Toyota US Open Championships 2011 Race Report

This race has a bittersweet feeling to it.  I had a great time out there and while I fell short of my goals I loved every minute of the race.  I left everything I had out on the course and finished with a time that was 12 minutes faster than last year at the same race.  That was the sweet part of the race.  The bitter part is that teammate Robert Swan got injured on the run and that may leave hit first half-ironman up in the air since it was an injury to his knee. This race did not result in a PR and I'm ok with that.  After spending all day processing this race and understanding where I sit in my training and that this was not an 'A' race for me I am excited about what I did today.  Coach called me, while preparing to leave for Kona, to give me a pep talk that took this day from good to great.  She pointed out that it was a very difficult bike course with also the fact that the roads were not in the best shape.  She noted the goal for all this training is in 3 weeks at 70.3 Austin and to just take away lessons from the day and not to dwell.  I have a tendency to pick apart my races to the point of ridiculousness and hammer away at my performance.  Today is the exact opposite.  I raced with my friends and teammate, my sponsors and other friends were there to cheer and my wife was as supportive as she has ever been and I love having her there when I cross the finish line. Let's analyze the day shall we?

Pre-Race:

Woke up at 3:33am (sorry EMZ but 4:44am would be too late) and prepared a smoothie, granola and coffee by the light of my cell phone.  As has become customary I ate my breakfast in the bathroom so as not to disturb Karen.  Once I was done with eating I jumped in the shower to relax the mind and separate myself from the race.  The shower felt great and now I was going to take a nap. I got a solid 45 minute nap in when Karen's alarm went off and it was time to pack up and head downstairs to transition.  We decided to stay at the host hotel and this was a blessing for more than one reason.  Out of the room and into transition in a PR time of 1minute 34 seconds.  I setup my transition so fast and had time to hang out with Carla and Eddie Weber (my sponsors) and Karen.  I then got to see Robert, Juan, Eric and Curtis as well.  I waited for Robert to finish his setup before we took off on a 2 mile warm-up run. Remember how close the hotel was?  Well once the run was over I ran upstairs to the room to use the bathroom and not a porto-john.  I sprayed the living daylights out of my ankles and neck with TriSlide and back downstairs.  Time to head to the swim start.

Swim:

The lakes in North Texas are down quite a bit of water and so the start was now an in water start as opposed to a drop off the dock start.  After dropping in and standing up, with the water at my waist, I swam to the start line and positioned myself in the 2nd row to the far right.  My goal was to take and angle straight to the buoy so that I did not have to sit in the white wash of the inside line. The gun went off and the surge of adrenaline was enormous.  I knew I had to get out early because of being in the second row but it was not like anything I have ever felt before.  I was pushing so hard and fast to get to that first buoy and be able to find a rhythm that I spend a lot of energy.  My plan was the right one but that adrenaline surge was unbelievable.  At one point I thought to myself I am never going to finish this swim if I keep going like this and had to do the finger tip drag drill to slow myself and my heart rate down.  This worked like a charm as I finally got into a rhythm and all the sudden the turn buoy was there. I am now thinking to myself this is a great swim and start to speed up a bit when yellow caps start passing me.  The yellow caps represent  the wave behind me that started 3 minutes later.  I kept pushing to keep up with them but sure enough I couldn't but I thought that if they swam a 24 - 25 minute 1500 meters and I kept up with them some what then I would be coming in around my goal time of 28 minutes-30 minutes.  Around the second turn buoy and it was time to hit the X button (PlayStation example for you) and push hard. I started passing purple caps, blue caps, red caps and even more green caps on the way home.  Now here is where the swim turns into a bit of a quasi-joke.  When you get to the final buoy your arms start scraping the lake floor and yet you are still 50-100 meters out from the swim exit.  I saw people dolphin diving but I would gain 3 feet on them every time they had to push themselves up off the floor so it was not worth it.  I ripped off my cap and goggles, unzipped and got my wetsuit halfway off before I was even near the ramp to the swim exit. Time: 32:21 (1500 m course but my watch said I swam 1.04 mi.  Work on sighting.) Goal: 28-30 minutes (PR time at 1500m 31:40.  Finished 46th out of 68 M35-39 --> bet they didn't swim 1.04 miles though!) Grade: B+ (I felt great in the water and never tired and felt faster as the swim went on.  Need to work on form and sighting to improve speed.)

