Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

Ironman 70.3 Antwerp Race Report

I've had a week to think about my "Professional Debut" and like most races, I feel better after having some time to analyze and process what went down.  I was initially pretty disappointed with my performance, but identified some key mistakes and learning points and gained a bit of perspective.  So here goes….

Overall:  4:07, 10th Pro, 22nd overall.  I got beat by 12 Age groupers in my Pro Debut, actually my worst amateur finish of all time!  I used to knock on Pro guys who got beat by age groupers, well now I'm one of them, so I'm sorry guys, I take it all back.

Swim:  24:27, 35th overall.  I went out super hard, trying to stay with lead group, really wanted to test myself on the swim.  Not too much to my surprise, I was dropped by about 400 meters or so.  However, did a good job of "finding some feet" (which turned out to be my nemesis for the race, the first Pro woman).  I settled in at a hard, but sustainable pace.  Besides feeling like I wanted to throw up from eating too close to the start, felt like I had a decent swim.

Bike:  2:21:02, 110th overall.  Wow, it hurts to write down that split and place.  So….I hit the bike hard.  I went out and tried to ride harder/faster than I have.  For some reason unclear to me now, I anticipated myself making a big improvement because I'm now "Pro."  Turns out that just being Pro doesn't make you fast.  (As in my case, you could actually be slower).   

He passed me at mile 52

Anyway, I punched the first 3/4 of the bike much harder than my last 70.3 in Boise, riding at a pretty impressive clip for myself, way beyond my PR (see tech stuff below).  Then around mile 40, my legs turned into jello.  Then at mile 45 they turned into watery jello, the kind that has been left out in the sun too long.  You know the expression "when the wheels came off"?  I think my picture should be on urban dictionary next to that saying.  The last 10 miles of the bike it was literally like my wheels had fallen off, like I was riding a bike without wheels, just turning the pedals over, my crank/fork/frame just grinding on the ground like a caveman who hasn't discovered wheels yet.  I was passed in the last 10 minutes of the bike by scores of age groupers who started waves behind me, and of course my nemesis the first Pro woman.

Run:  1:17:49, 10th Overall.  Honestly, not a terrible run, especially considering I was absolutely certain I would drop out in the first mile.  Thank god for Lauren, who just told me to keep running and see what happens.  At that point, I just said to myself, "this is a training exercise, and just treat it as a long run."  I went out no faster than training run pace, and felt better as the race went on.  That's not to say I felt good, I just felt a little better than absolutely terrible, like just kind of terrible.  I eventually passed my nemesis the first Pro woman, took that as my victory for the day, and felt good that I had just finished the race.  

Overall I learned that I can't change my race strategy just because of different competition.  Non drafting races like 70.3 and Ironman are very individual events, it's almost like you're better off just pretending in some ways that its a solo time-trial, which is what I did as an Age Grouper with mild success.  I also learned that no matter how terrible I feel (I can't imagine feeling worse than I did the last few miles of the bike), that I can pull myself out of it on the run.  That's a confidence builder for my next race, and certainly heading into Clearwater.  

Extra Credit For Triathlon Geeks Like Myself

In an effort to supply some info to triathletes who are training and competing themselves, I've supplied the following analysis of my bike ride.  If you aren't a Triathlon Geek, make sure you are fully rested or in an area where you can fall asleep without remorse before entering this section.

I ride with a Quarq Powermeter (a fantastic product), so I can monitor my performance throughout rather easily.  As a baseline, I averaged 292 Watts at Boise 70.3, which I felt was still a sub-par bike ride for me.  Having completed some workouts since then that were a huge improvement, I thought ti was definitely reasonable to average just over 300 Watts for the race in Antwerp.  Broken down into 10mi intervals (the last interval is 6 miles, for a 56mi race), here's how my numbers ended up:

Miles Ave. Wattage Ave. HR Max HR Thoughts
0-10 293 166 173 Actually about exactly what I wanted to do, probably could have gone out a little bit easier and built from there.
10-20 301 156 163 Still mostly on track, trying to average 300 watts, so building into it.
20-30 318 159 162 Here's where I got way off, I got a little frustrated by getting passed by someone and punched it way too hard.
30-40 312 160 161 Continued the mistake from the last interval, didn't realize at the time that I was putting myself in some serious physiological debt.  
40-50 286 159 161 Here's where the effects started to take place, serious drop in wattage, and perceived effort was even higher!  Legs just didn't have enough to keep going.
50-56 239 150 158 Wow, this was really bad.  I literally couldn't ride any faster.  Definitely paying for being too aggressive in the middle of the bike.
Total 293 158
I think if I had kept it consistent from 20-40 miles instead of hitting it so hard, I would have maintained 300W average, gone a few minutes faster, and felt a lot better about the race going into the run.  Anyway, some good learning for next time.

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