Sunday, September 11, 2011

last tri of the year

Over Labor Day weekend, I traveled to Illinois, where my family is, to do my last tri of the year, the Great Illini Half Iron distance race.

Actually, I flew to St. Louis on Thursday.  It was the closest airport to the race that I could fly into on a direct flight.  With my previous bad experience traveling with my bike, I wanted as little plane time for it as possible.  I had borrowed a hard sided case this time, from my local bike shop, and they packed up the bike and gave me instructions on how to get it back together and how to pack it back up.  The packing up instructions mostly consisted of "When you open it, before you move anything, take lots of pictures. Put it back EXACTLY the way you find it."  

Travel in and of itself was uneventful.  For once my flight was right on time, even a smidge early.  My luggage and bike arrived perfectly safe.  Whew.  I picked up my rental car and started the 2 hour drive to Mattoon.  It was late evening by the time I arrived and I debated putting my bike together or if I should wait until the morning, but wanted to get it done so I could do my pre-race brick Friday morning.  I got mostly everything together easily enough.  The rear derailleur was tricky, mostly because I'd never disconnected/reconnected the one this bike.  And then I went to put the handlebars back on.  Which went just fine, except for the missing piece.  The top cap was nowhere to be found.  Fabulous.  No top cap, no steering.  I did some quick internet searches for local bike shops and found a couple that would open in the morning.

So I did my best to put it out of my mind and get a good night's sleep.

By the time my grandparents and my mom arrived at the hotel, I had spoken with the bike shop and was very relieved that they said they'd have no problem getting me fixed up.  We grabbed some lunch, and by then the mechanic was at the shop and in no time had me race ready.  They put a new top cap on and even adjusted my derailleur to make sure everything was working properly.  Not only did they save my day, but they were super nice too.  Took the bike back to the hotel and then we did a tour of the course and picked up my packet.  Which was really just a t-shirt and some gels.  Timing chips would wait until race morning. Ah well, at least I got a look at the course.

The forecast for race day had gotten a little better, with the temps only expected to be 95 instead of 99.  Oh, such relief!

Early to bed, but there was little sleep to be had.  Tossed and turned, and kept waking up to look at the clock. 3 more hours.  Only 2 more hours.  1 more hour, oh hell, just get up already.  So I was up plenty early for my pre-race breakfast.  We packed everything into the cars and drove 15-20 min over to the race site in the dark. Only one missed turn on the way, but we made it with plenty of darkness still covering transition.  There were no flood lights, but they did pull a couple of cars over to shine their headlights on the transition area.  And attract every mosquito within 20 miles.  There were swarms of 'em!  And evidently they really like California blood. 

Before I knew it they were having the pre-race instructions and I grabbed a quick warm up before the 'gun' went off.  Or at least before the guy yelled "go!"  The swim seemed to go fairly well.  I didn't feel like I was pushing super hard, just getting warmed up and settling into a nice steady pace.  The race was tiny enough that after the super crowding around the first buoy, where I got scratched, kicked, and elbowed at least once, it spread out nicely.  The two loops went by and then I was running up the beach towards transition. Saw my family, including my brother, sister-in-law, and 2 nieces that had arrived while I was swimming.  So fun to have family at the race!  My time was just about the same as my last HIM swim. But this one was without wetsuits, so although it was slower than I'd have liked, I'll take it.

T1 was super fast!  Yeah, I won my T1 AG...again. ;)

Before I even started racing I had decided that I was going to go hard on the bike.  Like maybe harder than strictly prudent for a half iron distance race.  I was tired of having mediocre bike splits (even if some of them this year were due to mechanical issues or flats).  I just wanted to turn off my brain and RIDE already.  I knew the heat would most likely blow my run up anyway, so I pedaled.  And pedaled a little harder than I thought might be a good idea.  With lap one coming in just under 1:30, I visions of blowing my projected 3:15 bike split out of the water.  The second lap, however, was a little tougher with the wind picking up, and hey, who turned on the heat anyway?  I did a much better job than usual of sticking with my hydration plan, but fell a little behind on my nutrition when my stomach started to feel a little sloshy.  If I had been paying just a little more attention, I would have pushed the finishing stretch a bit more.  I just missed a sub 3-hour bike split.  But I *did* smoke my projected bike time, with a 18.5 mph bike split.  So, so happy with that.  So, so happy I had a good bike, finally!

Into T2, again speedy, but got beat out of a a T2 AG win by a measly .3 of a second. So close!

The run, well,  I knew it would be ugly.  Temp did in fact exceed 95.  Humidity, well, I was told that the humidity was 'better' than the week prior.  Not much consolation really.  As soon as I started down the run course, my quads started cramping.  I took a minute to stretch and tried running again.  It was just so oppressively hot.  The first loop was more run/walk than running.  Or maybe jog/walk would be more appropriate.  Oy.  All thoughts of a PR were gone, it was a sufferfest on the run course.  At every aid station I took a cup of water.  I downed two salt sticks every mile, and carried ice with me as long as it would last.  Dumped ice down my top and held ice in my hands.  I started drinking two cups of water at each aid station and putting one over my head.  I started thinking that I was going to have a personal worst half marathon on my hands, something around the 3 hour mark.  But by the turnaround for the second loop, I was actually feeling a little better.  I didn't feel like I was going to pass out when I tried running.  I started setting longer and longer goals for myself.  Run to that aid station.  Run to that mile marker.  Run until you can't run.  Amazingly enough I was actually bringing something resembling a race back to myself.  I started calculating.  My times were a little off, but I *thought* I could still PR by about 5 minutes if I could just keep myself moving.  As it turns out, I ended up with a 13 min PR.  While it's a little depressing thinking how much better I might have done if only the cooler weather had arrived one day sooner (yeah, after the race it was in the 70s all week), at the very least I ended up with a huge bike split PR, and an overall PR.  Oh, yeah, and 3rd in my AG.
1.2 mile Swim ~ 38:18
T1 ~  : 55
56 mile Bike ~ 3:01:21
T2 ~ :42
13.1 run ~ 2:41:09 (ouch, holy hot!)
70.3 miles ~ 6:22:26

3/6 in AG (including one DNF)

I spent the next week at my brother's, working from there, and visiting the family.  It was a great trip, with some serious entertainment value provided by my sharp-as-a-whip nieces.  Oh, and the proximity to Black and Whites Confections wasn't bad either!

Now it's time for a few weeks of run focus.  Half marathon on October 2nd!