Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Living Large in Lubbock

The Buffalo Springs Lake Half Ironman joined ranks with the new 70.3 series, offering a larger prize purse, which of course attracted a stronger professional field. On the men's side there were several Ironman champions, Olympians and a 5 time World champion making this the strongest pro field to date to toe the line in lovely Lubbock. My zen-like coach, Zane Castro, gave me some great insight to the race and we put together a solid plan with the main focus of improving my time from last year in an effort to make a continued progression.

I made the 9-10 hour trek from Boulder to Lubbock on the Thursday before the race with a few buddies (Greg, Michael and Alex) and there were no shortages of laughs along the way. It was great traveling with these guys and we rode in style...Greg's monster Ford 350 diesel extended quad cab. It was saweeet...plenty of room and rode like a Caddie! Our first little adventure was the dinner stop in Raton, New Mexico. After surveying the offerings, we opted on K-Bob's Steak House. What a treat! Bar-b-que beef brisket, salad and plenty of good people watching. We all had the same dish and amazingly no one had any stomach issues. Upon leaving we were extended an invitation to attend the rodeo festival by a nice young lass, but figured that wasn't on the agenda for us. Back in the ride and we made our way to our overnight stop in Dalhart, TX. I had the pleasure of rooming with the mad Russian, Alex, for this stop. We both pretty much just fell into our beds for a decent night's rest. We finished the drive to Lubbock arriving into town in the early afternoon on Friday. Our accommodations in Lubbock were great with each of us scoring our own rooms with small kitchens. Friday afternoon we drove the bike course and along the way met up with our friends Amanda and Michael who were doing the same. While I raced this event last year, it's always good to preview the course. After the drive and sorting some things out with our bikes we took in dinner at a nice little Italian joint called Orlandos. The food was good and conversation jovial. We decided this would be the spot for our pre-race meal as well.

Saturday was a busy day. I had the pleasure of speaking at a breakfast being put on by one of my sponsors Elite Performance Foods. This was a first for me, so I was looking forward to the opportunity to share my thoughts on nutrition and the race course. James Bonney and Ahmed Zaher were also there to share in the discussion. It seemed to go well and Jim Murry, founder of Elite Performance Foods, has indicated he received good feedback on the program. Hopefully we can do it again next year and Jim has promised there would be no delays with the pancakes coming off the griddle! I was finished with this obligation by 10:30 am and met up with the boys to complete our pre-race training efforts at the race site. We were done with things by 1:00 pm and made our way to a hearty lunch. Next up, the pro meeting which was entertaining on several levels...Mike Greer, the race director, is never at a loss for entertaining and Simon certainly had some keen things to say during the meeting. The head referree appeared to be very professional and personable with his explanation of the rules and I got the impression he was there to work with us and not against us. After my meeting ended I hung out a bit while my buddies finished up their meeting and we made an early exit to beat the masses for dinner. One of my buddies from Michigan was in town to race so he joined us for dinner at Orlandos...another good meal and even more laughs! I think we were all pleased to be done with dinner and back at our hotel by 6:45 pm. I took care of some final items before relaxing in bed and taking in Forrest Gump. It was about 9:45 pm when I turned the lights out. I was feeling relaxed and confident about my race despite the thunderstorms being predicted for race morning. I was also exited for my friends, Joanna, Kristin, Jennifer, Dennis, Matt and Ben who were racing at Ironman Coeur d'Alene the following day. Sending them some positive thoughts I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

Race morning arrived 3:15 am quick! This was earlier than what I get up for an Ironman race, but with the 6:30 am start and drive to the lake, it was all part of the deal. My pre-race meal was relaxing, comforting and tasting good! I was stoked to race and enjoyed the music from my MP3 player while dining on the likes of a PB&J, oatmeal, applesauce, coffee, Heed and some cookies of course! I met up with my road trip crew at the truck for our 4:40 am departure and we made it to the race site without any snafu.

Upon arrival, we noticed the river, or what seemed to be a river, flowing in the usually calm lake. There was a rather strong wind and plenty of lightning in the distance. Hmmm, would we be getting wet throughout the day?? Well, nothing I can control, so why worry. One thing I like about this race is the number of volunteers. Not your typical volunteers either. This was a small army of junior ROTC high schoolers. Poor souls had to be up at a godawful hour to mark thousands of anxious triathletes with their race numbers, etc. I was able to get things sorted in transition, chat with a few other athletes, complete my pre-race run and of course make my traditional visit to the porta-potty. Things were set and I proceeded to the start line. Having a larger professional field was a good thing and gave me a better opportunity to secure a draft for the swim. The gun, well not so much a gun but the voice of the race director went, and we were off. I was glad to find the feet of someone with whom I stayed until the first turn buoy. I made the decision to leave my "draft" as I felt like I could swim faster than the pace being sustained. Apparently a few others had the same idea as I soon found myself pulling a small group of athletes. I felt smooth and comfortable in my Apex wetsuit, but as the swim progessed was definitely beginning to get a bit too warm. Exiting the water I had no idea of my time and turned my attention to the challening and entertaining 56 miles of biking. The swim course seemed to be a bit short this year as the times were quite fast across the board and I posted a 24:59.

Onto the bike I was committed to riding strong and smart. My whole focus was staying on top of my nutrition and building the pace in an effort to ride faster than last year. I had a modest amount of confidence in my biking over the last few weeks leading up to the race and was looking forward to putting it together. This course was unique as it climbed in and out of three different caynons and had several out and back sections to give me an idea of how I was doing against the field. To my delight I felt like I was riding steady and not really losing too much to the guys. Having caught a couple of guys through the 56 miles I found myself arriving in T2 in 10th place. I was psyched to see I biked 10 minutes faster than last year with a split of 2:20.

I exited T2 in range of two other guys and again focused on my pacing and nutrition, trying to stay patient. This is a tough 13.1 mile run course with several long, steep hills and cramping can alwyas be an issue. Through the first few miles my legs responded well and I soon found my running form. I caught and passed the two who were in my range by the 5K mark and focused my attention on staying relaxed, yet running with a purpose. By the turnaround I found myself in 7th place with 6th place in my sights. This was significant as 6th place was the final money slot for this race and I really wanted to make it a pay day. I exchanged a few pleasantries with Jamie Cleveland and continued my effort, running to the third fastest run of the day at 1:17. Coming across the line with a new PR of 4:06 I was pretty jazzed and joined my friend Michael for a mineral cocktail in the med tent. I love this race for the fact they give away IV's which certainly helps with the recovery. Never mind the fact it took the student nurses three sticks in my arm to get the drip going. It's all good! A big congrats to Simon and Michael for their 2nd and 4th place finsihes as well as Michael, Greg and Alex for getting it done! Next up the US Pro Long Course Championships in Racine, WI on July 23rd.

Keep it smooth...

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