Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Review

I've been lazy! Training has been ramped up since the Rev3 race, so I haven't had much time for anything else. My last monthly update was for April, so here is how the last three months of training has been.

Swim: 7 activities, 10350 meters, 4 hours 15 minutes. Average activity: 1478 meters.
Bike: 12 activities, 377 miles, 23 hours 13 minutes. Average activity: 31 miles.
Run: 8 activities, 52 miles, 8 hours 36 minutes. Average activity: 6.5 miles.
Lifting: none
Total: 27 activities, 36 hours 4 minutes, 27838 calories burned

I had the Monticelloman Olympic Tri on May 5, but aside from that I was able to devote the rest of the month to unimpeded training. I crushed my previous best cycling month (266 miles in April), as well as overall training duration (34 hours 50 minutes in February) and calories burned (26615 in July 2012).


Swim: 5 activities, 10125 meters, 4 hours 20 minutes. Average activity: 2025 meters.
Bike: 11 activities, 285 miles, 17 hours 39 minutes. Average activity: 26 miles.
Run: 9 activities, 50 miles, 8 hours 29 minutes. Average activity: 5.6 miles.
Lifting: none
Total: 25 activities, 30 hours 28 minutes, 23859 calories burned

June had two notable events: the Jamestown Olympic Tri on June 8 and the Rev3 Half Ironman Tri on June 23. This meant every week was either a race week, taper week or recovery week. Despite that I still managed the second-highest biking month, and set a new PR for longest bike ride (70 miles).


Swim: 7 activities, 19000 meters, 7 hours 23 minutes. Average activity: 2714 meters.
Bike: 9 activities, 408 miles, 28 hours 39 minutes. Average activity: 45 miles.
Run: 5 activities, 23 miles, 3 hours 49 minutes. Average activity: 4.6 miles.
Lifting: 6 activities, 6 hours 0 minutes
Total: 27 activities, 46 hours 1 minute, 26538 calories burned

July was a huge cycling month. I started off the month biking from Columbus to Cincinnati, 170 miles round-trip on bikes with 50 lbs of camping gear. I also had two long rides of 76 and 80 miles on my tri bike. My swimming is back up to where it needs to be, and I completed the Ironman distance of 3800 meters twice this month (in 1:18:13 and 1:22:10). My running has dropped off quite a bit while I focused on cycling/swimming, so I will need to start ramping it back up for the final three months of training. Not easy to do in the heat and humidity of summer!


I've also focused on losing a bit of weight before Ironman Florida. My goal is to get down to 178 by race day, 15 lbs lighter than I was in May. Removing 15 lbs of weight would go a long way towards increasing my bike and run speed! Here's what my average weight has been over the last three months:

May: 193.33
June: 190.55
July: 187.55

The beautiful thing about training 12+ hours per week is that all I need to do to lose weight is change my eating habits from "eat until I'm in pain" to "eat until I'm full."

My goals for August are pretty simple: ramp up everything! More running, more cycling, more swimming. It has been tough waking up to swim before work lately, but I'm going to try to be better about that. August and September are the final critical months in my training, and it's time to buckle down. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Rev3 Williamsburg Half-Ironman - Race Report

Alternate title: "Swimming is hard"

This was my first Half-Ironman race, and it was quite the challenge. I made a few mistakes and learned some valuable lessons. In case you just want the results:

Swim: 57:21
T1: 6:23
Bike: 3:09:35
T2: 3:37
Run: 2:36:57
Total: 6:53:52
25 out of 29 (25-29 Age Group)
279 out of 362 (Men)
407 out of 573 (Overall)

If you want the dirty details, read on.

Pre Race

I woke up at 2:15 (yes, 2:15am) and had some breakfast: coffee and a two fried egg sandwiches. I like to give myself at least two hours before leaving in the morning to enjoy my food and slowly wake up. Bre woke up an hour later and helped put the race numbers on my shoulders and legs: unlike other races where they draw them on with magic marker, Rev3 provided stick-on tattoos!

We left the house at 4:15 and arrived at the race site at 4:45, just in time to snag one of the last few spots in the closest parking lot. This race had two separate transitions: T2 was at the finish line (where we parked), and T1 was down at the beach. We had to drop our bike off at T1 the day before. It was drizzling at T2, enough that instead of laying out my running gear I left it in the bag to stay dry. We then took a shuttle down to Jamestown Beach. It had rained on my bike overnight, but thankfully my seat doesn't absorb moisture. I checked the gears on my bike to make sure they weren't squeaking and topped off the air.

