Doing More With Less Since 1972

Tag: race report

Zwift Team Time Trial #104 Race Report

I’m really happy to be on a team with guys who write up race reports and post them to the ol’ Facebook for the broader team to read. That means I don’t have to write the whole thing myself–I can just take what he wrote and comment on it. Honestly, I can barely remember parts of this race as I was hanging on by a thread.

I did not want to do this race, but I’m really glad I did.

We were only five, but rode as one.

Just want to jump in and comment on Tom‘s race report right at the beginning. You can have up to 8 riders on a team, and the time of the fourth rider across the line is the one that counts. We only had 5. That means 3 fewer people taking turns pulling. Even if they were only doing 15 second pulls, that’s an extra 45 seconds of rest per rotation, which is a lot.

This course was well suited for us, being mainly flat and with hills of moderate grade. As this group has accumulated TTT experience everyone is focusing on some of the finer points of the experience—bike and wheel selection, various tactical approaches, watching earlier races (an advantage of being in Z14), studying the course profile, etc. If nothing else this gives us plenty to chat about in our warmup meetup.

I really benefit a lot by being a part of Team Skofnung, and the larger Valhalla team in general. Someone else takes responsibility for putting us on teams and registering us with the league. And once we get to the race, our team captain takes responsibility for deciding on the order and length of our pulls based on the abilities of each of us. Basically, all I have to do is show up on time, follow directions, and suffer. Watching races earlier in the day is super helpful as well. It gives me an idea of where other teams have issues and a general idea of how long I’m going to be on the bike.

Once everyone was warmed up and in the pen we took to the pairing screen to stay loose pending our 12 minute delay. Derrick had a glitch where the pairing function released him for a second and he drifted right to the banner, but stayed in the pen. Then in slow motion his avatar drifted sideways into Tom Neuman and pushed him over and even piled into Sylvan. Everyone stayed upright and on the right side of the line, and then we were off .We quickly got into our rotation, having agreed that we would use the rider panel except for the hills, when we would blob as is our custom.

Great lesson we learned in last week’s race, which had lots of rollers, is that we were pretty strong at sticking together as a blob instead of a line when we needed to do it. It’s a good tactic for us because we have a wide range of weights on our team–if we tried to ride w/kg on the rollers it would split us up pretty easily.

For this race we agreed to target a speed (40kph) rather than a w/kg as the pacing metric, and it worked really well. Tom N was assigned 60 second pulls in exchange for his request to be 4th in the rotation, with Sylvan and me each at 30 secs and Scott and Derrick at 15 secs. Sylvan made the call to increase his efforts to 45 secs to help him remain calm and nobody objected. He later raised it to 60 seconds, again without objection especially from me since I was behind him.

Lap 1 went exactly to plan, rotating thru the flats, and then maintaining a seamless blob up out of the desert and over the KOM. Either Sylvan or I would be at the front keeping tempo, Tom N staying in the middle to help close any gaps that might open, Derrick and Scott riding spot-on and maintaining position. We anticipated the possibility of the post-KOM rollers breaking things up, and simply did not allow that to happen. We worked hard that first lap but very deliberately within ourselves, understanding that a big challenge of this course was the distance and wanting to conserve energy to be strong for lap 2.

That last bit was huge. I’m a big fan of going out conservatively. If you have extra oomph at the end, you can always find spots to use it. But if you burn all your matches early, there’s no coming back from it. I learned from my very first attempt at a TTT that once my heart rate isn’t recovering I’m cooked. And not just for a minute or two. I’m really happy to be riding on a team that feels the same way. My splits for the two laps in this race ended up being 2 seconds apart. That’s pretty good for a race that lasts over an hour.

By the second lap we were still going well. Tom N and Sylvan were dieseling through their pulls, Scott and Derrick were tightly in the group, occasionally rolling through the front, and I covered some extra rotation time on top of my pulls to keep things going. We had noted early on that we were putting time into the team behind us, and that on lap one the team ahead of us put time into us, but on lap 2 we slowly cut into the advantage of the team ahead, and passed individual riders dropped by their squads. This was all further incentive to keep the engine room stoked.

The second time up out of the desert and over the KOM was definitely grippy, as everyone was feeling the effects of the distance and the effort. There were occasional 1-3 second gaps but always closed, with once again Tom N doing mini-sweep work with Derrick and Scott as Sylvan and I maintained tempo up front.

So appreciative of the sweep!

Down through the rollers really started to hurt, and at one point Scott encouraged us to press on without him. He must have been hypoxic to suggest that, as it is clearly against Skofnung Company Policy, especially with only 5.5 to go.

Huge advantage of riding on a team–they forced me through a tough minute or so, and I came out find on the other side.

So we gave the slightest easing of effort, he went inside-out to close back on, and we were again 5 as we hit the true flats to the finish with 4km to go. Those last 4km were awesome. We kept it tight like a for-real TTT, cranking the watts up front well north of 4w/kg and ramping up to over 5w/kg as the line approached, Tom N and Sylvan clearly giving it the stick and me contributing what I could, Scott and Derrick blowing up heartrate monitors to stay hitched on. We were putting even more time into the team behind and wiping out the early advantage of the team ahead. That last 1 km was absolutely brilliant, full gas and maximum effort by everyone to finish fast and together, knowing there was not a single watt left out on the desert flats.

No lie here. Upper 160s HR is the “danger zone” for me on the bike, and once I cross 170 I really don’t have any hope of coming back. I was 170+ for the last mile. If my front wheel had been rotating I probably would have tangled my tongue up in it.

Fabulous ride, and a real pleasure. Very much looking forward to next week already, and to having some of our regulars back with us (looking at you in particular, Laurence!).Have great weekends everyone, until next time.TP

I’m really excited about riding again next week, especially if we’re able to field an 8 person team. We are improving every week, and I feel like we’re starting to know each other better as riders. Last week we were 136th overall in the Latte League. This week, 106. We made big gains in our Zone as well. It feels like we’ve just begun to gel!

2018 Excalibur 10 Mile Race Report

;TLDR Version

Ran much faster than I thought I would (1:20:05)

Ran almost as fast as I could have–made a couple of small mistakes that probably cost me some time.

Still love this race. Still love this course.

Still would rather have some socks or a credit (maybe $3/race) at Running Zone instead of a medal or crown.

Long Version

Preparation

The Villarreal sisters are good at signing up for this race, but I always have to run it. Ok, maybe not always, but every time I’ve run it has been as a fill-in for one of them. Only one sister left to register and then bail on this race. After that, I guess I’ll have to register. To be fair, Lili was medically ineligible this time around and knew that well in advance. The plan was to run with my best Frienemy, El Sueño, and we even trained together for our long runs going into this. Unfortunately, he had to be out of town for a family emergency and I was left to go it alone on race day.

No worries though. Vitamin A brings it for the Main Event!

Kinda.

I think it’s fair to say I trained ok for this race. Not trained optimally, because I’ve only been running once or twice a week–usually a long run of 6-8 miles and then a really slow three miler thrown in there somewhere. Still, we’ve been running at a sub 9:00 pace on our long days and are still able to carry on a conversation, and we’ve done them all on Mondays after my hardest jiu jitsu class of the week on Sundays.

So miles have been low, but I think the intensity I’ve been training with in BJJ (tough 4 minute intervals) combined with actually spending some time on my feet making a running motion had me reasonably trained. I did not want to make the mistake I made in November and come in without much training at all.

