Monday, November 16, 2009

Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship - Pre Race

Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship - 2009
Clearwater Beach, Florida
20091112 – Pre Race report
The night before the race. Sunset view from my room.
Pier 60 - Where the swim was supposed to take place
The Marriott Suites - Where I stayed - My Stepfather John

I am in Wave #12 which leaves at 7:40 am; 55 minutes after the Elite women kick off the event at 6:45am. Half of the athletes in my age category are in my wave the other half start 5 minutes later at 7:45am. When I fist noticed the split I thought how great it was for the organizers to place me in the 1st wave of the 40-44 age group, and that the placement must somehow be based on your finishing position from the qualifier events. Upon further examination I realized that I had my father to thank for my position as the letter “B” for Bird falls in the first half of the alphabet. Splitting the group based on last name means that I will have no idea of my position in the race until I check the results at the finish. I am a little disappointed about the splitting my age group wave so arbitrarily as it reduces the competitive aspect of starting and racing along side all of your main competitors.

I just watched some older YouTube clips of Mark Allen and Dave Scott competing in the Hawaii Ironman back in the 1989 ). The video focused on the 1st time that Mark Allen had beaten his arch rival in the event. There is no denying that the competition propelled both men the extraordinary performances. They raced side by side for almost 7.5 hours before Allen broke away 21 miles into the run. Despite the second place finish Scott ran a personal best that day. Another extremely moving clip was the famous Ironman crawling finish for 4th place back in 1997 ( . Two women (Sian Welch & Wendy Ingraham) pushed themselves to the point of collapse and then repeatedly tried to pick themselves up unsuccessfully before crawling the final few feet to claim 4th place overall in the women’s race. Ultimately it was the women who adapted quicker who won coming from behind; had the leader started crawling 1st instead of struggling to get back up right she would have won. Both women showed amazing courage spurred by a competitive spirit. As the clip ends you can hear the women who finished 5th saying “I tried, I tried” as she is being carried off. It’s pretty moving stuff as well as being fairly disturbing. She also mentioned that she threw up on the bike; note to self, be sure to take in enough calories during the race.

I am exited about the race and feel that I have the potential to put in a performance that ranks me in the top ten for my age group. There are 200 athletes in my group from 20 countries who have all trained specifically for this event. I prefer a swim start from the beach rather than in the water because I can take advantage of my long legs as I run into the water and do a few duck dives. Okay my advantage will only help me for a few feet, but hey I’ll take what I can get. I swam a 1:36/100m pace in the qualifier 2 months ago; my goal is to improve that by swimming a 1:35 pace. Hopefully the added buoyancy of swimming in the salt water will help me swim faster. I also want to do a better job in transition out of the water where I struggled in my last race. I need to calm myself leading up to the swim exit in preparation for the run across the beach and into the transition area.

I expect great things on the bike, but have no real time goal because I just don’t know the course and what speed I can carry through it. I would like to be in the top 5 for my age group on the bike, top 3 really but I have no idea how strong my competitors will be. The flat design of the course should favour my skill sets as I will not have to drag myself up hills that favour lighter athletes.

I have tried to train for this run by extending my distances and eliminating all speed work. In reviewing my run results over the past year I see that if I save some energy for the run I can maintain a decent pace. I have definitely suffered on the run in the past when I went out too hard in the swim or bike. During the Duathlon World Championships in September I had nothing left on the second run because of how hard I pushed myself during the first run. At the Peterborough ½ iron distance Triathlon I spent too much energy on the bike and struggled big time for most of the run. At the Muskoka 70.3 event this past September, I found a good balance of effort exertion, except for the swim exit and the final 6km of the run where I ran out of energy. I am going to try and match what I did in Muskoka event, with some slight changes.
1. I will be sure to calm myself near the end of the swim so that I have a smooth transition onto the bike
2. I will make sure that I find a comfortable pace right from the start of the run; if I have anything left I can always increase the pace for the final few km’s; although I doubt that I will.

note: I watched a recap of the Muskoka 70.3 from 2008 and saw Brent McMahon try to stay with Craig Alexander before dropping back for a 5th place finish. I have no doubt that Brent would have finished no worse than 3rd had he kept a more even pace. In defence of Brent’s run tactic, you do need to risk losing to win and He definitely took the risk.

Nov 13 2009 - The Night before the race.
The only thing left to do is for me to fall asleep but that may be my biggest challenge. I am extremely excited about the race tomorrow. The race atmosphere is amazing; Triathletes from all over the globe have congregated onto this tiny strip of land in between the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay. We are still experiences the after effects of tropical storm IDA that has caused higher than normal winds and surf. As a result of the change in weather the swim has be moved from the Gulf to the Bay where the water will be calmer. The start will now be Time trial format for the age groupers with athletes leaving 2 seconds apart. This change does not really impact the competitive aspect of the race as my wave had already been divided alphabetically as mentioned above. On the plus side there will be no mass start which helps out people like me who are or were prone to panic during the mass starts.

As a result of the swim change I decided to cancel my practice swim on the gulf side, as there is no need to prepare myself for the beach start. Along with the swim change notice was a warning that if any athletes were caught practicing on the new swim course in the harbour on Friday, they would be disqualified. The new course starts in a harbour and rounds an inlet before returning down into the main harbour where there is an active boating channel. Fortunately at the Marriott Suites hotel where I am staying, there is clear access to the Bay; so I decided to head back to the hotel for a practice swim. The water was fairly warm just above 70 degrees. It felt great to be swimming as I became super buoyant with the combination of salt water and my wet suit. I swam along the shore about 300 meters and then back, stopping several times just to float and stay relaxed. The practice swim gave me some reassurance and confidence about tomorrow.

I went out for a ride in the morning to tour a portion of the bike and run courses. I had to fight myself to keep from going too fast and wasting energy for the big event. I felt like I could ride for hours but forced myself to slow down and stick to my pre race plan of only touring a small part of the course. A couple of times a few other eager cyclists passed by and I almost started shaking trying to stop myself from speeding up and blowing them away. The course is so flat, except for the causeway; I may be able to put in a special performance tomorrow.

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