It wasn’t long after IMAZ that I started looking for a good 70.3 to do this summer that would have conditions that are at least somewhat close to Kona conditions. Hot, hilly, and challenging, preferably. Since the high temp in Flagstaff rarely breaks 90 degrees and Kona is known for its heat, I wanted to see how the heat would affect HR, hydration, nutrition, and pace. Several times, I read about Buffalo Springs having just those conditions, and I’ve heard that’s actually why it’s one of the very few 70.3s where highly-coveted Kona slots are available. The travel time to Lubbock, TX, where the race takes place, is also relatively close at roughly 10.5hrs driving time. Done deal.
BSLT 70.3 had 30 Kona slots and 30 70.3 Worlds slots. I luckily, and gratefully, already have a Kona slot from IMAZ, but one of those 70.3 slots was definitely in the back of my mind. How cool would it be to go to 70.3 Worlds and the Ironman World Championship in the same year!? The timing of 70.3 Worlds is also ideal for Kona, at four weeks before the big Hawaii race.
Janee and I departed Flagstaff on Friday morning and arrived at Oasis State Park in eastern New Mexico that evening. It was actually a nice area to camp out for $10 and they had a lake and some random sand dunes that we checked out at sunset. We both desperately needed a break from our jobs and we thoroughly enjoyed the trip out. I was also sure to roll out on the RUMBLE ROLLER that the NAU TriJacks got me this past semester, my first semester coaching them – I seriously love that thing.
On Saturday morning, we drove the remaining ~2hrs to Lubbock and met up with my sister Kaylee and recent hubby, Jared. The two are currently at Goodfellow, AFB, around two hours south of Lubbock, so they came up to check out the race. This was going to be their first time spectating at a tri, and I thought it was funny the suffer-fest they were about to witness was only a few short weeks before Kaylee’s first triathlon…I did my typical pre-race bike and gear prep, feeling awkward the whole time as my three spectators observed. Kaylee got a good pic of me trying out the Rudy Project Hypermasks that I jacked from Janee for the race…
Setting up transition used to seem like such a long, complicated process, but it didn’t take long to realize that it usually takes less than 15 minutes to make sure everything is set. The race recommended showing up an hour before your race starts, so I planned on arriving at roughly 5:30am, an hour and fifteen minutes before my scheduled start time. We left the hotel around 5:15 and got there at 5:35, only to be greeted by a mile-long stretch of cars *very, very slowly* funneling into the parking area. “It’s all good, it doesn’t take long to set up transition..” This, of course, gradually turned into panic mode, and I got to the transition, conveniently, 15 minutes before it would close. While it really doesn’t take long to set up, the unknown factor on whether I’d get there before it closed was WAY too much stress on an important race morning, especially one that we traveled so far for. To top it all off, I made a rookie mistake. I pride myself on NOT making rookie mistakes. This is my first season with a disc cover, which you need a 90 degree pump adapter for. I don’t have one. I figured these adapters would be a dime a dozen in transition, and I was sorely wrong. So, I removed a screw from the disc cover and pried the cover back to accommodate a standard pump and inflate the tire. By then, it was basically time to head down to the water, with my blood pressure probably through the roof.
Given that my swim *literally* lost me the overall amateur title at IMAZ, I’ve been working on my swim. By “working on,” I simply mean swimming more. I decided to see if more volume would help me find better form and swim fitness because, frankly, I’ve never really swam very much. I got up to five sessions a week and my highest volume weeks were in the 18k range, almost all long course meters with NAU Masters. I saw drops in time and I certainly *felt* WAY better in the water. I told my Texas posse that I’d be happy if I come out of the water under 32 minutes for this particular swim. While that’s still weak relative to my bike and run, I thought it was reasonable for where I was in training.
I scrambled down to the beach and got with my like-colored swim cap group. Before I knew it, it looked like it was time to go. It was odd because there didn’t seem to be an announcer and the majority of the group was unsure whether our wave was about to start. Either way, we all started at the same time, several waves into the whole of the race entrants – our age group, most likely one of the fastest overall, was one of the last to start and waves were only 3 minutes apart. I was left of the main part of our group and the first turn was a right – A typical weak swimmer move trying to stay out of the craziness by going wide around the first buoy. Shortly after that first turn, we started coming up on the wave in front of us, and it was non-stop from there until the end. There were countless times I abruptly came upon a 4-wide group of slower swimmers where I had to decide whether I should push through or go around. While it was frustrating, it was not something I was used to (I usually don’t catch very many from the wave ahead), so I figured it must mean I really have improved in the swim. Anyway, I came out of the water in the mid 32s, slower than I had hoped, but decent for me considering all of the navigating. It was roughly a one minute personal best. That said though, if you look at the top 10 amateurs overall, my swim stands out like a sore thumb – back in the pool!
Swim – 32:34
23rd/59 in AG, 223rd overall (this is not a joke)
I ended up using a wetsuit stripper right after the swim exit, paranoid I’d run into my own stripping issues in T1…It was rather slow, requiring two solid pulls from the volunteer, but other than that, it was smooth.
