The music in Safeway continues to astound me with its terribleness. It's not even that they're playing a specific genre of music that I dislike. It's eclectic badness. That being said, I don't feel like hanging out here much longer. Well, that and the fact that indoor business establishments in hot climes tend to be over air-conditioned.
There were some good things about yesterday. Firstly, I don't think that the weather rose as high into the 90s as expected. The northerly winds brought with them a thick layer of wildfire smoke that protected us from the direct solar radiation. Also, after a bit of a rough swim start, I found some great feet to jump onto for 2/3 of the swim. Swim conditions were perfect - wetsuit legal but not too warm, and relatively flat. I PR'ed with a 1:01:12. I had a similar swim in Arizona, but in this race I started the bike leg with women who it usually takes me a while to catch. This suggests to me that I swam relatively better than I did in AZ.
More goodness came in the first 30 miles of the bike to Osooyos. They were just as fast and windless as everyone promised they would be. I was careful to soft pedal and I actually saw my heart rate dipping into the 130s for sections of the ride. It was a little mentally tough to be so conservative, but I knew that I would need to save my energy for the two mountain passes on the course. Richter was the first pass, and it actually wasn't very hard, but again, I sat up, spun, and kept the effort in check.
Then the badness began. The wind started blowing. Hard. The rollers after Richter were at least a little protected by virtue of it being hilly, but the flat section before Yellow Lake was mind-numbing. The winds were by no means Kona-esque, but they aren't supposed to be and I had been assailed with tale after tale of being blown home for the last 20 miles after Yellow Lake. If I hadn't expected to average 30 mph for the last 20 miles, pedaling hard on the downhills wouldn't have been too frustrating. However, the wind was relentless and the last 4 mile false flat back into town was downright demoralizing. I certainly didn't have the bike split I expected based on previous years' times, but it doesn't look like anybody did really. I think my split was a 5:22, but I'll have to check.
I always get a little daunted in T2. Marathon time. Just a marathon. After a 112 mile bike ride. That's all. Here we go. Surprisingly, despite the heat, winds, and smoke, I felt really good starting the run. My goal was to start at 7:40 pace and to build from there, but I got caught up in it all.
I feel so good right now . . . I should go with it. . . after all, I have a tail wind . . . and I think I'm going downhill . . .
So I ran a few miles at 7:00/mi pace before settling into a more realistic speed. Around mile 5 I caught Kat just as Janelle caught me. Janelle was hauling and I didn't try to go with her in the hope that she would fade. There are some pretty substantial hills on the course, especially towards the turn-around at Okanagan Falls and, as on the bike, I backed way off of the pace and tried to conserve energy for the final stretch.
I suspected that Sarah Gross might catch me on the run, as I didn't get a very comfortable lead on her after the bike, and the girl can run. Just after the turn she did just that and passed me with assertion. At that point, there was no going with her. It was survival mode all the way back to town and with some steep hills and headwinds, the pace slowed slowed substantially. I was nervous that the group of girls behind me would catch up as I watched my pace get slower and slower, but apparently the carnage back there was even uglier. I also got occasional snippets of information about a few girls ahead who were falling apart, and I chugged my way back into 4th after falling to 6th at one point. Apparently, I had the 3rd fastest female marathon split, which astounds me because I felt like a snail out there. It just goes to show what a hot, windy day with high stakes can do to a high caliber field of competitors. I'll take that as a learning day for Kona (yes, I'm crazy and I'm going).
In the end, it didn't feel like a very fast race, but I had one of my better executed Ironmans in terms of patience and energy conservation. It's frustrating to spend a day going so slowly, but when the last few miles of a marathon feel that bad, it suggests to me that my new laid back approach to the bike and early stages of the run is working. That being said, I have a LOT of work to do fitness-wise before Kona. I suppose I can only accomplish so much in 6 weeks and I am getting married next weekend, which means I won't be 100% dedicated to training until after the friends and family have departed. It's not an ideal build towards a world championships, but once I figure out how to get my bike and me affordably to Kona, I plan to enjoy it thoroughly. This season has been a blast so far, and I don't regret a single day spent racing or training.
Now, I have to give a shout out to my partners in crime for the past 6 days - Mark and Katya. Traveling to races and staying with other pro athletes can be a bit dicey, but I have to give these two huge thumbs up with regards to being super-interesting, fun, laid back and talented housemates. Their willingness to indulge in post-race McFlurries and nightly episodes of Da Ali G Show adds greatly to their excellency as human beings. Our shenanigans were highly photo documented, but I won't have many of those pictures at my disposal until they are e-mailed to me. Ahem.
Of course thanks are also due to my awesome support network, including those Spokanites who traveled to the race to watch: Robin, Manny, John, Jeff, Kathy, Kevin, Erica, Craig, Steve, Liz, Natalie, Suzanne and Shaun(okay, the last two are Coeur d'aleneites). Also, nice job to my comrades who raced: Mark and Katya, Martin and Vicki, Greg, John, Pete, Cheryl, Mark W., Jeff, Corey, and Sabrina (women's amateur champ, yay!). Also, thanks to Zoot and Lifesport for providing on-site assistance, and to GU for getting me through the entire race on the yummy new uncaffeinated pineapple flavored Roctane (though I admit that there was a bit of Pepsi thrown into the mix towards the end). Just wait until this stuff hits shelves folks! Special thanks to Coach Dan for listening to me prattle on about whether or not to take a Kona slot before it was even an issue. We have a lot of work to do now, Coach. Wedding first though. Thanks for reading.