Thursday, April 10, 2014

Grandover Duathlon - Mike Starkey

Grandover Duathlon (3-22-14) – Race Recap

Itching to test my fitness, I saw the Grandover Duathlon (4 mile run--20 mile bike-- 4 mile run) just outside Greensboro and signed up late.   I’ve never tried a duathlon before but thought it would be fun.  My brother and I hopped in the truck early Saturday for the drive.  With a race start time at 10am, I actually got to sleep in considering my alternative would have been a 5:15am Masters swim…a perfect excuse to miss.  Upon arrival, we noticed we were one of the first to show which gave me plenty of time to prepare, roll out, do some mobility stretches, etc.   I spotted Dave and Sharon Koontz while I was running circles in the parking lot to warm up.  Always nice to see people you know especially when traveling out of town.

As the race neared, I lined up near the front.  I couldn’t help but notice the Duke University multisport team to my left.  Mind you, this was the day after the upset by Mercer in the NCAA tourney so poor guys were catching grief from everyone.  The horn sounded and I took off quickly to get out of the main crowd and started slowing into what I thought was a good pace.  Shortly thereafter, I found myself towards the back of a pack of 10 or so runners.  One guy broke away from everyone rather quickly and put some distance on the pack.  As we continued, some guys dropped off the pack as we ran up and down the very hilly course.  

We were running at a faster pace than I probably would have run by myself, but it is a race.   As we hit the turnaround at mile  2 , there were five guys ahead of me.  Over the last two miles,  a couple runners pushed to bridge the gap on the leader before transition.  As I came into T2, I was in fifth place and about 20 seconds down to the leader.

I hopped on the bike and got some speed before slipping  into my shoes.  I knew I wanted to stay above a wattage threshold but figured I’d race this mainly by effort and check in with power occasionally.  I went around some guys ahead of me on the bike but knew someone else was up ahead because the race director mentioned a van would be in front of the lead biker.  I kept pedaling away and saw a figure in the distance.  It took me a while to bridge the gap but I eventually made the pass around mile 9, just before the start of the second 10 mile bike loop.  At mile 10, I spotted my brother, Matt, and he gave me a big smile in between camera shots as I rode by.  Matt has seen the good, bad and ugly over a number of races.  Fortunately, this was the good, so far anyway.    I aimed to keep the effort up on the second loop as well since I knew these guys had all run faster than me on the initial run.  Meanwhile, I was kind of spoiled because  the van in front  was navigating  me through the bike  which made the loop go by rather quickly.  As I rode towards transition, I slipped off my shoes and pedaled the remaining distance up the hill.

T2 went as planned and I headed back down the hill to start the run.  The race director jumped on his bike and edged over  to ride alongside.  This too was a new experience and one that was pretty neat.  I saw the next biker coming in and figured he was at least a minute back.   I aimed to maintain the same pace as the first 4 mile run.  I figured if I could do this, then I should be in good shape.   I continued to traverse the hilly course and focused on my pace, cadence, form and breathing.  At the turnaround, I looked at my watch to get a  measure for the time back to the next competitor.  Once I passed him going the other way, I saw I had about 1:30.  I continued to focus on form despite a fairly bad cramp on the last mile.  As I came towards the finish line the Race Director peeled off and I crossed the line in first.    As the next runner crossed, I grabbed us both a water and shook hands. 

This race was a good indicator of my fitness at the start of the season.  Thanks to Trivium Racing for putting on a very well organized and fun race.  Also, a big thanks to Southeastern Endurance Academy, LGM Performance Coaching, and Inside Out Sports for getting me in shape and with the right gear.  I look forward to another great season   

Monday, February 10, 2014

Keeping up with the Joneses

I am going to begin this story about others with a story about me.  Let’s be honest with ourselves, nobody appreciates a good James story more than James himself.  Yes, I did begin by referring to myself in the third person while referring to myself. Epic is a good word to describe what just happened.


One of my first local races in North Carolina was the White Lake Half, which took place in May of 2009.  It would be there, at the most polarizing venue in North Carolina, that I would meet Hope and Benji Jones for the first time. If you’ve been to a race you would almost certainly recognize Hope and Benji if I pointed them out to you but you wouldn’t necessarily know them immediately.  They are not celebrities (although they are in their own mind, but I digress) and they do not jump up and down, waving and shouting “look at me” quite like I do.

