This past weekend I travelled down to White Lake, NC for the White Lake Half Ironman. This was my third time racing here (I’m a SetUp Events Fan!), and after the weather kicking my butt in 2009 and 2011, I was determined not to let it happen again.
My decision to go to White Lake vs Texas 70.3 was made for a few reasons. When I left training camp in FL, I was still about 8 lbs over weight (as planned) and had just started any real running for the season (again, planned). I am not known for having a great first of the season race in the heat (as evident in my last 3 season openers!), so we decided I’d go back to White Lake, blow to bits in the heat, and then be ready to go for IM Texas.
With that said, I did a pretty serious 21 day heat acclimation protocol and came into the best shape of my life!
I was swimming life time bests in the pool (still a massive work in progress), riding better, and running my best paces. The 18 day training camp was basically worth about 6 weeks of training based off where I usually am fitness wise 8 weeks out from IM. That, coupled with perfect recovery with much needed help from Zonehealth omega’s and Normatec boots, put me in a spot I’ve never been in.
I flew down to NC with quiet confidence. I was fit, but have never raced well first time out of the gates. When I got in on Thursday it was 45 degrees and pouring rain, so I skipped my easy bike and run. I was still a little tired from the previous training block, and I figured it was a good call. Friday was much the same. I planned on getting an easy 30 min ride in but it was cold and raining, so I went to Denny’s early to get breakfast started. By Friday afternoon the pre Ironman feeling came into my legs. The feeling of just needing to walk around the hotel room! I was happy with the decision to call off the workouts.
Saturday morning rolled around and it was game time. Once at the race site they told us the swim was optional due to the 52 degree water. And by the way–There is no way it was 52. I’ve swam in 52 degree water. This was insanely cold. It took me about 10 minutes to get in the water and another 5 to where I could actually swim.
The wind was UP! WAY UP and the lake was rough. It was roughest swim I’ve ever done. Buoys were all over the place. The turn buoy was there and then all of a sudden it was gone. It was a complete snafu for me and I had the worst swim of my life. I was really bummed, as I’ve been working really hard and if just didn’t show.
Onto the bike. Goal was to ride around 270-280 watts. Which I did until the end where I had to coast a lot so I could pee. The ride was very uneventful. Just like the swim the wind was up and I was all over the road. The first 28 miles of the course trends downward. I averaged 269 watts at 23 mph, with a good position and a good wheel set up. The last 28 miles trend up. We had the wind for a few of those miles and I averaged 25 mph on 264 watts. With coasting to pee! I never felt great on the bike but I also never felt terrible. I was getting splits every 10 miles and they were always in my favor. I was pulling back between 10-30 seconds every 10. By mile 52 I was with the two leaders. I made a game time decision to sit about 30 second back and pee one more time, knowing where my run fitness was and that I really didn’t want to be running in first. I gathered myself and was ready to make it a foot race.
The three of use left transition within 20 seconds of each other and they took it out pretty quick. I went through miles one and two at 5:57 pace. Everything was lining up HR and pace wise, so I just went with the effort and was willing to wait and see how things shook out. By mile 2.5 I was in second running between 12-17 seconds off of first place. I continued to run between 6:00 and 6:05 feeling very good and in control. My HR was trending a little high but I felt fine and wasn’t going to let the race go. We were still dealing with the same headwind as the bike so I didn’t force the pace knowing that miles 10-12 would be mostly “downhill” and with a tail wind. The miles continued to click off. Miles 6-9 I was holding James to a 7-10 second gap. I had made my decision around mile 8. At mile 10 once back onto the main road I was going for broke until we finished. I was either going to win or blow up trying. But I was going to try. I’ve been working on being mentally tough and believing in myself for the past 6-9 months. I knew the next 5k was going to put it to the test. I needed to make those 3.5 weeks away from my family at training camp worth it.
I hit the mile 10 sign and just went. No more looking at the Garmin. No more worrying about HR or pace. It was about winning. I bridged the gap by mile 11 and just continued to lean on it. Once I made the catch I was all in. There is one small turn just before mile 12, I forced myself not to look back in fear that if he saw me look back he’s know I was just about to crack. Someone yelled out that I had 20 seconds. Music to my ears! But I couldn’t quit or slow down. This guy is a big timer in NC and had everyone screaming for him to bridge back up to me. I finally made it into the park and to the finish to cross the line in 4:09:56.
I’m still considering IM Texas my first real “pro” race, but yesterday was a step in the right direction mentally for me. I learned a lot about myself down in Clermont and put it to good use yesterday.
Thanks to everyone who has been helping along the way.
Fuelbelt, which I used on the course and it worked flawlessly keeping me hydrated! Normatec, Zone, Rudy Project, Pearl Izumi, Brooks, Powerbar,and of course everyone at QT2. Bigger thanks to Jesse who sent me a text in the am that ran through my head all day. “Be at the front all day. No matter what.” Although I wasn’t there all day, I put forth my best effort and was able to cross the line there. Of course my wife Courtney who goes above and beyond everyday so we can one day cross the finish line of an IM dropping the “1’s”
Thanks to Set Up Events for putting on, once again, a fun, safe, and well-run Half Ironman!
Next up: One more big block of training for IM Texas.