>Gator Half Ironman Race Report

>     This past weekend, I raced the Gator Half Ironman, in Sarasota, FL.  Getting to the race was a bit of a adventure, because I didn’t have my car GPS (how did we ever live without GPS??!??), but eventually I found my way to the starting line.   It was my first non-drafting race of the year, and the last workout of a 3-week training block.  I had a good enough day so that I was able to win the race by 4 minutes, with a time of 4:07:21.  Great success!!!  Here goes the report…

     Swim, 28:04, 13th fastest in the field-  There were about 150 athletes on the start line, and the swim was 2.25 laps around a large pond.  I broke out fairly hard, focusing on maintaining a high rate of arm turnover.  There was added incentive to swim hard because there were a few gators in the pond (yikes!!).  After the pack stretched out, I started looking for some feet to follow.  About 400 meters into the race, I found some good feet, and had a really good draft for the next 1000 meters.  This was one of the better jobs I’ve done of drafting in a race, so I was really happy with how it went.  I pulled around and swam the last 500 meters on my own, feeling good the whole way.

    Bike, 272 watts, 2:20:42, 3rd fastest in the field.  This was a very boring bike ride.  I quickly worked my way up to 3rd place within the first 10 miles of the bike, but after that, I was riding totally alone, and it was easy to forget that I was even involved in a race.  There was a large gap up to 2nd place, and I couldn’t see anyone.  The course was flat and straight, with a tailwind on the way out and a headwind on the way back.  Finally, at the 45 mile mark, I caught my first glance at the 2nd place rider.  Checking the time gaps, I was putting about 5 seconds per mile into him, and I eventually passed him at the 54 mile mark.  I was the 2nd into T2, but I had no idea where 1st place was.

     Run, 1:17:39, fastest in the field.  I took off with a high cadence and settled into a comfortable pace of 6:05-6:10 per mile.  I had no idea where the leader was, but I figured if I kept at that pace, I’d see him eventually.  At the halfway turnaround, I finally saw him and was able to check the time gap – I was 4 minutes behind.  I knew making up a 4 minute deficit in 6.5 miles was unlikely, but I still had to take a shot at it, so I kept plugging along at 6:10-6:15 pace.  I was able to check the time gap again 2 miles later, and the deficit was down to 2 minutes. I was putting 1 minute per mile into the leader, and I was only 2 minutes back with 4+ miles left in the race!!!  Nice!!  As soon as I realized this, I gave the leader a little point, letting him know that I was coming for him (hey, you’ve gotta have serious amounts of self-confidence to believe you can make up a 4-minute deficit in 6.5 miles!).  The pass eventually happened and I took the lead at the 10.4 mile mark.  Just to make sure the leader didn’t have any thoughts of keeping up with me, I dropped it down to sub-6:00 pace during the pass, and stayed at that pace until I was well clear.  I then cruised in for the last 2 miles, enjoying the nice Sunday weather.

    Post-race thoughts…
-Great to get a win!  So much fun, and talking with everyone after the race was great!  Between the other competitors and the sponsors that had tents set up, this venue was just loaded with super-friendly people.
-The swim and bike courses were accurate, but the run course was short.  My Garmin had it at 12.5 miles, so my run split on an accurately measured half-marathon would have been in the 1:20:30-1:21:30 range.
-I was obsessive about putting on sun screen, and I also wore white sun-blocking sleeves.  This was partly for health reasons (us redheads are susceptible to skin cancer!), and partly for performance reasons.  Jesse Kropelincki summed it up pretty well when we were chatting in Kona last fall, “If you don’t wear sunblock during a long course race, the accumulated sun-stress will hurt your performance about as much as stabbing yourself in the kidneys.”  I think he was exaggerating a bit, but his point was clearly made.

And last, but not least, a big Thank You to: Athlete’s Honey Milk, Schwalbe Tires, Cliff Keen Triathlon, Gu, and QT2 Systems.

   Now it’s on to a recovery week… finally!

Until next time… keep training hard, and resting harder,
Doug MacLean

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