It wouldn’t be for another two years that I would have my first, memorable experience with a Jones.  It was Cool Breeze 2011; one of the first events of the year in the North Carolina Triathlon Series (NCTS) and one of the most temperamental in terms of weather.  I walked into packet pickup like I owned the place. Racing “open” like a boss and sauntering through the line like it was just no big deal, I arrived at the table and realized I didn’t have my *required* picture identification on me. I asked the nice lady there if it was a “big deal” and she told me I had to go back to my car and get it if I wanted my packet.  Dangit! Wasn’t I special?! Wasn’t I more important because I was “open?”

No James…no you were not.

I only realized later that “nice lady” was Hope Jones, one half of the Jones team, race producer/organizer/timer/resultser/mom/wife extraordinaire. The takeaway from my little anecdote is that nobody is special.  Wait, that’s not right.  The takeaway is that EVERYBODY is special if you’re at a Jones-run event. That aforementioned sense of entitlement does not belong at a Jones event.  It was a great little lesson to me and has both influenced my interaction with people as well as the way I see myself since that fateful moment.

I have since gone on to race quite a few races run by Hope and Benji under the umbrella of Setup Events.  For years they were the “face” of the North Carolina Triathlon Series.  Their innovations, tweaking, and running of those races made them some of the most popular and beloved races ‘round these parts.

In the late Fall of 2013, however, the Jones team separated from Setup Events and Jones Racing Company emerged with an impressive calendar of events.  Some favorites are on their extensive events calendar and knowing how athlete focused the Joneses are leads me to the conclusion that North Carolina athletes are in for a real treat in 2014 and beyond.

I had the great opportunity to “sit down” (via computer) and “interview” (via email) Hope and Benji.  They gave some great insight into their races, expectations, hopes and dreams.

Now for the good stuff!

JH: Have there been any notable challenges in getting your own "brand" off the ground?

Hope: Tons.  We would probably both say that the hardest part is having to tap into skills that we haven’t really had to use before: marketing, sponsorship, web development, things like that.  It’s really amazing how bad we are those things.

JH: Will you guys being doing a “series” with your races? (NCTS and other Setup “groups” of races were set up as a “series” in the sense that each “group” had series standings and awards based on race scoring)

Benji:  Unfortunately we cannot. We have, however, established a rewards program where athletes can earn some swag depending on how many events they do, but that’s about it.  It just gives us a way to show our thanks to the athletes for supporting us and choosing to race with us.

JH: What's the most fun part of creating and managing race events?

Hope: Creating something from nothing.  We show up in this empty field, in this empty parking lot, and we get to use our imagination and make it all come together.  It’s like being a kid playing in sandbox.  You show up and there’s only sand, then next thing you know you have a castle and a bridge and a city and a pond, a whole new world.

JH: What's the least fun part?

Hope: All of the above – in pouring down rain.

JH: Where do you see JRC 5 years from now?

Hope: We currently do about 65 events a year between running events and triathlons.  Five years ago we had five.  So I’d like to think five years from now that we would have over 100 with a good solid crew behind us.  We are also working on building a 501c3 to benefit athletes in need (think Boston, cycling accidents, etc).  We have seen too often things happen to our athletes while training or racing, and we want to have something set up to be able to quickly respond and help those families in times of hardship.  We would like to think that in five years, this part of our company would be up and running and really making an impact.

JH: Will you be live-timing any events in 2014?

Hope: Yes, this is the biggest piece we have been working on in the off season.  Accurate results are important to us, so we want to make sure that when we launch, it actually works.  No one likes to be promised something only for it to not actually deliver.  So much of live timing is dependent on servers and companies that we have no control over.  In other words, if their systems go down, there’s no live timing.  Athletes don’t see that, they see that what we promised wasn’t delivered.  So before we do anything, we just want to make sure we are using a dependable system.  Live timing in triathlons is a little trickier just because many venues are in obscure locations that do not have good service, so it can be difficult to access the needed networks in the middle of Timbuktu.

JH: What about a live webcast?

Hope: Yes, this is also something we have been working on.  Remember when we mentioned tapping into skills we haven’t used before?  This is one of those things.

JH: How does Jones Racing separate itself from the other race production companies?

