Longhorn Ironman 70.3 Austin 2009 Race Report


Photo by Mario Cantu
    
     I must say that I am very happy with how Sunday’s race played out. I finished 10th place in a very strong professional field. I’m happy any time I can finish in the top-10 of a major race. My finish time was 3:56, but I was most happy with my run split which was a 1:14 half-marathon off the bike. This was about a 2:40 personal best run for me in a half-Ironman so I was very pleased with the results of the last few months of training. Now, you can never know how accurate a run course is or is not, but even if the run had been a minute short, it was still a significant best for me.  I was also really happy to see my good buddy Richie Cunningham defend his title there and take home the win. He's really fit and I think he's going to really be strong for Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater in 3 weeks. Congrats to Richie!

     I felt consistently strong all day and had no physical or mental dips in energy. I really didn’t fade towards the end of the swim, bike, or run, so that was very encouraging. This race did quite a bit for my confidence in my fitness in my final few build weeks before Ironman Cozumel coming this Thanksgiving. The other encouraging aspect of this result is that I tapered less for this race than ever before, so I know that when I put a full-taper in for Ironman Cozumel, I’ll be ready for a great race. After a disappointing Ironman Wisconsin last month, this solid effort and result really did a lot to reinforce my feelings of the fitness and strength I know I have.

     The race was held about 20 minutes east of town, so I could stay at my place the nights before the race. It was a little more challenge getting mentally prepared to race because I never left my normal routine, but it sure was nice to not travel for a race. The weather on race day was about perfect for me. It was in the low-60s in the morning and the high approached 80 when we were out on the run. It was partly cloudy with a light to moderate wind. Of course, when you’re on a bike, the wind seems bad, but in retrospect and knowing how windy East Austin can get, it was a mild day out there.

     Although my swim time and time gap to the leaders out of the water was in line with my other 70.3 races this year, I felt very comfortable and calm for the entire swim. The swim also took a lot less out of me than past swims, so exiting the water, I really didn’t feel taxed. Yes, of course, I want to be faster, but I was satisfied with this type of improvement. I had a solid start and was able to get on the back of a good group. Had I stayed on the back, I may have been able to swim about 2 minutes faster. About 600M into the start, I was barely hanging onto the back, but then I got nudged into a buoy by another swimmer. It was just enough to break my momentum, rhythm, and break my tenuous contact with that group. Once out of their draft, I couldn’t get back on and I watched them slowly pull away, meter by meter, over then rest of the swim. I linked up with a German girl and we swam together the rest of the way.

     I exited the swim about 5 minutes down on the leaders which was on par with the rest of the year, but as I said before, I felt really good. I had a solid transition,; actually, both transitions on the day were some of my best I’ve had. After my race in Rhode Island in July, I took a detailed look at my transitions and found a couple ways to shave off about 30-40 seconds. I think there’s a few more seconds I can drop, but again, these incremental improvements are encouraging.

     Right away on the bike, I felt really strong. I’ve spent the last month doing a A LOT of riding. I’ve done a lot of “solid” effort rides and less of shorter speed intervals. This training was geared towards the full Ironman distance for Cozumel, but I was really satisfied with how the strength translated into my riding ability for the shorter distance. What I noticed the most was how I could put in hard efforts of a few miles and then recover. Several times, I had to dig deep to drop guys who tried to cling on behind me after I passed them. Nothing is more annoying than a drafter or a clinger on your wheel. I felt like I could really punch it to get free and then relax once the elastic had broken and they had given up from sitting on my wheel. It was a deceptively fast bike course. I had ridden the course twice a couple weeks ago in training and, at the time, had thought it would be a fairly slow course. On race day, I was surprised with how much faster we covered the distance than I had anticipated. I’m glad I had ridden the course and know where the mentally tough parts of the course.


Photo by Mario Cantu

     I had come out of the water as the last place male pro, about 30th place, and got off the bike in 14th place. I had made up quite a bit of ground and positions on the field. Again, I really didn’t feel tired at the end of the bike.

     The real test is starting the run…..how will the legs feel? Well, they felt pretty darn good. I saved about 20 seconds in transition by not wearing socks. This was the longest run I’ve done without socks, but with a handful of Vaseline in each shoe put in before the race, I was 100% blister and chafing free at the end. The run course was constant hills. Not tough steep hills, but continuously up and down. I felt like I could keep my momentum rolling really well. The mens’ pro field was pretty bunched up through the whole run. It was a run where if you backed off, there were a few guys within a minute of you waiting to make the pass. I was really happy with how I was able to hold my pace and felt strong with each mile ticking by.

     Starting the third and final loop of the run, Victor Zyemtsev from the Ukraine caught me. He’s one of the best runners in the sport and he’s won about 6 Ironmans, all on the run. He just won Ironman Louisville by running a 2:42 marathon off the bike. I was fully expecting for him to just dust me, but I was able to run on his shoulder. There were a couple runners up the road struggling, so we ran together to reel in the last few. He’d put in little surges and pull 50M ahead of me, then I’d slowly come back. With less than a mile to go, he pulled about 20 meters ahead of me and just stayed there. I didn’t have anything else to get him. Victor probably turned back about 50 times in the last half mile to see if I was sprinting. Little did he know that there was no sprint left in my legs. He finished 4 seconds ahead of me, but I was happy that I was able to run with him for those last 4 miles.

     All in all, I was very happy with the day. I think my body performed up to my fitness level right now. After a few more weeks of Ironman-specific training and a proper taper, I know I’ll be ready to roll in Cozumel.

     I would like to thank Little Caesars Pizza for their belief in me and my racing as well as their support. I’d also like to thank Jack and Adam’s Bicycles for their endless assistance. I’d also like to thank Xterra Wetsuits for their great wetsuits and speed suits, Advanced Rehabilitation for helping to keep me injury free, Hill Country Running Company for help with running equipement, Lewis Signs for help printing my cool wheel and helmet stickers, and Mario Cantu for the great race photosI want to thank my parents for their unending support. Without the support of my family and friends, and sponsors, it would not be possible for me to continue my pursuit of racing; I am appreciative of their unending support and encouragement.

Pat 

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