Many moons ago before the busted hip in November, I signed up for the newer, slimmer, better, IM 70.3 St. George, lured by the promises of a beautiful and challenging course less than one day of driving away from our base camp in Tucson, and by extra 70.3 World Championship slots. After the hip fracture, I tried to withdraw. But even with a medical excuse, WTC would only go so far as to give me $75 back. Plus, Karen was signed up, and we figured it would either be a fun family vacation or a weekend date with someone watching the kids. So I held onto the registration, fully expecting to do just the swim and bike only, as a rehab assignment. Karen and I wound up going together, with my folks watching the kids at home. Woohoo!! Date time!! When we thought about it, we realized it had been 2-3 years or so since we'd gone away without the kids. . .
Race logistics were made somewhat hectic by the separate locations of T1 and T2. Showing up an hour later than expected because we forgot Utah was on Mountain Time didn't help. Leaving my bike shoes at the shop in Tucson that gave the bike a last-minute tune-up didn't help either. A stuck chain and busted chain blocker seemed like the coup d'grace. My lack of planning cost me a nap, and netted me an unexpected new pair of bike shoes and two panicked trips to Bicycles Unlimited in St. George, where the very helpful service staff totally hooked me up and got things back in order.
|This is my ass, getting saved. Mostly. Except for the next time.|
I thought I was done with pre-race stress, but not yet.
All went as planned until the next morning when I tried to top off the air in the tires. The removable valve core at the end of the extension came loose and jammed up a pump that a fellow competitor had so graciously lent me. I tried to knock the stuck part out, but the head of the pump just broke. I wanted to get the pump-lender's info so I could send her a replacement, but she took the rest of her pump and left, or maybe stormed off, quickly. Damn.
My superstitious mind noted, with a fair bit of relief, that this was the third bad thing that had happened to the bike. My rational mind called BS, and suggested that I not take anything for granted.
So, the race.
Equipment: DeSoto T1 Wetsuit and neoprene cap, silicone earplugs
I downed a bottle of Ironman Peform while waiting for the second M45-49 wave, which was at 7:54, 59 minutes after the pros had started. This led to the wetsuit wee-wee equivalent of the "one cheek sneak." I just kept walking around until the wet footprints dried up.
The water was 60 degrees, a temperature which seemed awfully cold in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, but somehow didn't seem so bad in Sand Hollow Park, Utah. My De Soto T1 2-piece wetsuit is absolute money--buoyant in the legs, flexible in the shoulders, more than sufficiently warm for every race I've done. A neoprene cap and silicone earplugs helped immensely (don't underestimate the discomfort and vertigo that can be caused by a continuous flow of cold water right next to your vestibular apparatus and brain). I was borderline hot by the end.
The wave start was unremarkable. I grabbed a spot on the front line with no resistance or jostling. The horn went off, and I took long, easy strokes, instead of sprinting. I started out feeling smooth and a little lackadaisical, which was perfect. Kicking was minimal to nonexistent, except for two instances: to wake up the legs at the end before I got out, and when the dude who hung on my feet for most of the way hit my feet a couple times in a row. He seemed to get the hint. There was often someone in front of me, and water visibility was good, so I didn't have to sight much, except to occasionally avoid meandering swimmers from previous heats. It went pretty well for a first swim of the year, particularly given that I've been borderline neglectful of swimming.
It went OK, given the hassles associated with new, bike-only shoes. I skipped the wetsuit strippers, which probably saved some time. Cooking spray to the arms and legs before putting on the wetsuit helped it come off quickly.
Equipment: QR Illicito, Zipp 808 FC Clinchers, front and rear, Quarq Rotor Powermeter, SRAM red 11-28 cassette, QXL 54/39 rings, Garneau Vorttice Helmet with Visor, Garmin 800
|I actually paid for this pic, which is why it's bigger and doesn't have a copyright symbol on it.|
The bike leg is among the hilliest 70.3 courses around, but no more so than many rides around Tucson. Lots of climbs and dives, with some rollers, and a couple of flat sections. It was a little cryptic to decipher from the course map, but was well marked on race day. It was listed as having 2552 feet of elevation gain, but my elevation-corrected GPS file showed 3700, which I think is more accurate. Strangely, some of the pros' files listed on Trainingpeaks, which covered the same course and presumably used the same elevation correction algorithm, showed closer to 3,000 feet.
I started off the bike with higher than expected HR and lower than expected watts. This is the last part of the swim to run transition: Waiting for the arms to cool off and stop sucking up so much of the cardiac output. Eventually they did, and I settled into my planned 260-270W range. HR remained a little higher than expected--high- instead of mid-130s. But I didn't feel like I was pushing it too hard, so I let that be. The course was beautiful and fun. The "big climb" on the course--Snow Canyon--took a little speed away, but was easier than a corresponding 4 mile stretch on Mt. Lemmon. Not a biggie. The dive-bomb down the hill--reaching 46.8 MPH, was easy and fun, as the winds were minimal. Finishing the bike course was little more than rolling down the hill to T2. I let wattage bump up to 300 or so on hills. Heart rate stayed sub-threshold. Final numbers: Avg. Speed 21.71 MPH, NP 267, AP 257, VI 1.04 (with some strategic coasting), Avg. HR 139, Avg Cadence 84.
Slow, but there was no hurry whatsoever. Mentally, my race was done. I'd hit my expected swim and bike times, now it was rehab run city. I checked my bike power results before leaving, and made a bathroom stop that I didn't really need.
Equipment: Race Tucson top/bottom, Hoka Bondi B shoes, Garmin 310xt, Headsweats Visor.
Again, the elevation on this course was more than listed. I had 1,429 on the Trainingpeaks-corrected GPS file, which seems a little much, but the race guide said 709. Others had mentioned 1100-1200 feet.
I wasn't sure if I was going to do the whole run, as I hadn't done a run over 8 miles since the busted hip. So I took it a mile at a time. Pace felt easy, so I worked on pushing my fluid intake a little, drinking 1-2 cups of water and perform at each aid station. It remained easy until about mile 10, but at that point, all that was left was to roll down the last hill. Aching legs notwithstanding, I finished without falling off the (not terribly fast) pace. I was, surprisingly, 20th/213 for my age group and 250th/2000+ overall. A healthy me would have been competitive for WC slots. Like a true Red Sox fan, I say, "next year. . ."
Karen rolled in a little later, and we soaked up the post-race food and relaxation for awhile before hopping in the car. Particularly noteworthy were the three-flavored (or at least three colored) rocketship popsicles, straight from childhood. On the way home, we drove past Zion National Park. Definitely a must-see for next year!
On the whole, it was an amazing race. As friends and teammates alike are planning to do it again next year, we almost undoubtedly will, too. Next year, and for all future M-dot races, I think we're going to show up at least two days before the race, instead of just the day before. Logistical sanity cannot but help not only race results but enjoyment.
Results for team Quigley: