Two years ago, the ITU announced that its 2017 long course (4k swim/120 km bike/30 km run) world championships would be in Penticton, BC, just over the border from Washington. Not only close, but a a race distance which seems on the sane side of effort, while still an endurance challenge – 9 hours or so at my speeds. To get there, I needed to qualify for the USATriathlon national team at its 2016 long course (half iron, in this case) national championships in Miami, Nov 13, 2016.
So thats why I’m flying back and forth across the country, 6+ hours each way non-stop from one corner to another, over a four day weekend. Then racing on a perfectly flat bike course in South Florida farmland and running 13.1 miles through the Miami Zoo, past alligators and giraffes in 84F heat. In the six months before, I’d covered 3640 miles on 100 bike rides, swam 150,000 meters, and run 120 times for 620 miles, so I was certainly ready to race.
I figured I could do 37:30 in the small inland freshwater lake (76F, wetsuit legal), and that’s exactly when I came out of the water. On the bike, I was gunning for a 20.6 mph average speed,; again, my precise outcome. I’d been planning on 56 miles, of course, or 2:45. But the ride was 2 miles short, so I ended up just a shade under 2:38. Transitions, I;d had no idea how big the field would be – nearly 2000 participants in the half iron, long course duathlon, USAT NC Aquabike, and Olympic distance race made for a long transition area – but I’d planned on 7 minutes, and got 5:40.
So by the time I hit the run, I was feeling pretty good. I was 5th (out of 20) after the swim. I passed one guy on the bike. In the first two miles of the run, I passed another who was struggling (he’d end up walking a 3:08). The heat, as usual, was slowing me down a lot. The best I could muster were 10 minute miles with my heart rate at about 138 bpm (my max is near 160), and I felt, if I didn’t want to blow up, I’d have to keep it there. A lot of water on my head, ice down my shorts, and switching between water and Heed every mile, and I kept a pretty steady pace. In the last mile, another guy in my AG roars past me. I tried keeping pace, but saw my HR quickly rise past 147 towards 151. I may have been able to sustain it for the last mile, but visions of Jonathan Brownlee in Rio at the Olympics this summer, when he collapsed a couple hundred meters from the finish, and had to be carried across the line by his brother. As I said, I didn’t want to blow up, so I backed off to my personal redline for that day, on that course.
Turns out the winner went 5:05, and 2/3/4 were bunched around 5:31, +/- 50 seconds. The speedy guy ended up 2nd, I was gaining on 3rd, but ended up 30 seconds short. I had the 3rd best run on the day. But I felt great about my result: I had conquered the heat by running through most aid stations, not blowing up or slowing down, and nearly hit my top end goal of 5:30 in temps which slowed me by 12 minutes on the run over my speed when its in the 60s. Afterwards, I spoke with the guy who ran by me. He’s from Wisconsin, so certainly not coming from warm training weather. He’d done IM FL the week before. And his open half marathon time this year was actually a minute slower than mine. So hats off to him for his sub 2 hour performance on that run. It always cheers me to see someone who executes to that level, and I told him he had a lot to be proud of.
What I didn’t say, was, I intend to not let that happen again, in Penticton next August.