“Withdrawal in disgust isn’t the same as apathy…”

2018 Patriot’s Olympic Triathlon

Race Report

DISQUALIFIED

PRE-DQ RESULTS

2:26:52

 1/24 AG     14/265 Overall

September 8, 2018 – My penultimate triathlon of 2018 was the Patriot’s Olympic in Williamsburg.  It’d been an unstated goal of mine for a while to qualify for the Olympic  distance Nationals, and I thought that I’d have an outside shot at the Patriot’s if I had a good race.  My chances of qualifying would also depend upon the level of competition that showed up.  There are a few ways to qualify, but basically, I’d need to win my age group or finish in the top 10%.  So, if there were at least twenty in my age group, I’d qualify if I placed in the top two.  My fitness and health were good coming into the race, so I was hoping for a strong performance.

My buddy Clay Westbay was doing the race as well, and it was his first Olympic distance triathlon.  In fact, I think it was his first ever triathlon – he’d done the Robious Landing race, but that had been converted from a tri to a duathlon.  Clay hitched a ride with me to Williamsburg on race morning, and after a short detour to go back and get his GPS, we made it to the race site with no issues.  Clay and I got through packet pickup, then got our timing chips, body marked and got set up in transition.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to do a warm run before transition closed, so after hitting the portapotties, Clay and I walked down to the swim start at the river.

In years past, I’d done the Half-Iron distance race at the Patriots, and they start the swim first, about a half hour before the Olympic distance racers.  Thus, we still had a decent wait before it was our time to go off.  Clay seemed pretty relaxed, given that this was his first Olympic distance race, but then again, he’s always pretty stoic.  After what seemed like forever, our start time was upon us, so I wished him well.  He waded into the river first since he was in the first Olympic swim wave (being younger than me), while I waited on the beach for my swim wave.

Race Results (I can be found at the bottom due to my DQ)

Swim: 30:12     (2:01/100 m)    (4/24)

swim mpa.PNG

The 1500 meter swim wasn’t wetsuit legal this year due to the warm water temperature.  The swim is an out and back in the river, and they try to make it so you’re swimming with the current on the leg that has you farthest from shore.  I hadn’t done an Olympic distance swim without a wetsuit since 2014, so I really didn’t have a good baseline time to try to beat.  My wetsuit legal swim at Monticelloman in May of 2018 was done in 27:34, so I thought that something under 30 minutes was a reasonable goal.  I figure that a wetsuit is good for a 2-3 minute advantage in an Olympic distance race.

Thanks to turning 40 this year, I was in the second swim wave of the Olympic race and took off about 5 minutes after wave 1.  The river had a decent amount of chop to it, and the waves were coming from my left.  Thus, I had to breathe to my right on the “out” leg to keep from swallowing water.  Still, I made really good progress to the turn buoy at the far end of the course, and felt like I was having a strong swim.

By that point, I began catching a lot of people in the first swim wave, and the swim course began to get a little more cluttered,  After swimming towards the middle of the river, I rounded another turn buoy to head back downriver.  I didn’t notice it at first, but after several minutes of swimming back in the other direction, it became apparent that the current was against me.  I felt like I was swimming on a treadmill and the “in” portion of the course felt like it took forever.  I was still doing fine with my stroke, but the going was slower than I expected.  Basically, it took me 10 minutes to go “out” and 16 minutes to come “in,” not counting the swim back to shore.

swim

I finally got to the last turn buoy and took one final left turn to head towards the shore.  The water got too shallow to swim about 50 yards from the beach, so I had to dolphin dive and wade a bit there at the end.  The timing mat was a little ways up the beach out of the water, and I looked at my GPS for the first time as I crossed the mat.  It read 30:12, which was pretty much spot on my 30 minute goal – particularly when you account for the current and the run from the water to the timing mat.  Ultimately, that would put me at 4/24 in my age group, and I’m very pleased with the swimming progress that I’ve made with Karen over the past couple of years.

T1: 2:36    (1/24)

There’s a very long run from the beach up to the transition area.  My rack was then at the opposite end of transition from the “swim in” area.  There’s always some initial dizziness when getting out of the water, so it took me a few seconds to get my legs under me.  I ran off the beach at a pretty good clip, not sprinting, but not wasting time either.  Once I got to my bike, I threw on my helmet and shoes and off I went.  Fast enough for 1/24 in my age group – and some time banked that I would need on run course.

Bike: 1:03:28    (22.1 mph)    (2/24)           bike.PNG

The Patriot’s Olympic bike course is flat and fast, with the sole exception being the Route 5 bridge that you hit on the way out and on the way back in.  The Olympic course follows the bike route for the half, but instead of making a full loop, there’s a turnaround cone around mile 12.5.

After crossing the mounting line, I hopped on my bike and took off.  There are a couple of turns in the first few miles, but after turning onto Route 5, there’s a straight shot of about eight miles.  I was pushing hard and was making good time, when a stronger biker went by me around mile 5.  I tucked in behind him and rode at a draft legal distance in his wake until we hit the bridge.  He slowed as soon as we started up the bridge since he began to take in some nutrition, so I went by him.  I had 400 calories of Carbopro in my aerobottle, so I was good to go in that department and didn’t need to slow to take in calories.

The other biker re-passed me about a half mile past the bridge and I tucked in behind him again.  He didn’t seem to mind that I’d leeched onto him, and we were cruising and passing a lot of other bikers, many of whom were doing the half.  The course eventually took a right off of Route 5, and when we got to the turnaround cone for the Olympic course he kept straight since he was doing the half.  I turned around the cone to head back in, and was on my own for the remainder of the ride.

bike route

After turning left on Route 5 to head back east, I thought there was going to be an aid station.  It was actually west of the turnaround point, and only accessible for the people doing the half.  In fact, there were no aid stations on the Olympic bike course, which I thought was odd.  I was planning on taking a bottle mid-way through the ride, but it looked like I was going to have to make do with what I had on my bike.  I typically get an hour out of my aerobottle unless its really hot or humid, and it was pretty humid on race day.  Thus, I knew I’d be a little short on hydration, but not so much that it was a major concern.

I made good time back down Route 5 and pushed hard over the bridge.  There were then a few miles before the course turned right to head back towards the race site.  About a mile before transition, I adjusted my helmet and my helmet shield fell off.  I always have issues with it since its so temperamental, and even though I caught it, I couldn’t get it back on.  I didn’t feel like crashing while trying to reattach the shield, so I held onto it as I headed back in – silently hoping that I wouldn’t take a bug to the eye.

Soon enough, I was back at the race site and cruising back into transition.  I’d hoped to finish the bike under 1:05:00, and I ended up making it in 1:03:28, which was the second fastest in my age group.  Two legs down – so far so good.  I had no idea where I stood in my age group, but I was having a strong race.

T2: 1:29    (7/24)

Off the bike and to the rack quickly.  I’ll do sprint triathlons without socks to save time, but I always put on socks for the Olympic distance run, which adds time to my T2.  After getting on my socks and running shoes, I grabbed my hat, glasses, race belt and water bottle, and was off to the run course.

Run: 49:16    (7:56 min/mile)    (2/24)  

run course.PNG

My goal for the 10k run was sub-50 minutes, but it was humid as hell and a lot of the run course is in direct sunlight.  The run course was basically a lollipop, and had been changed from years past.  There are some wooded trails that provide some shade, but about two-thirds of the run is in the sun.  I felt okay coming out of transition, but by the time I hit the first mile marker, I was already beginning to overheat and figured that I might have to re-evaluate my 50 minute goal.

My Garmin 920 is always a tad unreliable on the run in triathlons, but it had clicked 1 mile exactly at the 1 mile marker on the course.  Nevertheless, when I got to the 2 mile marker, it was only reading 1.95 miles.  Sometimes the mile markers are off and they even out after a while, but my Garmin was even further off at the mile 3 marker.  In the interim, I was struggling with the heat, even though I’d brought a flask of water with Carbopro.  My GPS pace crept up over 8 minute miles, so I was really hoping that the course mileage was correct instead of my GPS.  If so, I was running faster than my GPS indicated.

Around mile 2.5 I hit a timing mat near an aid station, and then began making my way towards the local high school.  I hit the high school just after the 5k mark, and was holding together, but it was a struggle with the humidity for sure.  With my flask in hand, I bypassed the aid station and then there were a couple of signs directing me into the woods on a trail.  I was familiar with the trail from the past two years, but we were running in the opposite direction this time around.

I was alone on the trail, and after a few hundred yards I came to a “T” intersection.  I looked for signs, or anything to mark the turn, but saw nothing.  Due to the gravel, I couldn’t even look for footprints to see which way to go.  The only thing I knew was that if I took a right, it would take me in the direction of the course from the prior years, and back towards the Capital Trail.  I had no idea where I’d end up if I went left.  So…making an educated guess, I took a right.

I continued on for about a third of a mile and then came to a wooden bridge that formed part of the Capital Trail – the same bridge I’d crossed between miles 2 and 3.  I turned left to head back down the Trail towards the race site.  I presumed that I was still on course, but I wasn’t clear since I hadn’t seen a sign marking the run course since just after the high school.  Still, I was pretty sure that I’d gone the right way.

Eventually, a field opened up on my left, and I continued to run towards the aid station up ahead.  As I was about 50 yards from the aid station, I saw a runner coming out of the field from my left.  If you look at the photo below, the aid station was at the red dot, and I was headed south-east on the blue line.  The other runner was coming down the dirt path bisecting the two fields.  As soon as I saw him, I started thinking that I’d gone off course.  I wasn’t sure though, because the other runner may have been off course.  I was closer to the aid station though, and I saw one of the volunteers look at me and say, “where’s he coming from.”

reroute

My detour – 1.03 miles

That comment left me little doubt that I should have turned left at the “T” instead of right, and that I had a problem.  A series of four-letter words came out of my mouth shortly thereafter.  I’d been killing myself for over two hours and suddenly it had dawned on me that it might have been all for naught.  Still, I didn’t know if my detour was longer or shorter than the official course.  Turns out, it was exactly the same distance, but I would’t know that until several hours later.  All I knew at that point was that I’d likely gone off course, so I was pissed.  Pissed at myself, pissed at the race and pretty much pissed with the world.

real route

Correct Route – 1.03 miles

I had about two miles left with the run after the aid station and I decided not to kill myself coming back in.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t slow down, but I chose not to empty the tank – so to speak – due to my possible DQ situation.   I had a 70.3 scheduled for the next weekend in the Outer Banks, and I was already worried about doing a 70.3 one week after an Olympic distance race.

