Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Guest Post - Tim Smith at ITU Long Course World Championship

Tim has been a great athlete at M2 over the past two years.  He has left us for a while to work in Australia, but he made his way back to the States for the ITU Long Course World Championships a week ago and had a great race.  Here is his experience from Las Vegas!
Well, my first experience in any sort of event I had to qualify for, let alone something with the prestige of the world championships has come and gone.  The ITU Long Course World Championships was an amazing experience and I can’t thank my mom, sister, my “manager”, and my awesome friends and family for being there for me at the event and supporting me with good vibes back in SF and Australia.  I came into this event feeling pretty confident after managing 2nd place in my age group at my first tri in Australia, even after some stomach issues caused me to have two unforeseen “breaks” that cost me a chance at 1st place.  My swim was starting to feel better and more efficient, I’ve never felt stronger on the bike, and I was looking forward to redeeming myself and having the sort of run I knew I was capable of.  I was back in the states, feeling good, and excited to represent Team USA and do my best.

I really didn’t have much in terms of expectations for this race as I snagged the last qualifying spot in my age group at Wildflower back in May.  To be honest, I was just stoked to be at an event that had “World Championships” in the title, and so I really focused on not worrying about anything or anyone other than myself.  I knew I would be competing against some of the best age groupers from all over the world, so I really just wanted to show that my qualifying was legit, and that I belonged in this realm of athletes.  The distance (4km, 120km, 30km) was nothing like I had ever tackled, and I didn’t really know whether to approach it like a half or full Ironman, so really just decided to go based on feel, and if I felt good to go for it.  “Do the best you can and control what you can control” was the mantra I kept pounding into my head.

I hit one last M2 session the Tuesday evening before the race and then drove to Santa Barbara Tuesday night to meet up with my manager and best friend, Lucas so we could drive to Vegas together.  Thursday and Friday saw the usual shit show of registration, figuring out my tri-munchies plan, checking in the bike, run bag, and worrying about all sorts of random things.  Luckily Lucas and I were staying with the Goffsteins; the parents of our best friend from college, and they were so amazing in making us feel right at home and comfortable.   Friday saw a lot of movie watching and kicking up the feet, and after a trip to the cinema for the new Harold & Kumar Christmas movie, I slept like a baby.


Goals:  Swim: 1:04-1:10; Bike: 3:30-3:45; Run: 2:05-2:15

I woke up early Saturday morning to make sure that I could get my nutrition plan exactly on point.  I had no stomach issues at Wildflower this year so I made sure that I went back to that exact plan.  Three pieces of white bread, peanut butter, a banana, and two cups of coffee was what I had before I walked out the door.  Waking up the manager is always a difficult task, but he didn’t give me too much grief and we were on the road at 5:30am.

It was freezing cold when I got out of the car and I started to get nervous that this might cause a repeat of the hypothermia I suffered last year at the World’s Toughest Half Ironman in Auburn.  Then, as we approached the transition area, people were running around like chickens with their heads cut off and screaming all sorts of random things.  “Swim is cancelled” was all I heard and while I was surprised, it made a lot of sense considering the air temp was around 40 degrees.  The race officials were worried about hypothermia, and while I was excited for the 4km swim, and knew it would be beneficial for IM New Zealand in March, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a bit relieved that I wouldn’t be shivering for the 6 hours I was going to be spending in the brisk air after exiting the water.  In situations like this you can a) freak out and worry, or b) stay calm and adapt.  Normally I think I would freak out, but I think the fact that I’m starting to get more race experience is benefiting me as I kind of just shrugged my shoulders and started to prepare for how this would change things. They decided to do a time trial start on 5” intervals, so I threw on my jacket over my Team USA kit, put on my gloves, two pairs of socks and got ready to roll.


3-2-1 and I was off.  Can’t say I’ve ever started a bike ride that way, but again, not in my control so I managed.  The course was quite narrow at the beginning so passing people was not easy.  I was yelling at some Japanese guys in my AG that I was coming on the left and of course they move to the left.  After some weaving and swerving I finally made it out of the Lake Las Vegas area and onto the main Highway.  After 10 minutes I was averaging around 275 watts which is just under my 90% level and way too high for that point in the race.  My goal was 230-240 watts normalized for the race, so I decided to scale it back as this is a long and very hilly ride and overall net gain by almost 1,000 feet.  The course was gorgeous and honestly one of my favorite rides ever.  The desert is such beautiful scenery and as I was pounding away on the hills, passing people left and right I have to admit that I started to think about how cool IM St. George would be...Back to the task at hand, I was feeling great and my legs were holding up really well as mile 50 approached.  I was sipping my accelerade, taking gels and Gu chomps every 30 minutes, and I had 1 ½ mini pay days.  All the guys that were with me at the beginning were no where to be seen as my ability to stay consistent with my power was starting to benefit.  Gotta thank M2 for this one; power training really does work...