Benji: We think it’s the athletes and event organizers that could probably answer this question better.  There are a lot of race production companies, and we all do things a little differently.  Something that is important to one company may not be important to another and vice versa.  The biggest feedback we tend to get is that we communicate well, we are approachable and available.  There’s something to be said for something as simple as responding to athlete emails or organizer questions and answering phone calls.

JH: What can athletes looking forward to when attending your races?

Hope: Fast, accurate results, friendly staff, great venues, well-marked and safe courses, quality production, family-friendly.  We have two kids who come to all our races with us, so we understand the importance of having things for kids to do so spouses aren’t trying to keep their kids entertained in a confined space for 3 hours.

JH: Speaking of kids, how do your kids handle the early wake up calls?

Hope: They are rock stars.  Camryn was 10 days old at her first event.  We used to park the truck at the finish line, Hope would time, jump in the truck to nurse Camryn, and then get back out and keep timing.  After making it through those days, it seems easy now.  They are 5 and 7 and races are all they know.  They roll out of bed with more enthusiasm than we usually do.  We’re pretty positive this will change as they get older, but we try to keep it fun for them.  So far, they get pretty bummed when we do not have a race to go to, so we’ll see.

JH: Wait, what's nursing?

Hope: ...
Benji: ...

JH: Is spectating really free??

Hope: Depends on your definition of free.

JH: How do you feel about the NC triathlon market and where it is headed?

Benji: We would be lying if we said it wasn’t a little concerning.  Races used to sell out at 500-800 within hours.  Now there are so many events to choose from that the population of racers is being spread across all these events, which just ends up leading events to cancel because they would end up going in the hole to put the race on.  Triathlons used to be the cool thing; everyone wanted to try it, everyone’s friends were doing, it was new, it was exciting.  We need to bring that excitement back.  Athletes are busier than ever and finding time train and balance work, family, etc. really takes its toll.  Races need to offer something different.  Something that stands out from the run of the mill triathlon.  It’s going to take something unique to bring the local tri markets out of the slump.

JH: From all the years of watching races, tell us about one of the most memorable/inspiring moments you can remember.

Hope: Without a doubt it was the first year of the Take Flight triathlon in Charlotte.  That event was organized by Scott and Renee Campbell who lost their son Garrett to Batten’s Disease.  Garrett had passed away in December, and the race was put on the following October.  So it had not even been a year since his passing.  Scott, Garrett’s dad, actually competed in the race and his brother Mark was the announcer.  When Scott crossed the finish line and his brother was cheering for him and announcing that it was Garrett’s dad, it was just a really powerful moment.  I don’t think there was a dry eye at the finish line.  Scott finished and gave Benji a big hug and you could just feel the emotion in the moment.  It’s something we will never forget.  It’s why we do what we do.

JH: I am sure you see a lot of "oh no!" moments. What suggestions might you have to make race day run a bit smoother?

Hope: Read the Event Details and make a checklist of your equipment.  The Event Details answer 95% of the questions, but no one wants to read them.  A checklist for equipment takes the guessing game out.  We’ve had people show up at events who have forgotten the strangest things.  Make a list, check it twice, and make sure you have everything you need to race.

JH: Can you recall your favorite "oh no!" moment and how an athlete creatively overcame it?

Hope: The first one that comes to mind was a triathlon where an athlete forgot to bring shoes.  So he just did the run in his socks.  He stands out because he didn’t even skip a beat; the decision was a no-brainer for him.  Many athletes would have reacted very differently in that situation.

JH: You have a lot of races on your race calendar; got any favorites?

Hope: For triathlons, Belews Lake and all the West Virginia events.  Belews Lake is our hometown race, so it’s really special to us.  We also get to sleep in our own bed, which doesn’t happen often in season.  Our WV events are just some of the most beautiful venues we have ever been to.  It’s also the same people that do them every year, and the events are smaller, so it’s like a family reunion every time we go back.  The athletes have seen our kids grow up each year, we’ve seen their kids grow, it’s just awesome.  For running events, Running of the Lights.  You just can’t beat the countdown to the New Year at the start line with all the participants.  It is loud and awesome.

JH: What's the most interesting Benji fact that nobody knows?

