Monday, June 23, 2008

2008 High Cliff Half Ironman

High Cliff Half-Ironman
Sherwood, WI

Matthew J. Amman

Official Time 4:21:39
Swim 25:10
T1 1:05
Bike 2:24:31
T2 1:01
Run 1:29:51

2/431 Overall; 1/36Age Group

Pre Race Thoughts:
This has been a big year for me. I put in a lot of training starting in January. The biggest epic training event was American Triple T race a month ago, but the most recent was a 140-mile bike ride from home to Fond du Lac and back last weekend. Adrienne thought I was nuts for doing it. After that big ride, I knew I needed some recovery and decided to taper heavily (Following the protocol in the book Perfect Distance – days Mon thru Sunday) for High Cliff HIM this weekend. Out of convenience, I had Adrienne taper with me.

Our friends Jim and Erica Gallagher from Cross Plains were doing the race as well so we decided to stay at the same hotel (Country Inn & Suites in Little Chute, WI). The race was Sunday so we drove up mid-day Saturday. Because we registered late, the elite wave was filled-up so they placed me in wave 2. We confirmed our registration and did a light brick workout: 30-minute bike, 15 minute run. Both Adrienne and I felt a little flat during the workout.

My race strategy was different this time around. Based on races in the past, I wanted to avoid the notorious side stitch and decided to heed my friend Kevin Purcell’s advice to race within my fitness level. The game plan was to even-pace the swim and swim very, very comfortably. On the bike, I wanted to ride the first half in zone 3 (155 bpm cap) and depending on I felt, push the second half in zone 4 (160-163 with an absolute cap of 165 bpm). The final three miles of the bike would be easier and spin the legs out, then run the first three miles easy, build into a strong pace and hold it; red-line the last two miles. Finally, I wanted to take in more calories (6 gels on the bike), attempt to get out of my shoes coming into T2, and have good execution.

Friday: Big dinner at Mama Mia’s (pasta primavera)
Saturday: Light breakfast (muffins at Sendik’s)
Lunch at Pot Belly’s (veggie wrap, flavored bottled water)
Dinner at Sport Pub (chicken wrap, diet coke, water)

Race Morning:
I woke up to a beautiful sunny high 50’s Sunday morning at 4:00 am and had my usual 2 Powerbars three hours before the race and 8 oz of Red Bull about 2.5 hours before hand. I got to the race venue shortly before 5:30. Things went smoothly and I warm-up (15-minute bike with pickups, 10-minute run with pickups).

Lake Winnebago was a little wavy, but nowhere as bad as Lake Michigan (at SOR). Wave 1 took off with plenty of fast people in it: Terry Labinski, Craig Lanza, Austin Rameriez, Greg Thompson, among others. Wave 2 took off without a hitch about two minutes later and I led the group out walking/running fast until the water was deep enough to swim. The swim was rather uneventful except that on the final turn, to head back to the beach, it was hard to see. The beach was in the shade making it hard to sight for the swim chute. Relying on the seven or eight people in the wave 1 that were still ahead of me, I managed to finish. I exited the water with Terry Labinski. [HR 168]

I had a quick transition and managed to pass my former Cross Plains Stingrays swimmer and later, assistant swim coach Justin Pernitz on the way out. [HR 171]

The dreaded High Cliff hill was, in my humble opinion, not a big deal in comparison to TTT and mountain bike racing. My heart rate was still high in the 170’s from the quick transition and hill climb, but within a few miles, it was down in low 150s. Terry Labinski slowly passed me around mile four and slowly pulled away. At that point, I rode in 6th place.

After being on the bike 1 hour 15 minutes, I decided to push it and hold the HR steady in the lower 160s. After thirty minutes at that effort, I finally caught a few bikers and at 2 hours, I was within 100 yards of Terry Labinski and eventual race winner Jeff Tarkowski. The last few miles I eased up, something Terry did as well, and spinned back into T2 to loosen the legs up. I rolled into transition in fourth place overall, second if you factor in that I started in wave 2. I rode the last quarter mile out of the shoes—went well.

