Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It was a dark and stormy day ...

After the sufferfest that was the 2007 Oliver Half Iron, everyone returning this year was hoping for cooler weather. I'm sure there were prayers, special weather dances, sacrifices, etc. building up to race day. Whatever people did, it worked. A little too well.

Saturday was lovely but race morning dawned cold, dark and windy. On the drive from OK Falls to Oliver the wind was strong and the rain unrelenting. I wanted to finish in under six hours but I decided on the ride in that having a cautious ride was smarter than going all out for a PR.

The Swim
I lost everyone from the club at the swim start and while I was looking for Mirabelle I heard someone call my name. The only person in the crowd not wearing a wetsuit and the only person carrying an expensive camera (or any camera at all) was waving at me. Shelley who'd played ultimate in Vancouver years ago was taking photos for a story on open water swimming and managed to recognize me. Very odd place to meet up with someone I hadn't seen in years.

I seeded myself wide so I had an easy angle for the first turn and managed to avoid crowding or panic at all at the start. What a difference it makes to have a good start, I didn't have to deal with breaststrokers and panickers and managed to find someone to draft off fairly quickly.

The first loop was a bit odd, in the first 300m I really didn't feel like I wanted to be there. Not my usual swim start psychosis, just a feeling that I'd rather be somewhere else, doing something else. It was very strange to be so unexcited to be in a race. I focused on finding feet to draft off and to try to get a little more into the pack of swimmers and tried to get into the right mindset.

The second loop was better, I think having deal with the crowding as the swim chute narrowed to the swim exit got me psyched (in a good way) and more excited for the second loop. As expected, my HR shot up from running around the buoy on the sand and it took about 100m to get it back down. I swam closer to the buoys and had a lot more contact. Some guys in blue swim caps of the previous men's wave made a lot of contact, one guy kept hitting hitting me at a 45 degree angle, swam away then hit me again. This ticked me off and got me swimming a bit harder. On my second exit from the water several green swim caps from the following wave were making contact and one was aggressive enough that I lashed out with my elbow to get her to back off. Okay, not playing nice but good that I'm finally getting more aggressive in the water!

Swim time: 39:35
Max HR 182/Ave HR 158

T1 was a bit longer this year as they changed the route to make it more fair for everyone. As per last year, I had a long run almost the entire length of transition in bike shoes.

T1 time: 5:33

The Bike
As it was still cold and wet when I exited the swim I wore my club jacket for the ride. I debated gloves but figured they'd just be waterlogged and gross. This turned out to be the right choice and I was comfortable the whole way.

I was way too aggressive at the start of the ride but luckily was blocked by slower and/or smarter triathletes and couldn't go too hard, but rather just got frustrated. About 10 minutes in sanity prevailed and I settled into the pacing that worked for me at Ironman last year - try to keep my cadence 95 or above and my HR around 160.

I settled into a good pace and missed seeing Helen, Andrea and Rene at the end of the top loop but did hear them. The hill climb after this was harder than I expected, I forgot that short hills can be tough! I was very cautious on the descent from this hill as I didn't know how slippery the road would be and the rough pavement made bike handling tricky. On this part of the ride particularly, but over the whole ride in general, racers were all over the road and scary to pass. Somewhere along this stretch I decided that going sub-six was totally possible.

Northward bound there was a headwind but it was either not as bad as last year or I'm better adjusted for dealing with it. Unlike a lot of people I actually had a wind proof jacket, which made me feel better. Tom Evans ripped past me and significantly later a couple of other pros follow. Sadly I was too fast to be passed by Michellie Jones, I was hoping to see her on the bike.

I topped the loop and this time managed to see the cheering trio and wave at them then headed out for the final loop. At around 70km my legs started to hurt. I also started to really feel the need to pee (sorry for sharing too much, but that's part of the risk of reading race reports. Be thankful I didn't have G.I. issues). Luckily I'm easily distracted and trying to throw my empty bottle into the hockey net at the aid station caused me to totally forget my need for the honey bucket.

At my third time at the top of the loop I focused on getting in some last minute calories and keeping my cadence high so my legs were ready for the run. Somewhere around this point I realized something was missing. It had stopped raining and I hadn't noticed.

Bike time: 3:12:09
Max HR 188/Ave HR 165

Another long run through transition and a wave at Helen, who'd managed to stick it out through the nasty weather

T2 - 3:19

The Run
The first kilometer was pretty terrible. My legs hurt, I was tired and (I thought) my pace was way off. This time I knew this was normal and I had to work it through. A quote I'd come across recently in a blog somewhere kept running through my head: "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." I'm not normally into inspirational quotes but this one stuck with me, the idea that how I deal with pain is up to me is one I like. And one that makes self-pitifests a little difficult.

I hit the first km in 5:35 and the following in only slightly less. This was distressing as I thought I needed to do the run in under two hours to break six hours for the race. The third km was even slower as I'd now remembered my need to use the honey bucket and finally found one that was free. Luckily I locked the door so when the angry guy kept yanking on the door it didn't open. Whoo boy did I get a glare when I got. Yes, buddy, I was doing my nails and checking my makeup in a deliberate attempt to ruin your race.

Somewhere around 7km my math skills kicked in and I realized that I didn't need to run 5 minute kms to run sub two and that I was actually on pace.

At the turn around I saw Rene and Andrea and they cheered me on with "Only 10km left to go." I appreciate the cheering, really, but next time maybe say "You're half way." Thanks though.

The second loop felt easier. I was worried about running out of steam and worried that my gut was starting to revolt so I only drank water and flat Pepsi on the run. Not sure why I thought cola would be kinder to my stomach, but my logic skills were obviously up there with my math skills at this point. Or maybe I was thinking straight as my innards behaved.

I was on pace for a sub 2 run but on the last hill before the finish my legs hurt enough that I had to walk. It's very frustrating to know I was letting my goal disappear but my legs just didn't want to cooperate. Near the crest of the "hill" (any other day it would be considered a gentle incline) I convinced my legs to move a little faster and I even managed to put in an almost sprint to the finish.

Run time: 1:59:35
Max HR 187/Ave HR 172

By my watch my final time was 6:00:12. So frustrating to be 13 seconds away. The official results, however, were even worse. 6:00:04. D'oh!

The upside is that I beat last year's time by 8+ minutes (thank you for the correction Alan, there is a big difference between minutes and seconds!). Pretty darned cool, even if I didn't hit the magic number. I also had a good friend come up and watch me race, which was very cool. I felt terrible for Helen being stuck out in the rain but she didn't seem to mind too much.


penney said...

Great job Alison! You're a star. Love the quote about suffering is optional ...

Alison said...

Thanks! It was an interesting day. We'll see what this result means for my olympic distance aspirations.

I think I found the quote on Ironmanlife, but can't be sure. It works for me as I can get a really good pity party going if I'm having a bad race.

Looking forward to cheering for you and the crew on Saturday.

Alan said...

BWT A. kept forgetting to remind you're PB at this race wasn't by 8+ seconds... but 8+ minutes ;-)

Alison said...

Yeah, that makes a bit of a difference! Too bad my other regular readers (all four of 'em) have already got the wrong info.