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Plundering Polson: The 2012 Polson Triathlon Race Report

Well, I guess it’s about time to talk about some triathlon stuff on this triathlon blog. Sorry that I have been neglecting things lately. There should be much more interesting posts ahead as I plan my off season and attempt to keep getting faster. That or I am going to overload you on health bar/beer suggestions.

As it turns out, this weekend is a great time to return back to the focus of this blog. Yesterday, I had my last race of 2012 at the Polson Triathlon. Let’s get cracking on this epic report!

Prerace

To keep it short and simple: crap. Meaning that’s what I felt like. On the Monday before the race, I attempted to get some TrainerRoad intervals in. I hopped on and couldn’t even hold the starting watts well. I pushed myself up to FTP and I felt like Darth Vader was staring at my quads saying “I find your lack of power disturbing…”

After fifteen more minutes of that I called it quits. Demoralized, unmotivated, tired, and sleepy, I decided to finally just take a week off. I have had a day or two off this year, but not a week. That night, I was so tired I slept 11 hours.

The rest of the week I just swam purely for fun, jogged three miles or so, and road a recovery ride once.  I took two whole days off with nothing but lying around and beer.  With this plan, you would think I would have been feeling like a nuclear bomb ready to go off on race morning. Alas, life never works out that well. I saw a ton of patients sick with upper respiratory infections on Friday and wouldn’t you know it, I ended up getting a major sinus infection Friday night. With a massive one sided headache coupled with fevers and chills, I hit the sack around 10:00 the night before the race. Unfortunately, I woke up around 0500 still achy and with a headache. Despite my horrible stomach history with racing after Advil, I took 400mg and poured myself plenty of coffee. As I stood in the shower, I weighed my options as such:

  1. Stay in bed, snuggle the wife, and be grumpy all day because I am sick and not working out.
  2. Go to race, at least workout for two plus hours, and try to beat this virus into submission.

After a long, long conversation myself, I chose option 2. I threw my gear into the truck, stopped at Starbucks for a scone and two shots of espresso in a tall cup of black coffee, and headed down to Polson.  Just to be sure my stomach wouldn’t erupt because of the Advil, I also took one Prilosec OTC as a last ditch effort to protect my stomach lining.

During the drive down, the Advil/Coffee/Espresso/HEED/Prilosec/Scone mixture calmed my headache and chills. I got to transition surprisingly early and I easily found parking on a side street.

At athlete check in, I was greeted with some unbelievable schwag. The race was 70 dollars, and that got me a waterbottle, a sweatshirt, and a free full lunch after the race. They also raffled off 2 brand new triathlon frames. I left before they gave it away. If they called my name, please don’t tell me as ignorance is bliss.

After taking care of business in the portable deaths, I got set up in transition. Unfortunately, this was not one of my best race mornings. First, I forgot my watch. Second, my Garmin didn’t charge on the way down. So I had no data or feedback on pacing during the race. Third, for some reason I couldn’t get my race number on my race belt until I harnessed the hammer of Thor. Then, when I did get it on, I realized I had put the wrong bib (we had two). My left thumb is currently bruised.

One good thing is that my first panorama with Photosynth seemed to work decently well. I have fallen in love with this stuff, so expect more pics from my races in the future. Take a look at pre-race transition.

Swim: 1500meters, 28:24, 1:44/100yd, 2/9 AG, 15/65 Male, 25/108 Overall

At 0900, the women went first and then it was the men’s turn. The water was wonderfully warm and clear. The only bad thing was that there was a slight current and it was plenty choppy. Not CDA choppy, but enough to be a challenge. I set myself up just back of the front and off we went at 9:20.

After my horrific performance at the Whitefish Lake Swim (1 mile at 29:01), I decided to just focus on smooth and moderate swimming. I just wanted to stay on form and feel the water. So instead of flailing the beginning, I started off slowly. This seemed to work well as I quickly found myself on some feet. Going out to the first buoy, the current surprisingly moved me off course a little, but I was able to correct. After I made the left turn, I was swimming faster as I was more with the current. Again, I found myself wavering in direction slightly because of the current, and I overshot to the right of the turn buoy.