As a result, I think I could have run a lot faster and probably PR’d if I’d focused on running for the weeks leading into this race. But I still enjoy training BJJ more, and would have despised running the whole time if I’d been missing out on that.

The reality is that there isn’t enough time in the day for me to do all the training I want, but I’m so fortunate to get to train as much as I do, so no complaints.

I was expecting to push myself and run at an 8:12 pace to get a finishing time of 1:21:59. Realistic, and I could be pretty happy with that.

Pre-Race

If you’ve read any of my race reports you know that I don’t hold back my honesty about race organizers. And I’ve never had a bad word to say about the Running Zone’s ability to put on a race. These guys pull it off perfectly every time. Lots of communication and information leading up to their races, everything runs on time, parking and bag check are always easy to navigate, lots of pace groups, etc. Just top notch.

I arrived at Viera High School at around 6:40 and was able to park pretty close to the start line. It seemed like the rush started right after I got there. It was a little chilly, so I held off on checking my bag to maximize my time in warm clothes. I sat down next to the concession stand and just relaxed as people came pouring in.

I was the only person I saw sitting.

This is so weird to me. We’re about to go do something kind of hard that requires us to be on our feet, so I’m going to do everything I can to stay off my feet for as long as I can. But all around me are people milling about, bouncing up and down to stay warm, and even warming up. I mean, I did a short warm up before the race too, but not 45 minutes before the race. My warm up routine isn’t close to that long.

But to each his own–just an observation.

Game Time!

I was planning on doing something similar to what I did the last time I ran this race, which worked out really well. If I could average 8:15 – 8:20 miles for the first two miles I should have enough information to figure out the rest of the race. I was not looking at mile splits on my watch, just monitoring the overall pace. Looking back at the splits later, I did a decent job of running the first two miles according to the plan–8:36 and 8:09. Slower than I wanted on the first one, but no problem making it up on the second.

Making it all up on the second was probably a mistake.

I was feeling good though. I decided to gradually start speeding up and check in with myself at the 5 mile mark. I honestly don’t remember much about what was happening on the course at this point. In fact, I was driving past Space Coast Stadium the other day and realized that I didn’t remember this part of the race at all. I know it was cool out because I wasn’t over heating.

Miles 3-5 were 8:02, 8:02, 7:59. I like that.

Still feeling good, so speed up just a little and hold it for 3 miles, then turn on the juice for the last two.

7:50, 7:41, 7:51

Uh-oh. That 7th mile at 7:40 came back to bite me. I don’t remember exactly what happened there, but my best guess is that I’d been putting in some effort on the gravel road portion of the course, which was kind of loose, and when I got back to cement I kept the effort level the same instead of dialing it back and keeping the pace the same. I really would have liked to hold onto that ten seconds for later in the race.

I did my best to go harder in the last two miles (7:42, 7:36) but didn’t have much left to accelerate. I started with a plan to speed up with a mile left, but then bargained for the last half mile, then the last quarter. I think most of the time I saved in the last mile was in the last 200 yards. I wouldn’t call it a “sprint”, but it was all I had. I crossed the finish line, walked a couple of steps, and then had to run again to get to the end of the chute so I could throw up on the grass and not the track.

Official finishing time was 1:20:05, so I missed the 8:00 pace by 0.5 seconds per mile. Ugh.

I probably could have made up some time in the first mile as well. Or by taking a little shorter liquid walk break at mile 6.

But if you’d told me at 6:30 that morning while I was driving there my finish time would be 1:20:xx I’d have been really happy, so no complaints.

2017 Space Coast Half Marathon Race Review

TL;DR Version…

Years and years of training have paid off. I’m happy I still know how to run mentally, even when the physical part isn’t there.

My cardio is really good, but my legs weren’t too happy about being asked to go that far without much run-specific training.

Official time: 2:02:14

I probably won’t run this race again. And that makes me a little sad.

Long Version

Pre-race

As always, packet pickup at the Running Zone was a piece of cake. I stopped in the Monday before the race, showed my ID, and was out of there in just a couple of minutes. Race packet included a nice long-sleeved shirt and a Moon Pie. Again, I really wish we could opt for some socks instead of another shirt. And I’d DEFINITELY rather have a pair of socks instead of a medal.

More on medals later.

I had a difficult time sleeping the night before the race. I’m not used to having to deal with this. Usually, I’ve put in my time training and trust in it, so I sleep like a baby the night before a race. This time, the longest run I’d done in training was 8 miles (5 weeks ago), and I had not run more than 10 miles since March 2014 (3.5 years). In the month leading up to the race I logged 15 miles total, with only one run longer than 3.2 miles. I knew I could cover 13.1 and run the whole thing, but wouldn’t know what to expect for a race time until I was actually out there.

I figured anything under 2:10:00 would be a great day.

I didn’t have any trouble getting up at 4:15 and heading to my SIL’s house to get a ride to the race. Luckily we were being dropped off and didn’t have to deal with parking. On the way there I realized I’d forgotten to bring my watch. Ugh…didn’t want to carry my phone, but missing the splits sounded like a worse option (nerd). I decided I’d just carry my phone in my hand and record the race with the Strava app. Not optimal, but whatever. I didn’t have huge expectations anyway.

I also realized I hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast. Hooray for planning.

This was my first time running the half at this event, which starts 30 minutes before the full. In my two times running the full, I really appreciated the fact that the course wasn’t crowded at all.

Not so with the half. Or maybe it was my fault.

The Race

I jumped in right after the 10:00/mile pace. I was pretty sure I could do that for the whole race since it was pretty cool outside. I could definitely do 10:00 miles for 7 or 8 miles. Unfortunately, a bunch people who had zero intentions of running anything close to that pace jumped in at the same point. The first mile was a whole lot of running up on to people walking and not having any space to get around them safely because of the crowds. Lots of people running were going at 12:00 plus pace.

This isn’t safe. It’s like getting on the freeway and driving 35 mph.

I hope this doesn’t come off as too whiney. I think it’s awesome that people get up early and go cover this distance, no matter how fast they do it and no matter if they walk or run. And I’m not a snob about running either–I’m well aware that my best day ever running would be an embarrassingly slow day for a whole lot of people.

But please, people, go out with the group that’s running the pace you intend to run.

Corrals with qualifying times for entry would be nice for this race.

So the first mile was much slower than I’d intended. I wasn’t sure what pace it was because I’d decided not to look at pace/time on my phone at all. The biggest reason was that I wasn’t even sure I had enough battery left on my phone to capture the whole thing and turning on the screen would be a battery drain. LOL.

I was eventually able to get to a stable pace. I wasn’t sure exactly how fast I was going, but I was pretty sure I could carry it for 13.1 though (thanks Experience). I started coming up with an off-the-cuff plan. I figured I’d run this pace for the first 8, then increase it a little bit there if I still felt good. If I was still feeling good at 10 mile mark I’d run the last 5k as hard as I could.

First 8 splits:
10:27, 9:55, 9:45, 9:30, 9:33, 9:37, 9:20

Looking back, I’m extremely happy with those splits. I felt really good at the 6 mile mark and had to hold myself back a little bit. I took a very quick cup of water and a cup of Gatorade around mile 7ish and thought I’d be pretty good on liquid for the rest of the race. But it reminded me that I hadn’t eaten breakfast, so I decided I’d get a Gu and sip it for the rest of the race too. Even after speeding up a little for miles 9 and 10 (8:59, 8:42) I still was holding back a bit. I was passing a lot of people, and I knew I’d have a decent 5k left in me at the 10 mile mark.

