“Where all these disappointments that grow angry out of me will rise…”

2017 Robious Landing Triathlon

Race Report

1:23:51

 2/20 AG   14/251  Overall

June 25, 2017 – The Robious Landing Triathlon is one of my favorite races, and the only one that I’ve done every year since getting the tri bug in 2014.  As a sprint race, it actually suits my strengths very well since the bike is 19 miles instead of the standard 12, and the run is generally slow since you have to wind around on trails a lot in miles 1 and 3.  Its generally one of the larger local races, and I’d failed to make my age group podium in my first three attempts.  I finished 4th in my age group in 2016, but that race had been turned into a duathlon due to river flooding.  Thus, one of my better legs (the swim) had been replaced by a second helping of my worst leg (the run).  In 2017 I was determined to finish in the top three of the M35-39 age group.

The weather outlook was ideal, and the river was as close to calm as I’d seen it for this race.  In 2015 the current was brisk, and in 2016 the river was full of debris due to storms – which led to the swim cancellation.  You could see that the current was moving, but it was really slow.  Since I had been constantly improving my open water swimming ability, I was glad to see the slow current since I was hoping to try to swim ahead of all of those fast runners.

I’d done packet pickup on Saturday, and on Sunday I arrived at the race site before transition opened and had to wait impatiently for a few minutes.  Since I’d been assigned bib 7, I was hoping to have a fortuitous transition spot near one of the entrances/exits.  Much to my dismay, however, I was tucked away in a corner.  Karen likes to call me “Big Baby,” so I guess they can put Baby in a corner.  Oh well.  I set up, got body marked and grabbed my timing chip.  I ran into Jim Rosen in transition and chatted with him for a bit.  Then, after a warmup run and some light stretching, Jim and I walked up the river to get ready for the swim start.

robious rack

Bib 7 should have a better transition spot…just sayin.

Race Results

GPS Data

Swim- 8:26 (1:18/100 m)  (3/20 AG)

The Robious Landing tri features a 650 meter swim, which is fast since its all downriver.  As I got into the river a few minutes prior to the start, I saw my attorney buddy Danny Royce, who had been trying to qualify for Kona for a few years, and who does the local races for training purposes.  He mentioned that he’d aged up into the M35-39 AG with me, and I knew that he’d beat me by a country mile since he’s pretty much a semi-pro.  That being said, I figured that he’d be in the top 3 overall – if he didn’t win the race outright.  We joked for a few minutes, and I encouraged him to make sure he was in the top 3 so I’d have a chance to win our AG.  Danny claimed that he was better suited for long course racing and that some of the young bucks would beat him on the run.  I didn’t really believe him, and knew that he’d probably be the first person on the run course due to his swimming and biking prowess.  After chatting it up with Danny, I focused on the task at hand, and then the starting gun went off.

I was excited to see if my open water swimming had improved, and I was able to keep my heart rate under control at the start.  In fact, I just kept swimming at an even pace and never swallowed any water and never got out of breath.  I’d made sure not to go out too fast, and I just kept increasing the pace as the swim progressed.  The buoys just kept sliding by me, and my sighting was good so I stayed on course.

Midway through the swim, I knew that I was doing well, but its hard to see how many people are ahead of you when you’re in the water.  I just focused on keeping an even stroke and on trying to swim in a straight line.  Even though the current was minimal, I still tried to stay towards the middle of the river in order to maximize whatever current assist was available.

Before too long, it was time to swim my way over to the dock and get out of the water.  I saw my parents and Leigh Anne and the kids cheering for me, along with my friend Meredith (who was pregnant at the time and not racing).  Its hard to keep your balance when getting out of the water due to rocks under the surface, so I took it slow so as not to fall in front of everyone.

Overall, I’d had a solid swim, and one of my best open water swims to date from a consistency standpoint.  I stayed in a good groove from start to finish, and never had to pull up to catch my breath or to get my bearings.  Kudos to my sighting practice in the pool.  My swim wave included all men under 40, and I was 12th out of the water in my wave, so I was pretty happy about that.

robious swim.jpg

T1: 1:18  (4/20 AG)

All in all, I had a pretty speedy transition, but I probably lost a few seconds due to my rack location in the corner.  After getting into my cycling gear, it was a longish run to the timing mat and an uneventful mounting of my bike.

Bike- 51:31  (21.9 mph)  (3/20AG)

In 2016 I felt a bit fatigue as soon as I took off on the bike since there is a small hill heading out of the transition area up to Robious Road.  In 2017 I felt better, and was determined to best my 2016 bike split of 53:03 (21.3 mph).  As I took off up the initial hill my legs weren’t loading like they’d done the year before, and after taking a right turn onto Robious, I tucked in tight and started churning the pedals.

