Lake Stevens was my 2nd Half Ironman race, and the prep for this race was very different than the prep for Austin 70.3 last October. Going into this race I had much more confidence in my ability, I had an additional 9 months of base under my belt, but I didn’t have a really consistent and focused build for Lake Stevens. I had about 7 weeks of good, quality training between the honeymoon and Lake Stevens – and I felt great going into this race. Unsure if I’d be seeing a PR, due to the dramatic differences in elevation between Austin (1,400 feet or so on the bike) and Lake Stevens (Garmin said almost 3,500 feet) – but I was as ready as I could be. The trip up to Lake Stevens was quite long on Saturday, Seattle traffic seemed like it was against us and it took us close to 6 hours to get from Portland to the race expo. With that said, we made it just in time for the athlete briefing, got some tips on the tricky corners during the bike, picked up some gear, got the bike checked in, and were out of there within an hour. Because of the traffic that morning, we decided to find pre-race pizza closer to the hotel in Everett. I’m much more relaxed the night before a race now compared to last year – but I still enjoy having a beer to relax the night before a race, I got all packed up and ready for the morning and was in bed by 10am, with a daunting 4am wake up call ahead of me the next morning.
The race-morning traffic in Austin was so bad that I (literally) almost missed the race. Because of that, there was no getting around it, we were going to be leaving early for Lake Stevens. I woke up at 4, and had the following for breakfast: 1 cup of coffee, 1 scoop of Hammer HEED in 24 oz. of water, 2 Trader Joes sourdough english muffins w/ almond butter, and a banana. With a successful #2 taken care of, we were on the road by 5:15. Traffic was a piece of cake, and in less than 20 minutes from Everett we were parked in our reserved spot in one of the lots downtown (definitely worth the $20 at the race expo!!!) I had plenty of time to get my nutrition setup on the bike, the chance to meet some fellow Team 10 Barrel athletes, and to get my mind right for the task at hand.
The Swim (1.2 miles – 31:57 – 1:39/100m)
The M25-29 wave started 3rd from last (I believe). The male pros started at 6:30, and we didn’t start until 7:03 – needless to say, almost right away there was big time traffic. I swam steady and made it out to the end buoy in 15:30 feeling very in control, by the time I was making my way back I was just passed 16 minutes. I knew that sub 30 minutes might not happen, but that a PR for the 1900m swim was definitely possible. I swam hard, but in control weaving in and out of countless age groupers back-stroking, breast stroking, etc and swam in just under 32 minutes. My swim was 14th in my division, and 176th overall.
The Bike (56 mile – 2:44:07 – 20.47mph)
After a smooth T1, I was off on the bike. I felt good right away, making an emphasis to lower my heart rate and to wait until it dropped to start my nutrition. Right away I was in the fast lane passing constantly, it seems impossible to avoid ‘drafting’ at times with the starts being this way but I did my best to obey the rules. By mile 5 I had already seen 3 ambulances tending to badly injured athletes, I had heard that the course was known for sharp corners, so I made the mental note to really be safe while cornering – even if that meant I would leave a little time out there. The ride went by really quickly. Despite the crazy amount of climbing, my legs felt good the whole time and I know I left it all out there. My goal of beating my time in Austin didn’t happen, but I was WAY more competitive at this race which felt so awesome. By the time I finished the bike I was 12th in my division and 145th overall.
The Run (13.1 miles – 1:29:28 – 6:49/mi)
T2 was fast for me (1:58) most likely because I came off the bike barefoot and really flew through transition. Right away I set into a hard pace that felt doable and the first 5 miles were just under 6:30 pace. The run course was deceivingly hilly, and I knew that I had to slow down or I was going to blow up. I dropped my pace to about 6:50 and the legs did fall off a bit around mile 10, but I still managed to run a sub 1:30 which I will always feel good about. Despite running it the hard way, I feel great about the result, especially considering how tough the bike was. I finished the run 7th in my division, and 86th overall. 2 spots away from getting an age group award at an Ironman race, now THAT is something to be excited about.
My swim has come a long way, and I really feel like I just need to continue the course with my training. If I keep my frequency where it’s at (4 swims/week) and simply add some volume, I’m going to continue to see the gains that I’ve been seeing. My bike is my biggest opportunity, and this is going to be the focus for me over the fall/winter. In talking to the guys on slowtwitch, I need to learn how to suffer on the bike like I’ve learned to do on the run. The engine is there, I just gotta keep at it. I’m so proud of this result and excited to keep training and seeing the gains and improvements come. Next up, I think I’ll be racing the Aluminum Man Triathlon again, and then it’s all about enjoying some time off and getting this body ready for Ironman Coeur d’Alene! As always, thanks to Hammer Nutrition for the support, 10 Barrel Brewing, and our team sponsors Wattie Ink, Picky Bars, and Hydro Flask!