“And the calm, away by the storm is chasen…”

2015 Richmond Rox Half-Iron Triathlon

Race Report


 6/8 AG     23/73 Overall

October 4, 2015 – The Richmond Rox half iron distance triathlon was my last tri of the year, and was intended to be somewhat of a litmus test for my overall conditioning level.  I had already completed the Ironman Raleigh 70.3 race in May in searing heat, so I was looking to see if I could best my time in cooler conditions.  I had also signed up for the Richmond Marathon in November, and I was trying to train for that in conjunction with the Richmond Rox race.  My primary focus was on the triathlon, but I had been extending my long runs to prepare for the marathon as well.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Joaquin decided to head up the east coast on race week, and I was anxiously watching the weather forecast, fearing that the race would be cancelled.  In fact, Ironman Maryland was scheduled for the same day, and it had to be pushed back two weeks due to excessive flooding.  A day or two before the race it was announced that the triathlon would be turned into a duathlon, whereas the James River was in flood conditions.  Thus, the 1.2 mile river swim would be replaced with a two mile run.

Run 1: 13:20 (6:40/mile) 

With the swim being replaced with a “two mile” run, this would be my first duathlon.  I really didn’t know what the appropriate strategy should be for run 1, and whether I should go easy or hard.  I decided to do something in between, and figured that running near a 10k pace should suffice.  I didn’t want to give up too much time to others in my age group, but I also didn’t know how running instead of swimming was going to affect my half marathon at the end of the race.

Run 1 began from inside an old building outside the transition area, and I was in a group of about 40 that started at the same time.  The run took us away from Rockett’s Landing and back towards Richmond on the Capital Trail, and rain was falling, but the whipping wind was more concerning.

I took off at a good clip, but there were a few guys who looked like they were shot out of a cannon.  I was running along with the first third of the field or so, and even though I had been cold standing around at the starting line, I warmed up pretty quickly once I got going.  Run 1 was a straight out and back, and before I knew it, I hit the turnaround cone beneath the elevated train tracks along Dock Street.  My GPS read a little more than .8 miles, so I knew then that the course measurement was incorrect.  That, or my GPS was off.  This was my first race with my second-hand Garmin 910, so I wasn’t sure whether to believe the GPS or not.

I kept a steady pace on the way back in, and the run took us straight back to the “run in” portion of transition area.  When I hit the lap button on my GPS to signal the start of T1, it showed 1.71 miles – a fair amount short of the 2 miles claimed by the race officials.  Run 1 had taken me 13:20, which equated to a 7:47 pace on my GPS.  That is a little slower than my 10k pace, and I felt slightly winded, but still pretty good.  The race results had me running a 6:40 pace based upon a two mile course, but the course (and not my GPS) was obviously off.  Had I run a 6:40 pace for two miles, I would have been a lot more winded upon entering T1.

T1: 2:45

The transition area was fairly large, and was laid out on an elevated concrete slab.  It took me awhile to make it to my bike, and while I didn’t dillydally in transition, I didn’t rush either.  Half Iron distance races are long, and I wanted to make sure that I got everything correct.  Due to the cooler temperatures and the wind, I decided to throw on a short sleeved cycling jersey over my tri suit.  I am cold natured, and the prospect of shivering for 56 miles was not enticing to me.  I saw many people wearing long sleeves, and even rain jackets in transition and during the ride.

After getting situated, I began a long run towards the “bike out” area.  The concrete transition area was wet, and it was difficult to run quickly in cycling cleats without falling.  I finally made it to the timing mat, straddled my bike and took off.


 Bike: 2:50:17 (19.8 mph)

Prior to the race, I had purchased a rear disc cover for my Zipp 404s from Wheelbuilders.com.  At $100, it was far cheaper than a full carbon disc, but nearly as aerodynamic.  I had ridden with the disc cover once in a training ride (in calm conditions), but never during a race.  Given the windy conditions expected in the forecast, I was on the fence of whether I should use the disc cover on race day.  Just like a kid with a new toy at Christmas, however, I just had to play with it.

