Challenge Family put on another inaugural race here on North American soil this past weekend. It was held in Rancho Cordova on the east side of Sacramento. I was there and had a decent performance. I raced to the best of my ability on the day and so I have to be content with my 11th place finish. Here’s the story.
I have always aimed to arrive on a Thursday for a Sunday event, and then I usually leave on the Monday after the race. This time, due to the very close proximity of the race, I left early Friday morning and returned late Sunday night after the race. This worked out fine since the travel to Sacramento is so quick and easy from YYJ.
When I got the Sacremento I picked up my rental car and threw my bike box in the back. Note: Serfas Bike Boxes fit precisely into the trunks of Chevrolet Impalas. I traveled South into Sacramento then headed East to Brian, my homestay’s house. Brian was incredibly accommodating and we had great conversation over the course of the weekend. Thank you Brian for your hospitality!
Friday and Saturday leading up to the event I felt relaxed and confident knowing that I had trained consistently, as much and as hard I as I could have between Challenge Penticton and this race. The race meeting dragged on a bit due to the size of the elite field and the amount of questions that were asked. No big deal.
My mental preparation continued to be good as, again, I was pretty certain of what I was going to be able to do on the swim and bike from how I had performed in training. I had gotten good sleep all week and felt as rested as I could be.
Race morning dawned and I was wide awake and ready to roll out of bed when my alarm sounded at 3:45am.
I ate my simple breakfast of: WOW Snicker Doodle Cookie, 4 rice cakes with Upgraded MCT Oil drizzled over and then 1 squeeze pack Artisana Cashew Butter on top, and a small piece of chicken breast. This was high calorie with easily digest carbs, tasty simple fats and a bit of protein. Plus this meal was appealing – a cookie of this proportion is a treat.
I drove to the race site, dropped my T2 fuel off and then headed to the shuttle bus that would take me to the swim start / T1. I like being early for race morning and I can say that this day I was one of the first there. . .. Maybe a little overly anxious, ha! I got to T1, found a pump, double checked everything on my bike and then waited.
The water temperature ended up being 68.4 and this meant that it would be a non-wetsuit for the elites as 68.0 is the cut off. In the past I would have let this bother me a little, but with the way my swimming has been progressing since I started getting coaching from Cody Felgel, it didn’t faze me in the least. I just put on my swim skin and headed to the water for my warm up.
I had already jogged for about 8-10 minutes before getting in the water so after a good 15 minutes of swim warm up I felt my system was really ready to go. This bring me to an important point regarding warm ups. I have done enough races now that I am aware of the fact that I need a good warm up to perform well when the gun goes off at the start of a race. And to quote an olympic medalist swimmer – “I think one of the biggest mistakes people are still making, even at the Olympic level, is not doing a long enough warm up”. I am one who looks for every tidbit of info I can get from people who are at the top of their chosen sport or profession, so I took this very seriously when I heard it and I have fully incorporated it into my training and racing – especially swimming. One last note on that – I don’t feel like I am even ready to attempt a hard swim workout unless I have done at least 1000m of warm up.
BOOM! Gun goes off and the frenzy starts. Cody had given me workouts that would get my top end speed firing and those workouts showed on race day. I had no real trouble going hard off the line and latching onto a group that I was pretty sure was the “chase pack”. After the smoke had cleared at about 600-700m the pace slackened and my position in the draft made for an almost relaxed effort. I contemplated trying to move to the front of the pack and push the pace a little, but I made the decision that I not quite (very close to, but not quite) at that level of swim fitness. Give me 6 more months and I am quite certain that in the same position I will move to the front and push the pace of that calibre of swim pack.
Upon exiting the water I could see it was a group of about 6. This meant that I was in decent position starting the bike.
Conclusion: My swim progress is on track, well on track. Thanks to Cody.
Before we were even out of of the provincial park ground I could sense someone creeping up on my right and as they snuck past I could see it was none other than the 4x Wildflower Triathlon winner – Jesse Thomas. Unfortunately, in a few miles up the road Jesse would crash on the bike and be forced to withdraw from the race.
I had a very good idea of the (HR) Heart Rate I could hold for this duration of the 90km. Since I am still riding a bike that has been loaned to me I don’t have my power meter on this bike and so I was forced to go strictly on Heart Rate and PE (Perceived Effort). This ended up working very well in terms of effort and pacing. I had set my watch to lap every quarter of the distance. The course profile gradually climbed up for the first half and then descended for the second half. So I wasn’t surprised to see the first half come in a little slower than what you would generally hope for in a 90km TT. It was a spectacular bike course, especially from about mile 5 to 30 – the image below gives you an idea of some of the terrain we were rolling through.
I stuck to my nutrition plan and held my HR well throughout. I was constantly checking my PE and the feedback I was getting was to stick with the plan. That I did, and by about the 80km mark my quads were just about maxed out from the effort.
I got off the bike knowing that my position in the field was further back than I had hoped and my time was slower than I thought I was capable of, but my legs indicated that I couldn’t really have gone any harder. My right quad cramped a bit as I squeezed on my running shoes, and I stopped at the run exit to give a quick stretch.
Conclusion: My biking is slowly and steadily improving and I look forward to have proper fitting and miles in the TT position in leading into next season.
Out onto the run course – my plan was to put in a couple 5:50miles and see how I felt. I did just that and actually didn’t yet have a good perception of where my body was at. After that my pace didn’t really get any faster and it slowed gradually as I went along. This is not something I am used to in a half marathon. I was in no mans land for the first of the two laps. But once I caught one guy and then could see some more in the distance my motivation went up and I found a slightly harder gear. I have come to realize the importance of being in contact with group on the swim and bike so that when I hit the run course I can be in contention to put myself closer to the front by the end of the race.
I ended up turning my watch off at about mile 8 as I could bare to see +6:00/mi paces glaring back at me any longer. From there I rode the ups and downs of the energy levels that tends to happen in the final miles of a triathlon.
Conclusion: My run training has been taking a temporary spot on the back burner in favour of increasing swim and bike stress and this showed in my run legs on race day.
All in all I am satisfied with my 11th place finish. Click here for results page. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post I gave my best effort on the day, the reality was that the various challenges that I have been presented with this year showed up during the race.
Where do I go from here? Well, I have had to make the tough decision to call it a season. There aren’t many easily accessible races left in 2014. My results didn’t get much help this year having only done 2 races. But in order to progress as an athlete and balance everything else in life I need to take a couple easy weeks and get a rock solid plan in place for 2015. The outline of that rock solid plan is to:
– Take a season end break, physical and mental recoup
– Get the surgery done to take the screws and plate out of my elbow
– Decide on my A-Race for 2015
– Create the periodization from November through to my first A-Race of 2015 (thoughts now are Ironman Canada or Coeur D’Alene)
– Line up a string of 70.3 distance events from late January to early April before starting the IM specific build
– Finalize everything on my webpage, and get a few more interviews in the bank before I launch the podcast that I am about to start
– Work hard on creating some new product sponsor relationships
No matter the outcome of an event it is always a good feeling to get another notch on the belt and learn something from it. And learn something(s) I sure did. Onwards and upwards!