I’m working out consistently…well, running at least, somewhat consistently…but not having an immediate purpose if starting to take its toll.
My spring so far has sort of been built around rugby. I’ve already played one March tournament in Savannah, and I have another one coming up in NOLA in April. The plan was to make it out to rugby training with The Red Eyes once a week, maybe make a B-side match to help fill out numbers here and there, and get all my other fitness through running and some cycling on the off days.
The problem is that even rugby training jacks my back up. Bad. And the tournament I played a couple of weeks ago left me unable to run for about a week. I’m still going to make it to the NOLA tournament, but nothing in between now and then rugby-wise.
But I’m not amping up my SBR for some reason. I’m chalking up some of that to work travel and spring tasks around the house, but I’m running out of excuses.
Luckily, my Fall schedule is loaded with races–a couple of big Oly distance tris and a couple of 13.1 races right after that. So I’m going to have to start buckling down soon whether I like it or not.
Did I mention I’d like to come into serious tri training this season with a 5k PR?
As always, another tremendous event put on by The Running Zone. A really nice course, great volunteer support, and incredible food and atmosphere after the event. RZ has set the bar pretty high over and over…I wouldn’t expect any less.
This was the inaugural running of this event, and I’ll go ahead and make the prediction that it will blow up next year (get in early). It’s a medieval themed race, complete with a sword fight at the start line and crowns instead of medals for all finishers. They did a great job of keeping the race in character from start to finish.
But enough about the race…let’s talk about the race.
The Missus was registered to run this event with her sister–her first race past 5k, but she suffered a calf heart attack (ouch) a couple of weeks ago and had to make a tough game-time decision on whether or not to race. It came down to walk/jog and risk more injury, walk and (hopefully) not get injured, or donate her bib to someone (me) who had a long run scheduled for that day anyway.
Needless to say, nobody wants to walk 10 miles, and the injury risk for someone who runs to augment other fitness wasn’t worth it. So I lucked out!
This course rocks, rocks, rocks. It’s crazy fast, has a nice long section on a private road, water stops every two miles, but not much shade. Heat became a factor.
My planned long run would have been at about 10 minute pace, 8 miles or so, and I hadn’t planned on racing this distance, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from myself. I was going in with a 10 mile PR of 1:18:32 from 10 years ago on a much tougher course. But I’ve been running intervals and tempos at a decent clip lately, so I was going to go for it and see what happened.
Realistic goals were 1:21:xx, but I thought I could crack 1:20:00 if I played it right. I’ve been doing a really good job of race management lately, and I knew the recent speed work would help me feel out my pace.
I guessed if I started somewhere between 8:05 and 8:15 pace I’d have plenty of information after 2 miles to figure out the rest of the race.
I started right around the 9:00 pace group, thinking that would give me a chance to get some momentum by passing people early, but not too quickly. After the first two miles, I was pretty sure I’d be able to sneak in under 8:00 pace. I was feeling really good, and I’d positioned myself between the 8:30 and 8:00 groups, so there was lots of space.
Running tempo runs in the heat of the day in training paid off big. I was in a pace I knew I could hold for several miles with temperatures in the high 70s, and it was cooler than that. I knew it was going to get hotter, but once I could smell the finish line I thought I’d be able to hang on. My plan was to run two mile segments and bump the pace up a little for each one.
I took a splash of Gatorade at mile 4 and committed to hanging without any more liquid to squeeze time.
I started sipping a Gu at mile 5. Between that and the Gatorade, I was amped. Training without sugar really pays off when you get into a race and allow yourself to have it. It’s like rocket fuel…borderline PED.
Around mile 6 it started to heat up and I noticed a lot of people around me fading a little. I was passing more people, and I wasn’t getting passed by anyone. That’s good on one hand, but also a little scary…did they know something I didn’t? I was doubting my plan just a little.
That accounts for the little pullback for the 8th mile. Just after the 7 mile mark I caught the 8:00 pacer, and he was all alone. I asked if I could hang with him until the 8 mile mark. I wanted to settle down by a few seconds pace and make sure I was going to able to go at it for the last two.
I pretty well emptied the tank on the last two, trying to accelerate the whole way–finished with a 1:19:02, 30 seconds off the PR. Forgot to stop my watch at the finish line, which accounts for the difference in times. A good thing–that means I was so spent I wasn’t thinking clearly. Woohoo!
I was extremely happy with that result. I won’t lie, for a flash I thought, “Ugh….just 31 seconds faster for a PR?!?!” but I quickly realized that would have meant every one of those splits would have been 3 seconds faster, or I would have had to come up with an extra 30 seconds on the last mile. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have done either of those.
I decided a couple of weeks ago that I was going to focus on fast instead of far for this year. I took some time off after the Tour of Sufferlandria (a whole week off the bike) to recharge and get ready for some new stuff.
Lots of new stuff actually.
This spring I’m committed to (gasp) rugby for the for first time in a long time. Well…not too committed, I’m only going to practice once a week. But there’s an Old Boys tournament in NOLA this April, and I want to show up not only fit, but also with at least some of the strength and rugby mobility I’ve lost over the past couple of years.
