2004 CATS Half Ironman
Team USA World Team Qualifier (top 20 in each Age Group Qualify)
August 14th, 2004
Temperature: 82 degrees F with 65% humidity
Distance: 1.2 mile swim/56 mile bike/13.1 mile run
I arrived in AR on Thursday night – I waited for Bud for about 20 minutes – we drove down to Arkadelphia together – hit the Wal-Mart – loaded up on food supplies – fruit/water/cottage cheese/etc. We got to this sweet lodge we were staying at around 11:30. We went to sleep shortly thereafter. We woke up around 8:00, I felt good, the sun was out and I was mentally ready to get going. Steve drove down from CO to the race and he was kind enough to take my bike and bags – he met us at 10:30 and the three of drove the bike course (hillier then we thought it would be) and then picked up our packets and ate some lunch at Subway – uh yeah, the pickings were slim in Arkadelphia, trust me. I had some issues with my front wheel, as the spoke was loose and needed to get it tightened. I took it to John Cobb – but he doesn’t apparently carry all his tools with him, so he told me he couldn’t help me unless I bought a 7/32 socket. Bud ended up tightening it with a spoon and his bare hands – did I mention he was Mr. Grand Rapids in a former life – full on biceps and forearms bigger then my legs – I was glad to have him there to help.
We went to dinner at 6:30 at the Cracker Barrel – I went for the grilled chicken salad and it was solid. I had been eating all day, snacking on fruit, almonds, Gatorade, water – I was more then ready calorie wise. The last thing before bed was a trip to Wal-Mart to get some Ben and Jerry’s (thanks EC for introducing me to the bonk-proof carbo-load before any distance race). I typically go for low fat yogurt, but still its 700- calories and I‘ll need all the calories I can get tomorrow. We hit the sack by 10:30 and I slept pretty solid. I woke up as rested as I have been in a long time. What a few more days of sleep could do for me; in time I guess. The last three weeks of training have been very solid for me. I had vertigo for about 10 days in July and I am still feeling slight symptoms off and on. Nothing that affects my training or racing, but I get light headed/dizzy if I move too quickly from side to side. Those ten days were really a blessing as I rested and had some of the best training I have ever had after that. Things were clicking pretty god going into the race.
We hit the race site by 6:10 – picked up our timing chips, got body marked, and racked our bikes. There is a huge rack that no one had their bike on, so I go to the end with Bud, and we rack our bikes there. Our bikes are easy to find because no one is within 25 feet of us. Steve already had the #1 spot in transition so he was set.
The water temp is 85 degrees, so wetsuits won’t be allowed. A quick side not here is that in the past, I would have been freaking about this non wetsuit swim. But my swim coach, Rick Fee has me pretty prepared for this race. I am as confident with a wetsuit as without these days. Thanks Rick, I owe you. The time and yards we have spent in the pool since November, has been well worth it (333,200 yards to be exact and 107 hours of swimming). My next competitive swim goal is completely within my reach. ?
My wave goes off at 7:25, about 10 minutes later then it was supposed to but everything is good. I line up in the front row right next to the guy in my age group who I think will win the whole race. My swimming confidence is at an all-time high, so swimming at the front is something I no longer fear. After the gun goes off, I get on the fast guy’s feet and I am hanging on. We hit 600m and I am still on, feeling good, working a little, but not too bad. It feels good to be pushing it and racing at sea level is always nice. Another swimmer gets between us and I am now going easier but not sure why. After another 300 meters, I realize the guy in front of me got dropped by the swimmer I was originally drafting. Ugh – ok – at the halfway point, I just go by myself, no draft, swimming through all the slower swimmers, trying to get back on my draft. Well, no luck because that bus has already left the station. I end up swimming strong to the finish, nothing too taxing and I stand up at 31:14 – pretty good swim for non-wetsuit. I run up to my transition spot, and throw on my heart rate monitor, my D3 jersey, my camelback, my sunglasses, and helmet. I grab my bike and I am off.
