Timberman 70.3 Race Report (and the Surrounding Saga)
Sunday, August 20th was my first opportunity to have a second crack at a half-iron distance race. Timberman 2005 was my a real breakthrough race for me last year, and it kicked off a great end of season. Heading into the race last season, I was feeling great and firing on all cylinders. After my outstanding race at Vineman, my plan was to build on that foundation and have an even better race at Timberman, which was supposed to be the first of my two “A” races (the other being the 70.3 — Half-Ironman — World Champs in November). As you may have guessed by the words “supposed to be,” things didn’t go entirely according to plan.
The first couple days after Vineman, I felt great. Still really pumped from the race. But after travelling home, my legs were really sore, and I was just really generally fatigued. I tried to push through it, since it seemed normal enough, but I just kept falling apart during my workouts. This made it mentally really hard, since I felt like all my plans and hard work were coming undone. Eventually, my coach and I decided it would be best to just take two days to sit on the couch and do nothing, to just “cocoon.” So I did that. But at that point, I’d sort of gotten so down on myself that I didn’t really recover all that well during those days “off.” On the bright side, things started to come around after the rest, but I was still fading during my workouts. I had some positive workouts during my key prep sessions, but I still had no idea what to expect come race day. I knew a lot of it was going to be committing to giving a strong effort, regardless of how I felt. This was definitely going to be “a man or a mouse” type effort.
Race day was a very wet and cool day, with rain falling for most of the race. I didn’t mind the cooler weather, since I knew that heat would just another added stress factor. One unexpected consequence of the rain was that the start was delayed for 40 minutes since many of the competitors were delayed by accidents on the roads and slow travel. This was tough since we just waited at the swim start, and it threw my nutrition plan a bit to the wind, since I normally plan backwards from race start to when I eat. But everyone else was in the same position, so no real complaints. I had been swimming well, and I was confident that if anything was going to come back to me, my swimming would be the first to recover since it doesn’t use the legs. Plus I had another chance to swim in my wetsuit, which has been a real boost this season, as opposed to a handicap. I tried a bit of a different starting technique, focusing on long powerful strokes rather than fast powerful strokes, which hadn’t been working so well for me. I actually got out of the pack really well and settled on the hip of Chris Legh, who won the event last year. Chris is a really strong biker and runner, but not quite as strong a swimmer (relatively). I knew if I could stick with him on the swim, it would be great easier to push the pace on the bike. I committed to sticking tight on his hip and swam comfortably in his draft the whole way, coming out in a great position. My water exit and transition was a bit slow, still some lessons to learn there, and I let Chris and some other guys slip away on the bike.
A big part of them getting away was due to a serious drop off in my normal power out on the bike. As soon as I started out, I knew it would be a fight to keep the power up. Normally, at the beginning of the race, I have to work to keep my power down to avoid redlining. Today, I had to push to keep it close to where I knew it needed to be. I was able to make some surges when it mattered, passing and dropping some good riders. But it was a real effort. I ended up with the third fastest bike split of the day and came into T2 in third overall, but I was way off my normal pace, and had given up a huge amount of time to uberbiker Bjorn Andersson, who had crushed the bike. I rode about 10% less power than at my other races this season, but fortunately good equipment and positioning still made for a decent ride. But I was in third with a very slim lead over 4th, and I knew that hanging onto a podium spot was going to be very tough.
The run started out okay, but I was passed by fellow Timex athlete Matt Seeley about 4 miles in. I tried to stick on his shoulder, knowing that if I did, I could at least hold onto fourth and improve my position from last year (5th). But as I headed out onto the second lap, I really started to fade. I tried to surge to bring the pace back up, but it was just not to be on the tough hills of the run course. I ended up getting passed by a fast running Jonhnathon Hotchkiss around mile 11, and as hard as I pushed to stay with him, I just couldn’t.
In the end, I crossed the line in 5th, after running a disappointing half-marathon. I didn’t improve on my position from last year, and I missed the podium spot I had really hoped to get, but I still felt great about finishing well despite the adversity I’d encountered leading up to the race. The most satisfying part was seeing the payoff from being consistent in training for the months and months before the race, as well as having the mental fortitude to overcome some disappointing weeks beforehand.
I’m now in the midst of taking two weeks to be very relaxed, to sort of “reset” my body and recharge before heading into that big end-of-season push. It’s a time to get back on track and rebuild. I’m also taking an extended break before my next race, the ITPMan Sprint on Oct. 1, and then my next long race will be over 6 weeks away, so I’ll have a great chance to really get back into my routine and focus. I’m anxious to bounce back and recapture my form from July, but I know I need to be patient with it as well.