Saturday, August 13, 2011

Emmett Triathlon

Emmett is one of my favorite races of the season. Not because it's the biggest or because the course is technically difficult or that the scenery is breathtaking, but because it is so well put on by the race director Ken Runyan, the Boise Aeros and the small community of Emmett, Idaho. The season they were celebrating their 10th year  and true to tradition, they hosted the best race of the southern Idaho.
The swim start & T1 are at Black Canyon Reservoir which is about 8 miles outside of town. It’s a small reservoir that’s only a couple of miles long and less than a half mile wide. The park area at the reservoir is well shaded with large trees and there's a nice sandy beach at the boat launch area for the swim exit.. The start of each swim wave is pretty cool, it’s signaled by an old Civil War cannon so there’s never any doubt when to go, even if you wear earplugs when you swim. It's a deep water start and there's no real start line so there are always a couple of swimmers that jump the start. The water is warm this time of the year and even though you could probably swim it without a wetsuit, most everyone still wears one for the obvious benefits. The women's wave starts 5 minutes behind the men's but the total women's field this year was only 67 athletes so it was a fairly small swim wave even after you added in the Teams and PC racers. This is also the Idaho State Championship race and I was hoping to regain the title after pulling out of the race last year after I was stung in the face and hand on the bike then later learned that I'm anaphylaxis to honey bees. I swelled up like Will Smith on the movie Hitch and by time I rode my bike into T2 and got to the medical tent they had to hit me with an Epi pen and then monitor my breathing to make sure my airway didn't swell shut. Jeremy said if I rode faster, when they hit they would just "splat" and not sting. I was using this race to see if I had made any improvements since racing at Rev 3 Portland last month and to gauge what I still needed to work on for Ironman 70.3 Worlds next month. My goal time for the swim was less than 25min which I felt confident I could do if I stayed focused.

At the sound of the cannon I was off towards the front and had nothing but clear water in front of me. I was trying to find someone to pace me as I swam to make sure I didn't blow up half way through but through the maze of yellow caps I couldn't find anyone I recognized and new could swim at my pace. By time I got to the turnaround buoy I was still all by myself and was starting to wonder if I was off course somehow because I don't consider myself a strong swimmer, not to the point that I should be all by myself on the swim. By the mid-point buoy I was getting deeper into the slower traffic from the men's wave but felt as though I was still on a good pace and felt strong in the water. As I made the final turn into the beach there were a couple dozen guys around me but still no other women. I started to wonder if I was supposed to have started 5 minutes earlier in the men's wave since I was placed in the elite rack of T1. My TYR Hurricane is an awesome wetsuit and I know it makes me faster but it doesn't come with a built-in motor. As soon as I got onto the beach I looked at my watch and my heart sunk as I saw 27 minutes...aaarrggghhh. That's 2-3 minutes off of where I felt I could and should be, but where are all the other women? As I ran into T1 Jeremy confirmed it when he said that I was 9th out of the water and 6 minutes back of 1st. Did I get into the wrong swim wave? Were the elite women supposed to leave with the men's wave? I was frustrated with myself. All the work I had been doing on my swim since Portland apparently hadn't made much difference in my swim time. Maybe I had so much open water because I was always way off course and swam further than I needed to, like Ironman Worlds last year where I swam 2.6miles instead of 2.4 . A 27:17 was almost a full minute faster than last year but once again I was starting at a deficit by giving away 3-4 minutes to my competition in my swim and now had to try to make it up on my bike and run.