The first two miles out of transition on Route 5 were all uphill, and the going was slow.  I knew that I had a long windy ride ahead of me, and I took those miles to get my legs warmed up and to test out the handling of my bike with the rear disc cover.  The wind was really blowing, and I was concerned about a gust hitting the disc and shoving me off the road.  The wind was coming out of the northeast, and since I was initially heading southeast, it was coming from my left.

Once I climbed away from the river and got moving a little faster on level ground, I really noticed the benefit of the rear disc.  The sound of wind whipping through spokes was replaced with a totally different sound.  Its hard to describe, but I guess its the sound of speed.  I headed southeast for the first 9-10 miles, and even though I had a two mile climb and a cross-wind, I still averaged 20.6 mph for the first five miles and 21.1 mph for miles 6-10.  I was feeling good and loving the disc.  I did have to be careful to maintain a firm grip on the aerobars, however, because I was getting shoved around a bit.

Miles 10 – 25 brought me back down to Earth, and began to challenge me mentally and physically.  After turning left, there was a fifteen mile stretch that was pretty much straight into the wind.  My pace fell to 19 mph, even though I felt like I was pedaling much harder.  It took me approximately forty-seven minutes to make it those fifteen miles, and I was very happy when I finally made a right turn onto Route 106 to head southwest.  That turn finally put the wind at my back.

By this point the rain had begun to pick up, but I felt pretty warm due to my level of exertion, coupled with the double layering of my tri suit and cycling jersey.  Miles 25-34 were largely with the wind, and I averaged around 22 mph during that productive clip.  The only mishap came just after mile 34 during a right turn.  I was going a little too fast and thanks to the wet road, my bike slid out from under me.  I scraped up my rear derailleur and my saddle a bit, but somehow I managed to avoid anything but minor injuries and some wounded pride.  I was back on my bike before I stopped moving, and off once again.

The remaining 20ish miles were tough, and I had a constant head or cross-wind.  The wind also felt as though it was getting stronger, and the rain picked up once again with about ten miles to go.  I remember the last five miles back to transition being particularly windy and rainy, and those were the only miles of the day where I was challenging my decision to go with the disc cover on the rear wheel.  It got to the point where I didn’t feel comfortable in being in the aero position, and put my hands back on the hood for better control and stability.

The final two miles back down towards the transition area were the worst, and I ended up riding the brakes a bit because the wind kept shoving me to my left.  I’m sure that I gave some time back to the field over those two miles, but I really didn’t feel like having a second (and undoubtedly, more severe) spill.  I was very thankful when I got back to the transition area, and after a tough windy and wet ride, I was happy to be getting off the bike with just one minimal crash to my tally.

T2: 3:35

I’m not really sure why I spent so long in T2, because 3:35 is a pretty slow transition, even with a large transition area.  Again, it was tough to run in cycling cleats on the wet concrete, but I should have been able to transition in under three minutes.  I did have to take off my cycling jersey, but my T2s are almost always faster than my T1s.  I guess I was just a bit dazed from all of the wind and rain.

Run 2: 2:03:31 (9:25 min/mile  **official**) (9:03 min/mile  **actual**)

 My goal for the 13.1 mile run was sub two hours, which is a 9:07 min/mile pace or quicker.  I had run a 2:05 half marathon off the bike in Raleigh in 90+ degree temperatures and direct sunlight in May, but I had faded hard during the back half of that run due to the heat.  I felt pretty confident that I could run below two hours in Richmond given the cooler temperatures, even though the wind was blowing pretty hard.  I settled into an 8:45 pace out of transition, and I was hoping to hold that pace for as long as possible.

I am not a fan of the two-loop Richmond Rox run course, and there is a long gradual climb up past Legend’s Brewery on the south side, which seems to go on forever.  You then lose all of your elevation that you worked so long to gain in less than a half-mile, only to have to repeat the long upgrade once again on loop two.  The first portion of half iron run course utilized the Olympic distance course that I had completed in 2014, so I was familiar with it.  That portion of the course was well marked and had one or more volunteers at every turn.  I’d learn, however, that the back half of the course would be a different story.

