On Sunday I decided to try an experiment and race on no run training the past 6 weeks. This was a sprint triathlon in Sullivan, IL...about 3 hours and 15 minutes from home. The distance was a 400 meter swim, 13.5 mile bike ride, and a 5k run on the end. I don't have any pictures because Jen was with the kids at a baby shower in Chicago. I had signed up a year ago and deferred my entry to this year due to an injury to where else but my achilles tendon. I have to thank the race director Monte Johnson for allowing me to defer the entry and for putting on a really well organized race. Going into the race I planned to have arthroscopic surgery on the achilles this upcoming Tuesday. My longest run over the past 6 weeks was 2 miles and that was a couple weeks ago but I thought at that time that I could make it 5k. I knew it would hurt but didn't expect what was to come.
I drove up to the race with fellow Team Tri-Fitter and friend Jason Gravert. The ride there was good except I missed an exit but Jason's GPS rerouted us and took us on some very rural roads in Illinois to get to our destination. The race didn't start until 12:30 so it was nice to leave the morning of and we arrived about 10:30. I had decided I was not going to run at all for a warm up which I've never done but I didn't know how many miles my achilles had in it so I wasn't going to waste any of them with a run warm up. I decided to bike the 13.5 mile course as a warm up mostly so I could check out the "dangerous" turns the race director described in his e-mails to us. It was also very wet out as it rained off and on all day. The wind was also going to be a factor as it was blowing a steady 18 miles per hour. After the warm up ride I decided I was going to stick with the Zipp sub-9 disc on the rear of the bike and the Zipp 808 up front for a little more control than the 1080 that I would go with on an ideal day. The 808 has a little bit narrower rim so it isn't affected quite as much in the wind. After the warm up ride I went for a nice warm up swim. The race would start in an indoor pool with a 400 meter swim going up and down lanes and moving across the pool as we went, so every 2 lenths I torpedoed off the wall and under the lane rope into the next lane. The swim warm up was good and I was ready to go in as the 16th swimmer to enter the water. They would send 1 swimmer every 10 seconds and we had sent in an estimated swim seed time that determined the start order.
SWIM: I started with the 2 foot bunny hop as diving was not allowed to start the swim. I got into a great rhythm early on breathing every three strokes. I was able to see the wall pretty clearly even though there were no marks on it so I went with flip turns at each of the walls. About 1/2 way in I still felt in a great rhythm but was getting tired enough I started breathing every 2 strokes. With 2 lengths to go I caught the guy who started 10 seconds ahead of me and I decided to draft for 1 length to recover just a bit. When we hit the final turn I went around him and got out of the water and headed for the bike. My overall swim time was 6:01. That ranked 7th out of the 267 finishers. For me this was a very solid swim. It included my run out of the pool and down some steps before we reached the transition mat. It is also about 40 seconds faster than I swam for a 400 meter pool swim at Scott County Park for a race last September.
BIKE: I made it through the first transition in 24 seconds. That was the fastest T1 of the day. I take great pride in my transitions. I'll be hosting a transition clinic at Crow Creek Park in Bettendorf free to anyone who wants to learn some tips on how to get through T1 and T2 faster on May 8th at 9:00 a.m. I was out on the bike and I passed one or two guys early and then didn't see anyone. The best swimmers were up the road ahead of me by quite a bit because they started ahead of me and then swam faster than I did. Because I started the race 16th and passed 1 in the water I figured out my 24 second split through T1 allowed me to pass 9 or 10 of the swimmers that started ahead of me. I moved into 3rd position about 4 miles into the ride. I could see the two guys ahead of me but they were up about a minute and a half at that point. One of them was my good friend and college teammate Chris Sweet. The first 5 miles was with the wind at our back and I was maintaining speeds between 30 and 35 miles per hour. At high speeds I can really feel the benefits of the sub-9 disc. At about mile 5 we made a really scary turn that brought some riders down and we were headed directly back into the wind. It was also a rough stretch of bumpy road. I knew this tough part is where I had to make up time. My plan going into this race was to get a decent lead off the bike because I didn't know what the run would bring me. We made a right hand turn at mile 6.5 and headed back towards the 1st part of the course where we would be doing a 2nd loop of what had been miles 3-5. When I got to the turn back to the point where riders were on their fist loop I had cut the gap to 50 seconds. The wind was again at my back which meant more 30 mph riding. That was fun. At mile 10 we turned at the death trap again into the wind for a 2nd time. I had the lead down to 30 seconds. We would finish with about 4 miles into the wind. After about 2 of them I passed Chris just as the rain started pouring down in our faces with the wind blowing right at us. I was only about 15 seconds back of the top rider and I caught him with about a mile to go. Both he and Chris has started about 2 minutes ahead of me so I thought I would be fine unless I fell apart on the run...I just about did! My bike average speed was 24.9 mph which ranked 2nd.
