This was my first foray into the longer distance races. I’ll start by saying that I had a fantastic race and managed to finish in 5:16:22!, well under my 5:30 goal time.
There’s so much that I want to document from this race, it’s hard to know where to start. I think it is going to be a long post. It has taken me a while to get around to it, because I had a busy work/travel schedule immediately following the race.
Check-In and Pre-race
I arrived on Friday afternoon, a little later than I had hoped
because of traffic and work commitments, however I did get there in time to check-in and get my race packet. The process was very quick, and the best thing about it was the number that I was assigned… 900!
The expo was smaller than I had expected, I wandered around a bit and after picking up a new set of goggles I drove over to the transition area to scope out the swim course. I had originally planned to swim most of the course of Friday, but it was getting late in the afternoon and I wanted to get back and meet up with the family.
I while I was at the transition area, I found my bike location. It was a really great spot, 2nd row from the front (the bike exit side) only a few steps away from the pro racks. The area was well marked, and even had my name printed on it. btw – I did both of the things on the note at the bottom.
After finishing up at the race site I drove to the house that we were staying in for the weekend. It ended up being about 35 miles away, but was definitely worth the trip. a great house on the water, with a pool. The kids had an awesome time, and I got to spend time with them before and after the race too. Here’s some pictures of their fun weekend.
I went back to the race site on Saturday to meet up with some friends, (Kate, Rich & Diane). We all went for a warm-up swim along part of the course and also a 10 minute ride to make sure the bikes were in working order. After racking the bikes we had a great lunch of fresh pasta @ Scossa in Easton.
The last thing I did on Saturday evening was get everything ready for an early start on race morning, set the alarm for 4am and tried to get some sleep.
I woke before my alarm, didn’t really sleep very well. Consumed a couple of hammer bars and a bottle of EFS and I was on my way. The only cars on the road at that time were also heading to the race site. I managed to get there early enough to park a few blocks away from the race site, so I didn’t have to park further away and get the shuttle.
It didn’t take long to get my transition area setup, clipped the shoes on to the bike, added water to the speedfil and pumped up the tires. I did get to walk past the pro area – it was great to see them getting ready, including Terenzo Bozzone and Mirinda Carfrae.
Before long, it was time to head over to the swim start. The pro’s went off at 6:45, and my wave was 7:26, so I had plenty of time to enjoy the atmosphere and get myself ready. There was some confusion around the race start. The announcer was saying that we would be starting 10 minutes early, but we ended up starting right on time. My age group was so large that it was split into 2 waves. We had around 8 minutes to get in the water and complete a bit of a warm-up before the start.
I was remarkably calm, considering this was my first long race. This is normal for me, I don’t usually get too worked-up before the start, unlike many others around me in the water. It must be from all of the years of competitive windsurfing. The nice thing about the swim start was that you could stand, it was about shoulder deep across most of the starting line.
Swim – 42:52 (100th/235 in age group)
My plan for the swim was to take it relatively easy, so I wouldn’t harm the rest of my race. My goal time was anywhere around 40 minutes. I though I was swimming a little faster than the time suggested, but overall I was happy with the effort I put in. I did get off-course a few times, I found myself veering to the right a number of times. A few times I was able to draft of some people on front, but for most of the swim I was on my own.
One thing I do remember is that it seemed so long, as I rounded the final turn mark I could make out the transition area in the distance, but it looked so far away. As I approached the beach at the swim exit, there were a lot of people wading in waist deep water. I decided to do some porpoise dives which is always faster than walking through water and picked up a few places.
By the time I got to the timing mat, my watch read 43:00, I started it around 10 seconds before the start, but I was a little disappointed with the time. I didn’t dwell on it though and made my way to transition as fast as I could. I did feel a little cramp in my quads as I was exiting the water, something that I’ve never felt after a swim before.
I do remember seeing Diane at the swim exit, she was volunteering. This was a great boost for me, it’s so nice to see a familiar face during the race.
Transition 1 – 1:45 (18th/235 in age group)
Nothing much to report here – transition was smooth. Since I had my bike shoes already on the bike, there wasn’t much to do. Put on the race number, glasses and helmet and then grab the bike and go.
A few days ago, I got an email from the race organizers with an attached race report – it says that T1 was my best leg of the race! It says that I passed 14 people in my age group in transition.
Bike – 2:34:21 (66th/235 in age group)
I had been looking forward to the bike leg for a long time – it is usually my favorite of the 3 (often not my best leg, but the one I am most comfortable on). I knew it was a fast course, and it wasn’t too hot or windy.
