Pigman Race Report

Pigman Race Report

The Pigman Long Course triathlon was my final 70.3 distance race for the year. Despite a good result in Racine, there were some things that I felt I could do better. Almost immediately after that race, I had a great desire to have another shot at the distance before the season was over. Pigman was always on my mind, but I not yet signed up. This intrinsic motivation tipped the scales in favor of going for my third 70.3 of the year. After the adventures of Le Tour de Voice and RAGBRAI, Alyssa scheduled a few choice days to help me actively recover both physically and mentally. Once the training started ramping back up, though, the question marks and doubt started encroaching on the intrinsic motivation. In addition to the endurance-focused training that is necessary for the 70.3 distance, we were working in more speed work, at the same time, to start the preparation for HyVee, a shorter race that was only two weeks after Pigman, and a late-season marathon. I spent the first week of August in Fort Dodge for work, which provided ample time to focus on training; I was either working, training, eating or sleeping. I felt pretty decent coming off of this 12-hour training week, despite putting in more miles running than I had in a long time, including the dreaded over/under treadmill session. This session incorporates 3-minute “rest” intervals and 2-minute faster intervals with increasing speed for an hour. It looks something like this…treadmill-tired-ed-vanstone-11042012

3 min @ 7.9 / 2 min @ 8.9 / 3 min @ 8.0 / 2 min @ 9.0 / 3 min @ 8.1 / 2 min @ 9.2 … 3 min @ 9.0 / 2 min @ 10.0

The following week, though, is when things felt like they were starting to fall apart. Monday and Tuesday included swim and run speed work, and after those sessions I started to have pain in my left trapezius and adductor muscles. Maybe it’s lingering fear/insecurity from last year’s chronic injury, but these issues were the trigger points for mental doubt. This was going to be the first race with the elite division. Unlike a lot of races, anyone could race as an elite at Pigman as long as they check the right box during registration. By doing so you get to be in the first swim wave, minimizing congestion and traffic, and have a higher level of competition to feed off of. Looking at past results and where my fitness was, my goal was to place in the top 5 overall. This would be my highest place finish so far and would provide a paycheck. I did some research/stalking on the other elite guys and knew that this was going to be a battle; I was going to be racing my coach from last year, a pro that could finish in 4:0x on a bad day, another Iowa local that used to race professionally and a guy that has raced the Ironman World Championships in Kona in 9:13. This level of competition excited me, but I’m sure it also helped feed the mental doubt as I wasn’t physically feeling 100%. Some chiropractic work and forced positivity got me through the rest of the week, though, and I made sure to take things very easy at the end of the week. Alyssa’s instruction for effort was “…like the type of easy where you swear you’re moving backwards.”

Saturday morning I spent a few minutes splashing around in the lake at Raccoon River Park, making sure everything was in working order on my bike and shaking the legs out with a short run. I’ve come to really enjoy these sessions. After a rest day, my body is ready to get moving again, and the excitement of race weekend took full effect as everything felt good. We left Des Moines around 1:00pm and made our way to Cedar Rapids, a short 2-hour drive compared to other race locations. This was the first race that allowed us to have a “home stay.” My wife has family that live just outside of Cedar Rapids, about 20 minutes from the race site, so we were able to stay with them and spend Saturday afternoon and evening catching up.

20140817_PigManSony-21Race morning: Up by 5:15am, we were in the car and I was eating the usual bagel with peanut butter by 5:45am. I also had a bottle with one scoop of Infinit that I sipped all morning. Preparation at the race site went very smoothly. The more I race the easier this gets, but this also freaks me out because I feel like I’m missing something. It takes 2-3 mental run-thrus in transition before I can convince myself that everything is in order. There was an Olympic distance happening that morning, as well, and all those athletes started before the long course. As they were getting in the water (15-20 minutes prior to our start), I took a 2x caffeine gel and got in a short swim warm-up. Minus some decent fog, conditions were pretty ideal with little to no wind, overcast skies (despite the sun that peeked out for this picture) and comfortably cool temperatures.

