2017 Robious Landing Triathlon
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 Thus, one of my better legs (the swim) had been replaced by a second helping of my worst leg (the run).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.
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.
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.
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**)
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.
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…