The race was wetsuit legal, though barely: the water temp has to be below 72 degrees to wear one, and it was 71.6 on race morning. I put mine on and headed down to the beach for our 6:45 wave. There was a delay due to people illegally parking on the course and blocking the swim exit, so they had to change the beginning of the bike course last-minute and delay the swim start. The pro men went off at 6:50 (instead of 6:30), then the pro women, then the amateur waves. My wave went off at about 7:05.

57:21 (2:58/100m)

The first 200 feet of the swim was in shallow water, so we had to high-step it for the first few minutes. Once we had room I dolphin-dove under the water and got into a rhythm. The water temperature felt good. There was a lot of chop, so I inhaled water on a few breaths at the beginning, but I settled into a nice routine pretty quickly.

This is what the swim course looked like:

Swim out to a buoy, turn right, swim north, turn right, and then swim back to shore. Swimming to the first buoy was no problem: I was in a groove and feeling great. However, when I turned there things got ugly. First, I saw dozens of people had turned before the buoy, cutting the course. And I'm not talking about cutting it by a few feet: they were shaving off about 50 feet from it. 

Secondly, there was a current. A strong one. The river flows north-to-south at this part, so we were going directly upstream. After a few minutes of swimming against it I turned around and had hardly put any distance between myself and the first turn buoy. It was tough for everyone, even the professionals:

It's during a swim like this that you ask yourself the question: "At what point do you give up?" I literally felt as though I was making no progress forward in the water.  The second turn buoy never seemed to get any closer for quite a period of time.  How long should you be willing to swim in and endless pool with an edge that never gets any closer? Luckily, I didn't have to answer that as the turn buoy finally made some perceptible towards-me movement.  I reached the second buoy and made the last right hand turn. 

After struggling for a few minutes and not going anywhere, I knew I needed to push out of my comfortable rhythm and swim harder. I put my head down and focused on steady, strong strokes, and slowly moved closer to the next turn buoy. It felt like an eternity, and I saw several swimmers call out for help from the medical crew, but I eventually made it to that buoy and turned right. I was now swimming with the current slightly at my back, but my watch said I had been swimming for 45:00 (5 minutes past my goal time!) and I wanted to make up some time, so instead of coasting I continued pushing hard. I popped out of the water with my arms burning and a little out of breath, but I was happy to have finished. We later found out that over 100 people (18% of the racers) didn't finish the swim.


This is the same transition as all the other races I've done at Jamestown beach, which includes running 1/4 mile from the beach. I got to my bike, dried off, and changed clothes. Before leaving I had to dump all of my gear into a bag with my race number on it (so they could transport it to the finish line), which added some extra time.


The first triathlon I ever participated in (Patriot Sprint in 2012) I wore my HR monitor, and it showed that my heart rate was waaaay too high (190) at the start of the bike. I didn't wear it in my next two triathlons, instead planning to bike easy for the first 15 minutes before picking up the pace, which worked well. I didn't wear it for this race either, and I would regret it.

Bottleneck coming out of T1

I felt good from the start, but stuck with the plan to spin easy for the first 15 minutes. I settled into my nutrition plan as well: a sip of gatorade every 5 minutes, a fig newton every 30, and caffeine every 90. The first half of bike ride went smoothly: I churned along at a comfortable (but not too comfortable) pace, enjoying the Williamsburg scenery that I grew up in. There were a few rolling hills but it was mostly flat, and the weather was cool and cloudy. I passed 16 people, and I averaged a 3:12/mile pace for the first 28 miles.

I was disappointed with the Williamsburg crowds. Many intersections were blocked off for the course, and the people stopped in cars were unhappy. There was a lot of angry honking, and obscenities being yelled at the athletes ("Get off the fucking road!" was one directed at me by a man in a big SUV trying to get to church). Some men cat-called the female triathletes. Near the first transition (in the picture above) a man was cussing out the teenager volunteer for not letting him through. This is ridiculous, and does not bode well for the race returning next year.

