Clearwater 70.3 race report
I looked into the results from last year and figured that if I could go 4:20 (26 swim, 2:25 bike, 1:25 run, 5:00 Tr1/Tr2) then I would be in contention for a top 10. My training had gone really well in November and so I went down there with the goal of going 4:20.
As it turned out I finished at 4:24:32 in 14th spot. A 4 min penalty on the bike eradicated my goal of a 2:25 bike, but everything else was in line with my perfect race.
All in all, even with the penalty, it was a great race and great experience. I am glad Mike and my coach put a bit of pressure on me to do the race.
I had to be convinced to sign up for this race. I had not enjoyed my Half Iron races during the year and I did not feel ready to compete at a World Champs at this distance. Training in August and September had been hampered by problems with my Achilles. September and October’s training had not been the best quality either because I had done a lot of travelling and packed in 2 half ironman races.
Two weeks out from the race my body and training started to come around. My run form and fitness were back and I was getting more comfortable spending longer amounts of time at threshold on the bike.In the last week before the race I felt the best I had felt physically and mentally since I broke my foot in 2008. I was strong, confident and I was recovering really well. Experience with how much and how hard I need to train into my taper also helped: I skipped 2 rides in the last 8 days before the race. It is so hard mentally to skip workouts in your training schedule, especially when you trust your coach. But as I gain experience at this distance I have started to trust what my body is telling me when it comes to rest.
My confidence was boosted another notch when one of the naturopaths I see, Holly Fennel (some call her a genius) thought that I was low in magnesium (I still need to do the bloodwork to know for sure). I had been suffering from these periodic, huge heartbeats on a daily basis for years. I had had a cardiogram, a Holter Monitor test and other exams but no one had found anything. Within an hour of consulting and getting treated by her these huge beats are gone so far. And so are the muscle twinges that I also suffered on a daily basis. To top it off, I had been doing some research on my own I figured I had been lacking B12. I boosted my B12 supplements in the two weeks prior to the race, which I also think helped. Again, bloodwork will be the ultimate determinant of these diagnoses.
Life leading into the race was chaotic. The chaos included being within 30 seconds of missing my flight because I was pulled in US customs for not having a special PERMIT to race as a Pro. I have been racing for years as a Pro and have never been asked for a permit. Once I got to Florida I had to play chauffeur to all the athletes who didn’t have vehicules to get them to Clearwater. This led to me getting into the first car accident of my life. And to top it off, Mike texted me (which woke me up) when he arrived at 11 PM the night before the race (I had to get up at 4:30 AM).
Fortunately I was so relaxed about the race and so confident in my training that everything seemed funny instead of tragic.One thing I do need to improve on – and which caused a wee bit of stress for me – is scheduling the morning of these races. I don’t need as much of a warmup so I tend to schedule less time than short races. But I continually forget three key things – the morning set up ALWAYS takes longer than ITU races, there are always bigger crowds than I am used to, and it is often dark when I arrive in Transition (7 AM versus 12 PM starts!).
I chose the straightest line to the corner buoy, on the right of the start line. This was away from the top swimmers, as they chose the left side. My positioning was probably wrong in retrospect for two reasons – 1) I would have been in the draft if I had chosen the other side, as it was I lead the pack on the right and 2) The race organizers had told us that the left side was the safest (even if it was a bit longer) and sure enough I cut my hand open on some barnacles. I found the swim start hard. It was relatively calm punching and kicking-wise, but I had real trouble matching the hard pace set at the beginning. There were some really shallow spots that I took advantage of and did some dolphin dives. These were a nice little rest on the arms. I was surprised that most people swam through the shallow areas. Once past the first buoy I got into a rhythm by really concentrating on a strong finish to each arm stroke. I moved up within the small pack I was with and by the final turn I was leading it with a couple of other girls. One woman made a really good push in the final 500 meters and I fell off her pace. I wanted to get in and out of T1 before everyone else so that people were stuck behind ME on the bike and not the other way round! I wanted to avoid having to make crazy power surges in order to pass people once on the road. I also wanted to avoid having to back off the power to stay out of the draft. This was all a little in vain as you will see later!
This was my first experience with clean transitions and I did everything all wrong, including taking my Blueseventy off at my bike instead of in the change tents. I thought for sure I was going to get a penalty for this.
Out on the bike the power seemed to come easy and I settled into a good rhythm. There were 5 other girls around me. We jockeyed for position for about 15 kms (it actually reminded me of ITU races!) and then 2 of us were given drafting penalties. I figure it is the luck of the draw on this course, as any of us could have been dinged. The funny thing was that we all still stayed together for the next 25kms, but no-one was given any more penalties. Once I got to the penalty tent I just took the 4 minutes to eat, drink, refill my aerodrink system. I walked around and shook out my legs. It was actually a nice rest! Once I got back on the road I was able to ride my Trek away from the other girl who was stopped in the penalty tent with me. It is crazy how much riding with a group (let’s not call it drafting) helps. During the second half (which is as flat as the first) my average power went up by 4% while I kept my speed the same. There was literally NO-ONE around me during the second half. It was all a bit eerie.
My focus on the bike in Clearwater was to ride the most efficiently as possible. I concentrated on riding a straight line and staying in a strong (not droopy) aero position the whole time. I had been doing a ton of core work (especially things like planks) to strengthen my aero position.
I ate, drank and was merry the whole ride. I didn’t need any extra salt pills (probably because this hadn’t been my issue in the first place, it was my mag levels). I enjoyed watching my average power rise as the kms passed. I got myself physically and mentally ready for the run. I can now ride by myself for 2.5 hours without going INSANE. It shows we are all adaptable!I had a better T2, now that I understood the whole clean transition thing. I didn’t suffer any cramping as I shoved my feet into my Asics. I usually put my shoes on cautiously because of quad cramps, but there was not even a twinge this time. Out on the course I felt like I was flying. I have NEVER felt this good coming off the bike (okay, maybe once or twice in much shorter races). It felt incredible to race in my racing flats again. My racing flats had been off-limits for the last 3 months because of the Achilles. I looked at my watch and I was running sub 4 min kilometres. Although I felt great I knew that I needed to back off – but just for the first 5kms. Coach David had prepared me with these amazing progressive sessions prior to the race. I was prepared to take it 5kms at a time. And this is what I did. Everything was broken into 5km pieces : nutrition, hydration and pacing. Mentally, I tackled each 5km like it was a single event. Mike was there at every 5kms cheering me on, making me go harder. He is really, one of the best cheerers out there. It is funny how much a known voice, saying what you need to hear, can drive you forward. It makes you realize how important it is to have a strong, clear internal voice.In the end I ran my fastest half marathon time, this includes the two road races I did this year!
Thank you to all my sponsors, supporters, coaches, friend and family for helping me with this transition year. It was full of ups and downs, but mostly ups. I am glad that I was able to cap it off with a top 15 at Worlds, this result is for everyone who has supported me.