08 May 2014

St. Croix 70.3

Race Equipment, Setup and Nutrition
Swim – 2XU Swim Skin
50ml of Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex Tubular tires at 100psi.
Run – Colorado Running Company Inov-8 Road X-Treme 208
            RudyProject Noyz Fluo Sunglasses
            FirstEndurance Visor
                             -Enduro Bites Dark Chocolate and Espresso Bar
                             -Hot conditions 2 iced bottle in hand starting run

The St. Croix Triathlon is one of a few triathlons that are definite bucket list races.  In its 31st year it has been a race that I have thought about doing but with the typical hot and humid conditions it is a race that I try to avoid, however with it being more about strength and less about speed it did suit that aspect to me more than other courses.  One benefit I had on my side is that with racing St. Anthony’s the week before I had been in similar conditions for a bit of time heading in and was hopefully that I had acclimated some to the climate before the race.  There were a number of other guys that made a similar trip combining St. Anthony’s and St. Croix and it would be great matching up against them again over different conditions and hopefully make some strides.

Diving in to the coolest conditions of the day.
I was thankful for the early start in the warm clear waters of Christiansted Harbor, it is a unique start you have to swim about 200m over to a small cay, for the on beach start at the Hotel on the Cay, I lined up again in a similar position near Tim O’Donnell and Josh Amberger who I knew would be the guys to follow on the swim.  As with St. Anthony’s a similar scenario played out, I was right with them and on their feet to the first buoy then the field all collapsed on itself at the first turn 150 meters off shore and the melee ensued of trying to find clear water behind fast feet.  When everyone found their place a group of 4 had gotten away and I was mixed near the lead of the chase pack.  It was slightly choppy and the group was moving all over the place until we reached the far turn buoy.   On that way back in to shore we were swimming with the chop, my stroke came together and about halfway back in I led the group back into T1.  I had no idea of whom I was swimming with, I just hoped that I would have some strong guys to “work with” on the bike and was in a great place seeing Greg Bennett, Richie Cunningham and Ruedi Wild donning their helmets at my side.

Bringing it in off the bike.
Since we were 45 seconds down on the lead group the only way to catch them would be to work with these guys and so it was able to get settled in right away on the bike and not have to go chasing like mad as I did in St. Anthony’s.  I led the chase through the first six miles before the other guys came around and I settled into a good legal position to take advantage of the group.  The unfortunate part was that I was behind guys that were a bit lacking in their bike handling skills and we were going around some corners painfully slow for me.  Once on the road out to the infamous Beast I carried momentum on a particular twisty section and hit the front again trying to take advantage of my strengths on the more technical areas.  
Headed into T2
I was riding very comfortably but still trying to push the pace and I seemed to be setting a good pace, as the other guys didn’t come around me.   The Beast is 7/10ths of a mile long, climbs 600 feet, averages 14% with a low of 5.5% and the steepest pitch is 26% if you take the tightest line around one of the switchbacks.  As I headed up slowly one by one the four other guys rode on.  I am not exactly sure why but the legs just wouldn’t produce the power with the gearing I had on the steep slopes and thus when I peaked out over the top I then had to start the mad chase to regroup.  The descent back down is a bit technical and I managed to close things down a bit with the corners but I needed more.  At the top of the Beast you are 21 miles in and nowhere near done, I kept the group in check about 20-30 seconds ahead and hammered on.  I focused on my nutrition, as I knew that as the run came it would be critical to be hydrated and ready to go.  Every 15min I focused on taking in some calories and liquid, alternating between First Endurance EFS drink or water and one of the squares from the Enduro Bites bar.  After about 22 miles the chase had taken a toll and the elastic finally snapped and I lost sight of the group.  Over the final twelve miles I caught Ben Collins who was having some issues only to lose the spot gained to Tom Lowe who was keeping the pressure on the pedals better than I did.
SRM Powerfile from St. Croix 70.3-Pretty easy to pick out the Beast
Once into T2 I knew it was about staying as cool as possible and going hard but being a bit conservative on the run.  I took a bit more time in transition to don my visor and Rudy Project Noyz with the darkest lenses I have, the photolaser racing red, to make things as dark as possible, and grabbed two bottles of ice in a small cooler at my spot.  The legs were not particularly snappy heading out but I was moving all right and with the conditions as they were anything is always possible to move up.  The aid stations, spectators and volunteers along the course were incredible and kept the motivation high even with no one insight ahead.  I finally got a glimpse of one of the other guys about 4 miles in and had reeled him in by the 5 mile mark.  I was very grateful for race director Tom Guthrie having an aid station on the course every kilometer.  It seemed like dropped the equivalent of a 10 lb bag of ice down my 2XU compression tri shorts through out the run but I was up for anything to stay cool.  On the second lap of the run there were a lot of athletes starting their first lap and I used them as dangling carrots in front of me to keep my pace up.  Between 7 and 8 miles one of the other pro’s caught me and I didn’t have any response and focused on my own plodding.  The feet kept moving but they slowed quite a bit on the hills through the Buccaneer Resort.  With about a mile left another pro came up along side and I put in a good effort to stay with him and managed to stay there for about 30 seconds before he notice I locked on to him and put in another surge.  I had nothing left and started to crack.  I didn’t know it at the time but he was just finishing his first lap and I was staggering towards the finish.  In the last half mile I started to get tingling in my fingers and the legs really started to waver but I just managed to get across the line and out of the way before the women’s winner crossed.  The legs were no longer functional and the guys at the line helped me to the med tent and I got an IV to start the recovery.
Headed out on the run, that slowly slowed to a crawl.

I crossed the line in 10th against a very strong field of athletes, my confidence is continuing to build as I am putting together races better and better and I have gained a lot of strength from them.  It will be a very big challenge in two weeks but also nice to be playing on the dirt at XTERRA Southeast Championship I will then head to Knoxville immediately afterwards with some, actually a lot, of help from Bri and race in the Rev3 Championship the following day.

Thanks to Michelle Vaughn for all the race pics and support throughout the weekend.

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