Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Desert Half Race Report

Before I begin, I want to apologize for taking so long with this race report. I see many people have been checking it, and I know that personally whenever I see someone race, I always stalk their blog to see how it went. Thank you for your patience, and without further delay I'll begin.

Osoyoos Desert Half Iron, Provincial/National Championship.

For those of you who don't know where Osoyoos is, it is roughly 4.5 hours east of Vancouver in the Okanagan. 

A late entry into this race, Jody decided she was going to race and qualify for the long course world championships to be held in Perth Australia in 2009. This was great news because it meant not only did I have company at the race, but also Jody and I could share accommodations, before the race, which over the previous two month has proven to work quite well.

We left Vancouver relaxed Saturday morning. It was nice not to have to rush off and catch the ferry, instead we just casually made our way to Osoyoos. 

Arriving in the early afternoon we had time to pick up our race package and head down to the water in time for the swim lesson. I wanted to go to this because rumors were saying that Blue Seventy was giving out prizes. This turned out to be true and I got a pair of goggles. I haven't tried them out yet, but I will have an update on them soon enough.

After the swim course familiarization we headed back to get our bikes ready in transition and go to the pre race meeting. 

Once all this was done we headed off to our campsite. Jody and I set up the tent, had some food and prepared for an early night. Beside us in the campsite was a really nice family with two small kids from Edmonton, Leon and Sylvia was the couples name, and we spent much of the night chatting with them before heading to bed.

After fighting to sleep thru the sounds of the campsite, I put my Ipod on and was falling in and out of sleep until around 11:30 when the campsite was quiet enough for me to turn off the ipod and sleep on my own. I slept quite well, however, my air mattress was broken so I was basically sleeping on the ground.

4:30 rolled around very quickly, we packed up the tent, I had a quick 1000 calorie breakfast made up of juice and cliff bars and was in transition by 5:35AM. I won't go over specifics of my pre race, but it was uneventful and found me in the water early again at 6:50 preparing for the swim. I was really calm once more and thought that today I may be able to swim with the big boys for once, so I lined myself up on the short corner and prepared to work hard.

The gun went off and this was probably the worst swim I have ever had. By this I don't mean performance wise, for that you would have to look at my first summer of racing and see some awesome 2:17min/100m swims, but I found it really rough and aggressive. The swim started, I sprinted hard for 2 minutes and by this point in most races, I am among the top 20 swimmers and only have clear water and the person in front of me's feet to think of. Well this morning, I was being trampled by everyone. I have never been kicked, pulled, clawed at so badly in a race. I was really getting mad. I couldn't understand either why so many people were keeping up with me. Flashes of a really strong field kept going thru my mind, either that, or I was just really stinking it up on the swim.

It was so bad that by 3-400m into the swim I had already given up. I was no longer pushing hard, I had a complete psychological breakdown and decided to just cruise the swim. After being kicked in the goggles twice and having them fill up, I became the biggest jerk out there, whenever someone touched my feet I kicked furiously and if someone crowded me trying to take over my spot in line I would nearly body check them. Looking back I feel a little bad now. 

Fortunately it was a two lap swim where we exited the water after the first lap, and I had the chance to adjust my goggles and start the second. What really made me wonder about this swim was that midway thru the second lap I refocused and started working again, and I was passing everyone left, right and center. How were these slow swimmers ahead of me. It didn't really make sense. 

I got out of the water and headed to a long run, for an uneventful T1. I did the swim in 30:30 which gave me a pace of 1:32min/100m, not actually all that bad. I took my time seeing as how I had just finished cruising the swim and got on my bike ready to try again. Exiting transition, I got on my bike and headed for my first climb up Richters Pass. 

