Sunday, September 20, 2009

Grand Columbian Grinder

I camped at this race. I am a real mountain man, actually. As if you didn't know that already.

And I especially felt like a mountain man as I sat in the back of my car (where I slept), surfing my campsite wireless internet, just after jetting down the street to grab a prime rib. Camping can be rough, but I survived - sandwiched in between a couple giant RV's in my cozy Honda Fit "tent".

;)

Grand Columbian is one of those race weekend "festivals", with an Olympic, Aquabike, and Half Ironman all shoved into one giant triathlon party. Ironically, the course is a bit like Wildflower festival (a much bigger party) down in California - relatively calm and easy open water lake swim, followed by a steep bike climb out of transition and lots of wind and rollers, and finishing with a run that takes you off-road with several energy-sucking up's and down's.

I've never raced this event before, but my plan was to go for the Half-Ironman and make it a good "last local race" of the season. There were definitely some contenders at this race, and I knew that to do anything special, I'd have to hurt.



I took in my customary GU espresso flavored gel 5 minutes before the swim start. The swim was smooth and simple. With a buoy line clearly visible, sighting was barely ever necessary, and I have to admit that I did not feel even slightly winded during the swim. I was surprisingly easy, especially considering that I barely drafted. It appears that I came out of the water fourth, just 60 seconds off the leader with a swim time of 26:54.

My plan was to quickly consume a gel, some electrolytes, and a big swig of water, before hitting the big hill, since I knew I'd be climbing hard and wouldn't have a chance to fuel at that point. I rode into first place, but about halfway up the hill, I was passed by Team Timex pro Kyle Marcotte, who actually just came of a seventh place Ironman Canada overall finish.

The rest of the bike, I put some time into the rest of the field (except for Geoff Heureux, who just placed as one of the top amateurs at Ironman Coeur D' Alene and was chasing me a few minutes behind in this race) and attempted to keep Kyle in my sights. He consistently stayed 3-4 minutes ahead of me during the majority of the ride. At this point, I knew I was out of my league, and I'd have to have the breakthrough run of my life to chase him down. I came of the bike in 2:32 and change...

Knowing I was sandwiched between an 8:44 Ironman pro and a speedy amateur who just posted a 9:30 at Ironman Coeur D' Alene, I knew that I couldn't afford to make any mistakes on the run.

But recently, I've been studying and beginning to utilize the "walk-run" method of racing distance, and this was my game-plan going into Grand Columbian - to place strategic, very fast 45-60 second walk breaks at 4-5 points throughout the half-marathon. This would theoretically 1) allow me to take a quick sip of water, fuel, and swallow one of the Millennium Sports "Athlytes" salt capsules without the typical choking and gasping for air that happens when you try to do this stuff while you're running; 2) let my core briefly cool and my heart rate come down just slightly; 3) keep me mentally motivated to have a faster pace *between* each walk break.

So this is what I did.

I'll have to say that this felt like a great way to approach the half-marathon, and despite feeling like I was grinding through the entire half, my last two miles were sub 6 minute splits. In the end, I ran a 1:31, which is not a fast half-marathon, but on this course, it was actually one of the faster splits. Kyle also ran 1:31 and held me off to win by about 2 minutes and 40 seconds. My goal time going into the this race was to post somewhere around a 4:30, and my final time was a 4:34.

But I can still run faster. I know I can...it'll happen!



After a race like this, I especially realize how much I owe to my sponsors and how impossible the journey of a triathlon season would be without them...

Post-Race Magnetic Clay Magnesium Oil combined with Recoverease. I am not sore at all after this race. Crazy...

Specialized and Wheelsport East, who provided me with a very special bicycle that has consistently outperformed 99% of other racers out there on the course...

Avia, for the outpouring of cutting-edge shoes, support and "soft gear" for running, riding and racing...

GU, who has literally raised the bar through the roof with their new flavors and their scientifically rock-solid pineapple Roctane, which is officially now the favorite thing I eat during training and racing...

Millennium Sports Technologies for their high quality supplements Cordygen VO2 (lungs) and Somnidren GH (sleep) that I can take without worrying at all about what I put into my body being "laced", since all their compounds are WADA and cGMP certified...

Impax for the immune-boosting, high performance Enerprime superfood multivitamin, Delta-E energy powder and EnerEFA fatty acids...

Mt. Capra nutritionals for keeping me recovered and giving me high-quality and healthy proteins with CapraMilk and Double-Bonded Protein...

Zeal Optics for their sunglasses, which I discovered late this season and realized that I had no clue how light and comfortable sports performance optics can actually be...

nuun electrolyte tablets for keeping me hydrated and giving me the best alternative ever invented to soda and unhealthy "electrolyte" drinks...

Blue Seventy wetsuits for the Helix wetsuit and Element goggles, both of which fit like a glove...

Tim at Therapproach and Brian at Spokane Sports Chiropractic for keeping my body put together!


Well, folks...this was it. Pretty much the last race of the season other than the November 14 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater.

Up to this point, here's how the season has gone down so far:
  • Half Ironman Chile 2009: 17th overall, 2nd division
  • Snake River Sprint 2009: 2nd overall, 1st division
  • Half Ironman New Orleans: 90th overall, 10th division
  • Walla Walla Onionman 2009: 6th overall, 2nd division
  • Half Ironman Boise 2009: 21st overall, 6th division
  • Tiger Triathlon 2009: 2nd overall, 1st division
  • Troika Triathlon 2009: 2nd overall, 1st division
  • Coeur D’ Alene Triathlon: 4th overall, 2nd division
  • Portland Triathlon: 4th overall, 1st division
  • Grand Columbian Half Ironman: 2nd overall, 1st division
How do I feel about my performance?

Bittersweet. I've felt incredibly strong swimming and cycling in nearly every race this season, but the run has really haunted me. Between now and November, I'll be continuing to focus on becoming a better runner by doing more speedwork, run-walk strategy practice, barefoot training and gluteus medius strengthening, as well as including cyclocross, tennis and basketball for cross-training. I truly enjoy life's challenge of finding the "weak links" in my physical chain and making them stronger.

So after this week of relative rest and recovery, and one more week of easy training, I'll be headed down to Kona to watch the Ironman World Championships, attend the Hawaii Ironman Medical Conference, and put in a week of hard training to prepare for Clearwater...

Until then, keep your eyes posted on http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com for some very cool updates that will keep YOU going strong...
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