It also helps to have held a ball recently.
This actually fits in pretty well with my efforts to try and get a little faster. I’m focusing a lot more on fast twitch in my non-rugby days with intervals. You could make the case that I’m more committed than the average rugby player because I’m going to training once a week and actually doing something on the other days. 😉
And then there’s that mobility issue–back to yoga.
The Missus has a YogaGlo subscription, and when I started checking out their offerings for endurance athletes, I was pleasantly surprised. I’m getting in a couple of short sessions each week focusing on hammies and hips, but also getting some arm and shoulder work in.
The missing piece to my whole plan is swimming. I’m not going to get in nearly enough. Saturday morning Masters is one tough workout a week, but that’s my only access to a pool. I’m hoping I’ll be able to squeeze in at least one day of OWS, but that sort of depends on the availability of partners.
The hope is I can make it to the end of April without any injuries, a little more speed, a little more strength, a little more mobility, and ready to switch things up a little.
I was really happy with the way I kept up the fitness momentum throughout the holidays–the beginning of the “off season”. The plan was that there really wasn’t going to be an off season. I didn’t feel burned out at all, and I wanted to keep in the flow.
But in the last couple of weeks the wheels have fallen off. Well, not horribly–it’s not as if I’m not working out. But the volume has definitely fallen off.
Do I get some kind of reprieve for the fact that the intensity has picked up? I’ve been riding Sufferfest videos on Trainerroad in between rest days…does that count?
My run volume is definitely down as well, but I’m not throwing many junk miles in when I am out running. Intervals and higher paced (for me) long runs are showing up on the schedule regularly.
The fact that the schedule is a little bare right now definitely plays in. Other than the Tour of Sufferlandria, which starts next week, I don’t have much set in stone for 2014 except for an Old Boys Rugby Tournament in April.
So training is changing up a little bit for the next couple of months. I’m going to try to focus on bike improvement, run maintenance, and rugby whoop-ass. The only swimming I have planned for right now is a 1 mile OWS on Thursday nights before rugby practice. If the rugby thing falls through (what is it with these guys being able to commit?), I’ll join my local masters swim club and get some Saturday workouts in too.
Again, this isn’t a race. Or wait…maybe it is. Since I was the only participant, it may serve me well to consider this event a race. Look at me–I’m a winner!
The original idea for this run was to wake up on New Year’s Day and see how far I could run. I’d go until I quit or until my average pace was 13:00/mile. I really wanted to make it to 50k and wasn’t interested in quitting before I made that distance. The real idea here was to do something big, but do it self-supported. I did end up getting a little bit of help with a drink mix.
Plans changed–an advantage to doing self-supported events is that you aren’t stuck with someone else’s schedule. During the week of Christmas things were pretty hectic. Lots of cooking, lots of cleaning, and lots of people coming into town. As a result, I got in an 11 mile run on December 22 and didn’t get to work out again until a (pretty hard) bike ride on Friday. I got to sleep in pretty late on Saturday morning and decided about 5 minutes into my first cup of coffee that I’d do the run the next day (12/29) instead of New Year’s Day.
My thinking was that I’d gotten a lot of sleep the night before, and I was about as tapered as I was going to be. I’d taken so many days off that week already, and I wasn’t interested in resting for another three days just so I could put off the run. So I didn’t really do a real and proper taper, but I was reasonably rested coming in and had done a marathon exactly 4 weeks before. Added bonus–this would give me two marathons in December!
I’ve been working pretty hard on fat adaptation and moving away from fueling on a ton of sugar. This paid off, because I don’t think I could have handled living on Gu for 6 hours. I got a great cookbook a few weeks ago called “Feed Zone Portables: A Cookbook of On-the-Go Food for Athletes (The Feed Zone)“. There’s also something really gratifying about prepping your own food before an event. It sort of reminds me of the times I’d spend the night before a rugby game polishing up my boots. Just another added ritual, and I could see this being a really good calming activity pre-race.
There are some really good recipes and ideas in this book, not just for training and racing, but also just to keep healthy snacks around and available for the kids. A great example is the peanut butter jelly rice cakes. The kids love these things, and they work out great for delicious fuel that’s easy on the stomach.
I also changed up the recipe for potato leek frittatas. I just dumped some bagged hash browns into a bowl and added three eggs, some cheese, and some ham left over from Christmas. Mixed it up, filled some muffin tins with it, and put it in the oven on 180 for about 20 minutes. These things were great on (it’s not a) race day!
My plan was to make it as far as I could without resorting to an onslaught of sugar. So I was going to eat pretty often, but not too much at any one time.
The plan was that there wasn’t going to be much of a plan. I knew I’d have Neighbor Ben along for the middle part of the run. I also knew those miles would be a little faster than my overall average. I was meeting up with Ben at 6:30, so I left home at about 5:15 am trying to hit 11:00 miles for 7 miles or so. I ate a banana and a frittata before I left the house and hit a couple of water stops while I was out.