Hope: He has the school record at University of Louisiana at Monroe in indoor track in the 800m.  He ran a 1:50 indoor and a 1:49 outdoor.  He also won Tri Latta in 2006 – ran a 16:30 5K off the bike.  I think no one realizes that he actually used to race (very fast, James adds) before this all got started.

I believe, once all is said and done, the appropriate expression for a situation like what NC is currently experiencing is: “a rising tide lifts all ships.” Athletes have a veritable panoply of options from which to select their races in 2014 and beyond.  What Hope and Benji Jones have done for the NC endurance community cannot really be measured objectively but the knowledge that an event they put on is going to be impeccable in every measurable sense of what a race SHOULD be is enough to lend me confidence in putting down my hard-earned money to sign up for a JRC race.

I am excited for the future of triathlon in general but most importantly I am excited about triathlon in North Carolina.  We have some great race options as athletes and, more importantly, a great community and environment in which to participate in those races!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Throw back Thursday

Shipwreck Sprinternational 2012 News Article

Pirates invaded Holden Beach Saturday and absconded with all the loot.

Actually, they swam, bicycled and ran away with all the loot.

Contestants from Charlotte had to hold onto their hats—their pirate hats—for the last leg as they crossed the finish line to win the Holden Beach Shipwreck Triathlon.

“It feels good to win,” said James Haycraft, 28. “The hardest leg was the run because my hat kept blowing off, and a Speedo is not the most comfortable thing to run in.”

The Charlotte contestants wore pirate attire only for the last leg—the run, which came after a long swim in the ocean and a bicycle race on the west end of the island.

“My mustache is stiff from the salt water,” Haycraft said.

Men’s runner-up Ashley Ackerman said, “It took two miles before I could feel my toes again. I was just peddling with my heels.”

The water temperature was 67 degrees for the contestants who jumped in the ocean several hundred yards to the right of the Holden Beach Bridge and swam left.

“They set the course up to go with the current,” Haycraft said.

From a distance, the ocean surface was broken by a flurry of white splashes.

“It kind of looks like fish feeding,” said spectator Pam Chappell, down from Greensboro for the weekend.

Kayakers escorted the swimmers as they freestyle-raced down to a green buoy parallel to the Holden Beach Pavilion.

“This is almost a perfect race day,” said spectator Jon Wallace. “Last year (during the first Holden Beach Shipwreck Triathlon), the water was very choppy.”

Swimmers emerged from the water Saturday already shedding their wet suits. The strip teases continued as they made their way to the racks with the numbered bicycles set up in front of the candy shop. Police chief Wally Layne and officer Ian Evans stopped traffic on Ocean Boulevard for the contestants to cross unimpeded.

“I would love to do it,” Evans said of the triathlon. “It’s really great for the competitors. It’s a great goal to reach—even to finish.”

Holden Beach town manager David Hewett, 52, finished in both last year and this year’s triathlons. Saturday, he placed third in his age division.

“It’s something not a lot people can do,” Hewett said. “I’m sure more people can do it than are motivated to do it. It requires a wide variety of skill sets. You’ve got to be accomplished in three things.”

Melissa Bell won going away in the women’s division. She competed in a swimsuit adorned with a picture of a skull and also wore a pirate bandana.

“Usually beaches are flat, and that sometimes gets boring,” said the 31-year-old. “But the homes here are beautiful, and it was great getting crowd support at the homes.”

A small crowd assembled on the beach yelling “Great job,” “Yea,” “You’re doing a great job” and “Keep going!” as swimmers emerged from the surf. On the bicycle race on the west end and run on the east end, people came out of their oceanfront, second-row and Brunswick Avenue homes, sat in lawn chairs and cheered on contestants.

Bell said, “It helps motivate you to go faster, especially when you’re tired at the end (of each leg).”

She planned on celebrating her third triathlon victory this year by eating French fries and a veggie burger at Sharkey’s with her Charlotte colleagues.

“My in-laws have a beach house in Ocean Isle,” Ackerman said.

Catherine Hensley, who couldn’t compete in the triathlon this year because she’s training for a marathon in two weeks, cheered on brother and sister Kyle and Meg Hensley.

“They grew up coming to Holden so this is a nostalgic thing for them,” Catherine Hensley said.

One competitor had done an Iron Man in Idaho in June when the water temperature was 53 degrees, they said.
Contestant Bob Nixon had to pull out of Saturday’s race, lamenting, “I couldn’t breathe in that wet suit, and a kayaker had to tow me in.”