The second half of the bike course started off fine, but things starting falling apart around mile 40. The wind was picking up, and fig newtons stopped being appetizing. Eventually I started feeling nauseous, and felt that if I drank any more gatorade I would throw up. I manually took my pulse and realized it was between 170-180, much higher than the 140-150 I expected. I forced myself to slow down, even coasting at some parts, but I struggled to bring my pulse back down. My pace over the last 20 miles was 3:33/mile, and I several people passed me, but it was too late: I couldn't get my heart rate under control. For the last ~45 minutes on the bike I didn't eat or drink anything. The sun came out literally as I rolled into T2, and I knew it was going to be a long run.

Cruising into T2 with a smile


I took my time in T2 to try to let my heart rate drop some more. I changed shoes/socks, put on my race bib, put on my Rev3 visor, and started Runkeeper for GPS tracking. I also popped a caffeine pill and some ibuprofen.


There was a water stop right after leaving transition, and I grabbed some flat coke, which tasted amazing after 3 hours of only gatorade. It was 11:15 and I knew the newly-visible sun was going to be strong, so I grabbed a cup of ice and clenched ice in both hands. I saw this trick done by a professional triathlete at Kona, and hoped it would keep me cool.

Not pictured: pain.

Here are my Runkeeper mile splits:

Mile 1: 9:56
Mile 2: 10:33
Mile 3: 11:11
Mile 4: 13:21
Mile 5: 12:25
Mile 6: 11:43
Mile 7: 12:18
Mile 8: 12:14
Mile 9: 11:46
Mile 10: 11:49
Mile 11: 11:57
Mile 12: 12:43
Mile 13: 11:56

I started off fine, but after the first two miles I had to start walking. When my heart rate gets too high (typically when I'm doing sprints at the track) my throat starts closing up, making it hard to breathe. The ice helped keep me cool, but the throat issue started happening during Mile 3. This was frustrating because my legs felt great and fully of energy, and the heat wasn't bothering me. So I settled into a routine: run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute. 

I kept this pattern going for most of the run. I stopped at water stops and used everything: I drank gatorade and coke, dumped water down my head, put frozen sponges down my back, and clenched ice in my hands. The volunteers were fantastic, cheering us on and giving us everything we need. I was staying hydrated easily, and took a quick pee-stop around Mile 4. 

The course was boring, though spectator friendly: there were two out-and-backs, so the course was like a figure-eight track that you had to do twice. This meant I got to pass my wife (and the finish line, ugh) four times before finishing. Part of the route was along Jamestown Road, which--like the rest of Williamsburg--was filled with people stuck in cars angrily yelling at the police and volunteers. The run course had plenty of cheering spectators to balance this out though: there was one woman waving a giant American flag on the course during the hottest part of the day, and many other small crowds of people cheering on those of us who were suffering. 

Passing the finish line, and starting the second half of the run, was mentally difficult. I started focusing on how many miles I had left. I compared it to my normal running route: "5 miles to go, that's from the start of the Battlefield trail in Yorktown to the French encampment. 4 miles to go, that's one big loop in Kiln Creek. 3 miles to go...". Eventually the heat started getting to me and I walked more and ran less. I cheered on the other triathletes and asked the spectators and volunteers "Am I winning?". After nearly 7 hours I reached the finisher's chute, which I happily sprinted down.


The volunteers gave me my medal, finisher's shirt (long-sleeved and brown? Eww.) and an ice-cold towel. The towel felt like HEAVEN. I grabbed a chair and sat down for the first time since 5:30 that morning and stared at my feet, letting my body relax. Bre came up and congratulated me and we moved to a shady tree, where I tried to eat a tiny bit of food and drank my first mountain dew in about 8 months. 

We didn't stick around very long, and loaded up the car with my gear and headed home. I ate a piece of pizza and some chocolate milk when we got home. I tried to nap, but couldn't get my body to relax. I took a cold bath and then a hot shower. My only muscles that were sore were my shoulders; my legs still felt fine. I put the 70.3 sticker on my car.

