Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Race Report: Kiawah Island Triathlon (Intermediate Distance) - Kiawah Island, South Carolina (September 20,2015)

I love Charleston, SC.  I love everything about the Low Country.  I love the food, I love the atmosphere, I love pretty much everything about this area, including Kiawah Island.  Kiawah is a beautiful little golf resort just outside of Charleston.  It has pretty much everything one needs to relax.  Amazing golf courses, beautiful beaches and great food.  Late last season, I discovered something else to love about Kiawah... they host a triathlon!  I tried to work out making the Kiawah Tri last year but time and scheduling just wouldn't allow it.  I planned, then, for the Kiawah Tri to be a focal point of my race season this year. I planned for this race to be my second "A" race of the season.  I really didn't know what that would mean in April but, as the season progressed, I began to sense that I could bring home a podium here.  I studied the finishing times for the race last year and saw that my times were good enough to be in the fight and I had a strong chance of pulling in an AG win.  Upon arrival to the race site Sunday morning, however, I realized quite quickly that this was going to be no cupcake race.  I could tell it was going to be a fast day.  I had no idea...  

I had a great build up to the race and a great taper.  I was feeling strong and confident.  This would be my crowning achievement of a long hard season.  All of these thoughts flashed through my mind as I lined up on the beach with surprisingly large group of extremely fast looking dudes.  The sun gleamed off the ocean.  The water was perfect.  You couldn't have asked for a more perfect morning for a race.  Final race announcements were made.  The National Anthem was sung.  Then, the countdown began.  30 seconds to go.  I snugged my goggles and checked my watch.  10 seconds.  Breathe.  Relax.  Smooth is fast.   5 seconds.  Deep breath.  2... 1... GO!  

The group surged at once and we were off.  Running out into the small breakers, hopping over them as we got deeper.  I saw a larger wave heading my way and was almost quad deep now.  I timed my dolphin dive perfectly over the wave but as soon I hit the water, my goggles flipped up.  No big deal.  I quickly adjusted them, resettled myself and started my swim.  It was around 200 yards to the first turn buoy where we would make a 90 degree right and head down the beach.  The swim was .7mi.  I had plenty of time settle into a nice rhythm.  The ocean was calm but there were constant small rollers.  I wasn't able to get comfortable with my left side roll and breath so I stayed with a right side only breathing pattern.  The swim was a little more difficult than I expected but overall it was rather uneventful.  I kept a great pace, passed several guys and focused on staying smooth and fast.  I made the turn and headed for shore.  I could tell the swim had taken a little more out of me than I had expected but I felt good.  I came out of the water and headed for T1.  Garmin Time 21:38 1:32/100yds

After a relatively long run up off the beach, across the boardwalk and down the street, I arrived in T1.  My rack space was near bike out which I was happy with.  I reached my bike, geared up and headed out.  Everything went pretty smooth.  I even remembered to take my speed suit off before trying to run out of T1.  Success!  Reaching the mount line.  I hopped on the bike and set out.  My legs were a little stiff and were complaining a bit for the first few miles but I was holding a good pace.  I concentrated on keeping my cadence high to loosen my legs up.  After a mile or so my legs loosened up and I settled into a strong pace.  I was pushing around 95rpm and cruising along between 22 and 24mph.  The bike course was listed at 25.1 miles and traversed most of the island.  The roads were tight and quite winding.  I didn't know what, if any, the technical bike course would have on my speeds but I new that it would play to my strong bike handling and I hoped it would give me an edge.  I was right.  I passed a great deal of the guys who exited the water before me.  At around 7 or so miles into the course a guys passed me on a great looking Blue with a disc wheel.  He looked fast.  He also looked like he was older than me so I wasn't too worried about it if he pulled away.  I kept him in front of me just out of draft zone for a bit before passing him back a few minutes later.  He stayed behind me for a bit before passing me again.  At that point he looked over and nodded.  We non verbally agreed to a truce and to pace each other for the remainder of the race.  I let him go out of the draft zone and let him pace me for a few miles before he slowed a bit.  I took this as my cue and passed him.  He dropped just out of my draft zone and stayed there for the next several miles.  We went on like this for several more turns.  Eventually another guy joined the party.  He was riding a Cervelo S2 with clip on aero bars.  He was fast.  He also didn't understand the draft zone.  He tucked in behind me.  This pissed me off.  About that time it was my turn to lead again.  I put the hammer down and gapped him quick.  I passed Blue guy again.  He dropped safely out of draft zone.  Cervelo guy tucked in behind him.  I cussed him under my breath and kept my head down a picked the pace up again.  The status quo stayed the same until we headed out toward the turnaround.  We came out of the tree cover and the wind hit us head on.  The road here was a false flat with just a slight incline.  Blue guy passed me and looked really strong.  I tried to hold him here but he was really hammering and I knew I had to save some for the run.  S2 guy passed me also.  I let him go.  I was tired of towing him.  At the turn I saw Blue guy and nodded.  He nodded.  Job done.  5 miles to go.  Average speed was holding steady in the high 23's. I was really happy with this.  Back toward the island the wind was with us and the road was now a decline false flat.  I picked up some major speed here and blew past S2 guy.  He couldn't keep up.  I grinned.  Coming back with around a mile to go I dropped my pace a bit and began to spin up my legs in prep for the run.  S2 guy came up beside me and congratulated me on a great ride.  Nice of him to notice.  I returned the compliment.  I kind of meant it.  We turned to head back toward T2.  I came out of my shoes ready to dismount.  There were tons of spectators at transition.  It was a great atmosphere there.  I had a great dismount and ran into T2.  Quick rack.  Grabbed run gear and I was off.  Garmin time for the bike: 1:02:33 23.8mph