Bike:  

The bike starts on a steep climb out of transition.  I clipped my right foot in but when I tried to put the left foot in I couldn't and wound up running the bike up the hill and mounting up top.  This normally would put a crimp in my day but for some reason it did not bother me.  I just kept on riding and never thought twice about it. The road for this course has been damaged by construction as we all as the drought.  The road had large cracks in it that ran in the same direction as you are riding.  There were other parts where the road drops off so you have to pick a line and stick to it.  In addition to that you have to make sure that somebody else doesn't accidentally flow into your line. When I started out I felt great and the road was cooperating with me.  It was at this point that I do not recall seeing many 7s on people calves (they did not put age but instead put wave assignments on our calves.)  I thought to myself that I must be doing great or so bad that they were all in front of me. At one point your end up on a fairly clean road that you can hammer on and get going.  I looked at my watch to see what my speed was and saw a time of 2:41 and I knew I hit the multi-sport button one to many times as that was a pace I see on my run in that corner of my watch.  Knowing that 3 minutes = 20 mph I knew I was cruising.  I was feeling good and then the sound of a disc wheel climbing up on you.  In an instant I was getting passed by a woman on the same bike as me.  She made a comment that I had a nice bike and I told her it would be nicer if it was going as fast as hers.  She laughed along with me. You reach a turn around and immediately it is a climb.  Once you get to the top of the climb you turn around to do a '2nd lap' of this route by heading to the turn around point.  This 'lap' was added in because of the  problems with the original course being short.  The idea that I had to do that climb again finally dawned on me.  Well, everybody has to do it.  At this point I locked up with #808.  We were playing leap-frog on the way back and then the one thing you never want to see on a bike course.  The race official. As the race official passed me they slowed down and wrote something down on a piece of paper and then took off.  I thought for sure that I had gotten a penalty but I couldn't think of how or why I would get one.  I was getting passed by #808 and had no idea what he was doing behind me plus we were going uphill the majority of the way.  When I caught up to #808 I informed him of this as I passed and thought to myself that wasn't the nicest thing to do as I could have just played a serious mind game on him.  Oh well, keep on pedaling. At this point I started catching up to people from the wave group #7 and passing them.  Was I going to hard and blow up on the run?  Were they slowing down?  I kept on pushing and eventually get to a down hill that leads to another uphill and then finally you are at the end.  I took my feet out of my shoes and coasted to the mount line.  Off the bike and through transition as fast as I could. Time: 1:18:11 (19.0 mph) Goal: 1:08 - 1:10 (PR time at Olympic Distance 1:08:29.  Finished 36th out of 68 M35-39 ) Grade: B+ (My hip flexors started acting up on the ride but it was the wind that hurt the most.  Last year I rode in 1:18:16 and there was no wind)

Run:

  Oh the run.....my friend.  How I longed for you this day.  After starting marathon training about three weeks ago I wanted to truly test my speed.  I had been running for 1.5 hours and then doing a negative split return at a 8:02/mi pace and a 7:42/mi pace.  I also know that I ran the Avia Austin Triathlon at a 7:25/mi pace and had that time as my goal time.  I wanted to maintain a pace that I would need to qualify for Boston in a few months. Out of transition and you begin with what seems to be a Stairway to Heaven.  This start is exactly 0.5 mi uphil the entire time.  No flat portions to let your legs get a rest.  Straight climbing and no joke.  It was immediately that I started seeing more and more 7s.  I knew that I was going to catch a number of people on this run because my legs did not have the wobbly feeling after a ride (maybe I should have pushed more?) Before I hit the 1 mile marker I passed my friend Eric and yelled at him to keep on pushing through.  He has suffered knee and leg injuries and his run always takes a beating.  Last year I did not catch up to Eric until Mile 3.  I immediately knew that this race was going to be much different from last year. I kept right on plugging away and catching racers all along the way.  There were people huffing and puffing up these hills and it game me an adrenaline shot.  I focused on my turnover and keeping my cadence at 90 the entire time.  It was around Mile 2 that I passed the woman who passed me on the bike and thought holy cow I'm at Mile 2 already.  The turn around was at Mile 3 and again it was surprise when I got there as fast as I did. At the turn around there as a runner with a 7 on his leg.  I took an inside line and passed him and heard his footsteps for a bit but then I also heard labored breathing and I smiled to myself and said 'go ahead and try to keep up.  You'll be done in 2 minutes.'  Sure enough 2 minutes later there was no noise.  I decided then it was time to put the hammer down and really run. Going downhill I picked up the pace even more and that is when I saw Juan.  He was going up the hill and yelled that I looked strong and that made me go even faster.  After Mile 4 you turn left and I saw a familiar jersey.  It belonged to our buddy Curtis who started 12 minutes before me as a Clydesdale.  I yelled at him to get his body moving.  We chuckled after I passed him and he told me to go get it and that is what I did. When I reached the Mile 5 marker I saw Robert and he was barely moving.  I yelled at him and asked if it was the knee.  He nodded yes and I told him to walk to the finish and not stop moving but no more running.  As I passed him he yelled for me to go get it.  It was then that I knew it was all over and just started sprinting.  I saw a woman with her name on the back and knew she was on Team USA and was who I wanted to pace off of figuring she had to be fast.  The thing was that as I caught her she was not going that fast and so I do what I do best.....I yelled at her to get going.  As I passed her I said to her in a normal voice that it was time to catch the person in front of us.  We did that and then I said to her let's get the next one.  We caught them and then we passed a group of three then another runner. This whole time I kept yelling 'Come on McCreary. Let's go' 'C'mon McCreary we are almost done.  Not letting up now.' 'We went down that steep climb  with our legs barely touching the ground.  As we got toward the bottom I yelled 'Go Go Go Go' and she went and even passed me.  We got to the smallest incline and I passed her back yelling 'Let's Go McCreary we are going down the finishing chute' I finished and immediately doubled over.  I could not breathe and could barely stand.  I found McCreary doing the same thing and reached over and patter her on the back and then hugged her and thanked her for the pacing.  She immediately said that she would not have finished the race that strong if not for me.  We hugged again and high-fived and parted ways for a moment.(Turns out McCreary finished 2nd in the F40-44 AG with 46 seconds to spare.) Time: 45:54 (7:24/mi) Goal: 45-47 minutes (PR time at Olympic Distance 46:09 <-- no more.  Finished 13th out of 68 M35-39 ) Grade: A+ (I pushed myself from the get go, did not blow up and have the confidence that I can go faster.)

Post-Race:

After I was done I walked toward the back and saw Andy Potts.  Immediately after identifying him I heard Karen yell.  Next thing I know I see her climbing into the finishers area and was so happy to have her there until she blew past me and made a b-line for Andy.  I don't think I asked and I don't think she told me but all the sudden the camera was in my hands and they were arm in arm and I'm taking a picture. Not to be outdone I walked over and shook his hand and we chatted for a bit.  I told him that I had raced on the same course as him three times this season.  He asked if he was smiling after each one and when I told him it was at 70.3 Oceanside and CapTexTri he smiled.  He then said that I must bring him good luck and that he would have to send me his schedule for next year so that I could go and race on the courses with him.  At that point, his wife I believe, asked if we all wanted a photo together.  So she took a pic of Andy Potts, Karen and myself. I was on cloud 9 until Robert came through the finish line and was being helped to a chair to sit down because his knee was causing so much pain.  He looked defeated but I told him he finished regardless of circumstance and that is what CTER athletes are made of.

Final Times:

  Time: 2:41:06 Goal: 2:25:16 - 2:31:16 (PR time at Olympic Distance 2:38:40.) Rankings: 25th out of 68 M35-39; 175 out of 440 Men; 226 out of 617 Overall) Grade: B+ (I enjoyed the race and learned valuable lessons for 70.3 Austin in three weeks.) My final thought on this race are that it was a great time.  I fell short of my 2:25-2:31 goal time but beat last year by 12 minutes and only 3 minutes off of a PR.  I now know that I can go much harder on my bike and still be able to maintain a strong run.  I know that I'm faster in the water than I was last year.  My focus has been 70.3 Austin and with only three weeks to go until race day the training will be kicked up a notch so that I can mimic my run times.  I would be very satisfied with a swim time comparable to today's swim and a pace for my run being in the same ballpark.  Having ridden the course twice before I know I can go faster than the course for Toyota US Open Championships. I will be back next year and will have the determination and drive to pass the 19.0 mph barrier that this course has posed the past two years. Thank you to everybody who sent me messages via Twitter and Facebook.  It was a huge help to have you out on the course with me and push me to be better than I could have been on my own. [gallery orderby="rand"]
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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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