My head was in a pretty dark place for the last two miles as I thought about what to do after crossing the finish line.  I’m not going to lie, there was a part of me that wanted to check the standings to see where I finished before making a decision on what to do.  I’d trained hard for the race, and I’d been suffering for almost 2.5 hours.  I was also mad about the fact that there were no markings at the “T” intersection on the trail, and I didn’t think that going off course was my fault.

The other part of me was thinking that I do a lot of local triathlons, and I knew that my reputation was more important than a single result.  I was also wearing a ProK tri-suit, so I wasn’t just representing myself in the race.  I was also representing my coaches, my team and my teammates.  I knew what I needed to do, even if I didn’t want to do it.

About a quarter mile from the finish, I caught up to another runner (Darin Stiefvater), who was struggling a bit.  I could have passed him, but something in me said not to – particularly since my race was probably illegitimate.  I gave him some encouraging words and we finished together, with him slightly ahead of me.  He was gracious after we crossed the line, and I promptly told him that I think I needed to go DQ myself since I was pretty sure that I’d gone off course.  He seemed a bit shocked by that.

I finished in 2:26:52, which was a PR for me.  I’d also completed the run in 49:16, which was great, considering the oppressive humidity, coupled with the fact that I didn’t red-line it in the last two miles.

Post-Race

I immediately proceeded to the timing tent and told one of the female officials what had occurred.  She asked me if the “T” intersection was on a trail, to which I responded, “yes.”  She then stated that the first finisher had mentioned the unmarked turn, but that he’d taken the correct route.  She also said that they hadn’t had a chance to get anyone out there to fix the problem yet.  I was very aggravated by the situation, and told her that other people were going to do the same thing as me since there was no way to know which way to turn.  She took down my bib number and told me to check back in with her in a while to discuss the situation.

From there, I made my way to the results tent and Darin was standing there.  He told me that I’d won my age group, to which I replied, “not for long.”  I told Darin what I’d learned at the timing tent and that I was pretty sure that I’d be DQ’d.  From there, my thoughts turned to finding Clay, who finished in 2:56:03.  He was 6/9 in his age group, and did fantastic for his first real triathlon.

Thankfully, there was a beer tent, so Clay and I headed in that direction so that I could drown my sorrows for a bit.  We got to talking with two other guys, both of whom had gone off course like me.  Nevertheless, neither of them had placed in their age groups, so they were disinclined to report themselves to the officials.  Clay had taken the correct route, but confirmed that no turn signs were present on the trail when he went through.  His tracking and directional skills are clearly superior to mine.

After having two (or three) beers, I checked back in with the race officials and told them that I’d spoken with other people who’d gone off course like me.  I was the only poor sap to come forward, however, so I alone would be DQ’d.  Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled.  I knew that it was the correct decision since I hadn’t completed the actual course, but I was still upset about the lack of signage.  I know, I know…its ultimately my responsibility to know the course, but in the heat of the moment its hard to keep your bearings, especially when you’re on a wooded trail.

It was a long ride back to Richmond, particularly when it occurred to me that I would have qualified for Nationals, but for my DQ.  Later that night, Darin sent me a Facebook friend request and I sent him my Garmin data.  About an hour later he messaged me that the route I took was equidistant to the actual course, which was like rubbing salt in the wound.  I was glad that I hadn’t shorted the course, but it just threw fuel on the fire.

The next day I sent an email to the race director, explaining what had happened, and asking about the unmarked turn.  He responded as follows:

“This is a first for us but we had someone steal signs from our course during the race, twice. Our run director replaced them 2x during the morning and stayed in the area to monitor them after the 2nd replacement. Some athletes reported a person was actually out there with a rake erasing our multiple chalk arrows on the ground and throwing signs into the woods. We have had this race for well over a decade and never had a problem here (or anywhere) like this.”

In a way, this made me feel much better.  First, it proved that I wasn’t blind and hadn’t simply missed the turn sign.  Second, it resolved any lingering animosity that I had towards the race.  Crazy people are going to do crazy things, and the race can’t plan for idiots who are going to steal signs and erase chalk marks.  The RD was also nice enough to offer me a free entry to another race, so that was pretty awesome of him.

While I was happy about the free race entry, the DQ was still a tough pill to swallow.  I’d only won my age group one other time in four years of racing, so it was tough to give that up.  Even worse, was losing a spot at the Age Group Nationals in Cleveland in 2019.  Everything had come together for me in this race, which doesn’t always happen.  Moreover, my chances of qualifying for Nationals depends not only on me, but also on who shows up to race in my age group.  There are plenty of guys that can blow my doors off just by getting out of bed, and I just don’t know if lightening will strike twice.   To be clear, I deserved the DQ, but that didn’t stop me from throwing a pity party for myself.

Up next for me was my “A” race for the season, which was the OBX half-iron triathlon in Manteo, North Carolina one week out.  I didn’t have time to wallow in the mire for long, with a much larger task ahead.  There was, however, a small hurricane named Florence out in the Atlantic, and hopefully it wouldn’t affect my final race.  Lord help me if it did, since I was all out of pity party invitations..

finish.jpg

 

“If nothing can be done, we’ll make the best of what’s around…”

Iron Journey

2016 Ironman Maryland

Race Report – Part 2

9:44:09

 79/216 AG     424/1890 Overall

October 1, 2016 – Race day is finally upon me.  I spent a moment reflecting on how I came to be on the cusp of tackling a full Ironman triathlon, and it goes back to my 2013 New Year’s resolution to get in the best shape of my life.  2013 began with running and P90X, along with some obstacle course racing.  I stumbled into triathlon by accident in 2014 (Read about it here ), and by 2015 I had dropped the obstacle course racing entirely and had committed to triathlon.  I completed my first half-iron triathlon in May of that year, and had signed up for IMMD that Fall.

I didn’t have long to reflect since there was a lot to do before Busher and I headed out the door.  On went the trisuit and tri-tat numbers (with a…

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“So if you don’t rate, just overcompensate…”

2018 Rev3 Williamsburg Sprint Triathlon

Race Report

1:21:25

 4/12 AG     18/271 Overall

July 7, 2018 – Rev3 Williamsburg was hosting the Mideast Long Course Regional Championships in 2018, and the race weekend included a sprint tri on Saturday.  I’d heard good things about Rev3 for years, but just hadn’t had the opportunity to do one of its races.  I was more inclined to do the Olympic distance race, but that was being held on Sunday.  Rev3 had a free kids duathlon on Saturday, and my kids had been wanting to do another race for a while, so I signed them up.  It didn’t make sense for us to spend Saturday and Sunday in Williamsburg, so I signed up for the sprint so we could all race on the same day.

I knew there would be some stiff competition at Rev3, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  After four years of racing triathlons, two of which have been coached by Karen and Erin, I’ve managed to get to the point where I hope and expect to make my age group podium in most local races.  I was blessed with some amount of athletic ability, but only enough to play varsity sports in high school – no college scholarships for me.  Enough still though that with four years of consistent training, I’ve been able to do pretty well for a guy who took up swimming and biking in his mid-30s.  Nevertheless, when I race against anyone with college-level athletic talent – I’m looking at you Danny Royce – I get humbled pretty quickly.  No amount of training could ever put me in the same category as some of those guys.  Perhaps the same age group, but that’s about it.  As it would turn out, Rev3 Williamsburg would be a stark reminder of that reality.

Pre-Race

Even though the drive was a little over an hour each way, I decided to drive down to the race site Friday evening to pick up my race packet.  Heidi dog accompanied me from work, and she was happy to garner a lot of attention while we waited in the line.  After grabbing my race numbers and my goodie bag, Heidi and I scoped out the lay of the land and then headed back to Chesterfield.  It takes me a couple of hours to prep, even for a sprint race, and I like to be in bed by 9 p.m. at the latest since the alarm typically goes off by 4 a.m. on race morning.

Since I had a fairly long drive, the alarm went off around 3:30 a.m., and I immediately got my oatmeal and coffee and then hopped in the car to head down Route 5.  I made it to the Chickahominy Riverfront Park before 5:30 a.m. and then got set up in the transition area.  Interestingly, my bike was racked next to two other Cervelo P2s (see below), and our rack quickly became known as “Cervelo Row.”  I was cautiously optimistic that I wouldn’t take off on the bike course on someone else’s bike.

rack

Cervelo Row

I did a warm up jog down to the swim exit, which was a pretty long way from the transition area.  There was going to be a long run from the river to my bike on asphalt, and I was hoping that I wouldn’t scrape my feet up on the way.  Shortly before transition closed, I ran into my friend Erika Jurkowski in transition, and we ended up in line together at the swim start.  Erika was racing the sprint on Saturday and the Olympic on Sunday, as she was preparing to tackle Ironman Louisville for the second year in a row.  We wished each other well and then got ready to jump into the river.

Race Results

GPS Data

Swim – 18:51  (1:35/100M)  (3/12 AG)

The swim was a point to point in the Chickahominy River, and we were supposed to be swimming with the current.  The wind was blowing out of the north, however, so the surface of the river was actually moving south.  The race announcer promised that the current would still be in our favor, but there was a fair amount of chop because of the wind.  The river was also warm enough that it wasn’t a wet-suit legal swim, which I actually welcomed since I’ve been swimming pretty well of late.

swim

It was a self-seeded swim start, and I lined up somewhere near the 1:45 min/100M marker.  The swim line moved slowly down a dock, and when it was my turn, I crossed the timing mat and hopped in.  I did my best to keep my heart rate down as I began swimming, and I was very surprised by the amount of chop in the water.  There were times that I had to time my breathing just right so I wouldn’t catch a wave in my mouth.

