This event was my third race in seven weeks with the previous races being Boise 70.3 and Vineman 70.3. I’m not sure if I would take on such a schedule in the future as it was hard to maintain the peak fitness while recovering. Coming off my 36min PR from Vineman 70.3 two weeks earlier, I was excited to test myself with this new distance. Up until 14mo ago, I was only racing Olympic distance races. I caught the half Ironman bug last year and have pushed hard this year to test myself. This full distance aquabike was set up to be a great test for me. I knew the course well, but the distances were double what I had ever raced before.
Leading up to the race, I was working with coach Jeff on goal setting. I doubted I could maintain my 20.1 bike average I had two weeks ago at Vineman 70.3. That was the fastest I had ever done that distance, and I felt fatigued at the end of the bike. Surprisingly, I felt great that day on the first 7-8m on the run after, so I had conflicting data to build my goals. Coach agreed that on the bike, I should go for it and maintain around 20mph as long as I could. He said it would be easier to maintain that pace then step it up on the later half. I was confident in the swim leg and in retrospect, should have used that same advice. My goal going into the race was to get under 7:15 which would be the longest race time I’ve ever completed.
The weekend started off with me realizing I forgot my First Endurance liquidshot at home. I had my EFS drinks but have been loving the liquidshot. I realized I left it at home when I arrived in Santa Rosa. I debated between making the 4hr roundtrip ride home to get it or to take a nap and find an alternative at registration. The nap won out, and I was able to catch a great 90min rest at the hotel. Feeling refreshed, I headed over to register and attend the aquabike briefing. I ended up picking up some Accel Gel both with caffeine and without. I used to train with these, so I figured they would work well. I’m a big fan of reading pro race reports especially the nutritional aspect. It seems most look at add a pick me up late in the race of either sugars or caffeine. As I had never raced a full 112m bike, I thought it would helpful to have the caffeine gels. The one great piece of advice that came out of the briefing was that we should freeze our special needs bottles before dropping off in the morning. These bags were at the 57m mark of the bike.
Race morning arrived and I was psyched to get started. The full aquabike wave was last after the full Vineman waves, so I was off at 6:55. The weather forecast was great predicting morning fog and high temp of just 82. The swim course was two laps in the Russian River and was the same course I just swam in 34min two weeks ago. I knew I couldn’t fully maintain that pace, but I was optimistic. I went out pretty conservative mid pack and tried to get into my rhythm. I’m always amazed at how few triathletes know how to sight in the water. I battled with this one guy for seemingly 2min straight before standing up and running for a few minutes. The river is very shallow at points and helps you get away from these wanderers. In one other instance, someone was drafting me and kept touching my feet. After minutes of this, I kicked hard and either hit their skull or goggles hard…for a few minutes, I was expecting to be pulled underwater in retaliation. Luckily that didn’t happen! The difficult part of this course is that the exit and the 2nd lap buoy are a good 50 ft apart. That made it challenging to know if you were on pace. I guesstimated I was around 37min for the first lap. I pushed very hard the second lap and ended up at 1:15 for the swim. That was slower than my goal time of 1:12, but I wasn’t worried.
T1 was uneventful in 4min. I knew it would be slower than my Vineman 70.3 t1, as I wanted to put on my SLS compression socks. If you ever thought regular socks were a challenge, try full comp socks with wet legs and sand!
The last real glitch of the day was my dam Garmin 500. This is by far the best bike computer I’ve ever had, but the sleep feature bugs me. It took my garmin a full 2min to synch up to the satellites and I was already down the road when it started. I started the clock right away on the bike, but that just slowed down my average pace. That was frustrating throughout the day, as I never knew what my real average pace was…
I love this bike course with all of the rolling hills. My Scott TT bike was great out there and we had no problems. Here is the elevation chart:
I was feeling great throughout the first 56mile lap and was keeping mental checks at every 28m. Very few if any racers passed me for the first 56miles. I was in a great rhythm and hammering. I finished the first lap in 2:48, which was only a minute slower than my 70.3 time from two weeks ago. I was psyched to see that and wondered how much more I had in me. The wind was seemingly stronger that the half two weeks ago, but not a major concern. Next year I will have an aero helmet! It was here that I picked up my previously frozen EFS drinks and my 2nd “Bonk Breaker” bar. I’ve recently switched from a Cliffbar to these bars and I love them. If you ever get a chance, check them out at: http://www.bonkbreaker.com/
The next 28m went according to plan, as I was maintaining my pace of 19.8 (this was my garmins reading, which was slow). That brought me to mile 84/85. I was still feeling strong until I hit mile 90. This was the furthest I’ve biked this year, let alone raced. I just survived mile 90-99 knowing the my 2nd climb of Chalk hill was coming at mile 99. My energy levels were fine, but my quads were on fire and just didn’t have any power left. This is also when I noticed that a few of the other racers that had been in view the whole day where also struggling. There was also no way to know if they were racing the aquabike or not. My goal at this point was to spin up chalk hill and eat drink everything left on my bike to attack the last 12miles. Some was downhill initially and then it was rolling for the last 9 or so miles.
At the top of the hill, I dropped the hammer with the goal of passing as many people as I could and to have absolutely noting left at the finish line! That’s exactly what I was able to do averaging 22mph to the finish and even passing 4 bikers on Windsor rd going to the finish! I’ve never pushed my body so hard and it felt great to dig deeper than ever before. I was amazed that I had those reserves! I finished the bike in 5:48 averaging 19.29 over the full 112m that included 4,300 ft of climbing! This was huge for me, as just 14mo ago I was averaging in the 17’s for just 26m of olympic distance racing!
My total time was 7:07:33! That was the longest I’ve ever raced in my life and was ecstatic over finishing within my goal of 7:15. I stayed around for the award ceremony just in case I had been able to pull off top three in my age group. I ended up 5th in my age group and 36th overall out of 250 racers. Top 3 will be my goal next year for sure!
I know that USAT is trying to figure out who races aquabikes and why, as seen from their focus group. I love this distance and would like to see this option at every full Ironman. I personally don’t have an interest in the full Ironman unless, I am lucky enough to win the lottery one of these years. That would be enough incentive for me to step up. I love the 70.3 distance and these full aquabikes. I can fit in training with my busy work and family life and it’s a great balance.
I now need to figure out what to train for the rest of the year. I am currently signed up for the Nautica Malibu triathlon in Sept, but I may put all of my training towards the Tahoe Century in late Sept and attack that course. If I go that path, I will start building back my base in November to attack Oceanside 70.3 on April 2nd! I am more confident than ever on the bike and my goal for 2011 is a 5hr 70.3…