The competitors were cordial after the race.

Haycraft, the winner, walked up to one triathlete, vigorously shook his hand and said, “Great race, man, you rode that bike hard.”

Haycraft didn’t have any laurels around his neck, but he still had a “salt necklace” where the top of his wet suit had been

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ironman Cozumel, by Ashley Ackerman

So I was riding home from Ironman Louisville in August with Lori and with 8 hours together in the car, we had a lot of time to talk about the race. Ups, downs, pacing, heat, all the things that could have gone better.  We started talking about how much it stinks to get into great shape, race an Ironman and then pretty much have to wait another year to race the distance again.  Then Lori had a wild suggestion, go to Cozumel in 3 months for vacation and to race again. Wife of the Year in my book!  So, I figured 3 months was plenty of time to rest and regroup so we jumped in!

First things first, make travel arrangements and recover from the Ironman I just did.  After about a week, I started to feel good again or so I thought.  It actually ended up taking about 6 weeks before my workout numbers started to realign with those before Louisville.  I was very happy for Carrie getting to race Hawaii but not sure how she or anyone for that matter, does 2 races in 6 weeks.  Just goes to show how tough some people are in this sport!  Second, was to fix the issues from Louisville that I could including a new Adamo Saddle and nutrition plans for the marathon.  I honestly don’t know how I rode a “normal” saddle for all these years and would strongly recommend a split saddle for anyone who plans to ride in a TT position for extended periods of time.  Your body will thank you for it and the experience will be much more enjoyable.  The nutrition plan was tweaked by the addition of glucose shots I read about on slowtwitch.  These shots are pure glucose and are sold in big box stores as a diabetic product for low blood sugar.  They’re liquid shots that are super sweet and taste like a melted popsicle.   So after 6 weeks of recover,  4 weeks of training, and 2 weeks of taper, the “next race” was here.

Race morning brought a new swim course, fairly calm winds, and temperatures in the 70’s. We got started right at 7am and by 7:15, I realized my first race mistake.  I haven’t raced in salt water in a few years so I forgot how liberally you have to apply body glide around your neck and arms to prevent chafing.  I felt like my skinsuit was sawing me in half around my torso but that was ok b/c the swim was beautiful and the current was ripping!  There wasn’t much time to enjoy the reef b/c we were moving across it so fast.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but in hindsight, the fast current meant the field would be more bunched up which leads to big drafting packs on the bike. 
Transition came and went and I was riding along and getting settled in when the first large pack swallowed me up around mile 15.  The marshalls were out on scooters handing out penalties but I was amazed at how many riders simply ignored their whistle calls.  It looked almost as if the only people who got caught were the ones who slowed down and acknowledged the penalty.  This seemed to be the trend for the entire bike leg.  A group would pass me and then I’d see many of them in the next penalty box alongside the road.  A few times, I saw over 10 people stopped at one tent but from speaking with others, this is typically what happens at flat Ironman races and the shortened, fast swim wasn’t helping.  I continued making my 3 trips around the island when I realized my watch timer wasn’t going off every 15 minutes as planned.  I set it up before the race but since I hadn’t actually practiced it before the race, I quickly realized I didn’t set it up to repeat the 15’ interval so the timer just stopped.  At that point, I couldn’t safely change the settings while riding so I abandoned the alarm and worked off of race time for my nutrition plan. Second mistake of the day and this plan seemed so simple… The backside of the island provided us with a great view of the Atlantic Ocean  but the clear landscape didn’t do much to block any of the headwind. I tucked in as low as possible and tried to stay aero which worked great son laps 1 and 2 as I was passing people easily but this lower position caused my glutes to tighten up on the third lap.  Having to stand up to stretch my legs ended up costing me some time but at that point, the end was near and I knew getting in my nutrition was more important than a few lost minutes on the bike.  All in all, I got in all the calories I’d planned for on the bike so I was in a much better position than in Louisville so I was eagerly excited to start the marathon.