Nutritionally, I ate my first gel at fifteen minutes and ate another gel every twenty minutes thereafter. I ate six gels total. My fluid intake was approximately 20 oz: 1 bottle of Motortabs (2 tablets), sips of water from the water bottle I picked up at the last aid station. [HR 158]

It was nice to jump off the bike in bare feet and run fast to the bike rack. I put on my Nike Skylons with Drymax socks, put on my visor and race belt, and grabbed two Powergels. I tried to be quick and gain some time on Terry, but he runs without socks so cruised past me while I sitting down putting on my socks. Once I was ready, I hauled ass to exit transition. In doing so, I stumbled a bit on the uneven grassy area and floundered over the exit cones instead of the timing mat. I thought I missed the mat, but I guess I caught it. [HR 156]

Despite the hiccup running out of transition, I managed to be on Terry’s heels (10 yards back). Meanwhile Jeff Tarkowski was on my heels. Scott (Bowe) raced this last year and his insight was helpful. With Terry right in front of me, I was content to see how things would play out and felt comfortable enough to bide my time and out kick him on the last 5K.

After running up the big hill (again not as bad as TTT), the three of us forged ahead through the shady trails of the park. It was a nice run. Short of the first water station, Terry pulled up with a cramp and had to stop. I told him to push through it, but he said he could not. Meanwhile Jeff pulled ahead. Jeff managed to stay 20 yards ahead of me while Greg Thompson was another 20 yards of him. The lead runner was a cyclist who had muscled his way to the front while biking. He cracked before mile 6 on the run. At some point, I had to stop and go to the bathroom (#1). Running and whizzing is something I have not mastered. In stopping, Jeff, who was now running side-by-side with Greg, pulled out of sight. After the pit stop, I tried to bridge the gap but could not. On the long sections, I could see them up ahead and could tell they were pulling away. I managed to dig deep and hold pace. Meanwhile, I ate my first Powergel around 30 minutes and my second shortly before 60 minutes, each time washing them down with H20. In the past, its been hard to keep my heart rate up, but by consuming more calories on the bike, I was able to keep it above 160 for most of it.

With a mile and half to go, I laid it on the line and ran all-out. The final mile is back down the big hill and I gave it everything I had to try to get first or second. In the end, I managed to capture second overall. Jeff Tarkowski at some point pulled away from Greg Thompson to finish with a 4:18. I finished in 4:21, twenty-six seconds ahead of third place. [HR 160]

Post Race:
After crossing the finish line, I broke down. I mean literally broke down. John White along with the race staff was there to help walked me over to a chair to sit down. With a cup of cold water in my hand, I put my head down and began to sob. After four plus hours of intense focus with me smashing my previous personal best, I was physically and emotionally a wreck. It took a while for me to stop, but I felt much better afterwards. After collecting my composure, I chatted with the other finishers, drank some Gatorade and water to finally head over to my race bag and get my jacket. It was time to go find Adrienne who was still out on the course and on her way to incredible HIM time of 5:17 (6th female overall).

Final Thoughts:
Going this fast was a matter of training enough over the last two years and execution based on experience and reading. Those first thirty minutes of the bike are a teaser. Because your legs feel fresh and strong, the natural inclination is to push it. Was a sub 4:25 possible for me, I was not sure. I always thought I could slip under it, but 4:21 really took me by surprise and maybe that is why I was emotional at the end. My performances last year were a hint that something really fast was possible. It is an amazing feeling when “really, fast” actually happens. Zoom. Zoom.

• Brand new Aquaman Kaiman swim goggles; Full wetsuit
• PX bike with 50-50 PX wheelset (123 psi); cut water bottle filled with 6 Powergels (sodium added type) on seat-tube; tall water bottle with 2 tablets of Motortabs on downtube; spare tubular with 1 C02 cannister taped behind seat; Sunglasses
• Oomph Lava Compression shorts, 2008 TriWi top, Red TriWi visor

Things to Remember:
• Training consistently pays dividends
• Bilateral breathing works
• Six gels in a cut-off water bottle worked great, maybe try seven next time

Special Thanks to:
• Adrienne
• Scott Bowe, Michelle Lanoutte
• John White, Gloria West
• Planet X & TriWisconsin Triathlon Team
• My friends who where there (TriWi members, the Gallagher family)

Matthew Amman 6-23-2008


Chris Wichert said...

awesome race matt, on a tough course! (i went to school with justin- small world)

Jennifer Harrison said...

Awesome race! Really....very impressive and I am glad all your hard work is paying off! Congrats!!!
Jen Harrison