Arizona 2012 Race Report: Dave Tallo, 9:43, 6th AG and KONA!!

ENicon_twitterOnce again, the Endurance Nation way paves the road to Kona!  Before I start out, I want to extend a sincere and oft-repeated thanks to Rich, Patrick, and the many team members who have answered my questions, talked me off the ledge, and generally helped me get out of my own way leading up to this race.

Now on to the big game.
Place Name Residence Bib # Time Category Cat. Place Gender Place 2.4 mi
Swim
112 mi
Bike
26.2 mi
Run
T1 T2
80
David TALLO Toronto, CAN
2063
09:43:26
M40-44
6/431
69/1817
1:06:01 4:54:45 3:36:31 4:31 1:40
Place Name Residence Bib # Time Category Cat. Place Gender Place 2.4 mi
Swim
112 mi
Bike
26.2 mi
Run
T1 T2
80
David TALLO Toronto, CAN
2063
09:43:26
M40-44
6/431
69/1817
1:06:01 4:54:45 3:36:31 4:31 1:40
Place Name Residence Bib # Time Category Cat. Place Gender Place 2.4 mi
Swim
112 mi
Bike
26.2 mi
Run
T1 T2
80
David TALLO Toronto, CAN
2063
09:43:26
M40-44
6/431
69/1817
1:06:01 4:54:45 3:36:31 4:31 1:40 
80OA
6AG M40-44
Swim 1:06:01
t1 4:31
Bike 4:54:45
t2 1:40
Run 3:36:31
Strategically and tactically, things went According to Plan.  This was my first foray into deliberately timing and sequencing a set of races across a season for success and specific outcomes, and everything luckily fell into place across the year.     Here’s what I mean: my thinking about this race actually dates back over a year, beginning somewhere around the time in September 2011 when I found out I would be racing in Kona in October 2012.  After mulling it over for a while, I also knew I wanted to do more than one race this season, and expected that I would want to re-qualify for Hawaii for the next year (“A taste of honey’s worse than none at all …” ).  With that small cluster of considerations, and having done a few ‘back-to-back’ years in the past to some degree of success, the plan was to build very big over the summere to a race in kona, and leverage the fitness after the race to sharpen up, get my mind and recovery perfect, and treat AZ as a hard day with the single goal of re-qualifying.   Because The Man gets paid a full year in advance, this sharpened into the 2012 strategy as soon as World Triathlon Corporation swiped my credit card number last November.
So, there’s that long-term planning for the race in my back pocket.    Then, there’s the recency part: having just been to Hawaii for the first time, I also knew that as soon as i arrived on the island, I wanted to get back BAD.   Recalling a conversation I had after the race, Patrick told me that now that I had been there, I would probably start to think quite differently about earning a slot from that point forward, and would start viewing it less as a gift, privilege or surprise, and more like something that was mine by right, and that other competitors would have to take away from me.     Always with the alacrity, that Patrick.
With this collision of yearlong big picture thinking and very focussed-picture thinking coming off a race just a month ago, I was driven to achieve my goal for AZ.   Admittedly, I’ve been focussed, driven and motivated at lots of races before, but this was something else altogether, and now that I had seen the dudes and dudettes who race in the big show up close, I had a renewed sense of what ‘fit and fast’ really meant.   With all of that rattling around my brain, the prep between HI and AZ was very disciplined, and came together exactly as I had hoped.  I became leaner that I was in  HI.  I exercised smart discipline in my fueling for the intervening month-plus.  I worked hard, but listened to team advice about backing off in my training, and allowed proper recovery, with entire days off, deliberate recovery techniques after sessions, refuelling, rehydrating, and everything else that normally falls in the ‘nice to do’ category.   More importantly, I actually rested, slept, stretched, and generally rejuvenated like (I imagine) a pro would, and came to race week feeling physically fresh.
This was the case for mental recovery too.  I have a long history of being very very tweaked before races, and this has been a direct expression of how much I have inflated the stakes in my little brain.  Despite AZ being high-stakes testing, it ended up being a very different experience, and while I might have expected the recent “earn what’s mine” thinking could have easily set me off, I had tried to priorize,  and had spent a lot of time in the five weeks before the race mentally rehearsing, running through a number of relaxation techniques to try to appropriately focus energy, and generally chilling out.  As a result, I was surprisingly calm for all of race week, was able to really taper, and had a clear mind to and able to execute dispassionately and clinically on race day.
Fitness was also very good.  I underperformed in Hawaii, and really had no defecit to dig out of at that race.  Better yet, I knew I had a long summer of 20+ five-hour rides that I integrated into an EN build, and that approach had served me well for a number of years.  Even though I was pulling these together during June, July, August  and September with the near-term preparation for Kona in mind, having many many miles in my legs was a solid confidence booster in the lead-up to AZ, and helped me avoid doing “one or two last big session(s)” in the five week AZ build that could have had a downstream cost on race week or race day.
Race week was exactly as planned.  I was able to hold back from hitting the food too hard – always a problem for me once I arrive in the race location – but admittedly, the fro yo places that pepper Tempe probably led to and added pound on race day.

