This race has been my goal "A" race since Kona last year. Kona didn't go quite as planned. I’d say the biggest problem for on the big island was letting everyone convince me that the race didn't matter because I wasn't going to win my age group anyway. This way of thinking poisoned me and made me believe that I didn't really belong there.
I set out this year to race a World Championship. Not simply show up and participate.
I qualified in Boise on a roll down. That didn't eaxactly help my confidence going into Vegas. If I couldn't even get it done at a smaller race in the Northwest, how was I supposed to compete with the best in the world?
As the season progressed I started to get more and more fit and it was showing in most of my races. I finished in the top five overall in all of my non WTC races with one overall win.
The successful season paired with some great training sessions leading into Vegas had me cautiously optimistic.
T1 full of bikes!
The pros started at 6:30 and I went off at 8. Transition closed at 6 so that meant I had to get down there at around 5 to make sure everything was ready to roll. Luckily I stayed at the Ravella on Lake Las Vegas, which is about 500 yards from the swim start. That meant I was able to walk back to my room, eat and hang out until my wave was getting closer to starting. On a side note if you're looking for a hotel I reccomend the Ravella over Loews. It's actually a lot closer to the swim and T1.
As far as a warm up goes. I just hopped in with about 5 minutes left before we started and swam around a little. I got tired of treading water so I stood on the rocks under the bridge for the final minute before the race started.
Here I come...37 minutes into the swim :(
I decided to go with a swim skin this year. In Kona, I just wore my tri shorts and I had a hell of a time getting into my top after the swim. My Desoto Liftfoil performed beautifully! You can even wear it the whole race if you want. I raced in my Planet X team kit and pealed the swim skin but you can go either way.
As far as the swim went, I started to the far left and swam straight for the first turn buoy. The course curves to the left and I think you can effectively cut some of the swim by not following the buoy line. I got out for the first 100 yards with very little contact. I even managed to stay up near the bulk of the field up to right around the first turn buoy. The swim was pretty uneventful. I was hoping to swim a 34-35, but I came out in 37. Oh well. At least I have something to work on for next year.
T1 – 3:27
T1 is about a 200 yard run around the backside of the lake. I ended up passing about 5 people on the run, only to have them pass me back as I struggled to get my socks on. Somehow I put both on heel side up and had to take them off and start over. Coming out of the change tent my Planet X Exocet was looking pretty lonely. I assumed this would be the case and I didn't let it bother me. The nice thing is I felt zero pressure all day.
I grabbed my bike and started the long run out of T1 and up a windy hill. I left my shoes clipped in and was having problems with the heel loop hitting the ground and spinning my shoes around. I was just waiting for one to pop out of the pedals and go flying. This was a new problem for me. I guess I’d never had to run this far with my bike.
After mounting my bike I had a ridiculous time getting into my left shoe. I collapsed the part I needed to get my foot into and couldn’t get it to open back up. This happened to me one other time this year and it is extremely frustrating. Eventually I got it straightened out, but it took about ½ mile.
What would you do differently?:
I need different socks. I never have problems with the pair I wear for the run. Also, use bands on my shoes to hold them level.
I know my wife meant to show me getting onto my bike, but I can't help but notice how lonely T1 looks.... I was in the last wave though so cut me some slack.
In talking to people throughout the week I had told some that I was planning on going pretty hard on the bike and some I was planning on taking it easy. To be honest I wasn't lying to either of them. I didn’t know what the plan was. I ride mostly based on feel and I just decided to see now I felt on the day.
Right out of transition you have a 2 mile climb. I was passed by about 5 people in this section, as I struggled with my shoes. Luckily I was able to pass them all back within the next 2 miles. I was passing people left and right (actually most on the left ;). I was feeling great.
There was one guy in my AG (Charlie) that I was going back and forth with until about mile 20. He was kind of a bigger guy so I assumed he must be a biker and I figured I may have a shot at catching on the run.
