2016 Season Wrap-Up
Well would you look at that? No blog post in 5 months. Pretty typical, I’d say. I’ve come to expect very little from the people at “Andrew Langfield Struggles.” They work hard, sure, but if you’re looking for timely race reporting, you should really look elsewhere.
But how about 2016? Almost in the books, damn. On the tri scene, it was a super fun year of racing for me. I felt like I really put that “year off” of med school to good use, and was fortunate to get to 6 big events up and down the west coast. I revisited a few favorites, and made it to a few new ones. This post is meant to briefly recap the second half of the season, and provide a general round-up for the year as a whole.
As a few of you may recall, I started the season a bit earlier than usual, and with more racing. Kicked things off down at Oceanside way back in early April. A month later Elena and I took a 10-day road trip, with racing over back-to-back weekends: first at Wildflower with med school friends, then a bucket-list event over at St. George. After making the long drive back to Portland, I was eager to absorb the early season race fitness and settle in for another solid block of training before the “main” part of my season. And by “main,” I basically mean Canadian.
June, July, and August saw me racing one event/month, all of them up in beautiful British Columbia. Started things off with my fourth and final 70.3 of the season, at Victoria with good friend Sean Haffey. 6 weeks later it was time for IM Whistler, the unofficial “A” race of the year, if you want to call it that. Then finished things off with a relaxed trip to the Okanagan with best bud Sean Moran and a fun new race course at Penticton. What did all of these events have in common (besides being hosted by our friendly neighbors to the north)? They all ended with an absolute death march/drive-through-the-night/kill-or-be-killed/battle-of-wills down the I-5 corridor at 2 am, as Elena and I struggled to make it back to Portland to start our rotations on Monday morning. But were they all totally worth it? Of course.
I will remember Victoria as “the race where I actually rode my bike.” The swim course was truncated due to an overgrowth of some aquatic plant life (great news for me!) But in addition, I also had arguably my best swim of the year, and came out of the water in 17th position, within 60-90 seconds of most of the field.
|Quick tea party with Yu in T1|
In T1 I joined up with friend Yu Hsiao, and the two of us set out on the bike course ready to do some work. While we are more or less equivalent swimmers, Yu is a much stronger cyclist, and usually puts up a few minutes on me during the bike leg. I was feeling adventurous, and didn’t really have much to lose, so I decided to go with him as long as it felt like I wouldn’t explode. At first things felt pretty doable, but he slowly ratcheted up the intensity until I eventually couldn’t hang. Fortunately that breaking point didn’t happen until about 2 hours in, after we had covered most of the race course and passed about 5 dudes. Instead of the usual 10-12ish minutes, I surrendered only 6-7 to the top cyclists in the field, and only 45” to Yu. I came off the bike in 12th position, full of hope for the ensuing run. It was my most promising ride of the year. Maybe I’m not doomed to be a softman forever… booyah.
|Happy, heading into T2|
I proceeded to $h!t the bed on the run, though, and not in the good way. I was able to keep the effort up, having eaten and hydrated well on the bike. But there was a pretty obvious disconnect between my heart rate and actual pace. The leg speed just wasn’t there, as I struggled my way to a very underwhelming 1:22. Coach Bagg and I never really figured it out, and ultimately chalked it up to riding a bit too hard. If I could have put together a run-of-the-mill 1:18 or something, I would have moved up 7 places. In the end I came 14th, but in a pretty marked break from my usual style of racing.
|Confused, heading into the finish|
By the way, Haffey crushed it. Broke the 5-hour barrier in his fastest half ever, and looked good doing it.
What I didn’t want to admit leading in to Victoria (and in the weeks following) was that there was something seriously wrong with my knee. Some strategic vitamin I in T2 (great for the kidneys!) helped me get around the course in Victoria without too much trouble, but I wasn’t really able to run at all afterwards. A full 12 days after the event, I stepped gingerly out in to the streets to test things. 4 minutes later – after shuffling around at 8:00 pace for a half mile – I pulled the plug and walked back home, extremely disheartened. Contending with injury is just so frustrating, especially when you don’t know what the root cause is.