Some takeaways from the race:
  • A month ago I did a test day to zone in on my nutrition: 1500m swimming, 50 miles biking, then a 10 mile run. I was great on that day, and my only problem was that I ran out of water halfway through the run. It's frustrating finishing that day strong and struggling through the entire run today.
  • I think I came out of the water with a high heart rate, and never gave it a chance to come back down. The swim was grueling, and I didn't adjust my race plan accordingly. Lesson learned. 
  • I have a tough time pacing myself slowly on the bike. My legs want to hammer out the miles, even when I'm trying to go slower. I do fine when someone slow is in front of me, but when there's open road I want to go fast. I need to work on this on a flat course. 
Four months until Ironman Florida! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jamestown Olympic Triathlon - Race Report

Last week was the Jamestown Triathlon, my second Olympic-distance race. Having completed the Monticelloman triathlon with no problem, I was ready to push myself to exhaustion in this race. Here were my Monticelloman times from a month prior:

Swim: 34:52 (2:24/100m)
Bike: 1:21:53 (3:29/mile)
Run: 58:00 (9:20/mile)
Total (including transitions): 2:59:45

My goal for the Jamestown race was to improve on my swim and bike times, and then struggle through the run. I truly wanted to try to burn myself out on the first two legs of the race, to try to find the upper max of my effort.

It rained HARD the night before the race, but race morning was dry (though cloudy). I got to the race at 5:30 and grabbed the end-spot on the rack in transition.

My nutrition plan was similar to Monticelloman: one 25oz bottle of gatorade sipped every 5-7 minutes, and a caffeine pill at the start and end of the bike. I had two gels on the bike in case I felt hungry enough, too.

All the rain the day before lowered the water temperature to 77 degrees, which meant the race was wetsuit-legal (78 and above means wetsuits aren't allowed). I visited the porta-potties, got body-marked, put on my wetsuit and headed down to the beach.

32:04 (2:08/100m)

The rain added a lot of water to high-tide, which meant that about 100 feet of beach was underwater. This meant the first minute or two of the race was spent jogging through knee-high water before having enough room to dive in and start swimming. The swim was 3 sides of a rectangle: we swam out to a buoy, turned and swam with the current, then turned and swam directly back to shore. I settled into a nice groove and headed towards the first buoy, sighting about every 10 seconds.

Halfway to the buoy I realized that the current was pushing me downriver: although I was keeping the buoy directly in front of me, I was being pushed into a "u" shaped route to it. This was tough because in order to make up some ground I had to swim against the current a bit. The last few hundred feet to the buoy took forever. Once I rounded it I picked up the pace to try to make up time. My arms grew tired but I pushed myself to the second buoy and headed back to shore.

The last leg of the swim was better than the first, but the current still pushed me some. I was 20-30 feet downriver from the rest of the racers and had to adjust my course again and go against the stream for the final stretch. My arms ached but I was pleased so see my time at 32:04; I thought it would be much worse. So far I had knocked off 2:48 off my Monticelloman time!

T1: 4:46

The transition from Jamestown beach to the bikes is long: you run about 1/4 of a mile. This is the same course as the Patriot Sprint I did in September, and my T1 for that race was 5:24. Still an improvement. My body felt pretty warm leaving transition with the bike.

1:10:56 (2:57/mile)

I felt good, but forced myself to stick with the plan: take the first 10 minutes easy to warm up the legs, then start hammering. I sipped gatorade and took my first caffeine pill, and impatiently watched the clock. Several people passed me. It was tough to watch them speed along while I spin in an easy gear.

10:00 on my watch beeped, and I dropped the hammer. There was a clump of 10-15 people ahead of me, and I passed all of them. There were a few speedy women ahead of me (they started the swim several minutes behind me) and I passed them too. I didn't have a speedometer so I didn't know exactly how fast I was going, but my perceived effort was very high. I didn't think I could keep up this pace until the end, but I would hang on for as long as I could.

I continued to fly by people on the left until we reached the turn-around at the halfway point: 12 miles in 34 minutes. I did the math in my head: even with the first few miles going slow, I was averaging 2:50 per mile! That was faster than any of my speed training rides. Invigorated by my pace, I continued hammering on the way back. I passed more people, including another big clump of guys that were drafting off one-another (drafting isn't allowed: this is cheating). I could feel the fatigue slowly building up in my legs, but I ignored the pain and pushed on. I hammered until my legs felt like they were pumping battery acid. Only one person passed me on the second half of the bike course.

