St. Croix 70.3 – Adam Zawelski
The swim itself went well. It felt better than my time shows. Lessons learned:
SWIM SKIN. My top was billowing like a sail in the wind; I could feel it slowing me down. A lot. If I do a non-wetsuit race again, it wil be with a swim skin, or I’ll put my top on in t1. So THAT’S what those are for!
CALF SLEEVES. Obviously with my injuries they were probably a good call for this race, but they weren’t helping the swim either, and they were HOT on the run. As soon as I’m healed up, I won’t use them for racing; long training runs only.
GOGGLES. I love my TYRs and I’m never trying any other goggles again, no matter what anyone says. I need a pair with clear lenses, though. Why make sighting on an overcast day harder?
NUTRITION. I usually take a gel before the swim, but my stomach hadn’t digested the pb-honey-banana sandwich I ate at 4am, and I didn’t want to feel like puking all day, so I skipped it. I need to start eating something dense and high protein before a race and stick to that, because this is always a problem for me.
GARMIN. I started it about 5 minutes into the swim. Maybe at the horn would’ve been better?
COMPETITIVE EDGES. I was swimming stroke-for-stroke with some guy in my group for the first half, and got jammed up in some traffic and dropped at the turnaround buoy. I should have chased him down, because I think my pace slacked a bit after that. I’m a chaser/pacer and I need to always use that to my advantage.
Didn’t take my gel, because i didnt leave it out and handy for some reason? In and out quick enough. I’d like to get practiced at leaving my shoes on the bike, but my shoes are pretty easy to run in, so it might not actually save me any time, especially on a wet, sketchy course like St. Croix.
As I was heading out on the bike, I saw Lance Armstrong coming into town from the first short loop. I don’t follow celebs, but that was pretty cool. As soon as I was settled on the bike, I took the gel I missed in T1. When I realized what had happened, I started thinking about a new nutrition strategy, hoping there would be gels on the bike (there weren’t). My chest strap failed again, like in Oceanside, so I did the whole race on perceived effort. I have another strap and will test it next ocean swim. I rode what I felt was conservatively, and let a lot of people go that I could have easily paced, saving my juice for the hills and the run.
THE BEAST. Tough, but overrated. Closest approximation would be doing the backside of Modjeska twice. Of course, on the beast you don’t get the break to descend… I passed a lot of people here (10 or so) but was intentionally not putting the pedal to the floor until he back half. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard, but I didn’t want to blow up anaerobically right then and there, so I played it cool. Ish.
ROAD CONDITIONS. The road itself was way better than we expected; apparently they just resurfaced a lot of it. I was startled by a very small rain-filled pothole right out of t1, which made for a good reminder without messing anything up. At some point I rode through a culvert that was at least 10″ deep. My fork was almost underwater! I rode a line that I saw the guy before me take, to be safe. There was one unmarked descending corner that was a little sketchy, as I came out of it, it was clear that someone was supposed to be minding it, but was on their way back to it. Biggest hazard? Frog roadkill.
MILE 30.For a few miles I’d felt like I was working too hard for the speed I was getting, and at mile 30, I found out why. My rear wheel had a slow leak and was almost completely flat, and there was no way I could ride another 26 miles on it. I pulled over and made the swap, but in the downpour, I think I got some sand or gravel on the tube, because it pressurized for about 60 sec and then….. Pssshhhhhhhhh. It wasn’t a pinch flat because my tires are really nicely broken in and went over the rim easy as pie. Laughing, I pulled out my back up tube and cylinder, and changed it again. I was chatting with a local lady and her small boy (who was kind enough to dispose of my trash); she told me I had a really positive attitude and that I had been very close to the front of the pack. I explained that I had gotten married 2 days prior and I wasn’t going to let a couple pieces of rubber get between me and a good time. Note: 32mm valves don’t work very well with my flat kit, it’s tough to get the valve to seal, particularly in a race situation. I wasn’t that disappointed, and resolved to finish the course in no big hurry since I had just added easily 10 minutes to my bike split. I’m here on my honeymoon after all, and racing the run would have set me back a lot with my injuries.
WEATHER. Rain, rain, and more rain. And some wind. And more rain. And frogs. But not, like, actually raining frogs or anything.
NUTRITION. Since I was behind on nutrition (that’s my triathlete super power), and running out fast, I started taking IM Perform at all the aid stations after the first (maybe second, I forget). I honestly don’t know how much it helped, if at all, but it was the only option as there was only water and IM Perform.