Since I was in the first swim wave and since I’d had a good swim and transition, there were only about 10 guys ahead of me on the bike course.  Thus, there really wasn’t much of an opportunity to do any legal drafting.  In fact, for most of my ride there were no other athletes in sight.  I knew that in 2016 I’d hit the turnaround point at 27:53, and my goal for the first half of the bike to was best that time.  I’d told myself, however, that I wasn’t going to look at my GPS until I got to the turnaround, so I was simply riding by feel and was trying to push the pace as hard as I felt comfortable.

At mile 4.5, I took a left turn off of Robious and headed into the hilly portion of the course.  Basically, there is three tiered climb up to the turnaround point, with the last tier being the steepest by far.  I felt like I was making pretty good time, but as I started going up tier one or two, I saw Danny screaming down the hill in the opposite direction on his pink Trek bike – which is hard to miss.  I knew Danny was fast, but I was amazed that he already had about 4-5 minutes on me at that point.

I finished my climb and finally hit the turnaround cone at the halfway point.  I snuck a glance at my GPS and noticed that it was reading 27:54.  What?  I was one second slower than last year?  I definitely felt better than I had in 2016 and thought that I’d been pushing hard, but I was still behind last year’s pace.  Maybe there’d been more wind in my face this time around or something, but if there was, I really hadn’t noticed it.  That pissed me off and redoubled my focus for the back half of the bike course.

After making the turn, the next couple of miles were back down the hills that I’d just climbed.  Even though my speed approached 40 miles per hour going back downhill, I kept pedaling to try to make up some time.  As I headed back towards Robious Road I finally caught and passed two or three bikers, and that motivated me to keep pushing.  Then there was a right turn onto Robious, and a slight downgrade to about mile 16.5.  Once again, I continued to pedal hard even though I had gravity on my side.

The course heads back uphill for the last mile or so before you take a left to go back towards transition, and I got up out of the saddle and pushed hard up the hill.  After turning left, it was about one mile downhill to the transition area, and I just kept pushing instead of easing up.  I was determined to beat my 2016 bike split and I was probably a bit too fired up about that.  I typically ease up when heading into T2 to lower my heartrate before the run, but I kept pushing until I was told to slow up by a race official as I neared the timing mat.

Once I got to the timing mat, I did my best version of a flying dismount, which must have been pretty violent since it knocked the chain off of my front chain ring.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but the race photos of me running into T2 show my chain dragging the ground and I found it that way after the race.  After it was all said and done, I’d completed the bike course in 51:31, which was 1:32 faster than in 2016.  All of that time gain had come in the back half of the bike course, so I guess I just needed to get a little bit mad.

robious t2.jpg

T2: :53 (3/20AG)

I didn’t waste any time in T2 and I was in and out in less than a minute, even with my transition spot being in the corner farthest from…pretty much everything.  I’d gone hard on the bike and kept my heartrate on the high side coming into T2.  It was time to see if that decision would come back to bite me on the run.

Run- 21:43  (7:41 min/mile **GPS pace**)  (3/20 AG)

(6:59 min/mile **official pace**)

robious run.jpg

Mile 1 (8:09)

The Robious Landing run is unlike most sprint triathlon 5ks for a few reasons.  First, you’ve biked 19 miles instead of 12, so your legs are a bit more worn out.  Second, miles 1 and 3 are mostly on winding dirt trails in the park, which lead to slower splits for those miles.  Finally, my GPS always says that the course is short of a full 5k.  Thus, my mile splits are generally slower, but my overall run time is fast (if you consider it to be a full 5k like the race claims).

Generally speaking, mile 1 of the Robious run never feels good to me, and 2017 was no different.  My quads were screaming as I wound around the dirt trails, and there are a few small hills thrown in that make things interesting.  I actually felt slightly worse than normal, which I chalked up to my decision to hammer into T2 instead of letting my heart rate settle down a bit.  I was energized by the fact that my dad had said that there were only seven guys ahead of me on the course as I exited T2, but I knew that a few guys were going to pass me on the run course – as always.  In fact, I had 2-3 guys go by me in the first mile, but none of them were in my AG.  I knew that there was no catching Danny, but I was pretty confident that he’d be in the top 3 overall, so I still had a chance to do well in, or even win my AG.

Mile 2 (7:24)

By mile 2 the course headed out of the park and into the adjacent neighborhood.  I began to feel a bit better since the course had straighten out, but I still felt relatively poor for mile 2.  Note to self – lower your HR when coming into T2 instead of being solely focused on your bike split.  Bike for show and run for dough, as they say.  Still, there was no one close to overtaking me and I hadn’t seen anyone ahead of me in my AG other than Danny.

