St Croix Ironman 70.3 RACE REPORT   May 7, 2006    

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Island Time
Relax, have a drink, no stress mon. As usual the rum drinks were served as we waited for our bikes (and gear) to get to baggage claim. You ponder why if there is only one plane on the island and one baggage area with 100 yards between them why it takes so long. But your mind floats away into island time and the humidity soaks in as your shoulders drop.

Getting There
The flight down was nothing special- stopping through Miami on our way down. Met up with a few DC Tri Club friends on the way and we could all smell the salt air before we even got there. The fever was on- anticipation and excitement. Luckily everything (bike box included) made it down on the same flight. Apparently the smaller flights from San Juan sometimes get overwhelmed with bike boxes and so they end coming on a charter later in the day. And then while you wait for your luggage they serve free rum drinks - so waiting isn't all that bad. After all it is a taper week right?

Going Back
There's a lot to say about having been there before. Knowing the layout of the course and what to expect. Not having to find your way around, rather casually strolling to where you need to be- registration, hotel, transition, etc. There was a great deal of comfort in that and yet some anticipation in improving over last year. Getting back some of what I left on the course last year. Since it was my first half Ironman last year, this time around I was also walking back into this with a bit more experience- about 300% more. And I was banking on it to help me run a smarter race. I kept thinking about that brutal run- don't use it all up on the bike. Nutrition and pacing. Don't get sucked into a fast bike ride that leaves you empty on the run- but the bike is so much fun! Patience. I had a plan and I was going to stick to it- so I could improve my run and hopefully my race overall.

The Race
Race morning it was cloudy and humid. I was relatively relaxed- more than in previous races. The idea was to set up transition and have enough time to get back to the start point - also the hotel we are staying at (200 yds from the mainland). That was the main advantage - going back to the race start and being able to wait it out in your own room.

Go! OK, here we go, let's get warmed up. The first 100 yds are a mess because the course takes a sharp left turn- almost a 180- and everyone is stretching the line to make it first. So even though we start out about 30 people wide, by the time we are 100 yds in it narrows to about 3 people wide. Forget form or technique, it's more about size and strength- and big gulps of air just in case. After that its a long way out and back so the strategy changes quickly- find someone to draft off or find your own pace and don't waste yourself in the first half of the swim. The chop was not easy to navigate and was coming at a slight angle which made it hard to keep on path. This was a sure sign that the windy conditions on the bike would make for a fun day ahead.

The rest of the swim was not all that eventful. I did see another DC Tri body swimming next to me- the water was so clear that I could see the uniform.
Swim - 40:37

"No more swimming today!" Ever since my dad yelled that out when I was coming out of transition (Eagleman hotter-than-hell run 2005) I laugh to myself when I think of it. After T1 one thing is certain- no more swimming. It was a smooth grassy area and the only thing that slowed me down was getting on my jersey while I was wet. Probably helps if the jersey pockets are empty first.. but everything is a bit different race day.
T1 - 2:27

Off and rolling. OK, so here's the part where I need to hold back and not go gang busters. Save, save, save. I need some of this energy later in the day and the key here is to pace myself all the way through the bike and into the run. The general idea, ramp up all the way through and finish strong. So according to my plan I'm rolling at a very conservative pace- and it kills me to get passed but I hold back, and think of how they'll bonk on the run.

Nevertheless the hills start pretty soon into the ride. There's an eight mile loop that comes back through town and then we head out on a large loop - that essentially goes around the island. The big hill - or Beast as they call it here - is about 20 miles into the ride so mentally I'm prepared to use the time up until then as a warm up. Get into a groove and get ready. I was excited to see it again- it's a 3/4 mile climb that averages 14% and tops out in sections (on the inside of the turn) at 25%! Conveniently they spray paint the grade % on the road so you can wrestle with the idea in your head. If these percentages mean nothing to you- think of the times you see "steep grade" signs on the highway for trucks to use caution- usually around 6%. So this is stand-on-your-pedals-and-grind-up-the-hill territory. I saw some people walking it, but honestly I don't know if that would be any easier.

And them comes the south side of the island - after crossing over the Beast- which is more rolling hills with a fair amount of head wind. This is when you remember why the waves were kicking up in the swim. But there are some distractions like the speed bumps - maybe 10-15 of them in a row through a small neighborhood. This is a race course right? Well, truth be told the road surface is not all that smooth so the speed bumps don't actually come as that big of a surprise. I'd rather see it than have a huge pothole to dodge. It keeps it interesting. And if you take your eye off the road for a bit and look up you tend to notice you're in the middle of paradise; looking across large fields dropping off into the sea or riding around a cliff side with the waves crashing below. It's awesome, and it's a thrill to be part of it.

