Tinman was my first "A" race of the season. After a good training build, a great Time Trial series, and a mediocre first Mini-Tri, I wasn't sure what was going to fall out, but I felt my goal of sub-6:40 time was definitely doable, especially based on my bike and run sessions out on the course.
The couple days before I decided to take the focus away from an actual time goal and concentrate on EXECUTION. That was when I made the call to leave my wristwatch at home, put on the Garmin in T1, and not have the race clock to race against.
A few days before, the forecast changed from overcast and 70 without any wind (PERFECT weather) to sunny and 78, then 80, and then 82. The only good news was that there was still no wind in the forecast.
The night before, Dr. Z and I went to packet pick-up and quickly came back home to do last-minute prep and have our ritual pre-race dinner of gnocchi with bacon and diced tomatoes (idea thanks to Sonja). I wrote some reminders to focus on execution and applied my Skratch tattoos:
After one of my worst pre-race sleeps ever (I literally slept better before IMLP), we got up at Ugly O'Clock despite the latish 8:00 start because the porta-potty lines are always legendary and we never have enough time to warm-up. Aside from some queasiness that initially made it hard to get down my pre-race Skratch rice and eggs breakfast, set-up went very smoothly and I got a nice long warm-up all the way out to the first buoy or not. I noticed that the water was the stillest I've ever seen it, felt nice and relaxed in the water, and was optimistic of if not a good swim, at least one that wouldn't put me in the hole too much.
Dr. Z's wave (the sprint) goes off, and then it's time to get back into the water. After what seems like a super-long wait (mainly because I thought it was five minutes between the waves, but it was ten), the gun goes off and it's go time.
I initially feel pretty damn good and am happy, and then...the goggles fill up. Okay, minor nuisance. I pop up, clear them, get on my way, and...they fill up again. Immediately. On a course that's notoriously short on buoys and hard to sight on in good conditions. Now I'm a slow swimmer and rarely have company, but am now even behind for me. The upshot of this is I don't really have anyone I can use as a guide. After the last turn back to shore, which always has WAAAAY too few buoys, the sun is right in my eyes and I am totally lost. I finally pop up when a safety boat is nearby and say, "I can't see a damn thing. Where the HELL am I?!?" I do finally find someone to follow to shore, but by then I've lost oodles of time. I am SO SO glad I didn't wear my watch and see my time. It would have tanked me mentally for the rest of the race.
Time: 56:34 (2:56/100m) (DISASTROUS)
So I BLAST through T1, and put down a smoking time despite literally sitting down to put on socks. (I feel more comfortable biking with socks so for half and full IMs where I need to wear them for the run anyway, I just put them on in T1.) Like, what the heck is everyone else DOING in transition? Making a sandwich? I seriously don't understand what I do that makes me so much faster than everyone else.
So I get on the bike and of COURSE my heart rate is sky high. I patiently soft pedal waiting for it to calm down, as according to the plan. I get past the first hill, and then hit my target HR for the majority of the ride. It's already hot out, but no big. I get a bottle one aid station earlier than planned because of the heat...and they're these tiny 6-8 oz. "half-bottles" of water - you know the type. On a HOT DAY. AND THEY DON'T FIT INTO WATER CAGES. Now, the latter wasn't an issue for me - I just dump into my Aerodrink and use the down tube cage for my liquid nutrition, but a lot of people DO put them in their cages. Plus, this now meant that I had to slow down through literally EVERY AID STATION to stay hydrated when I was only planning on one, MAYBE two bottle grabs.
|At least it IS a beautiful race course.|
Time: 3:31:28 (15.9 MPH)
I come into T2 very unhappy. I've now had a terrible swim and nowhere near the bike I had trained for.
A little slow for me but I took two extra steps to deal with the heat - putting on a running cap and using my Fuel Belt. But still, my COMBINED transitions were under 4:15. BOOM. I do NOT fuck around in there.
As I run out, I get a peek at the race clock and it says 4:30. Shit.
|Heading out on the run.|
So I get out on the run and at least my legs feel pretty good. It's HOT though - crazy hot. First mile goes pretty well - even sub-10:00 since they changed the beginning of the course a bit. But halfway through the now second mile which is straight up, I lose the mental battle. I spent a lot of the next couple miles walking. I see ugly splits (before I make the decision later on to purposefully avoid looking at the splits). The only good thing that happens is that I manage to not only take my first 1/2 gel on schedule, I eat some orange wedges at the first aid station. (I ended up subsisting on fruit for the rest of the run.) I also take an Endurolytes tab.
|Not feeling good, as evidenced by my horrible running form.|
So, I start putting ice down the shirt, down the shorts. The run is through residential streets and a lot of people have set out sprinklers for the runners. Around mile 4 I start running again and mile 5 I really hit my stride. I still have to spend 30 seconds-1 minute at every aid station, drinking, getting ice, dumping cups upon cups all over my head and skin. I literally spent around 7-10 minutes total just keeping the heat under control.
I am passing a lot of people though - it's a walkfest out there. The pain really sets in in the last 5K. I've been nailing my Z3 heart rate as planned (Yay good execution!), but don't quite have the mental fortitude to take it up to Z4 for the last few miles, so just keep it in high Z3. I'm so nailing it next time though.
|Coming through the first arch. Kept it zoomed out for the scenery.|
As a note, I thought I PRed the run (despite the slightly changed course being a bit longer), but that's because I mis-wrote the time. I was slower by only two seconds this year. Despite much worse conditions and a longer run.
|Almost there - no idea what the heck my left arm is doing.|
Time: 2:17:55 (10:32/mile)
So I come down the line, and have NO IDEA what the race clock is, but am SO SO disappointed when I see that forget 6:40, I won't even be breaking 6:50 today.
|About to go through the finish line.|
I come through with that "Man that was not a good day" shrug I'm sure every spectator has seen at some point, stop the Garmin, and go down. Collapsed from the heat. The volunteers pick me up, and one of the EMTs sits me in a chair, dumps water all over me, and makes me drink diluted (isotonic) Gatorade.
|My speedster friend Rachel checking up on me as I recover, quite unable to move from that chair. (And yes, they moved the chair to the shade shortly after.)|
Post Race Thoughts:
I'm still processing a lot of what went down on Saturday. Was I disappointed about my performance? Yes, across all three disciplines. My times were much faster in training. I ripped off a 16.6 MPH 40 mile ride on the course and followed it up with 10 miles on the race course at 9:30 pace six weeks ago. I'm not a great or even good swimmer, but even I was expecting to make it out in 50-52 minutes.
I PRed. In extreme heat. It was by the skin of my teeth, but I am a notorious polar bear who has melted down and DNFed in heat like that.
I executed. Although I cannot explain my slowness on the way back, I nailed my HR plan on the bike. (Okay, I did not spin out the legs in Z2 the last couple miles as planned, but I was pissed about my slowness.) After the disastrous first 5K on the run, I nailed Z3 and walked far less than I ever have in a HIM. I was two seconds slower but it was with 8-ish minutes of aid station stops and a slightly longer course. I ATE while running of the bike for the first time in a race. (Yes, even the IMLP marathon was done on liquids.)
There are two things I now have as chips on my shoulder:
1.) The Swim - Whether it's lessons, driving to Plattsburgh for Masters, I need to figure it out. I am losing way too much time on the swim. Now, yes, I lost about four minutes to the goggle issue, but if I were middle of the pack, I would have had people to follow while half-blind and it would not have cost me as much time. And yes, said goggles are now in the trash.
2.) Racing in the Heat - Although living in the Adirondacks allows very little opportunities, I will be doing all and any training in the hottest part of the day.