After hitting the turnaround cone in the neighborhood, I began looking for people in my AG as I doubled back and met people head on.  I saw no other M35-39 for about a minute after making the turn, so I knew that I had about two minutes on him.  Okay, as long as I can hold it together I shouldn’t get passed by anyone.  That being said, I was hurting pretty good by that point and felt like I was in danger of having the wheels come off in spectacular fashion.

Mile 3 (7:27 pace)

Mile 3 was primarily back in the park and back on the winding trails, which slowed me down a bit.  At the Powersprint triathlon in May, I’d had a (relatively) pleasurable pain in the last couple of miles of the run.  There was nothing pleasurable about the last couple of miles on this day.  The wheels were still on, but keeping them that way was getting harder and harder.  Thankfully, no one was stalking me from behind, and that probably led to me not pushing quite as hard as I could or should have.  I certainly felt like nothing was left in the tank, but you really don’t know unless you’re being pushed by a warm body next to you.

As I wound around on the trails the music and noise from the finish line began to grow, and after what seemed like an eternity, I finally broke out of the woods and entered the finishing chute.  I used whatever I had left to sprint across the finish line and then collapsed on the far side.

Post Race

12 seconds.  A measly 12 seconds separated Danny from being third overall, even though he’d apparently set a bike course record for the race.  Probably while riding in his small chain ring just for the fun of it.  Since Danny had finished fourth and wasn’t on the overall podium, he stayed in the M35-39 age group, won it by a mile, and knocked me down into second.  While that was disappointing, I’d still managed to finish 2/20 in our age group and had made the podium in this race for the first time ever.  Joking aside, I was really happy, even though Danny had beaten me by 9 minutes and 41 seconds.  That is an eternity in a sprint race, and shows what a phenomenal athlete he is.  Honestly, I’d rather lose by 9:41 than by a close margin because there is nothing that I could have done to eliminate that gap.  I guess I could have deflated his tires, but Danny had been having some pretty bad bike mojo around that time already, and he probably would have still beaten me on flat tires anyways.

My next race wasn’t until the Patriot’s Half in early September, so I had a long, hot summer of training ahead of me until that race.  In actuality, the Patriot’s Half was only two weeks out from Ironman Chattanooga, so I would be using that as a long training day instead of a full-on race effort.  Before the heaviest training set in, however, we were taking a vacation to Seattle two days after Robious.  Karen had a few runs planned for me while I was on the west coast, but nothing major.  I planned to rest and recover over the next week so that I would be ready for the big training weeks when I got back.

Before leaving for Seattle, however, I had a second place mug to collect…

robious podium

Beaten by Danny like a red-headed step-child…

“And now its time to build from the bottom of the pit, right to the top…”

2017 Groundforce IT Powersprint Triathlon

Race Report

1:01:56

 1/6 AG     9/175 Overall

May 21, 2017 – Its only been a week since the Kinetic Half-Iron triathlon at Lake Anna, and I’ve been fighting fatigue all week.  My workouts had been rather light, but I felt like I was still in recovery mode.  In addition, Jackson and I had camped out with his Cubscouts pack at The Diamond on Friday night, which pretty much led to no sleep.  The lights weren’t turned off on the field until about midnight, and I’m way past the age where sleeping on the ground results in feeling rested in the morning.  I had some easy workouts scheduled for Saturday after the kids’ soccer games, but scrapped those in exchange for a much-needed nap.

My first two triathlons of 2017 had been cool and wet, and the Powersprint pretty much continued that trend.  Thankfully it wasn’t raining, but it was still pretty cool in the morning.  So much so that as soon as I set up my transition spot, I headed inside to pre-swim and to try to stay warm.  Unfortunately, we all had to head back outside for the announcements and the National Anthem, and by the time that I got back inside to line up for the start, I was pretty much frozen.  Have I ever mentioned that I hate being cold?

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect since I’d done a 70.3 the week before, and I knew that I wasn’t fully recovered.  I still hoped to make the AG podium, but I certainly didn’t expect to match my bike and run speeds from the RTC Sprint back in April in light of my fatigue.

Due to my projected swim time, I was bib 28 of approximately 200.  Thus, I didn’t have that many people ahead of me on the course.  Pool swims can get a bit jumbled up, so I was hoping that everyone around me had seeded themselves properly.  I noted that bib 26 was in my AG, so I made a mental note to do my best to pass him on the course.

powersprint rack.jpg

Another end-of-the-rack spot!