Swim (30:43): Like anticipated, the start was pretty crazy. The first wave was the elites (men and women), clydesdales, athenas and teams instead of just the elites, so there were more people than I thought there would be. I made sure to get towards the front to try and get cleaner water, but I wasn’t able to escape the mayhem. The gun went off, and I swam as hard as I could to try and stick with one of the front groups. I fought off a panic attack as everyone was getting themselves sorted out and I was fighting for position. The front guys took off, and I found myself on the feet of one other athlete, who ended up being a female. I stuck to her feet the entire swim and was very pleased that I still had to push myself to stick with her. Coming out of the water seeing 30:XX was very encouraging. That works out to 1:27 per 100 yards, which is way faster than I thought I would be swimming this year. It was also a swim PR by 1:40 and provides a lot of hope that next year I’ll be able to go sub-30:00.

T1 (1:52): I took me longer than I would have liked to get out of my wetsuit, but other than that things were smooth.

Bike (2:25:54): I hadn’t thought about the Olympic athletes leading into the race, and most of them were on the road in front of the long course athletes. I was expecting a lonely 56-mile ride, but the Olympic athletes provided some traffic and motivation to push the pace. It was difficult, though, to tell if there were any long course athletes close by. Once I got to the Olympic turn around, I realized that there weren’t, and I was all by myself. As I crested a hill, I barely caught sight of another athlete, but it was enough of a carrot to keep pushing the pace. I slowly reeled them in, and around mile 20 I caught her (there were some crazy fast women out there). Our paces were different enough that we weren’t going to be able to work together to catch others. At mile 25, I crossed paths with the lead group of three as they were heading back. Two minutes later another group of three went by. As much as I tried, I was never able to bridge the gap to either of these groups. After the turn around, my legs really started to feel fatigued. The back half of the course, towards the turn around, was almost entirely rolling hills with no flats. Hitting these the second time felt much harder. Looking at my overall time, I wish I had my average speed for the first half to compare to the second. I was definitely going slower, but to still get a 23 mph average, I must have pushed the first half more than I thought. Other than the athletes that I met that were heading towards the turn around, I was all alone for 28 miles. There were plenty of times when I battled discouragement and wanted to back off because it didn’t feel like I was making up any ground. But I knew that anything else that everything I could give wouldn’t take me to 5th place.

T2 (1:12): My shoes did not want to go on and I was misdirected towards the run out, causing me to have to re-trace just a few yards.

20140817_PigMan-130Run (1:28:44): As I left T2, my dad yelled that I would need a hard run to get into the top 5. This sparked a little bit of a fire to get me going. As soon as I passed through the third or fourth aid station, though, I heard the volunteers communicating with someone else…not what I wanted to hear. Shortly after, here comes a guy moving quite a bit faster than me. I tried picking up my pace to stick with him, but was only able to for a short time (he ended up running 30 seconds/mile faster than I did). We both passed one of the elite females, and then I caught site of another carrot. One of the guys that I assumed was going to beat me was struggling and walking through aid stations. He kept pace with the guy that passed me for a mile, but then dropped back as they went through another station. I caught up to him here. Despite him struggling, he kept pace with me for the next mile, which was a nice break from the loneliness. As soon as we reached the next station, he stopped to walk and I pulled away. The last 6 miles of the run were reminiscent of the bike, with the only people that I saw being those that were headed out to the turn around. Despite knowing that I was not going to be able to crack the top 5, I kept trying to push my pace and finish strong. There was, however, a mental hurdle of how much I was willing to hurt that I wasn’t able to push past. I know that’s going to be key going forward into future seasons.

Despite not getting into the top five, I’m happy with the day. The swim was a big accomplishment for me, and racing as an elite was a very necessary, mental experience to have gone through. Considering that my goal for this year was to go sub-4:30 in the half, and I accomplished that in all of my races, there isn’t much that could have gone better! But with this finish, come mixed emotions. This was my last 70.3 for the year, and my last tri of the season is now only 3 days away. It’s crazy how fast the season goes. Part of me is ready to be done for the year, let my body fully recover and possibly get out of shape, a little. But another, greater part is mourning the completion of my season. It’s been a great year, I’m thrilled with the progress that has been made and I’m equally excited to put in more hard work during the off season in preparation for another year. But there’s always some sadness knowing that it’s going to be a long time before the next race.

So for now, I’m focusing on HyVee this weekend, and I’ve already been entertaining many thoughts about what goals to set for 2015. Will I take another crack at Ironman? Another year to focus on the 70.3? I’m not sure right now what course I’ll take, but I’m sure that it will be just as exciting, hard, exhausting and exhilarating as this year has been.