Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Race Report: New Orleans 70.3, April 13, 2014

by Gray Skinner

After Cozumel, I took a nice rest during December and started back again in early January. With the main goal of 2014 being Kona, I needed an early season goal to stay motivated in the early months. I went into the spring with two goals: defend at the Enchanted Rock Duathlon and win the overall amateur race at Ironman 70.3 New Orleans. I am happy to report that in the last month, both goals were achieved!

Brief Enchanted Rock Recap

On March 30, Leah and I returned to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area to defend last year’s title. Race day was perfect, with low morning winds, great temps, and a capacity field once again. The race started out quick, with Sandy Joseph and I separating from the field on the initial 8k trial run. We traded the lead back and forth a few times, and I eventually took the lead for good at mile 4. It was a tough run as always, and Sandy was pushing me hard. Into T1, and out on the bike, I knew that Enlightened Performance athlete and uber biker Michael Jones would be hot on my heels. I pushed a decent pace (295 watts for 40 min for those who care) and came into T2 with a decent-sized lead on the chasing field. Through the woods and up the rock, I managed to hold on for the win.
William Jabour, Gray, Michael Jones

I was really happy to see Michael summit the rock next to take second overall. EP athlete and firefighter extraordinaire William Jabour also had a great race and improved his previous year’s time by nearly 8 minutes! I ended up a few seconds shy of the course record. My trusted swim advisor Andrea Fisher defended her title as well on the women’s side. It was a great first race of the year, and the folks at Redemption Race Productions did a great job putting it on, as always!

On to New Orleans….

Throughout the winter, NOLA 70.3 had been my main focus point for the spring. I really wanted to continue my improvement and development at the half distance and compete for the overall win. I learned a lot during my first full iron race in Cozumel, and I was eager to apply these lessons to a shorter distance. Three months before the race, Kiwi pro James Cotter sat down with me and broke down exactly what I needed to do to win this race. Writing the goal down, all the way down to transition times, really helped me be super specific in how I needed to train to accomplish the goal. On to the race…

We arrived in New Orleans on Saturday after staying with my college roommate in Baton Rogue. We had a great visit, and I did my riding that day on a pretty amazing tandem that Dan built by hand, a bamboo tandem fixie. That was a lot of fun! Dan used to be a pro triathlete, and his counsel has always been very valuable to me.

Arriving the next day in New Orleans, I pre-rode the bike course and did a quick run. Felt like I had timed the taper pretty well, good sensations on the run, bike not so much, but was ready for a big test! Checked in the bike and headed to early dinner at Olive Garden. Back to the hotel and to bed, I was feeling calm and confident, very few nerves, just an excited feeling of being ready to execute.

Up at 4 a.m. for a Nutella banana sandwich and my first regular coffee in four weeks (trying to maximize impact of caffeine on race day; it worked). We headed to the race, set up transition, and waited around for the swim start. The pros were off at 7 a.m., and I downed my BeetElite shot and readied with the rest of the AGers going off time-trial style in the marina. The course was N-shaped, and I was not expecting such a rough swim. The 30-34 age group went off eighth, and with the time trial start, there were already 500 people in the water by the time we entered. It was eight people every 10 seconds, which made for a very crowded course. I had big goals for the swim, as my pool times have improved dramatically over the last five months. However, I was not fully prepared for how chaotic the swim would be. I was swimming over and around people from the first minute until the last. I intentionally didn’t get a split after the swim and was on to the bike.

Starting out on the bike course, I had one goal: ride my watts. I knew that if I stuck to the plan, things would go well. Passing people from the start, I stayed focused the whole bike ride, and by mile 45, I was all alone having passed nearly everyone that started in front of me. There was a southeast wind that picked up as the day went on. I felt right at home in the wind and knew that the course was not going to be fast for most. I held a very steady 265 watts for the bike and came in at 2 hours 11 minutes for the 56-mile bike, which was the fastest of the amateurs that day by over three minutes.

Coming through T2, Leah gave me the information that there were only two amateurs in front of me. I was confident that if I crossed the line first, there was a good chance I would win, although because of the time trial start, I would have to wait for the remaining 1,500 to finish. I knew at a minimum, if I got passed at all, I had lost! I started out the run strong, holding back and running the first mile in 6:03. This may have been too fast, as it was really starting to heat up, and the course offered very little shade. I was not yet acclimated to the warm, humid weather and paid for it a little on the run. The run was going well, although I was gradually slowing down as my heart rate rose. Having the women pros to chase was motivating, and I kept on as the pain in the legs was slowly building. By mile 8, we were running into the wind, and I was starting to feel pretty rough. I passed the remaining two that were ahead of me by mile 10 and then began the toughest 5k of my life. I had slowed to 6:50 pace at this point, and the wheels were pretty close to falling off. Seeing Leah really helped, and I soldiered on knowing that this was the only chance I had to achieve the goal I had set for myself. I managed to pick it back up the last mile as I completely emptied the tank out there. I ended up running a 1:24 for the half marathon, which was mildly disappointing, but given the conditions, I was happy to have kept it together, even though I positive splitted every mile! That time was good for the third fastest run time overall.
Gray, Leah & (coming soon) Adelyn Skinner

After crossing the line, the waiting began! It was a few nervous hours with Leah, but  turns out that I had won the overall amateur! In the end, although my time was a few minutes off what I had prepped for, I had trained to win and was very pleased with the effort.

Special thanks to my amazing wife Leah and soon-to-be daughter Adelyn! Also to all the Enlightened Performance athletes, Sol Frost, Austin Tri-Cyclist, Rub Massage Austin, ROKA Sports, BeetElite, EnduroPacks, James Cotter, Andrea Fisher, Sarah Trent, and my employer Executive Stamina.

Thanks for reading!

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