When I had 2 miles left I finally allowed myself to slow down a bit, but I had plenty of time banked. I crossed the mark into transition with a bike time of 1:10:56, 2:57/mile. This crushed my Monticelloman time by 10:57.

T2: 1:35

This was slower than my Patriot Sprint T2 time (0:57), but back then I was wearing Vibrams for both the bike and the run.

57:39 (9:16/mile)

My legs were great for the first two minutes of the run, but then my calves started cramping. I was paying the price for such a fast bike. I kept myself from walking until the water stops, but it was painful. I didn't have GPS, but I had my watch and clicked the "lap" button at every mile marker. Here were my splits:

Mile 1: 9:05
Mile 2: 9:15
Mile 3: 9:30
Mile 4: 9:45
Mile 5: 9:40
Mile 6: 8:50

I am not a fast runner, and this is where a lot of people made up time on me. In the entirety of the run I passed 2 people, but was passed by dozens. I pushed myself as hard as I could, but I was teetering on the edge of exhaustion and it was all I could do to make it to each water stop. But this was exactly what I had planned, and I was still giddy from crushing the bike portion, so I kept a smile on my face and gave some words of encouragement to everyone who passed me. Triathletes are a friendly bunch.

Most of the run course was on a shady bike path through the woods, which helped keep me somewhat cool. I dumped water over my head at the water stops all the same. One of the larger Pro triathletes wears latex gloves and shoves ice in them to help keep his body temperature down. I would have killed for ice!

Taking the time to get a fun photo in the last mile.

I dug deep for the last mile (and the final .22 after that) and finished strong. The time on the finish clock had me yelling with joy.

Swim: 32:04
T1: 4:46
Bike: 1:10:56
T2: 1:35
Run: 57:39
Total: 2:46:58
213 out of 347 (Overall)
160 out of 228 (Men) 
13 out of 19 (25-29 Age Group)

Some take-aways from the race:

  • I PR'd in every category: 2:48 off my swim, 10:57 off my bike, and 21 seconds off my run, for a total PR of 12:47.
  • I could have signed up for this race in the Novice category: you're allowed to retain "novice" status for a year after your first race, and mine was last September. Had I done that I would have come in 2nd place out of 7 novices, and would have been only 24 seconds behind 1st! 
  • I started the bike in 226th place and finished it in 132nd. Of the 19 men in my age group, I had the 5th fastest bike split. 
  • I need to do a better job of fighting the river current. My time easily could have been under 30:00 if I hadn't gotten off-course.

Once I finished I grabbed my gear, hopped in the car and drove north to DC for a bachelor/bachelorette party at a Nationals game. My body wasn't tired or sore at all. It was a long but fun day!

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Mountain

Me: "I think I know what a tough hill is like."
Mountain: "You know nothing, Jon Snow."

Hampton Roads is, in general, a pretty flat area. Hill training is tough to come by, so on Friday I burned a vacation day and drove 2 hours West to the Appalachian Mountains. Skyline Drive is a beautiful road that rides along the crest of the mountains between Charlottesville and Harrisonburg, and that was where I was going to cut my teeth. The plan was to bike 26 miles up to a campsite that was open (where I could refill my water bottles), and then turn around and bike back.

Hills are ranked in 5 categories based on grade and length: Cat 5 hills are the easiest, and Cat 1 are the toughest. This route had one Cat 3 hill, two Cat 4 hills, and ten Cat 5 hills. This was all new to me so I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

It was going to be a warm day, so I packed three bottles of gatorade (two in cages and one in my cycling jersey) and a bag of fig newtons. This was my first ride on my brand new Gatorskin tires (made of kevlar to resist punctures), but I brought a spare tube and small pump just in case. Getting stranded on the mountain would not be a fun time.

The route immediately began with a 2.65 mile long Cat 4 hill. I shifted into the easiest gear and slowly made my way up. While it was difficult, my legs quickly got used to the climb and I fell into a nice groove. It was challenging, but not impossible! By the time I made it to the top I was sweating and breathing hard, but had a big ego boost. Mountain training isn't out of my league! Even more rewarding was the view at the overlook, followed by 5 miles of coasting downhill at 30mph.