Thankfully, I was able to keep calm, cool and collected, and I made my way north to the right turn buoy.  Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether you’re swimming better than your competition, but I did feel like I was passing a lot of other swimmers.  After rounding the turn buoy, I angled towards the swim finish along the shore line.  I found myself getting pushed to my right towards the shore by the wind or the current, and I had continually try to “swim left” to stay in deeper water.

After nearly 19 minutes of swimming, I ran up the boat ramp at the swim exit and formally entered T1.  I was happy with my swim, having stayed in a good rhythm the entire way.  I was also happy with my sighting, and felt like I’d stayed on a relatively straight line.  My GPS had the swim course at 1176 meters, which equated to a swim pace of 1:35 min/100M.  I can certainly swim that pace in a pool, but there was probably a little bit of a current assist for me to hold that pace in an open water swim, particularly one in choppy water.  It was good enough for 3/12 in my AG, which would be my best leg of the day.

swim exit.PNG

T1: 2:49

It was a long run from the boat ramp back to the transition area, and I was mindful of my footing since I was trying not to stub a toe on the asphalt.  Once I made it to the transition area, I made sure I found my Cervelo and I put on my bike shoes and helmet.  It was then a short run to the bike out area and to the mounting line.

Bike – 41:02 (22.37 mph)  (4/12 AG)

The bike course was a 15 mile out-and-back up Route 5.  Its pretty much flat, with the exception of the bridge that you have to cross at the beginning and the end.  The bridge doesn’t look all that steep, but its longer than you think it is and it’ll put you in your small chain ring unless you really want to stand on the pedals to attack it.  It also has some expansion joints that make me a bit nervous – particularly after my crash in 2017 on something similar.  I did a little bit of bunny hopping across the expansion joints just to be on the safe side.

bike.PNG

After crossing the bridge, it was a straight shot up Route 5 to the west.  I could feel a little bit of wind coming from my right out of the north, but nothing too severe.  I passed some riders early on but found no one to work with.  There were a few angry motorists wondering why all the bikers weren’t on the Capital Trail, but they probably should have put 2 and 2 together given the fact that we all had race numbers on our bikes and helmets.

A few miles before the turnaround point, I saw the first two bikers coming towards me in the other direction.  It looked suspiciously like they were illegally drafting, but I could have been witnessing a pass.  It was tough to tell in the short time that they were in my field of vision, but hopefully they were riding legitimately.  Shortly thereafter, I hit the far end of the bike course, rounded the cone in the middle of Route 5 and then headed back to the east.

I was feeling good and my speed was in the 23-24 mph range in the flats.  Erin has improved my biking a ton in the past two years and I really enjoy being able to turn in respectable bike splits.  My speed was cut as I headed up the bridge on my way back in, and the wind was really whipping on the bridge this time.  I was getting shoved to my right pretty hard thanks to the disc cover and it was a little nerve racking.  I crested the top of the bridge, and then it was a short downhill to the left turn that would take me back into transition.

With the mostly flat course, I’d been able to average north of 22 mph, but that was still only good enough for 4th in my age group.  The M40-44 age group had some really strong bikers in it, and the winner of my age group beat me by five minutes, which is a tad disheartening.

T2: :51

T2 was a lot faster than T1 since there wasn’t a long run from the dismount line to my transition spot.  I had to rack my bike carefully to keep it from falling over (not a fan of the Rev3 racks) and swap out my shoes.  I then grabbed my race belt and was off to the run-out area.

Run- 22:29  (7:14 min/mile)  (4/12 AG)

Mile 1 (7:33)

The 5k run was an out-and back on the Capital Trail right next to the bike course.  There was a fairly long run on wet grass out of transition, then a hard right turn to get on the Trail.  That also meant that we got the fun of going up and over the bridge going out and then again coming back in.  It was windy enough on the bridge that I had to make sure that my visor didn’t fly off.

run

I’d expected the bike course to be 12 miles instead of 15, and I could feel the extra three miles in my legs.  I was actually glad that the course was longer, but it does make running a little tougher.  I was hoping to do the run at a 7:10 pace or faster, but I knew pretty early on that that wouldn’t be in the cards, particularly as I slogged my way up and over the bridge.  My GPS read 7:33 when it tripped the first mile, so I knew that I was off-pace a bit, even though my GPS isn’t always super accurate on the run in tri-mode.

Mile 2 (7:22)

I was able to make better speed in the second mile since the course flattened out, but it seemed like I would never make it to the turnaround cone.  It finally appeared in the vicinity of a water stop, but I rarely slow down for water in a sprint triathlon.  I rounded the cone and headed back in, trying to pick up the pace a little more in the process.  I was doing just fine in that regard until I hit the bridge again.  As it had been on the bike, crossing the bridge to the east seemed harder than crossing it going out in the other direction.  I was encouraged, however, by the fact that I only had about one mile to go and that it was downhill from there.

Mile 3 (7:15)

After cresting the bridge I tried to throw on all the speed I had left, and I took the left turn off of the Capital Trail and ran through the wet grass around the transition area.  Then it was back on pavement again as I headed towards the boat ramp.  I felt like I was supposed to be done at that point, but the last bit seemed to go on forever.  I finally got to take a right off of the pavement and run through the finishing chute.  My overall pace was 7:14/mile, which was pretty close to my goal, so I was okay with that.  My GPS was a little short at 3.05 miles, so that pace is based on the official distance of 3.1 miles.

run

Interestingly, there was a timing malfunction, which listed my official run time as 17:52.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t run a 5:45 pace, but I like the thought of running a 5k in 17:52.  The malfunction affected everyone equally, so no placings were fouled up.

chute

Post-Race

I did a cool down run prior to checking the standings and was disappointed to see that I’d finished 4/12 in my age group.  That was actually after one guy in my age group moved up and out since he was in the top three overall.  As I mentioned above, my age group was crazy fast, and we had 3 out of the top 6 placings overall (3rd, 5th and 6th) in a race with 271 participants.  I was 1 minute and 19 seconds out of third place in my age group, so I got smoked pretty well.  By and large, the three guys ahead of me out-swam, out-biked and out-ran me, so it was pretty humbling.

By the time I checked my standings, it was getting close to the time for the kids’ duathlon to start.  Leigh Anne had left her purse at home, so they had to turn around and go get it, so they were running a tad late.  Thankfully, they made it in time and the kids had great races.  Their race wasn’t timed, but they both had fun.

Jackson

Jilly

peanut

Thankfully we don’t have peanut allergies…

The next race on my calendar was the Patriot’s Olympic Triathlon in mid-September, and I was (silently) hoping to qualify for Nationals in that race.  My season was set to culminate with the OBX 70.3 Triathlon the following weekend in Manteo, NC, where Leigh Anne would also be doing her first Olympic distance race.  My training regimen for 2018 was centered around those two races, but as it would turn out, issues would arise with both .  In fact, I’m still reeling from the what went down at the Patriot’s.

 

“Beneath the sea is where a fish should be…”

2018 Robious Landing Triathlon

Race Report

1:24:35

 2/21 AG     18/270 Overall

June 24, 2018 – Thanks to several weeks of storms, the Robious Landing Triathlon had been turned into a duathlon for the second time in three years due to dangerous river conditions.  I’m not a huge fan of duathlons since it takes away one of my strongest legs  (the swim) and replaces it with my biggest weakness (the run).  Karen has had me swimming pretty well recently, despite my humble swimming roots.  Leigh Anne was racing with me, and it was going to be her first river swim, so we were both pretty disappointed by the change.  Leigh Anne had been swimming in Karen’s “Guppies” class for several months, and was ready to show off her new swimming chops.  Several of Karen’s other Guppies were racing as well, including Mindy Reese, Candace Broaddus and Mills Babbs.  It was a Guppies reunion of sorts, but with the swim being cancelled, there were a lot of fish out of water.  Sorry…couldn’t resist.

Coming into the race I hadn’t been feeling well.  I’d been having daily headaches, fatigue and mild dizziness issues for about a month.  The only explanation I’d been able to come up with was the fact that we’d adopted a kitten just before my headaches began.  I’d always had cats growing up, but maybe I’d developed a cat allergy in the last decade or so.  I’d been taking 4-6 Ibuprofen per day to control the headaches, so I did have some concerns heading into the race.  I was hoping for the best, but was prepared to abort  if needed, particularly if I got dizzy on the bike.

Leigh Anne and I had gotten our race packets on Saturday afternoon, and we made our way into transition when it opened around 5:15 a.m. on Sunday morning.  Since I’d registered for the race long before Leigh Anne, our bib numbers, and thus, our racks, were pretty far apart.  We got set up, chipped and body marked, and then set off on a warm up run.

robious rack

A crappy rack spot on the inside.

robious la.jpg

When the race was a duathlon in 2016, the first run (of roughly .9 miles) was begun in a first come – first served format in waves of about ten people.  They had a timing mat at the start that year, so it didn’t matter if you started first or last – your start was tracked by your timing chip.  This time around, there was no timing mat at the start, so we started off as we would have in our swim waves.  Thus, if you didn’t start with your proper wave, your time would be off.

Even though I had two more days in my thirties, I’d aged up to the 40-44 age group since your age group is determined by your age at the end of the year.  As such, I’d be going off in the second wave, and I think Leigh Anne was in the fourth wave.  My only problem pre-race was the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to switch the swim to a run on my Garmin 920 in triathlon mode.  I left it as it was, and figured that the timing would be accurate, even if I wouldn’t be able to gauge my pace on the first run.  When it was time to start, I lined up next to fellow Pro-K teammate, Justin Koehler, and waited for the gun to go off.

Race Results

GPS Data

Run 1 – 6:18  (7:04/mile)  (2/21 AG)

Robious run 1 start 2018

Justin Koehler and I in the ProK kits

The first run was an out and back of about .9 miles, which is uphill going out and downhill coming back in.  Koehler and I started off together, and the guy in the middle of the photo above took off like a rocket and left the rest of us behind.  I was just hoping to run something close to my 2016 time of 6:22, but I was running totally by feel since the swim pace shown on my Garmin wasn’t helpful in the least.

The uphill portion of the run was mostly on a dirt trail, which was fairly muddy and slippery.  It was also super humid on race morning, and I was already soaking wet by the time I got up the hill to turn around and come back.  The downhill portion of the run was on an asphalt trail, so that made for much easier and faster running.  I increased my tempo coming back in and crossed the timing mat in 6:18 – 4 seconds faster than 2016.  I was happy about being faster, but more importantly, I was happy that I’d been able to pace myself appropriately without assistance from my GPS.