I met up with Ben at 6:30, ate some more, stuffed my pockets with rice cakes, and we started out again. His plan was to do 16, and my plan was to run with him for a while and also catch some walking/eating breaks here and there since a big part of this part of the run was going to be in Wickham Park doing loops and trails. My heart rate stayed in control for the most part, except for the sections on the trails. No hills here, but there’s a lot of sugary sand that slows the pace while forcing the effort level. I tried to stay under my LT, but snuck up over it a few times.
I started realizing around mile 12 that even though I was keeping the pace in check, this was going to be a really tough day. As we headed back and I hit 18 miles I realized I was down to about a half marathon left. Any ideas I had about bailing before 50k were out the door. I was still averaging around 11:45/mile at that point, and the walk breaks had paid off. I made it back to the house at mile 21. 10 miles left to go, and feeling pretty good.
I lost a lot of time at this point, but it was worth it. My shorts were soaked–a really humid day out–and my shoes were well on their way. I took a few minutes to change shorts, socks, and shoes as well as get some more food in me. There’s a half mile loop around the house, and I did that 7 times with the family, then did a quick one mile out and back while The Missus mixed up a heavy-on-the-Gatorade water bottle. I was pretty deep in at this point, and felt no shame resorting to sugar.
With 5.5 miles left, I went out on my usual 4 mile out and back course, leaving myself 3 more laps around the house to finish off the 50k. I planned some walking breaks during the 4 miles, and on the way out I took them. On the way back I started getting a little contrary and denied myself the walks–I just wanted this to end.
I got back to the Gatorade and started on my final three laps–1.5 miles left. I’d run seven of these already, and I knew that there was a headwind on one section of the loop that felt really good. I decided I’d walk that headwind on each lap and soak it up. I did that for the first two, but by the last one I was in “finish this thing off” mode. I ended up finishing 31.16 miles in 6:23:52, which was a 12:19 pace overall. I was really happy with this, but even happier that it was over.
50k was plenty for me–I quit there.
I’m not sure I want to do this again. Granted, I didn’t really train for this distance. I just figured since I was already in decent marathon shape I’d go out and give it a shot. I don’t know if I’d even want to dedicate the time it would take to really do this distance correctly. Ironically, or maybe not, I’m not nearly as sore the day after as I am the day after a marathon. I’m guessing that’s because the effort level was scaled way back. Time on the feet is a major factor here–over two hours longer time taken here than for a race only 5 miles shorter.
Still, I’m pretty excited about going out and doing a big self-supported event like this.
And I don’t give a ladybug who you are or where you rank in the running world, I want you to get in on this!
I’m really excited about the prospect of doing a self-supported 140.6 in late 2014, but I’m in decent marathon shape right now and I don’t want to waste it. I also don’t want to plop down the money for another winter marathon. So I’ve come up with alternative–something that would be good to do annually.
The way I look at it, this will achieve one of two things every year. It will either keep me out of trouble on New Year’s Eve or make me pay dearly for the fun I had.
It’s a pretty simple event–“How Far Can You Run?” #howfar2014
Here’s the deal…
Wake up on New Year’s Day, take off running, and see how far you can go. The only rule I’m setting for myself is that I have to stop when my average pace for the day reaches 13:00 miles or I just plain quit–whichever happens first. Then the next year I’ll go out and try to run further. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I’ll never do it again because of the pain that ensues, but we’ll see.
Feel free to set your own rules and parameters. Step outside your own door and do the same. Jump on your treadmill. Run your local New Year’s Day 5k and keep running right through the finish line!
It seriously doesn’t matter how far you go. You may make it a mile, 10k, 15 miles, marathon, 50k, 50m…whatever. Just see how far you can go!
“Man…I think a lot of people don’t realize how hot this race is going to be. A lot of these people are going to be struggling in the second half of this race.”
–Big Ben at ~ mile 8
We thought we were running at about the right pace, and I finished the race very happy with what I’d done that day.
I got a chance to break down the data a little last night.
I passed 195 people on the second half of the course–finished ahead of 195 people that made it to 13.1 faster than me. I was passed by two people. One of them was the wise man who spoke the words above.
Not patting myself on the back for the performance, but for the great job we did pacing. I really think 4:05:13 was all I had that day.
No PR, but the best marathon I’ve ever run race-management wise.
Going into taper, I had one real goal for this race–don’t make a mental mistake. I did a very crunched marathon training schedule from the end of September with less volume than I wanted, but I knew running a really smart race would give me a great shot at sub 4.
We were traveling to see family for Thanksgiving (and eating), and I only got a couple of workouts in during the last week. No real problems with that. Traveling is stressful on its own–pretty much counts as a workout–and it was time to rest anyway. Regardless, it can mess with your head a little to let your running fall off like that. But I was prepared for it.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the Miles of Love team meeting we had on Friday night before the race. I didn’t know we were going to have the chance to meet some of the families and kids that Miles of Love works with that night.