I was quickly humbled by the next hill, the massive 3 mile long Cat 3. I settled into the same groove as the first hill, but this one was obviously steeper: I was going slower, and each pedal stroke was difficult. It was like doing hundreds of one-legged squats in a row. There is no shoulder on this road, but halfway up I had to admit defeat and pull over into the grass and take a short breather. That did the trick, and I trudged along the rest of the hill at my slow 7:00-per-mile pace. This view was waiting for me at the top, at an elevation of 3,000 feet:

Charlottesville Reservoir in the background

Despite struggling on the hill, I felt great. I came out here to challenge myself and test what I could handle, and I came away with an answer: Cat 3 is the extent of my capabilities right now.

The rest of the ride was easy by comparison. I cruised along at as fast a pace as I could manage, stopping at many of the overlooks to catch my breath and snap some pictures. I made it to the camp site at the 26 mile marker right at noon. There was a restaurant open selling burgers, fries and hotdogs, but I didn't want to eat anything heavy so I snacked on my fig newtons and refilled my water bottles.

At this point I had a decision to make. I could turn around there, or continue on the road for another 5-10 miles. There was a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon, and I could see them in the distance to the West, so I decided to go ahead and turn around there. My GPS was fine until this point, but after my 10 minute break at the camp site it had trouble locating me on the map, so I turned it off. This was too bad, as the downhills on the way back were much faster. I was easily going 50mph, which is terrifying on a mountain road on a bicycle. I road the brakes quite a bit. It felt good to coast so much on the second half, because my legs were worn out.

Overall it was 52.34 miles biking, with 7380 total feet of climbing. My fastest mile was 2:09, and my slowest was 7:19. I ate my sandwich in my car and headed home, which was an agonizing 3+ hours in traffic. I would love to bike Skyline Drive again, though supposedly there are a lot more cars in the fall. Here are the rest of the photos I took:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon - Race Report

First Olympic distance triathlon, first wetsuit race, first race on my triathlon bike.

Things have changed a lot since I entered the world of triathlons at the Patriot Sprint last September. I finished that race feeling OKAY, but beat. I didn't pace myself well: I came out of the water light-headed, and then pushed too hard on the bike. The Monticelloman Olympic was completely different. I had a race plan and I executed it perfectly. Here are the important numbers, in case you want the short version:

Swim: 34:52 (2:24/100m)
T1: 3:24
Bike: 1:21:53 (3:29/mile)
T2: 1:36
Run: 58:00 (9:20/mile)
Total: 2:59:45

My swim time was significantly slower than predicted, my bike was right where I predicted, and I far-exceeded my run predictions, squeezing under the 3 hour mark.

For those of you who want to read the boring details, here's the full race report.


The race had an unusually late 9:10 start, so I got to sleep in later than normal: my alarm got me up at 4:00am. Showered, forced down a fried egg sandwich and coffee, and sipped on gatorade. We left the house at 6:00, encountered almost no traffic, and arrived at the race at 7:30. I ate a cliff bar in the car and then unpacked my stuff.

Packet pick-up was quick, and then I set up all my gear in transition. Despite getting there early most of the racks were already filled, but I found a spot somewhere near the front of my assigned section. 

We had lots of time to kill. By the time I had set up my gear and put on my wetsuit we had an hour to wait. The half-ironman race was starting at 8:30 but we opted to wait in the clubhouse instead of the cold beach. Did I mention it was overcast and windy? I was already dreading the swim and cold bike ride.

20 minutes before the start we headed down to the beach and waited. After some announcements from the race director the first wave (men 18-49) lined up on the beach. One young racer declared to everyone around him: "Okay, let's have a good clean fight, no punches below the belt, okay?" The race director counted down and then sounded the airhorn, and we were off!


I'm in the very top-left

I ran in a few steps and then dolphin-dove under the water. It was so cold that it knocked the wind out of me. The first few strokes were painful as I tried to breathe, but after about 30 seconds the wetsuit did its job and warmed me up. I started near the back because I didn't want to get run over by faster swimmers behind me, but this just meant running into the people in front of me for the first 100 feet. After a few minutes I found some room in the water and managed to get into a good rhythm.

The course was a triangle: we were to swim out to a yellow buoy and turn right, swim down the lake to another buoy, and then swim back to the beach. Swimming in a straight line in a pool is easy because you have the tiles at the bottom of the pool to stare at, but in open water it's far more difficult. I have been practicing "sighting" at the pool, which means every 10 seconds or so looking forward out of the water to make sure you're still on course. I was doing this very well: every time I sighted I was still pointed directly at the yellow buoy. Plenty of other people were struggling with this and swimming diagonally or off-course.