My 6:18 was good enough for 2/21 in my age group, which was nice, but the bike and the final run were going to factor more heavily in the overall standings.

T1 – :56  (2/21 AG)

I had a much better rack location in 2018 than I’d had the year before, and I made a pretty quick transition.  I had to swap out my shoes and put on my helmet, and then I set out for the bike out area.  My helmet is very snug and the helmet shield is temperamental and will fall off easily.  Thus, I have to put the helmet on slowly and precisely to keep the shield in place.  Even so, I was only one second slower than the fastest transition in my age group.

Bike – 52:32 (21.6 mph)  (2/21)

robious bike.PNG

I really like the Robious bike course, which is a 19 mile out and back with a nice little three-tiered climb just before the turnaround point.  Its mostly uphill heading out of transition and its fast and downhill coming back in.  The first mile or so is a gradual climb up to Robious Road from the river, but once I made the right turn onto Robious I laid down in aero and started making some good speed.  There were a few small ups and downs in the first miles and then a small chain ring climb around mile 3.  Koehler passed me just after that climb and I decided to ride along with him.

The legal USAT drafting distance is 3 bike lengths or greater, so I tried to ride about 4-5 lengths behind him to get a legal drafting benefit.  I followed him like that until we turned left onto Manakin Town Ferry Road, and then passed him to try to return the favor for a bit.  He rode behind me for maybe a mile and then passed me again.  I stayed in his wake until we hit first portion of the climb to the turnaround at mile 8.5, but went by him again since I was climbing faster.  I thought he might catch me again on the descent in the other direction, but I stayed clear of him for the remainder of the ride.

I checked my Garmin for the first time at the turnaround cone and saw that I was about 20 seconds behind my desired pace.  That lit a fire under me and I hammered back down the hills that I’d just climbed instead of just letting gravity do the work.  I hit 39.9 mph on the GPS, so I was moving pretty good.  Its a little nerve racking getting over 30 mph, and I’m always (mentally) crossing my fingers that I don’t blow a tire at high speed.

After the course flattened out I continued to push hard, and took a right turn onto Robious around mile 15.  The nice thing about being in the second starting wave is that there are other bikers on the course ahead of you.  If you catch and overtake them, there’s a small slingshot effect as you go by.  I was passing a fair amount of bikers coming back in, so that was fun and fast.  I passed Mills just before mile 15, and he said I sounded like a freight train as I went by – probably due to my rear disc cover.

After getting back onto Robious, I continued to push hard all the way up the hill where you take a left turn to head back down to Robious Landing.  I’d gone hard down that hill in 2017, and regretted keeping my heart rate up as I went out on the run.  This time around, I eased off a bit as I headed downhill towards the transition area and was intent on getting my heart rate down before I got off the bike.  I finished the bike course 31 seconds faster than the last time the race was a duathlon in 2016, so I was happy about that.  I’d been behind my 2016 pace at the turnaround cone, so I’d made up all of the time, and then some, coming back in.

T2 – :50  (3/21)

T2 was uneventful and consisted of racking my bike, changing shoes again and grabbing my race belt.  I was in and out in 50 seconds, which was third-fastest in my age group.

Run 2 – 24:04 (7:44/mile)  (3/21)

The second run was slow…abnormally slow.  Not just for me, but for everyone in the field.  I don’t know if it was the wet trails, the crazy high humidity or something else, but the struggle was real.  The run is supposed to be a full 5k of 3.1 miles, but my GPS always has it short.  That’s to be expected because of the twists and turns on the trails, but I still don’t think its a full 5k.  I usually have between 2.8 and 2.9 miles on my GPS, and I suspect that the actual distance is close to 3.0 miles.  My official pace for the run was 7:44/mile, but my GPS pace was 8:10/mile.

Mile 1 (8:39)

As soon as I came out of transition the humidity hit me again.  It’d been less noticeable on the bike thanks to the breeze, but it was stifling on the run.  The first mile was mostly on trails in the park, and my footing was uncertain in points thanks to the wet conditions.  There are also a couple of wooden bridges to cross that will lay you down if you don’t watch your footing.  I wouldn’t say that the run is hilly, but there are some hills on the trails that I always seem to forget about.

The bike leg of most sprint triathlons is 12 miles, and the 19 mile bike course at Robious takes a lot more out of your legs.  This very noticeable in the first mile of the run, and I was very disappointed to see 8:39 on the GPS when it tripped 1 mile.

Mile 2 (7:32)

The second mile is predominantly on asphalt in the neighborhood that abuts Robious Landing, and I was able to pick up my pace on the straight and level running surface.  The downside, however, was that I was now in direct sunlight, which just made the overheating worse.  There is usually a landowner with a sprinkler set up as a “cool zone,” but I didn’t see one this year.

I hit the turnaround cone near the 1.5 mile point, and then headed back the way I’d came.  My legs felt slightly better by that point, and I was hoping that I’d be able to continue to pick up the pace all the way back to the finish.  After turning, I was also on the lookout for anyone else in my age group who might be close enough to catch me.  I saw Koehler not long after turning, and I knew that I’d need to keep pushing since he is a strong runner.

Mile 3 (8:21 pace)

The last portion of the run is back on the Robious Landing property, and has some more twists and turns and some additional trail running.  I was hurting badly by this point, and my pace deteriorated back above an 8 minute pace – at least per my GPS.  Thankfully, I hadn’t had a headache or any dizziness during the race, but the humidity was kicking my butt.

There was another turnaround cone and then I had to double back and hit the trails again.  I met some runners going out on the run, and I was just glad to be finishing up and not heading out.  Eventually, the finish line music and the announcer began to get louder, and I burst out of the woods and into the finishing chute with whatever was left in me.

Upon finishing I looked at my GPS and saw that I’d averaged 8:10 minutes/mile based upon a run of 24:04, which was much slower than expected.  My official pace was 7:44/mile but I’d done the run in 21:10 in 2016 and in 21:43 in 2017, so I was about 3 minutes off.  That’s an eternity in a 5k race, so I was definitely thinking WTF – even with the high humidity.

Robious finish 2018

Post-Race

After finishing, I immediately turned my thoughts to finding Leigh Anne at the finish.  She came through a little while later, totally red-faced due to the humidity.  She was 6/15 in her AG, which was impressive, given that this was only her third triathlon/duathlon to date.  Her Guppy friend Mindy was actually the third female overall, mostly thanks to the fact that she runs like a deer.

time l

Given my mild OCD tendencies, I had to find out if my slow-ass run was an anomaly, so I researched the run times from 2016 and 2017 to get an overall comparison.  I looked at the 1st fastest time, the 10th fastest, the 25th fastest and the 50th fastest for each of the past three years.  Interestingly, I found that the times in 2018 were all about 3 minutes slower than in the prior years.  Moreover, by the overall placings, my run in 2018 was actually better (29th) than in 2017 (32nd).  I really can’t figure out the drop-off in the run times in 2018, and I’d be surprised if the high humidity had that much effect on a 5k.  Nevertheless, my findings made me feel better about how I ran.

time 2

After the dust cleared, it turned out that my effort was good enough for 2/21 in my AG, and this was the second year in a row that I’d gotten second at this race.  Brian Defazio destroyed me by more than 4 minutes to win our AG.  I don’t know Brian personally, but he participates in a lot of local races and is a monster.  I was also happy to see that my teammate Justin Koehler was able to snag third.

Robious Results

When all was said and done, the Robious Landing Triathlon (duathlon) was pretty successful for Leigh Anne and I.  It was the first race with my wife, and hopefully, not the last.  She was still learning how to swim and bike, but based upon her early results, she can expect great things in the future with some additional training.  For me, I was happy with my result.  For the second year in a row, I was beaten out for first in my AG by a vastly superior athlete – Danny Royce having destroyed me in 2017.  I really hate to lose, but its much easier to take when you just don’t measure up against the competition.

Next up for me would be the Rev3 Sprint in Williamsburg in early July.  I’d never taken part in that event, but I’d heard good things about Rev3.  There was going to be some serious competition at that race, so I was looking forward to seeing how I would measure up.

robious couple

Me and my better half

Robious podium

guppies

Guppies

 

“Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup…”

2018 Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon

Race Report

2:29:19

 3/10 AG     19/125 Overall

May 6 2018 – A week after the RTC Sprint I was signed up for the Monticelloman Olympic race in Palmyra.  I’d been wanting to do the race for a few years, but it had never made it onto my calendar.  I’d signed Leigh Anne up for the Super Sprint race in the East Coast Triathlon Festival, forgetting that both races were on the same day.  She was not really happy about having to tackle her tri without me, but Busher was nice enough to go out and watch her race at Innsbrook as I headed off towards Charlottesville.

I was feeling well and rested for the race, with the exception of some nagging left oblique issues, but wasn’t really sure what to expect competition-wise.  I also was’t quite sure about the course.  I knew that it would be fairly hilly since the race takes place just outside of Charlottesville, and I keep forgetting how hilly that area can be.  I’d looked at the course maps and checked the bike and run course profiles in the days leading up to the race, but I really can’t fully wrap my head around a course until I see it in person.

The forecast was calling for mild weather, but rain was expected in the early afternoon.  I figured that I’d be done well before the rain began, so I wasn’t worried about that too much.  I was more worried about the alarm going off at 3:30 a.m. so I could get on the road by 4:00 a.m.  I was out of the house pretty quickly after some oatmeal and coffee, and made it up to Lake Monticello a little after 5:00 a.m.

Pre-Race

There were a fair amount of people already in the transition area when I arrived, and I had to go pick up my race packet before they’d let me enter.  That was a pretty painless process, and soon enough, I was set up.  Interestingly, they had blocks for your bike instead of racks, but I found the setup to be a bit wobbly.  I had to prop my bike up just right to keep it from leaning and possibly falling over.

monti rack

Once I got situated, I went for a short run and then hit the portapotty one last time before putting on my wetsuit.  The swim was taking place in Lake Monticello, so I headed down to the beach to survey the swim course.  I then learned that the swim started with a 100 yard run down the beach instead of starting in the water.  That was new for me, but I didn’t think much of it at the time.  After some initial confusion about the priorities of the different swim waves, we all gathered on the beach and waited for the start.