That was a game changer.
Meeting Jackson, Nolan, and Jarod (sweetest kids ever) and their families was an extra nudge going into the race. I’ve felt marathon pain before, and I knew it was nothing compared to what these kids have been through or what it must feel like to know your child is sick. But they were all smiling and in good spirits. Very inspiring.
There’s nothing I was going to face in a few hours time that was going to keep me from finishing with a smile on my face.
I’ll refer to last year’s race report for everything leading up to the race–all the same. The only real difference this year is that the #1 Contender for the Fastest Man on Davidia Drive picked up my race packet for me. It’s nice that they’ll let someone pick up a packed for you with a copy of a drivers license.
As I said in the short version, this is the best managed marathon I’ve ever run. Splits for the first 20 miles are below with bathroom breaks noted:
Miles 1-5: 9:59, 9:31, 9:35, 9:17, 9:24 (BR)
Miles 6-10: 9:09, 9:12, 9:13, 9:08, 9:14
Miles 11-15: 8:59, 9:07, 9:00, 9:02, 9:13
Miles 16-20: 9:35 (BR), 9:00, 9:04, 9:00, 9:06
So breaking it down scientifically…I hit mile 20 at 3:04:49. That’s pretty much what I wanted to do. I knew if I could get to mile 20 feeling good and still be within a couple of minutes of 3:03:00 I’d have a shot at turning it on for the last 10k and breaking 4:00:00. I was going to have to run at an 8:53 pace for the last 10k, which at the time I hit mile 20 seemed completely reasonable. I felt great–actually never felt this good at mile 20 before, so I decided to give it a shot. Here’s an abbreviated version of the self-talk in each of those miles:
Mile 21 : Ok…speed up, but not too much. You don’t have to get it all back this mile. (9:01)
Mile 22 : Um…didn’t I tell you to speed up? Re-double your effort. (9:00)
Mile 23: You made a mental effort, and nothing happened physically. You’re now 14 seconds behind your original schedule, and you aren’t going to make 4:00:00. Physically, you felt like you poured the coals, but the reality is that you’re just plain tired. But you are still in this mentally, and that’s what is important. I’m going to allow you to walk two water stops between here and the finish, but there is no other walking allowed. That’s a bad precedent. (9:27)
Mile 24: Here’s one of your walk breaks. Enjoy it. (10:15)
Mile 25: Take your other walk break here. Savor it. Milk it. (10:39)
Mile 26: Make it to the mile marker you are essentially done. The last 0.2 is through a tunnel of supporters. You will run faster there no matter what, and you won’t even feel it. (10:02)
Last 0.2: Smile! (2:05)
I’ve been reading that a slight positive split is actually the optimal method for the marathon. I ran a 1 minute positive split on the back half. Very happy with this effort. I gave myself every opportunity to hit my goal, and I walked away knowing this is the best I could do that day. Maybe there were 30 seconds or so that could have been saved, but nothing that would make a real difference.
No regrets. No complaints. I don’t think I have mastered the marathon or anything like that, but I now know I can run one correctly. That puts a lot of pressure on for the next one.
Did I just type “next one”?
*** UPDATE ***
Can’t believe I forgot to mention how cool it was to run alongside Jeff Galloway for several miles on the first half of the race. He was doing a 30/15 run/walk and we were with him for quite a while. We were also with a lady who just wouldn’t leave the poor guy alone and let him run his race. The burdens of being a great running coach!
Post Race and Thank Yous
Biggest thanks to the people who supported me with donations to Miles of Love. I beat my fund raising goal, and our team beat our fund raising goal. You guys have no idea what an impact your donations are having on real families here locally. I’m not against making donations to large organizations at all, but when you can meet people who are impacted by your generosity within hours of the contribution it’s pretty amazing.
As always, thanks to the Fam for putting up with the training and coming out on race day. The medals for this race are crazy big and heavy, and it’s nice to have people who are more than willing to carry it around their necks so that I don’t have to.
And thanks again to the volunteers and handing out Gu, water, Gatorade, and cold towels on the course along with all the food and beverages post-race.
The Miles of Love team was also very lucky to have post-race catering by Vital Flair. UNBELIEVABLE ribs, a delicious omelette, burgers, snack food, champagne…everything you need to celebrate a race! Check these guys out if you have an event that needs some great food and friendly people to help out!
OK, You’re a Runner. Get Over It – Haters gonna hate, but I actually agree with this for the most part. I go on the assumption that the only people who care about my fitness exploits are keeping up with it on my blog or DailyMile. Based on the feedback I receive on each, no one care that much about it. I'm cool with that.
Hey! Did you know I have a marathon in less than 4 weeks?
It would be hard to know this, because I’m so out of my training, I hardly even mention it. I mean…I’m training, I’m just not that into it. I’m not excited about the Space Coast marathon the same way I was last year. I’m going through all the motions, hitting all the semi-planned runs at the semi-planned paces, but I’m just not very enthusiastic this time around.