The real trouble started as I turned near 180 degrees and made my way back to transition. The waves were moving pretty good, and I took in enough gulps of water that you would have thought I was swimming in an IPA. Fortunately, the sun was in a good spot and I was able to keep my eye on the buoys between swells.

One of the “unique” features of the swim was that it was one of those two loop deals that involved running along the dock before jumping in to start the second loop. Some may call that annoying. I found it fun and different. It was a little tricky as I attempted to stand up on the slippery boat ramp. After tip toeing gently, I found myself on land and I quickly ran along the dock. I attempted to do a back flip as I dove back in the water, but it turned into a huge (for a 136 pound guy) cannon ball. I did find myself about five feet under water when I did this but what the hell, it was FUN.

As I started the second lap, I had no idea how I was doing time wise. All I knew was that I had almost no company as I headed back out to the first buoy. After turning to the next buoy, I had better luck navigating and ended up right on target. Again, after turning for home, I was bobbing all over. My form started to slip a little here, but I slowed up and settled back into a smooth rhythm. I just concentrated on catching the water and not who was next to me.

As I approached the boat dock, I kicked my feet to pump some blood, and I slid back up the boat ramp to shore. A quick glance at the clock showed 28:00 ish, which I knew was right on for my usual swim, especially with a current, waves, and the dock run. Interestingly, I swam my typical time with much less effort.

T1: Long

I don’t know what the deal is. Sometimes my wetsuit comes off like a banana peel. Sometimes it is stuck on like a deer tick. Today was tick season. It took me a good minute to get my suit off this time. I got so frustrated that after I was freed, I forgot to put my bib number on. Oh well. At least the helmet, shoes and glasses went on well.

Bike: 24.9 Miles, 1:12:29, 20.6 mph avg, 2/9 AG, 12/65 Male, 14/108 Overall

Hitting the bike, I felt great immediately. There was a hill right out of transition. This was followed by a very bumpy section through some neighborhoods for a few blocks. After that it was finally out onto the open road. I took in three people right here. As I settled into aero, I couldn’t believe how well I was feeling. A slight tail wind may have been a factor.

Having ridden the course the week prior, I knew there was a large hill at the beginning and that this was followed by a technical but a mostly slightly downhill section. So, I hammered up the first climb. Again, my w/kg worked favorably and I made mince meat of the hill. I continued to push it over the top and down the other side.

After making the turn towards Kerr Dam, the road went from smooth asphalt to something that resembled the surface of the moon. Many kudos go out to Matt Seeley and the City of Polson. They marked the numerous hazards/rough spots with paint as well as repaved some of the bad sections. Still though, it was pretty rough riding. I don’t think this slowed me down at all, but there was plenty of weaving involved. To make things more exciting, there were several 90 degree turns involved. These were nerve racking, especially as some came on a downhill, but fun was had. As is typical for those back country roads, there was a deep dip in the apex of the turns, and briefly it felt like I was on a track as I passed through.

After making my way to the lowest elevation of the course near the school, I made a left hand turn into a false flat with some bumps and a headwind. I immediately felt the change in power needed to keep moving forward fast, so I returned to hammering it. I figured this would be the place that would separate the field. It was painful going, and I just concentrated on pedaling circles and using my knees as pistons. For a few small rises, I stood in the saddle to keep momentum up and over. Unfortunately, the road surface was so rough that I think I can be called Teddy. (If you are scratching your head, Google Teddy Roosevelt and Rough Riders).

After this section, the course’s second “major” hill showed up. This was a short but somewhat steep section and I kept pedaling circles right up without a problem. After that, it was back onto the main road for an exhilarating downhill with a tail wind. It was awesome to get back onto the smooth surface after being vibrated in the crotch the wrong way for 15 miles.

As I approached the flip on Back Road, I finally got a chance to see the rest of the men. For the entire ride, I didn’t see one male in my age group. Finally, a couple of guys passed going the other direction, and I set my sights on the closest. After flipping, it was a slight uphill with a cross wind and I used the elevation to my advantage. I knew if I didn’t catch the guy in front of me before the big downhill into town started, he’d make himself scarce. So I hammered it up and passed him in a few minutes. After a few rises, it was a biggest gear descent back into town. The wind wasn’t too bad, and I was able to stay in the bars for most of the time. I would guestimate (remember, no Garmin) I topped out around 40-45 mph. I had read something recently from Linsey Corbin that keeping your weight forward on the bars can help maintain stability in the wind and this seemed to work pretty well.

