Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Big Kahuna Half Ironman

The Big Kahuna Half Ironman was late addition to my race schedule … the event has a great reputation and the race-date made it irresistible as a “final tune-up/training race” for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.

My plan was to come in “beat-up” and to use the race to push … further. To that, I enjoyed a heavy training week that included 12,500 meters of swimming, 230 miles of biking and 56 miles of run. I spent the weekend with one of my best friends, and his family, at their beach house above the very beach where he and I had spent time body surfing as teenagers – 33 years ago! Delightful – to enjoy the luxury of friendship, steeped in years, and to be joined by my 15 year-old daughter. One must understand that my kids have been raised around multi-sport … what it represents to them is: Boredom! So the sacrifice, to “hang with Dad” for a weekend, was duly noted and very much appreciated.

Pre-race preparation involved a non-wetsuit dip in the ocean and dinner at the Crow’s Nest, with a heavy dose of CytoSport Recovery, and old stories from our "teen-aged" past, for desert. I can not over emphasize how important this one drink (Recovery) has been to my return to competitive racing following my accident. It alone, has allowed me (at the age of 48) to train like I did when I was in my 30’s and recover.

Race morning was postcard perfect: Warm and clear, gentle surf and a sunrise that danced over unforgettable landscape bathing everything in a warm orange glow. The only surprise of the morning was how many racers were present: Over 1000 starters– their largest field ever.

Race start was uneventful: I lined up at the front of my wave and took the gun. As with all training races, each discipline (Swim/Bike/Run) tends to start off “cruddy” and “slow” until the body gives up its resistance to “effort” and finds “flow”. I was pulling bubbles and generally making a mess of it on the way out to the first turn, made some corrections to my stroke and my body "clicked" – and I was a strong swimmer for the back 1/2.

T-1 was a bit slow - as I forgot to bring the “lube” for my wetsuit ankles and had to work to get the suit off.

There was a headwind on the way up the coast and we passed through areas of fog and light, wind and surf - stunning. I had a minor mechanical that had me "stop/adjust and go" and, late in the race, a “flagger” was not “flagging” and I went straight through a tricky left turn and had to stop and flip around to rejoin the race ... with the two minor dramas I was pleased to note, in the race-day results, that I still managed a 2:21 bike split (7th fastest O/A). My ride was a mirror of my swim – cruddy and flat – at the beginning ... and then I found bike flow, after 40 minutes, but no “pop”, “climb" or "surge" strength.

T-2 was lightning fast - 33 seconds.

I felt very light on the run, found my “outbound” pace immediately, and settled in despite being pressured by fellow age-grouper, Dirk Aschmoneit, former German pro and a top-5 Kona Men's Professional "finisher".

We ran shoulder-to-shoulder for a couple of miles, racing for 1st place in age group and in the Top-10 O/A. I decided to run a tactical race, I'd chat with Dirk about the scenery, how well he ran, training for Kona ... then settle back, and allow him go up 10 meters ... and then surge to his shoulder or just past, to let him know I could.

I watched him carefully for signs of strength and weakness. Strength: He had an amazing capacity to suffer (and this worried me) and he ran flats very well. Weaknesses: He was running as the "hunted” and was not taking nutrition - I felt I could capitalize on this.

My weakness: My legs, while not "cruddy" at any point, had only 1 ½ “gears,” as a result of the week’s cumulative running, so I had no “sprint” strength … and that meant I had to make my move before we got to the final mile – because I would loose that race!

My strength: I was running very easy in gear “1”, near effortless, and I was faster than Dirk on the “ups" and "downs”. I was also “one up” in the nutrition department as I was carrying a bottle of CytoSport (actually "run cocktail" ... a mix of Cyto's "Fast Twitch" & "CytoCarb") and therefore well nourished.

My strategy was to stay back ... "hunt" ... until mile 8, where the “½ distance” becomes “very real”, and where there was a pronounced “down” and “up” section. I planned to pass him on the "down," surge the "up", and force a gap, then "red-line" for two miles … and only then assess where my body was, and only then look back and assess where he was, but not until after the attack - it had to look very easy ... effortless. The plan went off perfectly, by mile "10 I had a gap that was big enough to hold (AG) 1st. I took a significant risk to do this and hurt ... really hurt ... during the surge, suffered for it the remaining few miles, and was bankrupt at the finish.

Final results of the day: 1st in Age Group and 9th" overall in 4:29:45. My pal and his family, my daughter and I, enjoyed the rest of the day at the Boardwalk and then dinning outside in Capitola, a lovely beach-side village, soaking in the sun, before making the journey home.

A perfect weekend blessed by family, friendships, the beauty of nature and good competition.

I have to shout out to Louis Garneau and their tri-clothing - this is my second race in the new "kit" and the clothing is remarkable! No chaffing - pure comfort - well done LG!