I think that one race spot many triathletes ignore are transitions. It’s important to have a plan and practice this plan before you race. I lost a race once in transitions. If your transitions in a ½ IM are more than two minutes, you are doing something wrong. The same if they are more than three minutes in an IM. I decided to put my shoes on in transition since I didn’t get a chance to check out the bike course. Actually, I was lazy and didn’t take the time to check out the bike course. As I always say as a coach, do as I say, not as I do. I hopped on my Cannondale and weaved quickly around the many triathletes that think they know how to mount their bikes with their shoes attached to the pedals but actually have no clue here. I got down into my aero bars, locked into my power meter, and got to it. The bike is where I have the most confidence, and I was excited to be not only in this leg, but back in a race. The first ten miles were flat and very fast with a slight tailwind. I remember thinking that I was going to be around 2 hrs for the bike because the whole bike course has to be flat, there aren’t any hills in RI. Man, was I wrong. Ten miles in, you head more inland and the rollers start. Nothing bad – in fact, I stayed aero and in the big ring throughout the whole ride. But they never let up. You were constantly going up or down. I like this type of course a lot! Starting in one of the last waves, my age group had a lot of traffic out there. Weaving through all the riders slows things a bit, but it’s equal for my true competitors which are the ones in my age division. I did not see a lot of drafting which was refreshing. My legs felt good and I focused on finding a rhythm. I think this is really important and often ignored when racing. The easier and quicker you can find a rhythm, the more relaxed you will become, allowing your physiology to do its thing.
Around 25 miles in, I got complacent. This is where the lack of racing the past two years affected me. I locked into a pace that was a bit too comfortable for a ½ IM. I stayed at this effort for way too long, and it’s easy to reevaluate now but the truth is, I stayed there thinking that if I upped it a bit more, I might blow my run. After taking last year off from racing, I was guessing again where I should be – something that’s easy to figure out from racing four or five times in a season. My wattage dropped by about 20 watts on average and I stayed here until the 40 mile mark. I then snapped out of it – it was as though someone slapped me in the face as I thought “this is a ½ IM idiot, not a full IM!” I brought the watts back up and stayed here until the last six miles of the race. The first 50 miles of this course were just great. Scenic, nice roads, rolling hills, - just great. The last six suck. As you get into Providence, the roads are all broken up and there were lots of turns. If anyone does this race next year, plan on riding a bit harder the first 50, knowing that you will have to ease up on the last six.
My plan for the ride was to hold 315 watts on the flats and stay below 400 watts on the hills. I finished with a normalized power of 327 watts, good for 2 hrs 19 minutes for the 56 miles.
All that I had to do in T2 after racking my bike was remove my helmet and slip on my running shoes and I was gone. As I ran out of T2, my dad was yelled out “four minutes!” I knew that this was how far behind Bruce I was. I had only made up two minutes which for a second bummed out, and then I shouted back to Big Rocks “I’m going to get him!” My legs felt ok, but my breathing was excessive for the first ¾ of a mile, almost as though I was hyperventilating. I slowed, trying to gain control, knowing that I was going to hit the big hill very soon. This hill is long and steep, and you have to do it twice. I kept my stride shortened on the hill and tried to stay relaxed and not feel too much “burn” in the legs. Cresting the top, you have a slight downhill and roll through an aid station where I grabbed some sponges, than some water, then some coke. The first three miles, I was stuck in the same conservative wussy mode that I got caught up in during the middle of the bike. Again, I was over thinking it, telling myself to relax too much because I was concerned about blowing up. Then again, again, at the three mile mark, I felt the imaginative slap and thought “this is a race damn it!” I saw Gus who was on his mountain bike and asked him to get some splits on my competitors. About four miles in, my legs felt good, my breathing was controlled, and I was running. I was pissed with myself at this time for being “lazy” in the first three miles, but then reminded myself that I couldn’t change what’s done and the race is still going. There is a lot of self talk during a race – at least for me. The run was two out and back loops, and I was looking for Bruce on the other side of the road returning. You’d think at 6’3” he’d be easy to spot, but I couldn’t see him anywhere.
Around the five mile mark, I remember catching a team psycho member with a 60 on his calf (His age group left in the third wave). About 20 meters in front of him there was a guy with a 61 on his calf. I said to the team psycho guy “you’re running well, pace off of that guy” pointing to his competition just ahead. He replied “I’m gonna pass that fucker!” I laughed and moved on. My quads didn’t feel that bad on the downhill back and I thought that I didn’t work it enough. About a ½ mile from the end of loop one, I saw my dad again and he yelled “2 minutes 20 seconds!” I was closing in, yet I still couldn’t see him coming back the other way? I hit the turn and began loop two and Big Rocks yelled “2 minutes 15 seconds”. He later told me that during this mile, from mile 6 to mile 7, I actually didn’t make up any time on Bruce, yet he wanted to keep me positive. Good stuff!
The hill was crowded now with athletes on their first loop. I’d guess maybe 80% of the field walked up this hill. I continued on hitting every other aid station with water and coke, and using wet sponges to douse myself with at every aid station. Around mile 10, I upped the pace thinking that there was only a 5K left, most of it downhill, and don’t leave anything on the course. Two pros locked on my heels as I passed them and stayed there for a mile before I know longer heard the slapping of their soggy shoes. I smiled, tasting a small bit of pride here. Its fun and funny thinking back about the small little defeats and victories we go through during a race. At the 11 mile mark, Gus told me Bruce was 90 seconds ahead. I pushed a bit harder. As I ran up the hill in the last mile to the state capital building, I finally got a glance of Bruce, less than a minute ahead. He turned around immediately after crossing the finish line and gave me the man hug as I crossed. He told me that he was hiding behind all the other athletes on the course when he was near the turnarounds so that I wouldn’t see him – a really smart strategy. Big Rocks was there and said “if you had one more mile…” I cut him off saying “yeah, but it’s a 13.1 mile run, not a 14.1 mile run.” Bruce deserved this win – he raced great. I was proud of my race with the exception of the middle portion of the bike and the first three miles of the run. I did however negative split my run in a big way.
I was nervous before the race and that’s a good thing. That tells me that racing still means something to me. That I still desire the competition. I don’t take for granted how fortunate I am to have found this passion, or the fact that I have a bit of ability. It felt great to be back on a starting line.
And I’m going back to Kona.
For those considering this race for next year, I'd highly recommend it! I thought it was a great, honest course, and extremely well organized.
After getting my Kona slot, we blew out of Providence skipping the awards to get a jump on the traffic. On Tuesday, I was working on my computer and the ups truck delivered a package which my son intercepted. He opened it up and was showing his friend Will the trophy I had won. I eavesdropped on them, proudly listening to Ryan brag about my race day to his friend. Will said with enthusiasm to Ryan, “Wow! He’s really fast!... Especially for an old guy!”