Swim

Not a lot of say about the swim.   I lined up 3 back from the front and to the left, and tried to push ‘somewhat hard’ for the first 400m.  I didn’t get beat up as badly as I have at other large races, and spent time trying very hard to draft for most of the out and back.  However, I was having problems with leaking goggles again, and sighting a pair of feet or a hip of another swimmer was challenging when swimming in the murky water.    Looking at the numbers, I was not unhappy with the final time – I think it was about 2 mins off (?) from my last race in AZ – but I hoped this year might have seen me move up in swim placing relative to my pace other events.  The take away is there is still a lot of hard work to do in the pool, and the only way to do the work will be … to do the work.    I’ll be posting for tips on the boards and reaching out to a former ENer for some ideas of how to arrive at next summer,  and ultimately races in 2014, a bit faster.

Transition

Threw my goggles away , lost my thermal cap, tried to get through this fast.  I’m not sure why it was so long on the clock.  I was moving through the chute.  Had a lousy place in the racks, though, and while I had a lot of clear real estate to run to the exit, it’s a big piece of property to get through.   The great t1 Not transition from lpan didn’t yield a great gain, though.

Bike

My plan for the bike was to be very very steady, and very very low.   I had a 5:01 in 2009, and deep down, my ego wanted the bragging rights to go under 5:00.  I knew I was coming to this race with about 8 watts more than I had to execute with last time around, and I spent pretty much every second of the post-Kona period practicing riding with a turtled head, and was to the point that I was riding inside for the last 3 weeks, and making videos of my position, with front and side perspectives on the trainer, to make sure that my head was low.  On other indoor rides, I was wearing the aerohelmet for blocks of time to make sure the helmet was tight to the back, and would review on video playback and make corrections the next ride out.   I think it was worth some time, and I was thrilled that I was able to stay very tucked and small to the wind for the entire ride.  Execution was a steady 193 for 30’, and the remainder at 203, with the final climb to the turnaround at 223.  I had to coast for a while on the return on loop 1,  and realized that it’s probably time that I move up to wearing  big boy pants and use a 53-42 on a flat course like this … I was just spinning out too often for my liking.
I went with a minimum of food onboard, and used a modified profile bottle for water and a behind-the-seat Lieto bottle for on-course Perform.  This was the first time the saddle bottle really worked for me, and I can now grab it without breaking position or watts, so it looks like it will be here to stay for race day set up.    What’s fashionable in bottle position will probably change dozens more times in the years ahead, but based on current info, I think this combination is the most usable, utilitarian and fastest setup for my particular bike.  Besides all of that, I love the way the frame looks when it’s ‘clean,’ with no bento, no downtube bottle cage, no tool bag, and no tchotchkes hanging off.
I didn’t really observe any drafting in my neck of the woods.  There were a few guys I spent a lot of the day yo-yo’ing with, but we agreed that we were all trying to race as clean as possible, and any oberver or official could tell we were counting seconds on passes and gogn out of our way to ride clean.    It got a little tight in the Tempe town turnaround, and it is a very narrow road to have 2 or 3 guys trying to go fast, in a tuck, while avoiding spectators, curbs, and illegal maneuvers.  I was happy every time I got out of that stretch and back on the open road.
Overall, the bike effort was ‘fair.’  It was certainly harder work than the very very easy bike pace at Kona last month, where absent a working PM, I tried to keep a HR of below 140.  in AZ, it looks like I was in the high 140s for most of the day.    I think this is the New Normal for ‘racing to qualify,’ and I’m glad I spent a lot of time at a uptempo effort on long rides this summer.    Mind you, I don’t think I would have wanted to spend 5:30 or more on the bike at that effort.
The numbers shook out like this, on an FT of 275:

Entire workout (194 watts):

Duration: 4:54:32

Work: 3421 kJ

TSS: 262.9 (intensity factor 0.733)

Norm Power: 198

VI: 1.02

Heart Rate: 121 156 146 bpm

Cadence: 30 183 87 rpm

Speed: 0 35.6 23.0 mph

MILES 0 – 56ish

Duration: 2:27:37

TSS: 129.6 (intensity factor 0.727)

Norm Power: 196

VI: 1.02

Distance: 54.918

Miles 56 – 112

Duration: 2:28:32

TSS: 133.3 (intensity factor 0.739)

