Wednesday, October 2, 2013

SuperFrog 2013 Race Report

I was understandably nervous before the race. I had more butterflies than I ever had before. Maybe because it was my longest race ever, and I have never been going hard, non-stop for that long before. Even long training workouts don't take that long and there are breaks and times where we are not hammering. This race was different; I would be putting everything into racing for hopefully not much more than 4.5 hrs. I was optimistic however; I had done the math and found that if I completed the swim in 30, which was a reasonable goal, finished the bike in 2.5 hrs, again very doable, and finish the run in 1.5 hrs, according to my long runs also very likely. I thought that this would be a very realistic goal for how much I have been training and the fitness that I believed I had. I didn't want to expect too much for my first race of this distance ever before. I chose a conservative finish time of just over 4:30.

The Swim: 30:59
I knew that it was going to be a 2 lap swim course but what I didn't know was that my run in between the laps would not count toward the 1.2 distance, instead it went only towards time. It took me a while to get through the surf, and I was dropped from the front pack. I wasn't getting beat up, I just couldn't get my swim rhythm going it seemed like. I stored my Garmin under my swim cap, like I normally do for training in the open water. Three quarters of the way through the first lap of the swim my cap began to fall off so I pulled it off and swam with it in my hand for the remainder of the first lap. After finishing the lap I ditched the cap and shoved the Garmin down my suit. As I was approaching the turn back into the water for the second lap the second wave began their race. I was stuck behind the stragglers of wave 2 and had fight my way through the washing machine created by the surf and the age groupers. I made my way through the sea of people and found some open water and began to pick up the pace. I had finally found my stroke. I approached the end of the swim and spotted Kat, my training partner whom is a swim specialist, swimming right in front of me and I tried to catch her. We came out of the water 5 seconds apart and entered T1 together. As we passed the clock I saw 30 minutes tick away to 31 minutes, a little longer than I had hoped but still on track.

The Bike: 2:18:59
While I was taking my wetsuit off I notice that my Garmin was nowhere to be found. It had fallen out. It is a lost cause to try to find it, "It is best to go on without it," I thought, "best not to waste time looking for it". Parking my bike next to Kat was motivation to see where I came out of the water. I didn't truly expect to come out with her but I did. I had a decent swim. I exit transition with Kat and another woman, at that point she was in second place and Kat was in 3rd. I immediately passed Kat and the other woman and begin my ride. I got into a good groove and passed one person on my solo attempt to hold my own pace and not let the adrenaline get the best of me in the beginning. The other woman eventually caught me and we got into a good group and rounded up several people including the leading woman. Our group grew slowly as the bike course filled with more and more amateurs. The rules stated that a minimum 2 bike lengths must be kept between riders however near the finish of the bike leg riders in our group which now included more amateurs than elites was drafting like a peloton. Without my Garmin I had no knowledge of how fast we were riding, what time we were at, or what my HR was. I did not know how hard I was going; everything was based on feel, and it felt too hard but I knew that I couldn't let this group get away from me if I wanted to hold a solid placing overall and keep up this blistering pace. I was getting cramps every time I climbed out of the saddle for a turn-around, to power up the bridge, or even to stretch and I knew that I had been going too hard but the damage had already been done and there was nothing I could do to reverse it. I had burned a lot of my matches but all I could do now was just hold on and hope for the best. On turn number 8, the final turn-around, I broke away from my group and headed home to begin the run. Taking my feet out of the shoes caused a simultaneous cramp in my left quad and hamstring that caused me to stop and shake it out for a minute as I coasted into T2.

Run: 1:33:40
I came into T2 all guns blazing I had forgotten that I had 13.1 miles to, let alone running it all on sand. I spotted Keith Butsko who had apparently dropped out after the bike. I threw on my running shoes and sprinted out of T2 with one of the fastest T2 times, and the fastest combined T1 and T2 time with a total time of 1:27. Not too shabby! I ran down onto the sand and again without a Garmin to guide my pace I ran like a bat out of hell. I must have been running low 6min/mile for the first few miles. I felt surprisingly strong considering how easily I was cramping on the ride. About 2 miles into the run I realized that I had forgotten my gel that I saved for the run. "Oh well, I feel O.K. right now; I can make it" I thought. I was wrong. The portions where we were forced to run up into the soft, thick sand felt like trying to run through quicksand; I felt like I couldn't move. Running around the base my spirits had been crushed to rubble. I saw no one in front of me and no one behind me. I was all alone and I desperately wanted to finish. My steady pace had been reduced to what felt like a slow jog hitting phases of cramps left and right in both legs which further reduced my already slow jog to a walk. I walked and jogged for the next few miles and was passed by the first and second woman as well as the first Male Seal. I eventually found my way to the finish landing 9th overall, 7th overall male, and 1st in age group 18-29.
Post-race: Finish Time- 4:25:08
I crossed the finish line and was overcome with emotion and hugged and kissed my beautiful girlfriend, Alicia Carpenter, and relished in what I had just done. I had dedicated several hundred hours of training over 5 months for this one race and I had finally done it. I had never felt such a sense of fulfillment in all of my years of racing. SuperFrog was the most difficult race I had every attempted and completed. It wasn't just the distance, it wasn't just the course, but it was the mental and physical barriers that it posed in training and in the race itself. Even though this was the hardest race I had ever completed it was the most satisfying.

Friday, September 27, 2013

What is SuperFrog?

The SuperFrog Triathlon is the world's longest running Half-Ironman distance race dating back to 1978. SuperFrog's 35 year history has seen little change to the difficult course. With a two lap ocean swim where swells have been known to reach 6-8 feet, a bike on Highway 75 where winds can reach 15 miles per hour, and a run along the water's edge where tides have forced racers up onto the leg shredding soft sand of Coronado State beach the SuperFrog Triathlon is still regarded as one of the most difficult Half-Ironman distance triathlons. Over half of the run is along the beach on the sand if swimming 1.2 miles in the ocean and riding 56 miles wasn't enough.
I was wary choosing this race to be my very first 70.3 distance race but I knew that if I had a few good blocks of training leading into the race that I would be able to do well. I have since signed up and been training for about 5 months for this one race. I took time off after the 2013 Collegiate National Championships held this year in Tempe, AZ and set my sights on SuperFrog. I carried some solid fitness into the first training block but the training I had done for nationals was the complete opposite of how I needed to train for a race more than double the distance. I needed to train my body to burn fat and go fast at a low heart rate. I was self-coached this summer leading into the race and I needed to find something that could cater to me individually. I reached for Joe Friel's book Your Best Triathlon in search of that missing link to my training, and it worked. After months and months of training, I have finally made the conversion from a fast, carbohydrate-burning engine to a slower, fat-burning engine and I feel great and well prepared for this race. Bring it on!