Race Report: HITS Naples 70.3

Well, that was different. I wouldn’t say that I was untrained for this half iron distance triathlon, being my 6th 70.3 race, but it could have better (don’t we always say that?). That being said, I did finally get under 7 hours race time.

HITS Naples puts on a decent race at a good location, but their youth is evident in several aspects. Race morning we showed up around 5:30am to Vanderbilt Beach Park and were able to get a spot in the base level of the parking garage across the street. One thing was quite obvious that morning – dense fog. How different can west coast be from east coast fog? We walk across the street with our bags to tend to our boxes. Now HITS does one thing different with its transition area locations (yeah, more than one) than most of the other races – boxes and stools for each spot rather than metal tubes set up as “A” frames. What is missing (& greatly needed) are aisle markers – not having them made it a little difficult to find the right one. After dumping our pre-made T2 run bags into large trash bins marked by race numbers, we tended to our T1 spots and got ready for the swim.

There is a bit of a walk to the ocean, but I’ve seen longer (Key West Tri 2010) and there was only a small rocky area that was avoidable (nicely pointed out by a volunteer). The beach is nice – no shells, debris or even jellies! Now remember the fog? Where as the day before we could see all of the red pyramid buoys yesterday, only 2-3 were visible in this fog. They were spaced out enough so that after passing one, the next was just visible enough to keep going, & there were volunteers out there to make sure we didn’t miss the 180° turns. There were a few flocks of pelicans that flew overhead – leading credence to the name Pelican Bay. Heading south for the counter-clockwise swim felt like there was a little bit of a current. When I made it to the second turn buoy and headed for the exit I noticed 3 things: I seemed to be going pretty straight, there were fewer swimmers at this turn & the fog had slightly thinned. Getting closer to the exit I started to notice some people walking – in the water. Turned out there was a shallow sandbar; there was still room to swim so I kept going past some walkers until I couldn’t. I popped out of the water, heard my wife just behind me (I was the only person wearing arm coolers), and we trotted to transition.

Once we found our spots (aisle markers, HITS!) the chairs helped in me cleaning some ocean junk off my feet & getting my bike shoes on. Helmet, shades, nutrition (bottle of morning-made Perpetium & a pack of Sport Beans) and TomTom watch. Heading out of transition I could feel & hear a rubbing brake – just before the mounting area I tweaked the front brake calipers and headed into the fog. Thankfully there wasn’t much wind to be an issue with effort but it might have lifted the fog earlier. As it was, we cycled east for at least 30 miles and as such the fog remained and limited visibility to about 1/4 mile. I did have no trouble seeing vultures/buzzards though! The bike course is really flat – only a few small, slight rises throughout the 56 miles. There was a good bike lane/shoulder for most of it, too, except for one stretch (miles 35-45?) with no bike lane, cars/trucks with a 55mph sign and big trailers going by. There were a couple water bottle exchanges, but not much else. I didn’t see portable bathrooms, Gatorade/Powerade bottles, or signs for the full distance athletes. I know they had to go farther before doing a 180°, but the only signs I saw were for 10 (twice), 20, 30 & 40. Coming back the fog was slightly dissipating and was pretty much gone by the time I turned into Ave Maria. Now, my normal bike computer went wonky a few weeks ago, so I wore my running watch for time: when I hopped on it was 7:45am and going over the brick paver entrance and speeding through the last mile or two, it was closing in on 11am. So a sub 3:15 bike over 56 miles was good.  And the only issue (more of an inconvenience) was I had to do some standing peddling to relieve pressure on “my seated” area. I am still on the same saddle I bought in Texas just before IMTX2011.

Next up, as in most triathlons, is the run. And in this case, it was 13.1 miles of “oi vay!” Now in previous years, the run was kept near Vanderbilt Beach – makes sense since T2 was the place as T1. But we got the pleasure of running around Ave Marie in two loops that didn’t really highlight the area. The bike ride into the area went past several communities, shopping centers, golf course and I think a horse stable. But the run course went around one lake, past a recreation center and a water park (only for residents of Ave Maria!) and then several miles of undeveloped lands. From miles 1.5 to 3.5 and back (and then again for lap 2) were completely unshaded. Even the other portions of the run course were only partially shaded by a few trees which didn’t provide much shade the later in the day that the race went on. I started out and did the first out-and-back loop fairly conservative/explorative, doing between 10 & 11 min/mile and only taking a short walk break once or twice. There were 3 aide stations along the course, which we hit going out and then back – water, ice, HEED, Hammer gels, chips, Coke, pretzels, sponges. The second loop – slightly different matter. Turn-around went past the turn for the finish and there were some spectators in the area of the finish; except for the aide stations, that was about it for non-racers on the course. The sun was out more for this loop and Mother Nature wasn’t playing – few clouds; at least the temperature was bearable. I knew the completely unshaded area would be bad, so for most of that stretch I did as a race-walk/speed walk around a 14-15 min/mile. Each aide station I hit that day I took at least one cup of water to not only sip but also pour some on my arm coolers, shoulders and head. I was a bit surprised when, for the 2nd loop, two of the stations had run out of cups, water, and/or ice. But I did hear that they had replacement on the way. I can only imagine what the full distance participants had to deal with. After getting back to the “shaded areas” I went back to a jog/short walk for the rest of the 2nd loop, and made it back to civilization and the finish area, even jogging the last mile. At least the finish was in view of the center of town with some sort of church.