For the first three miles, I was on the Olympic distance course with a lot of other runners.  After passing the turnaround cone for the Olympic distance runners, however, the crowd thinned out dramatically.  I was doing pretty well with my pacing up to that point, but I had to cross the Lee Bridge to get back to the north side of the James River.  It was about two-thirds of a mile across the bridge, and the wind was blowing right into my face (as it always does when running north on that bridge).  My pacing fell to about 8:58 min/mile, even though my effort level felt like it had increased significantly, and I was thankful when I finally hit solid ground on the far side.

I was in uncharted territory on the run upon returning to the north side, but my memory of the course map made me think that I would be turning right onto Byrd Street.  There was an aid station just across the Lee Bridge, and I asked the volunteers there where the next turn would be.  The response that I received was “somewhere up there.”  I proceeded on up Belvedere, thinking that there would be a sign or a volunteer pointing me in the right direction.

When I reached Byrd Street, there were no signs and no volunteers.  I did see a group of eight or so runners ahead of me, and they were still headed north on Belvedere.  Figuring that they could not all be wrong, and not wanting to get disqualified for cutting the course, I decided to follow them.  They eventually turned right onto Franklin Street, and so did I, even though I still had not seen any course markers.  By that time I was pretty worried about being off course, but I knew for sure that the course headed back down towards Brown’s Island via 5th Street.  We all then hung a right onto 5th Street and headed towards the river.

Just before we reached the intersection of 5th and Byrd, a group of five runners came off of Byrd Street from our right and turned onto 5th Street ahead of us.  I knew then that we’d gone off course, which was quickly confirmed by the other runners.  They indicated that a volunteer with a flag had told them to turn right onto Byrd Street – but that volunteer had not been there when my group had gone by.

It turned out that I had run an extra eight blocks, which sent my mood into a very dark place.  Ultimately I’d learn that I’d gone more than a half-mile out of my way, which cost me about four to five minutes.  I kept telling myself to let it go and to focus on the eight or so miles that remained, but that was easier said than done when I was trying to re-pass a couple of guys that I had overtaken in the first few miles of the run.

From there, the course wound around near Brown’s Island and then back towards the turnaround cone on Dock Stret.  I almost went off course a few more times because there were no volunteers on that portion of the course, and some of the directional signs were literally a few inches across and were stuck at random places on the ground.   I finally hit the turnaround cone at mile 7.20 on Dock Street, and turned around to head back uphill for loop two.

By that point, fatigue was really starting to set in and I knew that I would be positive splitting the run.  There was no respite from the wind, and I was dreading the long steady climb up past Legend’s, followed by the wind tunnel that would be the Lee Bridge.  My pacing began to slip as my body and mental state continued to decline, and I began fading to 9:00 – 9:25 minute miles.

When I got to the intersection of Belvedere and Byrd Street for the second time, there was a volunteer sitting in a lawn chair holding a flag – who had not been there on my first loop.  I resisted the urge to say something impolite to him, and turned right onto Byrd Street and started downhill.  It was mostly downhill back to Brown’s Island, and then the course flattened out on Dock Street on the way back towards Rockett’s Landing.

In looking at my GPS, I knew that a sub-two hour run was no longer in the cards, and the wheels were starting to come off.  I tried to hold it together as best I could down Dock Street, but mile 13 was run at a 9:24 pace.  When my GPS clicked to 13.1 miles I should have been done, but I still had more than a half mile to go thanks to my unfortunate detour.  Sadly, my brain told my body that the race was over since I’d covered a half marathon, and my body started shutting down.  Its a weird feeling, and more than just feeling tired, its a feeling of being physically unable to keep moving forward at anything much more than a walk.

Coincidentally, this was pretty much the same area of Dock Street where my body had shut down during the Olympic distance race a year prior due to my nutrition failure.  I tried to continue running, but every ounce of my body was telling me to walk.  It had simply had enough punishment on a rainy and windy day and was through.  I fought the urge to walk, but was only able to manage a slight jog towards the finish line after my 13.66 mile “half marathon.”

Officially, my run time was 2:03:31, three-and-a-half minutes slower than my goal.  My consolation was knowing that I would have run the half marathon in about 1:58, but for my half mile detour.