Somethin’s missing alright.
During the 18 miler I (begrudgingly) ran this morning, I had plenty of time to think about what is missing. I spent most of this time listening to Dan Carlin’s The Wrath of the Khans instead, but I did do a little thinking. I came to the conclusion that physically, I’m pretty close to where I need to be. But mentally, something is off.
I think the big reason for my mental letdown this time around is that this has never been on my schedule as an “A” race. I mean, it was an “A” race last year, but not this year. This is the first time in a long time I’ve even done a race I didn’t consider an “A” race. That’s not my usual M.O. They are all “A” races in my book typically, or I don’t do them. And if this were a 13.1, it probably would be an “A”.
But I got a late jump on marathon training because I was focused on Battle of the Bridges. I kept my long run mileage up to 10-13 miles, but I was never pushing through any big hurdles mentally. That mileage was pretty easy for me, and I’m paying for it now that I’m up to 18 miles; I’m not ready mentally to push through these distances.
I don’t have recent experience with overcoming that struggle.
I’m still pushing through and making the miles, but it’s mostly because I’m drawing on past experience and knowing I can get it done. But I’m not relishing that battle the way I typically do.
So I’m dreading every long run, and I’m not even that excited about the mid-week kinda long runs that are relatively easy to knock out. I’m just not that into running at all right now. Right now, all I want is to get this done so I can spend more time on the bike again.
Ahh…and that’s where I reached some kind of realization of a meta-struggle that’s going on. I’m struggling with the fact that I don’t want to go out and fight for these runs. But…I’m going out and doing it anyway.
And although I’m not running as fast as I have in the past, hopefully I’m winning some other kind of struggle here that will pay off more in the long term than winning the struggle of individual runs. Hopefully I’m starting to gain ground in some sort of inner-war of doing something I really don’t want to do week in and week out.
As silly as it sounds, it’s easy to go out and run 20 miles if you want to go out and run 20 miles. Not so easy if you don’t want to do it all all.
I always said that if George Bush ever figured out how good my life is, he’d find some way to come and screw it up. Now, because he shut down the guv’ment for a couple of weeks, the 2014 Rocketman Triathlon has been pushed from the Spring until the Fall. My original plan was to do that 70.3 in May, then train up to a full self-supported 140.6 in October.
Now it’s looking like Rocketman will be in October as well. Push the 140.6 to November? Maybe, but that means I won’t get my best performance out of 70.3 OR the 2014 Space Coast Marathon. Boo!
New plan… Since I’m going to be a few weeks shy of peak shape for this year’s Space Coast Marathon, I’m going to run it with no watch…just run. Then I’ll do the Celebration Marathon in January, kick in a Master’s swim class beginning in February, and start training for 140.6 immediately.
There are some Spring 70.3s I may consider (Haines City?), and I’m also freed up to do the Wickham Park Ultra in May. Interested to see how far I can make it before I miss the cut off. As always, I will be on the Trainerroad for the duration.
I did this race back in 2010 when it was called the Health First Triathlon. It’s one of my favorite race courses. Check that…I think this may be my favorite race course. The race has improved since 2010, when then run was definitely short, and the swim course more confusing.
As always, when you have packet pickup at Running Zone, you know it’s going to go super smooth. They have an area of the store dedicated to packet pickup. It doesn’t hurt that it’s so close to the house. I also appreciate the fact that you are able to pick up your packet beginning on Wednesday, so you aren’t wading through a crowd of people the day before the race when you should be resting. This year’s bag included another nice t-shirt and a really nice hat with a little extra sweat band inside–very important feature to me.
Pacing: I was planning on using Neighbor Ben as something of a pacer for this race. I didn’t tell him about this, but I’m sure he was plotting my demise for weeks too. 🙂 We’re really close in everything–pretty much dead even on the swim. I think he’s a faster runner than me, and I’d guess I’m faster on the bike if we were time trialing for 40k.
That’s in stand-alone races…but tris are a different animal, and he and I approach them a little differently. I think I’m much more conservative on the bike to try to get my optimal run. I subscribe to the idea that it’s impossible to have a “great bike and a horrible run”. “Bad run” indicates over doing it on the bike, at least for me. My expectation was to finish pretty close to him on the swim, that he’d give a little more than me on the bike, and that I’d hopefully be able to close down the gap again on the run.
The best thing about Ben is that he’s a competitor. I think I’ve been missing out on pissing contests for quite a while, and I’m really happy the guy who got my attention by easily taking the ball away from me at rugby practice when I first moved here now lives right down the street. I already knew from doing some training with him that there would be no quarter given and no mercy on race day.
Oh…and he also likes old school rasslin’.
Anyway, I’ve been doing plenty of intervals on the bike, so I decided it fit nicely to attack the hills and the sections of the course with headwinds to get my intervals in for the race, relaxing a little on the flat sections and a lot on the tailwind sections. Physics says this is the correct way to ride for optimal speed if you’re interested in reading about it.
TIP: Physics is the most reliable thing in any race.
