2018 Robious Landing Triathlon
2/21 AG 18/270 Overall
June 24, 2018 – Thanks to several weeks of storms, the Robious Landing Triathlon had been turned into a duathlon for the second time in three years due to dangerous river conditions. I’m not a huge fan of duathlons since it takes away one of my strongest legs (the swim) and replaces it with my biggest weakness (the run). Karen has had me swimming pretty well recently, despite my humble swimming roots. Leigh Anne was racing with me, and it was going to be her first river swim, so we were both pretty disappointed by the change. Leigh Anne had been swimming in Karen’s “Guppies” class for several months, and was ready to show off her new swimming chops. Several of Karen’s other Guppies were racing as well, including Mindy Reese, Candace Broaddus and Mills Babbs. It was a Guppies reunion of sorts, but with the swim being cancelled, there were a lot of fish out of water. Sorry…couldn’t resist.
Coming into the race I hadn’t been feeling well. I’d been having daily headaches, fatigue and mild dizziness issues for about a month. The only explanation I’d been able to come up with was the fact that we’d adopted a kitten just before my headaches began. I’d always had cats growing up, but maybe I’d developed a cat allergy in the last decade or so. I’d been taking 4-6 Ibuprofen per day to control the headaches, so I did have some concerns heading into the race. I was hoping for the best, but was prepared to abort if needed, particularly if I got dizzy on the bike.
Leigh Anne and I had gotten our race packets on Saturday afternoon, and we made our way into transition when it opened around 5:15 a.m. on Sunday morning. Since I’d registered for the race long before Leigh Anne, our bib numbers, and thus, our racks, were pretty far apart. We got set up, chipped and body marked, and then set off on a warm up run.
When the race was a duathlon in 2016, the first run (of roughly .9 miles) was begun in a first come – first served format in waves of about ten people. They had a timing mat at the start that year, so it didn’t matter if you started first or last – your start was tracked by your timing chip. This time around, there was no timing mat at the start, so we started off as we would have in our swim waves. Thus, if you didn’t start with your proper wave, your time would be off.
Even though I had two more days in my thirties, I’d aged up to the 40-44 age group since your age group is determined by your age at the end of the year. As such, I’d be going off in the second wave, and I think Leigh Anne was in the fourth wave. My only problem pre-race was the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to switch the swim to a run on my Garmin 920 in triathlon mode. I left it as it was, and figured that the timing would be accurate, even if I wouldn’t be able to gauge my pace on the first run. When it was time to start, I lined up next to fellow Pro-K teammate, Justin Koehler, and waited for the gun to go off.
Run 1 – 6:18 (7:04/mile) (2/21 AG)
The first run was an out and back of about .9 miles, which is uphill going out and downhill coming back in. Koehler and I started off together, and the guy in the middle of the photo above took off like a rocket and left the rest of us behind. I was just hoping to run something close to my 2016 time of 6:22, but I was running totally by feel since the swim pace shown on my Garmin wasn’t helpful in the least.
The uphill portion of the run was mostly on a dirt trail, which was fairly muddy and slippery. It was also super humid on race morning, and I was already soaking wet by the time I got up the hill to turn around and come back. The downhill portion of the run was on an asphalt trail, so that made for much easier and faster running. I increased my tempo coming back in and crossed the timing mat in 6:18 – 4 seconds faster than 2016. I was happy about being faster, but more importantly, I was happy that I’d been able to pace myself appropriately without assistance from my GPS.
My 6:18 was good enough for 2/21 in my age group, which was nice, but the bike and the final run were going to factor more heavily in the overall standings.
T1 – :56 (2/21 AG)
I had a much better rack location in 2018 than I’d had the year before, and I made a pretty quick transition. I had to swap out my shoes and put on my helmet, and then I set out for the bike out area. My helmet is very snug and the helmet shield is temperamental and will fall off easily. Thus, I have to put the helmet on slowly and precisely to keep the shield in place. Even so, I was only one second slower than the fastest transition in my age group.
Bike – 52:32 (21.6 mph) (2/21)
I really like the Robious bike course, which is a 19 mile out and back with a nice little three-tiered climb just before the turnaround point. Its mostly uphill heading out of transition and its fast and downhill coming back in. The first mile or so is a gradual climb up to Robious Road from the river, but once I made the right turn onto Robious I laid down in aero and started making some good speed. There were a few small ups and downs in the first miles and then a small chain ring climb around mile 3. Koehler passed me just after that climb and I decided to ride along with him.
The legal USAT drafting distance is 3 bike lengths or greater, so I tried to ride about 4-5 lengths behind him to get a legal drafting benefit. I followed him like that until we turned left onto Manakin Town Ferry Road, and then passed him to try to return the favor for a bit. He rode behind me for maybe a mile and then passed me again. I stayed in his wake until we hit first portion of the climb to the turnaround at mile 8.5, but went by him again since I was climbing faster. I thought he might catch me again on the descent in the other direction, but I stayed clear of him for the remainder of the ride.
I checked my Garmin for the first time at the turnaround cone and saw that I was about 20 seconds behind my desired pace. That lit a fire under me and I hammered back down the hills that I’d just climbed instead of just letting gravity do the work. I hit 39.9 mph on the GPS, so I was moving pretty good. Its a little nerve racking getting over 30 mph, and I’m always (mentally) crossing my fingers that I don’t blow a tire at high speed.
After the course flattened out I continued to push hard, and took a right turn onto Robious around mile 15. The nice thing about being in the second starting wave is that there are other bikers on the course ahead of you. If you catch and overtake them, there’s a small slingshot effect as you go by. I was passing a fair amount of bikers coming back in, so that was fun and fast. I passed Mills just before mile 15, and he said I sounded like a freight train as I went by – probably due to my rear disc cover.
