I went into this race with a 5 week training block and 1 week taper. I was feeling quite flat by my 8th ½ IM distance in early August so my coach and I decided to cancel the Chicago triathlon originally scheduled for mid-August and concentrate on training. We’ve improved my bike about 10% over last season but my run had remained flat. I was expecting it to bounce right back after removing all 4 screws from my foot in November, 2011.
After a 4 month base building run block from December through March we were hoping for 2 things;
1) Injury Free which was a success! I couldn’t be happier about this. My 1st season in 4 years without injury.
2) Increased Speed, unfortunately my speed has been lacking. Through training it’s clear I have the endurance from years of high volume but my top end speed wasn’t there. So we made the decision to add Leadman 250 to my year off Ironman.
Leading up to the race my taper was feeling right on. It seemed as though the training block was just what I needed. I also planned to arrive a day earlier than I do to most races. I took Thursday and Friday off work, arriving Thursday afternoon for the Saturday race. I met up with my close friend and teammate, Jackie for the weekend. Thanks to Lifetime Fitness (especially Mary!) for taking care of my travel arrangements and providing such personal attention. We had all day Friday to familiarize ourselves with the bike course, run, swim in chilly Lake Cultus, check in, get both transitions set up and enjoy an early dinner.
Saturday morning was a 3:45am wake-up call in order to catch the 1st bus at 4:30am. It was a 45-60 minute drive to T1 and we wanted to arrive plenty early. The bus oozed of nervous energy, since nobody had experience at this distance we all felt like rookies in the sport. I chatted and laughed with friends Lindsey, Thomas, Jackie, and Ben on an otherwise silent bus ride. It was still pitch black when we arrived but Lifetime provided adequate spotlights to get our bikes set and ready to go. The temperatures were in the high 30’s so I kept clothing on as long as possible. We started a little late so didn’t enter Lake Cultus until after 7am. The water was measured at just over 60F, with the air just under 40F it gave off steam which was absolutely breathtaking. After a short warm up I was feeling comfortable in the cold water.
We watched the men take off, preparing for our start, after the longest 3 minutes of my life we were finally toing the in water start line. As we took off I saw Kristen surge forward to my left, all of a sudden the water felt frigid and I thought my new wetsuit was choking me. I pulled an ITU flip; took 2 quick strokes on my back surveyed my surroundings including Jackie on my toes. This comforted me, as I flipped back over my head was now in the game. Rachel and I broke free from the pack and swam side by side the entire 1st loop with Jackie on our feet. The water was crystal clear; it looked like swimming in the ocean but with fresh water. As I bilateral breathed I soaked in the mountains surrounding us. As we entered the water for loop 2 Rachel and I caught the men’s chase pack. As we swam through/over them Jackie dropped back and I decided rather than swimming side by side I would take Rachel’s feet at the next turn buoy. Usually when I get a draft I worry the lead swimmer is not fast enough so I pass them, but now I knew we were swimming exactly the same pace so I grabbed her feet and held on. This was awesome, I swam the entire 2nd loop exerting little to no energy. Thanks so much Rachel! We exited the water together of the short 5K swim (measured at 2.7 miles) Rachel utilized the wetsuit stripper and headed straight into the changing tent.
The air temperature was expected to be cold so I changed into dry shorts, dry tri top, my favorite fleece long sleeve ChampSys Jersey, beanie, toe covers and gloves. Transition was longer than usual, and I struggled getting the dry tri top over my wet body, but it was well worth getting the warm clothes on. I hopped on my bike and headed out for the 138 mile ride. The temps were very chilly, especially after swimming in cold water I was thankful for every piece of clothing I had on, but it still wasn’t enough. I struggled to get my core temperature up. The first 20 miles of the bike were all in the shade too, I just kept telling myself it would warm up soon enough to just push through it.
Coach Curt warned me of being fully tapered for a long ride like this. I had to really watch my power during the 1st hour. After that I could go off feel but the 1st hour was critical to avoid bonking at miles 120-138. I listened and stayed at my target average power. I passed special needs at mile 30 noticing I wouldn’t pass it again until mile 90, this worried me a bit, it meant I couldn’t strip layers until then and wouldn’t get my additional 3 bottles of calories. I calculated the timing and caloric intake, and decided to take a few gels earlier in preparation for receiving my bottles 20 miles later than I’d planned. At mile 40 the temperatures began to rise. I could finally feel my feet! I was able to strip my beanie without removing my helmet while riding up Mount Bachelor the 1st time.