After the downhill, it was back through the neighborhoods and into transition. Hilariously, I braked to hard with the front at the mounting line and ended up doing this “reverse wheelie” side slide thing that left me sideways to the line. I didn’t end up ass to asphalt, so I’ll take it.

T2: Good

This went very well. Took an extra few seconds to put socks on. Hat. Glasses. Running belt on as I left transition.

Run: 6.2 miles, 46:19, 7:28 pace, 3/9 AG, 15/65  Men, 22/65 Overall

Okay, here is when the real fun began. As I am leaving transition, I am feeling horrible per custom. Legs all gooey. Form short and quick. But…no cramps. I would say the theme of this course is space maximization. When you start out of transition, you make a small loop of the tiny park by essentially running its entire perimeter, even though this all happens in the space of 150 yards.

After the park tour, I headedup some stairs to the main road. Right at this time, I heard breathing behind me. As I reached the top of the stairs, a guy in my AG group went right by. CRAP. This was the only person to pass me on the course at this point, so I had no idea what this meant. Was he 1st place or eighth place? I think this lack of pace knowledge was helpful as I didn’t let it make me nervous. I decided to just run my own race rather than chase.

However, after two blocks or so, I realized that the fine gentleman that had passed me was no longer gaining distance on me. In fact, he seemed to be getting closer and my pace seemed to be getting stronger. Hmmm….why not I thought. I soon caught up and decided to just let this guy pace me through the run. Coming through mile one, I was feeling good and taking a good “draft” from him.

I reached to grab a water at the aid station here, and that threw me off slightly and I lost a few yards. At that time, I could feel the pace starting to hurt a bit, so I figured it was time to try a new tactic. I told myself that anytime I was hurting, I would surge for about 30 seconds and then come back to my original pace. So, I just picked landmarks and surged between them. Two telephone poles. Two cars. Two roadkills. Whatever I needed to focus on. Unbelievably, this worked great. As soon as I stopped surging, it felt better, even though I was still running my earlier pace.

I quickly caught up with my pacer and we continued the cat and mouse game over two miles. I never went in front of him; perhaps a mistake in retrospect. Oddly enough, I seemed to lose distance on him at every corner and aid station. I can understand the aid station phenomenon, but not really the corners. I guess I need to practice running efficiently through turns. Anyhow, everything was going well until we reached the big hill in the course right after mile three. Despite my abilities in hill running, this was too much for me to bear. In addition, I started getting cramping in my quads again. This makes two races that this has happened. Rather than kill myself chasing this guy, I decided to let him go and continue my fartlek back home.

The big uphill was followed by a downhill and then we were heading home. I took in one other male here. He was able to hold for a while, but my constant surging soon left him behind. Right around this time, I had another triathlon first (yes, it still happens after 4 years). As I was sucking in air, I inhaled an enormous fly. Rather than going down the tube to the stomach, it got stuck in my throat. Naturally, this was not quite comfortable, and I started hacking up bug bits. Fortunately, it does not appear I got stung and after a few more hacks, my infestation was exterminated. YUM.

The last portion of the run course was again a lesson in space maximization as I essentially ended up running laps around a baseball/soccer field. I was expecting to catch a pop to left field or get slide tackled at any moment. This was poorly kept grass surface, and ever since my near face plant at Spring Meadow, I have been very hesitant when running on the green. Fortunately, I emerged from the playing fields with two functioning ankles.

As I headed into the last few blocks, a quick glance behind me showed no one within a block. Still, I kept my surge/pace pattern right up to the end. As I crossed the line in front of Cove Deli, I found my pacer still huffing. Almost, but no cigar.