The race progressed and I kept waiting for the big hills everyone had warned me about, but they never came. For the most part this course is spent going back and forth between your big ring and small ring. I had an 11-25 on the back I never really needed the 25. There is one difficult part of the course. The climb out of Lake Mead all the way back to T2. It's not super steep but it is long.
By the time I was back near Henderson I was seeing fewer and fewer people in my AG. However, as I was passing by one of the last 2 penalty tents I did see two guys from my age group, and I couldn't help but smile (cheating bastards).
I rolled into T2 feeling good. It turns out I was more on the easy side of the bike. Which in my opinion is usually the better way to go.
I finally had a decent transition. Shoes and socks went on easy and I was ready to run.
Feeling pretty good on the run
I came into the run having no idea where I was in my AG and not really caring to tell you the truth. I wanted have a good run, and that was all that mattered. This was my last race of the year and I wanted to leave it all on the course. No saving it for a future race. No worrying about an injury flaring up. Just go hard and see where you end up.
The first mile or so is a steady downhill. This allowed me to get my legs under me and set a good pace from the beginning. I was running at about 6:30 per mile pace and it felt relatively easy going downhill. At around 1 mile into the race a guy from my AG in a PACwest kit went flying by me like I wasn't even moving. I looked down and at that time I was running a 6:10.
"Welcome to the world championships" I thought.
My mind started to drift back to my Kona race last year where I did nothing but get passed for the entire run. For a split second I started to struggle with my confidence. It’s times like this that you have to remind yourself that you’re just starting a half marathon. That’s a fairly long race by itself. When you pair with a swim and hard bike anything can happen. I decided to just to keep my pace and run my own race. I knew I wasn't getting on the podium so I may as see what I could do.
The first lap was a bit of a struggle, but then something awesome started to happen. I started noticing that I was passing people in my AG and no one else was passing me. With a renewed sense of confidence I was able to find another gear. It was crazy. Nothing hurt, I was staying cool, and was running really well. The uphill half of the race I was running about 7:20 and the downhill is would let myself go as fast as I wanted and I was running 6:10's.
The second loop flew by and before I knew it I was on the last loop.
It was gut check time.
I had been falling apart at about mile 11 of all my longer runs and races this year and I didn't want that to happen. So with three miles to go I started to push hard. I knew I only had one more trip up the hill then it would be a mile downhill to the finish.
Oh yea, and PACwest guy that blew by me was suddenly running right up the road from me. Holy shit! I had managed to bring this guy back that I had deemed untouchable. When I him passed I made sure it was a hard pass and checked him at the next 2 turns. I gapped him pretty quickly and he looked miserable. From there it was just pushing hard to the top of hill and gearing up to finish with the downhill.
Then, out of nowhere I noticed at the turn at the top of the hill that were 2 guys in my AG within striking distance so I gave it all I had left coming down the hill. I was running a 5:40 and gaining on those 2 in hurry. I made the pass about halfway down the hill and kept on the gas all the way though the shoot. I was spent! I ended up with a final finish time of 4:43:07. That was good enough for 21st in my age group and the 4th American finisher in my age group. Those Europeans are FAST!
What would you do differently?:
The key at a race like this is staying cool. If you overheat you're done. I made sure to take ice and water and dump it all over me at every aid station. I also hit the coke early. I know from experience Coke is magic for me on the run
My best cheerleaders!
I had done exactly what I wanted to do at the race. I ran hard... So hard that when I stopped I got really dizzy. Luckily Ironman races never have a shortage of volunteers at the finish. 3 people grabbed me and helped to the medical tent. The tent was full so I sat there for a minute talking to Nate Birdsall and cooling off. I could tell an IV was going to be a long wait so I eventually got up and walked to meet my family and friends.
I had an excellent cheering/ support system for the race. My brother his wife, my wife and daughter, and my friend drove up the night before from San Diego to come watch. It always helps to see familiar faces.
Finally I had a race I felt I could be proud of. I loved this race and really want to come back. Next year is an Ironman year and hopefully another Kona year so we'll see what happens.