Utah Half-Ironman, August 27, 2011

4:30 a.m. wake-up… that alarm seems so loud!  How do I feel? Let me think, not too bad, seems like I fell asleep before 11 p.m. last night but I was a little restless in my sleep, good news though, I’m feeling reasonbly good.  Low-back isn’t too bad either, just a little stiff (but it always is in the morning).  I’m not feeling groggy like most mornings… my mind is racing.  Oh yeah, I forgot a small towel for drying off after the swim, better grab that in between bites of my oatmea… I mean, “FUEL”   Yes, I’m fueling for the big day today.   Ok, grab my bag, one last mental check… yes, I should have everything.  Better top-off the air in my tires and it will be just about time for my ride… oh, yeah, there’s Troy now, just pulling up. 5:05 a.m., we’re a few minutes late but that shouldn’t be a problem.  Let’s roll!

5:35 a.m…. we rounded the the corner to the Provo Boat Harbor and found a long line of cars!  What’s the hold-up?  We quickly decided to hop out, grab our bikes and bags, and ride our bikes past the line of cars and into the transition area.

The transition area has been relocated from where it was last year; that confused me for a second.  No matter, half the spots are still open,  and I found a great spot on the end of a rack (more room to spread my gear) and only 3 rows from the bike in/out gate.  That will be perfect.  It’s pitch-black, lots of faint shadows mulling around in a muffled bustling busy feel.  Troy had told me to bring some light so I grabbed my LED headlamp and threw it on.  Immediately people around me were jealous… probably wondering why they hadn’t thougt of that!  These little things are what add-up to less pre-race anxiety.  I’m feeling better than I do at most races… definitely not as scatter-brained as I’ve been at a few other events.  Transition setup was quick we’re good to go; bike GPS on and signal acquired, bug-spray on, sunscreen on, chamois cream… liberally applied.  What next?  Oh yeah, marking and timing chip…

The race director just announced a delay before the pre-race meeting.  Excellent!  A little time to visit the porta-potties.  If I’m going to race hard for 5+ hours and don’t want any distractions. I’ll definitely need to make sure potty breaks are done BEFORE the race.

Time check… 25 minutes before the first wave (the pros) heads out.  Time for a little warm-up.  A short 10 minute jog, then stretch.  That should put me down to water in time to get the arms moving and get a sense of the water temp.  The legs felt fairly light and snappy… that half marathon last week wasn’t the best idea but I feel pretty good.

Time for wetsuit… a little warm for a full suit, would be nice to have a sleeveless suit for days like this.  Making my way over to the water I found my wife had arrived.  Great to see her and know somebody in that crowd is buoying me up.

joel-patrick-paul-troy-start

Getting in the water at Utah Lake is like getting in a bath that’s been drawn and has been standing just a little too long… super-warm for a lake but not exactly “bath water” warm.  After a few laps out to the end of the dock and back I’m feeling pretty smooth & comfortable.  The temp in this suit is really going to climb after we get going.  I decided to flood my suit at the cuffs and neck just prior to start.  Water inside my suit wont slow me down but it will hopefully postpone the overheating that is sure to come sometime today.  Probably going to be close to 100 degrees today.

A lot of people seemed confused about the swim course… luckily the race director got the questions and made an announcement to clarify the course.  Two laps, should be pretty straight forward.  Finally, pros are off, a few minutes later the men 34-and-under are off, and just a few minutes later… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… bam, we’re racing people!  This is it, find a line, start easy, don’t get thrashed by the other dudes, and remember to breathe!

Getting out in front of my wave is my plan, it seems to be working ok.  Lots of the guys seem to be having trouble sighting and they’re weaving all over the place!  One good kick in the chest and solid smack on my goggles was about the worst I encountered during the swim.  A few other bump-n-thumps, those are expected, so no big deal.  Just glad no fingers are jammed, no noses broken, no goggles knocked off.

After about 5 minutes I start to get in the zone.  I love it when I settle into the pace… no matter if it’s swim, bike, or run, getting into the groove is awesome.  After settling down it’s time to just plugging away.  Several buoys later its on to lap two.  Forgot to check my time at the half-way point, by the time I checked I was at 18 minutes?!  That seems about right, I’m past half-way so that would be 30 to 35 minutes for the swim… right where I was hoping to be.

