On September 19th, I raced in the Portage Lakes Olympic Tri outside of Akron OH. I decided only the day before to do the race, thinking that it would be a good change of pace from my typical weekend routine of long ride/long run, and a good tune-up opportunity with some speed three weeks prior to Kona. This would also be my first olympic distance race since 2007, so I was excited to once again try this distance and suffer in a little different manner than usual.
Jocelyn wasn't going to be making the trip with me for the race, but Ty and Kevin from the BallouSkies Team were both going to be doing the race so there would be some teammate company and friends to support. I drove up late Saturday afternoon and met up with Ty and Kevin at the Olde Harbor Inn for a drink, some stories, and some pre-race grub. After that it was off to the hotel to settle in for the night and to get some rest before the event. After some laughs, it was time for bed.
The next morning started with a modified race morning breakfast, maybe only taking in about half of the total calories I have become accustomed to eating before half and full ironmans. It was a short 15 minute drive to the race site where we picked up our packets, chips, and racked our bikes, all the morning of the race! It had been a while since I had done such a low key race, and it felt good to just go through the motions roaming freely in and out of transition with bags and gear strewn everywhere, mountain bikes, hybrids and road bike almost numbering triathlon bikes equally. I got out for a 15 minute or so warmup ride with some spin ups and tempo efforts, and then I was back to transition to grab the wetsuit and head down to the lake.
I signed up for the elite open category and started the race at the luxuriously late hour of 8:25am, after all of the sprint tri waves went off. I got in about a five minute warmup swim, some arm circles and pushups and then it was to the line. When the horn went off I ran through the shallows, dolphined out and was near the front and jockeyed a little for position. As usual the first 500 or so really hurt and I was sucking wind, but I made the first buoy in about 4th and that's where I stayed the rest of the swim. I found a decent rhythm and swam a pretty good course, only going a little offline once as I didn't spot one buoy early enough and zig-zagged a little. I came out of the water in 22:20 and was off to transition.
I was out of transition fast and did my 2nd ever flying mount with the shoes clipped in, and executed this flawlessly save for the slightly bunched up insole in my right shoe. I just pushed on, knowing that the ride should take less than an hour and I didn't have time to waste on comfort. Within the first two or three miles I caught and passed who I thought might be my main competition, while trying to strike that perfect balance between a high cadence, powerful pedal stroke, and a sustainable yet uncomfortable intensity. As the bike continued on I passed the remaining two athletes I figured were ahead of me from my wave and tried my best to keep the effort up. I found as the bike went on I really struggled to keep my HR at or above 170 as I was aiming, and saw it steadily dropping down toward my more well known HIM intensity. The bike still went well though on a fair and rolling, though short course where I biked a 55:30 for the fastest bike split.
T2 went fast and I was out onto the two lap run, just as both the swim and bike before were two laps as well. Each lap consisted of two out and back sections, giving you a great opportunity to get splits on your competitors. I started out with about a 30 second lead on the guy chasing me and went about trying to build on that throughout the run. My main goal for the race was to build throughout to a hard, nearly sprint tri, lactate type effort by the end. My HR was the highest it had been the whole race by the end and I had steadily built my lead over the 10k, keeping good form and quick feet throughout to run to a 35:46 and a 1:55:44 overall.
Coming across the line for the suspected, but uncertain win (no results whatsoever were available until two days later!)
Kevin finishing up strong.
Our fearless leader Ty coming in, proudly wearing the colors of BallouSkies.
In the end, it was a fun small town race, and a great tuneup for the big dance that gets underway now in 8 days time. It was fast and furious and I surely won't be reaching the same run speeds out in HI, but I know I will be racing with the same level of confidence and emotional intensity. Olympics hurt, but in a good way! Thanks for reading, and I hope everyone else is ready to rock their own end of season races as I am!