This race weekend I was flying solo for the first time. No cheer squad and I didn't know anyone doing the race so it would be my own little adventure and the race debut for my new(ish) bike. I had a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I still hadn't switched out my crankset and knew that there was going to be a challenging hill (ridden twice) that would zap my legs for the second run. After consulting with coach the race plan was set - the first run maintain an L3 heart rate, the first lap of the bike conserve (again keeping it at an L3), the second lap hammer if I could, and the second run just give it all I had, whatever was left in the tank. The best advice, "treat it like a half iron distance. It's a hard course that will fatigue your legs quickly so you'll want what's left to be ready for that second run." Alright - game plan!
Saturday morning I packed my bags according to a list. There was just too much to keep track of to keep it all in my head. Bag 1 - work clothes for the week down in Seattle after the race. Bag 2 - all varieties of racing clothes from cold to warm weather. Bag 3 - race day nutrition and pre-race dinner and breakfast. Bag 4 - transition gear, shoes, helmet, more shoes, water bottles, and Garmin.
I was supposed to do a mini run-bike-run that afternoon but it wasn't looking like that was going to happen. Just too much to do and I still had to drive down to Auburn and connect with Steff (my lovely host for the evening). Instead I took my bike for a spin up and down the block a few times just to test out the seat position - still rocking the ISM saddle since I hadn't had time to purchase the real seat before the race. I was having trouble getting my right foot clipped in but I kind of blew it off for the moment and concentrated on my saddle position. With that all set, junk loaded into the car, I was on my way.
I reached Steff and Joe's house around 4:30 and unpacked the contents of the car. They were both headed out for a series of events so they set me up with the complicated tv remote and I settled in for the evening. Around 6 I ventured out, heading to Enumclaw to pick up my race packet and check out the course. Steff's house could not have been more conveniently located. I just had to hop on a few highways and then I found myself in pasture land and 30 minutes later I was at the expo. Simple enough for the early morning drive back over there.
Packet pick up was easy. I checked out where my bike would be racked - last rack in a row...SCORE...that will make it easy to find when I'm delirious. I always get so lucky with rack position. I then decided to drive the bike course to take a look at the hill. I think this is probably the most important thing to do pre-race. If you can't ride the course then at least drive it. Then you know exactly where you can push it and where you should hold back. Or at the very least you'll know what to expect from the race. Needless to say, I felt prepared.
30 minute drive back to the house, macaroni and cheese and chicken for dinner (not the healthiest but super portable), and relaxing in front of the TV with endless channel selections. I'd say a relaxing evening. Then it was off to bed around 10:30 after the Fains got home.
Sleep didn't come real easily that night. I think it was a combination of pre-race jitters and a new place with new noises. I woke up periodically throughout the night and probably got a solid 3 hours. Oh well, it's to be expected.
I woke up around 5 and quietly made my way downstairs for breakfast and to prep my race nutrition. Breakfast - a bowl of Rice and Shine mixed with peanut butter and a Special K chocolate milk. As I ate I got to watch the sun rise over the Cascades. Absolutely beautiful!
Race nutrition...that was tough. I wasn't planning on carrying anything on either of the runs and the bike wasn't long enough to need substantial sustenance so it took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do. I landed on 2 water bottles on the bike. One with a bit of Perpetuem and water (with two Endurolytes dumped in for good measure), and the second with Nuun and pickle juice. That's right folks, I guzzled pickle juice for this race day. Now the pickle juice in this bottle wasn't substantial. I'd say I put maybe a quarter cup in there. Then for transition I had a hand held water flask with half pickle juice and water. I figured I'd take swigs of that in T1 and T2. Lastly I packed a flask with 3 chocolate Gu packets. This I would stuff in my bike jacket pocket and consume all of it on the ride. I mixed it with a bit of water to make it easier to drink.
Dressed and ready I left Steff's house around 6:30. Race start was 8 AM. I figured I would get there, set up, and go for a short run to warm up. And I definitely needed to warm up - the temp was 37* at 7 AM. Brrrr! I guess I should mention clothing - this was also a tough call. I ended up with capri tights, cycling jersey, and arm warmers. Booties were set up on my cycling shoes to be pulled on quickly in T1 if necessary. A thin cycling jacket was definitely a must because of the good descent on both laps of the bike leg. A skull cap - last minute decision. Wasn't sure I was going to wear it on the run and bike...or just bike...or not at all. Lastly, full fingered windproof cycling gloves. Out of everything my hands and feet would be cold for sure so let's make sure I wasn't going to fixate on that.
I got to the race around 7, pumped my tires and made my way to transition setup. I debated taking my bike for a spin but decided against it because that would require getting on other gear and all I wanted to do was stay warm. With transition set, bathroom stop done, it was time to warm up. I had about 15 minutes before race start so I jogged the course for a total of a mile warmup. Clothing decision - wear gloves on the run and hold them if my hands got too hot and wear the skull cap. Not the most attractive decision but whatever.
1st Run - 5.1 miles
Time: 42:59 (8:26 pace)
Like I mentioned earlier the plan was to maintain an L3 heart rate throughout the entire run. Execution of plan - pretty much spot on. For the most part, minus a bit of picking it up towards the end, I was running with an average heart rate around 186. Now this is the high end of L3 for me but still, it's L3.
The run is pretty flat with gorgeous views of Mt. Rainier. I found myself, several times, looking around at the scenery and just enjoying the run. It was during those moments that my heart rate would pick up a bit as I quickened my pace but since I was obsessively checking my Garmin every few minutes I didn't stray far. For the majority of this run I was with the same pack of guys, tucked right in behind them to get what draft I could. I'm pretty sure I was a bit annoying as I had short little strides and a consistent rhythm and I was literally right on their heals. As we made our way back to the expo center and T1 I made my move and edged my way in front of the little group, rounding the turns, avoiding the horses that were at the expo for a show, and pulled into T1 with ease.
