Thursday, November 3, 2011

2011 Beach 2 Battleship Half – Race Report

I had high expectations of a good result leading into this race.  It was my last race of the season, and I have continued to improve throughout the year.

This was my 2nd half ironman/70.3 distance race – having completed the EagleMan race in May this year.  I wanted to build from my experience racing EagleMan and also use it as a mechanism to gauge my training in preparation for my first full ironman at Lake Placid in 2012. 

This report is going to be long, so for those who just want find out how I did, I’ll summarize it here, and then expand on how the weekend went.

  • Finish Time:              4:49:49
  • Place Overall:           22nd
  • Place Age Group:     4th
  • Place Masters (40+) 5th

They had trophies for overall and overall masters for both men and women down to the top 5, so I managed to bring home some hardware!

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the trophy is made of teak, and was actually a part of the battleship deck that was replaced during a refurbishment.

Pre-Race  & Predictions

I wasn’t too fixated on the final finish time, my main goal was to finish the race having executed my plan and being strong across the swim/bike/run legs.  If I managed to do that, then I was sure I could beat my 5:16 time from EagleMan, and if I had a great day I had  hopes that I could break the 5 hour mark.

We had a group of 5 of us racing and staying at the same house, that made for a fun weekend.  It is always great to be at a race with friends and family.  Here is a photo of all of us as we were leaving for the race site.375289_2358290649445_1615635163_2335036_599007048_n

Swim – 26:30 / 106 overall

During the course briefing, they mentioned that the tide would be running very fast – so we were all hoping for a fast swim time.  The full distance race started 1.5 hrs before the half distance.  As we arrived at the swim start, we saw the first swimmers flying by.  You could see how fast the tide was carrying them.  At one point one of the swimmers stopped and waved with both arms, he was still moving quickly in the current – that got everyone fired up for a fast swim.

Based on my training, I thought I might be able to finish in around 35-38 minutes, so the tide made a massive difference.  I checked my watch as I exited the water, it read 25:18 – I was shocked!  Since the forecast for the day was a lot of wind, cold temperatures and some rain, I was thankful for a fast swim, and was thinking that a sub 5:00 time might be possible.

T1 – 3:55

The run to the transition area was long.  I had my wetsuit stripped and ran to T1 without any issues.    I decided to wear some arm-warmers, and I am so happy that I did.  It was really cold on the bike leg.

I had one problem in transition.  I had laid my helmet out on my aero bars, but didn’t actually try it on.  When I got to T1, I realized that I had a piece of the helmet (a vented panel that I was not using) was still in it, so I had to take an extra 30 seconds to put it in my T1 bag.  This bag was just a garbage bag that was labeled and would end up at the finish line for me to pick up. 

Bike – 2:36 : 18th overall

I had high hopes for the bike leg. I had been training hard since EagleMan and was hoping to beat my previous time of 2:34.  Of course this was before I saw the weather forecast on the morning of the race, that called for 20-30mph winds. I managed to get a demo set of wheels from my local bike shop (thanks Adam!).  A set of SRAM S80’s.  I really liked riding them.  The picture below shows my race setup.  Even in the wind I always felt in control with these wheels.IMG_3828

As I ran past the bike mount point and got on to my bike, the pad for my right aero-bar came off.  For a second I debated getting off and trying to find it, but I just kept going.  As I got up to speed, I reached down to tighten my shoes (they were already on the bike when I started) I realized that the pad had landed on my shoe, and the Velcro strap caught the pad – score!!    I quickly put it back in place and tightened my shoes and off I went.

My plan was to keep a steady effort for the 56 miles and do my best impression of a turtle to try and get as aero as possible.  I think I managed this very well.  The only problem I had was a pack of drafters.  For most of the course, there was a group of 5-6 riders that were obviously in a pack, except for a tall guy who always seemed to be in the front.  I think the 4-5 others just tailed him the whole time.  The first time they passed me, had to back off to let them go, because the lane we were in was quite narrow.  After a while, I could see that they weren’t pulling away from me, so I’d increase my effort and pass the whole group.  After passing I’d establish a gap, and about 10 minutes later the train would pass me again.  This happened a number of times.  Sometimes during a race, it is hard not to be drafting, but some of these people were getting a free ride and it really looked intentional to me.  With the strong winds, it made a significant difference to be sitting in a pack. <end rant>.  I did manage to drop them all by the time we got back in to transition, and didn’t see any of them on the run!