Norm Power: 198

VI: 1.02

Distance: 57.86

The negative split is reflective of the first half comprising 1.5 loops with a net elevation gain, and the second half  comprising 1.5 loops as a net drop.   Feeding was made up of water plus clif bars then gels on the half hour, and Perform on the quarter hour.  I dropped my salt tabs at the one hour point.  I stupidly loaded my bike with a bottle of Roctane when I racked it the night before, and while it went down fine, it had me doing some frothy vomit burping nightmare over the first three hours.    I haven’t had problems with it before, but certainly had not used it as frequently as I should have.
The run just plain sucked, and I was prepared for that.  I had come to accept that a KQ would require running at a pace that was pushing at ‘uncomfortable’ from the outset, and that’s more or less what it was.  I was going by HR the entire time, but the numbers were much lower than I had been forecasting and had outlined in my race plan.  ‘Uncomfortable’ started to turn into ‘feeling bad’ at a few points over the first 10 miles, and I needed to take three separate  porta-potty stops.  These were legit and not mental time outs, but I think they saved the day, forcing me to settle my heart rate a little bit, and regain composure.
Mentally, it was also a very tough race.  I knew I was racing for one out of six to eight available slots, and there was a large number of guys who were off the bike well before I was, so I had concluded that at least a few of them were outrunning me already.  More difficult, though, was getting passed by at least four guys in my AG in the first few miles who were going at impossible paces.   As much as I had been trying not to look at race numbers to gauge the AG, I just couldn’t look away when I would feel someone coming up fast on my shoulder.  It was a series of hard  moments that I hadn’t prepared for, and this took some wind from my sails.
Aside from all of this, I suppose the first 18 miles were uneventful.  They certainly were not pleasant, and I learned that it’s very easy to say something like “to really ‘race’ an IM, you have to really turn yourself inside out’ on a internet forum, but its another thing altogether to be in that mindset at mile 8, and have 18 miles of suck ahead.
I have always been able to count on miles 18+ to gain a lot of spots, so I was tactically trying to make sure that I had a bit in the tank, and when I hit that spot, I was blessedly able to answer the call.  Miles 18-20 were all about staying on the shoulder of a fast F Pro.  Her rabbit duties done, I passed her on the last loop of Rural Road.        I saw R at about mile 20, and he told me I was 10, and that was a big surprise, but also exactly the news I needed.  I really could kill myself to run down at least 2 more 40-44s, and pushed very hard from that point for at least 15 minutes.  somewhere around 21, I recognized at least one guy who passed me earlier, and was pretty sure I got another that he was keying off of a few minutes later.  Also, because it’s a three loop course, by this point, I was passing a lot of runners.  The course then loops back, and I see R again, and expect to hear something like “6.”  Nope:  “10.”  In his after-race retelling:  “I looked pissed off.”  But, by that time, I’m at about mile 24, and I figure if I’ve hurt this much for the last 6 miles and it got me nowhere, I’ll either be way off from a slot and was never in contention anyways, or it will be very close to at the end.     Either way, I could kill myself for 2 miles.  I more or less just ran the last 2 miles head-down at an all out effort.  there were a lot of runners out by that point, so I had no idea or ability to identify if I was passing people in my QG en route to finish, or people on the first loop.  I wasn’t doing a lot of thinking at that point.
The last two miles really hurt.     I love these miles and I hate these miles and they are what keep me coming back to IMs and they are what will eventually lead me away from IMs.   In the end, turned the “last lap / finish” corner, looked over my shoulder expecting to see someone on my shoulder, but I was alone and run the chute with no one really in sight.   I buckled at the finish, and learned later that I took 6th place by just under 2 minutes.    I saw Kevin McKinnon in the timing tent after cooling off, and saw the printout confirming 40-44 had 6 slots.    I’m in!

Run Numbers

Entire workout (153 bpm):

Duration: 3:36:41

Min    Max    Avg

Heart Rate: 115    174    153 bpm

Speed: 0 9.   4    7.3 mph

Pace 6:21    0:00    8:15 min/mile

MILES 0 – 18
2:33:43
AVG pace 8:30
AVG HR 150
MILES 18 – 26.2
1:03:21
AVG pace 7:42
AVG HR 161

Postscript

Kona registration is between 8 and 10am the day after a race.  They are justifiably efficient in the process: if you don’t show or pay by cc, you forfeit your spot and it rolls down as of 10:01.  So, as I’m going to sleep that night (and having just set 4 alarm clocks and called for a wake-up call for 7am), I think “I should make sure my AMEX is in the wallet.”
No AMEX.
Nowhere.
I turn the hotel upside down – the room looks like Led Zeppelin partied there once i’m done – it’s nowhere.       I tear apart the rental car – it’s nowhere.  I only carry 1 credit card, and it’s no longer in my hands.   By now, it’s about 3:00am, and I start to retrace my steps, and narrow it down to having left it at a pasta place in Scottsdale three nights ago.   Shocking that the pasta place isn’t open at 3:00am on a Sunday night, so I need to turn to plan B, and get another card by 8am.    After researching for a while, I learn that you can buy ‘generic’ credit cards at those seedy cheque cashing places, no questions asked.    if you want to see a very different side of life than you would normally see at an IM, take a few hours between 3:30 and 4:00 am on a Sunday morning and drive around to 24-hour cheque cashing joints.
In the end, I get a backup VISA card, and by now, it’s 7am, so I decide to roll by the restaurant just to see if they have a rogue breakfast pasta shift of workers.  AND THEY DO.  There’s a group of guys standing at the kitchen door waiting to get in to do kitchen prep, so I squeal the car into the lot all Rockford-style, beg them to look for my credit card, and lo and behold, THERE IT IS.
Crisis averted, I show up at signup (after being awake for 27 hours and one Ironman), payment goes in, and I take my spot.
Back to Hawaii in 2013!

 

Go here to listen to Dave’s interview with Coach Rich

 

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