Three weeks after Ironman Coeur d'Alene, I signed up for a half ironman at Lake Chelan (Chelanman) in mid July. This was a bold move because ironman recovery usually takes one to two months -- especially for me as I really plug it out on the run, instead of walking it like 2/3rds of the crowd. But I was curious how my body would respond, and since Chelanman is a relatively affordable race I was not too worried about "wasting" my money.
Incidentally, this was also Sarah's first triathlon, as she was participating in the olympic distance race. I had been working with her for a month and change, mainly on her bike and open-water swimming. Unfortunately, neither of us were at full strength. Three weeks after IMCDA I had only run two times, as my legs were still recovering and heavy. While my swimming was fully recovered, my bike was only now just getting back into levels previously seen before CDA. Thus, going into the race, I was probably at 100% on the swim, 85% on the bike, and 75% on the run. Sarah, on the other hand, had injured her ankle during a transition run with her Newtons. Even though she had made this same injury a few times before, it took her one final time to learn her lesson. She was limping going into the race and her run training was curtailed; there was little doubt her run split (potentially her strongest) would be quite slow.
We left Seattle on Friday and stayed at Chelan Lake State Park the night before the race, once again rising at 4am. We went to transition, and it was evident Sarah was quite nervous, as she had many questions about transition, etc. One's first triathlon is quite intimidating, so I did my best to be understanding and tender but the selfish little boy inside of me wanted to just focus on me. Nevertheless, we got all setup with plenty of time, and I lined up on the lakeshore for the start. The gun banged and off I went. The Chelanman course is a bit longer than a standard 70.3 distance, as all three splits -- especially the bike -- were a little longer than billed. We were off swimming and I was in the second or third chase pack following the underwater line. I decided to hang out behind a couple guys for the first half of the swim, then after we cleared the first turnaround buoys, I made a move through them and suddenly I was off on my own. I managed to put 20-30 seconds on them over the second part of the swim and caught another guy out ahead, coming out of the water in the low 34 minute range in 14th place (a fairly small field). While not that great, it was probably my best half swim yet because the course was a little longer than a standard distance.
The bike course is very hilly, more so than St. George, and the first 18 miles or so introduced a mild headwind on the bike. The first part is an out and back along the lake, with beautiful views. I cranked it hard but it took about 18 miles for my legs to warm up. The whole time I was thinking, damn, I am not feeling all that good. Two guys passed me during this section, and they were looking strong. On the turnaround I got a look at the leaders, who were not that far ahead of me. The wind was now a bit at the my back and we hit some hills. Here, I started passing a few guys, which is usually the case once we get to the hills. I was nailing it hard on the way back in 27mph or so on the flats and got to the first sustained climb at 36 miles (or so) probably in 8th place. I passed three guys going up the first climb of about 2 miles. One of them had passed me earlier so as I approached him I downshifted into a harder gear so he could hear it. Once again, I figured it was good for his character and as he looked over I said, "how's it going?" and then rode by him. The course then followed a long decline with a stiff headwind then up once again for another 7 miles or so also with lots of headwind. I imagine many people were suffering majorly at that point but since I was passing people I was feeling pretty good despite the fact that I was not in top shape.
Coming down the Navarre-Coulee mountain back onto the main road along the lake I continued to push the pace into T-2. About two miles out some guy went flying by me (the eventual winner), and then about 1/2 mile before T-2 I went up a short incline and my chain popped off. That was annoying and in the process one of the guys I had previously passed went by me. Coming out of T-2 I was in fourth place. Normally, at a race like this, that would mean I'd have a good chance to win the race. I passed one guy who was struggling big time but soon realized I could not hold a sub-7:00 pace, which would be required to pull off a victory. It was frustrating but at that point it was all about survival. My pace hovered around 7:15-7:30, similar to my ironman pace. I started to fade somewhat and by mile four or five stopped at an aide station to ask for ice (they didn't have any prepared). So I ended up waiting at two aide-stations for 30 seconds or so to get the necessary ice. I dumped the ice down my shirt for cooling purposes, which always helps a lot. Along the run I also had to drop a few times, as I had forgotten my Tums.
The mental battle was very tough, as I kept telling myself just get to the turn-around. So at the turn-around three guys were ahead of me and a few more were hot on my heels. I decided to go for broke and started to push the pace, which brought an increase in the heart-rate. I kept looking back and the guy following me was on the taller side and looked like he could lose 3-5 pounds so I figured I had a good chance to stave him off. My goal was to get just far enough away from him that he couldn't really see me around the bends, etc., and would back off. This appeared to work, and I focused on one mile at a time. The last two miles were painful but in the distance I saw the third place guy. I decided to jack up the effort the last mile and a half to see if I could catch him (for shits and giggles). Somehow I managed to drop into the low 6s as I gave it everything I had, but he bested me by seven seconds in the end. So two ice stops, two dimes, and a dropped chain. I probably would have had third easily.
I doubt I'll ever do another half ironman so close to a full ironman. But this race was an exploratory effort, in addition to introducing Sarah to her first triathlon. As she was doing the olympic race, I saw her several times throughout the day. Unfortunately, neither of us had a great day, as I struggled with recovery from IMCDA and she had a bad
By day I am a political scientist studying campaigns, public opinion, and race and ethnic politics. By early morning and/or night I am an endurance athlete.