Course note here: I passed a lot of people who were staying to the extreme right of the courses, even when it curved to the left. Run the apex of curves.

The last 5k felt like a regular ol’ 5 k (8:11, 8:07, 8:00). I didn’t have much in the legs, but mental energy can get you through a 5k. Again, I’m really glad I had some experience to fall back on. “Yeah, this sucks and your legs are going to hurt tomorrow, but you’ve felt this many times before, and it’s JUST 5k.”

Official Finish Time: 2:02:14

Like I said, I was passing a lot of people during those last 5 miles. Because I’m a nerd I was able to glean from the results that I passed 457 from the 10k point. No one passed me. So I was probably a little too conservative at the start, but that’s the side I’d prefer to err on.

Post Race

I’m very happy with this result considering how under-trained I was. I’m very disappointed with this result because I know I could have easily PR’d on this day if I’d trained.

Flat course and perfect conditions.

Finish line was awesome again this year–cold wet towels to help cool off, a beach towel with the race logo on it, a nice finisher’s medal, plenty of food and drink without long lines, and a relatively easy time getting to and from the finish line for spectators. Also, the finish line is where you pick up your bonus medal for doing 3 and/or 5 of the last 5 races.

And here’s where we get into the medal discussion/controversy/complaining…whatever you want to call it.

The Running Zone made a very smart marketing move a few years ago when they came up with the idea of giving “super-special” medals for completing the next 5 (or 3 of the 5) races. There’s a segment of people out there who love medals, and the Space Coast Marathon medals are really nice if that’s what you’re into. The result at the end of the five years is that it’s tough to get into the 13.1 distance for this race. I’m not sure if the full sold out.

So now they’ve decided to do ANOTHER special medal program over the next four years with even BIGGER and fancier medals, and they’ll be adding a SECOND half marathon course that is run over the first half of the full marathon course. So now there will be TWO different half marathons and they can take twice as many runners.

If you are into medals, get in on this. They had the new ones on display at the finish area, and the things are HUGE.

The downside for me is that there will be close to twice as many people running.

I get it. This makes economic sense. It’s twice as many people paying entry fees.

But for me, the product they are now selling and the product I want to buy are two different things.

They are selling big fancy medals for completing the distance. What I’ve always been buying is an incredible race experience on a fast course with smaller crowds and manageable race day logistics. I’d pay a higher entry fee to continue enjoying this race that way.

Honestly, I think the fee has always been an incredible bargain.

I’m not really sure what that finishing area is going to look like next year with 3,000 more runners and their families.

I think my best option is to just come out the day before the race and run the course by myself. Or the week before.

Or whenever I want. I’m old enough an ornery enough now that I figure I don’t need someone else to validate for me that the “race” counts.

I’ve already heard people saying, “I don’t want to run the North section of the course.” So I’m sure a bunch of folks will just try run the South course even though they are North registrants, making it more crowded. And adding people to the North section alone means people running the full marathon may have to navigate around these crowds–the South section has usually thinned out by the time the full participants get there.

In short, what I always enjoyed as a small local race is starting to morph into a big race. Nothing wrong with that if that’s what you want to be, just not what I’m looking for.

I think this may be a microcosm where running is headed in general. I think it’s a little bit of a shame when I perceive people running for medals. Let’s face it–these are adult participation trophies for all but a few people [Spoiler–I’m never going to win this or any other race]. And it seems like more and more people are out there with nice gear that lets you know they are “running for wine” or “running for beer” or whatever.

I’d like to see more people out there after suffering through months of training and going out on race day trying to get PRs or complete the distance for the first time. Again, I’m not being a running snob or anything here. It’s not about how fast someone can run, it’s about going through the process and suffering to find out how fast YOU can run.

I know first-hand that really dedicating yourself to running and a difficult training program can have a tremendously positive impact on peoples’ lives.

If you cross the finish line and feel like the only thing you got from the process was a piece of mass-produced metal, you’re missing out on the best of what running has to offer you. That’s my opinion anyway.

Maybe it seems ironic that I’m writing this after running a race without training and missing a golden opportunity to PR.

I get that too.

2013 Space Coast Marathon Race Report

2013_scm_medal

Short version

No PR, but the best marathon I’ve ever run race-management wise.

4:05:13

Long version

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.

Pre-Race

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.

26.2

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.

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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!

 

2013 Rocketman 70.3 Race Review

DSC_0144

Unforced smile. This wasn’t just for the photos.

70.3, Half-iron, whatever…not sure what to call it.

This was the most fun I’ve ever had doing a race. Some of my best friends came into town to do the race and stay for the weekend, and a great time was had by all. There were some spots here and there where some of the guys didn’t feel very good, during the race and after, but it was a great experience.

DSC_0239

If you’d told me 12 months ago that I’d spend the next year preparing to do a 70.3 and come in over 6 hours, I’d have been pretty bummed about that. But in the last 12 months I’ve come to realize that every course and every day is different. Even the same course can be drastically different on different days. You just have to deal with what you have on that day. It’s all about race management. Setting time goals doesn’t make much sense considering all the variables.

And this is the first time I’ve felt good about my race management at this distance. Put it this way…

I did the run under 2 hours, and my last 3 miles were at 8:20 and lower. Instead of slugging out a long walkish-jog while beating myself up over the horrible run split I was going to have, I spent the entire bike and the majority of the run holding back so I could empty the tank in the last 5k of the race.

That strategy paid off for me, and I’m sold on it.

Swim (47:11)

Swim is the warmup, and you take what you get.

Swim is the warmup, and you take what you get.

Swim is the warmup, and you take what you get.

I felt great during the swim. There was some chop out at the furthest points from land, but I’ve been practicing open water and was fine with it. I thought I put in a solid effort, somewhere between holding back and going hard. Actually,  I think I put in a 36:00 effort. I was surprised to get out of the water and see it was 47:00. Looking at the results, I only saw a few people in the 30s. Looking at their bike and run splits, the guys who made the low 30s on this course should be swimming in the 26:00 realm with no problem.

I guess what I’m saying is that swim must have been pretty long or there was some crazy current. My sources who wore Garmins during the race are reporting 1.4 miles. Honestly, the chop made it kind of fun and challenging. Everyone always talks about the challenges of run and bike courses. The swim could have been as smooth as glass, and we could have gone faster in it, but the little wrinkles made it interesting.

Whatever–everyone does the same course, and in the end I’m not racing other people. The swim won’t ever make or break my day unless they have to pull me out.

Transitions

Both T1 and T2 weren’t horrible for me, but they could have been a little better. I think part of that is a result of having to bike check the night before. I much prefer a day-of bike check in so that I can pump up my tires and get the bike inspected and ready at the car with plenty of space and tools. Again, everyone had to do it, so it doesn’t really factor in if you’re competitive. It just isn’t fun dealing with that stuff in cramped quarters.

The funniest thing happened in T2 when I picked up my right shoe and noticed that it was tied. I KNOW I left my shoes untied. I looked at the shoe and realized that I’d accidentally left a junk running shoe from last year at my transition and put my good shoe in my bag. So I had to dig through my bag over by the rail and find the right one. Oh well.