I hit the mount line and do a nice flying mount onto the bike and head up the first hill of the day. My goal on the bike is to keep my hear rate (HR) at 135-140 on the flats and not over 146 on the hills. The first hill is short and steep, and I spin up, never leaving the saddle. I hit 151 on the HR monitor and back way off. I get the HR down to 135 and continue on. I pass Steve a few miles later; he is just relaxed and looks strong. He told me that this would be the day that he absolutely follows the plan. The first 8 miles are up and down – then we hit a long steep winding downhill followed by a short uphill and another steep winding downhill. I get through this section pretty easy. I’m keeping the HR in check and eating/drinking when I should – about every 15 minutes. I hit the first flat section and I let it rip – whoa – a little too much as my HR goes right by 150 again – so I relax and get it back down. Now we hit some more rollers and I am in a good groove. Guys are standing, grinding, and grunting and I am sitting back in the saddle spinning right by them. I am feeling strong today and my attitude is positive. I didn’t come into this race wondering what I could do; I was going to do what I set out for. Having a positive attitude goes a long way when you are racing for more then two hours; and in this case racing for close to five hours. Right before the turn around, I stop to pee, taking one minute, and then I get going again, re-passing all the cyclists who passed my while I was taking care of business. My turn around time was 1:19. I get passed by some cyclists who are drafting, but I don’t say anything. Earlier in the race I was vocal but now I am only focused on my plan. At mile 35 the idea was to pick up the pace, because this is where the hills start again in earnest. I was able to get my HR up quite easily and it would come back down when I backed it off. I kept it below 146 on the hills and just rolled along, catching a guy or gal here or there. Things were going well. I hit the top of the last big hill. The volunteers are telling us that it’s all downhill from here on out – yeah right – there were some false flats and very rough road too. And now I am starting to hear that spoke that is loose again. Uh-oh. Just make it back to the transition area. Ugh – I was pretty conservative all day long with the downhills trying to be careful of the loose spoke. Lucky for me, it stayed together until the finish. No crashes, no broken spokes, so I was all set. Final bike time 2:40:54 (2nd lap was 1:21). I hit the second transition ready to run.
Another quick side note: I spent two hours with Bobby McGee on Tuesday before the race, getting a critique of my run form. Over the course of those two hours Bobby gave me about 10-12 things to work on. At the end of the session my confidence was a little low, let’s just put it that way. At the very end of the session he says to me, “Mike, I gave you a lot to work on, but really, you have it 98% correct”. Ok – he was right, but I still had lots to work on. If I look at the positive side of that, I guess that means lots of room for improvement. The four most important tasks I have to focus on at this race was driving my arms back more, pushing my dot on the ground to the finish line (I made this a green dot to signify “GO FAST”), rolling off my big toes and I was supposed to STOP calculating and analyzing my run times during the race. For those of you who know me well enough, you know I am a math person. I can’t help but count, calculate and analyze. Oh well, I had my instructions, and I take orders well, so I was out to execute my mission.
The first mile of the run course is up hill, then the second is downhill to a turnaround, then back uphill and then the course continues uphill some more, until you drop into the final turn around and re-trace your steps. That would be one loop of 6.55 miles and that had to be done twice. I hit the first hill, trying to keep my HR under 150 – no such luck – my goal was to cap the HR at 158 on the hills or about 8 beats below my threshold. At about two miles in, my right hamstring cramps, I reach back to grab some salt and grab 3 salt tablets – it’s all the salt I have, but I take them all at once, no water. Desperate situations call for desperate measures. I hit the next aid station and grab two Gatorades and this will be my strategy from here on out. I turn back to head back up the hill and Steve is just bearing down on me. He has the poker player’s face and he is saying nothing. I am thinking he will catch me by mile 4 at the pace he is going. But, I am on a wicked pace too, almost like a 10k effort. My HR is sky high, but I feel as though I can hold this effort for the entire 13 miles. I am looking for mile markers, but guess what? There are none. So, Bobby gets his wish, I can’t calculate, I can only do one thing: RUN. And that is what I do. I focus on pushing my dot along the ground, rolling off my big toes, and driving my arms back. I am managing my cramping, as its worse on the downhills but I can keep it at bay with the Gatorade at each aid station. I am trying to think about why my HR is so high and the only conclusion is that I am well rested and in solid shape for this race. I hit the end of lap 1 and I am pretty happy with my time. My watch says 41:50 – about 10 seconds slower then my Bolder Boulder10k time this year. I ease into the mile long uphill again, and decide once I hit the peak, I will go for broke. No sense in leaving anything out there. I see Steve is about the same distance away, so he is not gaining, but I can’t take any chances. No one has passed met yet, and I am passing anyone I can see, and I am absolutely at my best effort. On the final turn around, Steve is even closer and the hamstring is on the verge of cramping, but I tell the hamstring not to cramp, because I am not paying attention to it. I am on a mission to finish the run in 1:25. The last downhill mile was tough on the quads, but I pushed as best as I could, and I hit the finish line at 4:40:54 – my final run time was 1:25:16 – come to find out the run was short by .8 miles, so my time really should have been 1:30 – so a PR run by over 6 minutes or about 30 seconds a mile. My final placing was 38th out of 450 overall and 10th in my Age Group. I had a great day and I wanted to thank Bobby for his continued help, to G for dragging me up the Canyon to run up high (8500 feet), and to Rick for pushing me past my limits in the pool. I owe you guys – thanks again.
To everyone else – thanks for reading,