With Vineman 2016 less than two weeks away *gulp* here's my pre-race report (of sorts).
Before every race I lay out three objectives for myself: a goal, a reach, and a stretch. I'm nowhere near competitive so "podium" is automatically off the table for any of them. Let's not be ridiculous.
A "goal" is something reasonable and attainable. If I make my goal, I am satisfied with the race.
A "reach" is something that is on the cusp of attainable. You have to put in some effort to get that thing off the shelf - you can reach it - but you're not jumping off the ground to get it. If I make my reach, I'm happy about the race. If I don't, well, I'm less than enthused but as long as I made my goal and had fun, eh, it's ok.
A "stretch" is something that is really uncomfortable to achieve, but is still within the realm of possibility. If I make my stretch, I'm ecstatic about the race. But it's also something I don't mind not hitting.
Last year for Vineman, my first - and still only - 70.3, my goal was "finish." I put in the work, I felt comfortable with each of the legs separately, but I had never done them all together. I was concerned about overheating, my run was always my weakest leg, and it was - based on my start time - going to be at the hottest part of the day (from 1 to 3 pm). So taking all that into consideration, my goal was "finish." And I achieved that goal. I mean, afterward I told my girlfriend never to let me attempt something so stupid like that again, but I still achieved it.
My reach was a sub-6:00 time. I knew the swim would take me 30 - 35 minutes. I thought the bike could take me about 3 hours. It was aggressive, but my bike felt strong. And my run should take me - assuming I could hold a 10 minute mile (which I had done in practices) - about 2:11. Depending on transitions, I would be riiiiiight on the cusp of 6 hours. Well, my swim was a 31 and change. Pretty good. T1 was almost 3 minutes. Not bad. My bike was a 2:54. I was very happy with that BUT, I had lost two minutes to my chain popping off. Grrrr. T2 was 5 minutes. We had to run a good 1/4 mile extra just to get to T2. Not ideal, but not horrible. But then there's the run. Full disclosure, I was not ready for the course. Sure I had held a 10 minute mile during training... on a mostly flat loop. Vineman's run course is hilly AF. The first mile was fine and flat, but then you see this hill looming in front of you. And that's ok once you get to the top, but then you see a downhill which leads to another uphill and it broke me. I went from "reach" to "goal" real fast and I just had to grind out the remaining, but never ending, ups and downs. As I was approaching the last two or three miles, I knew I was close to 6:00, but I just didn't care. My run was a 2:29:14 and I finished with a 6:03:22. Man, dropping that chain still haunts me; I might have gutted it out if I knew in that last 5k I didn't have to shave a full minute off my mile pace.
My stretch was a 5:50 time. If everything had gone the best that it could, I might maybe possibly have gotten this. A sub 3-hour bike was part of this, and I achieved that, so I was pretty satisfied with that portion. But for the stretch as a whole, no such luck.
So this year, my goal is "beat last year's time." That's really my goal every time I do a race a second or third time. This should be pretty attainable. I know I can do all the legs, and I know I can do them all together. But I was probably in better shape last year, albeit had no idea what I was getting myself into. So goal is 6:03:21.
My reach is a 5:50. I think my swim might be a little slower (35?) and my bike is a little weaker (3:00?) this year. BUT, my run is much stronger. I changed my form, found shoes I love (Altra Torins #zerolimits), and Winnie and I held a 9:39 for a fun run half marathon pretty easily a couple weeks ago on a not-so-flat course. Plus, I've been doing a lot of trail running so hills don't break my spirit like they used to. I think my stronger run will hopefully make up for my maybe weaker other legs. If the others go the way I describe above and we assume 8 minutes for transitions, and if I can pull off a 2:07 half marathon, then I can hit that 5:50. It'll be a reach, but that's the point.
My stretch - well, I don't want to say it. It's one of those things where if you put it out into the universe, it might not happen, but it involves beating a 5:50. :) I'll update this after the race.