Synopsis: 2:27:12, 2/9 AG, 9/65 Male,  11/108 Overall

After I finished up, I shook the hand of my pacer. Looking around though, there didn’t seem to be many finishers. I glanced at the official clock, and from that, I felt I was a bit slow for the day. I quickly gathered my stuff out of transition and on the way back to the truck, I decided to stop and check in at the timing tent. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Somehow, I had taken second. As it turns out, the pacer and I had been working for first place. Awesome. I only wish I had known like 24 minutes earlier.

Looking at the field, I think I am more of a comfortable 3rd place. I saw there was a flat on the course, and looking at the names in my group, the times don’t make sense. But hey, that be the breaks.

After getting changed and staring at the results again in disbelief, I chowed down on a HUGE, FREE, YUMMY, sandwich from the Cove Deli.

This race was a great way to end my 2012 season. This was my fastest ever 10k in an Olympic distance race. Thanks to my triathlon buddies at T6P, the gains I have made this year have been incredible personally. I am looking forward to what I can accomplish over this winter and to next year’s performances. It’s going to be an interesting hibernation in the pain cave.

As for this inaugural Polson triathlon, it was a great event. The course was challenging yet beautiful, and the support from the local community was incredible. In Montana, I am used to being in races with barely one aid station. There were FIVE aid stations on the run course, each with a different theme. My favorite was the super hero one.  Plus, the ability to finish in downtown Polson was incredible. I also loved the wading swim start. Finally, to get a water bottle, sweatshirt, and a huge lunch for a 70 dollar race fee is simply incredible. And no, this wasn’t any usual half assed deli meat concoction from the local grocery store. I got the “Walk the Plank” from Cove Deli and it was divine. I highly recommend the place if you need a yummy sandwich in Polson.

I will definitely be back next year. Bravo to Matt Seeley and this team.

Descent into Helena

It’s been one Helena of a week for me. I had two days’ worth of meetings in Helena to attend followed by a crazy “exciting” day in clinic today that involved a helicopter. To top that off, I have a raging cold right now that is probably secondary to a suspiciously smelly 45 dollar hotel room.

It hasn’t been all bad though. I had some free time while in Helena, and I used the opportunity to get in a good ride and run combo. First up, the ride. I am doing the Helena Spring Meadows Olympic Triathlon on July 1 this year, and I figured now was a good time to do a TT on the race course. I did this course two years ago in perfect, no wind weather in 1:11 ish. In contrast, when I hit the road Wed, it was blowing something fierce on the course.  +25mph gusts easy and the headwind started from the get go. Here’s the data:

Spring Meadows Olympic Triathlon Course

Slow and painful at the beginning.

Like riding over a volcano.

I love this course. It’s pretty much uphill until right around the turn around, but I’m into climbing these days. There are also plenty of cool small bumps that are fun to get out of the saddle on and surge over with momentum. With the wind, it was damn near brutal on the way out. After the flip, things weren’t quite good either because it was mostly a crosswind. But after you make it to the top of that second peak, it’s a screaming downhill to the transition. LOVE IT. Oddly enough, it seems that I am only ever going uphill or downhill when I’m in Helena.

I’m pretty happy to have ridden as fast as two years ago with the wind problems. I’m hoping to see some good numbers on race day.

On Thursday, the wind was replaced with drizzle. Fortunately, it was time to lace the shoes, and I was thankful for the extra cooling. For my trek, I chose the mostly gravel Grizzly Gulch Drive. I parked next to the Blackfoot River Brewery and headed up. I just love this elevation profile.

Run up Grizzly Gulch Drive

As painful as it was going up, it was hilariously fun going back down. I felt like I was flying by the time I made it back to the brewery.

Perfect

As you might have guessed, I didn’t start my run at Blackfoot River Brewery by coincidence. After the eight miles I rested my legs and tummy with a nice IPA on their patio. Just a perfect experience. If you are ever in Helena, I highly recommend Blackfoot. All they do is serve beer, and it shows. You can only get a few and they don’t serve beer after eight (weird brewery law), but it is still worth the visit. The staff is super nice, the tap choices are great, and the atmosphere is perfect for sharing a good brew with some friends.

How that for choices?

Tomorrow, I am racing, but in a different way. My daughter is doing her first 5k, and I’m joining her, cold or not. Pics to come!

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