After getting back onto Robious, I continued to push hard all the way up the hill where you take a left turn to head back down to Robious Landing. I’d gone hard down that hill in 2017, and regretted keeping my heart rate up as I went out on the run. This time around, I eased off a bit as I headed downhill towards the transition area and was intent on getting my heart rate down before I got off the bike. I finished the bike course 31 seconds faster than the last time the race was a duathlon in 2016, so I was happy about that. I’d been behind my 2016 pace at the turnaround cone, so I’d made up all of the time, and then some, coming back in.
T2 – :50 (3/21)
T2 was uneventful and consisted of racking my bike, changing shoes again and grabbing my race belt. I was in and out in 50 seconds, which was third-fastest in my age group.
Run 2 – 24:04 (7:44/mile) (3/21)
The second run was slow…abnormally slow. Not just for me, but for everyone in the field. I don’t know if it was the wet trails, the crazy high humidity or something else, but the struggle was real. The run is supposed to be a full 5k of 3.1 miles, but my GPS always has it short. That’s to be expected because of the twists and turns on the trails, but I still don’t think its a full 5k. I usually have between 2.8 and 2.9 miles on my GPS, and I suspect that the actual distance is close to 3.0 miles. My official pace for the run was 7:44/mile, but my GPS pace was 8:10/mile.
Mile 1 (8:39)
As soon as I came out of transition the humidity hit me again. It’d been less noticeable on the bike thanks to the breeze, but it was stifling on the run. The first mile was mostly on trails in the park, and my footing was uncertain in points thanks to the wet conditions. There are also a couple of wooden bridges to cross that will lay you down if you don’t watch your footing. I wouldn’t say that the run is hilly, but there are some hills on the trails that I always seem to forget about.
The bike leg of most sprint triathlons is 12 miles, and the 19 mile bike course at Robious takes a lot more out of your legs. This very noticeable in the first mile of the run, and I was very disappointed to see 8:39 on the GPS when it tripped 1 mile.
Mile 2 (7:32)
The second mile is predominantly on asphalt in the neighborhood that abuts Robious Landing, and I was able to pick up my pace on the straight and level running surface. The downside, however, was that I was now in direct sunlight, which just made the overheating worse. There is usually a landowner with a sprinkler set up as a “cool zone,” but I didn’t see one this year.
I hit the turnaround cone near the 1.5 mile point, and then headed back the way I’d came. My legs felt slightly better by that point, and I was hoping that I’d be able to continue to pick up the pace all the way back to the finish. After turning, I was also on the lookout for anyone else in my age group who might be close enough to catch me. I saw Koehler not long after turning, and I knew that I’d need to keep pushing since he is a strong runner.
Mile 3 (8:21 pace)
The last portion of the run is back on the Robious Landing property, and has some more twists and turns and some additional trail running. I was hurting badly by this point, and my pace deteriorated back above an 8 minute pace – at least per my GPS. Thankfully, I hadn’t had a headache or any dizziness during the race, but the humidity was kicking my butt.
There was another turnaround cone and then I had to double back and hit the trails again. I met some runners going out on the run, and I was just glad to be finishing up and not heading out. Eventually, the finish line music and the announcer began to get louder, and I burst out of the woods and into the finishing chute with whatever was left in me.
Upon finishing I looked at my GPS and saw that I’d averaged 8:10 minutes/mile based upon a run of 24:04, which was much slower than expected. My official pace was 7:44/mile but I’d done the run in 21:10 in 2016 and in 21:43 in 2017, so I was about 3 minutes off. That’s an eternity in a 5k race, so I was definitely thinking WTF – even with the high humidity.
After finishing, I immediately turned my thoughts to finding Leigh Anne at the finish. She came through a little while later, totally red-faced due to the humidity. She was 6/15 in her AG, which was impressive, given that this was only her third triathlon/duathlon to date. Her Guppy friend Mindy was actually the third female overall, mostly thanks to the fact that she runs like a deer.
Given my mild OCD tendencies, I had to find out if my slow-ass run was an anomaly, so I researched the run times from 2016 and 2017 to get an overall comparison. I looked at the 1st fastest time, the 10th fastest, the 25th fastest and the 50th fastest for each of the past three years. Interestingly, I found that the times in 2018 were all about 3 minutes slower than in the prior years. Moreover, by the overall placings, my run in 2018 was actually better (29th) than in 2017 (32nd). I really can’t figure out the drop-off in the run times in 2018, and I’d be surprised if the high humidity had that much effect on a 5k. Nevertheless, my findings made me feel better about how I ran.
After the dust cleared, it turned out that my effort was good enough for 2/21 in my AG, and this was the second year in a row that I’d gotten second at this race. Brian Defazio destroyed me by more than 4 minutes to win our AG. I don’t know Brian personally, but he participates in a lot of local races and is a monster. I was also happy to see that my teammate Justin Koehler was able to snag third.
When all was said and done, the Robious Landing Triathlon (duathlon) was pretty successful for Leigh Anne and I. It was the first race with my wife, and hopefully, not the last. She was still learning how to swim and bike, but based upon her early results, she can expect great things in the future with some additional training. For me, I was happy with my result. For the second year in a row, I was beaten out for first in my AG by a vastly superior athlete – Danny Royce having destroyed me in 2017. I really hate to lose, but its much easier to take when you just don’t measure up against the competition.
Next up for me would be the Rev3 Sprint in Williamsburg in early July. I’d never taken part in that event, but I’d heard good things about Rev3. There was going to be some serious competition at that race, so I was looking forward to seeing how I would measure up.