This bike ride was one of the toughest I have ever had.  Not only was it cold, the winds were relentless.  The way the course was laid out meant that the first 36 miles were either directly into the wind, or a strong cross wind.  There was nowhere to hide.  The first 90 minutes was miserable, cold, very windy and mist/light rain. My hands were so cold that sometimes I had trouble changing gears. 

Here’s a picture of the course.  With the direction of the wind, it was only the last 20 miles where it was helping. 

course-map

I set my bike computer to take a split every 5 miles.  The table below shows my splits looked like.  You can clearly see that after mile 35 the average speed jumped and continued to improve with the last 5 miles having the highest average speed (25.2) with the lowest average watts (214).

Mile Avg Speed Avg Power
0-5 19.5 230
5-10 22.1 226
10-15 20.7 230
15-20 21.2 229
20-25 20.5 238
25-30 19.7 234
30-35 20.7 230
35-40 22.5 244
40-45 23.7 233
45-50 24.8 228
50-55 25.2 214

Bike Statistics

  • Distance 56 miles
  • average speed:       21.7mph
  • average heart rate: 153bpm  (right on target)
  • average cadence:   93 rpm
  • average power:       230watts (peak  662watts)

T2 – 3:31

T2 was different to other races that I have done.  Volunteers took our bikes at the dismount line and another volunteer handed us our T2 bag that contained whatever we needed for the run.  I went to the changing tent and put on my socks, running shoes, race belt and fuel belt.  Initially the race belt couldn’t be found, but it was hiding at the bottom of the plastic bag, I had to tell the volunteer a few times that it was in there.  I thanked him for the help and was on my way.

Another first for me was stopping to pee during a race.  With the tough conditions on the bike I didn’t realize how much I needed to go until I was close to T2.  I think it lasted for almost a minute.  I’m glad it stopped there and did not wait until I was out on the run course.

Run – 1:39:23 - 39th overall

Coming out of transition I was feeling great – almost like I had not  just ridden 56 miles.  This was a good sign.  I was only wearing my polar watch (with HR strap) so I didn’t have a GPS for instant speed/pace.  I like running by feel like this. If I was wearing a GPS watch, I would have been tempted to look at it a lot to see what my pace was.

316380_2358292329487_1615635163_2335041_1014670365_n These run photo’s here were taken just after leaving the transition area. You can see Kate yelling something encouraging above (thanks Steve & Kate for the pictures).  I’m all smiles at this point.  My plan was not to go outDSCF1090 too hard, keeping a good pace which felt easy to maintain.  As I hit the first mile marker, I looked at my lap/split time saw a 7:39!  At that point I was very happy.  I knew that I had a sub 1:50 in me.  The cooler weather (low 60’s by now) really helped too.  My two previous 13.1 mile races (one run only, one 70.3) were 1:54 and 1:55.  This time I was really hoping for something in the 1:40’s.   I saw that my overall time was 3:10 after exiting T2 – so if I could get a little under 1:50 I might also break the 5:00hr mark.  That would be amazing!

I continued to tick off the miles  feeling good and in control.  Miles 2 and 3 went by in 7:35 & 7:21.  At that point I knew I was going to be able to put in a great run.  I was still running within myself and was starting to pass a few people.  Only 3 or 4 people passed me for the whole run.  They were all in the 35-39 age group that had started in the wave ahead. I could tell they were serious racers since they all had shaved legs.  It is funny what you see/think about when you are racing.  I think it was between mile 3 & 4 where there is a short steep up-hill.  I shortened my step and kept the cadence up and was still feeling great. I reached the turn-around and saw that my overall time was 4hrs even plus a handful of seconds.  That meant that I had 1hr to run the last 6.55 miles.  At the pace I was running, I could probably get back in around 50–55 minutes, I felt confident I could keep a sub 8:00 minute mile to the finish.

