First of all I would like to apologize for the late race report. I got used to do things with 100 % effort or not to do them at all. Inspired by a very interesting novel I wanted to write a report in a theatrical style, but maybe there were too many acts in the play or maybe not enough actors. After I destroyed 4 sheets of paper nothing worth reading came out. So I decided to do it in the usual narrative form.
Ironman 70.3 Florida, Haines City is a local race for me and there is nothing better than to sleep in your own bed the night before the race.
The warm up:
This time I did a long and a bit different warm up. I woke up at 3.30a.m. in the morning and before I had my breakfast I ran 5 miles at a very easy pace (to wake up a nervous system). Then I had breakfast: a cup of coffee, a few toasts, and an energy bar. After that I did some swimming drills with a stretch cord, then on the road to race site, a couple of gels, go to transition, leave the bike in transition, run for 2 more miles with some 30 sec pickups, 700 meters swim with a few 30 sec intervals, then jim-jams , then the anthem and then a bit more of jim-jams …
5 min before the race:
To avoid the fighting during first meters on the swim I took a spot on the left side, even though we had to turn right after the first buoy, which was about 400 meters away. I though that up to that point, the group would spread out. I usually breathe on the right side and because of that the position on the left side was letting me see and control what was going on during the first meters of the race.
6.30a.m. starting gun
A few long strokes at the start and then swim with a high cadence. I made the right choice with the position, it worked out, I got to the first buoy without any interference and with the first pack. I stayed with the same group up to last couple of hundred meters. I had dropped for about 7-10 sec from the end of the first pack, but after a fast transition, I was back with leaders.
From the start Dirk Bockel set a fast pace. He needed to create a gap to compensate for his not a very strong run. My goal was to stay with him at least until mile 40 mark. My only chance to run with Terenzo and Kevin was if I could get to the T2 with them. I felt excellent and I was able to ride on the second position. I knew that Terenzo will finish the bike at the front of the race, I just hoped that Kevin won’t stay with the leaders to that point. Dirk was attacking with maximum effort during the hardest segments on the course and I was catching my breathe after every little hill on the course, which wasn’t enough, there were only so many hills. By mile 30 we lost the rest of the riders and it was just the 4 of us in the leading group. I was already going “all in” without thinking about 13 mile run ahead of me. After that point the course became flatter and the wind was coming from behind. The gap between Dirk and me started to grow. Terenzo moved to the position between me and Dirk and then to my surprise Kevin passed me as well. At this point I started seriously thinking about drafting but the better side of me talk me out if it. So, about 15 miles to T2 my gap began to stretch from 10 meters to a few minutes, but having the run as my strength I knew that I had not lost the race yet. Foreseeing my personal best on the bike and despite the catastrophic depletion of my quad muscles, I was pedaling for all one is worth . And as a result of my effort a clock showed 2:06:18. I had never rode that fast.
The gap to the front guys didn’t look so hopeless at a first sight. I was only one minute behind Kevin and 2 minutes behind Terenzo and Dirk. Here was a second surprise waiting for me, I could not run at all and I knew this after my first couple meters. I had a really bad pain in my back and quad muscles. My legs were stuck with a certain cadence and I couldn’t pick it up. I had tried all tricks: tried to lean forward more, tried to make my quads work harder, I tried to pick up my cadence by moving my arms faster but it seam like nothing was helping me to make a switch from unusual 6 min pace to my usual 5:30-5:35/mile pace. I still believed I had a place on the podium by giving it 100% step by step, but all three guys ahead of me showed great performance that day. A few weeks later Terenzo and Dirk placed 2nd and 3rd at ITU World Championship Long Course accordingly. During that hot day in Florida they finished strong on the 1st and 3rd position, Kevin finished 2nd and I was 5 min faster than my previous year, this performance only got a wooden medal (that is what someone gets for 4th place in Russia).
What’s better: to go all out on the bike and just survive on the run; or save it on the bike and have fresh legs for the run. It has been a question for many athletes. I haven’t decided it yet for myself.