Results Link

Garmin Data

Swim- 27:34  (1:50/100m)  (6/10 AG)

swim.PNG

I was in the second swim wave of the day, and positioned myself on the water line.  We started a few minutes after the first swim wave, and when the gun sounded, I took off running at a pretty good pace.  We ran as far as the beach would allow, and then veered right into the water and ran a little more until the water was deep enough to start swimming.

monticello swim start.jpg

On the left at the water line.

As soon as I put my head in the water I knew that I had a problem.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe, which was due to jacking up my heart rate while running down the beach.  I tried to swim slowly to get my heart rate under control, but I had to pull up several times to try to catch my breath.  This was probably the closest to having a panic attack in an open water swim that I’ve ever had, and it wasn’t very pleasant.

I kept moving forward, but the first 500-600 meters were pretty tough….and pretty slow.  Shortly before the first turn buoy things started to get a bit easier, and my breathing was pretty much back to normal.  The swim back up the lake was smooth and easy, and I felt like I was making good time by that point.  I started catching a few people in the prior swim wave, and was also passing a few people in my wave who had gone by me when I was struggling.

At the 1300 meter mark I hit the last turn buoy and made a right turn to head back to the shore.  There were two guys swimming next to me, and it looked like we were having a race to get back to the shore first.  Sighting was easy thanks to the inflatable wiggly man on the dock near the swim exit, and eventually it got shallow enough to run out of the water.

I hit the lap button on my Garmin as I crossed the timing mat on the beach and it read 27:34.  This was a PR for me by almost a minute and a half, but I was still a little disappointed.  I felt like the first 1/4 of my swim was pretty dreadful, but at least I’d learned my lesson about sprinting into the water.  Next time I’d take it slower and would probably have a faster swim time.

swim.jpg

Wiggly men are only seen at used car lots and triathlon swim exits…

T1- 1:24  ( 2/10 AG)   

It was a pretty long run from the timing mat up to the transition area, but I tried to make it as fast as possible.  My heart was thumping pretty good by the time I reached my bike, and I got my helmet and shoes on as quickly as possible and took off for the bike out area.  I was quick enough to have the second fastest transition in my age group, and as it would turn out, my transitions and my bike split would be the driving factors in snagging an AG podium spot.

Bike – 1:09:32  (20.7 mph)  (2/10 AG)

bike profile

bike course.PNG

By the time I mounted my bike, the skies were getting pretty dark, but it wasn’t raining.  There was a hill coming out of transition, and then a right turn onto Lake Monticello Road.  There were some small hills there, but it was only about a mile before you had to make a right turn onto South Boston Road at a T intersection.  The roads were still wet from overnight rain, and the right hand turn was about 110 degrees and at the bottom of a steep hill.  The race director had warned us about the turn before the race, and there were signs warning us to slow down.  I rode my brakes all the way down the hill to the turn, but with the wet road and my wet tires, I couldn’t physically stop my bike (if I’d needed to).  I was able to make the turn, but if volunteers hadn’t been there to stop traffic, it could have been an ugly scene.

After turning right, there was a steep uphill immediately, and the course was a net uphill for the next 13 miles or so.  Around mile 5 the skies opened up and it began dumping rain.  There were several steep and winding descents in that portion of the course and the rain was coming down so hard that water was running across the road.  That made for some dangerous conditions, and I had to take it easy on the downhill portions because I was afraid of hydroplaning or losing it in a turn.

The dumping rain lasted for about 10-15 minutes and then became more of a steady rain.  The hills continued, and even though I passed a few other bikers, it just felt like the going was really slow.  Around mile 16 I was catching a couple of other bikers, but two cars passed me and got in between us.  I couldn’t go around the cars and they couldn’t go around the other bikers.  I was held up for a couple of minutes, but the cars continued straight when we turned right onto Martin Kings Road, and then I was finally able to pass the other guys.

I was on my own for the rest of the bike course, but it was mostly downhill from there.  I was able to lay in aero for the remainder of the ride and began making really good time.  There was standing water in some spots and some slippery corners, but at least the rain had already done its worst.  The last 8-9 miles of the bike were fast and fun, and I was actually a little disappointed to have it end.  My bike split was the second fastest in my AG, and I’ve seen a ton of improvement in my biking ability after two years of doing coach Erin’s workouts.  Some of her workouts are brutal, and at times, I like to remind her that Erin is a four-letter word.

T2 :1:32  (3/10 AG)

T2 was not quite as fast as T1, but was still pretty good.  I was, perhaps, a tad too concerned about making sure that my bike was properly racked so that it wouldn’t come crashing down, so racking it took longer than normal.  I then switched shoes, grabbed my race belt and visor and was off.  My legs felt pretty heavy as I made my way to the run out area, but that’s pretty normal and I figured that it would abate soon enough.

Run- 49:15 (7:57 min/mile)  (6/10 AG)

run profile.jpg

run.PNG

Miles 1-3 (7:56)(8:17)(8:11)

My goal was to run at an 8:00 minute pace or faster, and my stretch goal was a 7:45 pace.  I figured that’d be out of reach due to the hills, but I was going to try nonetheless.  The 6.2 mile run course nothing but hilly suckitude, and it hits you immediately out of transition with an initial climb that is about a third of a mile.  The course profile indicated that the “out” portion of the run was mostly uphill, so I knew that my 5k split should be a bit slower than my 10k split.

After the initial climb away from transition, the course flattened out just a bit, but then began climbing once again.  There were a few small downhill spots in between the climbs, but some of those were steep enough to really work your quads.  The hills were brutal, but at least it wasn’t hot.  I was having trouble hitting my 8 minute miles, but I was still hoping to make up some time coming back in.

Miles 4-6 (8:10)(7:58)(8:04)

I was pretty happy to hit the halfway point since it was a net downhill coming back in.  There was a short downhill portion to start mile 4, but that was immediately followed by another fun climb.  That process repeated itself pretty much all the way back.  The run was really taking its toll on me, more so than I had predicted.

The course flattened out again around mile 5, but then closed with a final climb that was about a quarter of a mile long.  There had been a guy ahead of me for a while in the last couple of miles, and I had finally gotten within striking distance of passing him.  I threw down everything I had left in the final 200 meters and was able to pass him just before we crossed the line.  When I was behind him, I wasn’t sure if he was in my AG, and I didn’t want to give up a spot to him if at all possible.

My official pace for the run was 7:57, which was bit faster than my GPS pace since my GPS was slightly off on the mileage (6.09).  I was OK with that pace, particularly since the run had felt pretty shitty from start to finish.  Still 6/10 on the run in my age group isn’t good enough, and I still need to improve in that discipline.  Karen and her 800 meter repeats have been helping, but hot, nasty, bad-ass running speed has never been in my DNA, so I’m still a work in progress.  Karen still has her work cut out for her.

Post-Race

After crossing the line and collecting my medal, I grabbed a slice of pizza and then found fellow Pro-K teammate, Justin Koehler, who had finished less than a minute after me.  He’d had a monster run, and his run was the fastest in our age group.  Had the run course been much longer, he would have caught me for sure.

When we checked the results we saw that I was third and he was fourth in the 40-44 AG.  I was happy to be on the AG podium for the second time in two races in 2018, and had missed out on second place by only 23 seconds.  Of course, I immediately began to wonder how I could have been 24 seconds faster on the day.  That’s not a lot of time in a 2.5 hour race, but I felt like I’d left it all out on the course.  I didn’t have anything on my schedule until the Robious Landing Triathlon in late June, so I had some time to do a little more speed work.

monti results

 

Monticelloman podium

 

monti bling

 

“Old, but I’m not that old…”

2018 RTC Sprint Triathlon

Race Report

1:04:46

 3/10 AG     30/328 Overall

April 22, 2018 – USAT rules sort you into age groups based upon your age at the end of the year, not your current age.  Thus, the RTC Sprint was the first triathlon where I had to put the dreaded “40” on my calf.  I still had about two months left in my 30’s, but officially, I was 40 and had been bumped up to the 40-44 age group.

Generally speaking, there’s an advantage to aging up, particularly in running races.  In triathlon, however, the 40-44 age group is one of the fastest, if not the fastest, in a lot of races.  I presume that’s due to the fact that people seem to get into triathlon a little later in life, but whatever the reason, its a fast age group.  I’d never made the AG podium at the RTC Sprint since its a pretty competitive race, so I really didn’t think that I had much of a shot this year.

Typically, my biggest weakness in triathlons is my lack of running speed, so I’d made that the focus of 2018.  Thus, pretty much since the close of the 2017 season, Karen had been working to make me faster.   In reality, it was more about making me “less slow,” but semantics aside, there were a fair amount of track workouts and speed work.    I still couldn’t run a 6 minute mile, but at least I was in shouting distance at 6:26.

Unfortunately, every time I began to get into a good training groove, I got derailed by circumstances outside of my control.  At Christmas, there was a minor illness that took away a week.  In February, everybody in my house got the flu, except for me.  I went contrarian and contracted strep throat, but poor Jillian had the flu twice and ended up in the emergency room.  Even when I wasn’t sidelined by my own illness, the lack of sleep and stress from worrying about everyone else affected my training.

By the end of March we were all illness free, but then I began getting strange pains on my left side near the bottom of my rib cage.  The pains were tolerable, but after they failed to subside after a week or two, I finally told people what was going on.  After a trip to Patient First revealed nothing but normal chest x-rays and lab tests, I finally diagnosed myself (with the help of Google) as having an oblique strain.

The good news was that the pain was bearable and intermittent.  The bad news was that it was an injury that would linger for quite some time without rest – which just wasn’t in the cards.  I nearly healed after several weeks of anti-inflammatories, but then I re-aggravated it doing swim sprints.  Karen cut back my training and my speed work a bit, but soon enough, the RTC Sprint was upon us.  I was excited to see if my winter speed work had paid off, but was a tad concerned about my injury and my recent training limitations.  Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to hold back in the race and was going to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Pre Race

The weather for race day looked really good, even if it was going to be a little bit chilly in the morning.  As always, the alarm went off around 4 a.m., and there was a flurry of dressing, eating and heading out the door.  In 2017 I got stuck with a pretty poor rack position, but this year was much better.  I even arrived early enough to nab the coveted spot at the end of the rack.

rtc rack 2018

Not my pink shirt on the rack….

