Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Black Diamond Half Ironman Race Report

I put the Black Diamond Half Ironman on my race schedule this fall for a couple reasons: 1) it’s local and low-key, 2) I haven’t had a chance to race it since 2008, and 3) it would fit nicely as a training race to get back in the swing of things after a mid-season break post-IMCdA. July and August were spent relaxing, visiting friends and family, taking time to be support or be a spectator at races, and enjoying parts of summer that are sometimes neglected when I try to fit in too many “A” races (*for this triathlete) in too little time. That said, my workouts have been pretty light over the past couple months and my fitness on race day was going to be a big old question mark.

Black Diamond is about 90 minutes southeast of Seattle, tucked behind some farm country with, if it’s clear, views of Mt. Rainier on the drive down. The swim is in Deep Lake and start/finish lines and transition area are located in Nolte State Park. In my opinion, it’s a great setting for a small race (Saturday had 168 HIM racers, Sunday had about 230 sprint and Olympic racers). If I had little kids and a husband, I’m sure they’d find it very family friendly. The start time is a reasonable 9am, so I could get up at my normal 5:05am and hit the road just after 6, and still have plenty of time to talk to a few friends at the start, set up my transition area in an okay spot, and get in a good warm-up jog and swim before it was go time.

Swim – 33:10 I swam well for the first three quarters of the race and then I felt just tired, like my lack of fitness was catching up with me. With about 500m to go, I took a few strokes to calm down and swam steady to the swim finish. The women start with the relays, 5 minutes behind the elites, and 4 minutes behind the rest of the men’s field. (I found out there was an elite wave 10 minutes prior to the race. It ended up being 5 men. I’m glad I didn’t start with them.) This meant there were some slower guys to swim through for the majority of the swim. But for the most part, it’s a pretty honest swim – clear markings, and because the lake is small and tree-lined, calm water.

T1 and bike – I ran out of the water semi-pleased with my swim, but was truly grasping for air and didn’t have the spring in my step that I normally do to try to fly through transition. Even getting my arms out of my wetsuit felt like a chore. T1 was a slow 2:52 (it’s a small transition area) and then I was out on the bike with what felt like a really high heart rate. For the first 8 miles I felt slow and powerless. I tried to eat, but chewing my delicious chocolate powerbar seemed like work and I had to spit it out. I coughed up some lake water and thought it was going to be a REALLY long day, like one of those days you almost hope something goes so wrong that you have to stop (seriously, bad self-talk going on at first). Then, I got passed by two girls. That’s when things started to feel a little better and I was riding a more normal speed. I certainly wasn’t crushing it and my legs felt flat versus rested, strong, and peppy, but I stayed in good position and came into T2 in a somewhat respectable 2:43.

Run – the woman who finished the bike 30 seconds in front of me stopped to eat a ham sandwich in transition (not really, but she was not fast out of T2), so I passed her and by the time I was out on the road I thought I might be in first place. My run legs felt okay, not great, but strong enough, and I was just hoping to keep it in the low 7s to finish out my training race. At mile 2.5 I saw a girl who was a good 10+ minutes ahead of me. My thought was “dang! She had a monster swim-bike!” At mile 6 she was four minutes ahead, and at mile 7 three minutes. At that point, I stopped worrying about my pace and focused on the chase. I glanced at my watch a few times and was running steady 7:10s-7:20s. The run course is actually pretty tough; there are a lot of out and backs that go up and over hills and the last mile and half is a lap around the lake, which is cool, but also hilly and rocky. On the last out and back, I was about 20 seconds down and an older guy racing told me, “you’re going to catch her.” I love the old dudes who race. By mile 10, I made the pass and was on my way to the finish. At that point, since it was pretty much a training day and there were no girls hot on my heels, I could cruise in and leave the deep digging in the well for another day. My final run split was 1:37 for a finish time of 4:58:00. I later chatted with the woman I passed on the run only to find out she was part of a relay and her boyfriend/husband (?) had the monster bike. She was really nice and said that she was going to tell me she was part of a relay, but by the last time I saw her, she knew I’d pass her anyway. Besides, it was really fun to have someone to try to catch.
From Left: Swim course in Deep Lake, typical countryside views, beer tent at the finish.
Finish times were a bit slower this year (I think my time would have put me in 3rd last year), but it was still nice to show up as the fastest female on that day. It was a reminder that I have a lot of work to do for the rest of the season. My bike and run aren’t quite where they need to be [my swim is a work in progress] to race as fast as I’m able, nor is my overall fitness. But that was really no surprise. I’ve had very few rides over 3 hours or runs over 90 minutes in the last couple months and that’s been entirely by design. Without any big races from July to now (just fun stuff), I was able to afford some rest and give my body a break. That break is now over and just like my training schedule shows, it’s business time until the end of October.

Thank you to the folks at AA Sports who put on an excellent event! There was a tasty lunch with my favorite dessert – strawberry shortcake, and lots of fresh fruit, and a beer garden serving up Deschutes beer, 2 per racer; this lightweight limited herself to 1 (post-exercise and a long drive home...I had to be responsible). As a bonus, the overall winners were given big beer steins, a 6-pack of Deschutes, a loaf of organic bread, and other fueling goodies. I’d recommend this race to anyone in the Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia area or anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. It’s good for experienced racers looking for a fast course or a training race and it’s great for new triathletes (sprint, Olympic, and tri-it races too).  Besides, it’s always nice to support the smaller, local races.

Back to work!

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