Sunday, November 6, 2011

ITU Long Course World Championships Race Report

Here's a bit of history for you tri-geeks or folks who want to know what this ITU thing is all about...

The International Triathlon Union is the world governing body for the Olympic sport of Triathlon. It was founded in 1989 at the first ITU Congress in Avignon, France and has maintained its headquarters in Vancouver, Canada since then. It now has over 120 affiliated National Federations around the world and is the youngest International Federation in the Olympics. 

While most known for the short course events you can watch at TriathlonLive.TV, the ITU also has a long course triathlon series that culminates in the ITU Long Course World Championships, where nearly two thousand athletes from dozens of countries compete for elite and age group world champion titles by racing a 4K swim (about 2 and a half miles) , 120K bike (just under 80 miles) and 30K run (a little over 18 miles).

This year, for the first time since 1996, the ITU Long Course World Championships came to the USA, in Henderson, Nevada, just outside Las Vegas.


I qualified to compete in this race when I podiumed at the Wildflower triathlon in May, and after racing Ironman Hawaii just 4 weeks ago, I admit I was a bit nervous about whether or not my legs were recovered, since Kona was not exactly a walk in the park.

Ultimately, since I'd never raced this distance before, I wasn't completely sure about how to pace it, but made a decision to race it more like a Half Ironman than an Ironman. So my basic strategy going into the race was to simply push at my normal Half Ironman pace until my body said "Stop!", and then try to stagger to the finish line with whatever I had left. 

The last time I competed in Vegas, just 7 weeks ago, it was reaching temperatures of nearly 105 degrees. Assuming it would still be somewhat warm, I showed up with no cold weather gear, only to find out that race morning was so chilly that the combination of cold water temperature and ambient air temperature forced race directors to cancel the swim.

This was disappointing, as I've been getting faster in the water and was very keen to hammer through a hard 4000 meter swim. 

Instead they put all us triathletes in a big (albeit warm) stinky tent, pulled us out group by group, and had us line up on the bikes and leave on 5 second intervals...

Pushing my bike up the hill for the start. It is much colder than it looks, and I'm handing off my long sleeve shirt at the last minute.

Waiting to start the time trial bike. CEP compression socks were simply for added warmth, although I really liked how they felt in the run later on.

And we're off!

During the bike portion, my hands and body were cold. I had a hard time opening gels and doing much other than gripping the bars and pedaling. I've raced in cold conditions before, but never for that long. Despite that, the entire bike felt incredibly fast to me, and it started to warm up towards the end. I actually had the opportunity to try out a different time trial bike that was given to me as a gift (a Trek Speed Concept), and I can't say I have ever felt quite that strong on the bike before. 

Even through this is an incredibly hilly and difficult course, over the 80 miles I rode my way through everyone that started in front of me, spent the last 30 miles nearly all by myself, and came into transition as the first age grouper. My bike split was 3:26.

My main feeling coming off the bike was that my legs and feet were cold. This made me nervous about how I'd perform...

Here I am transitioning from bike to run. Notice how my screen printer messed up and put GREENFIELD over my crotch instead of the back of my jersey, where he put all the sponsor logos. Oops!

Two miles into the run, I looked at my watch and saw that I was at 11 minutes and 30 seconds. I knew there was no way that I could run 18 miles at a 5:45 pace, so I forced myself to slow down a little bit, but was amazed at how good I felt.

I knew I was having a good race at that point, based on how far ahead I was on the bike, but usually in these long races, you reach a point where "the wheels come off". I just kept waiting for that to happen...

I look a bit happier here, earlier in the race...running strong.

I ran the first 13.2 miles in 1:28, but finally, around mile 15, I slowly began to implode. I could feel my hips locking up and my heart rate getting higher and higher. Since I only run once a week, this is one weakness in my training protocol: once the run gets long, my body can start to fall apart!

Upon closer inspection, you can see the "mild" discomfort in my face.

But at that point, I was close enough to the finish line to simply gut through, and although I slowed considerably towards the end, I managed to run the 30K in 2 hours and 3 minutes, which was good for about a 6:40 pace and a total finish time of 5:32.

I knew I had been fast, but because this was a time trial start race, had no clue until the awards ceremony how well I'd actually done...

Rounding the corner. Lots of sharp uphills and downhills on this course.

Finishing one of my best performance to date.

When the results were finally tallied, it turns out that I actually took first place for 30-34, won a gold medal for Team USA, and took 4th amateur overall. Needless to say, I was very pleased with that result, especially for a race that left out what I consider to be a strength of mine - the swim!
Receiving the gold medal for the USA.

A huge thanks goes out to my sponsors for their generous support of this event. In particular, Bioletics, Millennium Sports, BodyHealth, ImpaxWorld, and Natural Vitality actually sponsored this race by giving me the money necessary to buy my uniform, register for the race, and fly to the race, so a huge thanks goes out to them!

Also, my fellow triathlete and friend, Ron, took the photos during this event, and took care of me during race week - and a huge part of my success in this race was him making my entire stay in Henderson as comfortable and seamless as possible - even down to peeling my pre-race sweet potatoes! So a big thanks to Ron too!

Here is the run down of what I used for this race:

ITU Long Course World Championships Triathlon Gear:
Race Kit: Team USA Tyr Carbon Race Suit
Bike: Trek Speed Concept

Helmet: Gray Aero Helmet
Wheels: Zipp Firecrest with R4 aero tires/latex tubes
Components: Shimano DI2
Seat: ISM Tri Saddle
Cleats: Look KEO Blade
Bike Shoes: SIDI Road shoes
Running Shoes: K-Swiss K-Ruuz
Sunglasses: Zeal Slingshots

ITU Long Course World Championships Triathlon Nutrition:
Days leading up to race: nuun electrolyte tablets
night before race: Hammer REM (helps you sleep before a race)
2 hours before race: 2 sweet potatoes, 6 Enerprime capsules, 5 Extreme Endurance, 2 Hammer Race Caps, 2 Cordygen VO2 by Millennium Sports
20 minutes before race: 10 Master Amino Pattern capsules, 1 packet Energy28
5 minutes before race: 1 caffeinated GU Roctane
Every hour on bike: 20 ounces water
Every 20 minutes on bike: 1 GU Roctane

End of each hour on bike: 4 GU Chomps
Every 3 miles on run: 1 Hammer Gel (from aid stations on course)
Post-Race: 10 
Master Amino Pattern capsules, 10 sprays topical Magnesium  each leg


Spokane Al said...

Congratulations Ben. You rock and continue to be an inspiration for the rest of us.

Luke Powell said...

Amazing race Ben. Those distances are really strange, seems like you would have to train like it was Ironman distances. Hope you can find some time for an "off-season"!

appleskywalker said...

you 187 on war-commander ben

appleskywalker said...

you 187 on war commander ben ?