Playful Beginnings

2014 Chasing Chicken (Reverse) Triathlon Race Report


 4/11 AG     45/190 Overall

April 6, 2014 – I am ready to take on my first triathlon…I think.  Due to the time of year, it is a reverse triathlon.  Why?  Well, you don’t really want to swim and then get on a bike when it is 50 degrees outside if you can avoid it.  Riding a bike in 50 degree weather can get pretty cold.  More so when you are soaking wet.  Thus, the Chasing Chicken Triathlon was a run-bike-swim format in order to avoid hypothermia in most of its participants.

After my relatively poor showing in the Monument Avenue 10k because of ongoing IT Band Syndrome in my left leg, I had returned to Dr. Young at Ortho Va.  Physical therapy, stretching, ice, home exercises, snake oil and Voodoo magic had failed to markedly improve my ITBS, but thankfully, Dr. Young was ready, willing and able to stick a needle in my knee.  It sounds much worse than it really was, but he did indicate that the cortisone shot would be fairly painful.  I prepared for the worst and avoiding making eye contact with the needle, but it really was not all that bad.  Dr. Young informed me that the shot might work for 7 weeks or 7 years, but either way I was ready to get rid of my nagging knee pain.

Once my knee was taken care of, I had one other major issue to deal with – I swim like a stone.  Sure, I was on the Old Church Swim team when I was 5 or 6 years old, but I never really learned how to swim freestyle.  Granted, the Chasing Chicken Triathlon only required a 300 meter pool swim, but I had never been able to swim more than about 25 meters without gasping for air.  I really needed a crash course on swimming.

Thankfully, the triathlon included a free swimming assessment on a Saturday a couple of weeks before the event.  I was one of about 10 people to attend, and they started with a 300 meter time trial so that we could see where we stood.  At that point, I was wearing baggy swim trunks, but I had purchased a decent pair of Aquasphere goggles.  After struggling with freestyle for the first 50-75 meters, I switched to breaststroke for the remainder of the time trial.  My total time was right at eight minutes, which equates to 2:40/100 meters.  Quite frankly, that was awful.  Due to my swimming ignorance at the time, I didn’t know just how awful it was, so I was less embarrassed than I probably should have been.

Over the next two weeks, I watched swimming videos on YouTube and had one more training session (alone) at the Collegiate Aquatic Center.  I felt like I knew freestyle swimming theory a little better, but I had yet to really put it into practice.  I figured, however, that I could wing it with a 300 meter pool swim, and you can’t exactly drown in a pool with dozens of people watching, can you?

As for my attire, I had invested in a $100 tri-suit so that I would not need to have a wardrobe change in T1 and T2.  After years of avoiding and mocking Spandex, it was a bit odd to squeeze myself into the suit.  I had yet to invest in clipless pedals and cycling shoes for the bike, so I would be biking in my running shoes.  Not the best for pedaling efficiency, but at least I wouldn’t have to change shoes in T1.


The morning of the race was chilly, but tolerable.  I had attended the pre-race briefing the prior afternoon, and I had done my best to memorize the course and the transition layout.  My wife, kids and mom planned on spectating, and they dropped me off early so that I could check in and set up my transition area.  They went to have breakfast while I tried to stay warm by running around.  After over-analyzing my transition setup, and after many trips to the Portapotties (thanks to a nervous bladder), it was finally time to race.

Run – 23:35 (7:37 min/mile) 

Again, this was a reverse triathlon due to the cold weather, so the run was first.  The course was fairly flat, but there were a few moderate inclines to deal with.  My run strategy was actually pretty simple – run 3.1 miles as fast as possible.  I figured that there was no real reason to conserve energy, and that I would be able to recover a bit on the bike.  In hindsight, I think that my strategy was sound, because conserving energy on the run really would not have led to significantly faster bike or swim splits.  Plus, in a sprint distance triathlon, you are really going as hard as possible the entire time.

The run began in four waves, and my age group was in the first wave to take off.  Well, the first off the line was the guy dressed in the chicken suit that everyone was trying to catch – hence the name, Chasing Chicken Triathlon.  I believe that he got a five minute head start…and…I never saw him again.  I guess that shows my level of triathlon fitness at the time, in that, I couldn’t even catch up to a guy in a giant chicken costume.


