The day before the race was relatively uneventful, aside from pulling a 2 inch piece of wire from my tire after a short loosening up ride. Even though the tube felt like it was holding pressure I decided to get a new one on that afternoon. Bike check in revealed that the racks were very tight and we were going to be very close to each other in T1 and T2. Surprisingly I got the best pre race sleep the night before, not having 3 kids tearing up the hotel room and a tummy full of delicious pasta helped!
Race morning came along. Thankful for no rain. A large full moon setting over Veterans bridge while the National Anthem was sung was pretty awesome and a calming way to get ready for the swim.
The swim was fast and unusually non chaotic. The rolling starts really make a difference in my view. After an initial 350 yards upstream we turned and headed down with the current. Swimming under the 3 bridges and getting a close visual reference helped to get a perspective of how fast we were really going. I was amazed to exit the water after 31 mins, that's 10 mins faster than I would usually swim... Off to a good start :)
Coming into T1 I saw way more bikes than I usually do, a product of Craig's swim work outs and sneaking up the start line with Steven while pretending to scout out the swim start dock. I struggled a bit getting my bike out of the rack (normally there aren't that many bikes around when I dawdle through T1) but got on my way. First 2 miles were uneventful, until I hit the first railway crossing. I went in way too fast and was rewarded with a full ejection of everything on the bike (except the rider). Stopping to pick up bottles, repair kit, nutrition etc while dodging about 20 other bikers was not something I've practiced before. After this little side event I settled into the bike plan and got to work. Plan was to build up to zone 3 and then see if I could hold zone 3 for most of the second half of the bike. As the course was pretty rolling it was hard to be very consistent with the zones but overall I was able to stay close to the plan. I got back into T2 about 7 minutes slower than I was hoping for. Looking at my computer I saw though that my NP was right on the low Z3 level and I had kept a great cadence, so other than cruising down the hills too easily and having another 2 brief mechanicals I was right on race plan.
While in T2 we heard the race announcer calling Kienle in to the finish line for the win. It was really great to hear the excitement around him finishing fast, but knowing I still had the whole run ahead of me while he was going to sit back and relax put things in perspective.
Found my legs pretty quickly on the run, within the first 2 miles. It was getting hot and was hard to find shade on the road. First loop of the run felt good, I was running well but saving some gas for the hills to come. Seeing Craig, Sarah and Herchel at the tent was a great boost. With the heat and humidity rising I watched my HR climb while the pace slowed a bit. I was still passing people though which helps with motivation. Coming past Craig at mile 7 or 8 he called out to me saying "ok, time to get moving now", I remember thinking - "I've been in z4 for about 10 minutes, this is about as good as we're going to get today!"
I had been trying to do to the mental arithmetic for the last 5 miles to predict my finish time, but was getting it very wrong and so decided to just knuckle down and bang out the last 3 miles and see where we got to with that.
The last mile was a blast though. Running through the crowds on the foot bridge, past the Vulcan crew and tent one last time and then down the hill to the finish line felt light and fast. In the end I came in 12 mins under my previous PR and had made up 53 age group spots during the run which felt great. Looking back, riding within the zones, not pushing for the extra few minutes on the bike paid off well on the run.
We'll be back for the full IM in September and get to to do all those wonderful hills on the run again!....