I started off conservatively – taking on some water after the swim. The bike leg starts on local roads and had a few turns, so I took it pretty easy through the first mile or so. I was feeling great, and after getting onto the open road I was happy to see that my speed was around 22mph and I wasn’t pushing at all.
I had set my bike computer to auto-lap every 5 miles, this was a cue for nutrition (EFS liquid shot) and also served to break the leg up into small chunks and enabled me to monitor my progress. I completed the first 5 miles in 13:45 at an average of 21.8 – I was hoping I could keep that up for the rest of the race.
There were 4 aid stations on the bike leg, I didn’t stop at the first one, since I had plenty of water for the first 20+ miles. At the 2nd stop I picked up a bottle of water and emptied it into the speedfil. This was the first time I’d done this, wasn’t sure how much I should slow down to grab the water bottle, but it was uneventful. At the 3rd water stop at about 30 miles in, I did the same thing, but the volunteer took a step towards me at the last second and I nearly crashed. I’ll remember to hold my arm wider next time. It wasn’t really a big deal, I said thanks and was on my way. I tried to thank everyone that I came in contact with, since without the volunteers the race just wouldn’t happen.
At about mile 40, I started to not feel quite right. A tightness in my stomach. I thought it was because I had a large gulp of gel a mile or so before, so I decided to back off the nutrition for the moment. I think this decision hurt me during the run. It was around this time that we turned on to Egypt rd. I had read in past race reports that this is the place where the headwinds are usually at their worst. Thankfully it wasn’t bad at all, there was a head-wind but it really wasn’t strong and my average speed was still pretty good. Here’s the splits for each 5 miles during the race:-
Split Time Distance Avg Speed Avg HR Max HR Avg Cadence Max Cadence 1 13:45 5 21.8 159 164 85 110 2 12:41 5 23.6 153 157 88 97 3 13:48 5 21.7 153 157 86 101 4 14:11 5 21.1 150 155 90 101 5 13:41 5 21.9 149 154 86 98 6 13:27 5 22.3 150 155 86 98 7 12:49 5 23.4 153 157 88 98 8 13:15 5 22.6 148 155 86 100 9 14:18 5 21.0 150 157 85 103 10 14:00 5 21.4 151 158 84 97 11 14:07 5 21.2 153 158 83 100 12 3:17 1.12 20.4 157 161 73 95 Summary 2:33:24 56.12 21.9 151 164 86 110
The official course time was 2:34:21 for an average speed of 21.77. I was very happy with this. I didn’t push too hard, actually I never felt any fatigue in my legs during the bike leg. My cadence and heart rate were right where I wanted (around 90rpm and 155bpm). For the last 15 miles I did find myself getting tight in the shoulders, so I would sit up for a few seconds and stretch a little. I have only had my triathlon bike for a month, so I guess this was to be expected. I did get a good fitting, but haven’t had the final adjustment yet.
Transition 2 – 2:39 (62nd/235 in age group)
I took it pretty easy through transition. During the bike leg, I had decided to take my bike computer (Garmin Edge 500) along on the run leg – so I could see my heart rate and speed after the race. I didn’t look at it during the run leg at all.
I did remember to apply some sunscreen in transition, but I forgot to remove my sunglasses when doing so – so I managed to spray some on my glasses, which I had to clean off as I was running.
Overall it was a good transition – take the helmet off, put on the shoes (no socks) and fuel-belt and head off running. I was feeling pretty good at this point. I knew that if I could run the 1/2 marathon in under 2 hours I’d finish with a great time of around 5:20.
Run – 1:54:45 (75th/235 in age group)
The run leg was the biggest unknown for me. I had not done a lot of running leading up to the race, and was a little worried that the calf problems that I was having earlier in the year may come back during the race.
As I started running, the cheers of the crowd support was pretty amazing. I heard Diane shout out, which gave me a great boost. Right about this time, I could feel my right quad starting to cramp. This wasn’t good, and was something that I had not experienced before. I did remember to put some salt tablets (Hammer Endurolytes) in the pocket of my fuel-belt, so I took 2 with some water tried to relax for the first few miles. I was feeling it – and wasn’t running at my usual training pace. I remember the first mile taking just under 9 minutes – but I was starting to feel a little better. At least the cramping was gone.
After about 3 miles I settled into a decent rhythm, running around 8:40-8:45 miles. I was not trying to hit any specific numbers, just staying steady and not going out too hard. I was passing a lot of people, and of course there were people flying past me.
I actually felt pretty good between miles 3 and 8, but I found the last 3-4 miles a struggle. After reflecting on the race, I figured that I just didn’t consume enough calories and simply ran out of energy. I didn’t have any more cramping, but really had to struggle from about mile 9-13. The great news is that I didn’t have any calf issues at all.