Anyways, my wave took off, which included the three professional men, and the professionals were out of sight within the first few minutes.  I was really running by feel thanks to no GPS, and my main goal was 24:00 or less.  I felt like I paced myself well, but I was starting to struggle near the end.  Thankfully, when I got back near the Tuckahoe YMCA all the spectators were there cheering, so I was able to finish strong.  I came in at 23:35, which was a somewhat respectable 7:37 per mile average.  Even better, zero knee pain!

chicken run.jpg

T1: 1:40

My bike was pretty much located at the farthest point of the transition area from the run entry, and it took me awhile just to get to it.  I saved some time since I didn’t need to change shoes, and I threw on my helmet and glasses and began pushing my bike to the bike out area.  Once I neared the bike mounting area, my wife started yelling at me to make sure that I crossed the timing mat before I got on my bike.  I heeded her advice, but was not really sure why she was so adamant about it at that time.  I would later learn that two of the three professionals had mounted their bikes prior to the timing mat, and that both of them ended up going over their handlebars in front of the crowd as they crossed it.  If you were wondering, the third pro went to mount his bike, but had a flat tire and had to borrow a spare tube from another racer.  Not the best day for the pros it would seem.

 Bike – 43:09   (18.1 mph)

The first few miles on the bike were cold!  I was thankful to be wearing long sleeves over my tri-suit, but my hands were exposed and were quite chilly.  I began to warm up a few miles into the ride, and the first half of the bike course was reasonably flat.  USAT sanctioned races prohibit drafting on the bike, so I made sure to keep the required distance between other riders and myself in order to avoid a drafting penalty.  One guy and I ended up leapfrogging each other a couple of times, but I finally passed him for good around mile six.

I did have a dozen rides or so under my belt prior to the race, but I was still trying to figure out how to pace myself on the bike.  It takes a while to learn how hard you can sustain an effort for any given amount of miles, but I think that I paced myself pretty well for all twelve miles.  Once I made a right turn onto Patterson Avenue the course got pretty hilly.  It was about that time that the really fit guys from the second wave began to pass me.  I remember being tucked into the drops on my road bike going downhill as fast as I could, only to have some guy on a tri bike blow past me like I was sitting still.  I didn’t have aerobars on my road bike at the time, and the guys in the aero position on their tri bikes had an advantage of several miles per hour.

The last few miles of the bike were constantly up and down hills, with several “single digit” hills mixed it.  I didn’t know that Patterson Avenue was so hilly, but I was forced to switch into my small chain ring several times.  When I was about a quarter mile from the entrance to the YMCA, my front tire made a weird noise.  I presumed that I hit a rock since there was loose gravel near the shoulder of the road, and I was waiting for my tire to go flat.  Thankfully it stayed inflated, and I took the right turn into the YMCA and biked up the hill to the transition area.

chicken bike

T2: 2:19

My assigned transition spot once again seemed to be the point farthest from the bike in and swim out area, and I certainly did not have a lightning fast transition.  I parked the bike, took off my long sleeved shirt and shoes, and and grabbed my goggles.  It was then a run of approximately 100 yards or so back down the hill and inside the YMCA to the pool.

 Swim – 7:21  (2:27/100m)

I strapped my goggles on as I crossed the timing mat inside the YMCA and hopped into the pool (no diving allowed).  The 300 meter swim consisted of an up and back of all six lanes in a “snake” format.  Once you completed an up and back, you ducked under the lane line into the lane to your left.  Rinse and repeat until you made it all the way to the left side of the pool.

I was determined not to swim any breaststroke, and I made it the first 150 meters doing freestyle.  When I reached the halfway point, I actually caught up to two guys ahead of me – a minor miracle for sure.  The standard pool swim protocol is to tap the person’s leg ahead of you if you want to pass, which I did.  I kept waiting for him to let me pass at a wall, but he just kept swimming.  I would have simply gone around him, but there was someone immediately ahead of him, and people are swimming both ways in each lane.  Thus, I would have had to go into oncoming traffic and pass two guys at once in  order to go around.  Unfortunately, there was never a big enough break in the oncoming traffic for me to do so, so I ended up swimming breaststroke for the second 150 meters simply because I got held up.

After twelve lengths of the pool I had finally completed 300 meters (39 seconds faster than my time trial – even though I got held up), along with my first triathlon.  It may not have been a “real” triathlon since it was reversed, but I wasn’t going to quibble over such details at the time.  I hopped out of the pool, grabbed my orange finisher’s towel and dove into the free bagels and Oreos.  Breakfast of champions to be sure.