Fuel: This has been my biggest change recently. I’ve cut waaaaaaay back on sugars and grains in my diet. It got me over a hump to knock off another 5 pounds–mostly visceral fat I think. I’ve been running and riding on zero fuel to try and switch over to using fat for fuel (I have plenty) instead of sugar. I went with a banana and a Laura Bar pre-race and planned on another Laura Bar at the beginning of the bike. I had a couple of packs of Gu in my shorts, just in case, but I wasn’t planning on eating them.
Diesel racing. No bonking.
Race organization and start
Ben picked me up at 5:45 to make the haul down to Eau Gallie. We talked about 80s hair metal and our favorite Rock and Roll Pump Ups the whole way. He understands the power that is Motorhead.
Parking was simple and ample, plenty of body markers at transition, plenty of space for everyone to get set up, and no lines for chip pickup. Even the port-a-potty lines were reasonable.
I was expecting the turnout to be a little bigger. There were only 3 waves for the Olympic distance race, and my wave was 2nd to go off with 15 people in my age group (40-45), and 103 participants overall. I like being in later waves because it gives you more people to chase on the bike. Not that I’m ever in the top swim pack in my wave, but the more people you can hunt on the course, the better.
The sprint had a larger field with 204 athletes.
00:34:27 (5th in AG, 26th overall)
Ben and I swim this spot every Wednesday, and the buoys have been out for a couple weeks–no surprises showing up race morning and wondering if the course was laid out long. It was. No looking down at my watch at the finish and wondering why it took so long–I already knew it was long based on my training swims. I usually do 1500 in 28:00 +/- 30 seconds, but I knew this was going to be somewhere around 34:00. It actually felt shorter, especially on the leg going north. I thought it was maybe sub-30:00, but it didn’t worry me at all to look down and see that big number on my watch at the finish.
I think this was important because I didn’t feel any need to try and make up time on the bike. If I’d expected 28:00, it could have changed the complexion of the race. I was hoping for some rougher water because I’ve been out there training in the evenings when the water is typically much choppier and the current stronger. Anything that would give me an edge, you know?
Turns out, I did get a little bit of an edge on the swim–the edge of a rock. I cut my big toe on my right foot open when I took a dolphin dive at the very start of the swim. It played a little bit of a factor in the rest of the race, but I’m very happy with how I handled it. It was stinging for the whole swim, so I knew it was a cut, I just didn’t know how bad it was. But it had zero impact on my swim, so I decided to deal with it if and when it became an issue.
This was the best transition I’ve ever had. I went really minimal for this race. T1 consisted of of putting on a helmet and going! Shoes in the pedals already, no HR strap, etc.
I also committed to sprinting T1 and knew to (TIP) stay to the right coming off the pier to take advantage of the shower. I ran by a lot of people in T1 with the plan of jacking my HR up as high as I could. The thinking being that cranking it up would work to my advantage since I was going to put on my shoes and grab a bite to eat early in the bike. A higher HR would get the blood pumping into my legs, and I could let it recover while I was dealing with food and shoes.
Ben was turning into his bike rack about 4 steps ahead of me, so I knew I was right on track. I got to see some of my cheering section coming out of T1. It’s been reported that I wasn’t my usual smiling, cheery self. Part of that was that this was a shorter race, which made it a much more intense effort. Also, I was now thinking about dealing with the toe.
Bike (27 miles)
1:17:36 (9th in AG, 39th overall)
I love, love, love this bike course. It’s fast, with only three 90 degree turns. Not much more than feathering the breaks until the dismount is required. It’s not hilly, but the four small causeway sections keep the low-country people honest. I relish those “climbs”.
Tip: I like to eat solid food at the beginning of the bike. I wasn’t using a bento box for this race and didn’t have any electrical tape, so I just crammed a Laura Bar into my helmet. This worked great! Once I was going on the bike I just reached up and grabbed the bar and started munching. Adding this to the back of tricks!
My heart was racing pretty hard when I mounted and started north on Pineapple. I revved up to about 18 mph and put a shoe on, revved up to 18 again and put the other shoe on, grabbed the bar out of my helmet and started a high cadence pedal staying over 18 while I ate and took in some liquid. I started putting some pressure on the toe to see if I could get some new information. It felt like there was a big knot/blister on the bottom, but I couldn’t tell if it was still bleeding or what was going on. I decided I’d check it at T2 and figure out what to do about it then.
Ben passed me about a mile and a half in, and I was all the way to US1 before I could feel the HR start to come down. I knew he’d be going at it pretty hard, so I thought I was in good shape as long as he was in site. By the time we reached Pineda Causeway (6m) I was riding easy and ready to attack the climb. I took it at over 19 mph, but made sure I was riding high cadence and not mashing big gears (thanks Trainerroad!!!!). I passed a bunch of people, including Ben, on those first two bridge bumps and soaked in the recovery on the downhills.
