MN Shows No Love: The Liberty Half Ironman Race Report
At the beginning of May I raced the Chain of Lakes triathlon in Alexandria, MN and the weather was horrible. Cold and rainy. This weekend I returned to MN for a half ironman and the weather was more of the same....just not as cold as it was in early May. I'm starting to wonder if MN is the land of 10,000 lakes because the whole state is flooded. Based on my experiences with MN weather, MN shows no love.
The forecast called for a chance of thunderstorms and a high of 68. At the start of the race, the water was warmer than the air so I was kind of looking forward to getting the race started so I could warm up. I was also hoping the rain would hold off until I could get off the bike. I hate riding in the rain and getting my bike dirty, mainly because I hate cleaning my bike.
My goal for the swim was sub 32 minutes. I was in the 2nd wave and quickly realized I should have started in the elite wave. Even though I'm not a very strong swimmer, I passed the majority of my wave and lost the draft. I swam well - or so I thought - and the swim was pretty uneventful so there's not much to say. The water was clean and very calm. They had a ton of buoys so sighting was pretty good, although I had a few problems seeing them from time to time (I think that might be due to the tint of my goggles). My only complaint would be the pontoon boat they had in the middle of the course. Two times it came pretty close and I could practically taste the gasoline.
I didn't wear a watch so I had no idea at the time, but I came out of the water in 34:50, well off my goal. I have to say, swimming is the most unrewarding sport I've ever taken part in. It doesn't matter what I do, I can't get faster. Everyone says you need to work on form and join a masters group to get fast. I did both and last year at the Rockman I swam a 35 minute swim. This was disappointing to say the least.
After watching the video of me struggling with my shoes at Lake Mills and reading one of my GearGrinder teammates blogs about transitions - http://ericbeachblog.blogspot.com/ - I went out and did some transition practice during the week. It paid off. I had the 3rd fastest T1.
The bike was really good. I stayed pretty steady and never pushed really hard. I was going to average 240-245 watts, but went out conservative and was happy with my speed and how I was moving through the field so I kept my average at 235. The course was decent, but had a ton of turns and lots of rollers so it wasn't the fastest course. For the most part, the roads were good. A few of them were rough, but nothing too bad. The bike finished with an out and back to add some mileage, so I had a chance to count riders and see where I was - 10th overall. By the time I reached T2, I was in 6th overall. I only had time goals going into the race, but at this point I was really hoping to hang on to a top 10. I figured I was now well within the elite wave which started 3 minutes before me so a lot of these guys had to pass me and put 3 minutes on me during the run.
My bike time was 2:25 (23.1 mph), the 5th fastest bike split.
2nd fastest T2. Practicing transitions pays off.
The run started rough, got better, and then got rough again. I admit, I knew nothing about this course so when I came out of transition and the course turned left and then left again up a long climb covered in wood chips I was regretting signing up. I hate trail running. Luckily, that was the only unpaved section. The rest of the run was on a really nice bike path around the lake. But while climbing that first hill, my right quad started cramping a bit and hurt pretty bad. After the first mile, it loosened up and didn't bother me anymore but I could tell it was going to be sore later.
I thought the course was going to be flat for some reason, and I was way off. It was constant rollers. There weren't really any flat sections. You were always climbing or descending. I felt okay for the first half but my pace was much slower than I felt I was trained to run so I was getting frustrated. I was running a 7:41 pace and losing positions. Although I was running slower than planned, I felt decent so I decided to hold that pace until the halfway point and finish up with a fairly hard 10K and make up some time. At the turn around I stepped it up and my pace started dropping, eventually down to a 7:35 average....
.....and then the hills got the best of me. At the 10 mile mark my legs decided they were going to do the pace setting and the pace they wanted to run was not the same pace I had in mind. I faded and eventually finished with a 7:45 average - a 1:42 half marathon. I felt I was trained to run a sub 1:35 half so I'm very disappointed in my run. I can't say I hit the wall, screwed up my nutrition or even biked too hard (felt great coming off the bike). I wasn't prepared for the hills on the run. It's that simple.
Total time: 4:44:11 17th overall and 5th in my age group.
It's my fault for not knowing the course well enough and training for it. As the hills beat me into the ground, I realized I haven't been running hills lately. That's not intentional. It just happens that the route I run at lunch is flat and I like to do my long runs on the Military Ridge which is very flat.
Even though the race didn't go as I'd hoped, I'm proud of my results and glad I did the race. It showed me where I'm at and what I need to work on for the rest of the year. Even though the weather wasn't ideal (it rained during the run) the event was really well run and the course was great (even though it was tougher than I expected). I would definitely recommend this race, and I think I might do it again next year. The course reminded me a lot of the Rockman, but the organization of the event was much better.
I'll be adding a lot more hills to my run courses, and I'm going to do some tough trail running even though I hate trail running. I'm also going to do more bricks. I haven't done as many bricks this year as I did last year and I think I paid the price a bit. I'm also going to get out in the open water a lot more and see if I can improve my swim time at the Door County Half in a month.
This week is an easy week with my focus on recovering from this race. After that, it's all about the ironman. Three months of hard, focused training. I feel like I'm behind where I need to be right now, but I don't feel that Kona is completely out of reach so it's time to get serious and see what I'm capable of.