I haven't won a race in one and a half years. Last race I won the overall was HITS Series Palm Springs Half where I set the course record. I got third in Monte Rio last year and I came in this year really wanting to win. Though this race isn't a major event that attracts deep competition, being able to win is still a important step, no matter how small, toward building my confidence and ability to go into bigger races to execute what I want to do. Like I've mentioned in my previous blogs, I haven't had a good race since August of last year, having struggled with illness and injury for over 6 months. So to the outside looking in, this race may not be a big deal at all, but for me I really needed to do well here. A win was a cherry on top.
I stayed at a beautiful organic farm with Meredith, Tahra who both are old teammates from PacWest Athletics and Dana and Ben. They were kind enough for me to squeeze in with them last minute. But the stay was so beautiful, hidden in a lonely road of Guerneville. It was a organic farm with a big pond filled with ducks running around. It was a nice change from the usual motel 6 that I roll with. It was also nice to chat with everyone which helped me stay relaxed.
I wasn't sure who was a good person to draft off of. I certainly didn't think I could keep up with Eric Clarkson who started next to me. But I gave it a shot? And it didn't work. He said see ya pretty fast along with 3 other shark-like swimmers. So I did the usual tornado chaos at the start, got in a good position, settled in my pace, suffered a bit. I ended up swimming with Kurt Holt and Nate Dressel for a while and formed a second pack. When the first shallow section came we had to stand up to run, and skip through the water. I was so tired that I lost my position in the front and I lost some more yardage on Nate and Kurt. But I just continued to find my rhythm and was able to keep them in sight. Another shallow section came around and I stood up and my legs were awake this time. I was able to run well and somehow got away from the other two. I proceeded to do dolphin dives for the next 200m and actually caught up to 4th place swimmer. I did a horrible job swimming in a straight line but got out of the water in 21:17. All the work with technique and quality mileage(17,000-21,000 a week) with Tim Sheeper at Menlo Swim are paying off. I can feel I'm moving through the water with more ease. If I did a better job with sighting and swimming in a straight line I could have done better. But a 50 second PR on this course (assuming its the same distance) is a great indicator nonethless.
BIKE 58:47: I remember last year my legs were really bad from all the running from swimming in the shallow water that I didn't find my bike legs til half way through. Luckily this time I felt good right away but kept myself patient and kept my power/heart rate down. I let my heart rate dropped from 167 out T1 to 156s during the first half of the bike. I was hoping to catch Eric and Ted (who were hammering it up front) by half way but realized that wasn't going to happen. So I steadily upped my power expecting to catch them any moment. But reality hit me that I may not catch them at all. I kept myself patient and didn't let my power go above 320 watts for any extended period of time. At the turn around I saw Eric and Ted being pretty close to me and was relieved. Though after the turn around I still couldn't see them. At this point, I felt rushed and decided to just hammer it. I held around 290-300 the whole way back, keeping my new aero position in check, tucking my chest down, and keeping my head low looking forward. I realized I look down a lot and the aero helmet isn't most efficient when I'm looking down like this:
I've been much better with that so it helped me save a couple of seconds. I miraculously caught Ted and Eric just before the transition. I passed Ted and was able to slot between him and Eric right before the dismount line. It was pretty lucky timing. I got off the bike feeling good and ready to duke it out with Eric on the run.
Eric set a blistering pace on the run. I barely made up any ground on him on the first mile but he seemed to be getting bigger in my vision slowly as two mile mark approached. He gave me a pat on the back of encouragement as I moved in to first, and I cranked it up and bit to put some distance on him. I kept my foot on the gas and felt great, holding 5:30 pace consistently, and keeping my heart rate below 170 bpm. I looked back to see if Eric and anyone else was creeping up on me and I didn't see anyone in the distance. I brought it home and held my victory banner for the first time in a while. I was stoked!
P.S. I did a better pacing myself on the bike. I averaged 273 watts in the first half and 290 watts in the second half. Ever since I've gotten stronger in strength on the bike I've been pacing myself quite poorly throughout all my races. Because before I used to be able to ride only so fast since I didn't have the strength, and actually paced better. Now that I'm able to push bigger watts without realizing how much glycogen I'm using up, it's become something that kills my second half of the bike, and my run. This year I made a conscious effort to hold back and then ramp it up the second half. I was able to ride a good bike split and have plenty left for the run.
I've been watching Alex Dowsett's hour record attempt where he went 52.937 km, almost 33 miles an hour! What was interesting was that his first half pace was way slower than his second half pace. Through half way his average speed was in the 52.4kph and 52.5kph but he negative splitted quite dramatically and was able to go up to 52.9kph in the scond half. It's definitely something I'm going to experiment with my next half ironman in Boulder. I know that the race will be at altitude and I probably won't be able to have a great performance but it'd be a good dress rehearsal for the rest of the 70.3s I've got coming up.
If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading! I highly recommend this race for anyone interested in a nice, flat, fast, beautiful Olympic distance event. It also has a sprint. Did I mention that if you podium in your age group, you get wine? And everybody including spectators get free pancake breakfast with scrambled eggs and sausage. Recipe for a great weekend. It was also awesome to race Eric this weekend. He's been super supportive of me and gave me a lot of helpful advice that I really appreciate. He's had late season health troubles like myself last year, so I'm glad to see him back racing strong.
Lastly I would like to thank my network of support in the San Jose area. The crew at Menlo Masters Program at 7am and 12pms probably will never read this, but they're the nicest people, just looking to work hard in the pool. They help push me to the next level and keep swimming fun. Dr. Qin and Dr. Na at Qin Acupuncture and Herb Center for keeping my body in check, and in balance. Dr. Zhang and Masseur Zhang Jiang at MWM Acupuncture. I'll check back in with you after Boulder 70.3! thanks for reading!