Since 2005 this weekend of racing for me has always meant the half iron in Racine, WI.  After dealing with several years of short swims, drafting issues – I decided to head to Door County the same weekend and do that half there.  At the end of the day I was glad I did.  The race organization was top notch, the course was great with some good challenging segments.  Overall, I’d rate Door County an A-, with the only suggestion would be to have a few more aid stations on the run.

Swim
25:22 (2nd OA)

I expected the swim to play out this way: The horn would sound, than Mark Harms, Jeff Tarkowski, Peter Nowak, and I would form a group and exit the water within a few seconds of each other.  It didn’t play out exactly like that.  By about 50 meters I was already gapped by two guys.  “Wow, did I miss the acceleration – guess I better pick it up for a minute or so and get on their feet,” I thought.  So I swam hard for about a minute or so and was still losing ground to them.  With a focus on the overall race in mind, I back off and settled into a relaxed pace and watched those two slowly pull away.

The swim venue was the best I’ve ever swum in.  The only ones that have come close are Kona and IMAZ.  There was a buoy on the course about ever 100 yards or so.  It was as close to pool swimming as you can outside.  At about the half-way point of the swim, I took a look behind me to see Peter Nowak right on my feet, and a couple other folks a little behind that.

When I exited I was happy to see my time and have swum an accurate half course for the first time in several years.

Bike
2:21:15 (11th OA)

T1 was uneventful.  I struggled a bit getting my wetsuit off like usual, and watched Mark harms blaze through transition.  Turning a 20 second gap into a 10 second advantage.  I need to improve on that.  I grabbed Dexter and headed to the bike exit and mounted up.  I hit the road and focused on riding relaxed and easy.  I had some doubt in the back of my mind about my ability to interpret PE since I was racing without a power meter for the first time in almost three years.  I knew that Jeff Tarkowski was behind me, I decided that I would ride fairly easy until he came along and than attempt to ride with him.  After a bit Jeff pulled by and I dropped in 7m behind, and was happy that I was able to match his pace.  Thoughts of grandeur popped into my mind “If I can stay here for 56 miles, that will be perfect.”

Around mile 14 as we rolled into the outskirts of Sturgeon Bay – Jeff popped it into another gear and took off.  In the span of a mile or so he probably put 30 seconds on me – and I didn’t feel like I slowed down.  His acceleration was so sudden and violent I figured that I had a flat or my rear break was rubbing.  I did a couple hops to check the tire pressure, and stopped briefly to check my rear break.  No rub.  I got back on the bike and sped back on my way – amazed at the show of strength.

From than on I rode solo, with one lone rider out in the distance – one of the speedsters that dropped me on the swim (the other was a relay that I caught around mile 5).  I caught the guy around mile 25, and than was uneventfully alone until mile 50.  I was passed by a guy on an Ordu, who flew by incredibly fast.  I let him go and focused on getting into transition strong and told myself I was catch him on the run.

The last few miles were uneventful, I pulled into T2 in 4th place – and was literally a mile down on Harms and Tarkowski.

Nutrition – 6 gels, a dozen salt tabs or so; 2 large bottles of water + a bit of a aid station pickup

Run
1:31:59 (17th OA)

The Ordu guy was in T2 when I got there lounging on his bike having pulled the plug.  I got my stuff together and exited T2 quickly.  I knew that several guys were not far behind me even though I was alone in the transition area.  I figured I had 2 minutes at most.  Sure enough as I got onto the road a 100 yards out of T2, I could hear the crowded cheering the next bikers.

I ran down the road feeling pretty isolated – I just focused on my stride.  Not to fast, not to slow – just steady.  I ran through the first 5 miles or so alone, backwards glances showed no one.

As I was headed back from the turn around at mile 5.5ish I saw the guys behind me.  I figured I had 90 seconds on them.

Unsure how fast they were able to run or were running I didn’t let myself worry about it – I just focused on running as best I could, and felt some relief that I still had a decent gap.

As were were closing in on mile 8/9, I was passed by a relay runner, and than shortly after a guy in a Hammer Nutrition Kit.  As we hit the road that heads up to the Bluff, teammate Paul Eicher was about 20 to 30 yards behind me.  Shortly after the top of the hill Paul caught me, and ran just behind me.  I could hear his footfalls and his breathing.

We ran like that for what seemed like forever.  I felt that I could keep that pace I was running, but was concerned about my ability to out-kick him if we finished together.  As we approached the aid station at mile 11, I remembered seeing that Paul walked the aid station @ the turn around.  An idea popped into my head that I had one shot to open up a gap.  I decided to surge as I left the aid station – and see what happened.  I figured he’d respond and catch back up; I’d blow up or I’d gap him.  The result – I put a gap on him.  Renewed by my effort, I keep my effort high until the finish.

Summary
4:20:58 (5th OA) – PR

I crossed the line as the 4th individual finisher, but got beat by one person in a later wave.  He beat me by nearly two minutes, but had we started in the same wave – who knows.  As my wife is fond of saying – if you could have you would have – but I was thrilled to find a killer instinct inside of me on race day and find the willpower to use it – finding that changed my race – had Paul passed me, I may have found myself slowing and trying to defend 5th place as I saw it.

Both my bike and run splits were slower than what I had thought I might be able to go, but both were solid and within the range of where my fitness is.   At somepoint I’m going to have to stop saying this, but considering my [lack of]winter of training – I’m amazed to be going as fast as I am right now – our bodies are amazing machines.

I’m glad that I did the race without a Powermeter and have that experience, as well as the knoweldge that I can race strongly with nothing more than a wrist watch.  Someday my tech might fail me mid-race and having this experience will be important.  That said – I’ll take my tech over RPE any day of the week.

As a closing, some thanks are due: thanks to my wife mary.  I would not be able to do this without her.  Also – a lot of thanks is due to Gear-Grinder and Emery’s – between them they make sure I have the support I need.