Although much more at ease after completing the Half IM at Taylorsville Lake, I still spent a significant portion of my week before Kansas arranging & rearranging all my "stuff" that I would need for my trip to Kansas. I'll admit that I packed way more than I needed but at least I didn't forget anything! I even took my own toaster & hot water kettle so I could have my bagels with peanut butter & hot tea the morning of the race.
Lawrence, KS turned out to be a surprisingly cool little town with my hotel placed in the middle of the artsy, eclectic downtown area. The expo was actually outside just a couple of blocks away from my hotel and although small, it had all the gear any tri-geek could want. It even had some Specialized Transition bikes on display that I spent a fair amount of time drooling over.
After picking up my packet, t-shirt, etc. at the expo, I took a drive out to view the course. All the literature I had read ahead of time warned that it wouldn't be flat like people expected for Kansas & that turned out to be true. The course wasn't hilly like Louisville but it was either a continuous up or down that over the course of 56 miles amounted to about 2500 feet of climbing. I was a little concerned about the complete lack of shade out on the course and the possibility of high wind but otherwise all looked good for race day.
After driving the course I checked out the transition, swim & run areas back at the park. Because of all the rain in KS, the lake was very high with water actually spilling over the top of the dam. This created some strong currents that I thought would be interesting on race morning. They also had to move the transition area due to flooding which made for slightly less than ideal conditions. When we exited the water we would have to run on sharp rocks to get to our bikes....I was hoping they would cover this but they didn't. Made for some ouchie feet on race day.
Once I had checked out the course, I spent the rest of the weekend just hanging out until I had to check my bike on Saturday. This was a completely different experience than Taylorsville. While there were only about 100 people at Taylorsville, we had closer to 1500 in Kansas & it seemed that everyone had better "stuff" than me....While I love my bike, it's hard not to get a little bike envy when surrounded by hundreds of people with $5000+ bikes with disk wheels, aero helmets & all kinds of other cool things. Oh well...anyway, took a quick test ride on my bike, a dip in the lake to check out the water temp & currents & got my bike checked. Now all I had to do was wait for race morning.
3 am came really early on Sunday morning. After chowing down on my bagels & tea, I got dressed and headed out in the dark for the race start (about 30 mins from the hotel). Lesson learned in this race - take a light to the race start as it's really, really dark at 5 am in the middle of nowhere! I schlepped all my gear down to the transition area, got body marked then arranged all my things around my bike in what I hoped would be an easy, intuitive setup. I got done with all that pretty quickly so got to spend the next 1:30 watching everyone else get ready & fretting over whether I should wear a wetsuit or not. In the end, I pulled on the wetsuit right before lining up with my age group & before I knew it, we were in the water.
Right off the bat I knew this race was a whole different animal than Taylorsville. Gone was the easy camaraderie that seemed prevalent among the competitors. These people were serious! Lots of kicking, bumping & stuff in the water so I just tried to stay off to the right of the main pack. About a third of the way into the swim I really wished I hadn't worn my wetsuit as I was getting really hot. Oh well - I sucked it up and just kept going. The swim seemed to go on & on - different than Taylorsville because it was just one loop. I was really glad to see the shore & although it felt like I'd never get there I was finally out of the water! Swim Split 51:36 - boo!
The run to transition was pretty long & once we were off the path from the lake we got to run on those ouchie rocks to get to our bikes. I remembered to make a stop in the porta-pot then grabbed my shoes, helmet, sunglasses, bike & kind of run-walked out to the mounting line. T1 - 5:07 - just ok.
Once I was on my bike I quickly settled into just getting comfortable with the race ahead. There was lots of passing & bad bike handling skills but I made it up the hill from the lake & out onto the main road with no problems. The course is what they call the "Iron Cross" with 3 out & backs plus the road to/from the lake. The first out started with a wicked downhill followed by a long ascent with a little flat thrown in for fun. One guy apparently took that first downhill wrong & wiped out so badly he had to be airlifted out....On that first leg I really tried to relax as dozens and dozens of riders blew past me while I tried to remember my plan to take it easy on the first leg. We already had a wicked cross/headwind & I knew we were going to have a long day. This one guy blew past me with a disk wheel but then immediately slowed down so I passed him back. This happened a couple of times before his ego apparently got the better of him & he took off like a bat out of hell. The hills on all legs of this course were long but thanks to all our local hills, I seemed to be taking them better than most. It seemed that a lot of people just didn't believe the course description & were surprised that it wasn't flat. I tried to relax during the headwinds & take advantage of the tailwinds. The best part of the ride was on the last stretch where I had known we would have a tailwind. I had reserved enough energy that I was feeling great & on the last big uphill I blew past the disk guy from the morning where he was obviously struggling. Next time he shouldn't let his ego get the best of him. I discovered that I love passing guys on the bike:) Bike Split 3:11:51 - yeah!
Once I was off my bike I moved through transition as quickly as I could to get out on the run course. T2 - 3:23 - not bad!
Although there had been no clouds in the sky & it was hot, I could see a big, black storm front heading our way. I started the run slowly but the closer the storm got the faster I tried to go. I was really afraid they would cancel the race. I made it through the 1st half of the run pretty uneventfully. It was toasty out & I really liked the cold sponges. I didn't eat anything but was able to grab ice & coke at a couple of stops. The run wound it's way through the park's campgrounds & the crowds were great. Even folks who weren't there for the race were out cheering us on. I was probably 20% into the last loop of the run when the wind picked up like crazy, the sky turned black & the temperature dropped about 25 degrees. It was a little freaky but although we could see lightning out in the distance, the storm seemed to hold off. I kept plodding on expecting to be pulled off the course any moment because of the weather but they kept letting us go on. I was about 2 miles out from the finish, ready to do the last little loop that takes you past the finish line & back, when they told us we had to finish & run through the chute. I couldn't believe it! I was having a great run & the storm looked like it had blown over but they made us quit anyway. I was a little disgusted (as you can see from my picture) but other people were a lot more upset. For a lot of the racers, not only was this their first HIM but it was also their "A" race for the season. When I went back to pick up my bike the girl next to me was just sobbing about not being able to finish. I felt really bad for her. People were even more upset because the storm never really materialized. Anyway, Run Split - 1:50:23 for 11.1 miles with and Overall Race time of 6:02:20.
Although my race was cut about 2 miles short, I was really happy with my performance for the day. My swim could have been better but my bike was great & I was having a decent run. My nutrition on the bike was good but I need to continue to work on my run nutrition. I can barely seem to get anything down. I think having the storm looming over us helped me to get over my tired running legs & push through to pick up my pace. Quite honestly, my only real complaint of the day was how they posted the final standings. Because some people were only on their first loop of the run when they got pulled & others were on their second, it totally messed up the standings. The competitive side of me has a real problem with people who didn't do as well as me being posted above me in the rankings - I had only 2 miles left but they had about 7 so it looks like they had better runs.....Oh well, there's really nothing I can do about it so I'll just be happy with my race & go from here. Overall - Kansas was a great race!