I had clear room around me to swim for most of the first leg, but when we got to the first buoy things bunched up a bit. After swimming around it I positioned myself to the outside to make sure I had plenty of room again. It worked, and I never bumped into anyone for the entire second leg of the swim. However, halfway through this leg I started seeing green swim caps passing me: these were the 40+ men in the wave that started 4 minutes behind me. The first one passed me very fast, and I would later find out he was the overall winner.

I got to the 2nd buoy, and more people were bunched up here since more green caps had caught up to the first wave. I rounded it and started the final stretch still feeling good. My arms weren't tired, though my shoulders felt a little numb from the cold. At this point a woman in a pink cap (the third wave, women 18-40) was swimming next to me. I breathe to my left, and she was breathing to her right, and we swam alongside one-another for several minutes perfectly in sync, facing each other every time we breathed. She eventually pulled ahead and left me in the dust, and I considered pushing myself to keep up with her but decided to stay conservative. I popped out of the water feeling great, exactly on plan. However, I was not happy with my time: my watch said 34-ish minutes, much slower than I expected. Finishing under 3 hours would be tough.

Note the fast green caps from the 2nd wave that had caught up to me.


I ran up the beach and into transition, stripping the wetsuit to my waist while running. I had no trouble finding my bike in the 200+ feet of transition area. The two bikes that were racked next to mine were already gone, so I had plenty of room to sit down and go through my transition routine: strip wetsuit, dry feet, put on socks/shoes, put on cycling jersey, put on helmet/sunglasses, grab bike and GO! 

The beginning of the bike was uneventful. There was a dangerously-steep hill in the first mile, which was a "no passing zone", so everyone coasted until then. Immediately after that was a big hill to climb, and that was the trend of the day: downhill, uphill, downhill, uphill. I was suddenly very glad that I do all of my long rides at the hilly Yorktown Battlefield Trail. 

The course was pretty crowded for the first few miles, and I passed a lot of people struggling up the hills. The nice thing about biking on hills is that your legs get a break when you coast down the other side, and this definitely helped keep my legs fresh. As one of the "larger" triathletes (195 lbs) I get a lot of momentum going downhill as well. There was one woman in a white jersey who leapfrogged with me for several miles: we seemed to pass one-another every few minutes. Some of the faster riders passed me, but in general I passed more people: at the start of the bike I was in 219th/351, and finished the bike 184/351.

20 minutes into the race I passed two guys with flat tires within 50 feet of one-another. I said a silent prayer to the tire gods, since I didn't bring the tools to fix a flat. I will be bringing them on longer races, but for something as short as an Olympic I didn't bother. The roads were also open to cars, and although they were infrequent it did add some extra danger to the race. The speed limit was 35 but several cars were FLYING by only one foot next to us, and we later heard that someone on a bike got hit by a car. Thankfully that didn't happen to me.

I was really enjoying the race. The course was on beautiful wooded back-roads, and the sun was starting to come out. I yelled words of encouragement at every person I passed, and every person who passed me. I executed my nutritional plan perfectly too: I drank gatorade every 5:00, and consumed a gel pack and some caffeine after 20:00 and 60:00 on the bike. I never felt thirsty, and had plenty of energy the entire ride.

Bre was waiting near the end of the bike to snap some pictures:

The end of the bike was a pain: we had to dismount and then run about 300 feet with our bike before entering transition. This isn't easy to do in bike cleats! There was no clock here to show us what time it was, but after that hilly bike course I knew I would have to run a fast 10K to end up under 3 hours. Not likely. 


Transition 2 was much easier than the first one: rack bike, remove helmet, take off shoes/socks, put on running shoes, put on race belt.

Right from the start on the run I felt fantastic. My legs felt fresh, as if I hadn't been swimming/biking for the previous 2 hours. Bre was positioned to see me right at the beginning of the run:

Please excuse my terrible, terrible running form here.

After passing Bre, I realized the run was going to be just like the bike: rolling hills for 6.2 miles. The first hill was demoralizing for many people, as I saw several racers forced to walk up it. Thankfully my legs felt fresh and I cruised along as if nothing was wrong.

