Monday, July 06, 2009

Race Week: Lifetime Fitness Triathlon

The Lifetime Fitness Triathlon in Minneapolis is a pretty special race for me. It's the first race I ever trained for - back in 2004, it was my goal race, my introduction to triathlon, my reason for getting off the couch. It was in the starting corral, awaiting the swim start, that I became curious, upon glimpsing M-Dot tattoos, about just what that whole thing might mean. 6 (!) years ago it had a lot of the same emotional investment for me that Ironman did in '06, and does now - lots of emotion just picking up the packet, lots of awe and wonderment just being around it. It's a huge race, with lots of competitors (from the Sprint and Olympic distances), and a great Pro field that comes out to have a crack at a huge prize purse. This means the organization and treatment of the athletes is pretty A+, and there's a great attention to detail that, really, I've only otherwise found through M-Dot. So, it's a really fun race, a well put together race.

It's also tried to kill me two and a half times. The first time was, as I said, in '04, when I knew nothing at all about anything at all. My whole goal was just to finish. I remember I had just a terrible run, but who cares, I was a triathlete at last. In '05 it was something like 160 degrees outside, and I - wait for it - had a terrible run. Totally melting down after a pretty okay swim and bike. In '06 - the year of my first Ironman - it was 100 degrees on race day, and they announced 20 minutes before the gun that they were shortening the Olympic distance race to essentially a Sprint. Which was a disappointment. Looking back at my race report for that one, it looks like it wasn't too remarkable of a race. Hard to really mean anything when it's suddenly turned into a Sprint distance race when you're training for an Ironman.

But, lo and behold, as of today the weather looks like sun and low '80's, which might make for some warmth, but I don't think anything that will warrant anybody changing the course distance, so - in my 4th attempt at this race - I might just be able to actually attempt a real-live execution of a real-live race, as opposed to wandering aimlessly about the place ('04) or death-shuffling through heat ('05) or not getting to really race at all ('06). I wonder if I'll know what to do with myself, being actually provided the opportunity to do this race like I'd mean for it to be raced.

I picked this race this season for two reasons - one, I believe in some kind of karmic symmetry, and think it's useful to Becoming Ironman to return to where it all started while I train for this one. Two, it is the first of back-to-back races (a half-Iron coming next weekend), and this week-long influx of intense training under racing conditions is meant to be both a forceful kick in the ass for me, as well as my last shot at practicing race-day execution; after these two races, it's head-down, blinders on to Ironman Wisconsin.

So speaking of execution, that's the goal of each of these races; nothing about pacing, nothing about pushing or not pushing or how, effort-wise, these two races factor into Ironman training. The effort in a race - any race - is always harder than a typical training day, so I'll let that come. I'm not going out there to chase any time, pace, or speed goals at all - those will come, or they won't, depending on execution, which is my goal for each of these races. The "practice" for Ironman will come in having patience, having confidence that my training will get me there, and running mistake-free, drama free, problem free races. If problems do arise - technical, nutritionally, whatever - then these are opportunities to practice that as well. I will pick it up a bit - they are races, after all, but the one thing races can provide that not just a tough brick-workout can also provide is that intensity, atmosphere, and energy that only racing can be about. So, no better place to practice how it should all go down.

Expectations: Well, if I execute as planned the whole point will be to have a solid run. Something I've never done on this course, not even close. This will mean sensible nutrition and hydration on the bike. It's a fast, flat course, so I'm going to just let the speed on the bike come - I'm not going to go blowing my legs up. If I do that, I should be able to get off the bike for a strong 10k. What's strong? I don't really know. Some kind of 8:xx/mile pace, I suppose, but more it's a feeling - just like at the Triterium, and my long-mileage run training; a feeling that I am in control, that I am choosing my pace rather than succumbing to it, that I am racing according to strategy, and not survival. If I end up shuffling along, walking, having to re-group, mentally checking out, cramping, basically having any drama at all, then something went not-according-to-plan, and I'll have to address it before next weekend's race, and of course IMWI in September. But if I do execute according to plan, then there's no reason to expect that I should have anything but a solid showing, with a finishing time - and especially a run time - that's pretty respectable. So, we'll see.

Not an ideal week for racing...wrapping up a fantastic long weekend with family, but now I'll be hitting the road early Wednesday for some business meetings in Minneapolis, and then spending the rest of the week out of town. Easy to let rest and nutrition slide when one is not completely in control of his situation, so I'll have to be disciplined there. It also means I'll have to pack for a Saturday race on a Tuesday night, which is a little weird for me. Also seeing Amy and Dakota off for a 10-day stretch with her family - besides being a bit emotionally tough on me, I'll be missing my favorite cheerleaders. Bit of a bummer, but hopefully I connect with some good friends in Minneapolis, and there's a fun plan for Door County as well. All in all, I guess just a race week that's a bit different from the typical.

Anyway, that's the scoop. I'll hope to keep some regular updates via Twitter of race week and all the pre-race stuff (remember you can see those updates over on the right sidebar of the homepage of this blog), so stay tuned. Have a great week, everybody -


Iron Girl Nyhus said...

Hey! I may be out to watch the race, so I will definitely keep my eye out for you. Also, what half are youd doing next weekend? I'll be at Racine.

KodaFit said...

Good luck this weekend! I'll be following twitter closely!

Herring on Land said...

good luck on final preparations this week, i'm sure you'll be more than ready to kick butt on this course!

Borsch said...

Good luck this weekend!

Enjoy the weather and I hope everything goes seamlessly!

Wil said...

You, as always, rock :)