Monday, July 13, 2009

Lifetime Fitness Race Report

You’d think I'd be sick of this race after all these years, but the Lifetime Fitness triathlon becomes more and more enjoyable each year. I’ve participated in the race every year since Lifetime took the bold step to produce a top notch event here in the Twin Cities eight years ago. The home course advantage and knowledge has certainly made the difference for me the last few years.

In contrast to last year, I was not feeling very confident going into this event. Last year, this was my early season A race. I was training specifically for short course, and I was bursting at the seams to go after it. This year, with my early season focus on the half ironman distance, and with Buffalo Springs 70.3 recovery taking longer than expected, I was feeling less than zippy. Regardless, I couldn’t miss this event, so I had every intention to go out, play the cards I was dealt and do the best I could.

Pressure was rising during the week, but despite being the defending champion, I actually felt like the underdog to Lindsay Whalen. She’s been having a super year so far, and I didn’t think I could get in front of her. Deep down however, I held on to the hope that course knowledge and my tremendous support crew would make the difference on Saturday.

As race time approached, I was feeding off the amazing crowds and enthusiasm of the great venue. We started shortly after the pros, and once the gun went off, all my nervous energy thankfully turned into something more useful. The swim start was pretty rough, and directly into the sun. It took some time to find a decent line and clear water, but luckily it wasn’t too bad once I hit the first turn buoy. I swam on my own the entire race, which I think is a good strategy for me. Several times last year, I would get comfy behind someone else and simply enjoy the ride. I couldn’t quite find LW’s feet, but I noticed there was someone from my wave about 20 yds ahead. I figured it was her, and tried my hardest to catch her. That didn’t happen, but when I came around the corner into T1, I was amazed that Lindsay was still at her rack space.

I quickly shed my wetsuit grabbed my bike and managed to take off with her, I rounded the last corner in t1 and jumped on my bike just in front. Knowing how much easier is it to fuel off someone in your sights, I hammered the start of the bike to try to create an early gap. With all the corners etc, I knew this course made it much easier to get out of sight. I figured that was my only hope to get any ground on her. Although I typically enjoy hilly bike course, I find this fairly flat course very enjoyable. The opportunity to ride these roads without traffic is special for us locals.

I had friends cheering all over the course, and therefore loving every minute of it. I had no idea what was happening behind me, but kept working hard. Although I felt strong and smooth, I felt like such a rookie in the corners. I used to ride much more aggressively, but since I crashed in a corner last year, I’ve become such a wimp. Anyways, I’ll be working on that over the next few weeks.

It felt wonderful coming into T2 in the lead, but I knew the run was not going to be much of a party. The first opportunity to check in on the competition comes just after the first mile where there a short out and back before continuing around the lake. I saw Lindsay and figured she was about a minute behind me. This made me pretty nervous, but I didn’t see anyone else behind her. I did my best to focus on decent run form and high cadence, but I still wasn’t seeing the splits I was hoping for. Although its very hard to explain here in writing, coming around the top of the lake and passing through the first lap was very exciting. With SO many friendly cheers and support coming from the sidelines, I did everything I could to pick up the pace. I’m pretty sure I negative split the 2nd loop, which is something positive to pull from my lackluster run split. When I came around the final curve at the top of Lake Nakomis I had several people tell me there was nobody behind me. This was music to my ears, and coming into the finish chute was so much fun. That feeling never get old, and I’m go grateful for all the wonderful cheers and support out there.

Here's JH enjoying the race best bike split-AWESOME!

A very special thanks for all the kind comments (Facebook rocks). There’s no way I could have pulled it off this year without my awesome support crew. Kerry is always at the top of that list, but my awesome friends, the best crew at Gear West (thanks for hooking me up with the fast Zipp Sub9), and all the fun competitors make this so much more enjoyable. A huge kudos goes out to the Lifetime Fitness Athletic events crew for once again putting on such a World class event and for their continued support for amateur racing.

Next up: Heart of the Lakes on Sunday. I WILL have a better run on Sunday-That is My main objective.