Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Steelhead 70.3 Ironman Race Report

Tuesday, August 16, 2011  at 7:50 AM
Soreness after a race is a good thing, right?  Doesn't it mean that you pushed yourself hard enough, and that you left it out on the race course?  If that is the case, than I did, because I'm feelin' the pain in my legs, and my calves, and my butt, and the list goes on.  But, it's a "good" soreness if you know what I mean!  :)

I must say that Steelhead was an AMAZING experience, and the one thing that I can take away is that --

Friday afternoon, Jennifer and I decided to go to the Race Expo in St. Joseph.  Kevin @ Ironman by Thirty and I had emailed each other, exchanged numbers, and had sort of planned to meet each other at the expo.  As soon as Jenn and I walked in the door, I saw a familiar face walking toward me.
It's so funny to meet bloggers, because it was like we already knew each other.  I knew about his wife, his dog, the name of his bike, where he lived and a bunch of other stuff without actually meeting him.  And, he's such a great guy.  We listened to the pre-race meeting, and then Jenn and I went in to buy some sweet stuff!  Ever since I saw the bike jerseys from last year's race, I wanted one, and THEY HAD THEM!  The ones for this year didn't look quite as cool as the older ones, and they were $80 instead of $40.  So, I had to get one of those babies, plus one of those super cool Ironman shirts that has your name on the back.  Here's what it looks like:
The front with a classic "Dork" face
The back
You can see my name fifteen lines up on the left side.
I also scored some other cool stuff like a new water bottle, a sticker for the car (of course!!!), and the swag that we got in our bags like the sweet Headsweats running hat and a new tech running shirt.  I wanted a bunch of cool gear to remember my first 70.3

Saturday was super chill as I tried to lay around and drink TONS of water!  I think I drank close to two gallons and had to pee every three minutes.  I wasn't really nervous at all, and I actually slept REALLY well that night.  I made a triathlon checklist this time as to not forget anything like I did at my last triathlon (Bear Lake Triathlon), and it worked, because I didn't forget anything!

Sunday morning started early at 4am, and I have to pause here for a special announcement.  I must have married the most amazing girl in the world, because not only has she put up with me being gone on long rides and long runs and working out by herself because I had to do some hard training, but she is an incredible race cheerleader too.  She was with me the whole way which included the 4am wake up call!  Thanks for being so great, Jenn, and I love you!

We had the car packed and made the long trip of 20 minutes over to Jean Klock Park to set up transition.  The weather channel had been predicting a terrible rip current for that morning with 4-7ft waves.  As we walked towards the park, I turned to Jenn and asked if she could hear what I was hearing...the pounding surf!  Sure enough, as soon as we got into the transition zone, the race director was talking over the speakers telling us that the swim was canceled.  I was pretty bummed, but I had been trying to prepare myself for it since I had read the possibility online.  In 2008, they canceled the swim, but instead, they made everyone run 2.1 miles.  This year, they just canceled the swim, and I was really stoked that I didn't have to run first.
Just getting to the transition area.  Do I look nervous?
It was then that I got to meet my second blogger buddy, Erika.  Again, I knew exactly what she looked like, so when she came up to me and said, "Are you Matthew?"I knew who she was.  You should check out her blog "This Spartan Will" for her race report, although she smoked me on this race.  Bloggers are just so cool!  It was fun just chatting it up and being bummed together that we wouldn't do the full 70.3.
There was a whole lot of standing around as we all waited to see what would happen.  Then the race director told us that we would start on the bike, and it would be a time trial start, and that we needed to stay in transition to not trigger the timing mats.  They said that the pros would start at 7:15 at 30 second intervals, and then the Age Groupers would leave one at a time by our race numbers every 3 seconds or so.  I was #1811, so I knew I had a LONG time to wait.  I got to meet another awesome blogger, Mary @ Tri Like Mary.  She actually found me while I was talking to Erika.  She had an awesome race including some PR's, so go check out her blog for her race report.
See the two dudes trying to find a spot to pee?
It was pretty hilarious to watch people hop the fence and climb that dune behind me to take a pee.  You can see a couple guys up there, but even the girls popped a squat up there in the bushes.  It was easier for me to slide through the fence and use the "beach facilities."  We had plenty of time to talk and chill and snap pics as we waited for our turn to start the race.
Just to give you an idea of the water conditions, here's a picture of the lighthouse in St. Joe.  We were supposed to swim from there to basically where this picture was taken.  I'd say it was a little too rough.  Although I was bummed that they canceled it, I think they made the right call.
After an hour or so of waiting around talking to people, the race director decided to start letting people go 2 at a time and much closer together.  Suddenly the transition areas was emptying, so I grabbed my bike and headed over to "Bike Out."  Kevin was racked just a couple numbers down from me, so we left at about the same time (Although, he finished about 45 minutes before me...what a stud!).  The nerves started to kick in, because I'd never started a race like this and it was quite foreign to me.  They said, "Get to the mat.......Go!" and off I went!

