Greetings and salutations! Another 70.3 on the books, and Montana had a strong contingent representing in Washington on Sunday (not too mention three Bozeman Tritons).
I got into Monroe, Washington (20 minutes from race site) on Thursday morning and stayed with some family I have who reside there – it always good to pick races where you have a FREE homestay. It was also good to have a large group of relatives to keep me company the days prior and cheer me on during the race (who says this isn’t a “team” sport). One downside was the sleeping arrangements, which I can’t complain too much about since they were free of charge. However, after a night on a hide-a-bed, my back was begging me to find a bed. Unfortunately there were no other beds, and I had to resort to the floor (better, but not by much). The day before the race, my left hamstring and glute were very very tight. I went for a light run, but ended it short since my left side wasn’t responding correctly. I also felt very heavy in the legs, even though I did a proper taper for this race. Ugh, I guess we’ll see how she goes??
You couldn’t have asked for better race conditions Sunday morning, other than maybe the morning fog (more on this in a moment). Transition opened at 4:30 AM, and most had already showed by the time I rolled in around 5 AM. Amazingly, it is relatively easy to find parking in Lake Stevens, even though it is a small community locked in by a lake and surrounding mountains. Walking down to transition, I happen to run into Art Thompson (or “The Godfather” as we like to call him), getting body marked. We both exchanged looks like we really weren’t awake and ready to do a Half Ironman. Me with my heavy legs and tight hamstring, and Art with a Yankees/Mariners game and a night out in Seattle under his belt. I could be wrong, but I think there were a few beers drank before, during, and after that Yankees game…right Art? Nonetheless, we both showed up to the race on time, and it appeared we were going to make a go of it. One Triton who I hadn’t run into was Bill Claridge…but from the little I know about Bill, I do know he would show and be race-ready.
Now about that fog…it did make things interesting during the swim. For those who have never done Lake Stevens, the swim could be one of the easiest swims in the 70.3 series. There literally is a underwater cable that you follow during the entire swim…and there was definitely a need for it on the way back in from the turnaround. You couldn’t hardly see anything past 15 yards in front of you due to the fog. And for some reason, I didn’t use the cable on the second half of the swim (after the turnaround), which I should have – LESSON #1. Okay, running out of the swim into transition, over to the bike, and out of transition. Oh, don’t forget your race number for the bike, which was dangling from my aerobars out of transition (side note…the sound of a race number rubbing on a tire sounds very close to a brake rubbing on a tire). Don’t forget to put on your race number before leaving on the bike – LESSON #2.
The bike at Lake Stevens is a two-lap course, and the first 2/3 of the lap is rollers (with a few “short and steeps”). The last 1/3 of the lap is mostly downhill with some flats. You can make up some time on the flat sections of the bike…which I desperately needed to – LESSON #3. Also, nothing kills your average like the last 6 miles of the bike (after you complete your second lap and make the left turn to transition). Both times I’ve raced this course, I mentally prepare to get off my bike after making that turn…then shortly realize I still have a ways to go – LESSON #4.
Okay, the bike didn’t quite go as hoped…but what I was really afraid of was how I would feel on the run. I did feel my tight left glute on the bike, and was not ready to see how it would feel running. Out of transition, I kept a really conservative pace…I mean, we do have 13.1 miles to go. Also, I experimented with something I’ve rarely ever done…not looking at my watch. I ran all on percieved exertion (no HR monitor either). Considering how I felt the days leading up to the race, I would be happy just to not have to walk at all during the run. So there I was, just keeping a moderate clip, and not letting my emotions get the better of me (which usually happens). Whoever said “patience is a virtue, especially in Ironman”, was a very smart individual – LESSON #5. To the best of my recollection (since I wasn’t really looking at my watch), I even-splited the half marathon, and still felt good enough to sprint to the line to finish 3rd in my age group (4th was less than 5 seconds behind me). Still have some more work to do, but I think in hindsight I ran a smart race…which is sometimes hard for me to do 😉
Post race was great! I got to spend some time with old friends from Hawaii on Lake Washington, drinking some adult beverages and sharing triathlon stories. There were a handful of pros who also were there, including Ben Hoffman (who made a wrong turn, rode 66 miles on the bike, and still managed to finish 16th overall) and Justin Park (3rd overall). We got to enjoy an amazing view from the back deck of Ben Collins’ place, who races the ITU World Cup circuit and is hoping to make the 2012 Olympic team – keep an eye out for him. Many thanks to Ben and Rory Seiter (great friend and fellow triathlete), for their hospitality and good cheer!
I would definitely recommend this race to anyone within the club who is looking for a 70.3 race in the area. Easy drive from Montana, and a GREAT race venue. I would also recommend doing some hill training on the bike and run as well for this race – LESSON #6. That shouldn’t be too hard to do here in Bozeman.
Can’t wait to hear the stories from Art and Bill. Great job, fellas…way to represent the 4-0-6!
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