2011 St.Croix Ironman 70.3 Race Report

     I couldn't be happier with the kick-off race of my 2011 racing season. Last weekend, I raced St. Croix Ironman 70.3 and had one of my best races at the half-Ironman distance finishing in 4th place, going 8 minutes faster than last year on the same course (swim: same, bike: -4 minutes, run: -4 minutes). This was a huge improvement over last year at the same race where I placed 9th. Although my swim time was the same, the lead group swam over a minute slower than last year, so my time gap to the front group was over a minute better.

     This year I didn't participate in any local "warm-up" races in Austin as fitness checkpoints. Basically, the last few months, I just put my head down and trained hard. I also think I was smarter in my training this spring than in the past. As I made my training plans, I'd spend a lot of time studying my training logs from the last 3 years to determine what's worked well for me, what was too much for my body, the best mix of rest, volume, intensity, and strength, as well as the training load that my body has historically reacted well to. I have to say that I am very pleased with how I've started this year. I am fitter, stronger, and faster in all three disciplines than ever in the past.


The Mocojumbies wallk around downtown Christiansted on 6ft tall stilts.

     The overall trip to St.Croix was very fun as usual. This is one of my favorite 70.3 races. I haven't found a race that can match the atmosphere of St.Croix. The whole island enjoys and supports the race. In the days before the race, locals wish you good luck while you're out running and biking. This year, the island's government repaved large sections of the bike course just for the race. Then, the host families are the very welcoming and supportive of the professionals. My training partner, Richie Cunningham, and I stay with the same host family each year. Richard and Lori graciously open up their home to us and take amazing care of us. They go well out of their way to make sure that we feel comfortable and welcome. I cannot thank them enough for their hospitality. It wouldn't be a St.Croix trip without spending time with Richard and Lori.


Out at the race site after a warm-up swim. Swim start is on island behind me. Photo by Ramon Serrano

     The other aspect I really enjoy about this race is the laid back atmosphere and attitude in the days before the race. There isn't the nervous, aggressive energy I notice at many Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events. The athletes are more relaxed, all hanging out together and getting to know each other better. On the flip side, you can't get too relaxed because you still have a race to do, and the pro field at St.Croix is always a tough one.


From left: Mirinda Carfrae, Richie Cunningham, and I head out into the Caribbean for a practice swim.
Photo by Ramon Serrano

     I felt pretty good in the week before the race. I had just finished out a big 6-week training block to prepare for Ironman China, so I gave myself a recovery week going into this race so my body could absorb the work I had done. Richie and I did our typical short swims, bikes, and runs. I love the warm-up swims in the days before the race. Nothing beats swimming in the clear, blue, warm Caribbean.

     Race morning, we rode our bikes the 3 miles to the race as usual. That's the first rush of the day, riding on bumpy roads at 5am without lights! I never remember to bring a head-lamp to this race. Everything else race morning went smooth and without a hitch.

     This year's swim went better than in the past. I still don't think my swim at this race reflects how I've been swimming in the pool this year, but I'm not worried. I swam better than last year, and things are really clicking in the water. The start of this race is really squirrely and I had a really bad first 300 meters that messed me up and put me futher behind at the beginning that I should have been. After about 300 meters of the swim, I had a great race. I had one other guy to swim with, so we traded off the lead a few times. I felt good coming out of the water so I was ready to go.

     I knew I was a lot stronger on the bike than last year so I was ready to test my cycling. Also, I have my new bike this year, the 2011 Felt DA, so I was really excited to test this bike out in a race situation. I couldn't have been happier with both my cycling fitness and the bike. The DA is a mean machine. It is fast and stiff in the time trial position, it feels great. It climbs really well and feels very stable and reliable on the technical sections like down hills and turns.

   I ended up biking 4 minutes faster than last year on the same course and I think we had harder wind conditions this year. Where I live in Austin, we've had an insanely windy spring. As frustrating as wind can be in training because you never feel "fast", when it came time for the headwind sections in St.Croix, I was stronger and more focused than in the past. I felt strong on the hills, comfortable on the technical sections (that's where I usually struggle on the bike), and really focused on working the flats and headwind sections. I started the bike in 10th place and finished out in 6th.

