Monday, July 19, 2010

Race Report - Osoyoos Half Iron

It's been a crazy week and after a long hot race, the arriving of houseguest, a wedding on the island and 4 days in Tofino, I finally have a moment to do the race report from last weekend.

I'll start out by prefacing that this was not a great race for me. I went up to Osoyoos to camp, train and prepare for the race in the heat of the desert. Unfortunately the plan backfired on me. After a day or so of 40+ degrees and no escape to air conditioning I half heartedly knew my plan could take a turn for the worse but kept positive. Between not sleeping well at night, no napping during the day, no escape from the oven like heat and not eating well because of all of the above, come race day I didn't have what it took to get through the day as I had hoped.

The morning started off badly with my bikes computer crapping out on me. A stretched wire or something stopped it from calculating my speed, distance, cadence and time. All of which I rely on while out on course. Mind you, things could have been much worse, at least it wasn't a mechanical issue and I could still ride. Despite the malfunction, I was in good spirits and laughing with a fellow Ironman trainee about how different this year was for me compared to last year. This race last year was my very first half iron and at that very point, I was shaking like a leaf wondering if I was going to make it through the day. This morning though, I was all smiles, feeling good and ready to go through the motions. Of course this year my motivators were slightly different. Last year I was hoping that with a good race, I might qualify for the 2010 Long Course World Championships where on this morning a year later, I was just using it as a training day in preparation for my big day in August.

The swim went quickly and without much thought. I picked up a draft on my first loop and stayed right on her toes throughout the second loop of the course. I came out of the water in 41:51 which is slower than my regular pace, but not by much and could have easily been corrected with better sighting and swimming straighter lines. Nonetheless, I was fine with it - this is just supposed to be a training day so it was more important that I felt good and swam smart by finding that draft.

I was really looking forward to the bike course because I remembered how I struggled last year. I was looking forward to seeing how my advanced education, better training and new attitude would fare well for me in a racing environment. Without the use of my computer to measure my cadence I would have to go on feel for how fast I was spinning my legs. Without the speedometer, I would be guessing my pace and without the odometer I would be guessing where on course I actually was. The worst of all though was I had no time clock. I did have my watch on, but it wasn't as helpful as the timer on my bike computer. So, out I went with the purpose of staying positive, keeping my pace in mind best I could and following my hydration and nutrition planning. All went well and on my way back (approx 3/4 way through the course) I was remembering last year where at that point I was being dropped by my pack and losing ground/motivation/energy very quickly. Today however was the complete opposite. I was passing the pack I was hanging with, I was feeling 100% and still smiling at the supporters on the side of the road. Even going up the backside of Richter I was remembering the struggle of that very climb last year and how torturous it was. Every stroke was a grinding test in will and I hated every second. Today, I smiled to the top, passed other athletes and gave supportive cheers as best I could. At that point I was thankful for all my long rides and trips up Cypress Mountain in the last year.

As good as it felt to have such a positive ride, when I got to the bottom of the course my time calculations from my watch were sketchy and I wasn't sure that I had actually done any better than last year. Turns out I didn't and I came in at 3:40h which was about 4min slower than last year.

Onto the run. This was going to be the test for me. Last year I lost it on the run giving into the heat and my lack of nutrition throughout the course. This year I was much more prepared and was excited to see how it would unfold. I tried experimenting a little by running with my fuel belt and carrying my own hydration/nutrition with the intention of sticking to my 2:1 drinking and eating plan every fifteen minutes. Normally I wouldn't do this in a race, and you don't see many athletes who do (you just rely on the aid stations on course), but since I had found a plan that had been working so well for me in training, I was eager to test it in a race.

Well, turns out that no amount of hydration, nutrition or planning was helping me on this day. Long before the end of the 21km run course I gave into the heat and just hoped to make it to the finish line. I tried sticking with my plan of drinking and eating but it quickly turned into just running/walking from aid station to aid station anyway. It was nice to have the extra hydration in the heat when I needed it, but I don't think I would have been any worse off without it. By 2:20 I officially gave up and just walked/shuffled my way over the finish line with at 2:38h run. Pretty disappointing.

At first I chalked up my poor performance to the pre-race heat. The camping plan most likely played a role in my exhaustion and I learned a valuable lesson about the necessity of air conditioning, napping and good quality sleep. However, after having a few days to reflect I think I found another factor playing into my 7:07h dreadful finish on Sunday.

Last year, although nervous, slightly unprepared and unknowing of what I was in for, I had something then that I didn't this year. Motivation. I knew that the top 10 in my age group were going to be given spots in the 2010 World Championships that would be held in Germany. I knew it was a total long shot, but throughout the race, I had that motivation that kept me going. Mind you, I finished last year barely standing, dehydrated and nauseous, but I left everything that I had on course. This year, my intentions were just to go through the motions, use this as a long training day in preparation for Ironman. Did I get what I aimed for? Yes. Was I satisfied with my effort? Not so much. I'm glad that I felt much more positive throughout the race, especially on the bike. But I think I lost focus and went too far into the "training day" mentality. I doddled out there, was daydreaming where I should have been focusing and lost my motivation to be in the "race" even if only racing myself. I've learned that having some results based goals are good just to keep you pushing. Had I been more aware of the time/pace, I may have pushed a little harder to keep going. Instead, I went in thinking that just finishing was what I wanted and that's what I got. Just finishing.

I'm not letting my "just finished" result weight to heavy on me. While I'd hope at this point the bar would be raised a little higher for myself, this IS my Ironman year and goals are completely different. Just finishing is my goal for Ironman and so if I look at last weekends race as a foresight into August, I'm right on track and Osoyoos was a big win for me.

That said, next years goals are starting to take a little more of a competitive shape. No more doddling and daydreaming - it's too friggin' hot out there to spend any more time than necessary on that pavement.

6 weeks and counting to the big day. I just finished a nice recovery week in Tofino and today I start the last 3 week cycle of training before I tapper into Ironman. I can't believe it. After 5 years, I have three weeks of training left. Unreal.

Speaking of which, I'm planning my last trip out to Penticton next week for training. Stay tuned :)

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