Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Buffalo Springs 70.3 - 5th Time's a Charm

(This is my one lone photo... if you have any please send my way!)

Why have I always loved Buffalo Springs Lake triathlon? Gotta start simply with the race director, Mike Greer, who just sets the tone for the event. I dug into some Slowtwitch forums to get a few quotes directly from the man himself, on his pride and joy, this course...

1. "But, here are the elements that make Buffalo Springs a challenge...There is always a wind, normal 10-15 but can be much greater. Normal prevailing wind is SW, but if it comes from the NE the course changes complexion like Angelina Jolie without makeup."

2. "It was also mentioned that we had changed the bike course and had taken one of the hills out(the hairpin called "Golf Course Hill") of the course. While it is true that this is being done in 2011, please be assured it is only temporary for this year. Also, it is not being done to make the course easier, heaven forbid that any race director would do that."

3. "Again, the comments have been appreciated very much, especially comments like, 'This race has no hype, not a WTC corporate love fest, and no flash. It is a real racing, like it should be. It's a great race.' In my pre-race meeting my way of saying basically the same thing is, "Thanks for coming to Lubbock to race an old school race course. This is not Starbucks racing and never will be, hitch up your saddles and get ready for a challenge!"

In my own words, not quite as eloquent or entertaining, it is an honest, hard, grassroots kind of course that always brings tough elements; and it has character. I raced here in '06, '07, '08, '09 and finally 2011; my placing went 8th, 6th, 4th, 2nd and finally 1st. I am nothing if not persistent!

I have to say despite loving this course, I was having a tough time finding my race mojo going into it. It was 5 weeks post-Ironman Texas. Those 5 weeks entailed 1 week of hobbling around, 1 week of very light training, 2 weeks of trying to snap back into it (harder weeks), and 1 week of a few days of quality followed by a few days of rest. I had some good workouts, and I had some crap ones. Exactly a week out, I planned a 4.5 hour ride, yet fatigue from having raced a 'fun' 5K two days prior and the extreme heat in Austin forced me to whittle it down to 3.5 hours. I know it doesn't sound like much of an alteration in training, but it definitely made me question my 'coming back to normal' from the smash-fest 5 weeks prior.

Needless to say, Derick was racing his first half Ironman in 2 years, and I have always loved this event, so I tried to not let this get to me and just carry on as normal, hoping I'd 'snap to' when the gun went off. Here's how it all went down.

The swim was wetsuit-legal, which is still ludicrous in my opinion that professionals are expected to need wetsuits in 76-degree water; but I have tried to get over that lame fact and just focus on racing; it's just negative energy wasted if I get worked up over it. I opted of course for my sleeveless Zoot suit, the Fuzion, and it felt great. The group of 15 or so women started to Mike's "Set, Go!" right at about 6:30, 2 minutes behind the men. We took off and I had to fight a bit to the first buoy to find a good position; the first buoy which was of course added so that the pro's would not run down the beach for the first 200 meters. I was able to find some clean water by the second turn buoy and swim pretty much solo (just how I like it!) for the remainder of the swim, exiting in 24:01. It was a nice surprise to see later when looking at the results, that was the fastest time overall for pro men and women; which was quite a shocker! Not sure I've ever done THAT before. Thank you Whitney & all of my UT Masters swim buddies! Onto the bike.