When I got into T2 my race time was under 6 hours, due to the shortened swim, but I was still excited by pipe dream of finishing under 9 hours, even though it would have an asterisk by the time. I didn’t care what place I was in b/c I knew under 9 would put me in a good place. I even made a point to take my time in T2 and have a few laughs with the volunteers to lift my spirits even though most of them didn’t speak English and didn’t laugh with me. That’s ok though b/c it’s normal for me to laugh harder than other people at myself.  However, they did all like my $10 white shades Lori bought me for the race. They ended up being quite the hit with spectators which definitely helped get me fight off some of the inner demons.  
The Marathon
I had ambitions of running near 3 hours based on my workout numbers but I knew to be cautious in the first half.  Ends up I need to be more cautious than ever anticipated.  I abandoned my strategy of setting a pacing alert on the Garmin b/c I couldn’t get the settings the way I wanted so I took off relying on mile splits.    It’s amazing how easy it feels the first few miles. That sounds crazy but if you ride within yourself, the first half marathon should feel easy.    In Louisville, my first mile was 7:31 and in Cozumel, it was 6:41 but I attribute this to my bonking on the bike in Louisville over the last 30 miles.  6:41 felt incredibly easy but I knew to back it off but it took until mile 5 before I ran a mile over 7 minute pace.  This means I spent the first 34 minutes of the marathon under my dream marathon goal pace which was probably the deal breaker.  I would never ride 30 watts over my goal for the first hour of the bike so to do this in the marathon is just silly.  I had a fuel belt with my glucose shots and a hand bottle or the first few miles but I didn’t foresee how hot the liquids would get sitting out all day.  Hot drinks can taste very different form ice cold drinks so I ended up grabbing cups of ice cold Gatorade, coke and water from the aid stations instead of sticking to my plan. After 4 miles, my pacing seemed to even out more and I proceeded through mile 10 where my cumulative average was showing 7:03 pace.  I was feeling good and then started the roller coaster of a few bad miles and then a few good miles.  The half marathon went by at 7:20 pace which I was still happy with so I focused on trying to stay cool and getting my nutrition down.  The out and back laps seemed to get longer and longer and by the start of lap 3 (with 8ish miles to go), I gave it one more last rally.  I hit the last turn around at mile 21 with an average pace of 7:34, good enough for a 3:17 marathon, but then my body fought back and the heat overtook me.  I proceeded to spend miles 23 and 24 walking, dry heaving, and eventually throwing up all the liquid I’d put down gearing up for my last rally.  In hindsight, I think I simply put too much in my stomach trying to cool down and it ending up costing me.  By the end of mile 24, my average pace was now 8:07 and the race was slipping away.  Remarkably, this is when the sky opened up and it started pouring.  It instantly dropped 10 degrees and I took off as soon as I caught my breath from puking.  Why couldn’t it have rained 30 minutes earlier!  I ended up running the last 2 miles through the flooded streets of downtown Cozumel in 8:09 and 7:13 pace.  I couldn’t see anything or anyone b/c I was still rockin’ the white shades from Lori and before I knew it, there was the finish line.  I slowed to a jog and tried to enjoy the finish but it ends up all being a bit blurry.  Its hard to imagine that every fiber of your body is focused on running and then the finish line comes and you’re so excited to see it, you basically miss it. Maybe I’ll walk across the line next time…  

By the end, I finished at 8:04 pace, which is mostly attributed to a 16-minute mile 23 and a 10-minute mile 24 but the average is what it is.  In hindsight, I think my expectations were a simply unrealistic.  7-minute pace may have been possible with cooler weather and cloudy skies but on a windy / hot day, goals need to be adjusted accordingly and I simply didn’t realign my plans.

Since the race, I’ve spent quite a bit of time comparing my last 3 Ironman marathons looking for some pattern to where it all goes wrong. Surprisingly, my best time and most consistent pacing came from Wisconsin last year, which was my first Ironman and arguably the one I was the least prepared for.  I haven’t figured out what that is yet but I never went under 7 min pace for the first 10 miles. I am feeling more strongly though that the marathon pace needs to be governed by something.  Either a heart rate cap or a pacing cap b/c simply running off mile splits isn’t effective b/c it allows too much time to pass before making adjustments. Perhaps the best strategy is to use HR in conjunction with a pace alert.  If anyone has figured out a successful strategy for the marathon, I’m all ears.  Either way, I’ve got time to work and continue strategizing and by the time the next Ironman rolls around, whenever that may be, a pacing strategy will be firmly in place which excites me!
Plus, it was pointed out to me that my break through at the half ironman distance came after many, probably 8-10, attempts and years of training.  Not sure if I have 8-10 Ironman races in me but as long as Lori says “Let’er Rip, Tater-Chip!”, we’ll keep it going!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rev3 Florida Half-Iron

Like snowbirds, James, Jenny and I headed south to Venice, FL for a little triathloning.  Because who wouldn't want to travel and race in place with sunsets like this? 