Now was the time.  I had put more into the bike that I probably should have but I knew I had a great race going and wanted to put as much time into the course and my opponents as I could on the bike.  I just had to hold it together on the run and try not to blow up too quick.  I could tell I was going to blow up at some point.  The legs were screaming at me.  I was holding a pretty good pace though.  Mile 1 down 7:36.  Good.  Keep it up.  Caught up to Blue guy.  We shared a congrats on a great bike ride.  I meant this one.  We trotted along pacing each other again.  I liked this guy.  Mile 2 down.  7:40.  Great!  Keep going.  Blue Guy and I continued to keep our comfortable pace.  Heart rate was steadily climbing.  I was in the mid 170's.  Legs were beginning to complain more.  Shut up legs.  Keep going.  Mile 3, 8:04.  Still good.  Keep going.  We made our way through the resort and turned toward the beach.  I thought this was going to be my favorite part of the run.  The beach here is hard pack and perfect to run on.  Turns out, it's not great to race on.  The surface is good but the roughly 1.5 miles of beach seemed to stretch forever and with no respite from the sun it made for a completely demoralizing stretch.  It seemed to go on for ever.  Mile 4, 8:21.  Ugh, come on legs.  After an eternity we came to the beach exit.  Up the boardwalk and back into the resort neighborhood.  Blue Guy was picking up the pace and I just couldn't hang on.  I thanked him for pacing and let him go.  He returned the sentiment and trotted off.  Mile 5, 8:39.  Shut up legs.  One more mile to go.  I could tell I made a mistake relying on the on course aid stations for the run.  Not a tragic one but I could feel now that I was becoming slightly dehydrated.  I wasn't cramping, nor did I feel like I was on the verge of cramping.  That's good.  However, I could feel I was running out of power.  I just couldn't hold a pace.  The last mile was a real struggle to maintain pace.  It also seemed like it lasted forever.  Finally I heard the music from the finish line. I was almost there.  I rounded the corner and saw the finish.  Push.  Into the finish chute and across the line.  Mile 6, 9:13.  Garmin time for the run 49:33 8:16/mi avg.  Not too bad.  Would have liked to have been closer to 8 flat but still happy with it.  

I was confident that I had put in a good enough time for a podium.  Total race time was 2:18:28 per my Garmin.  Great time overall.  Fastest bike split I've ever put in.  One of the best runs I've put in and one of the best swims I've had.  I made my way over to the results kiosk.  I was hopeful.  It scrolled SO SLOWLY.  Finally I see my AG pop up.  There I was 5th place.  5th PLACE?! 5 out of 7.  WTF?!  I knew it was going to be a fast field but that is just crazy.  19th place overall out of 371 people and still 5 of 7 in my AG.  I would be lying to say I wasn't disappointed.  I packed my stuff and we headed back to the villa.  Later I checked the times from last season's race.  The winning time for the 30-34 AG in 2014 was a 2:22...   I finished nearly 4 minutes four minutes faster than last years winning time and still came in 5th.  I feel a little better now about everything.  I put in a great race.  I've improved so much this year it's hard not to be proud of what I've accomplished.  It's just completely out of my control that the field this year was of a completely different caliber than it was last year and the year before.  Incidentally, I later checked the official timing results and it showed me listed at 4th place.  I guess I made up a spot somehow.  Good for me I guess.  Still not a podium finish.  

Final Thoughts:
This was a fantastic race experience overall.  The course was beautiful.  The organizers did a great job of creating a superb atmosphere for a local race.  I would easily put this in the top 3 or 4 races I've done.  Not quite the party of Ironman or Challenge but still a wonderful race in a great venue.  Reflecting on the day I am very proud of the race I put together.  My training paid off very well.  I raced to, what I feel, was the best I could that day.  I didn't leave anything on the course.  I put everything out there.  It just so happens that there were some guys out there who were faster than me.  It happens.  It's part of racing.  I know where I need to put in some improvements as I go into the final race of the season and into my off season.  There's always room to improve.  On to the next adventure!  Now, bring me that horizon.

Nutrition notes for the day:  1 bottle of diluted Infit run mix before the race.  1 bottle of Infinit bike mix for the day.  Should have brought my Infinit run mix on the course.  Might have helped keep my pace a little faster on the run.  2 scoops of Infinit Recover after the race.