Leading up to this race my compulsion switched from training (thank you, taper) to watching the weather. Early forecasts were calling for temps in the mid 90's and my only other race in extreme heat (Racine 70.3) had been a huge failure. Not that one can do anything about the weather, but there are measures a person can take to better prepare himself or herself for certain conditions. With the projected temps I started adding more salt to my diet in the 5 days leading up to the race and made sure I stayed hydrated
The race was on Saturday and I flew into Birmingham on Thursday night. The day before a race always flies by. I drove the course in the morning, did a little swim in the river, checked in, prepped the bike, did a little spin/run, and somehow managed to waste several hours in between. Temps were in the mid 90's so I was indoors all day.
Race morning was the typical routine. Two slices of bread with peanut butter and jelly, a banana, and a cup of coffee. I've only ever used an aero bottle for an Olympic Distance but I decided to take an additional bottle of water given the heat. This turned out to be one of my best decisions of the season!
Before the race I ran into Kim Shaheen and we sat and talked after transition closed and before I warmed up. It was great to have a teammate there to chat and calm the nerves. The pre race warmup went smoothly and I found Adam Kuncel in the bullpen before the start. I got in a short warmup swim between waves and squeezed my way into the dock for the water start. I got out nicely at the start and had a good line to the first buoy. I decided not to let my heart rate get too high during the swim due to the temps, especially with a water temp at 84 degrees (i.e. not wetsuit legal, but I was able to pick up a swim skin from Fleet Feet the day before i left). The swim was a J-shape with a long backstretch. I got into some violent episodes along the backstretch, particularly with one guy who was grabbing my ankles and apparently trying to pull himself over me. I managed a few good kicks into him and he eventually backed off. Came out of the water a little further back than expected but I felt stronger going into T1 than usual, so I was fine with that.
I got on the bike feeling good and immediately passed one guy. Note that this is extremely rare for me. The bike course was a 2 loop course with a long climb on the way out and downhill on the way back. I tend to climb well so I was relieved that the course wasn't flat. As typical, I caught a lot of people on the climbs and got passed back on the way down. Anyone with any tips on descending faster should email me ASAP. I drank my aero bottle dry by about the 15 mile mark so I was happy to have that extra bottle of water on the bike. I pushed the uphill on the 2nd lap and cruised the last part of the downhill before T2 to let my legs rest. By now the sun was beating down and it was getting hot. I knew I needed to save some energy for the run and I thought someone would pass me as I popped a few endurolytes for the run but no one did. I ended up averaging 23.5 mph for the ride, which I was happy with given the topography of the course.
I always know in the first mile whether I have my run that day, and today I had it. I got out of T2 feeling light and quick but knowing it would be a death march in the heat. The run was mostly exposed with a few climbs in the first half of the run and a steady descent over the last 2 miles. The aid stations had half-filled dixie cups and I was a little pissed that I was only getting 2 ounces per cup. I usually grabbed 2 or 3 cups, one to drink and more to splash on my face. My dad was at mile 1 and yelled that there were 10 guys in my age group within 90 seconds. I passed a lot of people who looked to be in survival mode from the heat but I was still feeling strong, which gave me more confidence. Over the next several miles I passed about 12 guys in my age group. With 1 mile to go I spotted a guy (Luke Holman) who I became friends with 3 weeks prior at Duathlon Worlds in Scotland and he was moving pretty good. I managed to get around him and passed him assertively so he couldn't respond. With 400 meters to go I saw another guy within catching distance and started really moving. At 50 yards to go I was in full sprint mode and managed to catch him with about 10 yards to go. I always wanted to get someone at the line and finally managed it. Total time: 2:05:21.
After the race I quickly downed 4 bottle of water and a gatorade. After a long cool down with Luke I came back to find out that I finished 14th in my AG and 9th in the 30-34 AG for 2011, which secured a sport for Worlds in Beijing next year (the age up rule means that I had to qualify in the 30-34 AG for 2011 since I'll be 30 at the end of 2011). I haven't decided if I'll go yet, but I'm considering it.
All told I was very happy with this race. While the time wasn't anything spectacular, I raced smart and it came down to a tactical race due to the heat. I needed something positive after Racine and I got it.