T1 – 1:40
The bike starts with a huge, steep climb, and then you can get down to business. I was mentally prepared for heat and wind on this course, and I just planned on settling into my groove and making sure I took in enough calories and hydrated enough. The entire bike leg’s theme was, “Okay, it has to get tough soon because I can’t believe how fast the average is so far.” Around mid-way through, my average was nearly 25mph and I couldn’t believe it because I was certainly staying within my comfort zone. I knew the tough part MUST be coming soon. It ended up coming much, much later than expected, at roughly 46 miles where we had a solid head/crosswind for the majority of the remainder of the course. I caught Brian Folts a little bit before this section, and that was a good highlight for me. He typically beats me at Olympic distance, but I seem to have an advantage at the longer distance. He’d get ahead on the steep climbs and I’d gradually bring him back on the flats. I kept him within sight during the worst headwind parts and eventually passed him within 4 miles of the finish. A gap formed pretty quickly, but he’s a strong runner as well, so he was still in the back of my mind.
When it comes down to it, I thought I’d be looking at a bike split of 2:25-2:30 based on past results. I was completely stoked that I came in at 2:20, especially considering that the effort was in control. My average heart rate was 153, the very bottom of my base HR zone. Time to RUN!
Bike – 2:20:39
2nd/59 in AG, 5th amateur, 15th w/ pros
T2 was apparently 2:00. I’m not sure how it could have possibly been slower than T1, so maybe timing mats were placed in odd locations or something. Either way, it went well.
Time to see who raced/paced this thing properly! My main concern on the run was the heat. It doesn’t get very hot here where I live, so I really didn’t know how I’d respond. I had the Garmin on – I watched HR just to make sure I didn’t go too hard too early, and I saw pace, but didn’t pay particularly close attention to it – it was mainly there to see how things are going. The first three miles are relatively flat and the average pace for those three was 6:03 or 6:04. Wow, this is friggin awesome. Then the course turned upward for the first big hill and I just tried to keep things in control. I upped the effort, but made sure to just stay within myself. If you’re falling apart and gasping for breath four miles into the run in a half iron, it most likely won’t turn out well. The average slowed quite a bit because of that hill, but I was pleased to find my legs back under me and turning over quickly after cresting the hill. I can’t believe how good I feel. I saw a random lone spectator, smiled, and actually got goosebumps at how freakin awesome I thought this race was going for myself. I’m doin it! I got up to a long, exposed out and back section that they refer to as “Energy Lab II” that I assume must mean that it mimics conditions in Kona’s famed Energy Lab section of the marathon. On this stretch, it was a head wind out to the run half-way point, which I hit in 41:02. I was shocked at the time/pace, especially considering that no one in my age group had run 1:20-1:30 last year (note: Joe Thorne ran a bit under 1:20), so I figured I must be placed well. Shortly after the turn, I caught and ran with two older guys that seemed to be pushing each other quite a bit. I assumed they must be in the same age group and gunning for a Kona slot, and man, were they moving. The pace dropped a bit under 6:00 on the return stretch of “Energy Lab II” with these guys. The pace broke one of them and he dropped off, and I ended up dropping the other on the next steep downhill. Looking at the upload of my HR, you can tell that right around 10.5 miles is where things started to get tough for me. My HR dropped and I couldn’t seem to get the legs moving fast enough to get it back up. I couldn’t stop thinking about how soon the finish would be and it turns out I couldn’t even recall which direction the last turn would be. I tried to stay in the moment and just keep moving the legs, just a little bit more to go, in the scheme of things. Around 1 mile from the finish, I spotted someone in a K-Swiss uni up ahead that, judging by the hair (and the hair alone – it was far too hard to tell from that far back), was a male. She (Jessica Jacobs, 2nd overall Pro female) was moving rather quickly and I set my sights on her just to try to take my mind off the pain. I eventually passed her at an aid station and it gave me a jolt of motivation to push it on home. Leading up to that point though, I did think she might be a competitor from my age group that bought a K-Swiss uni or something. I finished out strong and soon found out from Janee that my time was around 4:19 – well, well under the 4:30 that I estimated I might finish in.
Run – 1:22:43 (6:19/mi)
1st/59 in AG, 2nd amateur, 6th with pros
Finish time – 4:19:36
2nd in 25-29 age group, 5th overall amateur, 16th overall with professionals
The guy that won my age group, Steven Zawaski, is the overall age group champ from the Wildflower Triathlon and he’ll be racing professionally next year, so I’m okay with finishing 2nd in my AG to a guy of that caliber. This race completely exceeded my expectations, and while it is not a personal best, it was a much slower course and certainly my best performance at the 70.3 distance. Steven already had a slot to the 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas, so I took that one and only slot from our age group. I’ll be racing it on 9/9 as a dress rehearsal/status check for Kona! Grateful 🙂
A big thank you to Janee, Kaylee, and Jared for being stellar cheerleaders, racelab/Bettina for superior coaching, all of our racelab Racing Team sponsors, David Bednar, Cory and Judy Hove, and my new Masters swimming sponsor, Pay ‘n Take/Paul Brinkmann!