     Coming into town at the end of the bike, I had a chance to see where everyone was positioned. I was pleased to see that I was closer to the lead than I've ever been in a 70.3. Starting the run, I was able to get into my stride pretty quickly. My running felt very consistent and strong. It wasn't as hot as last year on the run course, so I think that helped. I also feel like I really nailed my nutrition and fluid intake for this distance and conditions. I never felt too dehydrated or low on calories, but just as important I never felt bloating and/or sloshing in the stomach. I tend to err on the side of too many calories and fluids in races which can lead to feeling too full on the run, but I feel like I got it right in this race.

     At the end of the first lap of the run, I noticed Kriat and Bell were locked together racing for 1 and 2. A few minutes back was Richie and an Italian, Degasperi. Those two have battled at tons of races and always seem to be close. They seemed out of reach for me, but I had closed some time on the first loop of the run. I decided that I'd push the next 2 miles to the golf course and if I could see them there, I'd have a shot at catching them. Two miles later, I could see them in the distance. I kept digging and digging over the next 4 miles, slowly watching the gap come down. With about a mile to go, they still had about 100 meters on me. When the gap came down to 50 meters, a race radio announcer who was on a bicycle on the opposite side of the road, dropped back to me from Richie and was announcing the race live over his headset. He was saying things like "we have the upset of the day in progress, Evoe is running down the two in front of them. He's closing the gap fast and if he holds this pace, he'll over take them." Hearing the race commentating live was like a live wire jolt of adrenaline.

     I closed the last bit and ran up on Richie's shoulder. He knew I was coming, so he had saved up some energy so we could go together. With less than a half mile to go, as I came up on the two of them, I gave Richie a pat on the back and the two of us attacked. Degasperi tried to go with us. The next 20-30 seconds turned into a team effort with several attacks together. Then Degasperi dropped off the back. I went to the front and kept pushing the pace. I had given everything I had to bridge up to them, so I didn't want to have to sprint with Degasperi. I stayed at the front with Richie right behind me and we kept opening the gap. With 100 meters to go, Richie kicked in his extra gear and took me by 1 second. I knew if it was him and I in the end that he would have me in the kick. We run together every single day, so I know that he has amazing sprinting and closing speed. Just as he kicked it in, he gave me words of encouragement and I have him a pat on the back. Together we had pushed ourselves to a better placement. I have to say that it was my favorite race finish of my career. Hopefully I have more exciting finishes to come.

     Unbeknownst to me, someone was following Richie and I on a bike over the last two minutes filming the whole ordeal. It's now on youtube. The video starts about 20 seconds after we dropped Degasperi. You can see us looking back several times to see if we had gotten away. It's really great that this whole moment was captured and posted.

     Watch the youtube video of the last two minutes with Richie and I here

     So now I'm back in Austin, recovered from the race and in my last couple weeks of preparation and training for Ironman China on May 29th.  I cannot express how excited this race has made me for the 2011 season.

     I really want to thank Little Caesars Pizza for their support of me and my racing. Their belief in me is so important for me be able to do what I'm doing in this sport. I'd also like to thank RecoveryPump for their support. RecoveryPump has been a critical aspect of my training and recovery this year and I truely believe the product has helped to take my training to the next level. Jack and Adam's Bicycles in Austin are always there to help support me and my racing. I want to thank Felt Bicycles for putting me on such an amazing bike, the 2011 Felt DA. Champion System Clothing has provided me with the best race and training clothing that you see in these pictures. Xterra Wetsuits is providing me with the best wetsuits and speedsuits in the sport and Advanced Rehabilitation in Ausin helps to keep me healthy for training and racing. Hill Country Running Company is a great help with my running equipment. PowerBar and SBR Sports Inc's products are also a great help for racing and training. I want to again thank Richard and Lori for hosting Richie and I in their home! Also I want to thank my family and friends for their unending support for me. Without these people and sponsors, I would not be able to pursue this dream.

Thank you,
Pat


I don't know the history of Mocojumbies, but my guess is that they bring good luck. Of course I kept calling them Chumbawubas and Richie called them Oompaloompas 

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