When I broke my foot in mid-February and received my initial prognosis, I immediately tried to forget about racing in the first half of the year. Resistance was futile – despite my best efforts, I thought a lot about the best and worst case scenarios, and everything in between. When I hit the 6 week mark without any signs of bone healing, I all but ruled out the potential of racing Vineman Monte Rio at the end of May.
But then it got better: I started bone stimulator treatment and ramped up my activity levels. My healing accelerated, and I was cleared to resume intense cycling along with light running in early May. After consulting with my orthopedist and physical therapist, they gave me the green light to attempt a 10k run, and I decided to race Vineman Monte Rio.
Vineman Monte Rio was one of my best races of the season last year – if not the best. I placed 2nd in my age group, and missed out on 1st place by under a minute. This year, I simply wanted to race smart, finish strong, and enjoy the weekend with Taylor and some friends who were also racing. Here’s how it played out:
Going into the race, I knew that I had a good shot of posting a solid swim time. I’ve been swimming a lot since the injury, and have been mixing in speed work with my long endurance swims. The start was rough – men 34 and under all went off in the same wave, and the first 500 yards were physical. Despite the crowded swim, I was holding onto a solid pace, and finished the first 750 meters in just over 12 minutes.
I sped up at the turnaround, and built up to a 90% effort by the final few hundred yards – I finished the swim in just over 26:00 despite ~2 minutes of wading through shallow water near the swim exit – a new Olympic PR, and 2 minutes faster than my swim last year.
Swim time: 26:20, 1:31/100y
Although I spent 10 weeks off my bike, I’ve been hitting it hard the past few weeks and have averaged ~130 miles per week. That said, I knew that riding as fast as I did last year would be a stretch given my fitness level at that time – I averaged 21.9mph for the 25 mile bike in 2014.
My strategy was simple: ride easy for the first 20 minutes, build for the next 20, and leave the rest out there in the final 20+. I was testing out a new wheel set – one that I’m interested in running for Vineman 70.3 in July – ENVE 6.7s, and they were easily the fastest wheels I’ve ever tried. By the time I hit the 20 minute mark, I was ready for a big push, and I did – I averaged almost 24 mph for the final 40 minutes.
I think I could’ve pushed harder and shaved another 1-2 minutes off the bike, but kept elite triathlon coach Matt Dixon’s advice in mind: when I heard him speak earlier this year, he mentioned that the sign of a good triathlon bike leg is feeling like you could have shaved 1-2 more minutes off your time. I felt fresh up until the end of the ride – when all was said and done, I finished the bike leg in just over 65 minutes at a 22.7mph pace – 2 minutes faster than my bike leg last year.
Bike time: 1:05:30, 22.7mph
As much as I hate to admit it, I was dreading the run in the final minutes of the bike ride. Although I tried to strike all negativity, I knew that if I was capable of running my best, I would have been looking at a substantial PR. I quickly moved on from that thought, and decided that I’d try to run the first mile before reverting to the walk run I promised my orthopedist/PT I would stick to.
Much to my surprise, I ran much better off the bike than I expected – I ran the first mile in just over 7:30 without pushing. I knew that the pace was too intense to sustain – I fell back to a 8:15 pace for 5 minutes, followed by a minute of walking.
I kept this up for the duration of the run and felt like I had a lot more in the tank – I finished the 10k in 52 minutes – good for an 8:25 pace, despite the walk breaks. Overall, it was probably the smartest (and fastest) I could have approached the 10k, and most importantly, I didn’t experience any pain over the fracture site during or after the race.
Run time: 52:20, 8:25 min/mi
Overall finish time: 2:33 (6 minutes slower than 2014)