Race Results

GPS Data

Swim- 4:56  (1:39/100 m)  (2/6 AG)

I seeded myself for 5 minutes, and but I hoped to complete the swim a bit faster than that.  The timing mats are obviously outside the pool, and it takes about an extra ten seconds or so to climb out and then run into the next room across the timing mat when you’re done.  There was a female athlete directly in front of me in the start line, and when she was about halfway down the pool, I got the signal to go.  I jumped in, and immediately started swimming hard since there’s no time to waste in a 300 meter swim.

The first two laps were uneventful, but by the halfway point I had caught up to the girl ahead of me.  I was hoping that she’d let me go by, but she ignored my tap on her ankle when I caught her and she just kept swimming.  By the fourth lap she finally let me pass her, and I feel like I lost about 15 seconds or so in getting caught behind her, but the final two laps went by pretty quickly.

Upon finishing lap six, I hopped out of the pool and ran across the timing mat.  My final time was 4:56, which was still four seconds ahead of my seeding, and 11 seconds faster than 2016.  I made a mental note to seed myself faster in 2018.

T1: 1:37  (2/6 AG)

There’s a fairly long run out the back of the YMCA to the transition area, and I saw bib 26 getting on his bike as I got go my rack.  Turns out that I’d gained 19 seconds on him on the swim, so I was really hoping to catch and pass him on the bike since he’d only started 30 seconds ahead of me.  After putting on my bike shoes and helmet, I raced to the bike mounting line, and wondered what sort of legs I’d have after the prior week’s half-iron effort.

Bike- 32:25  (21.7 mph)  (2/6 AG)

After getting on my bike getting up to speed, I noticed that bib 26 was already out of sight.  Ok, he transitioned quickly, but hopefully I’d still overtake him on the bike course.  The course was reversed from the year before, and after getting up to speed I noticed that my legs felt pretty good.  Definitely not 100%, but I was able to put some pressure on the pedals.

It was only 57 degrees, so I was a bit chilly for the first few miles on the bike – the story of 2017 it seemed.  I began to catch and pass a few riders, but there weren’t that many people on the course ahead of me due to my swim seeding (and thus, my bib number).   I probably passed a few people in transition, and then a few more on the bike.  Unfortunately, I never got around any other bikers that were riding about my speed, so there was no opportunity to do any legal drafting.

Since I was primarily riding on an island by myself, I don’t remember too many details about the bike, but I remember feeling good but not great for the majority of the ride.  The wind wasn’t really an issue like it had been in 2016, but the cool temperature and dense air probably slowed me down a bit.  Its hard to compare 2016 to 2017 since the course was reversed and slightly modified, but I finished the bike 1:27 faster than I had in 2016 – and on tired legs to boot.  Now it was time to see if I had any legs left to run on.

T2: :46 (1/6 AG)

T2 was only 46 seconds, so I pretty much nailed it perfectly.  I hit the ground running off of the bike, racked it and then swapped shoes.  I grabbed my race belt and visor and put those on as I headed out of T2.  The legs felt pretty good, so it was time to see what was left in them.

Run- 22:14  (7:09 min/mile)  (1/6 AG)

Mile 1 (7:26)

I’d run a 7:25 min/mile pace off the bike at the Powersprint in 2016, but had held 7:15’s off the bike at the 2017 RTC Sprint a month before.  I didn’t think I could hold 7:15’s on tired legs, and was really just hoping to beat my 2016 time of 23:01.  After running out of transition and getting down the road a ways I looked at my GPS, and it was reading 8:30/mile.  Uh oh, I could be in for a slow run today!  I got the legs to turn over a little faster, and before too long, the pace started coming down.

The run course had turned into a two loop course for 2017, with the turnaround cone being about 8/10ths of a mile in.  When I got to the cone, the volunteer monitoring the turnaround point told me that I was the 10th person there, which meant that I’d passed 18 people by that point.  That served as a bit of motivation, and by the time I reached the first mile marker, only 7:26 had elapsed.  Hmm, I was only one second slower than my 2016 pace and I was getting stronger.  Maybe I could do something on the run after all.

Mile 2 (7:17)

I hit the turnaround cone for loop two around mile 1.5 and had seen bib 26 well ahead of me by that point.  I’d never seen him on the bike, so I knew that he must be a strong biker.  As it turned out, he’d turned in a 31:21, which was more than a minute faster than me.  I didn’t know what sort of runner he was, but he seemed to be too far ahead of me to catch.  Well, it looked like I had no shot to win my AG, but 2nd still seemed to be in play.  Always the bridesmaid, never the bride!  Ok, not even always the bridesmaid, sometimes just the guy parking cars at the wedding.

At the beginning of loop two I was still feeling surprisingly good, and my legs were turning over better than they had at the start of the run.  My pace continued to creep down and I turned in a 7:17 for mile 2.  Not quite my 7:15 pace from a month before, but certainly respectable given last week’s race.

