Of the fifteen half-ironman distance events I've done (just counted on athlinks.com, they are only missing pre-1999 events) , this was tied for hardest/ toughest conditions to deal with. The other one that makes the grade is Gulf Coast in 2003, it was 100+ degrees and humid, which is also difficult.
A windy bike is not so much of a big deal if you have been putting in a lot of time and effort on the bike. It is a different story when your bike fitness is not as deep, and you are hoping to leverage your years of experience to finesse and finagle a decent split and average bike speed. I had a couple solid weeks in the 150-175 bike mile range, but most of them were closer to 100 and there were a couple in the 50 miles only. That's what worked for me though.
So let me back up a second and talk about the weekend and the swim. We had a bunch of training buddies, friends and a few of our OSB athletes racing so it was a grand old time. We rented a house and stayed with a few of them. Had a nice group dinner on Friday where we shared wisdom (yes, pee on the bike and pee in your wetsuit, just don't pee on my wetsuit). Bri was a super trooper and put up with my crankiness for one final race since I am done for a while. Just kidding, I never quit, just get slow and fat from time to time. I am going to start calling Bri, Saint Bri, in homage to Hurricane Bob and his lady-saint wife.
Race morning: Big breakfast! 3 eggs + cheese and toast. Me likey big breakfast, need solid foods for long day. Get stuff to bike, drop stuff at bike. Weather tolerable, 55 degrees but we can see and feel that the wind is howling and the air is misty. Note to self, howling wind is hard to ride into.
Go back to chill at house. Put on swim stuff. Walk to swim start. Oil up. Loosen up a few minutes while they get wave 1 ready (we are in wave 2). Then line up and start! YYARRGHH!
I swam the channel a couple of weeks ago with Without Limits Coach Kristen Smith, so had some good recon info in my head. The current was ripping which was great, but it was foggy which made sighting really tough. I managed to swim mostly the correct direction, and once we hit the big triangle turn buoy the fog was not as bad, making sighting easier. I swam hard but was not killing it since we (the royal We since you are now part of my story) had the rest of the race to get through.
Our swim time was really good, and managed to be the only half-iron swimmer with a swim split under 20 minutes. That sounds great until you take a look at the full racers and see several guys under 40 minutes. :) I would like to tell you I have been working hard in the pool, but that is not true. I have been swimming about 6,000 yards a week. I am one of these people that generally swims faster than equally skilled pool swimmers in open water, and then another level faster than that in open salt water, for reasons that can only be attributed to stroke mechanics, sighting, and buoyancy issues. Check out our open water clinics or Powerstroke technique clinics if you want to learn more about that. :P Swim time 19:53, fastest swim split.
The bike. I spent a few minutes in T1 getting all my stuff on. Then I fought the wind. And fought. And fought. The wind was throwing punches, but I just punched back. Some of my punches were girly-man and ineffectual, but overall they got the job done.
I had passed all but two people from the first wave on the swim, and rode by a couple hundred of the full Iron racers. Once we split off at mile 37, it was lonely ride time, but thankfully there was a solid tailwind on the way back. One young guy (Patrick Farrell I think) zipped by me at mile fifty. Other than riding through some hunting grounds around mile 40 (a bit surreal to see several guys in camouflage with shotguns on their shoulders), it was a lonely ride. Bike time 2:34.10, 10th fastest split.
Onto the run. Back was tight. Slowly loosened up. Ran well for the first half, gave a kiss to Saint Bri at mile 3.5. Tried to enjoy the sights. Two guys ran by me on the way to the turnaround. 6.5 mile split was 45:05, great pace for me. The run has been my best training this year - got back under 19 minutes in the 5k and some solid tempo long runs.
Miles seven and eight were also fine. Got to see many familiar faces running towards me. Then we hit a long straightaway into the wind. Pace slowed, back tightened up again, felt slightly nauseous from the discomfort. Kept trucking. Had miles nine, ten, eleven at 8 minute/mile pace. Kept the turnover up but the stride was short. Then we ran over the bridge (slowly) and had the wind at our back. So that was nice.
There is a long bridge at about mile 12, I just survived that one. In the final .2 miles we wound through the Battleship parking lot. The tide was high and due to the rain, there was some flooding in the finishing area. So after covering 70.2 miles, we had to run through two deep puddles, filling our shoes and warm socks with water. We struggled to keep running fast, but our back locked up and we used our arms to muscle to the finish, hunched over and grimacing. It was humbling and painful. But we crossed the line and Saint Bri was there to greet us with a hug and a smile and a word of concern.
"Are you ok???"
"Blauarghhh puddle grumble back bllaaah."
Run split 1:36.44, 30th fastest split. Overall 4:37.52, 13th overall, 2nd masters.
So, what next? Little man is sure to change the racing and training landscape. We have no specific racing goals for the next couple of years. General plan is to keep up with a couple Masters swim meets, a few 5/10ks, and a handful of local triathlons next season. I am really just going to stick with staying fit and healthy and have fun, while Saint Bri makes up for lost time on the racing circuit. I will follow something like our hour-twenty training plan next year.
And have fun. Always have some fun.