After setting up my transition area and warming up, I headed inside with lots of time to spare.  It was a little chilly, and I didn’t feel like sitting around outside.  I said hello to Meredith (who was volunteering), and then did some warm up laps in the instructional pool.  Busher was doing the relay, but I didn’t see him before the race.  I did run into his parents on the pool deck, but he must have been occupied elsewhere.

The pool is a pre-seeded start, and in years past, they did a good job of lining everybody up early according to their swim waves.  It was less organized this year, and with about ten minutes to go until the start, there was a mass of people around the pool in no coherent order.  I didn’t think that they’d ever get organized before the start, but miraculously, things came together just in time.  Thus, as soon as Jill Blankenburg sang the National Anthem, we got underway.

jill.jpg

GPS Data

Race Results

Swim- 7:11  (1:48/100m)    3/10 AG

The “open water” pool swim of 400 meters is always interesting in this race, and I’ve yet to have a really good swim.  I pegged 6:50 as my estimated time, and felt as though I was under seeding myself.  I didn’t want to hold anyone up, but apparently, a lot of people overseeded themselves.

RTS swim

You start in groups of ten, and swim eight lengths of the 50 meter pool.  I decided to start myself on the outside (left) of the lane to avoid most of the pandemonium of the swim start, and had no problems in the first 50 meters.  The first turn was to my right, and I hit some congestion as I made my way around the first buoy.

I found some clean water heading back in the other direction, but as soon as I turned around the 100 meter buoy I began catching up to people in the earlier swim waves.  Passing in the pool isn’t like passing on the bike or run course.  Your relative velocity to “lapped traffic” is fairly low, and you have to work pretty hard to get around someone before hitting the next turn buoy.  Otherwise, the person ahead of you is going to take the inside lane around the buoy and you’re going to have to go the long way around, which makes passing even more difficult.  Thus, passing is a chore and can wear you out much faster than you’d like.

For the last 300 meters of the swim, I was constantly catching and trying to pass people who started ahead of me.  This slowed my progress considerably, and made for a disappointing swim.  I finished in 7:11, but felt like I lost at least 30 seconds by getting caught up behind slower swimmers, but was only 1 second slower than last year.  I made a mental note to over seed myself in 2019.  Nevertheless, I was still 3/10 in my AG in the swim, so it wasn’t a total bust.

T1- 1:00    1/10 AG

I exited the pool motivated to get on the bike and to make up for what I considered to be lost time in the pool.  I sprinted to my transition spot, threw on my cycling shoes (without socks), donned my helmet and then took off for the mounting line.  All this was done in exactly one minute, which was the fastest in my AG, and 36 seconds faster than in 2017.  In a sprint race, every second matters, and transitions become that much more important.

Bike – 33:33  (22.4 mph)    2/10 AG

I had one of my strongest ever bikes at the RTC Sprint in 2017 and I was hoping to best my time of 32:56, this time around.  I didn’t feel quite 100% coming into this race, however, so I was skeptical of my chances.  Still I planned to push as hard as possible and see where that left me.

There is a hill immediately out of transition, and then you take a right onto Route 10, which is fairly flat and fast.  I immediately began making good speed, and there were a lot of people from the earlier swim waves to pass on the bike course.  Drafting is illegal, but there is a small “sling shot” effect when you legally pass people ahead of you.

I checked my GPS after turning right near the airport and I saw that I was slightly behind my 2017 pace.  I tried to pick it up a bit, and I played leapfrog with a couple of other guys on the road that runs parallel to the runway.  By the time that I made the right turn on the back side of the airport I’d left them behind, and tackled the small hills without any problems.

The course then winds around towards Route 10, and that’s when I encountered the only problem of the day on the bike.  There was a person flagging traffic, and he was directing it all to the right up ahead of me.  Traffic began to back up, and I was moving faster than the cars ahead of me.  I slowed down, but then realized that I needed to go past the traffic or else I was going to have to come to a complete stop.  I went to the left of the cars and was basically on the center line of the road.  I passed 3-4 cars, and then the flagger waved me to the right.  I knew that couldn’t be correct, having ridden the course 3 times before.  The biker behind me and I finally realized that the flagger was only gesturing to the cars, and that we were supposed to go straight, so we continued on.  The whole experience probably only cost me 10-15 seconds, but got me out of my biking groove just when I felt like I was making up some time.

From there, I turned left onto Ironbridge Road and was not far from the finish line.  I gave it everything that I had left on Ironbridge, but after turning left to head back towards transition, I eased off a bit to lower my heart rate.  A few extra seconds on the bike course would be worth the reduced heart rate heading into T2 and into the run course.  I’d learned that lesson the hard way previously.

T2 :54    3/10 AG

T2 was faster than T1, but still only good enough for third in my AG.  I ran my bike to the rack – finding it quickly with the pink shirt tied to the outside of the rack.  I slipped off my helmet and cycling shoes, threw on my running shoes and my race belt, and then I was off.  By this point, I knew that my overall time was very close to my time from 2017, which I was determined to beat.  Another year older, but I didn’t want to be another year slower.  Thus, it was all coming down to the run.  I wasn’t quite sure if the lost training time and the injured oblique would slow me down, but I was going to give it my best.

Run- 22:11 (7:08 min/mile)   4/10 AG

I completed the run in 22:33 in 2017, which equates to a 7:15 pace.  Prior to the race, I’d asked Karen what she wanted my run pace to be, and she’d told me 7:30 – since that’s what my post-injury training runs had been.  I knew that she’d been taking care of me in preparation for the race, but didn’t think that she actually planned for me to run at that pace.  I’m not sure if she was serious about the 7:30 pace or whether she was goading me, but I was sure as heck going to beat 7:30 if at all possible.

Mile 1 (7:13)

I felt good coming out of T2, and my legs were minimally “heavy” from my bike effort.  I thought to myself, “Ok, we’re good to go,” and then my race belt promptly fell to the ground behind me.  I’d failed to secure it properly, and I had to turn around and go back for it.  So much for getting off to a good start…but I had no one to blame but myself.

After getting my race belt squared away, I took off again and headed down to the soccer fields.  That part of the course is pretty much flat, so I was able to make good time.  I completed mile 1 in 7:13 and was still feeling okay, so all was going according to plan.

Mile 2 (7:06)

Near the start of the second mile, there is a small hill that leads up to the parking lot of the old Ukrops.  Its not terrible, but its pretty much the only uphill portion of the course and it does slow you down a bit.  After cresting the hill, I ran the out and back in the parking lot, and then completed the first loop down by the transition area.  There was a little boost gained while running past the crowd near the finish line, and then I set out on loop number two.

By this point, I was breathing pretty hard but my legs felt fine.  In longer races, its typically the legs that go out on me in the run, but in the shorter races, there’s the hard breathing and the feeling that my chest is going to explode.  I finished the second mile down by the soccer fields and was feeling pretty rough, but the thought of almost being done helped to ease the pain.

Mile 3 (7:07)

I had to deal with the small hill one last time, and it definitely slowed me down more than the first time.  I kept trying to accelerate at the top of the hill, but was having trouble getting going again.  I’d wanted to run a sub-7 minute pace for the remainder of the race after cresting the hill, but I wasn’t able to get my pace up that much until after I hit the turnaround cone in the grocery store parking lot and headed back towards the finish line.

Normally, I make the last left turn and then sprint down the hill through the finishing chute.  I was able to pick up my pace down the hill a little bit, but I just didn’t seem to have the same finishing kick in me this time around.  Still, I finished the run in 22:11, which equated to a 7:08 pace, and it was my fastest ever run at the RTC Sprint.  Not too bad for having aged up.

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Post Race

Overall, I was very happy with my performance, especially since my spring training had been derailed a bit because of sickness and injury.  I was a tad slower on the bike in 2018, but some of that was due to getting caught behind vehicle traffic on Cogbill Road.  Still, my transitions and my run were faster than in 2017, and I was 48 seconds faster overall.  Older, but not slower.

Jillian had a soccer game, so I didn’t have time to hang around long after I finished.  As it turned out, I got third in my age group, so Busher was nice enough to snag my award for me.  This was the first year that I’d been able to make the AG podium in the RTC Sprint, and its a pretty competitive race, so that was a nice bonus.  The number of people racing was down a bit from years past, but a podium is a podium I guess.

Next up for me was Monticelloman near Charlottesville, and I’d had my eye on that race for several years.  I’d decided to do the Olympic distance event, and those will kick your butt pretty hard if you do them right.  I was hoping to go 2/2 in age group podiums in my inaugural year of racing in the 40-44 age group, and only time would tell if that was in the cards.  What was in the cards were heavy rains on the bike and hills…lots and lots of hills.

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Pro K post-race gathering.

“Boy chase a bird, so close but every time, he’ll never catch her, but he can’t stop trying…”

2018 Frostbite 15k

Race Report

1:12:56     (7:50 min/mile)     11/47 AG     127/865 Overall

January 21, 2018 – The Frostbite 15k was my first race of 2018, and I was anxious to see if the speed work that Karen had me doing over the Fall and Winter was paying off.  My doctor friend Tressa, was also running, as were several of Leigh Anne’s friends – Meg, Kristen and Rachel.  There aren’t that many 15k races out there, and its a pretty fun distance.  Long enough to feel like a distance race, but short enough to make you run fairly hard.  I’d done the race in 1:13:37 in 2016 at a 7:54 min/mile pace, and my primary goal was to beat that time.  My secondary goal was to average a 7:45 pace for the 9.3 miles.

Pre-Race

In 2016 it was dumping snow, but the weather this time around was clear.  It was a chilly 40 degrees, but warmer than it could have been for a Saturday morning race in January.  Still, I dressed fairly warm, with long tights and gloves.  I got down to the race site at the Amelia Street School and grabbed my bib, and shortly thereafter I ran into Tressa and her dog, Flicka.  We did a short warm up run, and then ran into Meg, Kristin and Rachel in the portapotty line.  By the time we finished up there, it was time to hop in the starting chute and get ready to race.

