Monday, June 13, 2016

Victoria 70.3

For the second year in a row, Bryan and I enjoyed a great weekend up in Victoria, BC, where the skies remained clear, the winds calm, and the temperatures mild so as to prepare a beautiful race venue for us to enjoy. Despite the few changes from last year's course, namely the two-loop bike course turned into one loop and the site of the transition area and Athlete village moved to the opposite end of the lake, virtually everything else felt the same.

This race boasts an early start time. Both Bryan and I found ourselves scrambling to find a parking spot, get through transition, and then make the long walk down to the water. We must remember to bring cheap flip flops next time, as the walk on the gravel trail proved to feel a little too tough for our tender feet. Compared to last year's wave start, race organizers changed the swim to a rolling start, in which (ideally) athletes would self seed into a chute based on their predicted swim finish times. What organizers did not account for was the number of people they'd be corralling into this chute. No one could move between the two fences designating the chute in efforts to get to their desired position. Bryan and I couldn't either. So while our intentions had been to self seed ourselves in the Under 30 minutes starting position, we found ourselves in the 45-50 min position. Just something for race organizers to consider next year.

Also, this end of the lake is notoriously weedy. So much so that attempts to swim in it result in limbs being tangled and snarled and efforts to breathe pretty much futile because of what also floats at the surface. For three days leading up to the race, a lake "lawn mower" of sorts worked to cut down the weeds in the course. Volunteers took rakes to what had floated to the top. Regardless of their efforts, the weeds won. As a result, the swim course was cut about 300 meters short (my Garmin displayed my swim distance to be just under a mile), and what felt more like an Olympic distance swim ensued.

I swam through numerous athletes I should have started in front of, but I still felt happy about my final swim time of 22:09, which meant I'd swam a 1:18min/100yd pace, a significant improvement from last year. What will be telling is if I can hold this pace for a full 1.2 miles in a couple weeks at CDA.

Moving out on the bike course, I prepared myself for a flatter first half, followed by a hillier second half. My coach encouraged me to ride conservatively for the first half, which I tried to do. I warmed up quickly traversing Mt Douglas Cross Rd and continued to enjoy my ride as we made our way up into Sidney and toward the tip of the island at Lands End Rd. Ironically, my efforts to remain conservative kept me at my goal race effort of about 200 watts. Once into the hills on the west side of the island, my normalized power only slightly increased by about 3 watts.

I couldn't help but think to myself as I rode on West Saanich Rd, making my way back to transition how good my body felt for the effort I was putting forth. Generally, it is at this point in a half ironman distance event that my low back starts to ache, my hamstrings start to cramp. Yet I didn't have any of these niggles, and I credit the recent bike fit by Wade Pannell at Fleet Feet for finally getting my position correct using his Retul system. Of course, the ride itself felt smooth thanks to the tune up by his son, Grafton, of VeloFix. I'm pretty sure I've never had quite as an enjoyable race ride as I did yesterday.

Back into transition, I had no idea where I stood in relation to my fellow female competitors. I remember passing several ladies in my age group on the bike, and now I needed to start out on the run. I remembered to grab my PhD nutrition flask that I distinctly remember forgetting last year, and headed out for my first lap. My legs initially felt sluggish, but they picked up a rhythm by the 5km marker. Regardless, I still wasn't hitting my goal pace, and my quadriceps seemed to want to spasm. I tried to focus on my steps and the sounds of those athletes around me to shift my mind away from my quads. That worked pretty well for the first lap, but I remember shaking my head as I passed the finishing chute to make my way out for the second lap because my body just seemed to want to crater.

My pace had slowed significantly, even finding comfort in an 8-min mile at one point. So I started to pay attention to landmarks along the course that I wanted to "just get to." Just get yourself to the park. Or, the hill and turnaround are next. Finally, look for that 20km marker. You're almost there. 

At the turnaround, I was able to spot the ladies in front of me. At this point, I could tell I was fifth woman coming down the hill toward the finish line, but I had not the confidence to do much peering around my shoulder to look to see who was PRO and who might be in my age group. In the end, I remember veering left to make my way into the finishing chute, thankful I didn't have to go out for another lap. I finished in a time of 4:42:22, 3rd in my age group, 4th amateur woman.

Compared to last year, I raced slower this year. My bike split was about 2 1/2 minutes slower and my run split was almost 6 minutes slower. I suppose I expected a slower run this go-around, simply because of the injuries I fought through this winter didn't allow me to run those extra miles at nearly as an intense pace as last year. I don't have much explanation for the bike ride, as I felt I rode stronger this year than last year. And, we didn't have nearly the elevation gain to tackle this year (less by about 800ft.) Regardless, I'll take this race for what it was, reap the fitness benefits I hope it provided as I make my way toward Ironamn CDA 70.3 in two weeks, and I'll feel grateful to have had the opportunity to secure my Worlds 70.3 Championship slot yesterday.

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