Mile 3 (7:03)

Mile three arrived and the legs just kept a-churning and picking up speed.  By that point, I was pretty well flabbergasted that I had anything left in the tank, and I guess that’s a testament to Karen’s run training.  I’d kept waiting to bonk, but physically and mentally I was still going strong.  Don’t get me wrong, it hurt, but it always hurt by that point in a sprint.  Somehow, however, I still had juice in my legs and air in my lungs.

I picked up the pace as much as possible in the homestretch, and after stopping my GPS after crossing the final timing mat, my total time for the run was 22:14 – for an average pace of 7:09.  That was 45 seconds faster than 2016, and 19 seconds faster than my run at the RTC Sprint the month before.  What?  Ultimately, my run was good enough for first in my AG, which is not how these races usually shape up for me.

Now all I had to do was sit back and wait most of the people on the course to finish so I could figure out my position in the overall and AG standings.  Due to the pool swim, there was certainly a chance that someone who was still on the course could finish ahead of me, so it was pointless to check the standings until a little later on.

Post-Race

After getting some pizza and doing some stretching, approximately thirty minutes had passed since I finished.  I figured that it was safe to go ahead and check the results, and saw that I was 1/6 in my AG.  It turns out that bib 26 finished third overall, so that put him on the overall podium and took him out of my AG.  Thus, I was currently in first in my AG.  I’d made my AG podium in triathlons twice before, but both of those were second place spots.  I waited another 10 minutes or so before I began to think about texting anyone, and before I hit “send,” I decided to check one more time just to be sure.  It was extremely unlikely for someone so far back in the seeding to have beaten me, but I figured I’d check one last time.

When I did, I saw that I was now 2/7 in my AG.  WTF?  It turned out that someone at the tail end of the seeding had finished third overall and had knocked bib 26 into 4th overall, and thus, back into my AG.  I immediately questioned how that might be possible since he had to have been stuck behind slower swimmers in the pool.  After throwing a minor pity party for a few minutes I looked at the transgressor’s splits and saw that he was showing a 5k time of around 12 minutes.

Doubting that any of the athletes participating in the Powersprint had the ability to run a world record 5k, particularly after swimming and biking, I immediately wondered if he’d only run one loop of the two-loop run course.  I certainly didn’t want to accuse anyone of cheating since there could have been a legitimate timing issue, but I wasn’t about to go down without a fight.  I printed the other athlete’s timing data and took it over to an official, who quickly declared that they were “already on it.”  By the time that I got back to the results screen, the transgressor had been removed from the standings, bib 26 was back to being 3rd overall and I was back to being 1/6 in my AG.  Kudos to the race officials for squaring it away so quickly.  Again, I’m not leveling cheating accusations, but that guy’s original run time of ~12 minutes was clearly incorrect.

Ok, so I know that winning my AG in a small local race is not quite akin to nabbing a Kona slot, but I’d never stood atop a podium after a triathlon.  Or a running race.  Or ever.  Moreover, I’d managed to rally after a grueling 70.3 the weekend before and put together a solid race on legs that were still in recovery mode.  In fact, I’d had my best ever 5k run off the bike in a sprint tri, which was some cause for celebration.  I still have a long way to go with my running to be competitive in the larger races, but now I was consistently running about 25 seconds per mile faster off the bike than I had the year before.  The arrow was still pointing up, even though I was rapidly aging out of the M35-39 age group.

Next up on the calendar was the Robious Landing triathlon in June, which has a deeper and more competitive field than the Powersprint.  I’d gotten 4th in my AG in 2016 when it had been turned into a duathlon, and I’d never made the podium in that race.  Thus, I was really hoping that I’d turned a corner and could compete for a podium spot there.

podium

“Dark clouds may hang on me sometimes, but I’ll work it out.”

2017 Kinetic Half-Iron Triathlon

Race Report

5:25:51

 8/29 AG     48/242 Overall

May 13, 2017 – My second triathlon of 2017 was the Kinetic Half-Iron distance race at Lake Anna, as put on by the Virginia-Maryland Triathlon Series.  It was fairly early in the season for a 70.3, but I’d been training pretty much non-stop since the start of 2016, so I was certainly ready for it.  I’d put this down as an “A” race on my calendar, so Karen and Erin brought me into it on fresh legs.  Good thing, cause I’d need them for sure.