Bike (3:14:22)

Man. Maybe the toughest bike ride I’ve done. Granted, I’m not really much of a cyclist. But that wind was relentless and brutal, even for people who live in these parts and spend time in the wind. It was great to get a chance to ride around the launch pads and around KSC, but when the wind is beating on you for miles and everything looks the same, it can take a mental toll.

Just looking at my time, this effort seems horrid, but I’m actually very happy with my bike ride. I didn’t lose it. People were blowing by me in the beginning. Some of them were 70.3 participants, and some were from the Olympic and Sprint. I’m proud to say that I let them all go and didn’t chase anyone.

If the swim is the warmup, the bike is just your transportation to the real race.

I kept thinking to myself as people were passing me early on, “I’ll see you on the run buddy.” During the last 2o miles I was passing lots of slower sprint riders and began passing some 70.3 people too. My heart rate ran a little higher than I wanted for a big part of the ride, but I had to go hard enough to keep the bike upright.

I ate on schedule, and I ate a lot. I did cut back on the fluids because the heat wasn’t bad at all for most of the ride. The sun started coming out at the end, but the wind was the real enemy.

I’m very happy I didn’t have my speed showing on my computer or I may have talked myself into riding harder. This ride re-enforced for me how silly it is to expect yourself to hit some speed average every single day. I can ride this distance stand alone as fast as 21 mph with no problem, and on this course under the right conditions 20 would have been pretty easy.

But not on this day. I had to trust that 17.3 mph was going to set me up for a good run.

Run (1:59:01)

And this is what I was waiting for. I am a sub 2 hour half marathoner (stand alone) every day of the week, but I’ve never had a decent run during a 70.3. I know 2 hours isn’t exactly fast, but I’m 40 years old and weigh 195. I’m not ashamed to claim a 1:59:01 without swimming and biking beforehand.

This run was really nice. What the bike took away, the run gave back. Flat, scenic (except for the US1 section), and reasonably shady considering this is Florida.

My plan was to get off the bike and get into a quick cadence, which I did, once I got the right shoes on. I also wanted to run at about 143 for heart rate most of the way. I was actually averaging about 146-148 for most of the run, but I kept checking in with myself, and I felt great. So I didn’t sweat it. I was still holding back a little for the end.

I only ate one Gu and only stopped at 4 water stations for this run. I took in a ton of calories on the bike, and I’d planned on running a little dehydrated (thanks for that advice Coach Brett) to avoid having to stop to pee and save time on a bunch of water stops.

Around mile 8 I noticed I was picking up the pace a little, so I dialed it back. In retrospect, I think I would have been ok pushing a little bit at this point, but the plan was to coast to the 10 mile mark and then actually run a 5k.

I stuck to the plan. When I hit the 10 mile mark feeling great, one word went through my head…

“GO!”

I didn’t break into a sprint or anything, but I kicked it into that “fun hard” Zone 3 gear right out of the gate. I didn’t hit Zone 4 until I was at about 1.5 miles to go, and at that point, there was no way I was letting up. As my HRM was beeping at me to slow down, I couldn’t help but remember being in this situation last year with 8 miles to go and feeling completely out of control.

This time, I was in control. I was refusing to let my heart rate down instead of trying to find a way to get it down. And I was passing people like crazy. Probably not as many people as I was passed by on the bike, but a lot. And there’s something empowering that pushes you even harder when you know what those people who are walking feel like and know that you feel great.

I held a pretty even pace for the last 1.5, and I think I averaged no more than 8:15 pace for the last 5k. Again, not blazing fast by any means, but at the end of a 6 hour day, I’m pretty proud of it.

Seriously, I’ve been in sprints where I couldn’t muster a 26:00 5k.

Finish Line

For the first time in a long time, I crossed the finish line with an un-forced smile on my face and ecstatic with what I’d done on the day. My slowest 70.3, but definitely my best performance. It was great to feel good enough to stand in the sun and cheer my friends in to the finish. We lost one guy to exhaustion on the bike course, and he was proudly walking around with a bandage over his I.V. wound.

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“Um….I can’t swim. Do you think that will factor in?”

Hey, at least he left it all out there. Maybe if he’d actually trained… 😛

I’ve heard some complaints about water availability and food selection at the finish line, but I didn’t see a problem there.  But I’ll ask it again–can’t a man have just one cold-cold beer after these events?!?! I think it’s a great way to get some calories back into you quickly, and may have kept us from having to call for medical assistance later that night.

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It’s all about the engine AND the bike!

Now, Onto The Logistics and Details

First of all, let me say that I am very appreciative to the Smooth Running team for putting on an event like this here in Brevard County. It’s so nice to be able to do a big race and sleep in your own bed. And the opportunity to race at Kennedy Space Center is one that isn’t going to come around very often.

And I love local race directors. All of them. If for no other reason than the fact that they are willing to stick it to the man (WTC) for their homies. We need more local race directors who are willing to put in the work it takes to put on an event like this.

But (you knew that was coming), I’m going to be honest and put some things out there that you should consider if you want to do this race, especially if you’re traveling for it. I live within driving distance, and I’d happily pay the same entry fee to do the event again just as it was this year.

Here’s where I’m going to be a little critical–and these are the arguments others have, not me. For the fee charged to do this race, there shouldn’t be many (any?) hiccups. That’s just a reality of the market. There can’t be long lines for packet and chip pickup. That’s just not acceptable to some people at this price point when there are other choices nearby a couple of weeks later for the same cost where these things NEVER happen.

Communications with course information and schedule have to be clear and arranged well in advance. You have to realize you’re dealing with a lot of Type A people here. This isn’t a sprint that folks can just show up and do one morning and then wonder later what they’ll do for the rest of the day. A half-iron distance race takes months of planning and preparation from a participant. It’s fair for them to expect all the details to be handled and communicated early on.

Not really my complaints, but complaints some others have expressed. Just being honest and putting it all on the table here.

I’m not competitive, even in my age group, but if I were I’d have been pretty anxious about the fact that there were no timing mats out on the extremities of the course. I’m fairly certain that 99% of the athletes who enter these events want to do the whole course for themselves and would not dream of purposefully shorting the course to get an unfair advantage.

But if you wanted to cheat a course, this one was easily cheated. I get it that there was probably no way to get timing mats out onto KSC. Fair enough. This was a very unique opportunity to ride that course, and if that couldn’t be done logistically, that’s just part of it.

One of my friends visiting somehow rode only 40 miles. He’s not sure where he turned wrong, and he’s not at all upset about it (he was actually appreciative for the chance to get out of the sun earlier), but how many other people made similar mistakes? Yes, it’s the athlete’s responsibility to know the course (which he didn’t), but the final published course and the race day course were not exactly the same. For those of us who did take the time to know the course, this was a little confusing. If I’d ridden shorter or longer because of a last minute change and unclear course markings, I’d have been pretty steamed. As it turned out, the change got us the distance we needed, so I’m cool with it.

Congratulations on your 54.3 Finish!

Congratulations on your 54.3 Finish!

But on the run, it would have been pretty easy for someone who was so inclined to run about .75 miles, sit in the shade and drink a few beers and take a nap for an hour and a half, then get up and trot to the finish line with a very nice run split. Again, I don’t think anyone did that or would do that on purpose, but the opportunity was definitely there. There really should be timing mats at the turns, if for no other reason than people want to go back later and analyze their splits.

Again, a bunch of A-type people.

