Back at it: Chapter 6: Patriot Half Race Report

The 2017 Patriot Half triathlon was to be my curtain call for long course racing. I had envisioned, rehearsed and trained for a perfect race. This perfect race would have a fantasy ending in which I would leave my shoes on the mat like wrestlers do after their final match. I crossed the finish line on Saturday with a smile on my face, a heart on my chest and my shoes on the mat.  Unfortunately it was not a perfect race yet, I’m at peace.

As race day approached I knew I had put in the training to become as fit as possible however the levels I achieved would not allow me to reach my goals.  I could have easily altered my goals and made them more realistic but where is the fun in that? If this was going to be my last long course race then I was going to have to maximize my fitness and to take chances throughout the race.

The weather on race morning was 70 degrees, 100% humidity, overcast and drizzling and would remain that way until about noon. 

I was very confident going into the swim and was dead set on emerging from the water in 30 min, however something was missing. A 30 minute swim would be Step 1 in making my fantasy a reality. I seeded myself behind 6 people for this time-trial start in order to have people to chase down/swim with.  For the first ¾’s of the swim I was swimming straight, feeling strong, confident and smooth and was making my way through the previous swim waves.  With about 600 yards to go I started to repeatedly veer off course and developed a very strange cramping sensation on my right side.  As my hand would enter the water and right before the catch phase I would have this wide-spreading cramping that covered my rib cage.  However as soon as I initiated the catch, it went away.  I have never had such a sensation before and did the best to avoid thinking about it. I exited the water knowing that the amount of navigational errors cost me at least a minute and that a 30 minute split wasn’t going to be possible.

SWIM: 32:58 (7th in AG) – It turned out to be a very average swim and I am a bit disappointed with the time and what transpired. I would now need to make the 3 minutes up somewhere along the course. The quickest way to gain back some time would be to have a very quick T1.

T1: This year the race directors added wetsuit strippers but I opted not to use them.  Instead I made my way to my rack, made quick work of my wetsuit and was able to make up valuable time.
1:43.3 (1st in AG)

I had driven the course the day before so I knew what I was getting myself into.  This was a course made for me. This was a flat to gently rolling course that would reward people that could carry their speed. In my fantasy I would bike a 2:30. In reality I did not have the fitness to do so. A strong and intelligent bike split would be 2:40-2:45.  An intelligent bike split would immediately ruin my fantasy so I opted to put myself in the best position possible to make my fantasy a reality.

The first loop of the bike course was non-eventful and status quo.  I sighted and picked out markers along the way to key on for lap 2. My nutrition was on point. My power output was where it needed to be. I was relaxed and as expected was making my way through the field yet, something was still missing. The insistent pursuit of my fantasy would require an initial split between 1:14-1:16.  A bit of shock surfaced as I completed the first lap in 1:16. This was an instant moral booster and breathed life into my fantasy.  Now I just needed to put out the same effort for lap 2 and then finish Step 3, the run. 

The second loop continued to be status quo.  A handful of stronger cyclists passed me.  A few that had flown by me on lap 1 I was now reeling in and passing.  My power output was holding steady, I nailed the bottle hand off at the aid station and was in a positive state of mind yet, something was still missing. I was going to make this fantasy a reality.

Bike: 2:34.50 (13th in AG) Damn! I just out biked my potential. While this was not 2:30 I’m totally stoked on this split. I was still behind my target time but I was clinging onto and ready to fight for this fleeing fantasy. Time for a quick transition to gain back some time.

T2: 2:36.7 (4th in AG) Dismounting my bike my legs felt solid. I was immediately able to run with no strains, aches or pains. This was a very good sign that I would be able to throw down on the run.  Socks. Shoes. Grab and go.

I have put a lot of time into my run and knew exactly what I was capable of.  A 1:40 half marathon would require 7:38min/mi.  The game plan was to immediately start running 7:30-7:35 miles (practiced and rehearsed) and to push through the awkward transition from bike to run.  As I exited transition my breathing rate quickly escalated and an unusual cramp emerged that contoured the bottom of my rib cage from one side to the other.  I cannot remember the last time I had a cramp and I have certainly never had one that felt like this or in this location.  “It was just a cramp, nothing that would cause long term damage, I’ll just push through it”.  Mile 1. 7:37. Ok. My breath was still very short and quick and the cramp was getting worse.  Whatever, it will go away. You are still hitting your pace, ignore it, run through it”. Mile 2, 7:31. Boom. I don’t exactly feel comfortable but I am managing the discomfort well. “Focus on your breathing and relaxing. Slow the pace just a touch in an attempt to rid this cramp.  At the next aid station pound a cup of coke to promote some burping and movement in you stomach”. Mile 3. 8:19. The aid station came, I pounded coke, on-the-go nature break, burping, slight relief. Mile 4. 8:30. I was quickly loosing my grasp of this fantasy. “Damage control, buckle the seatbelt and push through it . . . run up until the point of cramping” I opted to run a pace up until I felt the cramp. Miles 5-10 hovered around 9 min/mi. By mile 10 the cramp had subsided but the damage was already done. My perfect race would remain a fantasy.  Miles 11 and 12 were my slowest as I reflected on my training, thought about my family, cheered on and supported other athletes and remembered that triathlon is sport, not life.  As I came down the finishing chute I smiled as I was at ease and peace with the previous 5 hours of racing.

Run: 2:00:00 (18th in AG) – This was my slowest run ever. There is obvious disappointment but I’m accepting of the choices I made.

Finish time: 5:12 (13th in AG) 


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