A few minutes into the run, when I realized my legs were good-to-go, I pushed the pace. I didn't have my GPS on me, and there weren't any mile markers on the run course, but it felt like I was close to a 9:00/mile pace. While this is a great pace for me, most people are still faster: I started the run in 184th/351, and finished in 201/351. There were water/gatorade stops roughly every mile, but I felt so energetic that I only took water. 

At one point the woman in the white jersey from the bike course passed me and said "We're going to cross the finish line at the same time! We've been leap-frogging all day!" I laughed and told her I would catch up to her, but I never did: she was hauling ass. 

Sometime around the 40:00 mark an older guy (in his 40s?) tried to pass me. I pushed myself to keep up with him, and we ran side-by-side for a little while. "I thought I was going to be able to pass you, but I guess you've got a lot left in the tank," he said to me with a laugh. We ran with each other for a good 15 minutes, chatting the whole time: his name was Ben, and he lived in Charlottesville, working in the Army. Chatting helped keep my mind off the blister forming on my right foot, and we pushed each other. Finally I said "I'm going to try to surge at the end" and we split up. 

My watch said 55:00 when I left Ben, and I figured there was about 1/2 mile remaining until the finish line. I pushed myself but still left a little bit in reserve, wanting to finish strong. Suddenly I rounded a corner and the finish line was a hundred feet in front of me, sooner than I expected! I sprinted the final length, and the clock at the finish line said 2:59:30. I had given up on finishing under 3 hours, so seeing this pumped me up. I yelled "COME ON!" and fist-pumped when I passed my wife, and finished feeling pretty damn good.

Fist-pumping at the finish
Finish Time: 2:59:45
201 out of 351 (Overall)
153 out of 225 (Men)
17 out of 23 (25-29 Age Group)

Some take-aways from this race:
  • I can swim faster. While I think the course was longer than 1500 meters, I was very conservative on the swim and my time was much slower than I expected. In the Jamestown Olympic on June 8 I want to push myself much harder and finish ahead of a lot of people. I hardly use my legs at all while swimming, so it's only my arms that I would be wearing out.
  • I got a good feel for pacing in this race, and now it's time to tweak things a bit. In my next race I want to take it easy for the first 15 minutes on the bike, push myself for the middle 40-50 minutes, and then take it easy again for the final 15 minutes before the run. 
  • 1 bottle of energy drink on my bike was perfect for this race: I sipped every 5 minutes and ran out only a mile before transition. It may not be enough in a hot, sweaty June race though. I may bring a second bottle with me in my next race.
  • Hill training on the bike is important. I saw tons of people struggling with the hills, and I had no trouble with them at all.
  • My run fitness is exactly where I want it to be. I wish I knew my mile splits, but I know I was consistent throughout the run. 
  • I loved this race. I felt great in all three parts, and enjoyed myself. I will definitely be racing again next year. 
  • Triathletes are friendly, supportive people. Most people who passed me (or got passed by me) said some words of encouragement, and I reciprocated. It feels good to be friendly to the people you're racing with/against, and makes the entire experience more enjoyable. Especially for someone like me who has no chance of making the podium any time soon.
  • Although the Patriot Sprint was my first triathlon last September, finishing this race was the first time I truly felt like a triathlete. How you feel when you finish a race can be far more important than the race result itself.
Now that I've completed an Olympic distance triathlon, the next distance to tackle is the Half-Ironman: 1900meter swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run. I'll be doing that in Williamsburg in June, and I feel confident and ready. Bring it on.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon: Race Predictions

The Monticelloman Olympic Triathlon is tomorrow, and I have a few simple goals:

  1. Don't go too hard on the swim
  2. Don't go too hard on the run
  3. Don't go hard until the last 5K of the run

This race is only a stepping stone to longer races, and to have fun. I want to finish feeling strong instead of using up too much of my energy on one of the first two legs of the race. 

Having said that, I do have a goal time in mind: under 3 hours. That kind of race would look something like this:

Swim: 30 minutes (2:00/100m pace)
Bike: 1 hour 21 minutes (3:23/mile pace)
Run: 1 hour 2 minutes (10:00/mile pace)
Transitions: 7 minutes 
Total: 3 hours

Anything in that ballpark and I'll be happy.