Jordan Lake (exact same starting point as IM Raleigh 70.3), I decided to just drive up that morning.  I got up at 3 am and hit the road.  Most races, I have to get up at 4 am anyways, so it wasn't a big deal.  When I got there, a line of cars was backed up at the gate.  One of the FS Series guys told me that the lock combination that they were given didn't work.  We sat there for about ten minutes, and they had the gate open just before 6am.

I parked in the closest lot and got my bike out.  I pumped my tires up and gathered my stuff and walked over to transition.  I had gotten an email telling me I was bib 68, so I racked my bike in transition before I went to get checked in.  At the packet pickup, they had a medical form to fill out.  As I was filling that out the guy behind me says, hey I know you, I read you're blog.  So I chatted with Dan for a couple minutes.

So I got everything setup for transition.  I trimmed my bike numbers so they fit on my seat post.  I'm really liking this wide aero seatpost.  Both races I've done now with the PRsix, I've put my number on the seatpost.  I put my bike helmet sticker on.  Put my run number on my Fuelbelt Racebelt.   Laid out my stuff, and that was pretty much it.  I had a couple more gels.  I had already had a bagel and a banana.  So then I put my Blueseventy swimskin on my bottom half and wandered out of transition to find the port-o-let.

They had a brief athlete meeting to go over a few course details and the swim start.  One cool thing about a small race like this is that everyone doing the half started at the same time.  No waves.  No swim staggers.  No trying to do math in my head at mile 7 of the run to determine what place I was.  When the gun goes off, everyone's racing.  If someone is ahead of you, then you're losing.  This doesn't happen that often, so I was looking forward to it.
Not a big Transition
No one really did a warmup swim.  We all just walked down the ramp and swam out towards the start line.  As I'm walking down the ramp I get a cramp in my left toes.  What the crap?  I stretch it out, but I wasn't sure why that happened.  It was an in-water start, and we treaded water til the gun went off (kinda like Kona?)

45:05 Officially 15th of 38 Men, 19th Overall of 53 finishers
Garmin had 44:22 and 1.3 miles.  In my defense, everyone was slow.  Maybe it was the 2 loop course and all the turns.  But the top finishers were only 6 minutes ahead of me.

I started off to the right and it wasn't too congested.  I had some contact, but it was pretty light.  I seemed to be swimming really straight.  I mean I only had to course correct slightly.  Maybe it helped that the double loop made each segment shorter.  You always had a turn buoy in sight.
Swim Exit
After the 2nd turn of the first lap I got more cramping in my toes and feet.  They weren't too bad and I was able to kinda kick them out.  I came back around the first turn buoy to start the second loop and I glanced at my watch: it said 21 minutes.  I figured that was about right.  The second loop was a bit of a mental test.  I was doing alright until the final turn for home.  This final stretch seemed to take forever on the first lap, so I just put my mind to it and kept pushing.

Midway through that last segment my calves started cramping up.  One would cramp, then stop, then the other one would start.  I actually stopped swimming one time it was so bad in my left leg.  At this point I thought I was dehydrated somehow.  I just stroked as hard as I could to get out of the water.  Once I hit land and started running, my legs felt much better.

0:45 officially 1st Male
Nice to have the fastest T1, although my rack spot surely helped with that.  I did have to get the rest of my swimskin off, so I must have done a good job.

2:21:39 officially 1st Overall (2nd was 2:26:08)
Garmin had 2:21:19 for 56.16 miles and a 23.8 average on 230 watts

So the first 5 miles or so are just like Raleigh 70.3. A good climb and then a fast section.  The good thing is that you are pretty fresh for the 243 feet of gain in the first 5 miles.  And then by mile 10 I was back over a 24 mph average.
Bike Out
The tops of my quads were hurting, so I just settled into the fact that this is how they needed to feel over the next 2 hours.  I settled in some over the next 20 miles, averaging around 233 watts for that stretch.  I kept reeling in people as I went.  Although, the further I got the more strung out people were and the longer it took for me to catch them.