Personally, I LOVED this event. I actually feel like the organization was pretty impressive for a race this size put on by a small local crew. If you are the kind of person who lets a few little things like the ones mentioned above absolutely ruin your race, maybe you should pass on this one.

But honestly, you probably have a few things you need to work out with yourself on a long run as well. That’s between you and you.

I mean, we’re not playing for money here, and there are a million mistakes I made that negatively affected my performance *cough pizza cough*, so I can overlook a couple of small ones by the race director.

Regardless, I want to end by saying that the volunteers were extremely helpful and friendly, and the turnout on the run course (no spectators allowed on the bike course) by the neighborhood locals was great. The Brevard County Sherrif’s Department did a tremendous job of keeping everyone safe on the US1 stretch, and the roads were closed for us everywhere they could be. I’m especially thankful for the medical team that assisted my buddy off the bike course and got an I.V. in him. This is not the kind of guy who is willing to DNF over something trivial, and they had him feeling right by the time I finished.

I can’t wait to do this race again. It’s officially my favorite triathlon.

Ooooooold Boys!

Ooooooold Boys!

More Reports:
Half Triing

Meals and Miles

The Heavyweight Runner

Ron Jon Cocoa Beach Sprint Triathlon 2013

Ron Jon Cocoa Beach Triathlon

This was a really fun event! Great turnout, with 80 first-time triathletes competing! How cool!!!

It’s really good to see the local scene grow like that. I know not everyone is going to get hooked and start training/racing a lot, but every little bit of growth is great. We have great weather for year-round training and a bunch of local and big-time events within a few hours of here, and that’s just the triathlons. The running and biking scenes are big too, so there’s always something to do.

If the turnout for the kids race is any indication, the sport is going to explode in about 10 years. And from what I saw, swim times are about to drop dramatically. These kids are fish…all of them. Competition at Olympic distance races is going to get tight. Hopefully that means there will be more of them soon. I love that distance.

Oh yeah…swimming. I didn’t do the whole race, but I swam on the Miles of Love relay team, and we won! I was definitely nervous because (1) I’m not a front of the pack swimmer, especially as a sprinter and (2) Everything changes when you’re on a team and the other two people are counting on your performance. It looks like the work I’ve been putting in on the swim (but I still need a lot more) is paying off. Luckily, the swim is by far the shortest leg of the event, so I didn’t have a huge impact on our time.

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I picked out a kid in the same color cap (relays and 55+) I knew would beat me at the start. He was a real swimmer–wearing swimming gear instead of tri gear. He whooped me pretty good; about 40 seconds. Luckily I found the feet of the 2nd fastest swimmer in our cap at about the midpoint and followed him most of the way in. I think he beat me by about 3 seconds, so I feel good about how I executed that. It was hard hanging onto his feet, even with the draft. But it was nice to let him do the sighting and just focus on staying behind him. Side-by-side, he’s definitely more than 3 seconds faster than me.

The best part for me was that I got to swim at the front of a wave instead of the middle. I relished that opportunity–probably the only one I’ll ever get. What a difference it makes when you aren’t being pummeled from every angle! The only real difficult part was navigating through a group of swimmers from the wave before ours. That’s when I lost the guy I was following, but we didn’t have far to go at that point, so I just pulled as hard as I could.

Transitions were super-smooth for our team. It’s really nice when you don’t have to do anything except hold your foot out and let someone else move the chip. Our cyclist (Tom) KILLED it. He was wearing a Go-Pro camera–check out the video! I can’t report on his leg, but the video speaks for itself. He didn’t get passed by anyone and had one of the top bike splits over all. Pretty good for a guy jacked up on Sudafed with nasty chest congestion!

T2 was just as smooth as T1. I felt bad for our runner (Beth) having to wait for the two of us to finish before she could start. I know how anxious I was, and I got to go first. Tom and Beth are both really competitive, so there was a bunch of nervous energy going on. I’m sure she was relieved to get the chance to just run. After T2, we hung out in transition and watched the minutes on my watch tick by as we waited for other relay cyclists to come in. Tom gave us a huge cushion, and Beth brought it home strong! It’s pretty easy to report on Beth’s portion of the race: It was a 5k. 5ks hurt!

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The most nerve-wracking part of the whole day was waiting results to be posted. That’s usually not something I even consider. I’m so MOP, especially since I’m not Clydesdale eligible any longer, that official results/standings just don’t have any meaning to me in individual events.

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A huge thanks to the organizers, lifeguards, volunteers, and Brevard County Sherrif’s Department for keeping us safe, hydrated, and fed for this event!

 

Space Coast Marathon 2012 Race Report

If you are thinking of running the Space Coast Marathon, DO IT! You will  not be disappointed. Small marathon with almost all the perks of a big marathon.

Pros:

  • Local (for me) race, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Nice to be able to relax around the house for several days leading up, sleep in my own bed, and run terrain and weather I’ve prepared for specifically.
  • Beautiful course. I can’t believe this race isn’t bigger just because the course is so pretty and flat.
  • No crowds. There aren’t any issues of needing to zigzag around people or getting stuck behind people running a slower pace.
  • SWAG. Long sleeve technical t-shirts, beach towels instead of solar blankets, and heavy-duty finisher’s medals.
 

Cons:

  • Road camber. Make sure you are aware of this and always look for the flat part of the road during the race.
  • Not a huge amount of crowd support. If you depend on energy from the crowd to keep you going for hours, try a mega-race. Not a real factor for me, but I completely understand the appeal of bigger events.
Packet Pickup

Could not have been more convenient. For locals, it’s like packet pickup for a 5k. Just walk into the Running Zone and grab your stuff. It’s only 3 miles from my house, so I was able to ride the MTB down during lunch the Monday before the race and grab it. No lines, no mess, and the race bags contained only what was necessary: T-shirt, race number, drop bag, safety pins, participant guide, and a Moon Pie.

I really liked the “virtual race bag” we received in the email that contained all the usual flyers and coupons. You can just claim them online if you want. Otherwise, you don’t have to deal with them.

I didn’t go to the expo. It’s all the way up at Kennedy Space Center, which is a 45 minute drive from my place. I can see the appeal of having it there for those coming from out of town–it’s a really cool place! That’s where the pre-race meal is as well, which I also didn’t attend. Not going to an expo is actually a bonus for me. I tend to spend too much time at those things, get too hyped up, and generally just waste energy. I enjoyed being able to just relax instead.

Race Day

My friend Jenny was racing as well, so I stopped by and picket her up in Viera at about 5:00 for the 6:15 start. Parking wasn’t really an issue. There are only ~3,500 participants in both the half and the full, so it’s easy to get a spot pretty close to the start in Cocoa Village. The weather was perfect! Nice and chilly at the start with temps in the low 50s.

Course

This is the first race I’ve done that has both a half and a full. I really like that the two races are immediately separated from one another in the first quarter mile. Those running the half head south for an out-and-back, while those running the full go north out-and-back, then do the same course the half marathoners run. I can see a big advantage for those running the full in that the crowds are immediately thinned out, you aren’t tempted to run the pace of halfers around you, and you don’t get any sort of finish envy at the halfway point.

I’ve biked the half section of the course countless times. It’s my favorite bike route in these parts…absolutely beautiful! I ran all the south section and most of the north section during my final long run. The north section has a few hills inclines, but nothing worth getting worked up over. Being a transplant to FL, I still chuckle inside whenever people talk about hills and causeways, the Haines City 70.3 run course being an exception I’ve experienced myself. If you’ve run any hills at all, you’ll hardly notice these little bumps.