T1 - 1:41
I quickly stripped the arm warmers, threw the booties off the shoes, swigged pickle juice, zipped up the jacket, crammed the Gu flask into my jacket pocket and I was out of transition.
Bike - 28.8 miles
Time: 1:45:01 (16.5 speed)
The first mile and a half did NOT go as planned. I couldn't get my right shoe clipped in! It was ridiculous. I was basically pedaling with my left leg and then coasting trying to get the darn thing clipped. It's not surprising then that the first mile of the bike clocked in at a super fast 15.5 mph. Sweet! Fortunately I got it clipped shortly before mile 2 and then was off. Tucked into the aero bars I settled in for the next 5 miles of flat smooth asphalt. That's right folks - this rural race was all asphalt. Can you believe that!? It was awesome!
Anyway, back to the race. The 5 miles went quickly. I was comfortable in my aero position and pretty much riding by myself. Other than a guy on a nice aero bike passing me out of transition I hadn't been passed, I had only been passing, which is great! I took swigs of water comfortably and tried to get a bit of Gu before heading up the hill. At mile 6 1/2 I was ready for it. 2 1/2 miles of straight climbing with switch backs tricking you into more climbing. I sat up, grabbed the elbow pads and cranked my way up there. Usually I'm a spinner when it comes to hills but without the appropriate gearing I settled for just mashing. I kept pace for a while with an older guy but he kept trying to sprint ahead of me by standing and soon enough I passed him and he was nowhere to be seen after that. I passed several people on that hill. Even one lady who was walking her bike up the last little bit. I felt really bad for her because we had to do this again - bummer.
Once at the top I dropped it into bigger gears for the mile long flat section and hit the aero bars again. Next up, the 3 mile descent! Daryl warned me to stay to the left of the white edge line because of the rumble strip - GREAT advice. I saw several people stuck over there for the duration of the descent and the road on that side wasn't well maintained. I was flying! I had so much fun on the descent. Tucked in aero I pushed the biggest gear and blew by several folks. Even people that are bigger than me that should have been going faster. At the bottom of the hill there was a mile or so of flat (with a slight headwind) and then it's back out on the loop for one more circuit. At this point I'm pretty sure the lead men from the short course passed me. They flew by on their fancy bikes and there was just no way they were behind me for that long and be long coursers.
The second loop was much the same. Right before the climb my upper inner thigh tightened a bit. I'm pretty sure this was because of the seat putting pressure on the wrong bits. I sat up and stretched it out and it never came back during the race (but I can tell you now that I feel where it flared up...sore). The climb the second time around was definitely harder. My legs twinged and threatened to cramp but I stood and rode it out, gulping my pickle juice mixture when I could let go of the handle bars. Before I knew it I was at the top again and smoking back down. All in all a very fun ride.
T2 - 1:16
Strip jacket and skull cap, done visor, swig pickle juice and go.
2nd Run - 3.8 miles
Time: 30:06 (7:55 pace)
I didn't know what to expect on this second run. Were my legs going to completely give out on me? Was I going to have to crawl to the finish line? I figured I'd just throw it all out there and see what happened.
The first mile I was fairly conservative. My right inner quad was cramping but I could still run. I figured if this was as fast as I was going to go - that would have to work. I ran a bit more flat footed than normal so the quad cramp wouldn't turn into a calf cramp which would result in walking. So, that first mile was an 8:20 pace. Not bad, I figured. I could maintain that and still run faster than the first run and be completely happy.
The second mile the quad cramping subsided a bit and I began to pick up the pace. I focused on the few folks that I saw out in front of me and slowly picked them off one by one. At the one aid station on the run I slowed and grabbed a swig of water, just in case. Mile 2 was an 8:18 pace. Excellent, I could negative split this thing was all I kept thinking.
As I made my way back onto 284th I saw two runners off in the distance. That became the goal - catch them. And as my footfalls quickened and the mileage ticked off I gained on the first one. I passed him around mile 2.5. Now at the time I thought the second run was only a 5k so I began to pick it up even more. You know, the last half mile kick. But the distance to the expo seemed pretty far. I was feeling good though and there was still one more guy to pick off so I went for it. As I round the corner into the horse show area I put it in full gear. The guy was probably 100 yards in front of me. I didn't stop to look at my watch as it beeped off another mile lap. I was going as hard as I could and my legs were twinging all over the place but they weren't cramping, which meant they weren't stopping me. But...the guy had a kick too and so he finished 15 seconds ahead of me. It would have been fun to come across the finish line neck and neck. Mile 3 split was 7:54 and the last .77 (according to the Garmin) was 7:29. Sweet!
All in all it was an excellent race. I executed well, I enjoyed myself (even smiled several times throughout the race), I congratulated and encouraged every single person I passed - whether they wanted to hear it is another question, and I came out of it wanting to do it again next year. I'd say that's as successful as it can get.
For those considering this race - do it. The competition is great and you can't beat the course - it's challenging, gorgeous, and fun. I'd say the majority of folks that do this race are part of some sort of tri team and/or cycling team. Everyone there seemed to have an amazing bike, matching cycling/tri kits, and came from a background of either extensive cycling races or Ironman racing. One lady sharing my rack in transition has done 8 Ironmen and is planning on doing Coeur d'Alene in June. So it may be small and out of the way but it's a race nonetheless.