I’d heard rumors about the level of suckitude of the run course, which was three loops.  The bike course had some hills too, but the run seemed to be what everybody was talking about.  The transition area was near Lake Anna, and there was a long hill up away from the lake.  You then took a right turn and ran down towards another part of the lake.  Then it was back up the hill you just ran down, then down again back to the transition area.  Essentially, 1 mile up, 1 mile down, 1 mile up, 1 mile down.  That’s one loop – rinse and repeat two more times.  The elevation profile is below, and as you can see, there’s not a lot of flat running to be had.

kinetic run

I run plenty of hills in my neighborhood, so I wasn’t overly worried, but I knew that I’d need to run conservatively in order to handle the elevation change without blowing up near the end.

Of more concern to me was the weather heading into the race.  It was unseasonably cool for mid-May and it had rained quite a bit leading up to race morning.  In fact, in my hour-plus drive to Lake Anna on race morning it was dumping rain, but the radar looked like the rain would clear out sometime around the start time.  Nevertheless, the temperature was in the 50’s and it wasn’t supposed to get much beyond 60 after the sun came up.

When I pulled into the parking lot it was still dark, but the heavy rain had turned into a light drizzle.  It was cold, and I was wearing a fair amount of clothing to stay warm.  After grabbing my race packet, I rolled my bike into the transition area, which was nothing but a grassy/muddy mess.  I took care to try to keep my shoes dry, but that was a losing proposition.  I had to strip down to my trisuit in order to get body marked, and quickly bundled back up.

As I was getting checked in I ran into Jim Rosen, who was the only other person I knew who was doing the half.  Jim was a couple of age groups above me, so he was starting in the swim wave after mine.  I think I had a four minute head start on him, so if he caught me on the run then I knew that he was actually well ahead of me.  I can typically out swim and bike Jim (not by much), but he runs like a deer, so we generally finish pretty close together.  He beat me by 26 seconds at the 2016 Robious Landing Triathlon, but that race had been turned into a duathlon since the swim was cancelled.  I wasn’t really racing Jim, but I knew that if I saw him stalking me on the run that it would give me a little extra motivation.

As race time approached, the rain was coming on and off and I changed into my wetsuit earlier than normal to try to get warm.  Once the start time approached, I gathered on the beach with the other athletes and waited for go time.

kinetic rack

GPS Data

Race Results

Swim:  37:07  (1:55/100m)  7/29 AG

As noted above, it was wetsuit legal for the swim, which was a nice change of pace.  My only other wetsuit swim had been at the Rumpus in Bumpass Olympic distance race in 2016, and I apparently had not learned to hike my wetsuit up high enough to keep it from restricting my shoulder movement.  I was able to swim fine, but I think my shoulders got a bit more tired than they needed to be.

The water temperature was in the 60’s, but it felt warm compared to the cold air.  I was in the first swim wave, and took off as soon as the horn sounded.  I always try to position myself near the sides to try to get some clean water at the start, but there were enough people in my wave to make that difficult.

From the get go, I knew that I wasn’t going to have a great swim and my heartrate got jacked up pretty quickly.  There were many times on the “out” portion where I had to pull up to catch my breath, and things only got marginally better coming back in.  It felt like I was having a pretty poor swim leg, but when I finally looked at my watch when I got out of the water, it was reading 36 minutes and some change.  Karen had predicted a 37 minute swim for me, so she was spot on.  The timing mat was about 20 yards from the water’s edge, so my official swim time was 37:07.

As bad as I thought my swim was, it was still good enough for 7/29 in my age group.  It was also more than three minutes faster than my last half iron distance swim at the Patriots Half in September 2016 – although that race wasn’t wetsuit legal.  Thus, I was happy with my effort, but felt like I had a better swim in me than what actually transpired.

T1: 3:18

I was dizzy upon exiting the water and it took me a good 30-45 seconds for that feeling to subside.  There was a fairly long run uphill from the lake to the transition area, and things weren’t made any easier by the muddy conditions.  Upon reaching my transition spot, I sat on the ground and did my best to pull my wetsuit off as quickly as possible.  I then had to fight to get socks onto my wet feet.  Sometimes I ride and run without socks, but not in a 70.3.  Particularly not a cold one.  After finally getting my socks and shoes on, I threw on my helmet and then grabbed my bike and headed to the bike out area.  My total transition time was over three minutes, but I felt like I made pretty good time, all things considered.

Bike:  2:45:26 (20.2 mph)  4/29 AG

kinetic bike

It was in the mid-50s when I got on my bike and I had chosen to ride without long sleeves to avoid the extra drag and time involved in putting on extra clothing.  I was worried about being cold, but felt like it was JUST warm enough to get by.  That being said, I knew that I’d be cold in the first few miles until I got my core temperature up.

The first mile was all uphill, and I immediately noticed a squeaking noise coming from my chain.  I shifted gears, shifted in and out of the big chain ring and even tried half-shifting, but nothing helped.  I decided to ignore the noise and hope that it went away, but it was highly noticeable as I trudged uphill at low speed.