The south of the island has the winds and then the last 20 miles or so as it curves around the corner and back onto the north east end the hills remind you why it's good to have some left in the tank. They're not long but they don't have to be. The sun is hotter now and the idea of getting into the run starts to sink in. That was until my right leg starts to cramp up at about mile 45. So I quickly start to empty all the fluids I have into my body- I know its too late but something is better than nothing. I ease off my pace and keep spinning through so I won't seize all together. Easy does it. The idea of stopping is a terrible thought and so I gingerly keep on going. I start to shift my drive to my left leg and it only took a couple miles before I could sense it wasn't having it and started to tense up as well. Take it easy. Relax. Just spin. I knew the course, I had one more good size climb and then I had a fair amount of downhill into T2. So I tried to brush it off knowing I was going to have to take it easy on the last climb. And slowly I crested the climb right on the threshold of pushing too hard. The rest was a prep for the run- just take it easy and get ready to transition.
Bike - 3.01:00

Where is my stuff!! Ok, I know where I am, and I confirm by looking at all my landmarks, check again, and I still don't see my things. Kelly from outside the transition area yells that it's under someone else's towel. Yep- someone else racked their stuff (bike included) on top of my gear. I gently moved their belongings as far as I could pitch them. It was so blatant it wasn't even funny. That really annoyed me for about 10 seconds. It was time to run- keep on track- focus.
T2 - 1:26

Off on the run. Not sure if the route markings were correct (exact) because the first mile came to me too easily and was about 7:20 and the next mile was 8:10 or so. I settled in and felt pretty good the first loop. But the hills were larger than I had remembered. And my tempo was slower than I had expected. But I kept my overall goal in mind- to have enough to finish strong. And not just the last block- but the last couple miles. The humidity was around 80-100% and it actually even rained a bit as it swept through. Enough to make it real humid and yet short enough to let the sun back out and make it muggy.

I had to take a leak- and not having had this issue in a race before I kept an eye out for a port-o-jon. This was probably from all the fluids I took in at once because of my leg cramps. None -- not one place. After 4 miles or so, which was most of the first loop, I used the side of the road. I really waited too long and it was an annoyance for much too much time and I should have taken care of it sooner. But I was trying to not go on the side of the road. Anyway, that's all I had when I just couldn't bear it anymore. So that took up a minute at least- crucial time.

The second loop I certainly slowed some, this time walking through some of the aid stations to get as much fluid down as I could and place ice in my cap and shorts. Keeping the core temperature down helps a ton. The hills took their toll but I was mentally gearing up for the last 2 miles, getting myself ready for a good punch to the end. Mile 10 was a tough one with the hardest hill which just about everyone walks. So I decided to keep steady and go hard when I reached the 11 mile mark. And as soon as I saw it I took off. Here's the payoff of pacing yourself, I was passing quite a few people and it felt like I was flying. Maybe 7 minute miles? but it really didn't matter. I was in the zone so it's hard to say exactly how fast I was really going, most others were at a crawl. No stops, no fluids, just go. I could sense the crowd cheering and sharing my enthusiasm for speed. The town grew closer and the cheers louder- although I was no longer making out specific voices- I was zoned and at the top of my throttle. Then I was in town- oh yeah, it's like another half mile or more through town center even though you see the finish line a block away! The cheers faded and I was alone in the streets fighting to keep my pace. Making promises to myself of refreshing drinks and a hammock. And while it seemed like an hour in the next few minutes I was cruising through the finish chute.

I was beat at the end. Those last couple miles took ALL I had- but I had them to give and that was a great feeling at the end of a long race.
Run - 1.55:10

Done. Exhausted. Time for a beer and a good place to sit as the DC Tri Club group gathers at the finish. Vacation anyone? Time to start the recovery.

RESULTS (official)
Swim 2k 40:37
Bike* 90k 3.04:54
Run 21k 1.55:10
Total   5.40:40
RESULTS (unofficial)
Swim 2k 40:37
T1   2:27
Bike 90k 3.01:00
T2   1:26
Run 21k 1.55:10
Total   5.40:40

*Official results include T1 and T2 time in bike time.

70.3 World Championship Qualifier
This race is one of a series of 70.3 (Half Ironman) races which allows people to qualify for a slot to the 70.3 World Championships. At the awards dinner the slots were distributed and I got to sign up for another race- the World Championships no less! It's in Florida in November- and that's officially the last race of my 2006 season.

The Beach
The following week was a recovery week- and luckily we had our share of beaches to recover nicely. Carambola, Buck Island, Jack's Bay, and Sandy Point were some of the highlights that eased the pain away. A few Lime-n-da-Coconut drinks also did their part. Did I mention a bottle of rum costs $2.75?
{more to come}

It was a great race and an awesome trip- and yet reality came quickly as we had to fly back home. This is definitely a destination race that will be on my roster for years to come. Brutal but with many rewards. Weeks later the crew that went is still suffering from withdrawal. Slowly reality settles back in until next year.

Side note: In some of these photos and especially the last one you'll notice the sky and the ocean meet; blue on blue. When I'm in the islands and I look out into the horizon I imagine so many possibilities and set new goals to achieve those dreams. It's a place of inspiration and renewed determination. That's where the name for my company was born, Blue On Blue.


Copyright ReachAbove © 2006 |

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Photos taken by an assortment of people: Liz, Christal, Jen, Patrick, Lindsay, Kelly, and Eric