Sitting at the computer two days later I'm still not recovered from the effort I left out on the roads of Castaic. My wife after it was all over asked me what was the best part of this race for me? My response, seeing my close friend and former training partner John Lau, his wife and family for the first time in six years!Although this is only my 6th triathlon, this might have been the hardest one day event I've ever done. The bike course was epic with not a single flat section on the entire course and 80% of the Long Course participants riding straight up road bikes with one guy opting for a mountain bike with narrow road tires. Seeing riders get off their bikes to walk was not uncommon. Throw in the 94 degree weather and you have a real test of what you can endure and that's before running 13.1 miles. This picture of me may have been my last smile for the day as I prepped my transition area before the race.
THE SWIM - Lake Castaic was calm and compared to my other open water swims warm with a 68 degree temperature. I had none of the nervousness I usually have before the swim and felt confident with my training. The gun sounded I went in the water behind most of the other racers since I'm slow and there is no reason to make others go around me. Two hundred meters in I noticed I was with the main group and that's when it hit me, I cant breath, my wetsuit is too tight, panic, I went out to fast? Something felt wrong and I thought I might have to abandon. I have no idea why this happened other than the excitement got the best of me and I tried to swim beyond myself. As I always do in this situation I ask God to bail me out and calm me down. I got to the first buoy and finally settled in to my stroke. The panic was gone and I was making my usual smooth but slow progress. At the end of the swim I noticed I was taking a longer line to the beach than everyone else. Confused I asked one of the lifeguards if I'm supposed to go to the right our left of the last buoy? He told me right, everyone else went left. Oh well, a longer swim is better training right?
GOAL TIME :45:00ACTUAL TIME :51:50
GOAL TIME :7:00
ACTUAL TIME :5:25
THE BIKE - I knew going in to the race that this bike was tough. It was made tougher with the course change weeks before the race. The upside to the change was a single transition area. The downside was the course went from 5,600 feet of elevation gain to over 6,800 feet of elevation gain for 56 miles. I was smart enough to put my bike in the 39x21 gear at transition so I wouldn't look foolish falling over in a 53x21leaving transition to start a 7 mile climb with an average 5% grade. It felt great being on the bike even during a 7 mile climb as I was alternating standing and sitting and passing the faster swimmers. I always have to be careful and hold myself back when I first get on the bike because my instinct says "get a turtle on the bike and he can catch dolphins." One of my problems for this course is that this turtle has an ego that says I can ride any course in a 39x23. The reality is I would have been better served with a 39x25 set up or even a compact so I could be more efficient, saving my legs for the half marathon. How tough was this course? I spent I would say 65 to 70 percent of the bike in my 39x23 at times going 5 to 7 MPH. I averaged 13.7 MPH for the entire course! Brutal! In contrast at Ironman California 70.3 in March I averaged 18 MPH and triathletes were saying that course was tough! Despite the tough course my training was paying off as I passed and encouraged countless riders including a guy who got off his bike to go sit under a tree. Oh, and did I mention the heat? On the final climb of say 12% I approached five guys who all got off of their bikes to walk, one cramping and grabbing his leg. The final 7 miles was the screaming decent in to the transition area where my worried wife and friend stood fearing the worst for me since my goal time was 3:25 to 3:45 range.
GOAL TIME 3:25:00
ACTUAL TIME 4:06:42
GOAL TIME :7:00
ACTUAL TIME :6:22 (Gotta run in my compression socks whatever the time penalty)
THE RUN - I took a little longer in transition visiting with my wife and friend and sharing my bike experience. I felt tired but my hydration and nutrition were right on as I suffered no cramping or heat exhaustion at this point like others. I ran out of transition chasing a guy just in front of me to see if I could pace off of him. Always good for motivation. I looked down and my first mile was an 8:53 and the second a 9:11. It was going to be a good run. I passed the guy I was pacing off of at mile 3 as he was slowing to a jog and at mile 4 was thinking I'm going to PR for sure. I was running a 9:10 pace and my goal pace is 9:30...huge after that crazy bike course. I hit the one short but steep hill on the run course and it happens...my heart is racing at over 200 BPM. I'm losing power and energy, it's hot and I have no choice now but to slow down. Any chance of a PR is done. I see my wife LIz and I ask her to pray for me as I now struggle to run 10 minute miles. While this racing heart phenomenon I occasionally get is not life threatening, but it drains most of my energy leaving me fatigued.
Info on this condition can be found here: http://www.bobbyjulich.com/?p=46
With the high heat and heart rate all I could muster was a steady jog for the rest of the course running mile 12 at a 11:20 pace followed by a 9:44 for my final mile. Not exactly the way I envisioned finishing this race.
GOAL TIME 2:05:00
ACTUAL TIME 2:12:20
GOAL RACE TIME 6:27:00
ACTUAL RACE TIME 7:22:42
RACE RECAP - So...lets look for the positives of my event...uhhh... I beat my predicted transition times! I finished 5th in my age group! What I did accomplish and learn is that my all liquid nutrition is working well even in 94 degree weather. Putting on my compression socks in T2 was easier. I used my GPS on the run for the first time in a race and have decided to use it for IMAZ on the run only. (Battery life is an issue). I've experienced a small taste of how tough a full Ironman will be and how things beyond your control (heart rate, weather) can impact your race goals. My biggest disappointment was my swim. To see my swim fears coming back in a race that was to be a final tuneup for Ironman is really disheartening. I swim this distance twice a week and see no improvement? The Ironman swim cut off for 2.4 miles is 2:20:00. Theoretically based on even this slow race swim I should be able to beat it, but it still plants a seed of doubt in my mind. Physically I don't get tired during the swim, I'm just not comfortable in the water and swim very slow. The bike was just a great workout and the run I'm not completely unhappy with considering the circumstances. I'm proud to have raced and finished this difficult Half Ironman and it was great preparation for my ultimate goal, Ironman Arizona.
I want to thank my Heavenly Father who strengthens me and because of His grace and mercy I'm able to do these things in hope that somehow I can encourage others and glorify God with my actions.
I also would not be able to do this crazy training and racing without the support and encouragement of my wife Liz who brings me fresh bottles on long training days, prepares food for me and tells me how proud she is of me even when I fail to meet my personal goals.
Also a shout out to John and Ruby Lau. You guys were such a blessing this weekend, caring for us and feeding us ridiculous amounts of food. Thank you so much! John, I miss the long training rides we used to do together. Lets make it happen again!