Thursday, June 28, 2007

Treasure at the end of the Rainbow;Buffalo Springs 70.3, a race report

I took this photo driving home through west Texas from Buffalo Springs 70.3. Nothing is as beautiful as a rainbow and the lore that it signifies. Some triathletes came to the west Texas town of Lubbock and found their pot of gold in the form of Kona slots, top age group finishes, and great results on this epic course.

This was my third year in a row coming to Lubbock and each year the course gets easier and my times get faster. I have consistently dropped 6 minutes each year off my time since I first attempted this course and this distance in 2005. This year I actually felt like I was racing it and not just surviving it. I have to admit, the weather was ideal with lighter winds on the bike, and on the run the heat didn’t seem so oppressive.

On the morning of the race I awoke at 3:50 am and had my usual pre race meal consisting of 360 calories of Hammer perpetuem, 300 calories of Heed, and a banana with peanut butter. I mixed up my bike race bottle of 900 calories of Perpetuem, Heed, endurolytes, and anti-fatigue caps and then had a small cup of coffee.

I left for the race site at 4:45. Every year I leave for the race site at this time and never run into traffic problems and park the car without waiting. Well, this year there was traffic back up several hills back to get into the parking area. Apparently, the word got out you need to get here early to have enough time to park and get your stuff ready.

When I got to the transition area, I ended up having ample time to get things ready and make a stop at the porta potty. I took my 2 Race caps and 2 anti-fatigue caps about one hour prior to the start. At 6:30 the pro wave went off and I slipped my wetsuit on and headed down to warm up. It is really nice because the management allows you to get in the water and swim adjacent to the swim start area. I was able to swim around 500 yards and get in a few strong pick ups at race pace before I headed over to the beach start.

One thing that I noticed when watching the 30-34 men’s wave go off was that there was a sand bar that extended out 50-60 feet out into the lake. Some of those guys were getting a big head start by high stepping it out there on the sandbar while the others just lay down and started stroking. Hum.. I’m all over that.

My age group 45-49, was starting with the 25-29 year old guys. Nice.. I would have some fast feet to latch on to and conserve some precious energy while still distancing myself from the rest of my fellow competitors.

When the horn sounded I was all over that sandbar and hit the water in third place in the wave. The swim started harder than I usually take it out, but by the first turn I had settled in behind some big shouldered swimmer who gave me a monster draft. Navigation through the other heats of competitors is like swimming through a minefield of driftwood, occasionally you hit a few. I had to sight more frequently and I feel that makes the swim more difficult than just cruising on a clean lake surface with your head down. I let the big shouldered guy guide me through all that mess. It wasn’t long before we made the turn at the last buoy. There was a glare as we swam directly into the sun and all I could see was splashing ahead of me despite using smoke goggles. The pace quickened and before I knew it there was a helping hand reaching down to guide me up the boat ramp. Swim time; 26:10. Average HR 149. The HR was higher than I usually have on a swim like this. It might be due to the heat of the water accompanied by the use of the wetsuit.

I got my wetsuit off quickly and followed some of the guides left by some resourceful competitors to my bike. I am blind without my glasses so, I looked for the yellow bandana someone tied to the end of my bike rack line and the stack of tennis balls on a wire a few bikes away. My transition towel was bright orange so it was easy to spot. Wetsuit came off quickly and I was on my way up the steep hill out of T1 quickly.

I had several goals for the bike ride. One, was to ride conservatively enough to have a great run. Two, I wanted to make sure my nutrition went well and not experience any fade in my heart rate or power at the end of the ride. I had recently listened to an Ironman Talk pod cast featuring Gordo Byrn on estimating power guidelines for an Ironman bike ride. Gordo used watts and heart rate from a half iron man race which he had a good run to estimate his wattage caps for the ironman. I wanted to get some valuable data to use for Kona this year.