Aid stations are well supplied and manned. There aren’t any Gus available until Mile 8, so come armed.

Race Plan

My goal was 3:49:59. I was pretty sure I had 3:44:59 in me, but I was coming in a little injured, and I also decided trying for the sub 3:45:00 was a risk that could cost me the sub 3:50:00 if things went wrong. I’ve realized that it’s damn near impossible run a marathon to your full ability. So much can happen in that distance/time that it’s really tough to find that sweet spot between being conservative and being reckless with your pace. Conservative is more my nature after learning my lesson with the reckless pace method in the past, so I decided for that route.

My plan was to start with the 3:55:00 pace group for the first ten miles, speed up to an 8:42 pace for the next 10, 5k at 8:35, and empty the tank for the last 5k. That pretty much took 3:45:00 off the table, which was actually a relief. I thought I had it in me, but also knew the stars would have to line up perfectly for that to happen. Had I been starting 100% healthy on an overcast day with temperatures 10-15 degrees cooler I may have gone for it.

Race Execution

All in all, I’m happy with execution. That’s a rarity for me–race management is a real problem usually. I was 45 seconds ahead of schedule at the ten mile mark. Running with the 3:55 group really helped me control pace at the beginning of the race. I was feeling great and ready to run the next 10 miles at 8:42 pace. Here’s what the splits actually looked like:

8:36, 8:52, 8:49, 8:47, 8:59, 8:55, 9:10, 9:16, 9:36, 11:28

Maybe you can guess what happened. The ankle started paining at mile 12, but I tried to hang close to the pace. I saw my fan club in the 15th mile and gave me a big boost! But around mile 15-16 blistering started on both feet, which I’m pretty sure was a result of trying to compensate for the ankle. At that point, I realized 3:49 wasn’t happening, but I didn’t give up yet. I tried shouting encouragement to the half marathon groups I was passing coming the other way to keep the positive self talk going.

The 3:55 group caught back up with me during the 20th mile, and I pushed really hard to keep up with them. Then I tried hard to keep them in striking distance. Then, I’m not going lie, I got a little mentally defeated. The mile 20 split shows it.

I did get to see a bunch of dolphins during that mile though. What other race gives you that opportunity?

The last 10k was a mess. I’m not even posting the splits because they are irrelevant. Needless to say, there was some walking involved, but that made my muscles cold quickly and was no fun. I spent a ton of time trying to find the pace I could run with minimal ankle and foot pain and still stay warm enough to keep everything else from clinching up. I finished up the race thinking, “just an easy cool-down” and “don’t make this injury any worse.” I’m not very good at dealing with injuries–lucky enough to not have much experience with them.

Finish

This smile doesn’t look forced does it?

This race ends in a great park beside the river. It’s great for families with small kids. There’s a cool playground and relaxing atmosphere. They even have a bounce house.

I crossed the finish line at 4:21:03. More importantly, I got to cross the finish line with the two oldest kids. Again, a benefit of a small race is that you get to do stuff like that. They were super excited!

No “all-food-is-inside-the-finisher-chute-and-once-you-leave-you-can’t-come-back” at this race. There was plenty of pizza, bananas, water, beer, etc. for runners. It’s really not hard to figure out who ran and who didn’t. Big races should take note of this and drop the finishing cages.

It’s frustrating knowing that I ran 23 at sub-9 pace three weeks ago and could have PR’d that day if we’d been racing. Taking three weeks off definitely let the ankle heal as best it could, but it wasn’t very good for the rest of my body and my mind for race day. Still, probably a net positive. I don’t have any regrets about going out for the goal time either. I think I was going to end up in pain no matter how fast I went, so I’m glad I got as far as I did before it started.

I know I didn’t get the race I trained for, which sucks, but I’m staying positive about it. I did all I could and ran according to the plan. I’m a little disappointed knowing that some of the extra time can be attributed to mental weakness, but I’m also giving myself some credit for sticking to it mentally for 8 miles on a bad wheel. In most races that will get you there, but marathons are really long. Either way, a PR wasn’t going to happen.

I have another post boiling in my head that addresses the big picture, but this post is about this race. 🙂

I want to also congratulate Jenny on finishing strong in 4:15 for her first marathon, and my training buddy Mitch who PR’d with a 3:28!!!

2012 IM 70.3 FL – Haines City Race Report

It usually takes me a couple of days to digest a triathlon and what happened during the race. The longer it takes me to complete the race, the longer I need to stew over it. “Stew” is appropriate term for this race, because I got cooked. I have a feeling many race reports will read similar to mine, but here’s my take on it…

Friday

Arrived at the expo at around 1 pm. The plan was to get there early while there were no crowds, which I did. The first thing I did was check out transition, where I was happy to see assigned spots on the racks. Nobody wants to worry about stuff being moved after setup, so I’m sure it put many minds at ease. I was also happy to see that I had a pretty good spot–third from the end of a rack. Next, I walked down to the beach to check out the swim course. The water didn’t exactly look inviting, but the ‘M’ shape of the course made it look shorter and less intimidating than courses this long usually appear. On to get checked in, which went very smoothly. T-shirts were good quality and were not covered by  sponsor logos like NASCAR vehicles, which I also liked. Also included in the SWAG was a very nice swim/run bag. It’s not really big enough for a tri bag, but it is sturdy and has a nice zippered bottom.

IM 70.3 FL Haines City T-shirt and bag

IM 70.3 FL Haines City SWAG | T-shirt and bag

After checking in, I headed up towards the Disney area to check into our place for the weekend, made a quick trip to the grocery store and Pollo Tropical for dinner that night. The rest of the family arrived about ~5:30, and we wolfed down dinner and headed to Hollywood Studios for a couple of hours. I learned how to draw Pluto there. It’s seriously the best drawing I’ve ever done, and that’s sad.

But I’m Goofy

Also, it’s probably the most impressive performance for the weekend, which is even more sad.

Saturday

I stayed away from the race and everything involved with it, which was a good decision. I did see some photos of the expo on Twitter that afternoon, and there were big crowds, making me glad I’d taken care of everything the day before. The Missus had a baby shower to attend, so she took the infant with her while I sat poolside (in the shade) while the oldest two went nuts for the afternoon. Some Orlando friends come over with their kids, which was awesome. I spent the entire afternoon, dinner, and evening hanging out with people who don’t do triathlons and don’t give a crap about them. So there wasn’t the usual time spent obsessing about the race and talking about training–very relaxing. Even the usual stress over packing was avoided because I was given an awesome gift–a great new transition bag that zips open and lets you see everything…no more packing and unpacking 100 times  making sure you have everything. Was asleep by 10:00.

 

Race Day

Got up at 4:00 am and headed towards Haines City. Parking was no problem, and getting everything set up in transition went very smoothly. I made sure my tires were properly inflated and spinning around without rubbing on anything, grabbed a Gu and a bottle of Ironman Perform and went down to the beach to relax before the swim start. A lot of people were pretty caught up in the fact that Lance Armstrong was in the race, snapping photos in transition and standing up on the beach all morning to try to get  a glimpse of him in the swim warmup and start. I’m not saying it wasn’t exciting that he was in the race (and man…did he kill it or what?), but I decided he was just Competitor Number 4 and to focus on what I needed to do. That meant sitting down and relaxing as much as possible before the start.