Race

GPS Data

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Miles 1-3 (7:51)(7:50)(7:55)

After the gun went off, we took off down a hill and Tressa gradually disappeared as she left me in her dust.  We took a left at the bottom of the hill for a short out and back section.  The first two miles were relatively flat, and I focused on running easy and keeping my heart rate under control.  The course got hillier in the third mile, and I tried maintain a good pace without tiring myself out too early.  I knew that I’d need decent legs when I got back to those same hills near the end of the race.  I had planned to keep my pace for the first three miles between 7:50 and 8:00 – so all was going according to plan.

frostbite start

Miles 4-6  (7:45)(7:42)(7:41)

By the fourth mile, the course began circling the lakes near Maymont park, and the course was a little flatter there.  I’d begun to get fairly warm, so I took off my gloves and shoved them into the side pockets of my tights.  As I was crossing the bridge between Swan Lake and Shields Lake one of them fell out, but I wasn’t inclined to turn around and go back for it.  I did stop to pick it up though, when I crossed the bridge in the other direction around mile 6.15.

I was very pleased with my pacing for miles 4-6, and had managed to run three straight miles at or below my goal pace.  I was feeling pretty good, but fatigue was steadily creeping in.  In the back of my mind was the fact that I’d have to traverse the hilly portion of the course again, culminating with a climb up to the finish line.

Miles 7-9 (7:47)(7:42)(7:38)

The last three full miles were tough, and my pace slipped a bit in mile 7 due to some more hills.  There was a bit more elevation gain in mile 8 than there had been in mile 7, but I was able to push through it in 7:42.  The average pace on my GPS was still creeping down towards 7:45, but I wasn’t quite there and knew that I needed a strong finish.  Mile 9 was slightly flatter than the two before it, and I was able to turn in my fastest full mile of the day at a 7:38 pace.  I was hurting pretty good at that point though.

Miles 9 – 9.4 (7:03 pace)

After passing the 9 mile marker, all I had remaining was a right turn onto Colorado Avenue and then a left turn to head up the final climb towards the finish.  The GPS was showing a 7:48 pace, so I poured on whatever I had left and sprinted up the hill and across the line.  After stopping my Garmin it showed 9.4 miles at a 7:46 pace.  Dang, so close!  Missed it by 1 second per mile – at least unofficially.

A 15k should be 9.3 miles, and my GPS had me dead on 9.3 in 2016.  This time around though I was 0.1 miles long.  Initially, I chalked that up to some zigzagging on the course, but later I compared my GPS map from 2018 to the one from 2016.  There was a slight difference in the course around Fountain Lake at mile 5.2, which seems to account for the longer distance in 2018.  Even so, I still beat my overall time and pace from 2016, but officially, I ran a 7:50 pace instead of the 7:46 pace on my GPS.

Post Race

So, mileage discrepancies aside, I was very happy with my initial race of 2018.  I’d paced myself well and very nearly hit my goal pace (unofficially).  Heck, if I hadn’t had to stop and pick up my glove, I probably would have hit it spot on.  Let that be a lesson to me for overdressing. Irrespective of the pacing, it was good to test my winter fitness level, and having a race on the calendar always keeps me motivated.  My first triathlon of 2018 wasn’t until late April, so I still had plenty of time to continue with my speed work.  Unfortunately, the injury and illness bug was about to set up shop in my house and throw a wrench into my well laid plans.

frostbite

Taking Stock – 2017 Year in Review

By all accounts, 2017 was a very good year for me and continued my upward trajectory in triathlon.  The injury bug had bitten me somewhat in 2016, but by and large, I had been feeling good all year long.  Piriformis issues continued to nag me from time to time, but monthly deep tissue sessions and cupping by my friend Tressa kept that problem under control and helped me stay loose and relatively pain free.  I was frequently sore and tired from training, but overall, I was feeling well.  Staying injury free is becoming tougher and tougher as I age, and being able to train is more important than the training itself.

My main goal for 2017 was to finish Ironman Chattanooga in 12 hours or less, and despite a hot and humid race in September, I’d smashed that goal by more than 23 minutes.  Between the hills, the heat and the humidity, it was definitely the biggest “gut check” I’ve ever had, and provoked emotions over the span of 11 hours and 36 minutes that ranged the entire psychological spectrum.  I suppose that’s the draw of Ironman though…the ability to persevere through the lowest of the lows and to end somewhere above the normal “runner’s high.”

130_3rd-2211159-CERT_US-1818_181614-11757915.JPGAs to my training, 2017 marked the first full year of training with Karen and Erin on the ProK team.  Karen gives me my swim and run workouts and Erin focuses on the bike.  The best thing about coached training is that you are fully accountable for doing the workouts as prescribed.  Somehow, that is the worst thing as well, and the ladies seem to know that shaming me is generally the most effective way of motivating me.  There is a fair amount of constructive criticism, and at times, even praise, but I tend to be able to make myself suffer better with a little goading.  I think they picked up on that fairly quickly, and my nicknames include “Big Baby,” “Clown Baby” and even “Crybaby Clown.”  I can’t question their methods when they get results…

From a training standpoint, I went from 303.37 hours in 2016 to 394.79 hours in 2017.  I’m no mathlete, but I’m pretty sure that equates to a 30% increase in volume.  That was up from 228.79 hours in 2015.  I was doing 4.4 hours per week in 2015, which increased to 5.9 hours per week in 2016, and then to 7.6 hours per week in 2017.  I’m never making it to Kona on 7.6 hours per week, but I’m pleased that I was able to fit that into my work/life schedule.

Sometimes I have to get creative to fit in my training, but mostly, it involves training instead of sleeping so as not to interfere with work and family obligations.  To be honest, I watch a lot of Seinfeld re-runs on the DVR while riding the bike on the Wahoo Kickr in the bonus room at 4:30 a.m.  If I could get to Kona by quoting Seinfeld, my ticket to Hawaii would have been punched a long time ago.  I can tell you that George Costanza’s fake house in the Hamptons had two solariums and horses named “Snoopy” and “Prickly Pete,” but sadly, quoting Seinfeld is not a life skill.

My goals for 2018 focused on making the age group podium in most of my triathlons, along with improving my run speed (as always).  I had no plans to do a full Ironman in 2018, but was planning on scheduling several Olympic distance races and a 70.3 at the end of the season.  Thus, the winter of 2017/2018 was projected to include a fair amount of track workouts. 800 meter repeats were in my future if Karen got her way, and I knew better than to protest too much.  Doing so would only increase the frequency and volume of the 800s, and would be likely to generate text photos of Crybaby Clown.  Honestly though, I just don’t see the resemblance…

 

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“A sweet sweet beauty, but stone stone cold…”

2017 Richmond Half Marathon

Race Report

1:44:30     (7:58 min/mile)     79/386 AG     839/7811 Overall

November 11, 2017 – The Richmond Half Marathon was the last major race on my schedule for 2017.  In actuality, I’d planned on doing the half marathon in 2016, but had upgraded to the full marathon on the fly after Ironman Maryland.  That level of craziness wasn’t in the cards in 2017 though, especially after the marathon at Ironman Chattanooga was done with a heat index in the 90’s.  I had no desire to run another 26.2 in 2017, and thus, I chose to stick with the original 13.1 that I’d signed up for.

I always seem to have my “A” race triathlon in September or October, so the Richmond Marathon/Half Marathon always seems to be something of an afterthought – to the extent that’s possible.  After recovering from IMChoo for 3-4 weeks, I was already into late October, so I didn’t have much time to do much race specific training.  Obviously, I had enough fitness built up to handle 13.1 miles, but my pacing was geared more towards 26.2 miles on tired legs than it was to a standalone 13.1.

I’d run plenty of half marathons when factoring in 70.3 triathlons, but I’d actually only run one standalone half, which was the Love Rox Half Marathon in 2015.  That race was pretty hilly, and there was actually snow on the ground since it took place in February.  I’d done that race in 1:51:31, which equates to an 8:30/mile pace.  I was looking to run 8:00 minute miles this time around, so my goal was anything sub-1:45:00.

Pre-Race

I was running the race alone this time around, and I drove downtown and planned to park at my office, which is located about 10 blocks from the starting line.  I had to move a few traffic cones before I could turn down the side street that takes me to my office parking lot, and then hit the bathroom inside.  It was really cold outside, with the temperature in the 20’s that morning.  The 10 blocks to the starting area served as my warm up, and I took advantage of the bag drop so I’d have some extra clothes to put on after the finish.  I wanted to hit the porta-potties one last time before starting, but by the time I checked my bag, the National Anthem was already playing.

Not wanting to miss the start, I made my way into the starting corral and took up a spot behind the 1:50:00 wave.  I planned to run a tad slower at the beginning, so I didn’t want to get in the 1:45:00 group and get trampled.  I figured that if I caught that group though, I’d have met my pacing goal.

Garmin Data

Course Map

Miles 1-3 (8:25)(8:28)(8:18)

Karen is a big proponent of starting of slow, and instructed me to shoot for 8:30 miles for the first three miles.  As expected, most of the 1:50:00 pace group went right by me after the start, but I resisted the urge to speed up and keep pace with them.  The course was pretty much dead flat as it headed down West Broad Street, and I was having no problems hitting my 8:30 miles.  If anything, I was having trouble holding back.  I was slightly fast on the first two miles, and then ran 8:18 for mile 3 by design.  As always, I was worried about “making up” the time on the back end, so I exercised a small amount of civil disobedience by making the third mile a little faster than the first two.

Just before mile 2.5, the course turned right onto Belvedere Street.  There was a small hill over a bridge near The Diamond, which hits you around mile 19 in the full marathon.  I was thankful that I was hitting that hill so early in my race, and was ready to pick up my pace as I reached the far side.

Miles 4-6 (7:58)(7:57)(7:59)

As soon as my Garmin tripped three miles, I picked up the pace.  By that point, I was about 25 yards behind the 1:50 pace group, which was comprised of about thirty people.  The wind was blowing directly into our faces, not terribly hard, but definitely noticeable.  I was gaining on the group, but tried to tuck in behind them as much as possible to get some relief from the headwind.  After a half mile or so though, I passed the front of the group and slid out ahead of it.

