- 2k swim, 90k bike, 21.1k run
- Goal Time = 5:31:00
- Chip Time = 5:02:25 (click to see Sportstats page)
- Category Place = 17/38 (M 35-39)
- Overall Place = 70/305
- Fuel: 1 btl. Perpetuem (pre-race), 2 btls. Perpetuem (bike), 2 pkgs Chomps (bike), 1 GU gel (run)…and bucket loads of water and cold sponges.
Believe it or not, I’d been having mixed feelings about yesterday’s race. I wasn’t really sure how I wanted to approach this race as it’s not my main A-race this year. So should I go all out or should I take it more relaxed and just use it as a further learning opportunity for the Big Show come September? However, it was also my first full half iron distance event this season…so why wouldn’t I go balls out? Decisions, decisions…
I still hadn’t made up my mind even right up to the swim start as we all bobbed there waiting anxiously; wrists cocked in anticipation of beginning our stop watches. I figured I’d just take it as it comes and simply see how it goes; no pressure, no problem. With this strategy finally made up in my mind I relaxed a bit and exchanged a few giggles about peeing and warm spots and what have you with other swimmers, shook a few hands, shared a few well wishes with other team members (as you do) and, before you know it, like shit through a Canada Goose we were off.
- Swim:2k (34:47)
- Pace: 1:45 /100m
- Gender Place: 12/38
- Overall Place: 58/305
This was the largest mass start I have been involved in. What has happened in my previous Sprint and Olympic events couldn’t even begin to compare to an open water start of over three hundred swimmers; it’d be like trying to compare the General Seating at a Barry Manilow concert with the mosh pit at a Nine Inch Nails show. In short, it was like trying to swim in an ‘ol electric washing machine with the first 400/500m involving lots of clubbing, slapping, punching, kicking and jockeying around for a suitable space to swim. I’m sure I gave as good as I got but this sure does spike your heart rate when every breath is a challenge and blows are raining down on you from all directions.
Mental Note to Self: always look for the outside at the start. Leave the brawling to those in the center.
Eventually, I found myself on the heels of another decently paced swimmer (again, I apologize for the toe tickling) and together we began to break away from the main scrum of swimmers for the rest of the first kilometer or so. Eventually, my draftee began to fade while I was just beginning to find my stroke comfortably so I broke free and with a last tap on their ankle I passed thinking that maybe this person might appreciate the chance to draft off me for a while (whether they did or not, I have no idea). Never let it be said that I am not gracious in competition.
The rest of the swim went smoothly and I was able to power in the last 200/300m pretty easily. I was feeling good now and my heart rate was under total control – even more so than usual by this point. So had it not been for that first melee at the beginning I might have been more on target to successfully completing my sub-30 minute 2k swim fitness goal, but I am happy nonetheless. At least I wasn’t any slower than last year’s time at this distance (35:17).
Upon exiting the water I was instantly met with an explosion from the crowd and my team mates in particular (many of whom raced yesterday). I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to have people erupt around you with encouragement and cheers – I might just be addicted. As I started the long run back into transition I also noticed two of my other teammates just ahead of me (no doubt both having excellent swims themselves), so from pretty much that point forward it was definitely on like Donkey Kong.
- Bike: 90k (2:33:38)
- Pace: 35.1 km/h
- Gender Place: 17/38
- Overall Place: 64/305
- Transition: 2:05
My bike transition wasn’t the quickest I’ve ever managed – far from actually – but once I was off I was set, comfortable and aero within seconds of entering the bike course. Now, I am usually a hard pusher early on in the bike but I am trying to learn to be more patient and give myself a brief opportunity to recover properly and get established before really letting ‘er rip. So after a few sips of Perpetuem and a small mouthful of Chomps energy bites (two of these bites per 10k is my latest race nutrition strategy) I focused on getting my breathing back under control.
Shortly thereafter, after the first major turn heading out of town I was joined by a small group of cyclists from an older age category and this offered me the chance to begin stepping up my tempo a bit. I have learned that guys competing in their 40’s and 50’s can really spin their buns off, so the four of us tore ass over the next 35-40k or so. Drafting in triathlon is, of course, illegal, but that doesn’t also mean that you can’t use someone’s momentum to motivate you keep pace which is exactly what I did. Eventually, I realized that if I continued to match their pace I was likely not going to have anything left for the run so, although I hate to get dropped, best I ease off now and instead look to find them out on the run course later. So I resumed my comfortable cadence again and watched them disappear into the distance.
The good news was that by keeping this pace (approx. 38 km/h) as long as I did I was able to catch all my teammates ahead of me – all but one that is. The downside was that it also meant that the next leg of the bike was going to be long and lonely as I found myself riding in my own peloton of one, void of anyone else to push me or focus on catching, etc. I almost wished I hadn’t passed my team mates as I would have had somebody to ride with but, alas, it was not meant to be.
For the most part, the next 40k or so was just an exercise in mental toughness – something I like to think I know a little about – forging ahead into the headwind all on my lonesome. This also begs the question, where was the tailwind? I mean, seriously, there seemed to be a new headwind or crosswind lurking around every corner, turn and bend in the road no matter what direction I happened to be heading in, but never a tailwind. Talk about bad luck.