Miles 1-10 were some of the most unpleasant miles that I’ve covered on the bike in a race.  They were almost all uphill and into the wind and I felt like I was going nowhere.  I was still trying to get warm, and the average speed on my GPS was depressing me.  After mile 5 it read only 18.0 miles per hour and after mile 10 it was only up to 18.2.  To make matters worse, my chain continued to squeal like a stuffed pig and I seriously considered stopping because I was afraid of causing damage.  I didn’t know if the chain was rubbing and slowing me down, whether the wet weather was just causing lubrication issues – or something else entirely.  I decided to keep going, but felt embarrassed every time I passed someone (or got passed) on a hill since we were going slow enough to hear the awful noise.

Near the 10 mile mark the course made a right turn and headed downhill for the next six miles.  That did wonders for my mental state, particularly since the wind was at my back during that stretch.  I was holding 23 miles per hour, and finally saw my average pace heading upwards.  At the bottom of the decline there was a steep hill that sent me into my small chain ring, and then another downhill portion for about three miles.

The next 11 miles or so completed the first loop of the two-loop course, and went from miles 19-31.  The suck returned once again, because that portion of the course was almost all uphill and into the teeth of the wind.  I tried to keep a positive outlook, but it was a real struggle to get my bike up to 20 miles per hour.  I felt like I was working hard, but just couldn’t get any sustained speed.

At mile 31 I took a right turn and was back on the portion of the course that was downhill and with the wind.  Those miles went by quickly, and it was nice to see my average speed finally creeping up toward 20 miles per hour.  The fun was over soon enough though, and it was back uphill and into the wind again until mile 49.

Mile 49 brought the end of the second loop, and the final 7 miles were mostly back downhill to Lake Anna.  I continued to pedal hard since gravity was on my side, and by the time that I got back to the transition area, my average speed was 20.2 miles per hour.  For some reason, I was thinking my my average speed PR had been 20.4 miles per hour at the Patriot’s Half in 2016, but in reality, I’d only held 20.1 miles per hour in that race.  Thus, as crappy as I’d felt like my bike leg had been, it was actually a PR for me, and good enough for 4/29 in my age group.  This was shaping up to be a weird race, and my perception wasn’t neccesarily consistent with my results.  I guess the conditions on the bike sucked for everyone else as well.

T2: 3:08

Even though I’d warmed up enough to feel somewhat comfortable on the bike, upon dismounting, I immediatley noticed that both feet were numb from the cold.  It made running difficult, and I struggled to get back to my transition spot.  I got my shoes on and did my best to avoid the worst of the mud puddles in the transition area and then got out onto the run course.

Run: 1:56:41 (8:54/mile)  14/29 AG

kinetic run full

My goal for the run was sub-2 hours and my stretch goal was to hold a pace of 8:45 mins/mile, which equates to 1:54:42.  I knew that would be tough due to the hills, but I was going to give it a try since that’s what Karen had called for prior to the race.  The problem would be pacing myself properly since I was unlikely to run many (or any) 8:45 minute miles due to the terrain.  I figured that I would shoot for 9 minute miles on the uphills and 8:30 miles on the downhills.  I also wanted to try to negative split the three loops.

Miles 1-3 (9:24)(8:29)(8:58)

Karen always wants me to run the first few miles slow, and given that the first mile was a nasty hill up and away from the lake, that wasn’t a problem.  In addition, the sock on my right foot felt bunched up, so I had to stop and take off my shoe near the 1/2 mile point.  In actuality, my sock was fine, my foot was just feeling odd as it began to warm up and was becoming less numb.  By the end of the first mile my feet seemed to be getting back to normal, and I was glad to be done with the hill.  Unfortunately, I’d see it again on loops 2 and 3.

Mile 2 was pretty much all downhill, and I stuck to my plan of shooting for an 8:30 mile by turning in an 8:29.  I was feeling pretty good and began a small loop around some houses on the lake.  At the far end of the loop the coursed turned back the way it came and headed back uphill.  Mile 3 was mostly uphill, and I nailed my 9:00 minute plan for the uphills with an 8:58.

Miles 4-6 (8:33)(9:17)(8:41)

The first third of mile 4 was still uphill, and then I took a left turn to head back down towards the transition area to complete loop 1.  I was holding together well when I started the second loop at mile 4.5, but then it was back onto the nasty hill out of transition again.  I began to see some people walking up the hill, but I ran a slow steady pace and was able to get up it uneventfully.  I was certainly starting to tire, but was still in a good place mentally and physically.  By the time I hit the 6 mile marker, I was headed back downhill towards the lake loop again.  I had averaged 8:54 minutes/mile up to that point, but I still had more downhill to run on the first half of loop 2.  Thus, I was a pretty much on schedule, particularly since I planned to run loop 3 faster if at all possible.