By mile 5, I was still feeling good, but was feeling the first signs of fatigue setting in.  Nothing terrible, but the easy part was definitely over.  I also knew that the hilly portion of the course was coming up once I entered Bryan Park around mile 5.5.  I focused on keeping my breathing under control, and rolled over the first hill in the park without too much difficulty.  There was a little more elevation gain in mile 6, but again, nothing terrible.

Miles 7-9 (8:03)(8:07)(7:53)

Mile 7 was the worst of the course (elevation-wise), but having endured the Hell of Chattanooga a few months prior, it really was’t all that bad.  My pace deteriorated a little, and I was a bit surprised by the fact that Bryan Park seemed to go on and on.  I finally broke out of the park by mile 7.5, and I knew that the course was predominantly flat or downhill from that point forward.  My race had focused on being ready to turn it on once I got out of the park, and even though it was beginning to hurt, I felt like there was still plenty in the tank.

Mile 8 was fairly flat, but I only managed to run an 8:07 mile.  I’m really not sure why it wasn’t faster, but perhaps I was still recovering a bit from the last hill in Bryan Park.  Nevertheless, mile 9 was done in 7:53 as I began my gradual acceleration towards the finish.

Miles 10-12(7:51)(7:46)(7:38)

Miles 10-12 were a gut check, but I was able to consistently drop my pace, even as the pain steadily grew.  I knew that the outcome of my race largely depended upon how I did in those three miles, and that I needed to run below my overall goal pace in order to finish under 1:45:XX.  This was the same part of the course that makes or breaks the full marathon folks, and my mood was only slightly better during the half than it was in years past in running the full.  There is a decent amount of crowd support in those miles, but I was deep in the well of pain, so I pretty much wanted to fight anybody who said that I was almost done.

Since the course was fairly flat, I was able to keep accelerating and I was actually a bit surprised to see my pace creeping down towards 7:30/mile late in the race.  I was bolstered by the fact that the last quarter mile or so was all downhill, and I was able to keep pushing, even as the wheels felt like they were about to fall off.

Miles 13-13.1 (7:06)(6:02 pace)

The last full mile hurt like hell, but I turned in a 7:06, which made me very happy.  My legs felt like they were turning to Jello and the sides starting closing in a bit.  As much as it hurt, I focused on one block at a time and knew that the pain was almost over.

After making the last right turn to head downhill to the finish line, it was a quasi-sprint towards the end.  I was concerned that my quads might give out on the steep descent, and I was passing people left and right as I let gravity take over without braking.  Based upon my Garmin, I felt like I was going to make my sub-1:45:00 goal, but there was still some concern that my unofficial timing might be off.  The last thing I wanted was to run a 1:45:01, so I kept pushing all the way through the finish.  As it turned out, I had 30 seconds to spare, so my pacing had been spot on.  Actually, I should say that Karen’s pacing was spot on.

Post-Race

Upon finishing, I kept moving through the finishing chute and did my best to keep from locking up.  I was feeling pretty famished, so I made my way through the food line and began looking for the bag claim.  Unfortunately, it was way back near the finish line, and by the time I got there, most of the people in my wave had already lined up to get their bags.  I stood there shivering for the better part of an hour to get my bag and some warm clothes.  Had I gone straight to the bag claim after finishing, it probably would have only taken five minutes.  Oh well, live and learn.

After it was all said and done, I felt like my pacing for this race was nearly perfect.  I started out slow and built into my goal pace and beyond, leaving myself 30 seconds to spare.  I was hurting pretty severely at the end, but it left me wondering if I’d left any time on the course and whether I could have run any faster if I’d set my goal a little higher.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Its easy to think that in hindsight after the pain subsides.

As the Richmond Half Marathon ended, so did my 2017 race year.  It ended on a high note, but, as always, it was bittersweet to know that nothing was on the race calendar for several months.  Truthfully, I needed a rest, even though I wasn’t planning on tackling a full Ironman in 2018.  The plan for 2018 was to build speed with shorter races, culminating with a half-Ironman in late 2018, but I was already chomping at the bit to get to the speed work.

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“I’m fired up and tired of the way that things have been…”

2017 Petersburg Halloween 5k

Race Report

23:59     (7:43 min/mile)**     1/9 AG     6/196 Overall

**Actual pace of 6:58/mile based upon GPS distance of 3.44 miles

October 21, 2017 – After having recovered from Ironman Chattanooga for about a month, I decided on the fly to sign up for the Halloween 5k in Petersburg on Saturday, October 21st.  “On the fly” meant registering on Friday at lunchtime, and I was motivated by my plan to spend the 12 months post-IMChoo building my running speed.  Running is my weakest discipline in triathlon, and I was tired of climbing the AG standings in the swim and run, only to slide down on the run.  Thus, 2018 was already planned to be the year of speed work, and there was no use in waiting until the end of the year to start the process.  After a few mouse clicks, I was signed up and ready to run.

The 5k was being held in conjunction with a half-marathon, and a lot of the 5k participants were running in costume.  The thought of running in my Batman costume briefly crossed my mind, but I was looking to run fast, not flashy.  I’d never run a 5k at a 7:00 min/mile pace or faster, so that was definitely my goal, and that pace equates to a 21:45 5k.  My legs were pretty well recovered from Chattanooga, so I thought that I could pull it off if I had a good day.  I definitely didn’t want to report back to Karen with anything above a 7:00 min/mile pace, because I knew the “Big Baby” comments would be copious if I did.

The weather for race day was cool but not cold, and I arrived in Petersburg about an hour before race time.  Due to my late registration, the check-in folks didn’t have my information, so after waiting in line to get my bib for 10 minutes, I had to go back to my car to get my cell phone so that I could show them my confirmation email.  After getting squared away after another wait in line, I did a short warm up to get ready for the race.

Race Results Link

Garmin Data

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Mile 1 (7:08)

While not terribly hilly, the course wasn’t exactly flat either, with 157 feet of elevation gain.  The first two miles were primarily uphill, with the remainder having a slight decline.  Thus, I planned to run the first two miles slightly above a 7:00 min/mile pace and then accelerate downhill towards the finish.

I positioned myself near the front at the start, and when the gun went off, there were about twenty people ahead of me.  About five of them were kids, and most of the kids were pretty much sprinting so I knew that they’d burn out quickly.  There were a few really good runners up ahead though, and a couple of them pulled away fast.  There was a ten year old and an older black gentleman slightly ahead of me, and I tucked in behind them in the first mile.

The course went uphill pretty quickly, then flattened out as we did a 180 degree turn.  It was then uphill once again.  I did my best to take it relatively easy on the hills, and I kept waiting for the ten year old to wear himself out.  He was clearly overrunning the course, and I thought that he’d melt down in the first mile.  I hit the 1 mile point at 7:08, and was right on my pacing goal.  There was certainly some fatigue, but overall, I was feeling okay.

Mile 2 (7:05)

The older gentleman began to gradually pull away from me, and the kid kept on trucking, staying about 10-15 yards ahead.  His breathing was getting more and more labored, as was mine, but I felt like I was pacing properly.  The course took us west on Hinton Street, and there were some rolling hills, but nothing as steep as in the first mile.

Near the end of mile 2 I finally passed the young boy, and I was pretty sure that his goose was cooked because he looked like he was hurting really bad.  Fatigue was definitely setting in for me, but I was comforted by the thought that the final 1.1 miles would be primarily downhill.  I completed mile 2 in 7:05, and was holding my pace very well.

Mile 3 (6:50)

By mile 2.25 we turned right to head north for a block, and then the course made another right turn to head back east towards the finish line.  I was hurting pretty good by that point, but the slight decline made things a bit better.  As did the thought that I was almost done.  There were still a few uphill portions in mile 3, and those obscured my view of the course ahead of me…and what I thought was the finish.

By the time my GPS hit 2.8 miles I had crested the final hill and had started my finishing kick.  Still, I couldn’t see the finish line ahead of me and was wondering were it might me.  My overall pace was hovering just above 7:00 mins/mile, so I kicked it up a notch, knowing that I was almost done.

Mile 3 to 3.44 (6:26 pace)

When my GPS tripped three miles I was still running east and was a couple of blocks south of the finish area near the river.  I was running on fumes by then and my finishing kick was really running out of “kick.” I finally saw a left turn up ahead, but it seemed like it was WAY up ahead, well beyond another tenth of a mile.  In actuality, I hit the left turn at mile 3.3 and I still had another couple of blocks to run to the finish line.

I was pretty well spent by that point, but managed to keep it together based upon a surge of energy that was fueled by a mixture of anger and relief.  I finally crossed the finish line in 23:59 with my GPS reading 3.44 miles.  That’s quite a bit off of 3.1 miles, and I’d done my best to run the tangents so as not to add any extra distance.  Thus, I was convinced that the course was long and that my GPS wasn’t off.

Post Race

After finishing, I immediately found some of the other finishers and compared my GPS to theirs.  Pretty much everybody had 3.44 to 3.5 miles, so I’m quite confident that the course was significantly longer than advertised.  I also posted my thoughts on the actual distance on the race’s Facebook page, and everyone who responded confirmed that they had a similar distance on their GPS.

My actual pace from my Garmin was 6:58 min/mile, which was a PR for me – even if it was unofficial.  I was very happy with that, particularly since I was less than thirty days  out from IMCHoo.  I didn’t stick around the race site very long, but it turned out that I’d won my AG (1/9) and had finished 6/196 overall.  I might have won some cool bling, but I guess I’ll never know since I didn’t stay to collect it.

On another note, the kid who was running ahead of me and who faded at mile 2 ended up finishing about 1.5 minutes after me.  He definitely fell off of his initial pace, but not as much

as I expected, so good for him.  He might have beaten me if he’d paced himself a little better.  Pretty awesome though for a ten year old.

Next up for me was the Richmond Half Marathon in November, where I was trying to run a sub-8:00 minute/mile pace.  I still had some training to do, but felt pretty good with where I was after a good showing in Petersburg.

halloween