Sharky's Pier

This would be my first Revolution 3 event and only my second time attempting the long-ish distance of 70.3 miles.  The 10+ hour drive down was made enjoyable by the sweet, awesome, extremely practical minivan, and, of course, the presence of Jenny and James.  I enjoyed the bonding time and I can assure you that they enjoyed my infatuation with nuts. Wait, what was that? Yes, I love nuts.  Almost as much as cookies.  Wanting to be more like Fergie and The Champ I took it upon myself to pack a cooler full of goods that would hold over hunger during the drive. I feel as though I dropped the ball on my pre-race nutrition before Syracuse last year so I didn't want to make the same mistake twice.

Looking back on the trip I realize that time went by rather quickly.  We had a great time leading up to race day.  More details here and here.  Before I knew it, my alarm was going off at 4:50am on race morning.  After the morning rituals of bathroom, coffee, eating, bathroom, and bathroom, we loaded up the van to head to the race site.

To ease the race nerves and prepare us for the journey that was soon to come we each chose a fight song to play on the way to the race site.  The chosen songs were as follows:

Jenny: Katy Perry - 'Roar'
James: Eminem - 'Till I Collapse'
Me: Muse - 'Survival'

As James mention in his blog, we arrived a little later than planned.  Luckily Sylvain was still setting up his area and had a pump I could borrow to inflate my tires since I had to drop off the day before.  Thanks again, dude.  I quickly laid everything out and made my way to the swim start.  With not much time before the pro start time I hurried to put on my wetsuit.  HUGE mistake.  I was already sweating at this point from the short jog down to the swim start that putting on the wetsuit became quite the challenge.  I wouldn't notice until later, but in the process of getting into my wetsuit my fingernail tore a small hole in the neoprene.  Lesson learned: always take your time putting on your wetsuit.  I finally got it mostly on and headed over to watch the pro's start their race.

Disclaimer: I did my best with Rev3's results so don't hold me accountable if I miscalculated my placement.

Swim - 30:17 (2nd AG)

Luckily I was in the 2nd wave of amateurs with a start time of 7:15 because I barely made it down to the swim start to see the pros take off at 7.  It came with great relief that the tide was high enough today that dolphin-dives/running would not be necessary.  Even though it was my first beach start and I failed miserably at the entry the day before (what not to do) I chose to place myself on the front line - I ain't scurd.  Horn sounds and we are off.  The start was not nearly as frantic as I had anticipated considering the # of dudes behind me. I was very quickly left swimming alone missing the chance to latch onto the lead group.  I just didn't have the initial take off speed necessary to stick with the lead group.  At first I was a little frustrated with what I thought was a poor swim, however I continued along at a pace that felt comfortable to me knowing that the day was long.  I did very little studying of the swim course prior to race morning which left me feeling a little less confident as this was my first time attempting the 'clothes hanger' swim course.  I feel that I took pretty good lines throughout the swim.  After the first two turn buoy's it was a straight shot until the next one on the swim exit side of things.  It was during this stretch of the swim that I realized I was making up ground and picking off green caps (2nd wave swimmers).  This was a huge boost to my swim confidence as I neared the finish.

T1 - 2:21

Upon exiting the water and running (albeit slowly because I couldn't get my hands out of my wetsuit) towards the TA I noticed [wetsuit] strippers.  I knew they would be able to strip the suit off much quicker than me so I headed in their direction and assumed to position (for wetsuit removal that is).  Sweet, that was fast.  The rest was pretty routine: put on helmet, grab bike and get out as quick as possible.

Travel all the way to FL and have to park my bike next to this fast dude, are you serious?