I tried to hit the bike hard from the start, as we had a few good climbs out of the park. I love this course because of the hills. At one point, I looked down at my SRM and almost went off the road. Actually I did go off the road, but I caught myself. This was about 5 miles in; I didn't look at the SRM much the remaining 50 miles. I was pushing hard, and trying not to think who was behind me and when they may catch me. I was passed by Margaret Shapiro maybe 10, 15 miles in, but then she proceeded to ride off course a few miles later. Which totally sucked for her, but knowing how strong she is, I have to say I was a little happy; and I say that in the most respectful sense to Margaret! We did a short out and back section, and I saw Jess Meyers and Amanda Lovato both barreling down on me; which forced me to stay on the gas. I felt strong, but not stellar. The winds were out of control; just unrelenting. I was riding my Reynolds RZR 92 rear and the morning of, I switched out to my 46 front just to be safe; I was glad I did, though I think I would have been fine with the 92 front, this was probably a bit safer given the big descents and insane crosswinds. I continued to try to push the intensity, up and down the stairstep climb, maintaining the lead but I feared not by much. We hit the homestretch before we turned into the park when the inevitable happened, Jess Meyers passed me. I told her great job and joked that now I could ride her ass. :) I really like Jess and she has paid her dues and is just a good person. It was awesome to see her racing so well. We then hit mile 50, at which point I said, "Are you f'ing kidding me?!" thinking we were much further along than that. We were coming into a headwind the final 5-6 miles; for some reason I expected a tailwind (I've never been much good at navigation) so that came as an unpleasant shock.

When we finally turned into the park, I dialed my intensity back significantly; much like I did at Ironman Texas the final 5-10 miles. I wanted to assure that my legs had something left for the run. In transition, I was told that I was about 1 minute behind the leader. I think Jess picked it up when I dialed it back! But I tried to be patient. The first couple of miles are winding and a little undulating; and of course, it was windy. At one point I lost my Zoot visor, as it flew off my head. I ran back to get it quickly, not wanting to run with the sun in my face for 13 miles. (It again committed visor suicide at mile 5; when I decided best to just let it go). I was able to pass Jessica at about mile 2. I pushed on out of the park, up and down the huge hills before the turnaround, and finally made the halfway turn at mile 6.5. The real treat was turning back in with a strong tailwind! I tried to pick up the pace then, as I had been keeping the first half very controlled, not wanting to blow up. I saw Derick on the out-stretch here and when he yelled for me, I yelled back "Come and catch me!" We have had an on-going joke about us competing at this race. (Unfortunately for D, I won today... more on that later). I broke the course into sections coming back in; first the hills, then the park. Mentally this helped a bit; the hills made up about 1 mile, and the park was the final 3 miles. I honestly never consider a race 'in the bag' until I can see the finish line, and here, the treat is that you cannot see it until you are upon it. I knew I had a lead, but knowing ANYTHING can happen, I knew it was not a 'win' until I had actually crossed the line. Soon enough came the finish & I was able to cross in 4:26, with a 1:24 run and a huge PR on this course. It was a great feeling to have finally tackled this course and come out on top!

Then came the waiting game. I figured D would be maybe 5-10 minutes behind me. I waited, and waited. And waited. A few friends crossed the next 30 minutes, whom I asked about him. It was not until about 1 hour later they started saying "I saw him, he's fine! Just walking. Spirits are good." So I walked on out a bit and found him, just walking along... talking to people. He went on to tell me that he kind of blew at mile 6 at which point he decided to take his time; even stopping to talk to our friend Lon, the PowerBar rep, and sit down in the shade with him for 15 minutes! Love it. His consensus was two-fold: 1) the best way to improve in a half-ironman is probably not to do one every two years, and 2)that he is cursed on this course! But it was fun to have him out there racing with me, and he was glad he got out and did it (but even more glad when it was over). On the flip side, it was a little less exciting when I didn't have someone at the finish line to share the excitement with!

I have to give a huge thanks to Mike and Marti Greer, who truly make this course what it is and have done so for 20+ years. Additionally a huge thanks to my amazing support team, Zoot Sports, PowerBar, Quintana Roo, Reynolds, Recovery Pump, Road ID, ISM, Katalyst Multisport, Jack & Adams, Hill Country Running, Durata Training, Xcis, Oakley, Advanced Rehab, 3 Cosas and Go with the Flo. I was a bit unsure of how this one would play out, but it seemed the harder the race became as it progressed, the more excited I was to be back out there competing and the better I felt. I still love this distance as the intensity is just about as hard as you can sustain without blowing up. More fun than an Ironman which seems to be a 'hold back your pace' kind of game. Luckily, I get to do a few more of these before October!

Next up: Muncie 70.3 in just 1.5 weeks. Back home again in Indiana!
Thanks so much for reading & be safe out there,