So a couple weeks back I did a fun little race in Oshkosh. It was an Olympic distance race…sort of. The swim was ¾ or a mile as opposed to .9 miles. The bike was 32 miles instead of 24.8. But the run was still a 10k.
The lead up to this race was a bit interesting, so I’ll talk about that first as it impacted my race in a pretty significant manner.
Friday was a swim/long run day. Nothing really special about it except the run felt pretty poorly. After about 30min of running I started to feel alright and finished the 75 minutes without any problem. What I didn’t really think about after the run was hydrating for my big workout Saturday morning.
Saturday consisted of a 75 minute harder swim, 2 hours on the bike, and a 40 minute run. As usual I following my typical nutrition/hydration plan. Once again it was pretty hot outside, and during the ride I noticed I was dripping sweat everywhere…which is a little odd for me. It’s not that I don’t sweat, but this day I was really sweating. In any case, the ride did not feel that great despite being just a zone 2 ride. I got off for my 40 minute run and felt really bad. I cut the run about 20 minutes short and went into the Y to shower up and get ready. I felt bad enough where I decided to weigh myself…and I was 8 pounds lighter than what I should have been. I was dehydrated to say the least.
At that point I realized Oshkosh was not going to be a great day for me as there is no way to rehydrate that much in an afternoon.
Got up and had my normal race nutrition…couple ensure shakes plus a couple other things. Made sure I also took in a bunch of fluids and electrolytes. Got to the venue and noticed right away that it was really windy and the lake was whipped up pretty good. Got my whole transition area set up, chatted with a few people, did some warm up and got ready to race.
I was in the first wave, which was really nice. But in a sense I was a little nervous. I did not know the course and also knew there was a chance that I’d be leading the race. I was in wave 1, and being a good swimmer could put me up front. I wasn’t sure if there was a lead car or anything to help with navigation. I had looked over the map…but that’s only mildly useful.
Anyway, the horn goes off to start the first wave and off we go. My basic plan was to hit the swim at a pretty reasonable pace and go based on how I felt. But that plan was destroyed very early on as a rather large guy immediately to my right hit me upside my head to start the swim.
Now open water swimming can be a bit rough. And despite some pretty big talk on my part about gleefully hammering through crowds of newbies and being rough and all that, I really do try to be nice in the water. There isn’t any need to be mean, especially with new people.
Back to the race. So the fatty to my right hits me upside the head. We’re swimming next to each other, so maybe he didn’t realize I was so close. *whap*….he hits me again, in the back of the head...again. Okay, two times is a coincidence. *WHAP*. Okay, third time is no coincidence and I’m a little more than upset at this point. Keep in mind; we’ve only had the chance to take maybe 5-6 swim strokes. The race literally just started and he's hit me 3 times in the back of the head. The head (even mine) is a fairly small target.
*WHAP* -- THAT’S IT YOU FAT B*STARD. Four times is enemy action, no doubt about it.
I was downright mad. There is no call for hitting someone in the head 4 times. And frankly if your stroke sucks so bad that you’re swinging that wide accidentally, you don’t belong in the elite wave. Certainly not at the very front of the pack on the inside line. In any case, I came up out of the water like a great white shark coming for a fat seal. Put my arm in his upper back and took him underwater. I didn't hold him down or waste any time, just made sure he knew I wasn’t going to take that crap.
About 10-15s later the oddest thing happened. He swerved HARD left, right in front of me. I literally swam over his lower back because it was so unexpected. It was so odd that I actually thought I was off course for a second and had to look up for sighting before I realized it was him and not me. I was breathing to the left and I could literally see him swim right across and in front of everyone. Seriously, it was crazy as he swam at 90 degrees to the direction he should have been going.
After that I scrapped my plans to take it easy and dropped the hammer. I wanted out of the crowd...badly. The course was a big triangle and by the first buoy I was all alone and in the lead. From that point on I could not see another person anywhere around me.
I finished up the swim in 19:05, and as I got out of the water I actually heard people gasping and saying “holy sh*t, he’s already done swimming.” Looking at the final results, there was one person in another wave that beat me by 7 seconds. Except for him, the next fastest time was about 2 full minutes slower than us. So that's why people were talking about it...I was that far out in front of the elite wave.
I got on the bike and found out that there was a lead car. Keep in mind, this was a new experience for me. I’ve never led out a race before. As I was riding I very quickly noticed my legs were dead. Instead of holding 280w or so, I was averaging way less…embarrassingly so – 240w. I held onto the lead for almost the entire ride. But at mile 27/28 one biker passed me. I didn’t know it at the time but he was on a relay. The course was really nice and it was a pretty fun ride despite my case of dead legs. In hindsight its pretty obvious this was caused by dehydration.
I came into T2 and immediately saw the guy who passed me standing around and taking pictures. That’s when I knew it was a relay. So for the moment, I was actually in the lead. Hit the run and quickly realized I had forgotten my Garmin on the bike. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I am tied to that thing, there is a biological connection between me and my Garmin. I rely on it for pacing and comfort. But I was already too far to go back and get it. Fortunately I had a stopwatch on my other wrist…so I used that for pacing at the mile markers. I really had no idea where others were on the course however.
So I started off, and kind of thought I was running pretty slow. I just focused on keeping my stride short and fast. I was fully merged with the sprint race at this point, so I had no idea of who was who. I just kept on running. At mile one I saw my split and was actually happy as it was close to a 7:05. Considering how I felt, I thought that was pretty good. I was still in the lead.
Mile two was roughly the same at 7:05ish. Still in the lead. At that point I was on an out and back section of the course for the Olympic distance only. I could see the relay runner a ways in front of me. A biker came by and told me I was in the lead, which I knew. At mile 3 there was a turnaround…and the mile marker must have been off, because my split was like a 7:40, and I did not slow down that much. But it was here where I got my first look at the guy right behind me. And he was gaining pretty quick.
As I saw him, I knew my time in the lead was coming to a rapid close. I picked up my pace as best I could, but he was running considerably faster than me and after about half a mile he passed me. We talked for a moment and I told him to enjoy the lead as the guy in front was a relay. He then picked it up with no problem. I stayed with him until about mile 4, but if you look at his splits, his 10k time was faster than mine by about 5 minutes. So he was a full minute per mile faster than me on the run. Not much I can do about that unless my plan is to finish the race in a ditch gasping for air.
My 4th mile was a lot faster, 6:10 or so. But I am pretty sure that was a function of the mile markers since the previous mile was a 7:40. Put the two together it is just under a 7min/mile pace. The next two miles I merged with the sprinters again and had no idea who was who…but one person went ripping passed me REALLY REALLY FAST. I didn’t even catch his bib number he went by so quickly in the crowd. It turns out that he was from a later wave and was the overall winner of the race. He ended up running almost 10min faster than me. I'm not sure I could run a 5k at his 10k pace.
I finished up and took 3rd overall and 1st in my age group. I was a little lucky as one guy from my wave finished 4 seconds behind me and I had no idea he was there due to all the sprinters.
Overall, I was happy with the result, but not so happy with my performance. But hydration is a big part of race preparation and I screwed it up. So there isn’t anyone to blame but myself.
The next race on the schedule is Vegas. Training has been going well. I had to spend a week in Texas for work. I had no pool or bike, so I put in about 50 miles of running that week. For those that don't know, that's a lot of miles when you're used to running 30-35 miles per week. But overall it was a good experience. My legs the following week were very very tired and needed an extra day off. But imaginary or not, I feel like a stronger runner for having done it.
I'll post my thoughts and plans on Vegas in a few days.