 Go, Smitty, Go!!!!!
I've been working for the last 6 months for those calves!  Yeah Baby!
The plan was to hold back on the bike knowing that I had a half marathon to do, but I guess you could say that I didn't stick with my plan.  I don't know what the deal was.  Maybe it was because it was perfect weather at about 68-70 degrees and overcast.  Maybe it was the adrenaline rush like Kurt @ Becoming an Ironman said, or maybe it was because everyone else seemed to be going so fast, but I was moving!  The course was jammed with people because we all had started so close together.  I was leap frogging with one guy for the first few miles, so we started talking and ended up doing to whole ride together.  My average was pretty solid at 20mph, but my goal was 18.5 to save my legs for the run/shuffle.  I was trying to listen to my body, and it said, "I feel good.  Keep doing what you're doing!" At mile 40, we turned to head back toward the park, and the 18-20mph tailwind hit us.  I decided to slow it down to save the legs, but it didn't happen.  It was just too easy to go fast.  So, I ended up with a 20.21mph average!  I think that is pretty awesome, but I was a little worried about blowing up on the run.  The total time for the bike was 2:46:13.

Jennifer was pretty amazing.  She drove out on the race course and took pictures several times.  It was really cool, because she would take a pic, get in the car and drive next to me, go on ahead and take another picture, and repeat.  She was so encouraging!
 Transition "2" was fine.  I thought I could do it under 3 minutes including the long run in transition, and I ended up doing it in 2:41.  Nice!  As I ran with my bike, my legs felt pretty good.  I was having so much fun!

The run wasn't too bad.  I love talking to people, so everyone that I was around was my best friend.  I ran with a guy on his second lap as I was running my first, and we had a great time.  We talked about everything, and before I knew it, I had already ran 4.5 miles!  Sweet!  We came down a short hill, and I saw Jenn standing at the corner.  Now you must know that EVERY triathlon picture I have of me running makes me look like I'm barely moving.  It seriously looks like me feet are hardly off the ground, but not this day!  I high-stepped that baby through the corner to get a good picture.  I also thought of one blogger that is hilarious and has a special goal to get a "Jumping" picture at every race.  Check out Cory @ FastCory.com.  This one's for you, buddy!
Like the two watches?  I forgot to drop one at T2, so I ran with both till I could give one to Jenn.  
The guy I was running with (see picture above) got a bad side stitch and had to start walking, so I kept motoring on.  It sucked, though, because I was almost in no-man's land without anyone to talk to.  I tried to hang on to my super slow pace, but I think I was slowing pretty good.  I saw Jenn one last time before she left to get down to the finish line.  At mile 11, I tried Coke because I've heard it's just amazing.  I don't know if I'd exactly say that, but it was pretty good.  Then, at about mile 11.5, I saw a friendly face coming the other direction.  It was Kevin Neumann!  He had already finished and come back to get me!  It was a huge pick-me-up and just what I needed to push me the last little bit together.  He told me that as soon as I entered the shoot, to "Hit it" and race the last couple hundred yards, so that's what I did.  He ran on the inside of transition to beat me to the line.  I saw him motion to his really sweet wife, Jennie, to take some pics of me.  You might see one on his blog when he puts his race report up at Ironmanbythirty.com ---Go check his blog out!
Now you might laugh, but I practiced a finisher's pose the day before.  I thought about raising my hands with "number 1's," but I wasn't even close to being #1, so I couldn't do that.  I thought about double fists, but no.  I came up with a big smile and a fist pump to finish my first "70.3."  Here's the side view of it starting to happen...
I was SO happy!!!
My run time was what I had planned on, which I guess is good.  But, after looking back I realize that I really set an easy goal of 9:45's per mile.  I ended up with a 2:07:25 half marathon averaging 9:43's.  No wonder my legs felt good running after the bike...I was basically walking! :)  

I came in 898 out of 2000 (+ or -) people. Middle of the pack, that's for sure.  And I came in 89th in my age group.  It sure isn't that impressive, but I had a blast!  