I was going at a nice clip headed south on 513 but not pressing the HR. I estimated the wind was at our backs and that I’d need the juice when we headed north on Tropical Trail. I knew I was in a good spot when Ben passed me back about 3 miles into that stretch and I was going 23 mph.
Sure enough–headwinds as soon as we started up Tropical Trail. I focused on ignoring the numbers on my bike computer and concentrating on my effort level instead. This was going to be a 5 mile stretch of effort, and I approached it as a 15 minute Trainerroad sweet spot interval. I can’t adequately express how much Trainerroad has benefited me on the bike. I’d really like to ride this course as a straight up time trial to see how fast I could do it. I’ve done this course faster in a tri, but never as efficiently and never with so much left over for the run.
The second trip down 513 was more of the same–relatively high speed with lower effort. Ben pulled out of site, but I didn’t chase. I knew I had a little bit of work left to do on Eau Gallie causeway. It’s a little steeper and longer than Pineda, but I kept it at a high cadence and went up pretty quickly. As I crested the top I pulled my feet out of my shoes and tried to see if I could learn more about the toe. Speed picked up pretty quickly, so I wasn’t really comfortable trying to get a good look at it. Instead, I decided to spin the legs out and wait to see how my towel looked in T2 after I wiped my feet. I also realized at this point that more information wasn’t going to change anything unless I was absolutely gushing blood.
A little slower than I’d have liked, but there were extenuating circumstances. I cleaned my feet off like I normally do and saw I was definitely leaving some blood on the towel. Nothing too bad, but I made absolutely sure my socks were going to protect me as best they could. The best thing about this race was leaving T2 and seeing the oldest offspring smiling and screaming for me at the timing mat. I heard her for a looooong way down the road!
Run (10k)-High Drama
00:51:50 (4th in AG, 30th overall)
If you’ve read this far, you won’t mind how long this section is. With every triathlon I do, I become more and more convinced that it’s just a running race. This is where all the action happens.
My favorite thing about this run course is that the last three miles feature two hills. Well, they aren’t really hills, just a big bridge. They aren’t huge or anything, but that’s all up to perception, and I don’t perceive those to be insanely big hills. “You can take the boy out of Tennessee…” and all that. Again, a slight advantage for me against the lowlanders. I actually enjoy running on hills, and it just so happens that we run intervals on this bridge every Wednesday right after we swim.
As soon as I left T2 and headed up Pineapple, I could see Ben a pretty good ways up ahead. I was hoping to be a little closer at this point in the race, but the only thing I could do about it was to run. I focused on two things–high cadence and toe evaluation.
I’m not going to lie. It hurt, and the first thought I had was that I shouldn’t run and end up injured with a marathon looming in the future. I decided to keep running for a while and have a discussion with myself to help me decide what to do. Here’s that whole conversation broken down into bullet points:
What hurts worse..the toe or the rest of your body because you just got off the bike? Rest of body.
DNF is off the table, so what are you going to do…stay out here and walk a 10k? Uh…that sounds horrible. No.
You’re almost a mile in now. Look down…is your shoe bloody yet? No.
Ok, now you are a mile in. The rest of you body feels better now…is the toe pain enough to make you stop? HELL NO!
I was expecting/planning to run the first mile in 8:30 +/-10 seconds. The plan was to spend the second mile doing some math to figure out what kind of splits it would take from that point to go sub-50:00. My first mile split was 8:04. Oops.
I tried to let off the gas a little, but I think I got a little psyched out by the fact that I didn’t seem to be closing in on Ben. He’s a faster runner than me, but I thought I would have a shot at catching him if he’d overspent on the bike and I hadn’t. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any information about the gap between us at that point. There’s a turnaround in the 2nd mile and I noted where he passed by me on his way back and took a split to see how long it would take me to get there. I was just less than a minute behind him, but it didn’t seem like that was going to close anytime soon. Mile 2 split was 8:07.
But all of a sudden, he seemed closer. I watched him cross into the shade of a tree and took another split to see how long it took me to get to that point. Surprisingly, I was only down 35 seconds! I realized I was probably going to catch him pretty quickly at this pace, so I decided to slow down just a tad. I was 99% sure I had gone out too fast at this point and was not going to make it under 50:00–not with those hills coming up. The best thing I could do was try to regroup and get ready for the hard part. The hills were going to be my best chance to pass other people in my age group.
Mile 3 split was 8:13, and I passed by Ben just as we went up the little hill at Creel Street. As we turned onto Highland, I spotted another guy in my age group who had BLOWN by me on the bike. His head was bobbing a little, and it seemed like that small bump in the road had taken a lot out of him. I regrouped a little and passed by him, trying my best to appear fresh.
After that, I felt like I was running on my own for the most part. It’s a little scary not knowing what’s going on behind you, and there’s no way to see the gaps between athletes again on this course until somewhere around the 5 mile mark. I let the unknown of what may be happening behind me drive me forward. Whatever was going on back there, I wanted to be as far away from it as possible. Also, I knew that there were plenty of people in my age group in front of me, and I wanted to apply as much pressure on them as I could. I’m making a huge assumption here that I even entered someone else’s mind. I’m sure I didn’t, but it was helping at the time.
