Monday, December 22, 2008
Phil's Rotorua Half race report (also long...) (photos should be viewed from the bottom up)
While Kate and I have gotten fairly used to early (often 5 am) starts for morning workouts, I thought a 4 am (after a night of fairly little sleep) start might be a little harder. However, once the alarm went, I woke up fairly easily, and didn’t feel the need to lie around in bed (I presume this is a pre-race anticipation). I had a good breakfast, finished getting my stuff together, packed the car, and headed off to the race.
We got to transition at about 5:20, and found a nice empty spot to set up (there is no shortage of transition space for this race). Went and lined up for the toilet (while there were no lines in the adjacent women's toilet, which was novel), then ran back up to transition and got my wetsuit on. After heading down to the lake, someone asked me if I was in a team - when I said no, they said I should get in the water because the men were starting in about a minute! Turns out it is an in water start (I had no idea), so I wished Kate luck and headed into the water. I placed myself about halfway in the field - I think this was about right. I passed a few men, I got passed by a few men, but I certainly didn’t have a pack of people coming over the top of me.
I got into a reasonably good rhythm on the first leg (900 metres) and managed to draft off different people for a fair amount of it. Although the buoy was a long way away, and you had to rely on the people in front of you (and the people in front of them) I took a fairly direct route, and wouldn't have wandered off course too much. At the first buoy I was feeling relaxed, and my suit wasn't feeling as restrictive as it some times can (on the right in particular - is that normal?). On the way back, sighting was a bit harder, but I still think I took a reasonably good route. I lost some of my drafting buddies, although comfortably picked up my effort, and found some people to follow some of the time. The last 200 was good - it just felt great to know that I was nearly at the end of a 2 km swim! I didn’t nail myself, but did increase the tempo slightly. I saw a lot of people getting up and walking early, but I swam for as long as I could - and when out of the water, I ran to transition, and passed quite a few people. I'm not sure how long the swim took (I think 35/36ish) because my race time includes transition (39.37) - I'm happy with this, because my fasted 1 km in the pool is about 18:30! The normal transition stuff was quick (my wetsuit removal has been very fast recently), but I had to put compression socks on, so transition took a little longer than it might have otherwise.
My heartrate was elevated when I started the first climb on the bike, but it settled fairly quickly, and I steadily passed quite a few people heading up the first climb. I then pushed it on the first downhill, then passed quite a few people again heading down Tarawera. The way out was great, with a nice tailwind. I passed a lot of people, but I don’t think I paced myself very well. I started fading a bit towards the end of the first half, although I did the 45 k in 1:15. The way back was much harder - 2 killer climbs, head winds and rough roads. I got passed by a few people, but more than that I lost touch with quite a few people I'd been 'riding' with (I'd see them again on the run, however…) The Hell's Gate climb was very hard, and although I made up time on a few people, just couldn’t push as hard as normal. The road back into Rotorua was the least fun part of the race - rough and with a headwind. I was just not able to push as hard as I would have liked, even though my heartrate was fairly low. I did a lot of structured training, which I think gave me real gains, but I only did one ride over 90 km, and I wonder whether I just didn’t quite have the bike endurance I needed. The long climb up Tarawera was fun. Slow. But fun. I passed a lot of people and felt good (although once I got to the top, could not push hard on the down hills). I pushed a bit on the last downhill, but then basically rolled into transition. Total bike time 2:54:56 (so second half a lot slower). This includes T2, which was about a minute (quick, given the distances I had to travel to get into and out of transition. Got my running shoes and headband on, grabbed the 2 gels I had waiting, and off I went.
The start of the run was off-road, and after 5 or so minutes, with a few short, sharp, climbs. I was feeling good, and, again, passed a few people. I was not pushing too hard, but got into a good rhythm. After about 4 km or so, I started feeling fairly average. I was getting sharpish stitch type feeling, but a bit higher up, and I needed to take a pee. I eventually stopped heading up to the gun club for a quick bathroom break, and immediately felt a bit better. I kept running through the stitch, and it eventually went away. Once I got to the Tarawera lookout turnaround I was feeling good. I had a couple of people to hunt down, and started picking up the pace. I passed one guy (from Wellington, don’t really know him, but have seen him at lots of races) who I'd had a bit of a back and forward with on the bike (he was one of the people I lost touch with thought) about a km or so later - he commented that I was looking strong, which was nice. I then started hunting down my other target, and I was picking up the pace. Once I got to the downhill I pushed the pace even more, and managed to pass my target just on the start of the single track. I kept pushing the pace, knowing the finish was nearing (although the sharp climbs were hard - the bike meant my butt and hammies were sore!). I then pushed it and kept passing people all the way to the finish. 1:43:47 - really happy (given my first half marathon!), and I think I could have pushed harder. The finish line was a comedy of errors - I heard people sprinting after me, so I started bolting (and easily out-ran them), but I turned too early, and hard to jump the fence to get to the finishing chute - but I had to go back 15 or so metres, because the timing mat was at the start of the chute, not the end (the finish line photos are a funny sequence, although unfortunately there's no picture of my bounding over the fence... Most people got 1 photo, I got 5)! So glad my calves played nice - I really do think the compressions socks helped (and they matched the white sunnies and headband well…)
Total time, 5:18:31. Absolutely stoked with this. I enjoyed the race immensely. The course (apart from a few bits on the bike) is absolutely stunning, and a real challenge. I'll be back next year, and I'll be going sub 5. I'm still not sure that Olympic distance isn’t a better distance for me - but either way this is a great race for me to keep doing.
A few points:
I think I can go faster in the swim - not only because I'll have been swimming for more than a year, but because I can push harder than I am.
I think I needed some longer rides - I was lacking cycle endurance, and although I don’t think this hampered my running that much, I did flag on the bike.
I was again surprised at how good my running was given I haven't been able to finish a half marathon, and injuries also meant my longest training runs were about 1:15 long. With a good (and hopefully injury free!) running season behind me I think I'll be flying.
Having a coach was invaluable. While not everything I did was perfect, it was great not to have to worry about the planning, and to have a real variety to my workouts, and to have them structured to take account of injuries, strengths and weaknesses. And Gene rocked.
Nutrition was ok - I think I maybe took a bit too much in on the bike, but I'm not sure. During the run I had a headache - I thought it was my sunglasses pressing into my temples, but it wasn't. I wonder whether I didn’t drink enough to take in enough electrolytes - particularly given it got to 25 degrees on the run. Coke is magic - absolutely magic. The gels I took on the run didn’t upset me, but I'm not sure whether my tummy/stitch issues early in the run were a consequence of anything I ate on the bike.