I've come to the end of the 2011 racing season with the completion of the Miami 70.3 race this past weekend. Fittingly, it was held at the same place that I started the season back in March. It was also a special race because it supported the Blazeman Foundation and I was able to meet up with Bob and Mary Ann Blais at the finish line. After almost 8 months of racing, a mid-summer move, and making the jump to racing as a 'full-time' athlete, it's been a long season! The race this weekend reinforced this fact as my body basically told me the season was about 9 miles too long... After leading the main pack out of the water and riding the best bike leg of the year, I struggled on the run to finish 17th in a race where I feel I should have been fighting for a top 10 finish. My time of 4:03 was my fastest for a legitimate 70.3 distance race, but I've got a fire in my belly heading into the off season. Here's a recap:
I spent the days leading up to the race hoping that a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico would not come through and cancel the swim. Rain and flooding made up most of forecast and foreshadowed the race conditions to come. Luckily, the weather cooperated and the race organizers were able to put on the race as planned. The pro field for the race was one of the and deepest I've competed against and I was excited when race day rolled around and I felt fresh and ready. The rain and wind were present in full force and after a 20 minute delay, the race started with an Olympic distance-like sprint with over 30 men fighting for position.
I settled in to the lead pack after the first few hundred meters and realized that a few men had already broken away. Knowing that I could make up much more time on dry land by conserving my energy, I decided to swim my own pace and not try to chase down the extra :30. I exited the water right with Michael Raelert and Matt Reed. Perfect. Going through transition, the I was right in the midst of the main pack and feeling comfortable. A group of 8-10 of us took off together on the bike and I settled into my pace and focused on staying upright against the blowing rain.
I maintained my own pacing and HR and found that group was pushing too hard too early. With the wind being an unknown, I decided not to push the pace and keep my wattage right around 290. It paid off for me in a PR bike split and a negative split effort, however in hindsight the flat course and large group would have been a better bet! Looking at the results, a group of 5 guys that came out of the water with me rode together (separated by around 10 seconds over the 56 mile course) the entire time and the legal drafting effects gave them a 5 minute advantage to me heading into the run. Even a few of the guys who were blown out the back of the pack put in a few minutes on me, but I was confident that my smart pacing would pay off once we hit the run.
I hopped off the bike in 12th position and knew that a few guys ahead of me would be running slower than 1:20 1/2 marathons, so I my goal of a top 10 finish was firmly in place. I hit the first mile in just under 6 minutes with a 150 heart rate. Perfect. The wind was howling and the rain was coming down, but I felt good. By the second mile, I was settled in and went through a part of the course that included a number of tight turns and wet pavement/mud. It only took one misstep, but I slid just enough to have to tense up. Bad idea. My whole leg locked up in a cramp and I peg-leg hopped for a few strides until it went away. I tried to settle back into my pace, but the damage had been done. Once the cramping process starts, it can be hard to stop! I never regained my smooth stride, and was only able to hit an average of 6:30 whenever I wasn't running into the wind. That's not nearly fast enough to make up time on the guys in front of me and I found myself being passed in the 2nd half of the run. Completely spent from fighting the weather and cramps, I came across the line more wiped out than I've ever been at a race.
While I'm pleased with my effort, my result makes me realize where I stack up heading into the off season. Since it'll be my first winter of full-time training, I'm optimistic about the progress I can make, but I know that it won't be easy. I have a long way to go to compete with the top athletes in the sport, but my goal to do just that remains the same. If I can put together the bike/run combo that I know I'm capable of, I'm in striking distance of where I want to be. Now it's time to get to work!
Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive during this past season. BlueSeventy, First Endurance, Great Clips Salons, ISM Saddles, Kiwami Triathlon, Newton Running, and 3Sports Tri Shop are my great sponsors. Thanks to Matt at the Sport Factory for the coaching guidance and the upcoming winter of fun. I'll be updating the website throughout the winter, but won't be racing until 2012. Miles to go before I sleep...