Race Link

Garmin GPS Data


Post Race

Given the weather conditions, I didn’t stick around the race site very long after finishing, having had my fill of rain and wind for the day.  Leigh Anne and the kids had come out towards the end of the race to see me finish, and I was glad that they hadn’t waited around the course for six-plus hours.

The race was fairly bittersweet for me, whereas my bike split was slightly slower than in Raleigh.  I actually felt as though I’d had a stronger bike effort at Richmond Rox, but the crazy amounts of wind and rain had affected my split.  I definitely had a better run (officially and unofficially) in Richmond than in Raleigh, and the cooler temperatures surely helped.  I was still disappointed though, that my official run time still exceeded two hours.

The Richmond Rox half iron distance triathlon marked the end of my 2015 triathlon season.  Nevertheless, I still had the Richmond Marathon on my calendar six weeks later.  I had never run a marathon, and I had been trying to train for it in conjunction with my training for Richmond Rox.  The triathlon was my primary focus during training, so the upcoming marathon was something as an afterthought – as much as a marathon can be an afterthought.  I still had six weeks to finish my marathon preparation, but smack dab in the middle of those six weeks was our family vacation to Disney World.

So…….while Richmond Rox was not a smashing success for me, I felt as though my overall conditioning and racing had improved since Ironman Raleigh 70.3 a few months prior.  Given the cancelled swim and the vastly different racing conditions, however, it was certainly not an apples to apples comparison between those two races.  From a training standpoint, two half iron distance triathlons in 2015, plus the upcoming marathon were going to be a solid base for my 2016 season – which was set to culminate with Ironman Maryland on October 1, 2016.  Nevertheless, there was no time to look that far ahead with 26.2 miles of marathon running coming right around the corner.

“On my way crack lightning and thunder, I hid my head and the storm slipped away…”

2015 Jefferson Sprint Triathlon

Race Report


 2/6 AG     18/136 Overall

July 11, 2015 – Being a UVA grad, Charlottesville is very near and dear to my heart.  Given that I was going to be home alone on the weekend of July 11th, I decided to sign up for the Jefferson Sprint Triathlon there.  This would be my first triathlon in Charlottesville, and it would take place at Fry Spring’s Beach Club via Charlottesville Multisports.  I still cannot grasp the “Beach Club” portion of the name, because, while there is a 50 meter pool, there is no beach anywhere in the vicinity.

In preparation for the triathlon, I had reviewed the course maps and the prior year’s times for the finishers in my age group.  Based upon the bike and run splits, I felt as though I would be competitive for a podium spot.  In particular, there were hardly any 20+ mph bike splits in the entire field.  I noticed that the bike course has some elevation changes, but sometimes its hard to get a good grasp on the topography by simply reviewing course profiles or GPS data.  I knew that Charlottesville had some hills, but I guess I forgot just how hilly it could be in some places.

Pre Race

The night before the race, I strapped Blue to the back of my car, equipped for the second time with my new (to me) Zipp 404 wheels.  The weather was nice at that time, but the forecast was calling for storms overnight.  When I woke up the next morning, all hell was breaking loose outside – there were torrential downpours, lots of wind and even thunder.


Ready to rock the Zipp 404s for the second time.

As I headed up I-64 to Charlottesville, I continued to go in and out of areas of heavy rain.  At points, I was travelling 45 mph or less just to be able to see the road ahead of me.  By the time that I finally pulled in to the Beach Club the worst of the weather had abated, but steady rain was still falling.  I sat in my car for a few minutes to see if the rain would slow, but since it showed no signs of doing so, I decided to go ahead and get wet while I set up my transition spot.

The transition area was in grass, which had basically turned into a giant puddle.  In certain sections it was a mud pit.  Thankfully, I had the foresight to bring a plastic grocery bag to put my running shoes in, but there was still little hope that they would stay completely dry.  After setting up, I checked in at the main building, which was certainly past its hey-day in terms of age.  The biggest concern for a lot of folks was the bathroom situation, whereas there were no portapotties outside.  The men’s room in the building had two urinals and two normal toilets, but the toilets were not screened off, so privacy was totally lacking.  I was thankful that I did not have a major bathroom situation to attend to on race morning, and the lack of portapotties was inexcusable.

