2013 Wisconsin Race Report: Bruce Thompson – 32' PR!

Summary:  I had a good day in Madison.  I finished in 11:26:41, a 32 minute PR, & 9th in 55-59 AG and 304 OA.  Since I had strained my right calf on my last long run before the race, I wasn’t sure how hard I could go.  So my goal was to execute as well as I could in each moment, and let the day and the result be what they would.  Fortunately, my calf held up fine and the result much better than I expected. We were blessed with great racing weather…low 70s, overcast but no rain, and 15 mph east wind.  The EN team (51 racers) was out in force so we had great on-course mojo, and I had the best Sherpa ever…my brother JT.

Pre-race:  My training had gone well from the JOS thru July.  Strong workouts and 3 solid race efforts (American TTT, Pleasant Prairie Oly, Racine 70.3) had me very fit.  However, at the EN camp in early August, I had a stupid bike crash (completely my fault) that resulted in a bruised hip, sprained right shoulder and road rash.  Fortunately, these all healed up in time for Wisconsin but did cause me to back off training for a while. Then I hurt my rt calf 17 days before the race, and I basically shut down my running at that point and focused on swimming and easy riding. The sore calf took away any temptation to train too hard during taper…rest was my training plan.

I got to Madison mid-day on Thursday, got checked in and picked up my packet, visited the ART tent to have my calf worked on (this really, really helped). Went to the EN dinner, saw some old friends, made some new friends and called it a night.  On Friday I went for an early morning swim with David Salzman, went to the 4 Keys talk (wow EN has gone big time…the talk was in a nice theater, not outside in the grass) and then David and I went for an EZ 10 mile ride in the afternoon to check out the bikes.  Everything worked fine.  My brother JT flew in that night, we had dinner, a couple of beers and hit the hay.  Saturday we went for a swim again, had a huge laugh out in the middle of the lake when I literally swam into a couple of my Chicago area training partners, went to breakfast at Merigolds, checked the bike and bags in, and took it easy the rest of the day.  I spent time reviewing my training log, and knew I was fit.  If my injuries had healed up, I felt that I was capable of a good race.

Basic Facts: VDOT 48, FTP 255, weight 161, w/kg 3.48, Bike – Trek Speed Concept 7.2 with Zipp 404s, compact crank, 11-28 cassette.

Race morning: I woke up @ 4, & had my usual breakfast.  I like (need) a big breakfast before a race so I had 3 bowls of cheerios, 2 bananas, 2 bagels, 1 coffee. Also ate 1 power bar 1 hour before the race & sipped on a 20 oz. bottle of Infinit before the race.  Got the tires pumped up, dropped of my Infinit in run bag, found a quiet place to rest, one last trip to the porta potty, and waited for the EN team picture.

Swim: The start line seemed wider this year than last, so I positioned myself further from shore and closer to the buoy line.  My goal was to not re-injure my shoulder and use as little energy as possible. The start wasn’t too bad, just the usual IM crowding and bumping.  It got more congested at the first buoy, and I “Mooed” as I rounded it.  When I turned left I could immediately feel the waves & 15 mph wind coming from the left (east).  When I made the next left turn, I headed 1900 meters right into the wind and waves. This seemed to quickly spread people out even more, so I made a serious effort to draft as much as possible on this segment.  Sighting was harder as I had to lift my head up higher to see over the waves at times (I was glad I did lots of sighting practice, even in the pool, the last couple training weeks).   At the next buoy, I ended up going too far right and got off the buoy line.  I probably ended up swimming an extra 100 or 200 meters.  When I exited the water, the clock said 1:15:xx.  I was pleased since I did 1:13:xx last year in much calmer water.  Goal- 1:15 to 1:17.  Actual: 1:15:15

T1: Got my wetsuit stripped, and headed up the helix.  Man, I love the crowds lining the way & I saw several friends from Chicago (Jeff Linkus, Lisa McCauley, Selina Carpenter, Al Schlebecker, others).  Since it wasn’t cool out, I just put on my halo headband, sunglasses, helmet and grabbed shoes.  Ran with my bike to the mount line, and had a volunteer hold my bike while I put on my shoes.   Goal – 7:00 (2 mins faster than last year).  Actual- 6:23.

