BEST IN THE WEST HALF IRONMAN
Just when I thought Oregon couldn’t impress me anymore, I stand corrected. Best in the West Half Ironman is held in Sweet Home, Oregon that is about a 2-hour drive from Portland. It was a beautiful and challenging course. The water was perfect and clear surrounded by tree-covered mountains. The bike course was as challenging as it was beautiful. Constantly in and out of my big chain ring, I had some big climbs to tackle throughout the 56-mile course. The run was an undulating challenge as well. At about mile 4, you start to climb steadily but irritatingly up until the turn around. Once you turn you enjoy the decent but have to turn off the road and do a quick out and back over the dam. The last couple of miles are undulating as well with the last 2 miles having some very uncomfortable hills to climb especially since by this point your legs are pretty tired. I really enjoyed this course though. Very well put on and beautiful scenery.
This was not only my first Triathlon in Oregon, but also my first race since May, which was Florida 70.3, so you can imagine I was a bit nervous.
I have recently started swimming with a new masters swim group here and it has been a slow progression getting back to how I was swimming when I was living in Florida and with my masters group there. Any swimmer will agree that taking just a couple days out of the water makes it challenging coming back. Well I had more then just a few days out of the water during my drive across the country and getting situated. Now that I have gotten in a groove finally, I have been able to really snap down and get consistent with masters swimming. It is a great group and I really feel pushed which is great. So the swim at the race felt OK, I didn’t have a problem with the distance, but I did feel my arms and shoulders getting a bit tired so that just tells me I need to strengthen up more and I know that will come with consistency in the water.
I have slowly been getting used to Oregon and the terrain. I have found some beautiful rides here, but it is one thing to do a training ride covering climbing, but it is another thing to basically time trial a 56 mile bike ride in the mountains. I am very proud I did as well as I did since I just moved to this terrain about 2 months ago. It was very difficult though; the climbs were big enough and long enough to have to get out of your big chain ring. At mile 5 my bike computer cleared because I forgot to delete the memory and the memory became full so it cleared. I didn’t want to sift through the computer trying to erase data so I decided to not worry about what distance I was at and look at my watch on my wrist to time my nutrition and overall bike time. I could still monitor my speed though; I just couldn’t see distance or time. No big deal until it was getting toward the end of the bike and I started anticipating being done with the bike. I anticipated the bike being over for about 25 minutes, which was really annoying because my legs were really feeling the burn, the last portion of the bike leg. I felt my nutrition was spot on, but the only thing that made this bike course difficult is that my legs are not used to all the climbing just yet. The women who ended up winning the race was just in front of me on the bike and I was watching how she climbed during the race. I was amazed at how strong she was. She just wouldn’t let up. I tried for the longest time to keep here as close as possible, but it felt like we were racing a sprint triathlon, that’s how fast she was screaming up these climbs. I did my best to match her but it was early in the race still and I decided to par back a bit because I knew I still had to run and I am an EX-flat Lander. Part of long distance racing is being smart and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Climbing isn’t my strength just yet, but just give me a couple months. The reason I rode as well as I did is because I have been getting these great compu trainer workouts form my coach that are designed to really strengthen my legs up. I felt the benefits of all those past workouts I did. Don’t get me wrong, I rode solid, but am not about to go challenging veteran climbers just yet. So I stayed within my range. I probably could have paced a bit better or climbed a bit smarter because the last 5 miles of the bike, my legs were burning and I felt pretty weak.
I got off the bike as the third female not too far behind first and second. I was maybe half a mile from them and they were both pretty close together. First women looked strong, but the second place lady, I could just taste blood. I caught her at about mile 4 right when the climbing on the run began. I couldn’t really see first place at this point but after the race found out I was gaining on her quick, I just ran out of ground. I am very surprised I ran as well as I did since I got off my bike with burning legs from all the climbing.
My goal was to stay calm and patient and lock into a solid pace and slowly reel in first and second. This race was really a practice for my upcoming Ironman in Nov. so I started off conservative at ironman pace and slowly started to loosen up and lock into a solid range. I did my best to zone out because right now in my training I am still building up to the long distances. I would zone out and then be pleasantly surprised that 4 miles have just flown by. That was my strategy. I just wanted to stay calm and not be overwhelmed with the distance I had to cover on tired achy legs. I locked into my pace and just plugged away. It was amazing to suddenly see 2nd place right in front of me, but as much as I tried I could not reel in first place. I felt proud I finished as close to her as I did since I later found out she has raced Kona numerous times and this was a prep race for her as well, only her Ironman is in October. Yes, she is prepping for Kona again. I was very inspired by her. She is a very strong triathlete that challenged me and made me race hard. So second overall female in a challenging race with some strong athletes pushing me? I am proud. And I can never be disappointed in any of my performances as long as I give it my best. I feel lucky that I get to do this.