Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Train your weakness, race your strength

Just back from Galveston, where I competed in the Lonestar Half Ironman Triathlon. Had a great time, and was able to beat the 5 hour mark by almost 10 minutes, finishing in 4:50:12! The short version is that I had a good swim, kept a fast (but controlled) pace on the bike, and then had one of the better runs that I can remember. Finished 3rd out of 35 in my age group, and 63rd out of just over 600 competitors in total. The title of this post (Train your weakness, race your strength) is an old racing cliche that I learned is very sound advice. I've worked pretty hard in the last few months to start improving my swimming, and get a little stronger on the bike. But in the race, I made sure and kept within myself for those two legs, especially the bike, and then was able to really make the most of the run. Longer version of the race report follows here, but first I just want to remind folks to visit the RMI Hope For Kidz link below and check out what they are doing for the kids in Haiti. Truly an important and meaningful program that you can be part of!

Now, on to the long and gory details (feel free to skip and just look for the RMI link...).

It was a nice day for a triathlon, with morning temps of around 70 degrees and highs in the mid-70's, and some good cloud cover for part of the day. There were some strong winds that kicked in later in the day, but most of that was during the run, which actually helped cool things down a little.

My swim wave was supposed to start at 8:27 am, but there were one or two stragglers still swimming from the Quarter Iron event that started at 7:30; so it ended up being closer to 9:00 when we got started. When the race started, I was able to take a good line along the buoys with minimal contact and thrashing around, so that helped me get into a good strong rhythm right away. I focused on using my upper body and used the buoyancy of the wetsuit to keep my legs floating with minimal kick, so I could save the legs for the rest of the day to come. The last few months of masters swimming seemed to pay off, as I was able to keep up a good pace the entire swim and never felt too fatigued. I also drafted off of other swimmers as much as I was able to, which saved some energy. I finished the swim in just over 35 minutes, which was a very good swim time for me. One guy in my age group swam in just under 29 minutes, but nobody else in our group beat 32 minutes. For me to be that close in a long swim was a great feeling!

My plan on the bike was to go with a high cadence (90+ rpm) and keep my leg muscles from burning out. I wanted to average over 20 mph if I could, but I know my strength is more the run than the bike, so I was determined to keep the bike under control. That became a tough mental battle when a few people started passing me, especially if they were in my age group! But I've learned from past experience that I tend to see many of those same people again on the run, so I stuck with my plan ::)

Heading out on the bike there was a little bit of a headwind, but I was still keeping up the pace that I needed in order to break 5 hours; so I just kept the cadence up and trusted that I would be even a little faster when I turned around and had some wind behind me (or at least no headwind). At the turnaround, I noticed that effect right away; as I picked up the speed without changing my level of effort or cadence. 5 miles into the return leg, we actually had to do a mini-loop and go back to the main turnaround point; due to some road washout caused by last year's Hurricane Ike. Once I hit the main turnaround point for the second time, I had about 20 miles to go, and the winds were now in my favor. That stretch is where I really had to fight the urge to hammer the bike and go faster, as a flat, straight road and favorable winds can really allow you to fly. I ended up just over 2:35 on the bike leg, which was 9th out of 35 in my age group. Normally I'd try to finish higher in the bike rankings, so now it was time to find out if holding back a little would pay off on the run.

The run was 4 loops of just under 3.3 miles (13.1 total). My strategy was to start off with a controlled pace, which I knew would be a little fast just from the thrill of finally being off the bike and the adrenaline rush; and then gauge at each subsequent loop how I was feeling. I checked my pace after about half a mile and I was close to 6:30 min/mile pace; which is a little faster than I could sustain, so I backed off a couple of notches to just over 7:00 min/mile. By the second loop I was running about 7:15 pace, and it felt great, so I kept that going. By the third loop I knew that I was well within my ultimate goal of beating 5 hours, so I pretty much just maintained as well as I could. The final loop is where it was time to just let go and run for the finish line. I finished in just over 1:35, which was by far my best Half Ironman distance run, and ended up being the fastest run split in my age group :) I attribute having that kind of run to a combination of the bike strategy, and the fact that I'm still in training for the Boston Marathon (coming up in just two weeks!). Some good lessons learned that I'll try to remember...

So, 4:50:12 for the day, and 3rd place in my AG... nice way to start the tri season :) It felt really good to break the 5 hour mark, and gives me a lot of confidence for the two ironman distance triathons coming up later this year.

To wrap things up, here's a nice short video that my wife shot of me crossing the finish line:

Please see this website to read more about the HFK program and to make donations:
RMI Hope For Kidz Website Link

Race Schedule:

January 11: RunTex 20 Miler (20 mile run) -> COMPLETED

January 25: Frost Yer Fanny Duathlon (27.2 miles run/bike/run) -> COMPLETED

February 15: Austin Marathon (26.2 mile run)-> COMPLETED

April 5: Lonestar 1/2 Ironman Triathlon (70.3 miles swim/bike/run) -> COMPLETED

April 20: Boston Marathon (26.2 mile run)

September 19: Redman ironman distanceTriathlon (140.6 miles swim/bike/run)

October 25: Longhorn 1/2 Ironman Triathlon (70.3 miles swim/bike/run)

November 29: Ironman Cozumel Triathlon (140.6 miles swim/bike/run)

1 comment:

  1. Great job, JD. You're crazy, but you're in really great shape!

    Love ya!