During this loop we were mixed in with the 125 distance amateurs. The course wasn’t crowded by any means but it was nice seeing racers on the road. Mackenzie Madison came up on me around mile 50. I took advice I’ve received from other pro’s to use her as a pacer and legally draft 5 bike lengths back. I rode behind Mackenzie for 10-15 minutes watching my power closely. I was averaging 225 while riding with her, my target was 185 on the flats and 210 on the climbs so this was definitely over biking for me. I was catching her on climbs but with this distance of the bike I went with my gut to let her go. I’ve raced a few times with Mackenzie this season. We have equal biking ability so I knew she was over biking and hoped to see her again. As I climbed Mount Bachelor I found myself short of breath, I could definitely feel the high altitude (over 8K ft) and was thankful for the altitude training I acquired from Boulder.
After the long climb it felt amazing to crest the peak of Mount Bachelor and take a nearly 20 mile descent. I was glad to choose my 11/25 cassette because I could really hammer the descent and rollers. My legs were feeling strong and the sun was shining but I was beginning to heat up in my fleece jersey. Temps were now in the 80’s. I finally hit mile 90 and stopped quickly. Volunteers instructed me to drop what I needed and handed me my bottles. I was quickly off again feeling awesome, the excess weight had been lifted and my skin could breathe again. Lindsey had given me an ‘N Synch sticker to put on a water bottle to cheer me up during the “epic” course. This was the perfect time, when I saw it a huge smile came across my face. As I made a turn I glanced behind wondering where Jackie was all day. She was having some heart pain the day before so I hoped nothing serious had happened.
Loop 2 was much lonelier I didn’t see a single rider throughout the course. I waived at some fishermen or anyone else I saw on the road. It wasn’t a closed course although the cars were sparse but all seemed like triathlon supporters. Cheering as they went by and giving me plenty of room on the road. I kept my focus on target watts and nutrition plan. Reaching the top of Mount Bachelor the 2nd time felt amazing, knowing all that was left was a long descent back into Bend. As I barreled down the mountain I noticed the thick smoke from the Pacific Northwest fires. It was hard to breathe, much worse than I experienced in Boulder this year.
I was now ready to get out of the saddle, I cruised into Bend hearing spectators cheer. It was great to see people again! I followed the course wrapping around transition and finally in, to my surprise there was Mackenzie racking her bike. I had caught her as predicted during the back half. I made the quick decision not to change into clean shorts and go for it. I exited T2 right behind Mackenzie, she was obviously hurting, I offered some encouraging words before leaving her behind. The 1st few miles on the run mimicked the Wildflower run course; dirt trails, with short steep uphill punches along the Deschutes River.
As I crossed the road heading towards the golf course Lindsey Corbin provided my split of 6 minutes back, she advised me to run my own race but I could catch her. I stuck to my nutrition plan getting the calories and liquids down. It was a hot run out on the golf course, temps exceeding 90F. I was taking ice from every aid station to cool my core temp down.
I approached the turn around and this was the 1st time we got to see placement. Kristen was still a few minutes ahead, but I could tell I was running her down. I then saw Trish and Haley behind. My stomach and legs were feeling good, so I picked up the pace. I was now on a mission to run Kristen down. By mile 7 I had her in view, the camera crew joined me in preparation for the pass. I confirmed with them she was currently #1. By mile 8 I completed the pass and congratulated her on such a great swim/bike (Kristen’s a friend from Boulder). I was now leading the race and feeling great! I kept asking the camera crew, lead biker, support crew if anyone was chasing me down. They laughed and replied no I had it in the bag from here. I enjoyed the last 5 miles of the 13.7 mile run. It felt like I used to feel winning races as an amateur; effortless. As I entered into the park I could hear the announcers calling my name awaiting my arrival. I crossed over the bridge and saw the finish tape. I could not believe I had just won my first pro race during my first pro season. To my surprise I did it on the run, I had the fastest run split of the day which was a direct effect of conserving energy on the bike.
This was the closest I’ve ever come to having a perfect race, I nailed my nutrition, we hit my taper just right and I executed my power and pace flawlessly.
I later found out Jackie and Rachel took an incorrect turn at the beginning of the bike course, they missed a 20 mile out and back stick which they didn’t realize until mile 100 when the pro men finally caught them.(Hether Jackson also made the turn although decided to drop out shortly after) I was very happy that Jackie was physically OK but know exactly how it feels to ruin a race with such a minor mistake. I’ve made numerous mistakes during races this season (Wildflower, Kansas, Portland, Buffalo Springs) which ended up ruining my performance. Now I feel as though they were all in preparation for Leadman 250. I’ve learned the hard way that as a pro I must be aware and responsible for everything going on around me. (course, stagger, equipment, rules) I still have a long way to go but this race gave me a huge confidence boost and confirms that I’m headed in the right direction to race with the BIG GIRLS.
I definitely didn’t get to this win alone, it takes a small army. Thanks to Owen, my family, Coach Curt, friends, training partners, and all my sponsors; Timex, Quintana Roo, Shimano, KSwiss, Lululemon, Blue Seventy, Rudy Project, ChampSys, Challenge, PowerBar, Nathan, HeadSweats, and Cobb for all your support.
The Leadman Tri BIG Belt Buckle!