Duluth, MN; August 25, 2013(by Rich Johnson)
Wow! What an amazing experience! I saw that this triathlon existed about July of 2012, and I immediately wanted to do it, I went to college in Duluth so I was well acquainted with the course. I was not ready for that distance last year, so I had to put it off until this year. I signed up in October and planned all my workouts based on this event. I worried a bit I was putting to much pressure on this one race, but it was just so exciting!!
I started doing 2 per day workouts in April, easy spinning in the morning and something else in afternoon. I had chosen Matt Fitzgerald’s half iron training plan that was available at Triathlete.com’s webpage. It’s a 16 week program and seemed to have enough volume and some speed stuff. I stayed very true to the plan except for when I raced, then I changed some things up.
OK, let’s get to it!
Taper week: Taper week sucks! Add the extra energy and combine it with anxiety and well…I’m still married. My wife is amazing! I tend to over think things, so I was second guessing everything this week! Checklist on Thursday, packed and ready to go! I am surprised I didn’t empty it all out and repack. We went to my in-laws on Friday morning, they live an hour out of Duluth. We drove into Duluth on Saturday and checked out the zoo with the kids while waiting for the hotel, which was 2 blocks from transition and on the run course! Saturday bike check in, pasta dinner at Grandma’s Sports Garden and try to get some sleep, I was only up a few times.
It’s a very early start time, 6:30 for the first wave. Just as well, I wasn’t sleeping anyway. Set up transition and have wetsuit half on when boarding the boat! They will not let you on the boat if you do not have a wetsuit on or in hand. Yes, I said boat…you ride out to the swim start and jump off the Vista Cruiser. I practiced jumping in the water just so I wouldn’t get water in my goggles. I got water in my goggles…had to flip over right away and empty them. Let me tell you that was the coolest thing!!! Jumping off the boat into swim start! The water was chilly, she said 62 degrees at the pre-race, but you know, it wasn’t uncomfortable. They empty the boat fast! 7 minutes and the first wave was all in the water, it’s a time trial start so as soon as one athlete clears, out you go, no thinking…just jump! My swim felt great, easy, not much contact, a little bumping around the turn buoys. I wanted to swim slow enough to breathe on both sides, it took awhile to get into rhythm. One and three quarter loops get out on a ladder, that was a bit tough and weird. 45 minutes…I felt faster and thought my training times were faster. I’ll blame my GPS watch.
T1: Take my time! It’s a LONG day! 4 minutes…had everything I wanted.
Bike: This is my weakness. I enjoy it, but I am not fast. Very cool course, up and down the North Shore. I passed a number of people while in town, that was kinda cool. Then I chilled out. David Lewis told me to take it easy, that seemed like good advice from an intelligent and experienced racer…I tried to do just that. About 20 miles in, I got passed by a guy in an areo position on areo bars with a bike that had fat tires…and I don’t mean 25 mm, I mean four inch, knobby suckers!! I passed him later when he had a flat. I stopped at both aid stations, apparently my hydration strategy was working! And, I refilled my water bottle at the second. Around mile 40 I started getting passed by what I assumed were the studs from the second boat, they went an hour later and were the fast guys. I had hoped to average 17 mph…16.8 and feeling good!
T2: Same objective…it’s a long day!
Run: This is my strength, and I like it. But I also knew that we were setting record heat index on this day in Duluth. So, I revised run goals in terms of time. The heat was brutal! Just no other way to describe it. I thought I would not be putting ice in my shorts, first aid station…ice in shorts. David recommended getting wet and staying wet and walking through EVERY aid station…thank you! I did, and it worked, I was able to run the whole course except the aid stations. I hit mile 12 and thought, not much to go. As I approached the finish, maybe the last quarter mile, I realized I was going to DO it…that was such a BIG feeling. 10:18 pace on the run 2:14 (I’m faster than that, but not this day!)
Nutrition: I can’t eat and drink like some people, one 24 oz. bottle of water with three salt stick tabs usually works(on the bike leg), I refilled on this day and drank most of the second. 4 gels and a nutrigrain bar on the bike, two more gels on the run and drinking a combination of water and gatorade, two more salt tabs. No GI distress, no puking, stayed clear headed and energized (as much as possible).
The take away: I can’t wait to go back and do it next year!!!!! I think I can go faster!