Sunday, July 17, 2011

Taking this mother down

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?

This morning the Wingman and I got up early to head out to Montauk for another triathlon. I've done this race every year since 2005, with one exception (2006). It's such a great venue to race at and the weather is pretty much perfect every year. The setup is a little tricky with two different transition areas, but with some help from the Wingman, I get my stuff setup easily and stress-free on race mornings. The only thing weighing heavy on my mind is a lingering calf issue. I've been battling a shin splint on and off for over a month now and I have good days and bad days. Most of this week has been bad. I've been wearing a compression sleeve at night when I sleep and since this week has mostly been a recovery week, I've stayed off my feet as much as I could.

I decided to wear my sleeve for the race so my calf would feel good during the race. The 1/2 mile walk down the sand to the race start wasn't much of a help. I tried to minimize the twisting motion of my foot/ankle as I walked but I could feel a twinge every now and again. Once I got down to the starting point, I chatted with Wynn, Teresa, and Marty for a little bit. Then the Wingman joined us for a few. Before I knew it, it was time to get into the water for the start. The ocean was a little cool at first, but I quickly got warm. There was also a nice chop that we were swimming into as well. The saving grace was the underlying current that would carry us along. When the horn went off, I started off. At first I was in a little traffic jam, but I decided to take it easy a little to see if it would open up. My patience paid off and due mostly to the chop, I quickly found some open water to swim in. I've done a few open water swims with a chop similar to today so I had a rough idea how to time my strokes for the rise and fall of the chop. At times it was a little weird when I would look up to sight ahead and all I would see is a wall of water coming towards me. I think I was about a 1/3 of the way through the swim when I was actually thinking "This is kind of fun. I wonder if I can go back and do it again?" 

I think by the time I was 3/4 of the way done with the swim, the waters were calmer and I could see ahead of me. Oddly enough I noticed that there were very few swim caps of my color in front of me. I wound up finishing ahead of most of the people in my wave which is a huge victory for me since swimming is not my strength. Once I got out of the water I took a peek at my time. I was ~1 minute faster than last year. Oh boy, could this be the makings of a good race? Only time would tell.......

I made my way up the beach and into T1. I passed the Wingman who was sitting down on a rock not expecting me quite so soon. I waved hello and he cheered me on as I ran by. I got to my rack, stripped off the wetsuit and got ready to ride!! 

I grabbed the bike and set out on the bike course. There was a bit of bike traffic in front of me and I was kicking myself for not being 20 seconds faster in transition. Now I was stuck trying to maneuver around people. For ~3 miles I had to do various accelerations to try and get around people. I felt good on the bike and was pushing my pace. Every once in a while I would look down to see what my speed or cadence was. I didn't bother looking at power. I think maybe twice the entire time I looked at my average power. I zipped around Gosman's and decided to go for broke. I was feeling really good and wanted to see what I was capable of on this course. Before I knew it I was back on Montauk Hwy and making my way to the Lighthouse. Usually on this stretch of road, I tend to labor a little, but not today. I think I've really nailed my nutrition down. Even though it's a short course I still brought half a bottle of my drink out there with me. I'm not as fast as the uber people out there so a little swig here and there to keep my topped off doesn't hurt.

Up ahead I could see my nemesis looming. There is a big hill to climb about 2 miles from the park. Every year I struggle up this hill. It's a pretty sad sight to see my climb this hill. I am usually huffing and puffing my way up with my heart beating in my throat. But this year was different. I was spinning up easily and in a harder gear than in years past. Next thing I knew I was at the top and flying down the back side of the hill. Holy crap, who stole my old, crappy hill riding legs and replaced them with the climbing legs I had today? Now I was flying the rest of the way to the park. I looked down at the race time and started to think about a PR on the course. 

I got to T2 and switched out my shoes for the run. Before I left the transition I took another swig and told my calf to behave itself. I channeled my inner Jens Voigt and said "Shut up legs" and began my run. As soon as I hit the grassy hill, my left calf started to ache. I walked it up the hill and started to run when I was on solid ground. The usual spot of my pain didn't bother me, but I could feel a knot in my calf with each step. I tuned it out and kept moving one foot in front of the other. I had no idea where on the course Obi-Jen was and the last thing I needed was to have her see me walking at any time. I knew I would find my rhythm quickly, but I forgot that the run course is ever so slightly uphill on the way in and you are rewarded with the downhill on the way out. The other thing I forgot is just how long it seems to take to get to the turnaround point. I saw Wynn running along with his laser focus and when I said hello it almost seemed to startle him.

I kept my focus now on finishing strong. When I saw my time prior to starting the run I knew I had a course PR in the bag. The only thing would be if I completely imploded on the run course or a catastrophic injury. I got to the turnaround and was never happier to be heading out of the park. I took advantage of the downward slopes for free speed and overall, my foot turnover was increasing. I was feeling a little stronger as the run went on. As I exited the park I saw Teresa and cheered her on. 

Now I made my way to the road and the uphill finish. I did my best to get up the hill as quick as I could. The only thing going through my head was the faster I got up the hill, the faster the race would be over. When I crossed the line I stopped my watch and was shocked at what I saw. I had an incredible PR. I shaved 13 minutes off the PR I set last year. Most of the time came off the blistering pace I set on the bike and some more came from the run.

This race was a HUGE breakthrough for me. My bike average was ~2.5 mph faster than my previous best. I climbed the hill like it was a bump in the road. I powered through the last 2 miles with plenty of energy. I held it together on the run. There are always things I find in the race that I could work on for next time, but overall I have to say I am finally pleased with my race performance. The results are proof that Obi-Jen's planning and training are taking hold. The pieces are starting to come together as I hunker down for the heavy load coming up for my A race in September.

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