The course is an out and back, without much break from the sun. I did try to put ice in my had at each aid station, this really helped. The fuel-belt worked well too. For me, I usually do better when I sip water frequently, rather than taking a big gulp at each station. I was close to finishing my 7oz bottle by the time each station came up, so I’d grab a cup of ice, and enough water to fill the bottle and be off the the next one.
Early in the run, I did see Mirinda Carfrae, the women’s pro winner – she was closing in on the finish, between miles 9 and 10, and just flying (she finished with a 1:21:39 run leg). I wasn’t fast enough to see any of the pro men. A little while later I saw Sam Warriner who was in 3rd, she looked like she was in a lot of pain. The guy who was running next to me at that point said that he didn’t feel so bad, after seeing a pro look like we all feel! I was great to be so close to the pro’s, there aren’t many sports where you are on the same course at the same time.
At the last aid station before the turn-around, I dropped the top of my water bottle when refilling. Of course I didn’t realize this until I was a hundred meters down the road. I didn’t bother going back for it, I figured that the turn-around was only 1/2 a mile up the road, so I could get it on the way back. Sure enough, it was still there when I returned.
I was still feeling good at this point, and managed to keep a steady pace of around 8:45 per mile at miles 7 & 8. There wasn’t a time where I hit the wall, but after mile 9 I really found it to be a struggle. Towards the end of the run, there were a few turns, and I distinctly remember one of the turns where you could see the finish about 1.5 miles away. It looked SO far. We also passed the water at this point, I really could have used a swim to cool off a little.
One thing driving me to the finish line was that Annabel and the Kids would be there waiting. They don’t often get to come to races, so this would be a real treat for me. I was determined not to stop running, but my pace had dropped to around 10 minutes per mile at this point. I did some calculations and was hoping to get somewhere around 5:17. As the last turn came I gave it everything I had until the finish line. The finish area was really great, a long area with tons of people cheering. I spotted Annabel and the kids, and managed to give them a hi-5 on my way to the finish.
Since I used the bike computer on the run, I didn’t get splits for every mile, but here’s what I did get. You can see the my pace really did drop off in the last few miles.
Split Time Distance Avg Speed Avg HR Max HR 1 43:59 5 8:47 155 165 2 43:46 5 8:45 164 170 3 27:37 2.89 10:37 159 182
This was my 2nd 1/2 marathon ever – the first was a year ago (run only) and I finished in 1:53:55 – to finish within 1 minute of that time was a great result.
Final Result – 5:16:22 (69th/235 in age group)
I gave this race everything I had, at the end I was spent, but felt amazingly good. The post-race food really hit the spot. Sitting around with the family was a great moment. The kids had made signs, and even had my race number on their arms and legs, just like dad!
Before the race, I figured that my best possible finish might be 5:16 – see my post about there here - here’s the table I put together, with a new column with the actual times.
Estimated Actual Swim 40 minutes 42:52 T1 3 minutes 1:45 Bike 2:40 – to 2:50 2:34:21 T2 3 minutes 2:39 Run 1:50-1:55 1:54:45 Total 5:16-5:31 5:16:22
So I was remarkably close to the best possible time! In my mind the real goal time was 5:30, so I really did well there.
As icing on the cake for the day’s events, Kate finished 2nd in her age group, and managed to qualify for a spot in Kona too! What an amazing and inspiring effort!
A funny thing happened to me on the drive home. I was stuck in traffic and was starting to feel some cramping in my calves when changing gears (I drive a manual). To ward off the cramps I too a few more salt tables, it worked really well! The next morining I expected to be quite stiff and sore. I had a 6am flight to Chicago, and surprisingly I wasn’t feeling to bad - I was a little stiff, but nothing compared to what I had expected. I managed to run twice during the week.
No race would be complete without an analysis of what I could do better, so here goes for this one.
- more swim time in open-water. And more masters sessions. Over the last few months, I haven’t been able to get to any masters practices, I think my speed suffered as a result. I would like to do more open-water swimming to get better at keeping a straighter line in the water.
- I had a great bike leg, looking back, I could have done some longer rides and brick runs off some longer rides.
- take on more nutrition during the bike leg, to setup a better run
- more running, continue progress, and add some speed work
- consume more calories during the run
My next race of this distance is not until October 30th – at the Beach to Battleship in Wilmington, NC. To get prepared for this race, I think I will have to follow a training plan. Until now I’ve been winging it, trying to fit training in when I can – which often means either going out too hard, or not hard enough. Finding and following a plan should allow me to get faster while minimizing my training time (hours). Until then I have a sprint and 2 Olympic distance races planned, I’m really looking forward to these.