Soon enough, it was time to gather near the pool for last minute race instructions and the National Anthem.  It was pretty chilly standing around in the rain, but the water in the 50 meter pool was pretty warm.  Thus, I was one of several racers who hung out in the pool during the announcements.  By that time, the rain had slowed down, but it was still coming down.

Swim      6:33 (1:52/100 m) 

The 50 meter pool had seven lanes, and participants started from opposite sides of the pool on the same end.  You would then serpentine through three 100 meter laps, moving one lane closer to the middle of the pool at the completion of each lap.  Swimmers from opposite ends would basically meet in the middle lane, and then proceed to the far end, for a total of 350 meters.

We were sorted by even/odd numbers, and since I was bib 55, I was about the 27th person in the water from my side of the pool.  With a pool swim, your bib number is determined by the estimated swim time that you listed when you signed up, and there is always the chance that you will be surrounded by people who seeded themselves poorly, which results in a traffic jam.  Thankfully, the people around me and I had all seeded ourselves correctly, and there was no passing or being passed during my swim.

I had previously encountered issues with my heart rate spiking at the beginning of swims, but I felt calm when I entered the water and tried not to over swim the first half of the course.  I was feeling really good throughout the entire swim, and began swimming harder for the last lap and a half.  Before I knew it, my 350 meters came to a close, and my watch read 6:28 when I hit the end of the final lap.

The timing mat was a few meters beyond the edge of the pool, and it took me a few seconds to get out of the water and to get across it.  My official time was 6:33, which equates to 1:52/100 meters.  I had swam 1:48/100 meters at the Groundforce IT triathlon a month or so prior, but that was a 300 meter course in a 25 meter pool.  Thus, I was very happy with my swim time as I headed away from the pool and up towards the transition area.

T1: 2:21

The transition area was up a long hill away from the pool, and you basically had to run to the far side of transition to get inside.  As such, I had a relatively long T1 of 2:21, but I certainly wasn’t dillydallying.  The run through transition to my bike was essentially like running through a swamp, and I threw on my (already soaking wet) bike shoes without socks.  On went the helmet, and off I went to the Bike Out area.  Just prior to the exit of T1 there was a massive mud puddle, which was impossible to avoid.  Muddy water went everywhere, but it didn’t concern me since the rain that was still falling would wash it off anyways.

 Bike      40:26 (18.5 mph)

After coming out of the Fry Spring’s Beach Club, there was a fairly steep downhill portion to the main road.  There were leaves and small branches everywhere from the storm, and water was actively running down the roadway, which I tried to avoid.  I learned very quickly that the bike ride was going to be precarious because I was losing traction as I pedaled down that first hill.  There were several “pucker” moments during the first descent, and I finally decided that it was too dangerous to pedal hard because I kept losing traction and I didn’t want my back wheel to come around on me.  I basically ended up letting gravity do most of the work, and the course flatted out a bit after turning onto the main road.

The flat portion didn’t last very long, and the out-and-back course was nothing more than one hill after another.  I’d spend a few minutes pumping up a hill, followed by a speedy and dangerous descent down the other side.  Basically it was up-down and then rinse and repeat all the way out to the turn around cone, and then the same thing in reverse order coming back in.

There weren’t a ton of people on the bike course ahead of me, but I did overtake several people.  One or two guys blew past me in the early miles, and they seemed like incredible bikers.  I was up out of my saddle quite a bit going up the hills, and I did my best to gain as much speed as I was comfortable with on the downhill sections.  Again, however, I rode relatively conservatively downhill because I just didn’t want to tempt fate and crash on the wet roads.  The entire bike course was littered with broken branches and leaves, and there were several areas of standing water that had to be avoided as well.

After what seemed like a lot more than 12 miles, I made my way back to the road that led up to the Beach Club.  That road had been scary on the way out/down, and it certainly wasn’t a whole lot of fun to climb back up.  After riding back up the hill, I saw volunteers waving me back towards transition, and then it was off my bike and back into the swamp of the transition area.  My legs were pretty taxed from the constant climbing on the bike course, but I still felt like I had a good run left in me, and I was glad to get off the bike in one piece.

