After a mediocre season and a lot of uncertainty I decide it may be good for me to do another half distance race. If I do well and if I get green light from the cardiologists, thee is that lat season Ironman in Los Cabos I could do, one of the first ones to qualify for Kona 2018 . Quite a trip but worth it if I felt I was ready for it and I was sure I would qualify.
First things first. I arrive in Cultus Lake and am shocked to see how busy it is here. There is people and cars everywhere, tight roads and no shoulders. I put all my trust into the race director. This race has been around for a while, so far nobody has died (to my knowledge) so they must have a system to deal with that kind of traffic.
I spend the days leading up to the race exploring the course, a few hills on the first 20km of the bike but beyond that a pancake flat bike course – I should be fast. The run course though has some hidden gems, running on the beach for a few hundred meters – twice per lap, times 4 laps equals altogether too much time on sand, add in some bumpy trail running and a short but significantly steep climb on each lap as well – this is going to hurt.
Race morning is a little cooler than anticipated (but hey I promised to not to criticize the weather any more) but manageable. Once warmed up I look around and notice there is only about 60 people in this race, everybody else signed up for the olympic or sprint. I know this was going to be a small race – but that is really small – I better not embarrass myself here; fortunately nobody knows me 🙂
I swim very well and relaxed, not fast but I come out of the water in 7th position which is pretty much unheard of – maybe racing in a small race like this is an advantage..Out of transition I can’t really find my rhythm on that first hilly part of the bike but make good time. The last 70km in the flats are harder than I thought. Training in the “mountains” of Kimberley does not give a lot of practicing opportunity for a flat course. The stress on the body is very different in the flats. I am glued into the same aero position and there is no chance to relax ever, no downhills to spin out on or to just stop pedaling for a few seconds. I start hurting at around 80km into the bike but it is not unbearable, I push through it and finish at a decent time. Not as fast as I wished for but my average watts (measure of how much power I put in the pedals independent of hills) are higher than I have ever achieved at this distance. So I can be happy. I am not sure but I think I am in 4th position or somewhere around there as I start on the run. My main goal her is to not re-live Coeur d’Alene, so I really focus on my heart rate and run away at a very controlled speed. Fast enough to pass a guy, that rarely happens on the run…I must be doing something right….
Soon I get a lesson in fast running though and the really fast runners come and pick me up, first one, then a second one. These guys are just flying! One of them slows down for a moment, asks if I know what position I am in, so I give them the intel I have, he thanks me and blasts off…wait a minute am I standing still? Quick check, nope I am moving at at good pace but nothing compared to this guy…
About 15km into the run the combination of climbs and sand is starting to have an effect on me, I start falling apart and get passed by one more guy. I manage to maintain my running form somewhat though, come across the line and finish 7th overall. 4:51:30 My fastest time yet in a 70.3 race but definitely too slow to build on for a successful IRONMAN race in November. My season is over. I am somewhat bummed out but mainly happy that my heart played along. I’ll wait for my consultation with the cardiologist in November and will have to plan for my 2018 season accordingly. Given that it is a long drive home I hop in the car, which I loaded up with food prior to the race and spend 9 hours doing nothing but eat – might as well start the off season in style!