The bike course is relatively flat other than some small rollers at mile 13 & 17, a short downhill at the beginning of the race and another short downhill into T2. There are 2 separate 180deg turns on the bike before coming back in to T2 which give you an opportunity to see your competition. At one of these I saw a gal that I did not recognize that I figured was about 5-6 minutes ahead of me and then not more than a minute behind her I saw Kate Bevilaqua who I figured was going to be my biggest competition for the day. I felt good on the bike but subconsciously I kept thinking about last year and getting stung by the bee in the face and hand. I was nervous riding past the corn fields and kept looking for bees as I rode; not that I was going to do anything about it if I saw one...I couldn't stop or duck out of the way to avoid it. Last year Jeremy was threatening to buy me a Bee Keepers suit since I was stung so many times while riding. There was no wind on the ride and the stagnant air made it feel warmer than it really was. It felt good riding past the fields that were being irrigated because you had a brief reprieve from the heat. I hammered hard on my Trek Speed Concept but kept the watts at a safe level, even backing off slightly to compensate for the heat that I was only going up as I rode; I knew would only get hotter on the run. I love riding my Speed Concept...have I ever told you what my favorite thing is on the bike? When I say, "On your left!" My bike time was going to end up a respectable 1:04:38 for the 3rd fastest of the ladies for the day. It felt even better when I knew I could still push myself a little bit harder, but it probably wouldn't have been a wise choice as hot as it was today.

Note from Jeremy: sorry, no bike picture to post here because I parked on the wrong side of the park entrance. I learned that the road from the east side of the park does not open until the last swimmer from both the Olympic and the Sprint distance races are out of the water which translates into about an hour after the lead swimmers from the Olympic distance exit the water. If you park on the west side of the park you are free to drive down the road to T2 as you safely avoid racers and race marshals. The walk into the park is a couple of minutes longer but it's worth not paying $5 to drive into the Park to watch less than 30 minutes of racing plus not having to wait for the last swimmer to exit the water before you can make your way back to town. I'll have to remember that for next year.

The run is flat, hot and fast. You run almost entirely through residential areas which offer you no relief from the relentless August heat and blazing sun. The nice thing about this race is they provide an Aid Station at every mile so you can stay hydrated or dump a glass of water on you to cool you down. I opted to carry my own hydration this race, something I've started to do lately because the fluid offered on most race courses make my guts churn. I discovered VESPA this year that has made a ton of difference in my guts and I'm excited to see how well it does next month at Ironman 70.3 Worlds with the heat and distance that have caused problems in the past. As I came into T2 there was a ton of slow traffic coming in from the Sprint race. The course is wide enough exiting T2 that it didn't slow me down at all. As I started the run I knew I was in 3rd place but I didn't know if I was able to make up any of that 5-6 minute gap I saw while on the bike. I knew Kate has a pretty good run and I was just hoping the heat would play a factor. The run is a two loop course so I knew that within the first 3k I should have a pretty good idea where I sat relative to Kate and the other gal I saw on the bike. At about mile 1 I saw Jeremy and the kids but I knew he wasn't going to be much help on paces since I didn't see him on the bike and there were a ton of Sprint distance racers on the course, I knew he wouldn't know who was in the Olympic distance race that was in front of me. It didn't take long anyways, shortly after I saw the cheer crew I saw both girls in front of me. Kate was in 2nd, back by about a minute and they were both about a mile ahead of me and running at a good pace. With two experienced racers in front of me there wasn't enough realestate for me to run either of them down; unless they both bonked. I was still having a good race, even though I was feeling flat, and needed to finish out the rest of my race plan to see what other things I may need to work on over the next month before Worlds.

When it was all done, my run time was a 42:39 for an overall time of 2:16:29. It was strong enough for a solid 3rd place overall but still more than 5 minutes off of the leaders. I was just off of my goal run pace and will continue to work to shave another 15-20 seconds per mile off before Worlds. This was a PR for this distance but with my training I should have finished under the 2:10 mark. I guess that gives me something to shoot for next year. My swim, I'm not sure what I going to do there. I don't understand what's wrong and I get more perplexed when I look at swim times and see people that I beat at Master's every morning were out of the water more than 2 minutes ahead of me. After looking at the data from my Garmin, my swim distance was a 1.6k instead of 1.5k which means I swam an extra 100yards further than everyone else. That still doesn't translate to an extra 4 minutes though. I'm going to have to hit that swim time if I think I'll be in the mix for Worlds.

Next for me is another local Olympic distance race on the 27th that will serve as an introductory bric workout for the morning and then in early September I head to Vegas to get ready for Worlds.