What was going to be my "big race" of the season became a "tune up" or "test" race once I got into Kona. I would be swimming 2.4 miles in the Russian River in Sonoma County, followed by a 112 bike ride through California Wine Country. Basically an Ironman without the run.
It was an early wakeup call (4:20 AM) as we were staying an hour (!) from the start. As we finally arrived I thanked Julia for putting up with these races and she promptly went back to bed (in the parked car.) I made my way to the transition area. It was strange not bringing my running gear!
I decided to swim sans wetsuit since the water was a pleasant 72 degrees - warmer than the air! Even though this would be a bit slower since the wetsuit makes you much faster with the added buoyancy, I wanted the experience of swimming this far in open water without one. The swim start was hectic as always - people spend way too much energy fighting. I was relaxed and let the field sort itself out a bit and tried my best to get into a groove. About halfway to the turnaround it was bizarre - the water level went down to about three feet - so people decided to start walking! Here I am swimming and there are people towering over walking at around the same speed. I decided against this tactic, as it was clearly swimmable and I wanted the full experience - and the training. After another loop I got out of the water to a 1:18 swim split - which I felt very happy about.
I got on my bike and set out on the bike course - which started off with a few technical turns. This was tough as there was almost no opportunity to pass other riders at this point. When I finally hit open road I was eager to put the hammer down. I really wanted to break 6 hours on the bike - which is holding an average speed of around 18.7 mph for 112 miles. The course was undulating with some rollers - a totally "aero" course. I had my crazy aero helmet on and was cruising at 20+. It was a little tough deciding who to pass since all of us age groupers "pulse" our speed - we go a little hard then back off, etc. But I felt pretty good overall about my pacing.
I've gotta say I had a bit of trouble getting comfortable after the first loop. 56 miles is a long way, and to ride right by the finish to do it again is not easy! By mile 80 or so I was feeling real miserable. My nutrition and hydration were good - as was my heart rate....but my back especially was really seizing up! I've been trying a new saddle to address some other problems, and I'm not sure if that was the issue. The last 20 miles I pretty much gave up. I just couldn't do aero anymore. It was really frustrating seeing my average speed drop from 19.4 to 19.3 to 19.2 and so forth. And my legs still had energy to burn! But my back really felt bad. I also didn't want to "bury" myself for a relatively unimportant race. Julia and I were on vacation - I couldn't be bed ridden! So I really pulled back, and finally finished at around 6:02. Oh well!
As I got off my bike I could feel how bad my back really was. I could barely walk! I basically collapsed in the first piece of shade I could find. Julia came and met me, and after a bit of rest I got a massage and was able to get it loose enough to start stretching. It's still tight and sore, but I think I averted a major crisis by not pushing through it another 30 miles. I'm glad a sat up, got out of aero and put my goal on the shelf.
I still came in at sub 7:30 (7:26 was my time) and that's what I was hoping to do. And barely having sore legs the next day...well that's a good sign! I'm in great shape for Kona. If it weren't for the spasms it woulda been a perfect day!