It got a little more hilly on miles 30 to 50.  There was a total gain of 882 feet over that stretch, but I was still able to crank some watts.  I averaged around 233 watts there as well.  The last person I passed (Dan who I talked with before the race) I went back and forth with a little bit.  When I finally broke free of him I didn't see anyone. 

At this point I figured that I was either in the lead, or at least 5 minutes down.  I wasn't worried about the 5 minutes, since that was what I figured I would start the run with anyways.  So some of the last few miles are downhill, so I coasted some that last bit, only averaging about 205 watts for the last 6 miles.  As I made it back into transition, my dismount was flawless as usual.  Nice to have only a 10 yard run from dismount to transition.

1:00 officially 10th Male
Not bad.  Typically that's the best I can do.  (Again with socks excuse!).  Socks, Shoes, Visor, Race Belt, Sunglasses, and I'm off.

1:26:25 Officially 1st Overall
Garmin had 1:26:26 for 13.10 miles and a 6:36 average

As I come out of transition the announcer says that I'm the first half participant.  So that answered that.  I see Dan coming around the corner as I'm leaving the parking lot, so I had about 2 minutes on him.  But honestly (don't get mad, Dan) at that point I knew it was over. But like I said, that's not why I came here.  I wanted to have a strong run (especially after my 1:33 debacle at Eagleman).

 The first mile was relatively flat, and I felt relaxed as I came through with a 6:26 mile.  The second mile had 85 feet of gain, but again, as it was early on, I pushed a little and split that in 6:34.  I felt good the next couple of miles to the first turnaround and back averaging 6:26's.  There were people on the course from the odd distance event, but they weren't going too fast.  It was nice to have some company out there, but still the aid stations weren't crowded at all.

The next mile was a bit uphill and slipped to a 6:46.  I made that up on the totally downhill mile 6 that handed me a 6:08 split.  Nice.  I saw 2nd and 3rd come through, but didn't think to check and see how far back they were.  I made it back to the turn at the beginning feeling really strong, and even got that comment out of the announcer.  So through 7 miles I had a 6:28 average.

Then the hills got tougher, the motivation got lower.  At the turn I checked the mileage I was at, and then when I saw second place, I was 1.4 miles ahead.  I kept pushing the hills, but they got slower.  One mile in that final 6 was just under 7, and another was over 7.  Still when I hit the final turnaround and saw 2nd place I was 2 miles ahead.

I tried to push for home, and I did have a good last mile at 6:30.  But on those final 6 miles I only averaged 6:45's.  I did feel strong at the end.  So there's that.

4:34:53 1st Overall
Garmin multisport had 4:34:56

I came across the line to to very little fanfare.  Some people clapping and cheering, and an announcement from the race director.  I got some water in me and didn't feel too bad.  I found a place to sit and drank some soda.  I ended up winning by almost 20 minutes.  Full Results Here.

My calves still felt a little tight, but not too bad.  I just sat down and chilled some.  I eventually got some food and saw the next finishers come in.  I started to gather my stuff out of transition, and then I headed back to the car.  I packed every thing up and did a bit of clothes changing.  Dan was parked right across from me and we chatted for a bit.  (Kick some butt in Los Cabos, Dan! #Kona2016).
Fruits of the Labor
We walked back to the start.  They said there was not going to be an awards ceremony, but they would hand out awards at 2pm.  As we got back to the finish area, they announced that you could pick up your award.  Good timing for us, plus it was only 1:15pm.

I won a selfie stick and a FS Series toiletry bag.  Local Race Prizes can be fun!  As soon as I got that stuff, I headed towards the car.  I stopped at Subway on the way home.  All in all it was a good day.  I feel pretty good about my fitness.  I was glad to be able to run 6:30's off of 230 watts.  But more importantly I felt strong and wasn't dying.

4 weeks to go.  One more huge week, then a scaled down week, then taper time.  Crap it's getting close.  I just need to get these workouts in for the next couple of weeks and I'm confident I can enjoy the day on the Big Island.