“Patience is a virtue.”
I’ve heard that all my life. And if that’s true, then I must not be all that “virtuous” because patience is something I have never had. I also think several of my readers are not very virtuous based on their comments to me recently! Many of you have told me that you are “running out of patience” in waiting on me to publish another post. I appreciate your patience (or your virtuosity??), and I apologize for the delay. It’s been a busy month.
So back to me and my patience (or lack thereof). I think that has been a problem for me in my endeavors as an endurance athlete. Lack of patience has been the fall of many an Ironman and even many more marathoners. I believe that lack of patience is what causes us to go out too fast, or speed up too early, and then blow up at the end of a race. It’s not always a lack of endurance or a lack of preparation. It’s often a lack of patience.
So as I thought about my approach to the “t-sip” Ironman 70.3 (i.e., the Longhorn 70.3, for you non-Aggies) this past weekend, I decided that because my run has been solid lately, I would be patient on the swim, patient on the bike, and then see if I could put up a solid run time. As you will see, I followed the plan, but came up a little short on the “solid run” goal.
I have had trouble since June with my swimming. Like a lot of athletes, in the pool, I’m fine. But put me in a race, and my times have been up to 30 seconds per hundred slower than in training. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when you would win the overall if you just had an average swim! This has been the most frustrating thing about this race season for me. I’m spotting all the top players several minutes, and for me, that’s unacceptable. This will be a focus this off-season.
After thinking more about it, Lindsay and I decided that maybe I was just trying too hard to be fast in the swim. I was starting in the front, fighting with the fast swimmers, getting out of breath early, and thus shortening my stroke for the rest of the swim. So for this race, I decided to just take it easy, focus on my stroke, and . . . be patient. I started off to the side, and just let everyone go. But strangely, I realized that I was not getting dropped like I usually do. And I never lost my breath. My official time was just over 29 minutes. By FAR my fastest time for a swim in a half-Ironman. Yes, the general consensus is that the swim was 3-5 minutes short. But even on the high end of that estimate, that’s about the fastest I’ve ever swam 1.2 miles. Hmm, perhaps patience IS a virtue.
On to the bike. Like most of my longer races, I spent the first 10-15 miles focusing on getting fluids and calories in and just settling in to a solid pace, but not overdoing it by any means. I was in one of the last waves to start so I was passing A LOT of people early on in the bike. I spent most of the ride just telling myself to take it easy and be patient. When I lose patience, or get antsy, I end up speeding up and not leaving myself enough for a fast run. So I was patient. And aside from dropping my chain on a short climb (I actually came to a complete stop since I was climbing at the time—cost me a little time, but no need to panic), there’s not much to report on the bike. Yes, it was windy (we are in Texas!), but I managed to remain patient throughout the ride and finished in 2:32 (22 mph).
Moment of truth. Time to run. As usual, coming out of T2 I felt great. I still had to be patient, though, because 13.1 miles is too far for me to go all out right out of the gate. Plus, I ALWAYS get cramps in my lower quads about a mile in to the run of a half or full Ironman. My strategy is to hold back until the cramping comes, endure it for about half a mile until it finally goes away, and then settle into a pace that is a little faster than I feel like I can hold for 11 more miles. The first mile came and went, and I was running right at 7:00 pace. Then, right on time, my legs cramped. No worries, I’ve been through this in every long course race I’ve ever done. I think it takes your legs a couple of miles to get used to running after a long effort on the bike. If you can run through it, though, it will go away. And sure enough, by the second mile marker, all was well. Time to settle in.
I was cruising along trying to figure out if I should pick it up or remain patient when Lisa Bentley (the eventual women’s pro winner) went by me. Up to this point, no one had passed me and I was blowing by people. It makes it hard to pace properly when all your doing is passing everyone. I find it easier to work harder when someone is there to help push me along, or when someone is in front of me that I’m trying to catch. When Lisa went by I decided to run with her. I picked it up a bit, but she slowly pulled away. The first four miles were on black asphalt and were one long climb and descent after another. Lisa was dropping me on every descent, but on the climbs, I would slowly reel her in. However, by the end of the 4th mile, she had pulled away.
The last 2.5 miles of the loop is on a dirt trail. That was nice except for the sandy parts, which make you feel like you’re running in slow motion. Regardless, it was MUCH cooler on that part of the course, and it really helped break the course up into small sections that are much more manageable than a 13.1 mile run without any change of scenery. About 4.5 miles in, Pip Taylor (another pro who would finish 2nd behind Lisa) came by me. I had someone else to pace off of! I told her that Lisa was not too far ahead, but I could tell by the pace that she was not going to catch her. Pip told me that Lisa had passed her a couple of miles back, so I knew she wasn’t interested in chasing her down. I followed her for half a mile or so and then just before the hill they call “Quadzilla” I went around her. The top of Quadzilla (which I didn’t think was as bad as the rollers in the first four miles) was the 5 mile marker. I hit my watch and saw 36:11. Not too bad, but I’m slowing down from the 7:05 pace I had averaged through three miles.
The last 1.5 miles of the loop were fast. It was slightly downhill, and before I knew it, I was finished with the first loop, and back on the HOT black asphalt for 4 miles of quad killing (and morale killing) rollers! To be honest, I don’t remember much of the second lap. I think my brain shut off and I just went into auto-drive. I remember the 10 mile marker. And I remember realizing that my split for the second five miles was slower than the first (39:12, or 7:50 pace). I remember thinking that if I could just go under 30 minutes for the last 5k, that I would break 4:50. I remember Krisha yelling at me that “PAIN IS TEMPORARY!!” just as I started the last 5k. And I definitely remember feeling like the second time up Quadzilla was MUCH harder than the first. But the details of that last loop are not in my brain. I guess it was painful.
I ran the last 5k in 23:57 (which included the shuffling up Quadzilla), for a final run time of 1:39:18 (5 minutes slower than what I was hoping for), and an overall time of 4:46:20. Only good enough for 9th place in my very competitive age group, and 46th overall male.
The best news of the day was that I earned a spot in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships at Clearwater next year! Speaking of Clearwater . . . I checked the results from 2007. There were 156 finishers in my age group. To finish in the top 50% took a 4:35. Seriously! 4:35 was only good enough for 78th place in my age group! My 4:46 would have put me in 102nd. I realize it’s a different/faster/flatter course. But that’s unbelievable. I’ve definitely got work to do!
Qualifying for Clearwater has done a few things for me. First, it’s reinforced that patience is key in long course racing. Second, it’s made me more confident that I belong in the top 10 in major/national races. I’ve always felt like I could do it, but this is the first time I actually have. I’m finally over that hump, which brings me to the third thing this race has done for me. I am more motivated than ever to earn a Kona spot. And now, for the first time, I truly believe that I am capable of doing it. And I don’t want to wait any longer! I have run out of patience.
My goals for 2007 included proving to myself that finishing an Ironman was possible. Check. In 2008, I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of qualifying for Kona. Check. Next year . . . .