Fortunately on the bike I think there was a tailwind heading up the Pass from the Osoyoos valley side. I was able to get up the mountain holding a pretty steady 22-24kph over the opening climb (12k). Once up and over the mountain however, things changed quite drastically, coming from the Keremeos valley I ran into one of the strongest headwinds I have ever gone against. Only Hamilton duathlon nationals in 2006 outdid this wind. Heading over the 9 rolers into Keremeos I was having a lot of trouble with my bike, it felt like I was fighting the machine the whole way. The inconsistent wind gust didn't help with the rear disk either and I had to ride the whole way to the turn around with my hands on the hoods, and even there it was sketchy. 

Here is a map of the elevation profile of the race. Now hopefully you'll understand why people call it Canada's hardest Half Ironman.
Reaching the turnaround in 92 minutes (eww) I was really upset with my performance so far. After a fairly poor swim and a sub adequate first half of the bike, I decided that today was pretty much over for me, and that I would just save energy for the Vancouver Half the week later. Amazing what a tail wind can do for your spirits. Making the turn back towards Osoyoos I was flying 56-58kph on the flat. Still being blown a bit side to side by the disk in the gusty wind, but stable enough to really get a good groove and power away. About 5 minutes after the turn around and finally catching back up to the fat old men who were able to plow thru the wind on the way out I started getting a really violent wobble in my bike. Realizing I was slowing down, I figured I must have gotten a flat and sure enough I had. 

Now I can't complain about the flat too much. As I have said I wasn't too pleased with the disk on the windy course. Well, getting the flat, wheel tech must have been 100m behind me at most. I barely slowed down to a stop and they were already on top of me asking if I needed help and if I wanted to simply change the wheel, or actually change the tire. I opted to change the wheel and was given a Ksyrium SL in the place of my disk. The people working from the Bike Barn did a fantastic job, however, they were really funny because despite everything they were really concerned with what size cassette I wanted for my rear wheel. I went with the same 11-23 I ride regularly. After a quick brake adjustment I was on my way again. All in all it was probably a 4-5 minute delay. I watched and counted about 20 cyclist pass me during the pit stop.

This was probably the changing point of the race, considering how miserably everything had gone so far, had the presence of the Bike Barn people not guilted me back on my bike, I probably wouldn't have continued. I got back on my bike and once again had a flash that the race was over and decided to just enjoy myself, make this into a training ride. This was probably the smartest move of the day. I got into a really good groove since I wasn't fighting the bike anymore and probably was riding faster that ever. And the tail wind was nice too. There as one section which was probably a 4% uphill for about 1km, and I rode up the first half at 47-48kph and made it over the top without dropping below 44kph. That was nice.

Heading back into Osoyoos I ran into the same wind that had pushed me up Richters at the beginning but I swear it picked up, and as a result had a pretty slow decent into the city. But it was the same for everyone.

Coming into Osoyoos I was pleased about one thing, that my nutrition despite all of this had gone quite well. I had my 4 gels and drank almost fully bot
h gatoraide bottles and some water. I guess I can say I was pleased about another thing, and that was being off my bike. 

I'll give a little product pitch now. If you can't afford a disk wheel, or its windy, I highly recommend the Ksyrium SL. It was a fantastic wheel. Felt stiff and light, I really didn't feel like it slowed me down with the decreased aerodynamics.

Getting into T2 again it was fairly uneventful. I was quick, but not my typical lightning fast, my drive just wasn't there. One thing I noticed was that only two bikes were racked in my age group, meaning that I was heading off on the run in 3rd.

The run course was very nice. On a waterfront path most of the way for an out and back course that looped back by the finish line. My only complaints were that I feel they could have used just one more aid station. I found km 2-5 really long, and then being an out and back km (6-9, 13-16, 17-20) as well. My second complaint is somewhat unjustified. The race was sponsored by Hammer Gels, and these are something I haven't really gotten used to, I typically have Powergels, something I've gotten used to thru the Subaru series races I've done, and so getting to the first aid station of the run and getting a banana Hammer Gel wasn't too pleasing. I only got about half of it in me and decided enough of that. I ran the rest of the half marathon drinking only water, and sometimes sipping on gatoraide while soaking in a GLORIOUS sponge that they were giving out.