Bike - 2:24:33 (6th AG)

As I was leaving transition I noticed Sylvain making his way in and knew that I'd soon be passed.  Shortly after getting strapped into my shoes and in a rhythm on the bike he rode by me on his sweet Cervelo P5.  As much as I would have loved to go with him, or at least keep him in a near distance, I knew it was out of the question if I wanted to run well (or run at all for that matter).  The course was very flat with mostly head or tail winds; was a welcoming change from the previous days crosswinds.  I settled into the bike leg rather quickly and spent most of my time is awe when I would see the pro's coming in the other direction after the turnarounds (I believe there were a total of 5).  I even got acknowledged by the Pro - so dreamy, I know.  I also found it amusing/odd that there were several dudes on road bikes attempting to draft off the pros and riding all over the place.  Luckily I didn't have to worry about these clowns as I was going slow on the opposite side of the road, but it's still not cool.

I found the bike leg to be very boring for the most part.  I knew the watts given to me would be easy to maintain.  I was hopeful that it would set me up for a great run so I had to constantly remind myself that I was going to be running for dough (not literally of course).  It was really hard for me to hold back when several guys in my age group biked past me at very strong efforts, but I stuck to the plan in hopes to return the favor later on in the day.  Sure enough I would end up passing them back early on in the run.  I haven't done much long-course racing in my short triathlon career, but the volunteers (mostly 65+) were surprisingly all over this bike course.  Their worlds of encouragement always brought a smile to my face and helped to make this flat and boring bike leg somewhat entertaining.

Nearing transition I got out of my shoes and started to prepare mentally for the run that was before me as I knew I had a lot of work to do if I wanted to place well in my age group since my bike was all but impressive.  At this point, I didn't know exactly how far up Sylvain was, but at the last turnaround on the bike I calculated it to be around 6 minutes and knew that he probably put some more time on me during the last bit of the ride.  As the results show, he ended up out biking me by 9 minutes. Well done, sir.

T2 - 1:20

Nothing special here.  Took time to put on socks and grab my goods for the run: visor (thanks Timmay), shades, gel flask and race belt.  Off and running...

Run - 1:28:26 (1st AG)

Feeling much more confident with my run this year, I was really looking forward to chasing down those who blew by me on the bike (I had their numbers in my head).  I set out at a pace I thought would be easy to maintain for the entire duration of the run leg.  My one goal for this race was to run the entire time without walking (something I failed at miserably during Syracuse 70.3 last year).  As I made the first turn to start the run Cam Dye was coming towards me to begin his second loop of the double out and back run course.  I quickly realized that I was coming up on him and begin to panic in the sense that I was probably running too fast at this point of my race.  I glanced at my Garmin for some reassurance and confirmed that I was moving along at my target pace so I concluded that he must have been having a bad run.

Shortly after mile 1 I dropped my gel flask in the sand.  I knew it'd be poor form not to go back and get it so I did.  It was covered in sand but luckily I was nearing an aid station where I would be able to dump some water on it to wash off the sand.  I actually enjoyed the double out and back run course as it kept me preoccupied with all the varying levels of athletes and races going on (there was also an Olympic distance).  The miles were ticking away rather quickly during the first loop and I was feeling great.  The effort never really felt hard but I tried to stay patient the first loop to leave some gas for the end.

It was also a treat seeing both Jenny and James out on the run course as it gave me a chance to show a little front double bicep pose.  The run continued and I was slowly making up time on Sylvain but in the end it wasn't enough.  However, I was over whelmed with how great I felt the entire run and it felt good to passing people that I couldn't hang with on the bike.  I'm not going to lie, I was pretty excited to see mile 13 and make the turn into the finish chute. 

Overall - 4:26:57 (2nd AG, 7th Amateur)

Sylvain ended up placing 2nd overall amateur and was therefore taken out of the AG rankings so I moved up one place only missing 1st by 16 seconds.  Didn't see anyone ahead or I might have been able to dig a little deeper.  Womp, womp - maybe next time.

Right after finishing = tired
Wish I could remember what was so funny

Overall, I am very pleased with my performance today and this season.  I personally think I did a great job pacing this race today which lead to an overall solid performance.  It was also so very great to see James and Jenny have phenomenal races. I'm not going to lie, I felt like a VIP traveling around with these two superstars.

Ending the season on such a positive race leaves me feeling confident that there is more to tap into in terms of long-course racing and I look forward to tackling the distance a little more in 2014 with the help of the one and only James Haycraft (aka JMFH). 

Thanks to James, Jenny and her mother for the photos.