Sunday, September 14, 2014

Race Report: HITS Hunter half iron

I got up at 4:30 for a 7:00 am start, had my packet already, just needed to get there (15 min away, I stayed locally) and set up. I downed a protein bar and a Clif bar with some Gatorade, vowing not to eat again until the race to give my stomach a break. I'd also eaten an early and light dinner of a sandwich the night before, really didn't want GI Joe showing up uninvited.

It was a frosty 42 degrees at transition, and I mulled around in jeans and a hoodie to stay warm. I gave the power meter one last try to pair to the Joule, but it seems I was out of batteries on the PowerTap and it wasn't going to happen. Bummer, so much for the power plan, have to ride on feel. I'd seen the course by car the day before and knew it was pretty much down a screamer, then up the same, which I'm used to on the commute course to work. I felt like if I kept it going hard on the downhills, I could pace the rollers and ascents fine.

Swim time! The water was comparably warm, and perfect for racing. The RD (a great guy) led a prayer on the beach, and off we went. I had what felt like a 90% great swim, there were a couple of points where I lost form, but I gained it back. We lost probably a good 2 minutes on the funkiness of the course - get out after the first lap, run down the beach and go back in navigating over some nasty large and jagged rocks. Once swimming, all is well. Popped out and heard 9th out...which was great. Granted, this was a small field, but I knew I had swam well. A guy who had been tickling my feet the whole time thanked me and commented how powerful my kick was, and thought that was a great swim time. Again, I'll take it! Thanks buddy, way to hang behind that two beater! Up the hill and over the mat, I put the swim at about 30 minutes less the weirdness, which is perfect. The buddy's watch confirmed the pace later. Sweet!

Arm warmers on and dried off as much as possible to prepare for a freezefest. I was concerned that I hadn't been able to find my flat kit and was just praying nothing would flat or my day would be over. Fortunately, no bad luck. However, it was COLD. And then the wind started. Oh the wind. It blew in your face on the way up the starter hill, to the side on the way down it, then in your face again (what?) on the way back up. The side wind made me chuck my plan to hammer on the way down, it just didn't feel stable enough. I passed and then was passed by the eventual 2nd place finisher, and given the wind I didn't feel I could chase him down without burning matches I didn't have for the run. I really wanted to nail the run to the wall. I hunted down a rider in Plattsville town, and chatted with him a bunch, another benefit of a lonely ride - no refs. He had the same plan, nail the run. Nice guy. We finished the bike within seconds of each other and left for the run. His brother shouted at him to run a 1:25, which I fessed up immediately was not in my wheelhouse. I told him to take off.

OK, so the run. I couldn't feel my feet, but fine, who cares. I started out. The plan was to relax - sing some Bon Iver to myself, and keep my pace low to start - around 8:30 to 9:00 even. Assuming I could settle in and not freak, start increasing the pace at 1 to 1.5 miles and then lay it down. What can I say, I did just that. I stopped at each aid station for flat coke, but quickly. A whizz at about mile 8 to notr be distracted. A brief, :30 walk over a very rocky portion of the short foot trail to not risk twisting a foot or aggravating an ITB. Other than that....I did it. My best half mary on a HIM, a 1:49. Deep bow. I coasted in what I thought was 7th overall, found out the next day it was 6th. Won my age group handily.

Again, not a deep field, but I know it was a solid effort. In a deeper field I would still have done well, not won the age group, but podiumed in it, no flukes. The run was the key. Was it because I didn't burn too many matches on the bike? Eh, not sure. I definitely took it easy on the bike to be conservative to the wind. I'm capable of better on the bike, but the balance in the performance has to be key. If I keep my bike fitness up, race weight down, and fight to maintain what I have in the other two, I will do well at this distance. I don't have a lot to improve on the swim or run, I don't have the physique or time for it. But I can destroy on the bike, and need to race accordingly. The longer the distance, the more I have to simply hold on the run, not chase people down. Shorter distances will be harder for me because I can't swim as fast. I have a feeling I'm going to plan next year's schedule around longer distances only. They are very fulfilling and speak to my strengths more.

A great way to end the season!