Now, I have to sign up for another one, maybe Rev3 Knoxville or IM Augusta for next year so that I can do the full 70.3.

Thank you bloggers for giving me motivation and encouragement.  Thanks for the kind comments and helpful wisdom from your own experience.  Thanks for reading my blog!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Predictions, Predictions, Predictions

Friday, August 12, 2011  at 3:07 PM
I wish that I could tell you exactly what will happen on Sunday.  I wish that I could calculate for the possibility of rain.  I wish I could know if I'll have a flat out on the course.  I wish I would know if I was going to bonk on the run and walk the last half.  I wish, I wish, I wish...

But I can't, so all I can do is give a feeble prediction of what I think MAY happen.  The only thing I really KNOW will happen is that I'm going to have fun!  I haven't trained for 6 months to go out and have a bad attitude and be disappointed in anything.  It's all good...whatever happens.  I must say that I have learned so much from you all as I've started this journey, and you better believe that I will be thinking about all my blogger buddies as I'm cranking away the miles, ALL 70.3 of them!

The training is done, the body is rested, the date has basically arrived, so now it's just time to DO THIS!  This morning, Jenn wanted to go for an easy ride, so we enjoyed 17 miles of easy, EASY spinning.  It was nice to keep the legs moving.  Yesterday, Josh and I went to Lake Michigan and swam, tried to swim in the 2-3 foot waves from the previous days "Closed-Beaches" rip current.  The water temp was perfect at 75*, but it was pretty tough to swim with all that tossing and churning.  We did an out and back WITH the current, and then AGAINST the current.   It was actually a confidence booster because I doubt the water will be that crazy come Sunday, and I was able to hack it out in all the craziness.  So, I think I'm ready.  I would say I KNOW I'm ready, but I've never done this before.

Swim: 35-40 minutes
I really don't have much of a clue as to how long it will take me since I don't normally swim in a wetsuit or with a current.  I will say that I normally plod along at a minute/lap in the pool.  If that were the case for race day, and I don't think it will be anywhere close to that, it would take me 42 minutes or so.  What I really think will happen is that I'll be really surprised at how fast it goes.  That being said, Matty O swam it in 35:13, and Kevin Neumann swam it in 33:47, and there's no way I'm as fast as those speed demons!  At least I get to swim in my "Full-Body-Life-Jacket" a.k.a. wetsuit!  :)

T1: 5:00 minutes
The run from the beach to the bikes doesn't look too terrible, but I don't really know where my bike will be racked yet.  Getting the wetsuit off and putting on my sweet new Swiftwick socks (yes, I'm a pansy for wearing socks) will take some time, so I've allowed 5 minutes.  Think that's enough?

Bike: 3 hours
This is where strategy really comes into play.  I've ridden the Steelhead course 5 or 6 times, and it's no big deal.  I have no problem cranking out 19.5mph or so, and that's not even race pace.  I'm not at all worried about the biking section, but I do know that there is a half-marathon after it.  So, the plan is to cool it on the bike.  I know I can do it in 2:45 or less, but the goal is to average 18.5-19mph.  That way, I'll have something left in the gas tank AND the legs for the run.  Pray that I don't get a flat!!!

T2: 3:00 minutes
There's not too much to do in T2, so I've only allowed 3 minutes.  I think that slappin' my running shoes on, grabbing my hat, and yanking on my Garmin won't take more than 3 minutes including the running to and from the bike rack.  By the way, I promised you I'd show you my new shoes, so here they are:
Don't worry, I've run in them several times to "break them in."
Run: 2 hours and 11 minutes
Now here is where the mental toughness and strength comes into play.  I'm giving myself a TON of time to run it (10 minute miles), so that I don't have to stress about getting my goal.  The hardest brick I've done was a 20 miler with a 9 mile run following.  I ended up doing 9:05's for those running miles, so I think I'll be able to squeeze under 10 minute/miles.  If you ask me, I think it's a little bit of a sand bag goal, but who knows.

Overall Goal: UNDER 6 HOURS

I'm not worried about where I place in our age group.  I don't really care that my goal is fairly easy for many people.  I'm just happy to be doing a Half Ironman!  It's gonna be awesome!

Come Sunday, if you happen to be around, or just wonder what I'll be wearing, here's the "kit."

Hot tan lines, right?