As I began to reenter back into Welland proper I checked my stop watch for the first time since exiting the water and realized that I was close to my sub-2 hour, 30 minute 90k bike goal so I tried to pick it back up again, but Thunder n’ Lightning were beginning to show the first signs of fatigue (too fast too soon). I decided then and there that I really wanted a good run over an excellent bike spilt so I did what I thought was the smart thing and began to spin easier in order to flush out my legs and prepare myself for a hot and humid run. I finished the bike only a mere 3:38 off my goal…something I can definitely live with.
Run: 21.1k (1:48:59)
- Pace: 5:10 /km
- Gender Place: 20/38
- Overall Place: 106/305
- Transition: 0:56
My run transition was much smoother this time around. I entered into transition with two other triathletes and I was determined to be the first out – and I was – but with two other runners close on my heels. The PA announcer was even playing it up a bit as the three of us hustled out of transition: “it looks like we have a little competition getting under way into the run course…” – damn straight, Howard. Who can resist that kind of motivation?
I started onto the run course at the fastest pace I have ever attempted figuring I would try to shake these runners quickly before resuming my normal ‘race pace’. Who knew I was so competitive with myself? I checked my stop watch to calculate where I was time-wise in relation to my goal time and to my surprise, it was still well under the 3 hour, 30 minute mark and here I was nearly 3k into my run. Right on! It was beginning to look like my sub-5 hour, 30 minute finish time was practically in the bag provided I managed to keep my cool and not to ‘blow up’ on the course doing something stupid. So as I began to find my stride I began to play my favorite ‘search and destroy’ game by focusing on the immediate runner ahead of me and then catch and pass them, before returning my focus back on the next person ahead and so on. It sure passes the kilometers and helps to keep your tempo up.
By mid-point in the run, I had managed to keep distance on my other team mates whom I would see after each of the turnaround points and, as in some cases, even widening the gap including my Coach, but it looked like she was running smoothly now and it wasn’t going to be easy staying ahead. I’ve learned to never underestimate anyone in this sport as anything can and usually does happen. I am happy that I was able to navigate through the aid stations quickly without stopping, while taking two cups of water at a time (one to drink and one to dump over my head). This has proved to be something of a challenge with me in the past to the point that I seldom use aid stations anymore preferring instead to pass through quickly unassisted….but, damn, those cold sponges felt amazing!
There was only one other team member ahead of me at this point, Dan, by about 2 minutes and I made closing that gap between us my new mission. Dan is a beast on the bike (he’s no puss at swimming or running either) and managed to turn in a huge 2:27:10 bike split (avg. 36.7 km/h) but it looked as if he was beginning to feel a bit challenged now on the run. However, as it did on the bike, I once again found myself alone on the course around the 17k mark so keeping pace was becoming more difficult. With nothing else to distract your thoughts and focus, that agonizing pain in your legs increases significantly, let me tell you, as do those little gremlins in your head all trying to encourage you to either slow down or stop altogether.
One more glance at my stop watch and some more minor calculations and it began to dawn on me that not only was I well ahead of my finishing goal time, but actually within range of breaking the 5 hour barrier to boot! Holy shit! That was all I needed to find that extra life left in my legs and up the pace one last time as I began to exit Merritt Island towards the finish. The distant cry of “Run, fat boy, Run!” from my family who had made it out to cheer (although I didn’t realize it at the time) also made me giggle (it’s an inside joke). Also at that time, I passed through the aid station manned by those teammates who had raced yesterday and the added encouragement only fueled me further even though my legs felt like they had been left behind about 2 kilometers ago.
As I approached the last kilometer or so I spotted the last two runners ahead of me, neither of which was Dan, but both looked to be in my age group so the race was still on as I worked to close that last gap. I caught them with only approximately 300m left to go and I pulled past I heard one of them exclaim excitedly: ‘Shit, you’re in my age group!’, followed by the sound of foot steps giving chase behind me. As fans cheered us in, the three of us raced through the finish chute where I held on in the last few meters to finish 17th overall in my age category with a finishing time of 5:02:25; which represents an improvement of nearly 52 minutes over last years Musselman effort (5:56:47). Not bad for a fat guy, eh?
Dan was there waiting to congratulate me and I shared a round of hugs with the two other runners who had chased me in…smiles all around. My Coach came in rather quickly only few minutes later and I was surprised by how much ground she had gained in the last 8k or so after she had spotted someone ahead of her that, apparently, looked like me. So here I am torturing myself to stay ahead while she’s similarly punishing herself to catch me and, afterwards, it’s all hugs and Hero Burgers. Isn’t this sport wonderful?
So race fans, it was an amazing weekend of racing and personal bests. I have the day off today to go for a massage, pick up some groceries, BBQ my buns off and just generally relax in every sense of the word. The next week is rather easy training-wise, so I’m figuring I’ll enjoy taking it slow for a few days before getting back at it again hot and heavy next week to initiate my third phase of training, including swimming in ‘true’ open water (think: big waves) sans wetsuit, basic bicycle maintenance, not to mention this elusive heat that keeps avoiding me this year.
Oh, and you probably guessed it, but I’m already figuring out how to shave off those extra two minutes for next year.