On July 26, after two weeks of makeshift training due to work and vacation, I pulled on my EPIC Endurance tri kit and made my way out to the Route 66 Half Iron in Springfield, Illinois. I had heard a lot about this race–good and bad. However the prospect of racing on historic Route 66, along with my own eagerness to do some racing was too much.
Unfortunately it was one of the hottest days of the summer. The race updates the week before signaled the race would not be wet suit legal, with Lake Springfield water temps recorded at 86 degrees–unusually hot for such a large body of water. On top of that some wind made, what I can only assume are normally calm waters, into a choppy mess.
Oh well. Complaining wasn’t going to make it any easier. I set myself up in transition, stopping to exchange words of encouragement with fellow Tri-Sharks and friends from Path Performance and Grim Reaper Fitness. Around 10 minutes before the swim start a referee made an announcement over his megaphone.
They had checked the temperature of the water and had determined that the race would be wet suit legal. Commotion erupted in the transition area. Most people had not brought their wet suit. I had packed mine out of habit but couldn’t decide whether to wear it. It was pretty warm. I could overheat. On the other hand a wet suit equals free speed and would help in the choppy waters. I went back and forth and finally decided to wear it.
The 1.2 mile swim course went under the arches of the historic Lindsay Bridge and back down the shore to a point past the swim start. I fell into a good rhythm on the way out. I easily made it under the bridge, around the turn buoy, and then started swimming back. That’s when the wind kicked in. I fought choppy waters and a current created by the bridge and wind. Every few strokes I took would leave me slightly in the air and smacking back down in the water. Thank you waves. Boats of lifeguards and
volunteers provided an additional challenge when patrolling the perimeter of the course as they created a wake from the side. Nonetheless I kept pushing myself and made it to the swim exit. As I approached the end a guy ahead of me refused to let me pass, so as soon as I could stand I sprinted past him across the line for my own satisfaction. On to the bike.
Swim time: 39:40 Very solid for me. I was pleased!
I was looking forward to the bike, which is odd for me. I do a lot of training on Route 66 from Normal to Pontiac and am fond of the road. The route had some bumpy spots and a few minor hills. I kept my heart rate in low Zone 3 the whole time and managed a good speed. Actually I was flying and feeling really good doing it. I was determined to keep it up through the end of the bike. The way back had a headwind to keep things interesting, but I stayed nestled in my aero bars and kept the wheels spinning.
Bike time: 2:44:49 Holy cow! For me this is amazing. I was baffled that I was able to keep up a 20.4 mile pace over 56 miles. What was even better is I was still feeling fantastic.
After a strong performance on the bike, I was feeling pumped for the end of the race. I did great on the swim. I flew on the bike. And not that I am the world’s best runner, but out of the three sports, the run is definitely my thing. I figured I would be able to finish the race in a really big way.
But like Icarus I flew too close to the sun and burned. I was little more than 2 miles into the run when the heat and humidity started affecting me. The temperature was around 86 degrees, the air was thick, and the hilly run course was not helping anything. I had practiced good nutrition on the bike and was taking in plenty of fluids and gels on the run, but nothing was helping. It was agony.
I rarely think about quitting during a race, but each time I saw a SAG golf cart drive by, I thought of how easily I could flag it down and end this jaunt through Satan’s backyard.
But pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.
I kept plodding along, grabbing water and ice at every aid station, drinking Heed when I could, and trying to maintain the delicate balance between running, drinking, eating, and not throwing up. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I made it back to the Lindsay Bridge and ran across the finish line.
Run time: 2:11:47 Ouch! That hurt my ego. I was hoping for something in the area of 1:45-1:50. I reviewed all of the run times for racers after the fact and found that my time was fairly typical, and that there were only a handful of really fast times. Still, I’ll log the run as a lesson in pain and suffering.
Final time (with transitions): 5:42:08 That time ranks me as 8/17 in my age group and 35/155 overall. Minus a slow run I am pleased with my performance. I did well in the overall stats and set a new P.R.
What is more, I feel like I will be able to kill at my next 70.3 triathlon, Border Wars, at the beginning of October. I have almost two months to prepare between now and then. My hope is to knock a couple of minutes off my swim, maintain my pace on the bike, and bring that run to where it should be. With cool autumn temperatures, I think I have a shot!
Thanks to HardyBreed.com for taking photos and posting them to their Flickr account.