Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Syracuse 70.3

Background
At some point earlier this year I decided it would be a good idea to race two 70.3's in a two week period.  Subsequent to that point in time, I had work and social commitments come up that made June an absolute blast, but about as far from ideal as you could want to prepare for two 4 hour races in a 15 day stretch.  

In the 22 nights before Syracuse, here's where I'd slept:
Toronto - 11 nights
Vancouver - 4 nights
Maryland - 3 nights
Chicago - 3 nights
Syracuse - 1 night

Here's my workout volume for the three weeks leading into the race:
Week starting June 4: 2.4K swim (all on race day), 207K bike (90K in a race), 73K run (24K on race day).
Week starting June 11: 1.2K swim, 156K bike, 38K run.
Week starting June 18: 15.1K swim, 126K bike, 35K run.
I had numerous WEEKS in 2011 where I swam and biked more in a single week than I did in the three leading into this race.  Combined with high levels of work stress, travel stretching from the Pacific to the Atlantic and three weekends in a row in the US (in three different states), I was less than rested coming into this race, and decidedly less fit than last month.  

However I was thinking about none of these things while taking down 'Da Boss' Favorite' pizza at Santora's in Depew, New York Friday night as we were en route to Syracuse.
The Field
Kudos to the organisers for upping the prize purse to $50,000 this year, drawing a stellar field.  For the men:
- Pete Jacobs, 2011 Ironman World Championship runner-up, Ironman and Ironman 70.3 champion.
- Paul Ambrose, 2x Ironman champion, Ironman 70.3 champion.
- Joe Gambles, Ironman champion, 5x Ironman 70.3 champion.
- TJ Tollakson, Ironman champion, 2x Ironman 70.3 champion.
- Callum Millard, Ironman 70.3 champion.
- Joszef Major, Ironman champion.
- Marko Albert, two-time Olympian.
Women:
- Jodie Swallow, Olympian, Ironman 70.3 world champion 2010, ITU World LC champion 2009
- Angela Naeth, 3x Ironman 70.3 champion.
- Nikki Butterfield, Ironman 70.3 champion, 2012 Abu Dhabi Triathlon champion.

Race Morning
Up at 4AM, two butter pecan Ensure (gross, luckily only two bottles left of this ill-advised purchase) and a banana.  Some sips of Infinit in transition before race start.  Water temperature was an announced 75.6F, but it felt like a bathtub on race morning.  Some confusion at the pro meeting on Saturday where it was announced that USAT wetsuit rules were in effect (over 68F and under 3K swim = no pro wetsuits) but WTC rules were enforced on race day (under 76.1F, wetsuits for all).  

Due to some lingering calf issues I didn't do a warm-up run, instead planned on doing a swim warm-up, but by the time I got down to the water there was time for only about 500 metres.
Ohhh here we go man...
Swim - 26:05, 12th in MPRO, 22nd overall
The start was faster than Eagleman, and I was more in the middle which resulted in more contact.  I'd noted pre-race that my wetsuit felt 'tight' across the chest, likely a combo of using a borrowed suit at Eagleman that fit looser, and the fact that I'm not at race weight right now (see pizza photo above).  After 200 metres, I felt like I was hyper-ventilating and for the first time in a tri I felt like rolling over on my back to catch my breath.  Instead I backed off, let the first pack go, and once I felt more comfortable, started swimming with the guys around me.  Since they were a touch slower than what I can usually hold, I went to the front and set the pace for the remainder of the swim.  Without the mini panic attack I think I had the fitness to stay at the back of the 7 guys who all got out in the 24:02-25:05 range.  Lack of warm-up really affected my ability to be ready to hit the pace from the cannon.  Next time: more warm-up.
Maybe smiling?

T1 - 2:28, 12th in MPRO, 23rd overall
This course has a long run up from the beach, I took it easy on the run with my wonky calf, top guys were in the 2:00 - 2:05 range, likely due to just faster running.  Wetsuit strip could have been faster, I wore Compressport calf sleeves under my wetsuit which made the strip easier (no need to lube up the shins), but needed to commit to either stand or sit and strip (I tried both).  Next time: sit.  Managed to hold pace through transition with my swim group, and hit the bike with Jack Smith, Damon Barnett and Ryan Bates.

Bike - 2:31:43, 18th in MPRO and 42nd overall
Yikes.  The ride started OK, after getting dropped right out of T1 at Eagleman, I was committed to staying with my swim mates at the start of the ride.  This course goes up, up and up for the first 20K - being relatively light, I can climb pretty easily.  My watts were definitely a touch high going up the hills, but I was feeling pretty good.  Until around 18K when I pulled an Andy Schleck and dropped my chain just below the crest of a climb.  What should be a 10-second stop to put the chain back on turned into a minute as I false-started twice under the pressure to get back on and back into the group.  10K of super-hard chasing followed, and when I couldn't stay with either Kyle Pawlaczyk or Ryan Rau as they passed me, mentally I called it a day.  Aerobically I felt fine but my legs just couldn't push the watts - perhaps they were fried from the initial climbs, I think more likely they were lacking in durability due to the lack of mileage since before Japan.  Next time: Don't race unless you're prepared to perform!
Definitely not smiling.

I dropped out after the bike, not due to injury, but due to injury prevention.  Being way off pace after the bike, and already nervous about the status of my calf before the race, there was no need to go out and run 21K for a less than desirable result.  First DNF since Ironman Canada 2009, first disappointing race since the Welland Half Iron on the same weekend two years ago.

The post-race amnesia process started on Main Street in Buffalo, at the Lake Effect Diner - chip-truck worthy french fries and an in-house ground burger were delicious, the 90 minute wait to cross the bridge back into Canada was not.

Before the race I was already thinking about taking a mid-season break, with an almost-Ironman distance race in April of this year, I hit high volume much earlier than I have in the past, and instead of being highly motivated at this point in the year, I'm pretty depleted.  Two weeks of relaxation, then I'll build back up for a strong performance at the Muskoka 70.3 in September.

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