Swim (42:38)

The biggest advantage of doing a WTC event (this was my first) is that the organization is incredible. Everything happened on time. I was in the 9th wave, about 35 minutes after the pros started. One big difference I noticed on the swim from other open water tris I’ve done is that it wasn’t a 300 yard washing machine and then clear swimming–it was pretty crowded the whole time, at least for me. When I got out of the water I glanced down at my watch and was very disappointed to see I was in the 40s. I was really expecting ~37 minutes, and 39 at the worst. I noticed that even the pros swam a little slower than normal though, so I guess that could translate into a few minutes difference for a guy like me. Either way, I’d decided months ago not to let the swim affect what I do later because it’s such a small part of the race overall. I don’t really put much into the swim, so I don’t expect that much out of it. My goal up until now has always been to just glide through it with as few strokes as possible and expend minimal energy. More on that later.

T1 (3:12)

Very happy with my transitions. No issues at all, even with putting on my HR strap. I decided to put my bike shoes on before mounting, and I’m glad I did. The start was on a slight uphill and there was lots of traffic. I passed several people in the first half mile wrestling with their shoes.

Bike (2:47:43 / 20.03 mph)

Right at the start I felt like I had my breaks on. I jumped off and found that my brakes were rubbing my back tire. Yes, I checked this before the start, but things get bumped around in transition, so I didn’t sweat it. A quick fix and I was going again. No significant time lost. The first half of the course was really fast, but I made sure not to fall into that trap. I took  it easy and didn’t let the heart rate float above 140. I was still passing a lot more people than were passing me (thanks slow swim), and made sure I took in plenty of fluids and food on schedule. I made it to the big hill at mile 27 at over 21 mph, and average HR under 140. I was really saving up for the upcoming rollers and the run. I did attack on the hills, but made sure to recover at every opportunity. The second half of this course is definitely more challenging than the first, but if you conserve in the beginning it will pay off. I was passing a lot more people at the end of the ride than at the beginning, and my heart rate was still where I wanted it to be.

This bike course is nice! Except for a really bumpy stretch on Masterpiece, it’s pretty smooth. It was a really fun ride! For the first time ever in a race, I didn’t want to get off the bike and run. However, I was looking forward to what I’d set myself up for, having saved up all that energy and riding according to the plan.

…still having fun

T2 (2:33)

As smooth as I could have hoped for. Removed my shoes while I was still on the bike, which helped speed things along. I did forget to grab another Gu, but no worries since I could grab one at the aid station. One thing I’m happy I did was leave a water bottle for myself to take on the run exit. It’s about a mile from the run start to the first aid station, and I heard some grumblings about that during the first mile of the run.

Know the course.

Run (2:20:58)

Aside from the typical transition legs, I left T2 feeling good. My heart rate immediately jumped up to the mid 150s, but I wasn’t too worried about that. I knew was probably running a little faster pace than I felt like I was, so I tried my best to slow down. That’s usually the case when I get off the bike–any pace feels slow just because the scenery has been going by so fast for the last couple of hours. I fought up the first hill, even though my HRM was beeping and telling me to walk. I listened halfway up the next hill, but my heart rate never dropped very much; about 157 was the best I could get it to. But I could still run and maintain that, so I did. I finished the first lap with a 9:48 pace, which was just a tad faster than I wanted to be. I started calculating in my head what my finish time would be if I could do that one more time and possibly speed up for the last 5k. The first hill won the battle the second time around, and by the time I got to mile 5 I was at 10 minute miles. I started doing the math and trying to hold that pace.

Then the wheels started falling off.

The last 8 miles turned into the hardest run I can remember doing. The real race of the day for everyone was against the weather and trying to finish before it got too hot. I lost that race, and once it got hot it kept getting hotter. About the only way I could get any relief for the heart rate was to fill my jersey with ice, but that didn’t last very long. It was also tough for me to take in enough fluid to replace what I was losing and continue to run without some serious sloshing.

PR hopes were fading quickly, so I focused on calculating what I needed to do for a sub 6:00:00 finish. That kept my mind occupied for a while because I was run-drunk, but I knew it was getting really bad when I couldn’t remember what mile I was on. At that point, I stopped my watch. I was tired of hearing the HRM alarm anyway, and I decided to focus on going as fast as I could in the moment and let the chips fall where they may. I was somewhere in the last 5k, and that’s all I needed to know.

I looked at the results for some other people in my wave, and it looks like many of them have similar stories. There were a lot of people walking up those two hills, not just me. Yeah, it was really only one kind of big hill and one medium hill, but on a three lap course in that heat, it turned into six pretty big hills.

This run course is deceptively difficult in hot conditions. Don’t underestimate it.

Finish Line and Post-race

I picked off one last person just before the finish, and I got picked off by one last person just before the finish. I’m not sure if I just looked horrible, or if they’d been pulling a lot of people to the medical tent (maybe both?), but I was immediately asked if I was ok. Now I have an idea how boxers who’ve been knocked down 2 of the allotted 3 times in a round must feel. I’m just happy I didn’t get knocked down that third time, and I was glad to preserve my 5:57:04, getting a finisher’s medal and hat as a bonus.

Finisher Medal and Cap

Finisher Medal and Cap

I was greeted by my 4 biggest fans immediately.

Then I crawled to the nearest shade I could find and took my shoes off.  They were soaked for most of the run, and my feet took a pretty good beating.

 

After a couple of bottles of water, I’d recovered enough to walk the oldest young’un to a porta-potty and hold her a few inches off the seat so she could do her thing–everyone who does stuff like this needs to be reminded that it’s not really about them–then I crawled back to my cave. The family headed back to the resort to get out of the heat while I headed over to the Athlete’s Lounge to get refreshed. Now here’s my only real complaint…not a single cold-cold beer to be found! I think a fella ought to be treated to at least one cold-cold beer after something like that. I can handle a limited selection of food. In fact, that burger was mighty tasty and the soda (which I never drink) was amazing. But it left me thinking that a cold-cold beer could have been that much better.

I will go on record here saying that you get what you pay for with WTC events. It was the biggest, most organized, and smoothly operated triathlon I’ve ever done. Bonus points for pulling it off so successfully at a brand new venue. I was at the same race at Disney a couple of years ago as a spectator, and this venue was much more spectator friendly. The aid stations were very well stocked and staffed as well, and the volunteers were amazing. It was also great to see so many people out along the bike course to watch the race and cheer. That’s something you usually only see at bigger marathons. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spectator on a rural bike route like that during a tri, so thanks to the good people of Polk County for coming out and making us feel so welcomed in the very first year at this location.

The Day After

We had an 11:00 am character breakfast reservation at Chef Mickey’s to celebrate someone’s successful potty training (not mine), and I was ready to tear into it. Pro tip: book character breakfasts as late as possible here and you won’t feel rushed to get out to make room for other people. You’ll also be so full that you won’t need to pay Mouse prices to eat again…it’s basically a huge lunch.

 

Transitioning to my best event

Transitioning to my best event…breakfast!

We saw the crowds at Magic Kingdom were going to be nasty, so we opted to go back to Hollywood Studios. It was already looking to be another brutally hot day, and there are lots of things to do in the shade and air conditioning there and at Epcot. We stayed until 8 pm, and this is the first time I’ve ever left a Disney park feeling better physically than I did when I arrived. I did just enough walking to loosen my legs up a little, and there was lots of sitting in the shade and relaxing–the “Honey I Shrunk The Kids Playground” rocks.

