First off, a little history (not because it's been so long since I've posted anything that I'm feeling extra verbose, but rather because it's actually relevant to the report) - having completed IM Wisconsin in September of last year, I had just mid-packed my way through my third Ironman distance triathlon in four years, to go along with four half-IMs and a handful of sprints and Oly-distance events during the same period. My buddy Drew had done all that, plus another Ironman event, and Cath now had two IM races under her belt, in addition to a couple of injury-aborted training cycles.
So, needless to say, we all came into the 2010 "season" a tad burnt out by the whole triathlon training process, and opted to take a more chill approach to things this time around. Most importantly we decided no IM races at all for this year, but we'd throw a half-IM on the schedule more-or-less just to have something to train for. We chose the Racine 70.3 race primarily because of the timing and close proximity to Chicago, and perhaps a bit because we did this same race in 2005 and it kicked the boys' asses - especially me, as the high temps and humidity forced me to walk almost the whole run leg, while the wife ran away to family victory. So, a little sweet, sweet revenge over the town of Racine, WI was also on the agenda.
Unfortunately, and perhaps not unexpectedly, training for the event never really got off the ground - I had been swimming and running pretty regularly, if once a week can be considered regular, but the biking thing was pretty much forgotten. I'm thinking I did - maybe - three rides of over thirty miles all year (and they were just a hair above 30 miles, as that), and most of my saddle time had taken place inside on the Keiser bike. And most of those indoor rides were about an hour long, and included some short intervals, but still weren't all that taxing. So, really the "training" was nothing more than some daily exercise, and I was worried that I hadn't give the distance the respect it was due.
Cath and Drew had also been a bit down on triathlon training, so we all went into this past weekend a bit apprehensive over what 70.3 miles of racing was going to feel like.
We hit hit the road on Saturday afternoon, and check-in was rather uneventful - the old Spirit of Racine Half Ironman was taken over by WTC this past year, and is now an IM branded affair, which (in my humble opinion) is typically a good thing - IM events are usually very well-organized and the routes very well-planned. More on this later, but I think they dropped the ball on this one.
Our friend Ross, who's in the midst of training for his first IM, joined us for the race, and is no doubt the most fit of us all right now. We had a pre-race dinner with some members of his training group, and then hit the Best Western for some zzz's. I didn't sleep very well, but woke up ready to roll - ate a couple slices of some cinnamon bread we picked up the night before, and headed down to transition to set up. The morning was slightly cool and bit cloudy, which was a great surprise since the forecast had called for sun and high humidities. I drank a Red Bull as I got set up, along with most of a Powerbar.
The swim in Racine is a point-to-point, and you have to walk the mile down the beach to the start line, but we got down there in plenty of time. Ross and I were in the second wave after the pros went off, about 7:15 a.m. What's nice about this swim is that you've got a nice, wide section of beach to start from, and the waves are four minutes apart, so there's very little contact between athletes. I think I brushed into someone maybe once or twice, and it wasn't anything violent. Just a bump, and then they were gone. Nothing like the chaos that is an Ironman start. The swim actually felt pretty good - water was pretty calm for Lake Michigan, and it ended just when I was getting tired of swimming. I didn't see the clock coming into T1, and I was racing without a watch, but I they say I did it in 42.09. Pretty good for me.
Hit the port-o-let, and got ready to ride. Given my limited training, I knew going in that the end of the bike was going to be hard, but I actually felt pretty good the whole way. The ride started well - the skies were still clouded over, and the temps were in the upper 70s, with little wind - but things changed about half-way through. I actually cursed when I first saw the sun's rays as they broke through the clouds, as I knew the day was about to get a lot hotter. But the air was still feeling pretty cool and the miles ticked slowly by. In fact, the only distress I had on the bike was hunger - I had about 575 calories during the ride, but my stomach started to rumble with about five miles to go - and the mental fatigue of being on a bike for so long.
Rolled into T2 most thankful to be off the bike, and scarfed down about half a Powerbar in the transition area. Jogged out toward the exit, and the heat really hit me for the first time. Yikes. Those first two miles were just brutal. Decided right then that I was just going to run aid station to aid station, stopping at each to drink and throw water over my head. That worked pretty well until about mile 8, when I had to stop between aid stations to let my heart rate settle back down. It seemed like my brain wanted to run a certain speed, but my body couldn't go that fast and my heartrate would spike. So I'd walk about 15 steps, and then force myself to jog again (to describe it as a 'run' would be an exaggeration). That happened two or three more times over the next couple of miles, but I got into a pretty good rhythm with about two miles to go, and even had enough left to sprint it to the finish.
In the end, I'm happy with my times - swim: 42.09; bike: 2:46.23; run: 1:59.54; overall: 5:36.16. Not the best I've ever done, but not the worst either. The weather and my conditioning were pretty second rate, but I was happy with the mental effort that kept me pushing on the run. And it's always fun to do a race with friends - grumbling about all the trial and tribulations we experienced out there is like the fourth leg of triathlon, and I was thankful to have Cath, Drew and Ross up there with me. Very good times.
I don't think I'd do this race again, though - the course really blows. The bike especially. The road quality is for crap - bad pavement, and the course spends way too much time on narrow portions of the highway. The website also boasts that you run through the Racine zoo, but that's a lie - you run *past* the zoo, or maybe it's more accurate to say next to the zoo, and the only animals I saw were the a couple of dogs watching from some spectator's front lawn. And, while I really can't blame the organizers for this, the weather was complete crap. Again. I don't even like to be outside in weather that's ninety degrees and humid, let alone race in it. So, I don't think the Racine 70.3 will be on the agenda again any time soon - there are too many other quality half-IMs in this area to do a dud like this one - but I was happy that we did it. Next time, we might even train a bit for it.