Whoa, I must be catching some of the slower people from the wave before me — getting congested again.  A few of these guys are floating on their backs?!  At least they have the sense to float & catch their breath before the start taking on water or needing to be rescued.  Wasn’t this where thy guy drowned a few years ago at the Ironman qualifier?  So glad we have perfectly calm water today!  The final buoy, almost there, and then it’s just a few hundred yards and the swim will be DONE.  Form and power now, I’m feeling really good, should be able to give some push to the swim finish.  Wup… there’s the bottom, that mossy and super-slick boat ramp.  Try to stand… no, that’s not going to work.  Race volunteers motion me closer to a mat on the bottom.  That’s better.  I’m standing, check that watch… 28 minutes?!  What the?  I’ll take it!  Heart rate is a little high, 165, but it will come down quick.  Run over to transition and I’m 29: 59.

Presto-change-o and it’s off on the bike… start the bike GPS, need to target 22 mph average to get my target bike time.  Can’t belive every time I look down I’m going 23 or 24 mph.  Alright, watch the heart rate, keep it at 145 or so… if I can keep this speed and keep the heart rate under control then I’m ok with that.

paul-bike

Boy, I’m glad we drove the bike course yesterday.  Construction caused a few changes and knowing all the turns let’s me focus on everything else, not the turns.  The first construction detour has those two big gutter-dips, better be careful on those… lose a little speed, don’t lose your lunch on those!  Sure enough, the group ahead of me are launching water bottles out of their cages all over the road!

I’m getting passed by a few and doing a little passing; just trying to keep my pace and not get tempted to try and hang-on to some of the faster bikers.  Feeling good and only a few light head-winds to deal with.  After the turn-around I’m feeling good about my time and how I feel; focusing on keeping the nutrition plan and staying on top of my calorie intake.

At about 35 miles my left hamstring and hip start to really bother me.  Strength still seems good  and I’m keeping the pace but just feeling really achy and tight.  It gets worse with each mile and soon I’m trying to stretch it out and get things to loosen up.  Eventually I just can’t stay down in the aero bars and I have to sit up for probably the last 10 miles.  That slows me down a bit but coming into T2 I’m feeling calm and the heart rate is even below my target.  I’m just nervous wondering how these leg cramps are going to affect the run.

After a quick change of shoes I’m in and out of T2, nothing to note here.  Definitely a little wobbly on my legs but I know that will work out in a few minutes.  Temperature is climbing now and I know it’s going to be scorching before the day is over.  The first six miles are uneventful.  I love this run course because there are several double-backs on the trail; that allows you to pass the other runners multiple times.  I pass by a few of my training buddies and it’s good to give/get that encouragement from one another.  Luckily the leg cramps that bothered me on the bike didn’t hurt so much on the run.

paul-run

I had previously planned to walk at each aid station while grabbing a drink or throwing some water on my head to keep cool.  The plan worked good the first 6 or so miles but on the second lap of the run I’m starting to walk more and more at each aid station.  It’s getting close to noon now and the sun is really beating down.  I notice the bottoms of my feet are getting hot from the pavement and I can feel a blister starting to form.  At this point I’m mostly just wishing the race was over… too hot and legs too tired.  Don’t really want to be running any more.  I know miles 8-11 are going to be the hardest… finally, mile 11 and I know I’m on the home stretch.

paul-finish

Crossing the finish line was just awesome.  There were lots of friends and family there cheering and it really made the day memorable.  Final time 5 hours, 8 minutes.  Well… I missed the goal by 8  minutes and it was totally due to the run.  Looking back, those extra long walks at each of the aid stations on lap 2 pushed me past the goal time.  Probably could have used a few more calories during the run but I was so overheated it seemed like I’d get sick if I ate anything.

davis-paul-thane-finish

After some relaxing, cooling down, and getting some food and fluids in me, I felt pretty good.  It was awesome to hang out with friends and family afterward and watch other racers as they crossed the finish line!  After a few days of recovering I enjoyed the race even more.  The race organizers did a great job with the course, facilities, aid stations, and support staff.  Can’t wait to do it again next year!

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