The run was an out and back course.  Most of the return section was into the wind.  My pace slowed a little and ended up being 49 minutes out and 50:23 on the way back.  I was very happy with my execution, a nice even pace throughout.  For the whole run I felt in control and didn’t lose form at all.  There was a guy in the 35-39 age group that was on my hip from miles 5-10, we chatted a bit, but I could see that his form was off.  He kept yelling for chicken broth at the aid stations, but it seemed that they did not have any. After mile 10 I didn’t see him any more, I guess he faded over the last two up-hill sections (over the bridges).  I called out for water a few times, and at the aid station at mile 10 I had to ask a few times ‘does anyone have any water’.  I was very happy to be wearing my fuelbelt, I used it on my long training runs and felt very comfortable with it.  I had one bottle with EFS Liquid shot, the other with water.  I would slow down every 2-3 aid stations and re-fill the water, it meant that I wasn’t needing to stop at every aid station.  At times I felt a little tight in the stomach.  It didn’t really slow me down, but I made an effort not to take in too many calories, just enough to keep me going.  This was significantly different to my EagleMan experience where I ran out of energy because I didn’t take enough in on the bike or the run.

As I ran down the last hill with about a 1/2 mile to go I found myself getting emotional.  All of the training was about to pay off.  I had executed my plan exactly and was about to finish with a time that was far beyond what I thought I could do.  I had to remind myself to focus since I still had a bit of running to go.

The finish area was a bit of a pain.  there were a lot of 90 degree turns (5 I think), and 3 significant areas of water to run through.  The last one was ankle deep!  I was so happy to be getting close to the finish line – I heard my name announced over the PA and was all smiles as I crossed the line.  I glanced at my watch, and it showed 4:49 and change, amazing.  Not only did I beat the 5:00 mark, I managed to just get inside of 4:50.  Final finish time was 4:49:49.

Once I had finished, I got some food, found Kate and Steve who were keeping track of the other racers (Rich, Kathleen, Stuart and Diane plus new friends Melissa and Cliff).  Since my wave started earlier I was able to stand near the finish line and cheer them all in.  I had almost lost my voice by the end of the day.   Everyone did amazingly well, especially considering the weather conditions.

Overall I couldn’t be happier with how the day went.  I am most proud that I stuck to my plan, from both a nutrition and effort perspective. 

Nutrition Plan

My nutrition plan was to keep it very simple.  I had been training with good success with EFS and EFS Liquid shot by FirstEndurance.

  • Pre-Race
    • 2 hammer bars (almond raisin) 
    • 2 bottles EFS (2 scoops Fruit punch) sipped from early in the morning until setting up in transition
    • 1 bottle of EFS (2 scoops Fruit punch, 1 full scoop of Pre-Race) for a boost 45 minutes before race start
  • Bike
    • 1 bottle of EFS Liquid Shot, mixed with a little water – mounted horizontally between my aero bars.   1,000 calories total (drank almost all of it)
    • a 40oz speedfil water bottle on my down-tube, that I was constantly sipping from.  I grabbed a bottle of water at the aid station at mile 37 to refill (approx 24oz).
    • my bike computer was setup for a time-based alarm every 12 minutes, reminding me to take a mouthful of liquid shot
  • Run
    • Fuelbelt with 2 bottles. 1 bottle with EFS Liquid shot (8oz – 640 calories), used approximately 1/3rd of it, and 1 bottle (8oz) of water, refilled as needed.

Post Race

after we got our bikes back to the house, it was time to celebrate!  We ended going for dinner at the Mellow Mushroom for beer and pizza.  Perfect post race food!

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Wrap-Up

The race was well organized, but I am not sure that I would do it again.   The logistics of 2 transition areas is a pain.  Trying to leave the venue was time consuming, since we couldn’t get a car near the finish area. It is also a difficult race for spectators.  there isn’t much access to the swim start/exit and then there is the 10 or so miles between transition areas.  It is a 6hr drive from home and I think after finishing a full ironman next summer (Lake Placid) I may not be wanting to complete a long race this late in the season.

One of the main differences for this race, compared to my first 70.3 was having a structured plan to follow.  For this race I followed the Endurance Nation half ironman 20 week advanced plan.  I ended up averaging around 7.5 hours per week for the last 12 weeks.  this was lower than the plan prescribed, but was all I could do with a busy work/travel/family schedule.  This plan allowed me to focus on the key sessions to setup a great race!

Now that my last race is over for the season, it is time to take a break, and start planning 2012.  Finishing the year strong has given me some good confidence that I can get even faster next year.

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