A comparison to last year with some hard numbers and details on the day.
Swim with overall placing and ag placing:
2007 1:03:36 (244 oa /41 ag)
2008 1:02:44 (267 oa/ 45 ag)
Instructions were to take the swim easy, and that's just what I did. Just like last year there was a ton of contact and jockeying for position for the entire first lap. Just when you would get in a rhythm someone would try to climb over you or you would get to a turn and things would get all bunched up and go to hell again. Looked at my watch after the first lap and was at 28 minutes and change so I just cruised the second lap trying to mentally prepare myself for the day to come. Finished with a faster time than last year but a few spots lower in the positions. But I definitely had an easier swim this year and did not push as hard as I did the previous year as I was trying to set myself up for a good day.
This is deceiving as I was faster this year, but I was smarter too. Last year I ran up the helix as it was hard not to with all the people lining it and screaming for you. Then you change (in my case put on shoes/helmet) have a 2-300 yard run to your bike and then another long run to the mount line. This year I went a lot easier up the helix, got my bag, threw on my helmet and carried my shoes to my bike rack. I saw a few people doing this last year and a lot doing it this year. You can run a lot faster and easier carrying your shoes on the concrete parking deck then running with your shoes on. So I went easier up the helix but carrying my shoes saved a few seconds but more importantly my exertion was a lot lower.
2007 5:53:43 (295/66) 19.00 mph avg.
2008 5:53:10 (366/79) 19.03 mph avg.
This is what hurt me the most this year. I lost a lot of overall spots and ag spots compared to last year despite having an almost identical time.
The bike started out great. I went with water only for the first 20 minutes to make sure my stomach settled and then started out on Gatorade Endurance. I started the ride with two cheap bottles, one water, one G-Endurance, and just replenished them as needed at aid stations. This worked great and was simple and efficient. Started on gel from a gel flask at 1 hr and took a 'hit' of gel every 30-45 minutes. Things were going good and it seemed like I was passing a lot more people than passed me for the first half of the ride. I hit the timing mat at about mile 41 and my avg speed was just over 20.5 mph to that point and the ride had felt easy. Temperature out was ideal and I had pretty much not even broken a sweat to this point. I was cruising the few flat sections and spinning the hills. The bike course is a real tough course, lots of hills and turns and a couple of nice big steep climbs lined with cheering fans. We rode the IM Louisville course last weekend and I have to say after doing both back to back I think IMWI is much harder. Things were really falling into place well and I was still at about 20.5 mph avg at the 56 mile point.
Then things got funny. The wind really started to pick up for the second loop and I started to get passed. I then started to ride a little harder as I soon started to really get passed by people one after another. At first I thought the wind was slowing me down but then I could not figure out why I seemed to be the only one dropping off the pace. Then I thought I might be bonking, but I did not feel out of energy. I tried eating some sports beans and taking a power bar but I was still getting passed and I was now in a zone that I knew was much too hard for an IM race but it was all I could do to just keep people in site as they zoomed by me. Miles 60-70 or so were really a dark place and I was beginning to wonder if or how I was going to keep this effort up or if whatever was going on was going to even allow me to finish. Then, at the top of a climb on a 90 degree left hand turn my bike acted really loose in the front as I made the turn and I then finally realized I had a front tire with a slow leak and had been riding for who knows how long on really low psi's.
I was furious, with both my rotten luck and my own stupidity for not realizing what was going on 30 minutes earlier. This was the third flat tire this year in a race and I was so mad I pulled over and tossed my wheel over a ditch into a cornfield and was ready to quit right then and there. Those thoughts only lasted a second so I hopped the ditch and grabbed my wheel. Took a few seconds to find a stick or reed to shove down my valve extender to let the rest of the air out, changed my tire in under 5 minutes and headed off down the road. I had stowed the bad tube under my seat with my bungies (I only carried a spare, CO2 and Microflate under my saddle bungied to the rails with no bag or anything) and 30 seconds later the bungie came loose and everything fell. I wasn't about to leave it on the road (especially with a draft marshall right behind me) so I had to turn around, go get the tube and CO2 cartridge and get off the bike and re-attach them. All in all I propably lost 10 minutes dealing with the flat, 5-10 minutes riding on a low tire but more importantly I had spent too much energy and dug too deep riding too hard for the time my tire was low and that's what hurt me the most.
Once on a properly inflated front wheel I found it easy to maintain 20+ mph for the rest of the ride but I did so by trying to ride as conservatively as I could to try to recover from the extra effort I had put out on the bike. But even with the flat, more wind and riding on a lower effort I was still able to beat, just slightly, last years time so I tried to take that as a positive from the race.
Nothing much going on here. I used traditional laces instead of speed laces as I find some of the speed laces uncomfortable on the top of my feet on long runs.
2007 4:36:18 (497 oa/112 ag final position)
2008 4:19:49 (398 oa/78 ag final position)
The run was disappointing, but compared to last year it was an improvement and I only lost 31 overall places as compared to 102 the year before and actually gained one final spot in my ag as compared to losing 56.
I started out ok, but I knew the short hard effort on the bike was going to bite me in the end. The first mile came and went in 8:15 or so. Next two miles were between 8:15 and 9:00 with walking the end of the third aid station included, so I was happy with the start of the run. In 2007 I was barely able to run aid station to aid station and walked each and everyone. This year I was skipping every other aid station or just getting water and taking gatorade and coke at alternating aid stations in between. The first lap came and went pretty uneventfully in just a tad over 2 hours. I was feeling ok energy wise and had no stomach issues, but the legs were starting to cramp a little. I started salt tabs towards the end of the first lap and the second lap was a cramp fest where I was able to run aid station to aid station but was hurting at each one and trying to stretch out. I also was not able to run a couple of the hills that on the first lap I had done a slow trot up but I did not walk them. Finally finished the second lap for an overall time of 11:27:51. I even got into a little mini-sprint with 3 of the runners who I had been playing leap frog with for the last 4-5 miles and was able to outkick them!
My goal was sub 11 with a 1 hr swim, 5:40 on the bike and a 4 hr run. That left some time for transitions thrown in there. I think I was really on pace for a great bike and would have been sub 5:40 or right on my goal with out much effort had it not been for the flat. On the run I was defintely paying for the extra hard stretch on the bike, especially during the second loop.
But I still took almost 20 minutes off of last years time with much more wind and a mechanical issue so that was definitely a positive.
For anyone thinking of doing this race it's a great venue in terms of crowd support. The crowds coming out of the swim and up the helix are incredible. On the bike the crowds in Cross Plains and especially Verona are amazing, and riding up Saulk Pass with the road lined with spectators is crazy. On the run there are very few spots where you don't have a cheering section, and running up and down State Street with the crowds lining both sides of the road is a great motivator.