After a 19 hour training week, including a hot, windy and hilly 4 hour ride on Friday, I was up early Saturday (6-22-2013) to make the drive to Sierra Vista, Arizona under the light of the supermoon. It was time for the 19th edition of the Ft. Huachuca Steelhead triathlon, consisting of an 800 yard swim, 12 mile bike and 5k run. I was greeted by a glorious sunrise as I rolled up to the bases front gate. A quick check in with the gate guard and then I was off to Irwin pool. I arrived with just enough time to pick up my packet, get body marked, set up my gear and get in a short run and swim warmup. Sporting #17 I was in the first wave. During my warmup I discovered one small annoyance. In my assigned swim lane, at the far end, was a climbing wall. The wall protruded into the water and extended about 2/3 of the way across my lane. When doing my flip turns, one foot would land on the climbing wall the other would barely hit the pool wall. Just something I will have to deal with! After the national anthem, we were back in the pool and ready for our 0630 start time. At the sound of the horn we were off. By the 4th lap of the swim my lane mate started to drop back a bit allowing me to move over at the climbing wall end of the pool just enough to get both feet on the wall during my turns. I was swimming strong and felt good. I watched as the girl in the next lane swam effortlessly while lapping me twice. I hate fast swimmers! I exited the pool in 10th place and hit the lap button on my Garmin…unfortunately, later I found that I had actually hit the stop button so no splits for the day. The run to T1 was about 200 meters. T1 went smooth…goggles off, helmet on, unrack bike, run to mount line. I got up to speed and then put my bike shoes on. The course starts off with a half mile slightly downhill to a sharp turn, then rolling hills for about 3 miles followed by a gradual 2.5 mile climb to the turn around. For the first 4 miles my legs felt like they were going to explode. The headwind out didn’t help. I was hurting but powered on passing 6 people by the time I hit the turn around. I held my position, gaining slightly on the top 3 guys, back to T2. As I approached T2 I saw the top 2 guys running down the road followed shortly after by the 3rd place guy. They had about 2 minutes on me. As I approached the dismount line I slipped out of my shoes and hit the ground running. Bike racked, helmet off, running shoes on and then hit the run. Hat, glasses and number belt on on the go. The run is an out and back that starts with a slight downhill for half a mile and then flattens out to the turn around. By this time the sun had started heating things up. My leg turnover was good. I got into my stride quickly. A quarter mile into the run I was passed. I started to try to match his pace but realized quickly that that would not have been a good thing. I dropped back to my pace and watched him slowly pull ahead. At the turn around I saw the top 2 guys running strong together about 1:30 up on me. I saw 3rd and 4th had about 20 seconds on me. As I started the last half mile up the hill I could see the 4th place guy up ahead. I focused on my run form and turnover and closed the gap. By the top of the hill I had caught the 4th place guy, but as I looked at his calf, found he was part of a relay team. I then ran strong to the finish to make sure I didn’t get re-passed. I crossed the line in 1:04:58…a course PR, 2 minutes off the winning time. 1st place was Luis Morales (1:02:42), a member of the Mexican National team, 2nd was Brian Grasky (1:03:01) and 3rd was Brandon Nichols (1:03:52).
I was extremely happy with my race. In the past I have won this race with a 1:07 time. I was well under that time on a course that is now longer…the run was always about 800 meters short in the past. This year the course was changed to make the run a true 5k.
Friday May 31 I packed my race and camping gear into the truck and made the drive to Show Low, Arizona along with my support crew (wife and dog). From 2600ft to 6400ft elevation. After arriving, I set up camp at Fool Hollow lake under the pines.
After a little relaxing I rode my bike down to the race venue (about 3/4 mile from camp) and picked up my race packet. After riding back to camp I enjoyed a pasta dinner with a view.
Final prep on my gear and then a little more relaxing as the sun set over the lake.