Bike: My plan was to ride the first 30’ @ 175 watts (.69 IF), the next 30’ @ 180w (.70 IF) , and the rest @ 185w (.72IF).  Another part of my plan was to keep my cadence above 90 as much as possible since riding at higher rpms in an easy gear puts less strain on my suspect right calf. With the wind at my back on the stick, I was able to ride the first 60’ @ 177w but averaged 20.5 mph.  So far so good.  I started drinking water and sipping my 3x concentrated bottle of Infinit. As we entered the hills, it always amazes me to see people behave just like RnP say they will…hammer up the hills, and coast down them.  I saw it time after time, while I’d just keep my watts in check up the hills (love my 28 in the rear) and worked really hard to keep the watts up on the descents until I spun out @ 35 mph.  I made a serious effort to carry my speed into the next hill or around the next corner, and was able to steadily pass people throughout the day.

At each aid station, I took a fresh water bottle and starting in Mt Horeb, I’d take a ½ banana too.  I wanted to make sure I was fueled up so I could push it if I wanted, and with the low 70s temp, I knew I could digest the banana.  During the entire ride, I ate 2 full bananas, a bagel I had in my BSN bag, two 24 oz. bottles of Infinit (835 calories/bottle) and 8 bottles of water.  I peed 4 times on the bike, and used some of the water to rinse myself off.

When I passed the 80 mile marker, I looked at my total time, and it showed 4 hours, 4 minutes.  I checked my average speed and it showed 19.6 mph.  I’m like “wow…is that for real, did I ride too hard?”  But my watts had been in the 181-190 range for each 5 mile ‘Lap” so I knew I was ok.  My NP was 185 at that point, right on target.

It was great to see people on the hills.  RnP, JT, Claudia Langarica, Mike Semmerling, Al Schlebecker and others that I know were on the Old Sauk and Timberline hills.  I saw ENers Jeff Linkus and Ed Gross on Midtown hill.  Big mojo boost and I had to remind myself to keep my watts in control.  On the 2nd time up Timberline, Mike S reminded me to stay in control on the Stick going home so I had something for the run.

I took Mike’s advice to heart, perhaps too much to heart.  I rode the last 32 miles at only 18.3 mph, and at 168w.  I know that I backed it off some to be safe and because I was going back into the wind, but I didn’t fully realize how much I backed off until looking at my data later.  I didn’t bonk or get dehydrated, just took it easier.   Anyway, I came into T2 feeling fueled up, hydrated and in good condition ready to run.  I tried to pee one last time on the bike in the last 5 miles but just couldn’t make it happen, so I had to pee in T2.  I slipped my feet out my shoes just before going up the helix and saw at least 5 guys hammer up the helix as they passed me in the last few yards of 112 mile bike ride.  I just don’t get it – why bust your quads just when it is time to run?

Goal – 6:00, 185 NP, avg cadence 90, avg HR 135, VI 1.05.    Actual – 5:51, 184 NP, avg cadence 90, avg HR 133, VI 1.04.

T2: Got off the bike and found my bag quickly.  I found a volunteer who helped me as I put body glide on my feet & toes.  Socks, shoes, race belt & fuel belt on.  Grab visor & go.  I did stop for a pee and this added time.  Goal – 4:00.   Actual – 5:14.

Run: Up until now, my race had been going very well, better than expected. Stayed in my box and executed my plan.   So I was conscious to not “blow it” by going out too fast, and to give my calf time to warm up for the run.  So started out at 9:30 pace and really focused on my running cadence.  I like to count to 30 footfalls (both left & right), and if I’m on target that takes me :10 for 30 strikes, or 180 footfalls/min.  So I measured my cadence at least 2x per minute in the first 2 miles to stay in control.  I know that my form is good when I’m at that cadence and I can go faster simply by taking longer strides at the same cadence.