At mile 56 the hills start to kick in.  It was the first time where getting out of the saddle was a must but to my surprise it felt great to stand and then settle back in over these “3 sisters”.   I mean I’m used to the 7 bitches in SF, so this didn’t seem like much in comparison.  After cresting the 3rd sister is where the real work began and I started to really excel.  I could hear M2 telling me to get stronger as the ride got longer and I really made an effort to do just that.  There is about 10 miles of a false flat uphill and I started picking off the few guys from my age group who had passed me earlier and also a lot of the women pros.  Once I got to mile 70 my legs started to tire and the watts dropped off a bit.  I was pretty concerned that my legs would be toast and that I might see a repeat of Forster (Au tri), but I decided to put my head down, grind out the last few miles and just see what happened.  I rolled into T2, handed off my bike, and ran into the tent to get my run gear.  75.4 miles, 5500 feet of climbing and a 3:34 split...I was stoked to say the least.

Time 3:34:20; Avg. Watts = 235, normalized = 239


I decided to keep both pairs of socks I had on the bike on for the run as my feet were completely numb.  I came out hot out of T2 with a Gu, my sports legs pills, and....No Garmin.  I am really good at forgetting my Garmin, but once I realized this it was too late to go back and get it, I took a chill pill, simmered, and told myself to just go on feel.  As I mentioned earlier, I was feeling nervous at the end of the ride that I had expended too much energy on the ride and that I was going to be toast, but as I came out of T2 down the first hill I felt absolutely great.  My stomach felt fine, my stride cadence was high, and my form felt great.  The course was 4 laps of 2 ¼ miles up, 2 ¼ miles down.  It was nice because it was very spectator friendly and you could see the competition, but not so sweet because it got a bit boring.  My first two laps felt great and I could tell I was ahead of most people in my age group.  I passed the two guys left in my age group who were ahead of me off the bike, and at this point, I was either in 1st or 2nd place in my age group.  I could see one of the guys who I raced against at Wildflower, Nick Sigmon, catching up on me though.  This kid had the fastest amateur run time at Wildflower and ended up w/ the fastest amateur run time on this day as well.  At every turn around I could see him closing in, and while I was doing my best to hold him off, I knew he was going to catch me somewhere on lap 3.  Right before he passed me, one other guy from my age group passed me, and I did my best to try and copy his stride for as long as I could.  He (Alex Hooke) ended up 1st overall in M2529, so I guess I can’t feel too bad about that.  I was starting to get tired on the third lap, and I kept telling myself to just get to the top of the hill for lap 3, the run back down would be fine, and then to just enter the pain cave for lap 4.

Once I got to lap 4 I was hurting real bad.  Side stitches, leg cramps, and bonking were starting to occur.  I was slamming coke and water at every aid station, and looking back on it, I think I neglected the electrolytes a bit on the run.  I passed my mom, sister, and Lucas on the death march up to the top of the hill for lap 4, and they were cheering me on a lot which really helped.  I finally made it to the top of the hill and saw another guy from my age group who I had passed earlier, was catching up on me.  This guy Gerry Marvin went to Kona this year and is an absolute stud on the bike (3:30 split at this race – fastest in M25-29), but I had passed him fairly early in the run.  I didn’t know exactly where I stood at this point because of the TT start, but I knew I had a shot for the podium and that I wasn’t going to let him pass me.  Once I got to the top of the hill on lap 4 I put the pedal to the metal.  That last mile, while it was downhill, was done in around 6:15 and while all I wanted to do was stop, I found myself smiling and feeling really good about giving it everything I had.  Gerry never ended up passing me, I sprinted across the finish line, and couldn’t have been happier.

Time: 2:09:09

Total time: 5:45:33, 18th overall amateur, 3rd AG

I stumbled into the athlete tent, grabbed a few pieces of pizza and some fruit and had a quick chat with both Alex Hooke and Nick Sigmon (1st and 2nd respectively in the AG).  It was really awesome to meet these guys and everyone was pretty stoked on how each other did.  I wobbled out of the tent and met up with my mom, sister, and Lucas.  My mom was pretty amped to see me on two feet and not in a heap like after my first Ironman.  A few hugs and some chilling and at long last, the Sierra Nevada special edition Belgian Beer courtesy of brew master Marc.  This day was complete and a total success.

I soon found out that Team USA had swept the 3 podium spots for M25-29, and that I somehow managed to squeak my way on there.  The thought of getting 3rd in the world for my age group never even crossed my mind leading up to the race.  The fact that I put very little pressure on myself worked to my advantage and I think my relaxed attitude is something I definitely need to bring to future races.  I’ve got a lot of work to do with IM Asia-Pacific 70.3 Championship in Thailand in 3 weeks, and IM New Zealand in March, but this result gave me a ton of confidence that I can hang with the best amateurs in the world and that I really do belong in the same breath as them.  I couldn’t be more stoked for what lies ahead and I think what keeps me motivated and focused for what lies ahead is what M2 had to say following my race: “Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. can do even better...”

Stay hungry and stay humble.  I can’t wait for what lies ahead.

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