Last Saturday, June 25th, I raced the Pacific Crest Long Course Triathlon. The distances are close to the standard Half Ironman distance with the bike being a little longer – 1.2 mile swim, 58 mile bike, 13.1 mile run. This was a big fitness test for me as it fell 4 weeks and 1 day out from Ironman Canada which will take place on July 24th in Whistler, BC.
My debut Ironman last year in Coeur d’Alene was awesome. Although I didn’t hit the time I had hoped and trained for – it was an incredible experience on one of the hottest days in Ironman history with temperatures exceeding 106 degrees. One of the things I regretted from last season was not doing any sort of tune up race leading into Ironman. I was very excited to be able to participate in the big “hometown” race this year in beautiful Sunriver, only a short 15 minute drive from our home here in Bend, OR. Nothing beats waking up in your own bed on race morning!
Going into Pacific Crest I tried to set realistic expectations that were based more on the process versus the outcome, which is something I’ve really been focusing on this season. By focusing on things like effort, power, nutrition (process) I then find myself able to be much more pleased at the end of a race if I execute well, regardless of my time (outcome). With that said, I always give April time goals so that she can have an idea of when to expect me in transition and on the course and they were: sub 30 for the swim, 2:40 for the bike, and sub 1:30 for the run. I knew these were going to be tough, because I didn’t taper for this race – I trained right through it since the A race was only a month away.
Swim – 1900m, 31:18 (1:27/100y)
The swim for Pacific Crest is two beautiful loops in Wickiup Reservoir. This is about a 30 minute drive from Sunriver, so getting to the race early to get prepped was no problem which was amazing. After getting my bike tires pumped up to 105 PSI and getting the wetsuit on, April covered my neck in glide stick which is critical for me when swimming in a wetsuit. I gave her a big hug and kiss and headed to the boat ramp to line up with the athletes. The elite wave went off at 8:00 and the first age group wave, which I was racing in, started at 8:03. I had a few minutes to get a couple of warm up strokes in which is all that I needed – I felt ready to GO.
My goal was to swim sub 30, but more importantly, I wanted to race hard but stay within my means. It’s easy to burn a few too many matches in the swim which can really hurt the rest of your race, and it is never worth it. I started out in the very front of my age group and found myself racing off the front in a pack of 3. My swim felt smooth and controlled and I made it through the first 900m loop in 14:20, ahead of pace but feeling good. This is when I started catching slower swimmers, and the second loop of the swim was much slower. I stayed with the front pack and we wiggled our way through the crowded loop exiting in just over 31 minutes. I finished 3rd in my wave and 16th overall including elites on the swim, so regardless of the time, I’m very happy with how the swim went.
Bike – 58 miles, 2:41:18 (21.57mph)
The bike course was something I was really looking forward to this race. It was going to be a great fitness test for Ironman, but it’s also a beautiful point-to-point course. The first ~38 miles is tough, with the course gradually climbing out of the cascade lakes, ultimately peaking at Mount Bachelor before athletes take a 20 mile, very fast and technical descent into Sunriver. My goal for the bike was based on process – I wanted to keep my power between 235-250 watts, take in 110 calories every 20 minutes, and ride the hills aggressively while staying within my means.
The bike went GREAT. Coming out of the swim in the front is always nice because you don’t have to fight crowds in transition or on the bike. Right out of transition I started executing the plan. It was very cold for the first 45 minutes as were riding, so I just focused on taking in nutrition and keeping my power under control. Once the bike hits the cascade lakes highway, we were in the sun and although the temperature was still in the 40’s, I warmed up and was able to focus on the task at hand.
The first 38 miles of the bike were tough, but outside of a few long climb it was very manageable. I’m fortunate that I live and train in Bend, because the bike did reach a peak elevation of just over 6,500 feet – which is definitely a lot for racers coming from sea level. Once the bike course reached the Sunriver cutoff, it was a matter of focusing on maintaining as aero of a position as possible and hammering the flats to keep my speed up. My goal for this course was to ride 2:40 and I was very happy with my time and effort on this course.
Run – 13.1 miles, 1:27:28 (6:40/mile)
The goal for the run was simple: run smart, but run hard. Since I came into this race carrying a lot of fatigue, there were a lot of question marks about how the run would look for me. I came out running strong, and as always it felt easy. My first 2 splits were 6:34 and 6:26 and I knew that pace was a bit hot to maintain. I settled into a 6:45 effort and found myself chasing a 10 Barrel teammate from Boise – it was awesome to have a rabbit to chase for the run.
I knew that I was racing off the front, so I didn’t have many runners to chase and hopefully pass. However, I kept the effort relatively steady in the high 6:30 to low 6:50 range and did find myself picking off the 4 people that passed me on the bike. Around mile 8, the run really opened up and we had very little cover from tree’s which made for a toasty back half of the run. If there is one thing that I learned at Ironman Coeur d’Alene last year it’s that staying cool is key. Thanks to base salts and putting ice in my triathlon jersey every aid station, I did a great job of keeping myself cool and relatively comfortable which allowed me to finish this race feeling strong and ready for Ironman Canada in 4 weeks.
Ultimately I finished the race in 4:45:30 which was good for 1st in my age group and 13th overall in a very competitive and strong field. I finished the race feeling confident and very ready to tackle the last couple of big weeks’ worth of Ironman training before tackling my 2nd Ironman on July 24th.
Thanks a ton for reading – happy training!