Thursday, June 3, 2010

WTHalf: The Run

As I've said before, the run was an enormous question-mark for me. I'd been afraid to run - afraid to even flex my calf - since the previous Tuesday, when I strained/aggravated something in my calf/achilles. If there had ever been a course designed to cause an injury like that to flare back up, it was this one.

The 13.1 mile course was actually a series of three 4.4-mile loops. The first mile or so of each lap was a flat trail-run on a narrow path through the forest. Large rocks and roots on the trail made footing uneven in places, but the shade was more than welcome. The next mile and a half was downhill on mostly asphalt, followed by two miles uphill (one of them steeper, one of them not so much) back to the finish.

The first thing I noticed about my fellow triathletes: no one was sprinting. In my previous triathlon experience, I could only remember being blown aside by runners going a million miles-per-hour. I realized, though, that those shorter triathlons are more conducive to faster paces. For those of us there, that day, we were trying to do something a lot longer than a 5K after our ride: we were in it for a 20K haul.

This meant I was able to settle into a comfortable pace and not have to worry so much about my "competition" streaking by. I even found a few others running at or near my pace and struck up conversations with them. Ross had just completed the Silverman a few weeks before and was jovially introducing himself to most folks as they crossed paths. Jeff was a physical therapist from Reno and was participating in the duathlon. We talked off and on about training strategy and diet, and it certainly helped pass the time.

Charging to the finish
The temperatures definitely peaked during the run, so I forced myself to grab water at every available stop - and downed at least one gel per lap. The rest of it was about putting one foot in front of the other. When I finished the first lap without my calf withering and falling off, my confidence grew. The second lap melted away, and at the start of the third, it dawned on me: I was going to make it.

The finish line!
That last lap wasn't easy, as I definitely began to feel the weight of the work I'd been doing since early morning. My legs felt like lead on that final ascent, but once I could see the finish line, all of that pain washed away. I crossed the line just after Jeff, downed a blessedly cool bottle of Cytomax and sat down to take it all in. I had completed my first Half Ironman!

The post-race meal was delicious: pasta, smoothies, bars, cookies, even ice cream. The only one thing was missing: beer. I took my time, enjoying the food and the warm summer sun as other participants crossed the line. I stuck around for results and a few of the awards, then packed my gear and bike into my Civic and was San Francisco-bound by 2 PM.

In the end, I was 33rd overall (of 300 or so participants) and 7th in my age group. First in the swim, in the 50's in the bike and run. I can do better, but I was and continue to be totally pleased with my performance in this event. I trained right, paced well and finished strong. What more could a guy ask for? I have a few lessons-learned, but I'll save those for another post. The Auburn Triathlon was a truly great experience. I'll definitely be back next year.

Mission accomplished.