Mile 4 finishes near the top of the causeway, and I got there in 8:32. I was pretty happy with that split considering the hill involved, and I estimated that most of my competition couldn’t take that hill at the same pace I had. It was nice knowing that I’ve run that thing a bunch of times and have never quit on it, even when doing intervals. Race day is not the day to set a precedent like that.
The pain of a 10k was starting to build up, but I realized I’d completely forgotten about the toe!
Mile 5 is all downhill and flat, but I only ran an 8:37. I think I lost focus a little on that mile, thinking it was a gimme. Disappointing, and something I need to make sure I don’t do again, but I knew I had one more hard effort to go, and I’d soon be happy I’d given myself some breathing room.
Mile 6 up and down the causeway was an 8:32. On the climb I saw another guy in my age group (who’d also smoked me on the bike) walking. I set my sites on him and gauged that I could catch him before the top. If I did, he’d have a hard time catching me back on the downhill, leaving me about a quarter mile to hold him off. I could not believe it when he started running about 2/3 of the way up the hill. I took another shot at him, but realized he’d gotten a rest during his walk, and now the tables were turned–it was going to be tough for me to catch him on the downhill and last quarter mile.
When he glanced over his shoulder and saw me, I knew the jig was up! He ended up beating me by 17 seconds. I talked to him afterwards and we agreed that both of us had dug just a little deeper from that point. He was visiting from south Georgia and said, “man…those causeways humbled me.”
Finish Line and Post-Race Analysis
2:47:09 (6th in AG, 30th Overall)
I was spent at the finish…veins pumping battery acid just like they are supposed to be. They had nice cold towels and water for us and, as is the case for just about every race these days, nice medals. Honestly, I’m not sure a race of this distance warrants a medal, but the kids get excited about it. I’ve decided they should only give medals for races that make me consider quitting several times during the event and to swear them off forever. Or if it’s something I haven’t done yet because I don’t feel ready. So basically marathons and ultras for running, and 70.3 and up for triathlon.
Kidding, but not really. I wouldn’t mind if they gave you the option to pay a lower entry fee and opt out of the medal. I’d do that for just about every race. I’d have immediately traded my medal for an extra cold towel and a cold cold beer. Personal preference–finisher medals just don’t matter that much to me. The Missus says it’s important for the kids to see them as a physical reminder of the effort that went into getting them. I get that part of it, so let the medal awards continue!
There was plenty of fruit, water, and baked goods at the finish line. Additionally, they had beer and wings at Squid Lips after the race was officially over. We didn’t stick around for that though–opting for better quality beer by the pool at the house instead with a soundtrack featuring more Motorhead and rasslin’ conversation. I was honored to be crowned the Davidia Dr. World’s Heavyweight Champion of Endurance Sport.
I have no illusions about my ability in the short term to win my age group (2:30:00 won it). My strategy is long-term. I plan to simply out-live everyone in my age group. See you punks in a few decades.
But I’m seriously motivated by the fact that the difference between 3rd and 6th (me) was only 3 minutes. It lights a fire under my booty–I think I can find 3:00 minutes somewhere in a 2:45:00 race. I felt like we were really fighting it out the whole way (at least I was) and I’m planning to come back to this race next year faster, and maybe with a (more) decent bike.
I think I lost a little time on the run because I failed to manage my pace correctly at the start, and I also gave up a little on that 5th mile. There’s a chance I went a tad too hard on the bike and took a little off my run, but there’s just as good of a chance that I didn’t go quite as hard as I should have and left some time on the bike course. That’s really hard to tell without a power tap.
The People Who Made It Happen
As always, I want to thank my family for coming out and supporting me on race day and working their schedules around my training when necessary. I try to minimize that, but sometimes it affects them. Also, thanks to all the volunteers and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Department for keeping us safe on the swim and in the intersections and manning the aid stations.
I am especially appreciative of the folks manning the medical tent who tended to my foot after the race. My toe box and sock were bloody, but luckily no stitches required. If you want to get a look at how nasty the situation was, click here. When I say “nasty” I’m mostly referring to the foot itself–not necessarily the cut. They cleaned it up (the cut, not the foot) and wrapped it for me. As I told the medic, I wanted to squeeze in as much quality medical care as possible before October 1.
Lastly, I want to give a shout out to Coach Brett Blankner at Zentriathlon.com. His podcasts have made a huge impact on my training, nutrition, and race management over the last two years. A little secret: most of what he talks about applies to life in general, not just triathlon. Especially helpful for this race was an episode from a few weeks ago in which he discussed Zen racing and your ability to deal with the unexpected. What if the swim gets cancelled? What if your goggles leak? What if you accidentally drop a water bottle? What if you cut your foot open as the horn is blowing at the start? This episode was the first thing that crossed my mind when I felt the sting, and I was able to remember what I’d learned from it and remain calm.
Thanks a ton Brett! You are doing a good thing and making a difference for people!