My ride was going well, very few people passed me. Lars Finanger went by pretty strong but he is an uber cyclist. He was easy to spot. His shorts had LARS printed on the rear. I was keeping my wattage in the 200 to 260 range on the flats and allowed spikes into the 300’s on the hills. I tried to keep the heart rate below 150.

On the way back from Yellow canyon I saw Tim Terwey coming. He had won my age group for the past two years so I knew he would be my main competition. When he passed me I looked at his effort level and felt that he was on a suicide mission. He appeared to be going too hard for my tastes so I just let him go. A lot of things could happen in the next 3hrs, and I had confidence in my running ability. I chose to be patient.

For some reason this course didn’t feel as difficult for me as it has been in the past. I can remember finishing my first half here in 2005 and feeling absolutely trashed. I cramped severely on the run. I suppose my fitness level has come up since then, and experience has helped a lot too. This was my sixth half iron man.

Once I finished the spiral staircase, I saw that Tim had a 4 minute lead. I could deal with that. After that section, there is a gradual grade to take you back to the flats and a 10 mile stretch back on the chip seal roads and into the park. I suppose I lost concentration here because I felt like I wasn’t riding as aggressively as I should have at that point. Watts and heart rate faded a bit and I wasn’t passing very many people. When I got back to T2 I had, unknowingly, let Tim’s lead grow to over 8 minutes. His bike split was 2:25 and I went 2:36. My average HR was 147 and NP 220 for the ride.

T2 was slow. I had to put my socks on twice and that cost me 15 seconds or so. Dave Crow, an ASI photographer from the Tulsa area was there to capture the moment. I hit the run feeling pretty fresh. This was a good sign. I was running in a relatively new set of Newton running shoes.

The day before I left for Lubbock I ran 1.5 miles in the Newton’s and compared them to my usual New Balance racing flats. The Newton’s felt more comfortable and my time was 30 seconds faster over the distance with the same heart rate. The decision was made to use them in the race, but it wasn’t without some hesitation. I had yet to run longer than 4 miles in them.

The first three miles were 6:50’s and I was aerobic. Heart rate was 150. The Newton’s felt good. The first steep hill comes at 3 miles and I made it up at a 7:30 pace. At this point the fleet footed runners from the 40-44 age group came flying by. I’m glad I’m out of that age group now. The depth this year was just incredible.

The plan I had set for the run was to take it conservatively to the half way point then begin to build to 10 miles and let it rip on the last 3.1 miles to the finish. I wanted to negative split the run. At the turnaround, I saw that Tim had a 4 minute lead and he looked pretty uncomfortable. He would have to have a complete melt down for me to catch him but it still was possible.

Last year a friend of mine, Jennifer Johnson, won the overall amateur female in the last quarter mile of the run. I saw a photo of the pass and I pictured it in my mind as I pushed those final 3 miles. Those last miles go through a residential area with quite a few blind turns and trees. You are unable to see any runners ahead of you until you are right up on them. I looked at my watch and began to calculate that I could break 4:40. I would be real happy with that even if I didn’t catch Tim. So I went for it.

My last miles were low 6:50’s to 6:40’s and I was able to lift heart rate up into the 160’s. I crossed the finish line in 4:38:55. I later learned that I just missed catching Tim by 45 seconds. Oh well, I had a solid race and it was well paced. I had met all my goals with the exception of one. I was pretty pleased that I was able to significantly negative split the run. I ran the first half of the run at a 7:13 pace and the second half at a 6:56 pace for a final 1:32:53 split.

Looking back at the results, I had the fastest swim split by around 2 minutes, and run split by 7 minutes in the age group. Unfortunately, the second place run split was performed by Tim. At the awards dinner, Tim passed on his Kona slot to me and I was given the opportunity to pass it on to the next guy. It felt pretty good. I have always wanted to do that. I enjoyed seeing the expression on his face when he accepted the slot. It was like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Aah….Just wait until he steps off the plane in Kona. That will be a real treat ;)

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