The High Cliff Half Ironman race was the final race of my busy month of June (4 races in 5 weeks, 3 of which were Half Ironmans). Going into this race I had some private doubts about my fitness and conditioning, along with the amount of fatique I had from racing so much. Earlier in the week there was a part of me that thought it would be a good idea to withdraw from the race or switch to the sprint. I held out and went for the half.
I started the race in Wave 2, meaning that I had a 3 minute advantage on all of the fast people in the first wave. The swim was a clockwise rectangular swim. As usual from the start line it seemed like a super long swim.
Since Mary was starting in the same wave as me she and I started right next to each other – it was great being able to give her one last “Good Luck” and a kiss with 20 seconds to go! I started strong from the start – after the Rockman debacle, I had a private bone to pick with myself about the swim, so I swam hard. By the time I got to the last turn buoy I had caught the main pack of the first wave, and I quickly blew by them. I could see one or two people up ahead a bit, but I couldn’t catch them.
I felt great in the swim, Mary told me that “I tried to stay with you, but you just took off.” When I exited the water I was sub 25, and about mid 25 when I crossed the timing matt after a short hard run up a hill.
T2 was empty when I got there, not a soul to be seen. If I hadn’t see a couple of folks way up there on the swim from the earlier wave, I would have guessed I had passed everyone. I moved quickly, with purpose through tranistion – not rushing but making sure I had my ducks in a row. The course at High Cliff doesn’t reward a speedy transition because within a quarter mile you have a healthy mile or two climb before you can get rolling.
I got out of transition and sped towards the hill, started up it and popped it into a nice easy gear to just spin up it. I was passed pretty quickly by Terry and another guy (who wears a candy strip jersey, so I’ve taken to calling him Candystriper – no offense intended). I frankly didn’t care because I knew that it was early in the race and the race couldn’t be won on this hill.
Once I got up the hill and out of the park, I shifted up into the big ring and started riding. I passed Candystriper pretty quickly, and settled in to reel Terry in – kind of scary, really a year ago I would have never thought myself capable of riding with Terry, let alone reel him in. Within a mile or so I had caught Terry, and I passed him strongly to try and gain a mental edge by not only having time on him on the road, but having 3 virtual minutes in my pocket.
I road as hard, or harder then I did at Rockman, with no respect for the fact that I had to run 13 miles afterwards. I traded passes with Terry once or twice, but around 10 miles he and I got passed by a rocket, and I found another gear and went after that guy – dropping Terry in the process.
From that point on I rode pretty much alone the remainder of the ride, cussing every now and then about the lead car being a bit to close to the lead guy. Around what felt like mile 40, my legs started to really complain about the tempo, I had a bit of a weak moment and let up for a little while. That lasted a couple of miles until a look back showed Terry and a couple of other guys in sight behind me, I shifted back into extreme suffer mode, and held the gap until T2.
It wasn’t my fastest HIM ride, but it was a more challenging course then Rockman and had a bit meaner of a headwind throughout.
As I was leaving T2 a spectator told me that with the stagger I was down 4 minutes from first place. As I was leaving transition I could hear Terry’s wife cheering for him, so I figured I was about a minute up the road from him. My plan for the run was to run a moderate pace to the hill, then to just get up it, and then see what I could do.
The run is up the big hill, two loops around the top of the park, and then back down. 90% of the loop is through the woods on a bark chip trail that winds throughout the park. As I was running up the hill I glanced back every now and again to try and gauge where Terry was, and the other one or two guys who rolling into T2 near him. When I got to the top of the hill I wasn’t able to see them, but they were probably just around the bend.
Around mile 1.5 I was passed by a guy who was really moving, I didn’t feel comfortable trying to stay with him so i just kept running my pace. Finally around mile 2 I could hear Terry running behind me – at this point I picked the pace up just a little to keep him back. As we neared mile 4 Terry and another guy caught me – at the same time a spectator told us we were 4 minutes down on the lead – so 1 minute for me.
Shortly after that Terry started to pick up the pace a little bit, I don’t know if it was the urge to catch the leader or to drop me, but I was determined to keep with him – I stayed with him for another mile or so until my quads threatened to start cramping. I decided to back off the pace a bit. Terry quickly ran off from me. Every couple of miles I tried to pick the pace back up, but between my legs wanting to cramp and a nasty blister I had formed – I just couldn’t push the pace.