Post Race

After milling around a bit with my family and grabbing a few extra Oreos for the kids, I went to retrieve my bike from the transition area.  I was shocked to find my front tire completely flat, and I must have punctured the tube when I struck that rock near the end of the bike course.  I was fortunate, in that it was a small, slow-leaking puncture, which is a bit out of the ordinary.  When a bike tube gets a hole, it typically deflates rather quickly since it is under so much pressure (90-110 psi).  I would learn that fact the hard way in my first race of the 2015 season, but we’ll get to that fiasco soon enough.

I chose not to wait around for the awards ceremony, presuming (correctly) that I was not a podium candidate.  Still, I did finish 4/11 in my age group, so I was not as far off of the podium as I thought, and I was encouraged by my placing.  I was tired but not exhausted, and I was done with the race by 10 a.m.  Sprint triathlons are nice, in that they don’t take up your entire day.  They can, however, be quite painful in the moment if you are redlining yourself for the 60 to 90 minutes that it normally takes to complete them.

So, that was it for triathlon #1, and I had definitely caught the triathlon bug.  Triathlon #2 would be the I Love the Tavern Triathlon in June 2014, which featured a river swim and a longer bike leg.  Unfortunately, I would learn in that race that running off the bike is not at all like running on fresh legs.  More importantly, my lack of “brick” sessions in training would result in a dramatically slower run split at the Tavern.

“The playing time is won, but the difficulty’s coming here.”

2014 Monument Avenue 10k Race Report

 48:58 (7:52/mile)

230/1323 (AG)     2017/27,200 (Overall)

March 29, 2014 – Its time for the Monument Avenue 10k, but I certainly do not feel ready.  In fact, I am actually racing against the advice of my orthopedist, my friends and my family.  As you may recall, I injured my left knee during the Xterra Monster Dash 15k on February 22nd, and I am not yet recovered.  In fact, I have only run twice since the 15k, which was more than a month ago, and I was in pain both times.  Not debilitating pain, but pain nonetheless.

Thankfully, it turns out that my ailment is Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) and not a reoccurrence of my leg tumor from high school.  ITBS creates pain on the outer side of the knee, and is common in runners.  The Iliotibial band runs from the hip to just below the knee, and when it is tight, it rubs the outside of the knee and becomes inflamed.  Repeated motion causes and worsens the pain, which is why my pain started slowly during the 15k and gradually got worse.  During my only two training runs between the 15k and the 10k I started out pain free, but the pain began to creep in by mile two or so, gradually getting worse.


On the upside, ITBS is not the worst injury to have – all things considered.  On the downside, rest, stretching and ice are the only ways to really fix it, and ITBS can be a nagging injury that lingers for a long time.  After the pain failed to go away after a few weeks, I managed to squeeze in a visit with Dr. Young at Ortho Va.  It certainly helps to have a law partner who has Dr. Young on speed dial, otherwise I might still be waiting for an appointment.  Anyways, Dr. Young confirmed that ITBS was my issue, and that physical therapy was in order.

After three early morning visits to the physical therapist, I decided that I could do the same exercises at home.  Not only would that save me from missing time at work, it would also save me the $35.00 copays.  I also purchased a foam roller from Amazon, which helps stretch the IT Band.  Foam rolling is painful at first, but once you get used to the process, it actually feels nice.

It was also about this time that I was in the market for new running shoes.  I had heard that it was a good idea to get fitted for shoes at a running shop, but I had never put much stock into that idea.  On my wife’s advice, I stopped into the Lucky Foot store off of Hull Street Road, and it turns out that her advice was sound.  I explained my ITBS issue to the salesperson, and he had me run across the store and back.  In that little time, he diagnosed me as an over-pronator, which was probably the cause of my ITBS.  To make things worse, my old Nike shoes had a “design defect” which actually increased pronation due to a cut-out area of the sole.  Thus, I left the store with a new pair of running shoes with “dynamic support” to reduce over-pronation.

Ok, so enough back story on ITBS, on to the Monument Avenue 10k.


