Liberty Race Report

Liberty Race Report

Last weekend was my first go at a half-iron distance race this year. I raced Steelhead 70.3 last year in preparation for Ironman Wisconsin, but I was actively rehabing my Achilles at that time. So leading into Liberty, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of myself. Training has been going really well, and I continue to see improvements through my coaching from Alyssa.  But there is always some level of trepidation leading in an event knowing how many variables have to come together to produce a good time. And the weather race morning produced more fear/discomfort than I have ever experienced.
 
Storm2This was the first race that I seriously debated not starting, all because of the weather. We had a 25 minute drive from our hotel to the race site, and during that drive all I could focus on was the wind, lightning and ominous clouds. A storm had come through overnight, and the forecast was calling for more within the next couple of hours. The start got delayed one hour due to the elements, and even after we got word that the lightning had all passed, it continued to rain and the wind picked up. Riding in wet conditions is one of my biggest fears. In 2010, I went down on wet roads and separated my shoulder, so I know that plays a big part in this discomfort. Even 5-10 minutes before the start, there was some question as to whether the race was going to happen. A fairly decent part of me wanted the director to cancel it, because I knew that I would regret not racing if the race did take place. And I really didn’t want to race. But they decided to go ahead with everything, so I had to forcefully switch my mindset from all the negative aspects of the morning to how I was going to make the most of it and follow through with my plan. The power of the mind has been impressed on me more this year than ever, and I knew that a negative mindset would not help me get through the event. I went into the start knowing that this was not a great day for a PR, so I was just going to give it everything I could with what we were dealt. I was expecting the bike to be slow because I was going to be careful, but I also thought that might result in a really good run, if my legs were more fresh. Those moments before the gun went off were a blur of thoughts and scenarios.
 
Swim – This swim went so much better than in Kansas City. I started in the very front, towards the outside of the line to the first buoy, hoping that this would allow me to get off fast but stay out of the mayhem. I went out hard, not balls-out hard, and after the first 50-100 meters started looking around for groups that I could draft off of. There were a couple of guys swimming just to my right, so I held up for a second to swing in behind them. But I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be pushing it nearly as much as I wanted to swimming with them. I saw two other guys swimming about 25-50 yards in front of us, so I swung out and put in a hard effort to reach them. It took me a little while, but I got there. Maybe it’s my lack of experience drafting and understanding how much of a benefit it can be, but as soon as I got in this group, I started to feel like I was swimming too easily, again. I stayed here for a short while to rest from the effort to catch up with the group, but then swung off and started swimming harder. I was in the fourth wave, and I quickly started swimming through a lot of people from the previous two waves that started three and six minutes ahead of my wave. Eventually, I even caught up with the very back of the first wave, the elite wave that started seven minutes ahead of me. This was a race where anyone could race as an elite, as long as you checked the right box during registration. So I didn’t let this go to my head too much, but it was very encouraging, as I’m used to seeing waves catch up with me from behind. I felt like I was pushing the pace the entire swim and came out of the water in 32:45. Race time says that my swim was 33:28, but the timing mat was right outside of transition, up the beach, up a long flight of stairs and down a path. I was hoping for a 35:00 swim, so I was very pleased with this time.
 
Transition can best be described as a mess. It was set up in a grassy section of the park and any place that got traffic had turned into mud. I took my time getting in, through and out to make sure that I didn’t slip. And I was very pleased that I was able to get out of my wetsuit much faster than in Kansas City! It’s all about the little things.
 
