Friday, July 30, 2010

Chisago Lakes Half Iron RR

After the fat tire bonanza in Colorado, it was time to get back into Triathlon mode. Considering we enjoyed 14 hrs of High Country training in three days, we tried our best to recover quickly and get ready for the Chisago Half. Although considered a ‘local race’ it felt far from that on race morning with so many new faces in transition.

Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling very confident come race morning, nonetheless I was excited to race my first half of the year. This would be career half #6 for me, yet I still feel like such a rookie out there. As a prolific short course racer, I typically don’t have to think much about strategy and plan- I go all out from the start and drink a bottle of something on the bike- Simple!! Well, considering that’s not recommended for longer races, this would be an opportunity to learn more about how it’s done.

Swim: Straight out and back. After last year’s super short swim course, I was hoping it would be closer to the 1.2 miles this time around. It certainly didn’t look like it from shore, but I was happy when I saw 27:xx on my watch when I excited the water- Seemed reasonable to me. Although the simplicity of having an out and back course is nice for the event staff, it can be a problem for the racers. What quickly became two-way swim traffic on the course, as swimmers started drifting to the opposite side of the buoys, led to one painful collision for me. I was close to someone’s feet for about 100m when all of a sudden WHAM-I went head to head with someone from a later wave who had found themselves in the wrong ‘lane”. All I could think about was Mary’s concussion from IMLP a few years ago, and started to question if I was ok. It hurt, but thankfully the race adrenaline kicked back in and I was back on my way. I decided to veer further to the right of the buoy line and swim by myself., and amazingly I felt stronger from there and led a pack of swimmers into T1 including Jackie Arendt from Madison.

Bike: I knew this was make or break time for me. Knowing Jackie is a much faster runner, I figured I would need 5+ minutes off the bike just to have a shot. I also had no idea how the other girls compared, and at the time I assumed Heather and Marnie were racing (both strong bikers and better runners). I started off and I felt pretty good (although I had a ton of blood all over my hands from my swim crash). I read that there would be an Aid station at mile 29, and I planned my hydration accordingly. Well that was a mistake. I wized through the Aid station at mile 20 (still ok there) thinking It would be best to hold off putting a “heavy” bottle on my bike early…. Well, with no aid station until about mile 35, I had let myself go too long without fluids. With just two bottle holders on my bike (and one is my 450cal Carbo Pro), I kept holding off on taking in more calories as I knew I needed water to wash it down. Finally I saw an aid station at about mile 35, and I slowed down to nurse myself back. I really didn’t feel bad, but I knew I still had a LOT of racing left and letting yourself get depleted early is recipe for disaster. I finally got myself together and started peddling hard again.

I’m not sure where it was on the course, but eventually Jackie passed me (maybe Mile 45). I knew I was in trouble at that point, but I got my head together and moved back ahead. I tried to peddle strong, but we went back and forth one more time before I took the lead for the final 5-6 miles. We ended up coming into t2 together and it didn’t take her long to zoom by and get off in front on the run course. She took off with her long strides, but I knew I had to stay within myself this early in the race. I haven’t been doing much run training, but I had a goal to hold 7min/mile pace. The first few miles trickled by at 6:55ish, and I felt very controlled and comfortable (I figured I could hold it). Jackie had made up huge ground on me already, so catching her was not on my mind. I was however VERY concerned for what was happening behind me. I really wasn’t sure who was on the course and what was happening so I tried looking back a few times, but thankfully didn’t see anyone. It’s an out an back course with a little ‘lolly pop’ on the top. I started to fade towards the 7 mile mark (this is when I’m typically finishing my race), and noticed my pace had slipped closer to 7:20s. Ugh. I wasn’t feeling great and tried to take as much ice and water as I could in an attempt to keep myself together. I was thrilled to make it back to the finish line in one piece, and pick up an decent paycheck in the process.

It was a great day with a lot of fun people. So many fun cheers from spectators and racers alike. Sorry if I couldn’t return the favor of cheering on my return leg back to town. I was in a world of hurt at that point.

As I look back on the results, I’m pleased with the numbers. There’s not much I could have done to hold off the talented Jackie Arendt out there. At only 25years of age, she has incredible potential- having the legs to race back to back half Ironman’s, and a top 10 OA at Ironman St George (super hard course) is extremely impressive. She’ll has a great triathlon career in her future. It will be fun to watch her kick butt on her 'home course" at Ironman Wisconsin in a few weeks. If the weather is right, I predict she'll pick up an amateur CR.

These race results also remind me of how much I must improve to compete at that level - I’m super excited to keep learning and gaining more experience with the longer distance races. Fun Stuff.