27 Jul 2014
Race Day: July 27, 2014 – 7:30am
The Chisago Lakes Triathlon has historically been my highest priority race of the year. The previous three years I have strived to get to 4:30 for the half ironman distance. I don’t know why I had that time in my mind for so long, but I never really got close. My first attempt at the 70.3 mile race resulted in a 4:47. Then I did 4:42 two times in a row at Chisago. I found it hard to shave time off of my overall time… if I tried to crush the bike, I’d pay for it on the run.
This year was a bit different. I knew I wanted to race Chisago, but my triathlon training was seriously trumped by running. I’d been going to tri nights, but hardly rode my bike or swam besides Tuesday nights, although I felt pretty fast on those nights. Meanwhile, I’d been running more than ever.
Leading up to the race, I got really nervous that I would explode my quads on the bike. It’s one thing to be able to keep up during tri nights on a flat 14 mile out-and-back, but to ride 56 miles and then run with less than 100 miles on my bike for the season was a really scary prospect. I figured I needed any edge I could get, so opted to shave my legs.
My plan for the race was to swim smart, bike conservatively as not to blow up, and let ‘er rip on the run and make up time on the one discipline that I’ve been actually doing during training.
Again, I stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house, which is a short 15 minute drive to the start line. This is such a great accommodation before a big race! I met my mom, who was racing as well in preparation for Ironman Madision, at the packet pickup on Saturday and did a little open water swim with her. I ate pasta and went to bed really early.
Race day was really nice. The weather turned out to be perfect, party cloudy with a slight chance of rain later and cool. I set up transition and sipped on a Mountain Dew. I was afraid I forgot how to race a triathlon for a second! No, I just didn’t train for swimming and biking. The transition only takes mental training… After biking a tiny amount and making sure my pedals were clipped in, I hopped into the water and waited for the race to begin.
I was in a later wave, which made me pretty bummed, because the year previous, I swam over a ton of people and felt like I didn’t swim as fast as I could have on a course with 50 people. Chisago Half is pretty big after all… So that reinforced my “swim smart” game plan. When my wave went off, I tried to get way ahead of everybody, which worked out well. I was out on my own for the first 1000 yards or so, then caught the stragglers from waves in front of me. I navigated through those people with relative ease and felt good. After that, the only real backups were at turn buoys. After the last turn home, I tried to kick it up a notch. I exited the water in about 33 minutes, which is definitely respectable given my lack of swim training.
Onto the bike, I tried to play it cool. I looked back to my race strategy at Grandma’s Marathon and wanted to emulate that by easing back if I ever felt like I was breathing too heavily. The course is really flat and fast for the first 25 miles or so, then goes down a big hill, then back up a big hill and is pretty flat the rest of the way. I definitely felt good into the halfway point and going up the hill sucked, but I made it though. At this point, I started planning out the rest of the race. I knew that if I could keep a steady rate through the last 20 miles, I would be in a great position starting the run. I finished out the bike leg just trying to maintain. It helped to think that despite how bad I’m feeling on the bike, the run is going to be much easier because of my heavy run mileage. When I got back into town, I started getting super amped up because the split was 2:28, which is really fast based on how well I felt!
Into T2, I had to pee really bad, so I stopped in a portable toilet in transition. Also, I doubled back to empty my pockets of bike garbage. I felt like it was a sloppy transition, and was almost twice the time as my T1 time. Starting the run, I went out hard. I figured I could hold a sub 6:30 pace after an easy bike. Granted, I was pretty shredded after getting an otherwise stupendous bike split. My first few miles were close to 6 minutes a piece. A few miles in, my pace slipped to around 6:30. I really wanted to hold this pace, because I thought I had that sort of fitness, and I would completely crush my PR with a half marathon around 1:25. The meat of the Chisago run course is always kind of difficult. Around mile 7, I knew I was slipping fast. My pace was over 7:00. I tried to take down a gel and got past the turnaround. From here, it is just a grind it out scenario. My form was crap, but I locked in at 7 minute pace and knew that I would still have a pretty good PR unless I was reduced to walking.
I ended up coming into the finish line with a 1:28:59 split for 13.1 miles, which is my half-ironman run record, and a total time of 4:33, which was 9 minutes faster than the year previous. Needless to say, I was completely jacked up and excited about it, but then the confusion set in.
Why was my best time off of almost no bike training? I had a faster bike and run than ever. Did shaved legs really contribute an abnormally fast 56 mile bike ride? Is run-heavy training the best way to go?
Either way, I was excited for triathlon racing. My mom had a decent race as well. I don’t think she was extraordinarily content with her time, but good Ironman training regardless.
Wetsuit: Blueseventy Helix (from, like, 2007)
Bike: Specialized Transition AL
Shoes: Brooks Pureflow 3