Miles 7-9 (8:50)(8:57)(8:53)

By this point in the race, the miles were not lining up perfectly with the uphill and downhill portions, so pacing became a bit more tricky.  The hills continued to take their toll, and not just the uphill portions.  Running downhill taxes your quads, and after a while they get weak and feel like they want to give out.  By the time that I finished mile 9 I was getting pretty tired, but had completed my second loop.  Loop 1 took about 38 minutes, and loop 2 took 38:37.  It looked like my plan to negative split was going out the window, and hopefully I could keep from blowing apart on the final loop.  If I couldn’t hold an 8:45 pace, I definitely wanted to come in under two hours on the run.

Miles 10-12 (9:09)(8:38)(9:37)

My last trip up the hill out of transition was pretty brutal, but I was able to keep running.  There were a fair amount of hill walkers by that point, so I was encouraged by the fact that I didn’t need to walk.  I got to the top of the hill, took a right, and then it was downhill to the lake loop one last time.  I felt like I was doing well, all things considered, but I do recall seeing some really strong runners on the course.

After running around the lake loop for the final time, it was back uphill (for the last time!), and about halfway up the hill I saw Jim running down the other side.  He’d started about 4 minutes after me in the second swim wave, so I knew that I’d have to finish at least that much ahead of him to beat him.  He looked good when he went by and he is a super strong runner.  I tried to do the math in my head, but was unable to figure out how much of a lead I had.  Nevertheless, I knew that it was going to be close, and kept trudging up the hill, but with a little extra motivation.

Mile 13 (8:24)

I completed mile 12 at the top of the last hill, and then it was just a downhill run to the finish.  I tried to pick up the pace as much as possible, but my quads were pretty much shot at that point from the neverending hills.  I managed to dish out an 8:24 mile, but given the elevation loss, I would have hoped to have done a bit better.  When your legs feel like they could go out from under you at any moment though, you can only do so much.

Mile 13.1 (7:53 pace)

After reaching the bottom of the hill, I got to turn right into the finishing chute insteading of taking a left to begin another loop.  There was a 100 yard run on some fairly wet grass and then it was finally over.  I’d done loop 3 in about 38:04, so I was happy that I’d been able to rally and keep the wheels from coming off.  Overall, I’d put together an 8:54 min/mile pace, which was only 9 seconds off  Karen’s target.  That was a PR for me, and I was very happy with that performance, given how much I felt like I’d struggled on the bike.  Had the course been remotely flat, I felt as though I’d have been able to hit those 8:45 minute miles.  As noted above, however, there were a lot of strong runners out there, so my run was only good enough for 14/29 in my age group.  I’ve still got a lot of work to do with my running before I can compete for an age group podium in these larger races.

Post Race

After finishing, I turned and waited to see Jim finish.  He came in shortly thereafter, but it turned out that his overall time was about two and a half minutes more than mine.  Nevertheless, my time of 5:25:51 was only good enough for 8/29 in my age group, but Jim was 2/17 in his age group.  We both left the race site before the awards ceremony, but I think they ended up mailing him his award.

In reflecting on this race, I still have mixed emotions.  On the upside, I PR’ed in all three disciplines, and the conditions on the bike and the hills on the run made those discliplines very challenging.  Even though I PR’ed on the swim (in a wetsuit), I still felt like my swim wasn’t what it should have been, and I’d failed to keep my heartrate under control pretty much the entire time.  That led to way too much breaststroke in order to catch my breath.  I was still getting used to open water swimming, and still hadn’t gotten completely comfortable in a wetsuit.

I was most proud of my bike leg, turning in a ride that was 4/29 in my age group.  I’d dealt with a chain that was squealing so badly that I’d considered stopping, and I was able to fight off the cold and the negative emotions and keep pushing – even when I thought that it was going to be a bad ride.  As for the run, I ran well (for me), but I’ve got some real work to do there.  My 2016-2017 winter regimen with Erin produced big gains on the bike, and I’m determined to have similar gains on the run after my 2017-2018 winter regimen.  I’m sure that Karen will be up to the challenge.

So, I’d say that the 2017 Kinetic Half was a success for me, and since it was early in the season, I still had time to make additional gains before my next half in early September, followed by Ironman Chattanooga on September 24th.  In the interim, however, I’d signed up for the Powersprint Triathlon (as a bit of an afterthought), which was only a week away.  Thus, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to recover, and hopefully that quick turnaround wouldn’t be problematic.  I’d gotten second in my age group at the Powersprint in 2016, and I hoped to make the podium once again if I had any juice left in my legs after Kinetic.