Overall, the 40:26 that I spent on the bike only put me at an 18.5 mph pace.  The pace suffered quite a bit from the hills and my cautious riding on the downhill sections, but was still good enough for the 15th fastest split of the day.

T2: 59

At 59 seconds, T2 was much faster than T1, but primarily since there was no long run up a hill from the pool involved.  My bike was racked, my helmet was removed and I threw on my (soaking wet) shoes sans socks.  My bib was already attached to my race belt, which I grabbed and strapped on during my run out of transition.

Run      23:48 (7:56 min/mile)

 Again, I lived in Charlottesville for four years, but I had completely misremembered how hilly it is.  The first half-mile of the run course was relatively flat on Jefferson Park Avenue as we headed towards the UVA campus.  After turning left onto Stribling Avenue, I ended up on a gravel trail outside of an electrical station.  The trail had a very steep downhill portion, and I had to be mindful of taking it too fast and toppling over.  I remember “braking” all the way down the hill, but once I got to the bottom, the real fun began.

The gravel trail ended and we crossed Route 29 near the Fontaine Research Park.  Mile 2 was pretty much all uphill, and winded around past my old second year residence on Appletree Road, and then up to Stadium Road.  I was determined to maintain a steady pace on the long uphill climb, and I was able to pass a few runners who had slowed to a walk.  By that time, I had mentally set a goal of 24 minutes for myself on the run, which would have been no problem on a flat course.  The hills, however, were definitely slowing my pace.

After reaching the crest of a hill on Stadium Road, I knew that the worst was behind me, and it was downhill to the right turn onto Maury Avenue, which then became Jefferson Park Avenue after crossing Route 29 again.  From the intersection of JPA and Route 29, it was then mostly uphill all the way back to the Beach Club.

The brief downhill portion had allowed my legs to recover a bit, and I was able to pick up my pace going back uphill towards the finish line.  In looking at my watch, I knew that it was going to be close for a sub-24 minute finish, and by the last few hundred yards I was running as hard as I could.  I turned back into the Beach Club property and finished the run in 23:48 as I crossed the final timing mat – with 12 seconds to spare.



The rain had basically stopped by the time that I finished the run, and I milled around for awhile and waited for the results to start coming up.  As the printouts began to be posted, I noticed that I was being listed as second in my AG.  Since the results were preliminary, I told myself not to get too excited, because they were certainly subject to change.  There could have been someone that started the swim well after me, but who still had yet to finish, and was going to knock me down the AG standings.  After about an hour, however, I was still second in my AG, so I realized that I had actually made podium.

Now, this was obviously a smaller race, which probably had a reduced turnout due to the poor weather.  Still, it was the first time that I’d made a triathlon podium, so I was pretty excited.  In addition, there were several college triathlon club teams present, and my overall finish place of 18th meant that I’d beaten several of the young bucks, which made me happy.  Thus, when the awards were handed out, I made sure to find a kind stranger to take my picture on the podium since I had no support crew.  Not only did I get a cool glass, but I also won a $100 gift card for the 13th fastest bike split – which rolled down to me at 15th since 13 and 14 must have hit the road.

Overall, the Jefferson Sprint was somewhat of a character building event for me with the weather and topography.  I’d had searing heat in Raleigh, followed by a raging river swim at Robious Landing, and now crazy amounts of rain and slick roads in Charlottesville.  Thankfully, the temperature was nice, and even though it was a wet event, the wind had completely died down prior to the start.  Not to worry though, because I had a seriously windy triathlon in my near future.

My final triathlon of the year was going to be the Half Iron distance race at the Richmond Rox triathlon in September.  If the Ironman Raleigh 70.3 was my “A” race for the year, then Richmond Rox was intended to be my “A-” race.  Little did I know, however, that it would be yet another interesting experience – primarily due to Hurricane Joaquin.  That race would involve rain, heavy wind, a bike crash and being directed off course (again!) by race volunteers.  In the short term, I fully intended to test out my second place AG glass.

Results Link



Second racing season – first tri podium.



Beer still tastes better out of this glass.