Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Decisions...Ironman Brasil The good, bad and the ugly of racing!

Ironman Brasil 2014 

IM TEXAS or IM Brasil or just wait and race Challenge AC…This has been my last 4 weeks of decision making!  What started out as a set plan at the beginning of the season became a lack of commitment to a race...

Come May I was really starting to get the race bug but still felt with a family trip and the wish wash weather my training was still not where it needed to be. I have been racing long enough to know that if you are not hitting the markers in training you will not hit them in a race. 

My weeks of training going into Ironman would be a hodge podge of good and bad days. 
What works best for me is 6 weeks of consistency!!! 

I never the less planned on heading to Texas but with a week to go and the potential for Texas to be 90 degrees, and with still no days above 50/60 degree's in NJ I decided it would not be a good way for me to go. So I played it safe and made a Plan B which was to go back and race Ironman Brasil. A race I was familiar with as I raced it last year and with it being winter there the temperatures would be much more in my favor.

Brasil: The GOOD!…

I think this race has so much potential to be great! For many, especially the locals this race is fantastic.
The venue of Floripa is perfect!  A tourist destination with its stunning beaches and quaint coffee shops is undeniably beautiful. 

As its winter there, there is a quiet feel to the town that us Ironman athletes own it for the week. No distractions other than to race! There are plenty of hotels, houses , condos to rent . A few grocery stores and a mixture of restaurants to eat at.  
The bike course goes into the center of Floripa which makes it a really scenic ride.

One of the highlights of the bike is biking through these tunnels that go on for 1/2 a mile.

More of the good: Traveling with and sharing the experience for the second year in a row with team mate Jessie Donovan 

My week going into Brasil I felt great. I had no expectations for this race. I just wanted to have a solid race!  I felt no pressure and was excited. The day before I was calm, racked my bike and went for a swim in the afternoon. After a rainy cool week the sun was out and the ocean calm. I did some swim starts and felt ready and relaxed. This was going to be my 27th Ironman! I had not raced an Ironman in 10 months so that was the only thing I was unsure about. But I knew that no matter what I could cover the distance!

Things that make me happy! My new Brazilian bathing suit!

The Bad

I think this race is a really good race for every athlete besides the women pro's and those age groupers looking to qualify for Kona. 
The big problem with this race and the women pro field is the mass start. 
Their are alot of fast South Americans and with a mass start and a lot of swimmers under an hour we end up coming out of the water surrounded by hundreds of athletes.  
This race would be so much better if they let the women pro's start 10-15 minutes earlier than the age group men. Also splitting the age groupers into waves would help spread the race out a little.

I felt I had a good swim. I was knocked around a bit in the beginning and was happy I made the choice to put my goggles under my cap as sure enough they were knocked off within minutes of the start. I also got a little trapped for most of the first loop of the swim but I stayed wide the second loop and really managed to pick up my pace and catch up to some girls ahead of me. The currents were not as strong as the previous year which led to a slightly slower swim for me. But was still happy to go under an hour and see plenty of bikes on the rack.

Onto the bike, the first five miles of the bike is tight and a little bit dangerous.  If you want to pass you need to go into on coming traffic or avoid the large cones while trying to get past those who can swim fast but not bike. 

But once onto the highway the race is fast!  There are a few big climbs which you do 4 times as its a two loop course.  The bike course is really fun with hills and bridges, tunnels and wind. The wind always seems lighter on the first loop and then really picks up the second loop. This is the second year I have not  stuck to my plan. I go out way too fast as my legs feel great and there is not much wind and I always seem to suffer the last 28 miles when the wind picks up.  But I was still happy with my 5.04 bike split.

The run course also changed a little this year. I actually like the new run course. The course has one giant hill that gradually gets steeper and steeper until you are convinced that the only way you will make it up is too walk. But the moment you take one walking step, you realize that everyone waiting at the top can see you, so you muster up your energy to fake run at a snails pace up to the top. Once at the top you get to do an out and back where for the first time you can see where all your competition is on the run. Then you get to descend that monster hill. That always feels good on the thighs.  The new course has you doing three smaller loops that wrap through the high energy town and the more isolated sections of the course where their is another little hill to keep things challenging. All in all I like the run course. Although with that being said I did not have a good run. At mile 15 I was in 11th place and 10th was 5 plus minutes in front of me. My hips were hurting a little and I decided to save myself for Atlantic City in 4 weeks. I jogged the last 8 miles knowing that I would still go under 10 hours making for a solid day of racing! 9hr 53 min was my official time!

Now to the UGLY!

DRAFTING!!!! Its a very unfair race! If you race with integrity and "old school" no drafting values then this race is not for you!  I have always hated flat races like IMFL because of the drafting. It puts you in a tough position where you can get emotional when you see blatant drafting. You may question yourself and what to do. I read a few quotes on others blogs.
Quote 1)" I am not willing to give my race up by sitting up and letting a pack with other competitors pass."
 But you have to remember that if a pack catches you they are biking faster than you are on your own. Which means if you are racing with a conscience and doing the right thing then you need to sit up and let the group go. 10meters will do the trick. The group will eventually pull away from you as they are all working together to go fast and you wont beable to keep up.  Or pick the pace up and bike like crazy to pull away from them. THe latter never works to well though as the group tends to chase the fastest person.
There is also the case of just one , two  or three bikers riding together in a pace line.  If you are too close to someones wheel you are still drafting. Even though you are not in "the" pack!!! 
Quote 2)"All the others are doing it....Well why did you not go with them."
 Because they were all cheating it does not make it right. We rely on the marshals to make good calls and give justified penalty's to those who are not following the rules. All those riding in a pack of 50 should have received a penalty. Yes one by one pull them over. 
A whistle is not good enough.
Quote 3 " We are just here to have fun, this is your race! " as two bikers lead a group chatting and riding side by side. But if you are blocking the road YOU are affecting my race.

Another good quote I read translated from Portuguese, 

" Starts by waves, hilly courses, 10 minute penalties ... everything that helps to reduce the problem of illegal drafting should be done.. However, the real solution is in the conscience of the athlete. Everyone wants a better fair race, but who is willing to do their part? #playtrue"
Well said!!!

I do hope the race director finally takes into consideration the problems this race has and implements a plan to make it better but it really starts with the athletes and doing the right thing!!
Some photos that were taken off of Instagram!

I will remember Brasil for the good things though. The beautiful beaches, the friendly people, the fun prerace excitement, the challenging course, the shopping at the mall I did, the little coffee shops, the long beach walks, the fisherman and the funny massage experiences I had. No regrets going back!

Thanks as always to my family, Coach Jesse Kropelnicki, QT2 Systems, PowerBar, Rudy Project, Pearl Izumi, Quintana Roo, Normatec Recovery Boots, Blue Seventy for getting me to the start line!


John said...

Great post Jacqui, thanks!

Felipe Pulido said...

great post.... about drafting definitely saw a lot of it... even saw a group where there was an athlete in between two riders simply carrying him through the loop. pissed me off but laughed about it at the end.