Friday, July 17, 2015

Race Report: Challenge Williamsburg - Olympic Distance (June 14, 2015)

I had been really looking forward to this race all year. This was my A race for the first half of the season, the culmination of my training to date. I had every intention of going hard and hoping to bring home some extra hardware for my efforts. In then end, the extra hardware didn't happen but I had a great race and still managed a great finish. Want more juicy details.... read on:

Pre Race:
The lead up to this race was pretty easy going. We rolled into town late Friday night. Got checked in to the hotel and went to bed. Saturday, we woke up and went to the "hot breakfast" provided by the hotel and paid for by Challenge (which was an awesome gesture and something that the "other brand" doesn't do ‪#‎allabouttheathlete‬, but)... it was awful. The "eggs" tasted like they came out of a box, the potatoes were greasy, the pancakes were hard, the orange juice was warm. I was sure to explain my general dissatisfaction to the hotel management. Anyway, after breakfast, we loaded up and went to the expo. I got checked in, it was already blazing hot. We wandered around the expo for a bit, took a turn in the Normatec boots and then headed to T1 to drop off the bike and take a dip during the practice swim session. Bike checked in, I wandered to the lake. We met up with Sarah Lamont, Karen and Elenore. I noticed really soon after getting in the water the current was going to be strong so I began to plan my race day strategy (more on that later). After the swim we drove back to the hotel via the bike course, snagged a quick sammich for lunch and then back to the expo for the athlete meeting. We relaxed a little more that afternoon before we went out to meet up with Sarah and the others (including Jim DeTar and his lovely wife) for some tasty prerace dinner. Afterward it was back to the hotel and in bed.

Race Morning and Swim:
Woke up, applied tattoos, ate breakfast, headed out the door to T2. Dropped off run gear, then on the road to T1 and swim start. Got to T1, checked the bike over, set tire pressures got my Infinit Nutrition installed in my aero bottle. I switched to Fruit Punch flavor after Raleigh. It is delicious. Same custom mix, just different flavor. One full bottle would get me through the bike course. Using my same strategy from Raleigh, I would then take my run nutrition from the course aid stations. I would also use the Base Salts every 5 miles on the bike and every mile on the run (I would, in fact, forget to take my salts on the run... but it worked out ok).
After prepping my bike, I got my speed suit on and wandered to the swim start for a warm up swim. The current was still strong so I would line up far left, letting the current push me toward the first buoy. After the turn the current would be at my back and I could use that to propel me to turn two then I would try to punch it toward the shore and then use a combination of swimming and porpoising to get out of the water. Before long, we were lined up, the horn sounded and off we went. I went out strong. I felt great. I knew I was in great position and I concentrated on keeping my breathing steady and maintaining. I followed my plan and it worked perfectly... until I started to get held up by slower swimmers from the previous waves. I hit a big traffic jam at the second buoy which hurt me a bit but not too much. I fought around and through that and came out of the water 5th place in my AG with a time of 27:34.

I made the long run up to T1 alongside another guy in my AG, we had similar T1 times and ended up leaving T1 pretty much together. Just a bit further down the road, we added another AG competitor to our duo and the three of us would continue to duke it out for the remainder of the bike course. I knew there was a spot about 10 miles in that would be a good place to put in an attack (the bike course had a section that we looped twice and this section was on that loop). I was laying back behind the other two AG guys and a couple of other athletes when my spot came up. I grabbed a huge gear on this slight downhill and passed all of them. I kept my head down and pushed hard for the next few minutes. I looked back and saw that my attack had worked but I hadn't fully lost them. I settled back in to a more comfortable pace and the eventually made their way back to me. We swapped positions through the rest of the first lap and then on the second lap, I went again. This time I didn't stop. I got a good 3 or 4 minutes on them and kept it. I came into T2 4th place AG with a bike split of 1:07:52.

By now it was hot. Like really hot. I think the heat index was somewhere near 1500 with around 5000% humidity. I racked my bike and headed out onto the run. The run was a two lap course following part of the cross country trail used by the William and Mary CC team. The good news is that it was shady, the bad news is there was very little breeze. I knew I had some time but I could tell the other two guys would not be far behind on the run. Sure enough, it wasn't long before they caught me. I let the first guy go. He was fast. I couldn't keep up and I knew it. The next guy caught me a bit later. He was keeping a good pace but it was't too bad and I stayed with him for a bit. We started up the climb back toward the second lap and the was getting to me a bit. My heart rate was in the 190's and I knew I couldn't sustain that effort for another 3 miles. I let him go on the hill. I hoped he would blow up. He didn't. I kept my pace steady and kept him in sight. He did slow slightly but not enough. I came across the line holding my 5th place AG spot with a run split of 52:02. Slower than I hoped but all I could manage with the heat.

Final Thoughts:
Another great event by Challenge Family Americas. They really do know how to put on a great event. It was a really tough day. I put in a great effort and I'm proud of what I did. I finished the day with a final overall time of 2:31:10, 5th place AG and 20th overall out of 193 athletes. I am happy with my progress so far this season but I know I have a lot of work to do before the second half of the season gets under way in August. As always, I have to send a HUGE shout out and thank you to my Wonder Wife for being there and supporting me. She's the best ‪#‎triwife‬ in the world.

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