I had some time driving home to think about what I could have done better or differently, but most of it is simply training. Initially, I was a little bummed about my time, but not enough to beat myself up over it. I don’t think there’s a whole lot more I could have done on race day. I executed my plan, but the weather didn’t want to cooperate on the run. There’s nothing I could have done to control that other than get waaay faster on the bike. And there’s not much I could have done differently in training based on the program I was using. I was as prepared as I could have been given where I started from. I did all my long runs in the heat of the day, but it didn’t really get hot here until a couple of weeks ago. Again, I couldn’t change that.

And Beyond

Tuesday is P-90x stretching and 15 minutes or so treading water. Wednesday is an hour on the bike. I’ll swim Thursday, rest Friday, run semi-long this weekend, and plan on starting some CrossFit endurance stuff next week.

I’m thinking a June swim clinic could help change some things for me. I’m a reasonably efficient swimmer with a slow turnover, but I think I’ve gone about as far as I can with that and need to learn to turn over faster with efficiency. That will take coaching. My run isn’t where it has been before, which means it’s not where it can be. I’m thinking a fall marathon will help remedy that. I don’t ever want to go into a 70.3 (or longer) again without having done the full run distance within the last 6 months. It had been almost six years since I’d run 13.1 before this race, and that just didn’t have me where I needed to be physically or mentally.

More weight loss is definitely part of the plan as well. That glutinous breakfast was a last hurrah…at least for a little while.

Here are some race reports other people have posted. If you come across any other good ones, let me know in the comments and I’ll link to them!!!

Iron Bob’s Race Report

Phil Castello’s Race Report

KC’s Race Report

Silver Jade Deutch’s Race Report

JC’s Race Report

FST’s Race Report

Libby Bergman’s got a really good, honest race report with a happy ending.

Mauricio Sanchez says it’s the toughest race he’s ever done

Half Triing recommends it!

Beginner Triathlete Race Reports

2010 Health First Triathlon Race Report

First, let me say that this was a very well run race. Everything went smoothly as far as I could tell, there was a small army of very supportive and helpful volunteers, and the course was set up as a great venue for spectators to view the race. I’m not sure about the accuracy of the distances, but I’ll get to that later. In the end, that doesn’t really matter–everyone has to do the same course.

Swim (1500m)
I’ve heard that you can’t win the Ironman on the swim, but you can lose it there. This wasn’t an Ironman, but I think that’s what happened to me today. I did a 28:22, which I would normally be very happy with for an open water race. I had a bad start because the water seemed to never get deep. I actually started swimming once, but my hands were dragging the bottom, so I got up and ran into the water some more. Running in water really jacks my heart rate up, and it took me a while to calm down from that. Throw in the usual punching and kicking and the fact that I didn’t do a single open water swim leading up to this race, and I probably got the results I deserve.

I found some really good feet to draft off of when we started the longest leg of the swim, which was headed north against the wind. This gave me a good chance to rest and settle down. That’s my usual goal for a non-sprint swim anyway–just take what the course give you, and don’t expect too much.

I never really thought I got off course that much, and my time doesn’t seem to say I did, but I ended up 96/195 over all and 6/9 in my group for the swim.

Weird results. Were there really 3 guys over 200 lbs who swam that under 23:00?!?!? In the past, I’ve usually in the top third or so overall on the swim and near the top in my group. This one has me a little flummoxed. Did I swim a really slow short course?

T1
Let me just say that both of my transitions were really bad so I don’t spend any more time on them. I spent enough time on them during the race.

Anyway, I didn’t have my watch on for the swim and didn’t know what to expect from my time, but coming out of T1 I heard the announcer say “We’re now starting to see a more steady stream of swimmers arriving to transition.” That had me thinking I was right where I usually am–top 1/3 or so. Wrong.

Bike (27 miles)
I jumped on and quickly accelerated up to ~20mph, when “wirrrrrrrr’ a guy zoomed by me with a disc rear wheel. Oh well, not catching that guy anyway, right? I was soon passed by another cyclist, which had me (again) thinking I had put in a pretty good swim–all the guys who are fast on the bike and weaker on the swim are passing me. However, I passed that guy back in the next mile or so. I was a net +17 passes on the bike. There may have been a couple more, but once the sprint distance racers were in the mix it was harder to keep up.

The heart rate monitor I’d spent so much time putting on was completely non-functional. I probably gained back all the time it cost me to put it on just because it wasn’t working, and therefore wasn’t holding me back at all.

My strategy was to push the northbound sections of the course (into the wind), take it easier on the southbound sections (wind at my back), and blister the causeways. If you are from the area and are reading this, let me apologize, but…Those. Are. Not. Hills. I knew I would have a psychological advantage biking and running those causeways because I’ve spent most of my life riding and running big hills and mountains. I know a lot of people here train by riding the causeways, but I think my method of getting on the spin bike and doing 5-8 minute intervals of “hills” on there is a much better training method.

The one hiccup on the ride was at the water bottle exchange. I had about a third of my water left, and threw it to the side. I then dropped, 1, 2, 3 different bottles the volunteers tried to hand me. Oh well…only 10 more miles to go–hydrate more in T2 than planned.

I have to say, that’s the best ride I’ve ever had during a race. My time was 1:13:55, 35th overall and 2nd in my group. I put in a lot more time training on the bike for this race than I usually do, and it really paid off. I didn’t care if I cooked myself because my run hasn’t been that great lately. I wanted to have a good bike.

Run (6.2 miles?)
My run definitely isn’t at it’s all-time best right now, and I knew I was going to tear it up on the bike, so I didn’t have very high expectations for the run. Strategy was to start off slowly and try to build something decent–no use trying to run fast off the bike anyway, because that wouldn’t happen. I estimated I was doing 9:30 miles, but when I clicked my watch at the first mile marker it said 8:30…huh?

Mile 2 was 7:48…what? Mile 3 was 8:4x…ok, maybe. But the next two miles were down into the mid 6:xx range…no way. My 5k PR is a 6:50 pace, and I clearly remember my entire body being on fire for that entire race. That isn’t what I was feeling during this race. The last 1.2 didn’t feel especially long, but my watch said I ran it at 9:36, and I know I was going faster than that. Probably closer to 8:00 miles at that point. I felt pretty good the whole way, and I followed through on my plan to push the causeways, where I think I gained some good ground. There were lots of people walking up.

Final run time was 49:43. Being honest with myself, I think that’s about what I could run right now in a stand alone 10k, but not in a tri. Regardless, we all ran the same course. My time was 2nd in my group and 78th overall.

My overall finish was 2:35:52–65th overall and *gulp* 5th (?!?!?!) in my group. Swim really killed me. I still have a hard time believing I finished in the top third overall and in the middle of the Clydesdales. Two and a half minutes out of the money. Ugh. Probably could have pulled another minute of that back from the transitions as well.

That’s the cool thing about triathlon though. You focus on one thing (bike) and slip someplace else (swim). You don’t practice transitions, and you have bad transitions. And that’s what keeps you coming back–there are so many should’ve and could’ve situations you can improve on.

I’m dropping down below 200 lbs for a while to do some running, but I think I’m going to be back with the fat kids next year to vindicate myself!

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