Monday, July 14, 2008

Race Week: Spirit of Racine Half Ironman

I've done the Half Iron distance 3 times. I've never "raced" it - only survived it. My training until '06 was, it's occurring to me now, mostly clueless, and devised strictly to survive the Ironman distance. Which was great - I had a blast and wouldn't change a thing - but there was no experience to influence performance or strategy. There weren't even baselines to determine possibilities or potential. Basically a wide-open space of "what will happen if". So I had no awareness of how, say, my bike performance over 56 miles would affect my run. I felt like the bike was just something to survive, and then there were 13.1 miles after that to survive. How it all went never felt too important.

That is, until I'd actually get on the run course of these races, fantastically flopping about, and ponder why and how this was so. damn. hard. It wasn't until this season that I've not been mostly beating my head against a wall with triathlon.

In '05, my big, giant, goal A race of the year was the Square Lake Half Iron distance race. It was the same day as Ironman Wisconsin, and had the same weather - famously hot and windy.

In '06 I did the Liberty Triathlon Half as part of my training for Ironman later that fall. Conditions, as I remember them, were near perfect, but a volunteer sent me askew on the bike course and I wasted a few miles. I handled that obstacle with brilliant failure, getting all angry and emotional and letting it affect my race.

3 weeks later I scheduled High Cliff Triathlon Half in search of redemption for how badly Liberty went. I didn't know until I got off the bike that it was a 13.1 mile trail run.

Pull up a chair, here come numbers:

1.2 mile swim:
'05 Square Lake swim: 37:29; 1:47/100 yards pace
'06 Liberty Triathlon: 35:44; 1:41/100
'06 High Cliff: 38:48; 1:50/100

'08 Racine: GOAL: I think anywhere within these times is fair to expect - 35-40 minutes. I'm a better swimmer than I was 2 years ago, but I think I've lacked the time in the water this year to effectively demonstrate it come race day. That isn't to say I'm just chalking the swim up to "whatever happens" - I hope to have a great swim, and especially to keep form.

56 mile bike:
'05 Square Lake: 3:06:20; 18.22mph avg.
'06 Liberty Triathlon: 3:17:23; 17.02mph avg (per the go left instead of right volunteer snafu, this was a longer ride than 56 miles...)
'06 High Cliff: 2:57:08; 19mph avg

'08 Racine: GOAL: These times are consistent with what I think I expect at Racine - anywhere hovering around the 3 hour mark (of course, ass-u-me-ing I'm not dealing with torrential rains, 20mph headwinds, 54 degrees, etc. - then all bets are off). The difference - and it's huge - is that I'm a much stronger cyclist than I was 2 years ago. These times were all-out, top effort, blow-the-hell-up times. I should be able to accomplish something similar with much less effort exerted, which is crucial for the run.

13.1 mile run:
Here's where it all goes south.
'05 Square Lake: 2:50:59; 13:04/mi pace
'06 Liberty Triathlon: 2:31:31; 11:34/mi
'06 High Cliff: 2:50:48; 13:02

You have got. To be kidding me.

More revealing: my personal race comments after each race. See if you detect a theme...

Square Lake:
Incredibly difficult race. Hot and windy and LONG. Nutrition didn't go well on the run and I crawled right along. Extremely satisfying to finish, but there is MUCH work to be done before IMWI.

Liberty Triathlon:
Tough day. Was sent 3 miles the wrong way on the bike, and didn't mentally recover - got myself into bad nutritional shape, making the run difficult. A tough day - not as well as I would've hoped.

High Cliff:
Trail run threw everything off, and too high a heart rate on the bike meant for poor nutrition on the run - but I think I have that figured out now. Run time doesn't really matter, for the trail running through mud. Valuable lessons learned in this one -

More revealing still: Here's me running at Square Lake. Don't I look fresh? Isn't my form on point? See how light on my feet I am? Most importantly, how much fun am I obviously having? sheesh.

And here I am celebrating a triumphant finish at Liberty with my buddy Mike at my side. Oh wait, no. That's right, I'm doubled over in exhaustion, always the hallmark of a well-run race.

And again at High Cliff - See how my left foot is totally planted into the ground? No spring in my step at all. Slouched shoulders, head leaning away at the neck because I'm too tired to keep my body aligned. Can you see how my left hip is loose, away from my body? All signs that it's gone to hell.

'08 Racine: GOAL: As we've discussed ad nauseam here all season, the run goes how the bike goes. So first, be smart on the damn bike. The run should take care of itself, then. The training is there for a sub 2-hour half marathon. Excluding all other factors - weather, wind, heat, etc.; and if those things happen then you just revise the plan and deal with it - but excluding them, then it's entirely up to me if that sub 2-hours happens or not.

