Sunday, June 5, 2011

"I'm here to win"

I recently started reading professional triathlete Chris McCormack's book "I'm Here to Win".  It's part autobiography and part racing guide. He's been successful at every distance he races at, including 2 wins at the Hawaii Ironman. He knows his strengths and weaknesses and how to put together a strategy that put's him in a position to win. My original strategy for this race was that it would be a training day. Now inspired by Macca, my focus became "I'm here to win."

I woke up a few minutes before my alarm and had my breakfast. Took a quick shower and then Wingman and I headed out to the race. I setup my stuff in transition quickly and made a pitstop at the porta-john. The air temps were chilly and I put my wetsuit on early. I brought the sleeveless wetsuit and was worried that I made a mistake and should have worn the full sleeve. But as soon as I entered the water, I knew I would be OK with my wetsuit choice. The water felt warm enough for a sleeveless. The one thing about entering the water is you need to be careful of the large rocks in the water. This was my third year doing this race so I knew to be careful. I would lift each foot high and gently step down and lightly feel the bottom before I step down hard. I was almost at the starting line in the water when I slammed my toes into a big rock. It hurt like hell at first, but the pain subsided. It seemed like forever before the horn went off. I started shivering in the water and worried about letting myself get too cold. The water didn't seem too cold, but the air temperature was chilly.

I heard the countdown and one more time I said to myself "I'm here to win." The horn went off and I was on my way. The goal for the swim was to put in a solid effort with no going off course. I found some feet to follow early and had a close call with getting kicked. First thought was "Oh no, not the hands, I still have 2 weeks left on my clinical. I need to graduate." But I kept plugging away and I quickly came up to the first turn buoy. I thought for sure that I must have been off course because I made it there quickly, but alas, I was on course and on target for a good swim. I made a tight turn and swam across to the next turn buoy. So far, the swim was effortless and felt fast. The swim in to the beach seemed to take forever. With the sun in my eyes, I had a tough time finding the beach. I knew I was on target, but it just seemed to take forever to make it in. I managed to get through the swim exactly like I planned. I stayed on course and had a great rhythm.

I came out of the water and ran to transition. I heard the Wingman cheering me on. I found my rack and quickly stripped out of my wetsuit. I grabbed my bike stuff and my bike, and ran out to the bike mount. Since I was starting in the last wave, I knew there would be a ton of slower riders in front of me to pass. This is not a biker friendly course if you are not in the first two waves. The roads are a bit narrow at times with a ton of turns. The course is flat as a pancake, but I can't take advantage of it. I was passing riders like crazy, but once a turn was coming up, I was stuck behind someone slow. After the turns, I would pick it up and ride hard until I came up to another slow rider. This is also the first race using a powermeter. I kept an eye on my average watts and current watts. I'm not sure I looked at my speed once. As long as I was near my racing zone, I knew the speed was there. And again, I felt like I left a lot in the tank on the bike but it was out of my control. The number of new/slow riders on the course in front of me doesn't give me a chance to open it up on the bike. If I was in an earlier wave, I could definitely make some noise on the bike. But overall I think I did well given what was laid out in front of me.

I got into T2 and quickly changed shoes for the run. I grabbed my garmin so I could get my run splits. I had a nice rhythm early and my legs didn't feel too heavy from the bike. I guess that's the result of having to scale back my bike effort. I could see the Wingman racing along the parking lot to cheer me on one last time before I left the marina. I kept thinking to myself "I'm here to win." My run goal was to put in a good effort and keep the feet moving. For the first time in a race, I was passing people. I couldn't believe it. People usually pass me on the run, but this time I was flying. As I came up on 1 mile, I reminded myself "I'm here to win." I wasn't going to give anyone in my division an opportunity to steal it from me. If they want to beat me, their effort has to be better than mine. I wasn't going to give an inch.

The run course is basically an out and back. The turn around is a cul-de-sac and it gave me a chance to look at the other race numbers that were behind me. I knew the number range I was in so I looked for those numbers and I didn't see any. But I knew I couldn't let up. I had no idea if someone was in front of me. I kept up my pace and was passing more people. I was feeling good and picked it up a little more. I knew the last 1/10th mile was on grass and naturally I would slow down, so I picked up my pace before entering the marina. I got a shout out from my friend John and then made my way to the finishing shoot. I ran hard and managed to not get passed. I crossed the line and stopped my watch. I saw that I finished ~4 minutes faster than last year and put in an incredible run for me.

I caught up with the Wingman and we went to the car so I could change. After that we went to collect my stuff from transition and wait for the results. When they were finally posted, I could see that I finished first in my division my a little over 1 minute. I turned to the Wingman and said "I'm here to win."

The awards at this race are nice. They give you a plaque, and if you are first, a package of chocolate chip cookies.

It's all about the cookies

The car was packed and we headed out to breakfast. My right shoe felt like it was rubbing my toe. I felt around and the shoe was not tight and I had plenty of room. When we got to the restaurant, I took off my shoe and sock and saw this:

Result of smashing my foot into the rock in the water

I guess with all the race adrenaline I never noticed that it hurt. Now it was becoming painful. As soon as we got home I iced it down, but the bruising got worse. Not much you can do for a broken toe, but I believe I am a total badass for racing on it, right? After all "I'm here to win........"

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