I made the decision that either I was going to vomit from the gels or cramp up from the lack of them, and decided that cramp up was a lot better than being sick. 

I quickly ran down the guy in second place in my division and kept my eyes open at the turn around for number 1 but he was nowhere to be seen. I ran fairly even splits (4:25min/km first 10k, 4:40min/km second 10k) to finish off with a time of 1:36 (I realize those paces don't work out exactly, but I don't care) on the half marathon and a total time just shy of 4:59. 

Crossing the finish line, my name and time were announced but nothing more. I shortly thereafter checked out the results board to discover I had come first in my age group. The guy who was off the bike before me and in first place never finished. I don't know what happened to him. So there you have it. Vincent Lavallee, Provincial and National Champion at Long Course Triathlon. 

Things I've learned from this race. Never give up, no matter how much you slow down, and decent result can be achieved on the worst of days. And even though your not feeling good you can still be going fast as was the case of my swim.

I finished in 35th overall, and without the flat I expect that I would have come in and around 28-29th.  People have argued that the break on the bike during the flat gave me a rest, however, getting back on my bike right afterwards, my legs were really heavy having just gone from 90% to stopped to stand around. I would think as a result any benefit I may have gotten form the rest was eliminated by my requirements for recovery from the lactic acid pool in my legs upon stopping.

Jody had a good race as well. I think frustrating as well because she was using this as a training race and wasn't allowing herself to go all out, but she finished feeling really strong and winning her qualification for long course worlds, Congrats!

Doug was also there this weekend, but had quite an off race. I haven't really spoken to him much about it, but I could tell it just wasn't a good day for him which was upsetting because I was really looking forward to a repeat of Victoria, because he really beat me up there. Maybe later in the summer then.

Leaving the race I decided to take up Jody's offer and come visit her friend Robin with her in Summerland. I had never been there before and it seemed a lot more appealing than going to work the next day. This also meant that I wouldn't have to hitch a ride with a stranger from the race, and Jody would have company on her drive home.

Robin's family was fantastic, I somewhat came last minute and it was just one of those lovely families where all are welcome. I didn't feel awkward about crashing with Jody at all (Jody did check before we showed up if it was alright, don't worry). It was really nice to meet Robin as well, she is a triathlete who is now studying in Ontario, and I hop to get to meet her again sometime in the future. 

We spent Monday at the beach in Penticton working on our tans and then went back for a great mexican fiesta!

Tuesday morning after watching some Tour de France on their TV Jody and I headed back to Vancouver for a good week of recovery before we both race the Vancouver International next weekend.

Just a quick conclusion. I went for a ride tonight, 60k with a few hills and legs felt fantastic. Still a little weak, but I'm really optimistic about next weekend. Psychologically I'm feeling prepared because my friends are coming and I'm excited about that, and also I feel confident that physically I'll be in great shape.

Hopefully I can go for the Threepeat this weekend, seeing as how at my last two races I've won my age group, it would be fantastic to do that again.

Thanks for reading, and sorry about the lack of photos, without spectators the only photos I get are from the race photographer, and their photos aren't up yet.


Patrick said...

Hey Dude! Congrats! You had a great 1/2-IM time. The nice thing about Richter Pass is that it barely feels like anything if you've been riding Cypress and Seymour all season. :P Speaking of which, whatcha doin' on Saturday morning?

Kevin said...

Awesome job! I saw your bike split and figured it was probably really windy, but didn't think that you got a flat. Nice work bouncing back from it. Once my running legs are back we can work on some longer tempo runs to get you down to 4:15-4:20 kms for your next race. I think you'll clean up this weekend at the Half-Iron!

Daniele Hohol said...

Dude awesome work!!!

angelo b said...

Really proud of you. You are working hard and it is really paying off. You're right, never give up, just learn from it. Stay the course for next weekend.