So, the Munie Endurathon is officially on the books. My first ½ IM (for those of you not "in the know" that's 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run; half the distance of a full Ironman. Thus, the ½ IM moniker) was a great experience and I am feeling great about it. Here is the official "line" on the event (i.e. the important numbers):
bib number: 745
location: Holland, MI
overall place: 257 out of 698
division place: 25 out of 44
gender place: 219 out of 507
So, first off… to point out a couple of the "highlights" from above I want to mention the following:
• My 2:30:46 bike time (22.3 MPH avg.) was strong enough to place me 81/698 overall on the bike. This is certainly the "metric" from the race that I am most satisfied with.
• I was officially 22 minutes and 15 seconds away from being able to qualify for the National Long Course Halfmax Championships. This is a pretty huge time gap but definitely something that I may be able to achieve next year. Obviously my "Achilles Heel" is the run and I probably need to focus a little more on the "speed work" in my training.
Here's the "brief" rundown of my day.
Gwen and I drove down to Muncie on Friday afternoon/evening and got to the expo around 6ish. We hung out for a little bit and checked things out but there wasn't anything that made me feel like sticking around for more than the 20 minutes that we did. Following the expo/registration I had to go to a pre-race meeting where they covered the course, USAT rules, etc. etc. The meeting was actually pretty informative and gave me a much better understanding of some of the frequently violated rules of the USAT (for instance the rules regarding overtaking and being overtaken on the bike). After the meeting we went out to the Olive Garden where I absolutely stuffed myself. Got back to the hotel around 9:30 and watched a little of the TdF recap for the day and went to bed by 11:00.
We woke up around 4:30 a.m. on Sat. and started to get ready for the day. We were staying at the "official" race hotel so the breakfast was started early (at 5:00 a.m.) so that athletes could eat prior to heading out for the day. I ate an English muffin, hard-boiled egg, and mini omelet figuring that I had plenty of time to digest it all before getting to the course (and I did). We got to the course about an hour early and I had plenty of time to get set-up and make sure I was ready to go. The weather was beautiful (it was mid-70's and the sky was clear) as I got into the line for my swim wave.
At 7:15 a.m. (about 15 minutes after the first swim wave) my age group got into the water. As we were standing there I realized just how long the 1.2 miles looked. It was a little intimidating at the moment but I figured that there wasn't really anything that I could do about it. When the horn went off and we all started to wade in and swim I was feeling pretty "tranquilo." Luckily I was able to position myself fairly quickly into the first ½ of my age group. This made it a lot easier and I wasn't getting kicked and jostled around as much because the weaker swimmers were behind me. Most everyone in the front group swam a pretty straight line and sighted fairly well. Because sighting is something that I'm not great (and to make it harder, I breathe to the left and all the buoys were to the right so I couldn't use them to sight from) at I figured my best option was to get alongside someone and use them as a pacer and to sight off of. This worked really well for ¾ of the course. When we hit the 2nd, and last, turn was when I started to have some issues. At this point the faster swimmers from the age group waves behind us started to really have a presence. In addition to this I was starting to catch a lot of the swimmers from the first group to start out and it got really crowded. This had a kind of "traffic jam" effect and things slowed down a touch. Thankfully, we didn't have to go very far in this scenario. When I got to the exit zone I was feeling great.
When I got into T1 I had the top ½ of my wetsuit off and was ready to go. I ran into the bathrooms for a quick pit stop (not thinking about how nasty it was that I was barefoot in those porta-johns… *shiver runs down my spine*). When I got to the bike racks I was able to get the wetsuit off much faster than I did in Ann Arbor and didn't waste anytime getting my bike shoes, helmet, etc. on. Overall it took just over 3 minutes but I was happy with that because other than stopping for the bathroom I didn't feel like there was a lot of wasted time in there.
Coming out of T1 onto the bike course I was feeling pretty confident. I had been told that the course was fairly flat and that you had a chance to really put the hammer down if you are strong on the bike. One thing that most people didn't take into account was the fierce headwinds that were present throughout the course. I think I could have averaged a solid 2 MPH faster average had the headwinds not been so dominant. Anyway, I started out at a fairly slow pace. I was trying to stay around 18-19 MPH to begin with but once I hit the "rails to trails" section of the course (about 5 miles in) I was feeling like I could push a little harder. That section of course was easily the fastest for me. I averaged probably around 28-29 MPH through there and was passing a TON of people. From there we got out onto the highways (which were completely closed… very cool) for the remainder of the bike. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post I did well overall on the bike and was able to pass a lot of people while also managing to avoid BEING passed. And then it started to rain. At about mile 49 the skies opened up and to quote Muncie's newspaper, The Star Press, there were, "torrential downpours on multiple occasions…" This made the last 17 miles a little harder as it was extremely difficult to see at times with rain either getting behind my sunglasses or covering them completely so that I couldn't see out of them. Despite this I was able to keep pushing on. The last 10 miles of the course were awesome! The roads were complete crap and the rain was probably as hard as it got all day (my bike shoes literally FILLED UP with water). It felt like I was riding in Paris-Roubaix and it was crazy to see all sorts of people start to fade and crap out once the going got tough. At any rate my focus had already shifted to the run…
I got to T2 and was definitely a little disappointed to find that my shoes, and socks, were completely soaked. I knew that meant my feet were going to take a beating over the course of the 13.1 miles but figured there wasn't anything I could do about it.
The rain was probably a blessing and a curse for me. On the one hand it slowed me down on the bike due to limited visibility, big puddles, etc. etc. However, it helped me out on the run by keeping me cool and keeping my heart rate down. Despite the rain, I started to feel really "hot" internally by about mile 11. The run course was basically a series of rolling hills with some flat spots intermingled throughout. By the 2nd mile I wasn't even aware of the rollers (not to give the illusion that I was hauling ass or anything). I got into a comfortable pace and started to plug away. One thing that is disappointing to me is that I always save a little on the bike because I know that my run is so weak. Had I pushed a little harder on the bike though, I feel that I could have been top 50 AND still have finished the run in the time I did. In the end it wasn't my legs/lungs that hurt me on the run. It was my feet. I could feel a massive blister forming on the instep of my left foot and, sure enough, it WAS massive. By mile 8 I was having hard time ignoring it and putting it out of my mind. I had to stop and walk at several points because the chafing had gotten so bad. So, lesson learned. I need to make sure that I keep socks and shoes in zip lock bags (or something) while in transition. At any rate… I pushed on through and when I hit the finish line just under 5:30:00 (which was the bottom end of my goal!) I was pretty pumped. To top everything off Gwen had suffered through the rain and was standing there waiting for me at the finish line. Again, I felt like bursting into tears because there was a huge wave of emotion that hit me… but more than anything I was just excited to see her and proud of myself for getting out there and doing well.
Overall the day was a success for me. I finished under my goal time, felt strong throughout the day, felt that my nutrition was where it needed to be, and added another "distance" to my race accomplishments. Yesterday and today I'm taking as recovery days and then it is back to the plan with my mind firmly set on IMKY. It looks like I will more than likely be doing Steelhead at the beginning of next month although at that race I am not going to push the pace at all (look for an hour swim, 17-18 MPH avg. on the bike, and 11 minute miles on the run… just a long training day!). Once I get some pictures I'll post them up! Hope everyone is doing well.