Early to sleep, early to rise. Alarm woke me at 5. A quick breakfast of 2 bananas and a blueberry bagel. I then grabbed my TriSports.com TYR gear bag and rode down to the transition area.
I racked my bike and set up my gear in my assigned spot. Body marked #345. After a little socializing it was time to squeeze into the wetsuit and head down to the boat ramp for the race start. On the way down I slurped down a gel. I had been told the day before that water tempature was a brisk 57 degrees. As I entered the water to warm up I was expecting the cold shock on my face. It never came. water felt like it was at least mid 60’s…perfect for a wetsuit swim. I did a short warmup and then found my spot on the start line. At 7am the start horn sounded and we were off for a 1.2 mile 2 lap triangle shaped swim. I quickly got into my pace and felt good during the swim. I swam straight along the buey line. The 2 loop swim made the swim seem to go by quicker. I had clean water for nearly the entire swim. You definately have to pace yourself at 6400 feet elevation. I hit land in 32:35. A solid time for me. I hit the wetsuit strippers and they yanked my wetsuit off in one swift yank. Then it was a run up the boat ramp into the transition. The run up the ramp is an anarobic venture! In and out of transition in 0:44…goggles,wetwuit and cap on the ground, helmet on, go. I ran to the mount line and threw my leg over the bike. The mount area is uphill! It took 2 attempts to get going with enough momentom to get my other foot on the shoe. Once under way I slipped my feet into my shoes and then got up to speed. The course is a single lap of 56 miles (my garmin shows it a bit over 57). The first 40 miles are big rollers and gusting side winds. I was feeling good and picking off some of the speedy swimmers. At mile 40 you turn into the town of Taylor and begin a 10 mile climb back to Show Low. The wind became tail wind and the sun began to heat up. The tail wind created a vacuum affect and made the heat feel even hotter. I was still feeling good and picked off a few more people. After getting back into town there are a few more rollers and then a nice downhill the final couple miles. As I approached the transition I slipped out of my bike shoes. I hit the ground running at the dismount line after a 2:35:10 split. During the bike I consumed a large bottle of gatorade, a bottle of water and my consentrated mix of Carbo-Pro. I racked my bike, helmet off, socks and shoes on. I grabbed my hat, sunglasses and number belt and was out of transition in 1:15. I finished getting “dressed” on the go. The 13.1 mile 2 loop run is slightly rolling with a combination of groomed trail, cement road and dirt road. The first 1.5 miles of trail running I felt fairly good. As I exited the trail onto the cement in the campground a nasty little hill brought out the cramping in my legs. I backed off the pace to try and get the cramps under control. At the top of the hill I stopped and took a few seconds to try to strech out the legs. This relieved the craamps for a short period but then they returned. I took in water and gatorade at the aid stations and downed salt tablets. As I hit the out and back section, lovingly refered to as the “death road” due to its lack of shade, my pace was slow but I was still moving forward. After the death road you return along the lake, climb one more hill and then do it all over again. As I started out on the second loop my energy levels were low. In my focus on getting rid of my cramps I had neglected to take in any fuel other than the gatorade. As I hit the first hill aafter the trail I was slowed to a near walk. I took in a gel at the next aid station and continued to get liquids in me. The next aid station I took in another gel. Just as my energy levels started to return the fluids in my stomach began to slosh around…not a good feeling. I struggled through the second trip through the death road. The sun was much more intense this time. As I returned to the campground/lake area I just wanted to get to the finish line.
I had lost quiet a few places as i was being passed during my meltdown. Full on damage control. 1:58:23 and my “run” was over. I crossed the line in 5:08:44. I had held on for 14th overall and 3rd in my agegroup. It wasn’t my best day out there but I hung on to finish. A nice dip in the lake afterwards was refreshing although a bit chilling without a wetsuit.
On Sunday I backed up my race with volunteering at the Xterra race. On sore legs I spent the morning body marking and then kept everyone on the correct path on the run.