RUN: I had another good transition through T2 and was out on the run for the big experiment. I put on the GPS watch to check my pace. As I started I thought "This doesn't hurt so bad, maybe I don't need that surgery Tuesday." I went through the 1/2 mile mark on 5:40 pace which wasn't bad without training but then we went around a tight turn and I must have stepped wrong because my achilles sent a good jolt of pain through my leg. Okay...maybe I do need that surgery. From that point things went downhill in a hurry. I needed to get the run over. I remember looking down just before the mile mark and my pace had already slowed to 6:00 mostly because I was starting to really favor my good leg. I could tell I was starting to limp and thought the smart thing to do would be to stop...that's much tougher to do when winning the only race I may do for some time. By 1.5 miles the wheels were starting to come off. My achilles was screaming at me and the pain scale had escalated to about a 7. Before this run the highest it had gotten on the pain scale was a 6 and that was over a month ago when I decided not to run again for a few weeks. I was really favoring the good leg and any time I had to step on pavement it hurt much worse. I veered a little off course to get on softer grass. Luckly most of the run was on a limestone trail and there weren't really any hills. The only incline on the course hurt really bad. By mile 2 I wasn't sure I was going to finish. My pace had slowed to 7:00 because I was trying really hard not to put weight on my bad leg. The last 15 mile run I did 6 weeks ago today was 6:30 pace for the entire run...this was not good. Chris passed me with .4 miles to go and I didn't dare try to go with him. The pain had escalated to 9 or 9.5. I was just hoping to finish at this point. He started about 2 minutes ahead of me so I thought to hang on for the win I could finish with my brutal hobble shuffle. I did finish in 58:51... with a run time of 19:31. My last mile had to be over 7:00. My run rank was 3rd overall despite the wheels coming off. My time was good enough for the win and a $100.00 gift card to Spin City Bicycle Shop. Chris finished 2nd overall in 59:54. He looks really fit and I think he'll have a great summer. My buddy Jason Gravert had a great 1st race of the year finishing 41st. I was glad he came with me.
I already have a bruise forming on my leg and it hurts really bad walking now. I'd be really disappointed in my decision to compete if the doctor says it is bad to have the surgery now and I have to wait. I'll have to wear the walking boot at school tomorrow so I can get around class and teach kids about what made slaves more or less valuable at an auction. One last story...as I was waiting around and checking the results out after the race a guy next to me was studying them and said, "Jeff Paul, I think he got his pro license." His buddy chimed in, "No, I don't think he did. I'm pretty sure he hasn't gotten it yet." A 3rd guy said, "Yeah I'm pretty sure he hasn't gotten it yet." I said, "I think he got it in January...I'm pretty sure of it." I then walked off without them knowing who I was. Complete results of the race with splits can be found at http://www.sullivanil.us/triathlon/2010/OVERALL.HTM Congrats to everyone who raced here in Sullivan today. The conditions made it tough on the ride and a lot of people fell between the one tough turn on the bike and the many tough turns on the run. Be proud of getting this one out of the way.
I'm praying for a successful surgery this week so this race won't be the highlight of my 2010 season. I know I have to be smart about my recovery. Next week I'll post how the recovery is going. Thanks for reading! DREAM BIG!