Finishing Times:
'05 Square Lake: 6:41:15
'06 Libery Triathlon: 6:29:09 (hooray! P.R.! He said facetiously.)
'06 High Cliff: 6:31:15

'08 Racine: GOAL: Sub 6:00. Period. In fact (bring it, fates) the training is there to obliterate even that goal. But I don't want to get hung up on a time goal - I want to execute what I know the training has prepared me for. The swim is the x-factor; I'm not sure what to expect. The bike - let the miles come to me, don't go out crushing my pedals, and stay on point with nutrition and hydration, like I've done in training. The run - have fun. Be fresh, be light on my feet, have a spring in my step - all things that happen when I'm feeling sharp. I've managed it in training, even after a 56 mile ride. Now it's all down to execution. That's really all you can want for come race day - for the training to have prepared you to meet or exceed your goals. For race day to be a simple formula about keeping your head and attitude positive, and then just churning out what your body is already prepared to do.

Let me be clear: I am out to kill this thing. I have hopes to surprise myself. I am not out there to see how it goes, to enjoy the day, to just have fun and give it a go. I'm out there to put it all together. But see, and here's where it's all come together for me this season - when I do put it all together - like at the half marathon earlier this season - then I really, really enjoy the day. Then I have a ton of fun. Sloshing through a nearly 3 hour half-mary in the scorching heat...that makes for interesting drama, but I don't know that I had a ton of fun. So. I do hope - I intend - to enjoy myself. To have a blast. I mean, we run through a friggin' zoo. But those emotions are by-products of a well executed, intelligently run race. And not because - hey look, I'm going fast, isn't this fun - that's not the point; but when you're free of all the drama that goes with a day going south - poor nutrition making you feel like crap, or exhaustion on the run so you're literally makes goals to just get to the next tree, or planning your running around your walking instead of the other way around - well then it's obviously not easy, maybe possible, to have much fun. And if the whole point is to have fun - well then. You can see the intrinsic relationship. In order to have fun one must kick ass. Of course. Why not?

I'm also really, really looking forward to this race. I've given it a lot of focus. It's been the thing on the horizon since last winter, and has already, just in context of the quality of training I've put into it, become an important milestone on the way to Ironman next year. I'm as ready and focused for this race as I've been for any race. I'm excited. Ready to go. Pull the trigger already.


Borsch said...


richvans said...

XT4 - You're the man with the plan. It certainly sounds like you're loaded for bear. Try not to go crazy while resting up this week. Race smart, race hard and enjoy the day (they'll come in that order).

Pharmie said...

Good luck. if the races that many of us had this weekend are any indication, you'll smash that old PR!

Anonymous said...

Cuuuuute--Way to go my old friend. I keep watching and reading your posts. My love to you and your family. You are amazing. Sarahspicer

IronMin said...

YOU.CAN.DO.THIS. I hope to see you at the race, and more importantly, I will be cheering for you mentally while I'm out there. You are ready. Get it done.

ebertowski said...


Greetings from a fellow WHS class of '92 graduate! It's funny, I just stumbled across your YouTube videos and was watching them when suddenly, I thought, I GRADUATED from HS with that guy! My wife laughed, doubted and caused a yearbook trip down memory lane...

I'm training for IMWI '08, and live in Buffalo, MN now. Your race reports include many of the races I have done two and three years now, so it's slightly amazing that we didn't run into each other! Keep up the training, sounds like you've got a plan to shatter that PR.


Alili said...

Kill it.

xt4 said...

Whoah. Now that's an unexpected bit of unexpected communications from some old friends - Sarah-no-long-Spicer, hi! How are you? What are you doing? How long have you been here?

Aaron Ebertowski. You've got to be kidding me dude. I would have commented at your blog but I don't have any Window login stuff in order to do it - great to hear from you. Looks like you and I have been on parallel roads here for some time - crazy. Hope your training for IMWI is going great - there are several resources here at the blog for just that race, and especially if it's your first IM, so feel free. And of course if I can do anything at all, answer any questions, etc., don't hesitate to ask. And I live in Madison, so maybe a race week beer is in order.

Wow, well, my head hurts from all the reuniting. Stay in touch you guys -

KodaFit said...

All the best for the race this weekend! I'm excited to see how all the prep pays off... I suspect that mixed with a little race day adrenaline, the results may be better than expected!

Looking forward to the results and the race report!

Veeg said...

Keep in mind that your swim time is going to be unpredictable because of the water conditions. You're obviously okay w/ chop (based on your IMWI experiences), so you'll probably be fine.

The run-up from the beach to T1 is longer than Triterium, and, for extra speed, is all sand. :)

Sounds like you're ready to crush it, though!

xt4 said...

Thanks Veeg, that's great info to know, I appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

Great plan! I learn so much from how you approach these. Thanks and Good Luck!

I did the Racine Sprint today (first Tri ever!) and will drive up from Chicago to spectate tomorrow! I'll cheer if I see you!