As always, the packet pickup for the 10k was at the Arthur Ashe Center, and I got my race packet on Friday night.  They make you wind through a maze of vendors to get your bib and bag of goodies, and I got a bit sidetracked looking at some of the ITBS products.  At one booth, a salesman offered to massage my IT Band with “The Stick.”  My general rule is to avoid free massages from men and their sticks, but I decided to take a leap of faith since he promised ITBS relief.  There were also hundreds of people around, so I figured that it was safe enough if “The Stick” was merely a euphemism for something more sinister than an ITBS product.  While “The Stick” massage felt ok, I really did not feel like the product was worth nearly $50, so I thanked him for his time and passed.

the stick


A litter farther into the expo I found a leg wrap that is supposed to prevent IT Band pain during exercise, so I did splurge on that item, and it was far cheaper.  The wrap was not a cure, but essentially holds the IT Band in a spot that prevents it from rubbing and becoming more inflamed.  After finally winding my way through the vendor booths, it was time to make my exit.

When I woke up on race morning, it was relatively warm, but it was dumping rain.  I watched the radar over coffee and oatmeal, and thankfully, it looked like there might be a small break in the rain at race time.  I headed downtown alone since the kids had soccer games later in the day, taking an old rain jacket with me to dispose of at the starting line.

Anyone who has ever participated in a running race has probably read or been told – “nothing new on race day.”  This is sound advice, which I seem to reject at every occasion.  On March 29, 2014 I was wearing my brand new “dynamic support” running shoes, and I also had the aforementioned IT Band wrap around my left leg.  The instructions said to make it tight, and I didn’t want it slipping off mid-race, so that sucker was on tight.  I found my way to my starting wave and waited to hit the starting line after stashing my rain jacket behind a trash can.


I really did not have high expectations for the race since my training had been limited due to my injury.  That being said, I was still hoping that I might be able to replicate my time of 47:10 from 2007 (when I trained for four months for that one particular race).  To do so, I would need to average 7:35/mile, which was probably optimistic.  I had no GPS, so I would be relying solely on my Walmart Casio watch to monitor my pace with the stopwatch function.  The first few miles are always easy, but the minutes/mile math can get challenging late in races.

When I ran the Monument Avenue 10k in 2007, my goal was to average 7:59/mile or better, and I went out way too fast – clocking 7:15 for the first mile.  I suffered mightily during the second half of that race, and I was determined to pace myself better this time around and to try for a negative split.  Thus, when my wave took off, I made sure that I did not go out too hot, which is easy to do when you are full of adrenaline.

My first mile was somewhere around 7:40, which was in line with my negative split plan.  Unfortunately, once I got to mile two my left foot began going numb.  I was not sure if that was from the new shoes, the left leg wrap or both, but it started getting quite severe and I was worried about having to stop.  I decided to rip the wrap off of my left leg, and over the next mile or so, the feeling began to return to my left foot.  I had apparently put the wrap on too tight, because I didn’t have that problem on subsequent runs with the wrap.

By the time I hit the 5k point, I was 24:09 into my race, which equates to 7:46/mile.  I had a lot of work to do if I was going to make it home in 47:10, and as I did the math in my head, I realized that it was not going to be a possibility.  Even though I was pacing myself better this time around, I simply did not have the fitness to match my 2007 time thanks to my injury.  To make things worse, the pain started to creep into the outside of my left knee around mile four.  It never got as bad as it was during the 15k the month before, but it didn’t make the final few miles all that pleasant.  At least the rain had largely held off, whereas it was just a light drizzle.

The final two miles were mentally and physically challenging, and my pacing continued to go south as the pain in my knee increased.  I ultimately made it my goal to finish under 49 minutes, and I once again found myself struggling mightily in the home stretch.  I recall Highway to Hell playing on my Ipod, which seemed appropriate at the time, and I think I hit repeat at least once.  As I neared the finish line, I double checked my watch and saw that I really needed to finish strong in order to meet my revised goal of 49 minutes.

I really did not have much in the tank at that point, but I was able to quicken my pace for the last .2 miles.  Once I saw the finish chute, I realized that I might have a photo finish with my 49 minute time goal, and I was able to cross the timing mat in a sprint.  Final time – 48 minutes 58 seconds.  I made it by two seconds, but that was a consolation prize to be sure.

Post Race

After recovering in the finish chute, I headed over to the 10k backdrop for the obligatory finisher’s photo and then retrieved my rain jacket, which was exactly where I left it.  On queue, the bottom fell out of the clouds and the heavy rain started up again.  I suppose that was the silver lining to my day, which was largely forgettable otherwise.  From there, I hit up the McDonalds drive through for some much needed coffee and an egg McMuffin, and then headed to the Chester YMCA to watch the kids play soccer in the rain.  The next race on my calendar was going to be my first triathlon, and I was really hoping to be pain free by that point.  Little did I know, that a needle was in my near future.