I really like the Wisconsin run course with the turns and different sections, as it mentally breaks up the distance into shorter segments for me. My plan was to take it @ 9:30 (EZ pace of 9:00+:30) until I got to the turnaround on State St.  This is about 6.5 miles into the run.  Then I would go to 9:00 pace for the next 13 miles until I got back to the State St turnaround.  After that, I’d just see what I had left for the last 10k.  My plan also include taking 1 S-cap per hour to supplement the sodium in my Infinit.

At each aid station, I took 1 cup of water & 1 cup of ice.  I walked at each station, but only long enough to drink the water without spilling.  So it was usually less than 10 steps.  I also would squirt some Infinit into my mouth and put in a piece of ice to cool it down.  I chewed up the ice and make an “Infinit Slushy” before swallowing it.  I did this while running.

The first 4 miles my garmin was showing that I was running @ 9:18 to 9:20 pace, a little ahead of what I wanted to do.  My heart rate was in a good range, about 133-135, which is Z1 for me.  So I decided to walk up Observatory hill to not spike my HR and to protect my calf.  I figured that going up that hill is where I’d have the biggest risk of re-injuring it, and so far it was fine & I wanted to keep it that way.

I saw numerous people pass me in the first 6 miles, and I let them all go, figuring I might see some of them again later.  One guy was in my AG and he flew by me at mile 3.  I hoped to see him later, and I did at mile 23 when I re-passed him.

At the halfway point, my garmin showed 2:03, three minutes slower than my target.  But I was feeling ok so I wasn’t worried.  I got two fresh bottles of Infinit at RSN, took an S-Cap and plowed along.

It was awesome to see the EN tent, my brother, RnP and all the other EN cheering team right at the corner of State & Capital Square.  Huge mojo lift from them, and it was great to see the other EN racers on the course as we passed each other.

When I got back to the State St turnaround, I told myself it was time to race.  I started counting the people I passed, and I counted 219 by the time I finished.  Granted, many of these folks were on the first loop since the official results show I passed 36 people on the run who were ahead of me off the bike. By now I was basically going @ 10k effort and my HR was now in the 142-144 range.  I re-focused on my form and cadence.  Counting people and steps helped to keep my mind off the overall pain.  My calf was holding up.

At mile 23 I spotted the guy in my AG who passed me 20 miles earlier.  I slowly caught him, stayed 5 yards behind him for about 100 yards to gather myself, then accelerated past him.  I want to go by him quickly so he didn’t have time to respond.  I never looked back, but later learned he finish 6 minutes behind me and was a former Kona qualifier in my AG.

I kept pushing until the end, skipping the last 2 aid stations.  I saw JT at the EN tent on State St, gave him my fuel belt (which was empty anyway), pushed on the finish.  Coming around Capital Square with about ¼ mile left, I spotted a guy in a race kit that I recognized from the bike leg.  I felt I could pass him, so I gave it one last push.  I passed him right in front of RSN, just before the last turn to the finish.  I cruised by him and kept up my speed thru the finishers chute.  I “ high 5ed”  some people on both sides of the cute but didn’t slow down.  I later learn this guy finished :10 behind me and he won the 60-64 AG, which I’ll be competing in next year.  I got caught at the finish by ENer Al Schlebecker and he took great care of me as I recovered.  Thanks Al.

Lessons Learned

1.       Never underestimate the magical power of rest.  I took it very easy the last two weeks, only running twice and for no more than 4 miles/run.  This helped my calf heal and also freshened up my legs for the bike.

2.       Focus on the task at hand.  Just execute as well as you can at that moment; then string together hundreds of good moments.

3.       Keep your bike power steady for the last 30 miles.  I intentionally backed off a bit to make sure I was ready to run, but I think I lost a few minutes on the bike by backing off too soon.  Maybe just backing off the last 5 miles, instead of the last 30.

4.       Don’t stop racing until you cross the finish.  I could have coasted in the last mile, but I wouldn’t have caught the guy at the finish.  If I can beat a Kona qualifier this year, who knows what’s possible next year when I age up.

5.      Give out as much team mojo as you can.  I gained energy from seeing the other EN members on the course, and tried to encourage them as much as possible too. There is strength in numbers.

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