Bike – I went into the bike with few expectations, knowing that I wasn’t going to be taking any chances on the wet roads. But whether I subconsciously realized that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be or my competitive side took over, I really didn’t hold much back. Starting in the fourth swim wave meant that there were always people ahead of me to focus on catching. The wind was at our back for the first section, so that really flew by at 27+ mph without much effort. After the first out section, we made two loops that offered more difficulty due to rolling hills and more sections into the wind. I never got passed and almost always had someone up the road to focus on. At the start of the second loop I came up on a guy that saw me coming and took off. I would get close in and then he would put more space between us. This continued all the way to T2, and I was able to come in just a few seconds behind him. 2:28 is slower than I went last year in my 70.3, but considering the conditions, I was pretty happy with this.
 Infinit
Nutriton-wise, I felt really good. I had 1,000 calories of Infinit in a bottle, my new go-to nutrition product, that I would sip on every 10 minutes, drinking water in between. Definitely check out Infinit if you haven’t landed on a product to use consistently, like I hadn’t, or if you need a change. You can create a custom drink mix or they have several pre-mixed formulas you can choose from. I use their :Go Far product  and it has worked incredibly well. Just having to think about one bottle and not a mix of drinks, gels and bars helps me mentally and is so simple on race day. :Go Far has all of the calories, carbs, protein and electrolytes that you need to get through a long event. And even with 1,000 calories in one 20 ounce bottle (7 scoops), the taste/flavor wasn’t overly strong or sweet. The only other thing that I did on the bike was take a gel ~10 minutes before getting off, and this was just to top off the eneryg leading into the run. I would consider having another gel halfway through the bike, because right after I had the one I felt a crazy surge of energy. Maybe it was mental, but it gave me good boost heading into T2. 
  
Run – I was really happy with how my legs felt from the beginning of the run, especially with what felt like a pretty hard effort riding into the wind at the end of the bike. I quickly caught up with and passed the guy that I was never able to pass on the bike. I think there was one other guy that I passed before catching another of the “elite” athletes. He was running really strong, and we ran together right up until the halfway turnaround. I didn’t have GPS for the run, but I watched the time between mile markers and we ran several sub-6:00 miles in the first 4 miles. Working together, we passed quite a few people. Right before the turn around, though, he started to pull away. I tried putting the gas down a little more but wasn’t able to stick with him. That left me alone from mile ~7-9. The guys that I was going to catch had been caught, so I focused on keeping up the pace and finishing strong. The course went through a park and had a fair amount of hills, so I used those as little goals. Around mile 10 I started to see the guy that had pulled away from me, so I kept the gas down to see if I could catch him. Unfortunately, he was having some nutritional issues, walking through aid stations and fading pretty quickly. I passed him right after mile 11 and kept running hard knowing that I only had ~12-13 minutes left. I was hoping for at least 1:25, and ended up finishing in 1:22, which was the third fastest run of the day.
 
I took gels at miles 5 and 9 and had water at almost all of the aid stations. I had a third gel in my flask but chose not to take it because I didn’t think my stomach would be able to handle it. I probably need to practice taking in nutrition during harder runs, because there were a couple of times, after taking a gel, that I felt like I was going to throw up. This feeling would pass pretty quickly and didn’t effect my ability to run, but it would be nice to feel comfortable after having a gel.
 
My goal, under good conditions, was to finish in 4:30. When I started doing the math a few miles from the finish and realized I would be closer to 4:25 I was thrilled. I ended up crossing the line in 4:25:43, the 6th fastest time of the day. This time wasn’t on my radar, and I am incredibly happy with this result, especially considering the mental battles before and during that had to be conquered. It ended up being a great day and a great indicator of what I’m capable of leading into my next 70.3 in Racine.
 
The individual that deserves the most praise for this day is my wife, Hillary, for putting up with the weather to sit through a 4 1/2 hour event. I know that it wasn’t a fun day to spectate, but she was there at every transition and was a welcomed site at the finish line. I also want to thank Alyssa for the coaching that is leading to fantastic results, the entire Team HPB crew for their encouragement leading up to the race and Zoot Sports for shoes that clean up very nicely after having been run through the mud! This is an individual sport, but it could not be accomplished without an immense support team. I am incredibly blessed for the teams that I am able to be a part of this year!

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