01/31/13

Panama 70.3 Prerace

Like anyone else, I like to size up my competition in preparation for race day.  Over the last few weeks, I occasionally checked the participant start list forPanama70.3.  I frequently visited the results page, looked at the elevation profile on the bike and run, and mentally ran through the race in my head, visualizing only the best.  The mind is a powerful thing and it can influence the body physically almost as much or more than any other major factor.

Did I visualize myself at the front of the pack, landing a podium position?  Briefly, but then reality set in and I settled with visualizing getting some form of a pay check from this race.  Based on last year’s results, I would need to go right around 4 hours – more than likely just under 4 hours – to get some money at this race.  I figured the top few guys would be back to either defend their title or try to improve their finishing place.  Of those, I knew that Lance Armstrong wouldn’t be toeing the line this year.

From finishing off the season last year with 4 pro races, I learned that it is crucial to get out of the water with the top few guys.  The swim times for this race are extraordinarily fast.  No, it’s not due to people being able to wear fins and paddles during the swim, but largely due to swimming down stream in thePanama Canal.  How cool is that?  Swimming in one of the man made wonders of the world!  No time to look around on race day though.  I need to find someone’s feet to get behind and draft in the water.  I think on my own I should be able to swim about a 20 minute 1.2-mile swim with the current.  Once I figure out who actually shows up that signed up for the race, I’ll research their swim times and try to find them race morning and try to hang on to their feet.  Ideally, I’d like to get behind someone that swims a low to mid-19 minute swim from last year, saving me about 45 seconds from swimming it solo.  Getting out of the water should lead to about a 2 minute T1 and off to the bike.

Panamais a long, narrow country.  One would expect very little elevation gain during the 56-mile bike ride.  You and I both assumed wrong.  With just over 1900 ft of climbing in the bike portion, it is just 100 feet less of climbing that Ironman Louisville in half the distance.  Sound painful?  Just to make it more fun, add in temps reaching to the mid-80’s by the end of the ride.  The good news that about 1000 feet of the climbing (right around half of the total elevation gain) comes on two different hills.  The first from miles 11-13 and the second from miles 42-46-ish.  The rest of it appears to be rolling to mostly flat with about 5 or 6 short, but steep, climbs.  What’s the strategy here?  Stay within myself and what I know that I can push on the bike for about 2 hours and 15 minutes.  According to some research that I did a while ago, I should be able to hold about 88% of my FTP for the ride.  Am I willing to push it a little more to test the limits?  You bet!  The cool thing from last year, that number that I think I should be able to push is up from about 275-280 watts (what I averaged at Rev3 Quassy on a 56 mile bike course with 2500 feet of climbing)  to about 300-305 watts.  The big question is run and how I’ll handle the heat coming from the coldKentuckywinter.

The run tends to be the strongest part of the race for me.  Do I still have work to do and room for improvement?  Yes, and lots!  Last year I averaged just over a 6 min/mile on a hilly Rev3 Quassy course.  This course is flat, but the great equalizer is the expected race temperature to be about 20-25 degrees warmer and have no shade as we run along thePanama Canal.  I believe that I could hold a sub-6 min/mile, and possibly run a 1:17-1:18 run split for the 13.1 miles.

Am I little concerned about the heat… a little.  But I think it’s more of a healthy respect for it.  I’ll be hurting, but I like the heat and welcome it to all races.  Thanks to Infinit Nutrition for getting me a custom mix to handle the hotter climates.  This will also be the first race that I use their NAPALM (Infinit’s spin on an energy gel).  I’ve had good success with it while training and look forward to testing it on race day in extreme conditions.

Originally, I had goals of finishing in the top eight. Panamadoes happen to be the Latin American Pro Championship and offers a lot of money for that reason.  However, after looking at the start list forPanama, I would be very happy with a top 10 finish.  I will need to have a phenomenal day to break into the top 8 and walk away with some money.  Whatever happens, I know that I’m going to give it my all and have fun while doing it.

I haven’t told really anyone this yet except for one person.  But the day before I left forTucson, my grandpa on my dad’s side passed away.  Due to bad weather inChicago, I was unable to make it up to visit.  My grandpa lived for 95 years and was married for 70 years to my grandma before passing.  He left a great example behind on how to live life to the fullest while honoring God with his lifestyle.  I’ve never done this before, but the season opener for 2013 is going to be dedicated to my grandpa.  When I cross that finish line, in the top 8 or top 10 or not, I’m going to look up and thank God and my grandpa for being their at my first race of 2013.