10.28.2007 – Tempe, AZ
So it was the last race of the season, and I wanted to make it a good one. Coach Joel had mandated a stem-mounted GPS after the fiasco at Nutmeg, and I was ready to go with it for this race. I figured out via Google how to upload a set of waypoints onto the unit, which ended up being really nice. I programmed in each turn as a waypoint, and before each turn, a little alarm went off. It made it very easy to follow the course, which was well marked and which I drove two times on Saturday. So let’s get any doubts about that out of the way first. I stayed on course. Thank you very much.
Of course, as with all races, this race started with the swim, and in keeping with the adventures in navigating theme for the season, the swim was a bit of a challenge. Due to some logistical errors involving the sun suddenly rising from the East, the course had to be changed. Unfortunately, there was a shortage of buoys for the new course, so sighting was a bit of a challenge. I stopped to check with the lifeguards during the second half saying “which buoy?!” so as to remove any doubt. This cost me a bit of time, as my escort for the first half of the swim – Timex teammate Andrew Hodges – trusted in the “if I swim wrong they will whack me with a paddle” mentality. I swam a good comfortable pace, but having to stop to sight so often slowed me down and disrupted my rhythm, so it wasn’t the best swim. I came out of the water in third and hit the mat by T1 in just over 28, which was okay considering the longish swim and run. Then off onto the winding course that snakes through downtown Tempe.
The bike course is pretty flat, but a stiff wind and lots of corners prevent it from being super fast. I took splits each lap and tried to keep steady, which I think I did. It was a lot of stop-start riding, which can be hard to balance when your are trying to keep your power in check. I had an okay ride, going 2:08:40, but I felt like I really had a lot in the tank from not hammering to get back up to speed. Riding steady on a course like this paid big dividends, as I closed in on first during lap one, moved into first and away slightly on lap two, and then punched out a big lead on lap three. My early rabbit, Ben Hoffman, suffered the unfortunate fate of going off course (I feel your pain), so I actually did not now I was in first until wundertimer Jonnyo gave me the thumbs up as I headed into T2. I knew I had roughly four minutes or so on the guys behind, but I also knew that I could easily give up four minutes to some of the fast runners.
Heading out of T2, I got my turnover up and got a good rhythm going. It was already hot at just before 10am, a sign of things to come. I set what I thought was a good clip, and when I passed through the first mile in 5:40, I just hoped the mile markers were accurate. After a second mile in 5:50, I had a bit more confidence and allowed myself to settle into a low-6:00 pace, shooting for a 1:19 or so that would get me past that elusive 4:00 mark for the day. There was a long out and back between miles 4 and 5 which gave me a chance to check my lead, and coming through the turnaround, I clocked about 5 minutes over second, and seven minutes over third. With the mercury rising, I knew I had to keep steady, and I prayed that some of the fleet footed guys behind me were also going to suffer in heat. The temperature took it’s toll on the second lap, when I think it was already over 90F (high for the day was 97F), as I slowed to about 6:20 per mile. So much for that sub-4:00 performance. Stiff winds on the bike and heat on the run. I guess I need to just HTFU… I settled into a very steady rhythm at that pace, clipping off 6:23-6:24 minutes per mile. Heading back through the out and back, I was sure I’d given up a lot of time, but I kept checking my watch and not seeing anyone. Finally, I passed second, and then third, going the other way, and I saw that my lead had actually grown. I knew I just had to keep a lid on it and not walk for the last two miles, and I could put this one away.
I kept my pace steady, but allowed myself the luxury of relaxing slightly and enjoyed the moment. I crossed the finish line with a 1:22:03 half marathon, fastest of the day to go with a fastest bike split. I was happy, and exhausted, and it felt great to win a half-ironman for the first time. I felt like I really had a balanced race, and it was great to run well in the heat and to stay consistent across all three disciplines. Training prior the race had gone very well, as it seemed that Ironman finally had sunk in, and I had some great PB run and ride workouts, and my swimming seemed to come back into form thanks to some fast and punishing workouts with the crew.
Overall, it was a really satisfying way to end the season. I’m enjoying some R&R right now, but I’m looking forward to the winter, since I know that I can lay a great foundation for next year. But for now, patience and recuperation…
Thanks to everyone who followed through what has been a great, great season. There were some trials, but overall, I think it was a success.