The 2009 70.3 Rhode Island event was a great opportunity to get caught up with many friends and teammates. Our Timex team had 6 members racing: AC Morgan, Andrew Hodges, Bruce Gennari, Cindi Bannink, James Cotter, and myself. It's always a pleasure and a privilege to be able to race with teammates. Everyone is extremely supportive and positive to be around. A special thanks to Tristan, Paul, and Larry for all of the support leading up to and during the race.
The pre-race logistics of this point to point race are still a bit tough, however once the racing begins it is a very enjoyable experience. The weather was fantastic Friday and Saturday. A storm front blew in late Saturday night and we woke up to some wet roads and a bit of wind Sunday morning. When we arrived at T1 to set up our bikes, the surf was a bit choppy. It looked like it was going to be a very interesting swim. I did a short warm-up swim to check out the conditions. I quickly realized how important it was going to be to stay relaxed during the 1st half heading out to the turnaround. The fact that the water temperature was 70 degrees did help to offset the rough conditions, though. The pros were scheduled to start @ 6am, but due to the conditions and a few buoys getting blown off their moorings things got delayed 25 minutes. I started in the 9th wave of the morning. Once the gun went off, I just tried to swim as straight as possible and find my own rhythm. A couple of guys from my wave jumped out really quickly and I had no chance of holding them. I settled into my own swim and played with my stroke until I found something that would allow me to navigate the rollers without to much effort. Overall, I enjoyed the swim, including the thrashing on the way out to the turnaround. I exited the water in 26:17.
Once onto the bike, I was excited to get things rolling. Paul, our team mechanic, had tuned my Trek TTX SSL just right. My game plan for the bike was to ride conservatively. This was a similar approach that I had taken in my last 1/2 IM race @ REV3. Paul Regensburg, my coach, had asked me to dial things back again. He wanted to see if I could put together a decent run off of the bike. I was definitely open to this strategy. In 2008, I had biked very aggressively on the course and I remember feeling extremely strained once I hit the run. The lower perceived effort allowed me to consume all of my calories. I also managed to avoid any lower back fatigue for the first time during a half ironman. The conditions were overcast and cool for the majority of the ride, which made for a very enjoyable ride. I did make one really foolish decision on the bike. I decided to hold back a little on my electrolytes due to the conditions. I paid for that mistake later in the race. I survived the last 3 miles of city riding into T2 and came off the bike in 2:14:56. As I was trying to come out of my sweet Bontrager bike shoes, both of my hamstrings locked up on me. After a moment of panic, I continued to move and they both released.
I hit the run in my K-Swiss K-onas and tried to get my cadence turning over. I did not want to push to hard at the start until I crested the REALLY big hill at the .5 mile mark. Once I got over the top of the hill, I tried to push my pace a bit. I noticed that my heart rate was running a bit low, but I didn't want to over analyze during the race. I decided to run off of my perceived effort. I grabbed some cola from the aid station right before the four mile mark. I had peaked at my heart rate again and it was still running to low. I felt fine but clearly I was having difficulty pushing into my race zone. I thought the simple sugars and caffeine might help to lift me up a bit. The cola did help a little but in hindsight it wasn't enough to get me into Z3. I did the entire run in Z2. I tried not to over think it and I thought I was running decent. I hit the turnaround point for the 2nd loop feeling fresh. Then, as I was at the halfway point up the REALLY big hill, I started to feel my legs cramping up. I was a bit panicked because the next aid station was over a .5 mile away. I grabbed an electrolyte and started chewing on it. This was definitely not one of the most enjoyable experiences. However, it worked well enough to get me to the aid station where I took a water, gel, cola, and more water. The cramps subsided, but I was still very nervous. I slowed my pace a little bit to make sure that my stomach could process everything I had just thrown in it. The remainder of the run was kind of standard with some highs, lows, and GI issues. I finished the run in 1:19:44 and an overall time of 4:02:55, which I later learned placed me in 5th overall and 1st amateur.
Every race is different and each offers tremendous learning experiences.