I paid a few visits to Chris Ramsey, physical therapist extraordinaire and endurance injury guru at PACE here in Portland. Miraculously, he was able to get me diagnosed and back on my running legs over the course of a couple weeks, just in time to put in some volume for my ironman build. It definitely wasn’t ideal, as my longest run leading in was only 90 minutes. But Coach Bagg sorted me out with a few double-run days, and we generally tried to make the most of it.
|Not a bad venue|
Race day in Whistler could not have been more ideal. Clear skies and low winds meant the challenging course would likely run about as fast as could be hoped, but with more than 6,000 feet of climbing on the bike we were in for a long day all the same. I executed on my pre-race routine, gave Elena a big kiss (second to last thing on the list), and waded into the lake feeling pretty damn lucky. Given certain realities – like recent injury, returning to my last year of school, and really just being a mediocre person in general – I felt so fortunate to have made it to the starting line. I had taped a simple reminder on my bike stem to remind me to stay grateful, especially on the back half of the ride when the suffering was bound to get real.
|View from the cockpit|
There isn’t too much to say about the actual race. I exited the two-lap swim course ahead of schedule, which was awesome. Near the top of the first climb I saw Andy Potts whiz by in the opposite direction, and was impressed by his sizeable lead over a legit chase pack with guys like Pedro Gomez, Trevor Wurtele, and Callum Milward. I chased Elmar Hegar around on my bike for awhile, and by mile 70 was riding completely alone. One of my biggest joys was the PB&J in my special needs bag, which was pretty mashed up and soggy but oh so delicious. That fueling strategy is definitely a repeat. I took a little while in T2 and emptied the bladder, then went about trying to find my run legs.
The first 14 miles of the run were the race highlight: spectacular scenery, clipping along pretty well, and feeling better than I should have. I had the HR right where I expected it, but was surprised to see that equate to faster-than-expected running. I was holding 6:45 pace and pretty much feeling like a Kenyan (well, maybe a Kenyan after a huge bender the night before, having literally the worst day of his/her life). But of course things started to unravel where I thought they might, right around 90 minutes, which was essentially the limit of my run training.
|Would have been easy to stop running and dive in|
I hung in there for the remainder, but we’ll just say I didn’t even-split that marathon. In the end I was super pleased with what I got out of myself on race day, and was able to crack the top-10. Lots of room for improvement, but not bad for a guy with only one lung.
Kidding. I have both of my lungs. But I’m doing a rotation in thoracic surgery at the hospital these days and spending a lot of time imagining what it would be like to only have one lung.
The aftermath of IM Whistler wasn’t pretty. Got home around 2 am and had to show up in the hospital for my sub-internship at 7 the next morning. Several weeks of long hours and minimal sleep isn’t exactly an ideal way to absorb ironman fitness, but I was having fun and pretending to be an intern, so it was all good. Plus, I had Challenge Penticton to look forward to at the end of the month, with best bud Sean Moran.
In preparation for the ITU long distance world championships next year, the folks at Challenge Pen had put together a unique 3km/120km/30km racing format that amounts to somewhere between a half and a full ironman. I was somewhere between half and full fitness, so I thought maybe I was preordained to win the race. (kidding, obviously, Jeff, if you’re reading)
Well, to put it politely, Sean and I went up there and straight-up slayed that course. We were done racing and halfway back to Portland by the time our nearest competitors finished. We went so fast they specifically told us we couldn’t come back for the world champ’s next year, because it wouldn’t be fun for the other participants. Ha!
In all seriousness, both he and I struggled a bit due to somewhat limited training, but we had such a ball. We raced with little to no pressure, purely for fun, enjoying the trip, the company and the location. My fitness left a little something to be desired, especially on the bike where I’m pretty sure I saw people pointing and laughing at me. The non-wetsuit swim didn’t do me any favors either. But I put together a decent run on my way to 8th place and enjoyed the unique format.
|Sean Moran's face on my blog always gets me a lot of likes|
And so ended the 2016 tri season, way back in late August. I had hoped to get to a race or two this fall, but the realities of returning to med school set in. Since my sub-internship, I’ve been fairly preoccupied with the primary/only job of the 4th year student: specifically, get a residency position somewhere. It’s an exorbitantly expensive and hugely ridiculous process, albeit a very exciting one. I’ve been in 6 states over the past 8 days. But that is the subject of a future blog post, I think.
In conclusion, 2016 was a great year. I’m definitely satisfied, but definitely will be back for more. This is a great time of year to reflect on a fun season, and dream big about the next one. I have a few things I’m eager to accomplish this off season (like learning how to ride my bike). But my next post is actually going to dive into the crazy world of the residency match. Stay tuned, if you’re into that kind of thing.