 But for now, it's off to the Expo I go.  I think I'll meet Kevin today!  Hoorah!  Thanks for all the nice comments and emails  you guys have sent me.  They sure are encouraging!  I'll do my best to crank out a race report as soon as I can.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

11 Days Till D-Day

Wednesday, August 03, 2011  at 9:46 PM
I've noticed something about triathlon bloggers...when it gets close to major races and events, the blog posts get shorter and farther apart.  With Steelhead coming up so soon, I've fallen into this category as well.  There have been a couple other distractions, though, including PASSING GREEK!  Heck yeah!  I went into the Final with a 98.6% in the class and only needing a C to pass.  The Final didn't seem too hard, and I ended up with a solid B.  I'll take that any day.  After all, B's get Degrees, right?

I meant to post a blog as soon as I passed to let everyone know that I had still been training hard and was looking forward to the big day, but Jennifer and I went on a little vacation to the Upper Pennisula of Michigan for a long weekend.  We decided to take our teardrop camper and stay at KOA's.  Our first stop was in Mackinaw City for a day at Mackinac Island.  The ferry ride over to the island was pretty awesome.  I had gone before, but it was a first for Jenn.

Did you know that they are stripping the paint off the bridge
because there are too many layers, and it is becoming too heavy?
We knew exactly what we wanted to do, and that was to ride a tandem around the island, all 8 miles of it.  After finding a really good cadence that works for me with all this training I've been doing, it was hard to try and work with someone else's cadence too.  I wouldn't say we were the fastest cyclists out there, but we had a lot of fun!
It's sketchy riding a tandem with one hand and snapping a pic with an SLR camera with the other...

Me trying to be all "artsy"

Lake Huron was COLD!

We took a nap on this bench and then posed for a pic.
Notice the remnants of Jenn's bruise from falling off her bike a couple weeks ago. (Click for a closeup)

Jennifer standing in front of "The Grand Hotel"
The next day, we went to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and did a bit of hiking.  It was a little boring, but we still had fun.  We threw on our swimsuits to taking a dip in Lake Superior, but when we got down there, the water was really cold and the flies were TERRIBLE!  We grabbed a quick pic, and then left.

We had plans of grandeur to stay the night and go to Tahquamenon Falls the next day, but 30 minutes after we arrived and set up camp at our KOA, the skies opened up let loose with rain!  We had a nice canopy that we ate some delicious haystacks under, but the teardrop leaked in three places.  We had a little discussion and decided to pack it up and hit the road back to Berrien Springs.  We realized that we were just lengthening our vacation because we HAD to be away from home.  In reality, we wanted to chill at the house and do stuff that we've wanted to get done for the past couple months.  Seven hours later, and 4am, we arrived and went to sleep.  It's nice to be back home!

So, on the training front, I've still been cranking away.  I rode the Steelhead course last week and put in a solid 19.5mph.  I followed it with a little brick run.  Then, after getting home, Jenn wanted to go another 35, so I ended up with 91 miles for that day.  Not bad!  I've been putting in some decent runs like my 9 miler on Monday.  I've found a really great method to run/walk, since I'm expecting that I'll have to do that at Steelhead.  I run as far as I can until it sucks, then I walk ONE tenth of a mile and run the rest of the mile, repeating as necessary.  It's working really well for me, and I'm narrowing down my realistic goal for this 70.3.  I've been swimming quite a bit too including a mile swim this week with another solid swim the next day.  I did an OWS in Lake Michigan a couple weeks ago as a storm was coming in, so it was great practice getting tossed in the waves.  The lake is really warm right not, so Jenn and I might go out without wetsuits this weekend for a swim.

I'm praying for the weather to be amazing on race day as everyone does, but look what the 10 forecast looks like.  If it can stay that way for two more days, than it's gonna be a GREAT race!

I'm not only getting excited about this race, but I'm REALLY excited to meet some awesome bloggers that will be racing with me.  Hopefully Kevin @ Ironman by Thirty, Mary @ Tri Like Mary, and Erika @ This Spartan Will will still be around after they finish, take a shower, read a book, etc., so that they can see me finish too!  I will post about what I expect as far as finishing time in a soon coming post.  I'm not all that nervous, because I know I've spent the last six months training with LOTS of time in the saddle, some new shoes because I ran the old ones out, and many hours swimming laps in the pool.  It's going to be awesome to see it all come together.  Want to see my new kicks?  I'll put them in the next post.  ;)

Thanks for reading!