Today was supposed to be a hard training day for me and not specifically a “race”…there is no question that I accomplished both of these goals. Training straight through a half with no taper is not the most fun thing I have ever done as a matter of fact I think it ranks right up there with being force fed liver and Brussels sprouts by an enthusiastic leper with severe halitosis.
First of all I must say that I really enjoy Mountain Man Events, the group that puts this race on in addition to others in Arizona and Nevada. The GEEKGRL and I did the Mountain Man Sprint last year and this year she did the Oly and I did the half, they run all three events on the same day. While the Oly has been going for 23 years this is the second year of the half. If I were to say one thing it is that the half could be better supported. It was supported about like you would expect a good Olympic distance race to be supported but there were just a few more aid stations. I’m sure with time the RD will master support for this event as well.
The 70.3 took of at 6:10 am with a swim in beautiful lower Lower Lake Mary, a moderate sized body of water sitting in a mountain valley flanked by tall ponderosa pine, buffalo grass and wild flowers in full bloom. The air was fresh and clean after a good night’s rain and the water temps were right at 70 degrees. The swim course is a one loop affair and is shaped like a trapezoid. I took off somewhere close to the front of the middle of the pack and passed a couple people right away and then basically spent the next 1.1 miles swimming alone. I could see a lead group well ahead of me but nobody near me which made it kind of difficult to tell if I was doing well or not…I was just swimming along. If people are all around me I usually will throw in a few sprints to get around folks who seem to be fading or to prevent someone from passing me when, for perfectly arbitrary reasons, I decide I don’t want THAT particular person to pass me. I felt like I was swimming well, not pushing too hard but swimming well. It was easy to see all the buoys to about ¾ of the way through until you turn back to shore…at that point there are no buoys and you just head for the boat ramp. The only problem was I could not see the boat ramp as my goggles had become fogged, which slowed me considerably. I ended up with a time of 35: 25, nothing special but a good enough effort. T1 felt like it took forever because it is so long but I got though in 2:50 and was on to the bike.
The bike course is just as beautiful as everything on this race but it is definitely a challenge with 2470 feet of climbing that seems to come in long sections, this is not a Clyde friendly course. The lay out of the course was like a lolly pop with a short out and back at the top and two loops around the circle. I was hoping to get the bike under 3 hours but again was looking at this as a hard training day. I was feeling pretty good and found a couple people to play leap frog with, which probably kept my average pace a little higher than I had planned from time to time. The course was in excellent condition but was open to cars and cows, yes C-O-W, cows. I came across one of them in the middle of the road at about mile 5 and didn’t really know how to respond. When I’m on training rides and I see a dog I usually yell out “Good Doggers” in a friendly and excited manner and that usually stops them in their tracks so, I yelled out Good Doggers to the cow and the animal seemed unimpressed but did not advance in my direction and I was soon by and on my way. The traffic was light and I never really ran into any trouble. Somewhere near mile 20 I caught the youngest Outlaw at this event, Matt “Kid” Hoffman. This guy is 19 and this was his third ever triathlon. He is fast…fast fast. He finished the race in 5:09:17 and he has no experience and no real cycling ability, he’s always been a runner and a swimmer. Anyway, I caught him and we played leap frog most of the rest of the way into transition. The amazing thing about this is here I am decked out in about 5Gs worth of cycling paraphernalia and he is riding a friggin hobby horse, quite well I might add. Oh to be 19 and 128 pounds…I hit T2 with a bike of 2:55:56, an average speed of 19.1, which I’ll call good considering the climbing. I moved through T2 in 2:43 and it was on to the run.
My run began well enough but my quads were feeling all the climbing I had done but I still felt like I had some legs left…exactly what this RD does not want on his course so he throws in a mile and a half climb beginning at mile 1.5. This killer hill has the sprint turn around at the base so all the sprinters can yell for joy and praise any and all deities who may be listening, the top of the hill is the turn around for the Oly, which makes it a tough run for an Oly but whatever, your half way home. For the half, well, it is simply there to suck the life out of you before you move on to the remaining 10 miles of the course…I suppose that is unless you are a bird person then I gather it’s just somewhere else to run. I approached the hill very conservatively and actually took some time to look around because it did provide some spectacular views of the lake valley. Once I was at the bottom I took a brief walk break to lower my HR and then I was on the go again. It was my goal to try and keep my HR somewhere at 160 or slightly below to see how far I could get at that intensity. The answer is still unknown because around mile 5 I began having the dreaded stomach trouble. This was not the sloshy, bloated feeling but actual stomach pain. It was bad enough where I had to fall into intermittent walking and then my left leg began to hurt a little in the calf and the hamstring and that was that, I was walking. Mind you, this was a training day and I have now injured myself plenty to take a clue and back way off. I’m pretty sure I could have pushed it had this been an A race but no siree, I wasn’t risking a thing so probably beginning at mile 6 or so I started mostly walking with a few little test runs thrown in and by mile 10 it was pure walk because the running hurt my stomach and my gait felt uneven so I didn’t want to stress my legs with a wobbly run. The walking was interminable but it gave me time to think about what I would probably need to run this race better if I were going for it. I have decided that I will probably not do well on the run portion of a long course triathlon without the aid of carbonated soda, not that flat junk, and ice. Even though the temps were mild I was getting awfully hot a few times out there and chewing on ice and having some carbonated soda usually keeps me cool and my stomach operating. I did not have access to either of these two essentials and I found it difficult not to have them. I did finally run most of the last 2 miles when I was feeling better and completed the run in 2:47:36…dismal but hey, I protected the leg and it should be smooth sailing between here and Louisville.
My total time was 6:24:27, almost as slow as the Deuce Man fiasco but get this, it won me second place in my age group…yes, age group…they don’t have a clyde division at this race. What can I say, the half here plays second fiddle to the Oly, which draws the real competition and for whatever reason my AG here is slow. Oh well, it’s Bling Baby! and no, there were not only two in my AG though the fields were particularly small…mine had 7.
So this is my 4th 70.3 and I am keeping a list of relative difficulty. So far the easiest is Soma in Tempe, AZ, next would be Buffalo Springs outside Lubbock, TX then this one, the Mountain Man, Flagstaff, AZ and then the Deuce Man in show Low, AZ…however that assumes equal weather conditions. I think if Buff Springs had one of it’s high heat or high wind days it could move to the top of the list.