At mile 40, per race plan, I kicked it up some, but as I had no heart rate data, I don’t really know how much. I didn’t feel like I was pushing hard/time trialing, but I had no metrics, so I played it safe since I wasn’t racing anymore. Near the end, I unstrapped my shoes and headed for the dismount line.
CROWD. The people on this island are fantastic, and they were cheering in almost every driveway.
SCENERY. It was the most beautiful ride of my life, and it seemed like every time I rounded a corner to a new spectacular view, or rode into a rain forest draped with moss and vines, or past a lush pasture where horses were wondering what all the humans were in such a rush about, my jaw hit the floor all over again.
GEAR. Anyone who brings a road bike to this course is a dumbass. (Me! Me! Me!)
Off the bike, as usual, I was running with very little effort. I think I ran about a half mile at 7:30 or so and then forced myself to slow it down. The sun was coming out a little and the temp was climbing fast, as was the humidity. The road felt like a hot wet radiator. The first few miles felt really easy and I had a full gel bottle, which I took 1/3 of right out of T2 where coincidentally, I saw Lance again 1/2 mile from the finish. After the first few miles, I set a mellow goal pace of 9:00-9:30, and walked up the steeper hills to save my tendons. The walking made my overall pace just under 10:00, but as I write this, my tendons don’t hurt (or my calves are overshadowing the hurt), so I’m pleased with the call I made, regardless of how my time suffered. Once I had the pair of flats, racing was out the window anyway, so I was having a good time with it. I was smiling a lot and joking with the people on the roadside and the volunteers. I took water, ice, and sponges at almost every aid station to keep my core temp down. My heart rate still wasn’t registering accurately or consistently, but it felt low, with a few spikes when the heat reared its head. I took in so much fluid on the bike from pounding IM Perform that I pulled over twice to pee in the bushes, once per loop; beats overheating, and after that bike split my shot at a good time was blown anyway. As I neared the end of the first loop, a PA in the back of a pickup truck blared Common Sense’s “Never Give Up” and I yelled something like,”From Santa Barbara, California… The Common Sense Band!” That was the mood of my run, and I was ok with it. It reminded me of Orangeman, where I lost all my nutrition off the bike and couldn’t push it on the run, even though my heart rate was low. One of these times I’ll get it right… After the first loop, I looked at my approximate time (since my Garmin was off by I figured about 5 minutes from starting it at the first buoy), and figured I could come in just under 6:00 if I held about a 10:00 pace for the second loop. My legs (and my shoes) were getting heavier and I was out of gel, so I grabbed one at an aid station to get me to the end. Maybe I just need more fuel than I think? Halfway through the second loop, about 3 miles from the finish, I could feel myself heating up and slowing down, and was walking hills that I really could have ran. Attitude became a problem, and I started getting over my 6:00 idea, just for a mile or so. That slacking meant I had to run the last 1.5 or so miles at a decent clip (something like 8:00, maybe faster) to come in at 5:59:47. Considering my longest run since the Huntington Beach 10 Miler (6 months ago on 11/6/2011, pre-injury, 7:30 pace) was an 8 mile run 3 weeks ago ON A TREADMILL IN AN AIR-CONDITIONED HEALTH CLUB, I’m ok with my time. I expected to hurt myself on this race, so maybe the flats were a blessing, because my tendons are in good shape today.
SHOES. I wore my Brooks Ghost 4s for the cushy factor, but they are WAY too heavy and hold a LOT of water when they get wet. They were already wet from the rain and I was dumping ice in my shorts to keep cool, which, naturally, was running down my legs into my shoes. The weight of my sopping wet shoes and socks was very noticeable as the run went on.
ICE, SPONGES, WATER. Are amazing on a hot humid course.
CALF SLEEVES DURING A RACE. Are dead to me, once I’m healed. Jesus they were hot.
SALT TABLETS. I didn’t notice a difference, but I bet that’s why you take them.
KT TAPE (Pro/synthetic). Saved my life. Way better than the cotton stuff. Plus I tried a new taping (that I winged) based on one Caroline at SCAR applied not long ago, but geared more to the posterior tibialis and flexor digitorum longus. It worked startlingly well.
BLACK TOENAILS. Dammit, I was really hoping I’d never get them, but the wet shoes had my toes banging around a lot.
All in all, I finished in good spirits, and ripping off everything but my tri bottom and jumping in the cool, clear waters of the Caribbean was one of the to 10 best feelings of my life. It’s a shame I tanked another race, but I’m here for more than just a 70.3 – I have a honeymoon to enjoy, and now I’ll be able to go hiking. Maybe tomorrow.