HITS Naples Half Race Stats
Swim: approximately 45 minutes (with T1 included since there is no swim split)
Bike: 3:10 + 4 min T2
Run: 2:44
TOTAL: 6:43

What HITS did good:

  • nice beach location
  • transition with boxes and chairs for everyone
  • relatively flat bike and run
  • helpful and friendly volunteers

What HITS should address

  • security at transition (no one double-checked us leaving with our bikes)
  • lane numbers in T1
  • more/better timing mats
  • more than just water on the bike course (and maybe porta-potties?)
  • more covered areas at the finish
  • no USAT officials monitoring drafting on the bike course
  • pacers were on the run course (on foot and bike)
  • race photos – I didn’t see and photographers, even the finish

 

Race Report: Hutchinson Island Half Iron

First off, every race is a learning experience. No matter how many you do, no matter how long you have been racing, every race is going to be different. Even if you do the same race & venue, you physically are different, the weather could be different, dozens of factors go into a race. But when you do a race for a first time, you add more uncertainty. We had the course maps, heard from other people who had done the race previously, had even drove most of the run and bike course the day before. So we knew that the course was unshaded. But wow, when the forecast calls for cloudy skies all day and you get none of that all day, it can be rough.

Swim was a double mass start: one for the long peeps and then a later one for the short peeps (half iron or short course). We actually had to wait for the sun to rise, sometime after 7am so that the lifeguards could get the buoys placed. The ocean was not completely flat, but the waves did not go out far. We had to swim in a kind of T pattern: straight out, left turn, 180° to head south a long while until we hit the other turnaround buoy and then the other left turn buoy to take us back to the beach. But wait, I forgot the fun before and at the start: Now while the waves were only close to shore, they were pretty intense. Just standing in knee deep, my ankles were getting pounded by the shells picked up from the waves going both in & out. I should have taken that into account when the race finally started, as before I got to that first turn buoy I went to take a breath and was figuratively punched in the face by one of those strong waves. It took a good minute to recover (and several more to clear my lungs) and get my bearings, even a fellow member of Boca Raton Tri (Stefano) stopped next me and asked if I was okay. Once I got over that it was just a matter of getting to the next buoy. That proved uhhh, let’s say fun, as the current (going south) was enough to keep pushing my direction towards the shore. I think I must have done at least 1.5 miles instead of the posted 1.1 miles. And it turns out I kept some the ocean with me the rest of the day.

The bike, oh the bike. Started out okay, heading north for about 12 miles along good ol’ A1A – almost 100% flat, except for the few bridges that went over some canals. There was water bottle station at about mile 10 – remember that. The forecast was for calm to less than 5mph out of the NE for most of the morning, but it turned out to be more of a straight crosswind – it felt like a headwind going both north and then south, but a breeze going west. Unfortunately after going through the roundabout (mile 24) and turning west it lead straight to the NE Causeway bridge. And oh what a bridge it was! I think one of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships could have fit under it, but that might be an overstatement (doubt it). Up and over the bridge and right at the bottom of the west side we had to do a right side 180° to go under the bridge and then go right back up the bridge on the other side. It was under the bridge at about mile 26 that the other water bottle station was located (thankfully), so I did a quick stop to fill my water bottle. So if you are following the math, you probably figured out that I was only halfway through the 56 mile bike when I got back to the roundabout. That meant another trip up and down A1A and the crosswinds (a bit stronger this time), and another trip with the bridge. It was almost like an unshaded Sugarloaf Mountain. The first bottle station I mentioned earlier (remember that?), was empty: no bottles, just a pair of guys in volunteer shirts sitting. Luckily the water station under the bridge still had bottles, albeit no longer chilled. I forget at what point I realized that I do not like biking. But thankfully the bike was over.

Run – wait, let’s not call it that. Let’s call it “survive 13+ miles in an almost completely unshaded foot course.” Because that was basically what it this last leg of the triathlon was. As I started out I wondered if it was smart idea: a little nausea, the high heat & humidity, and knowing that there was barely any shade. I made it to the aid station at mile 1 and then the aid station at mile 2. There I downed a bunch of ice water, a cup of coke and dumped several ice water all over.  That helped and I felt the effects within 5 minutes. Go a few miles, left turn down a side street a bit, come back to the main street but keep going, go under the A1A bridge (& finally find a bathroom), turn around, go up & over the A1A bridge, do a quick in & out of park only to go back over the bridge, do a 180° back under the bridge to thankfully start heading back to transition, only to do the out-and-back from earlier, and then finally go straight to transition. Confused? Yeah, so was I. There were mile markers, but I guess they could only afford a small handful – one for the bike course (a misplaced 20 mile sign at mile 18.5) and four for the run: miles 1, 5, 8 (on the wrong side of the road facing the wrong direction), and 12. Thankfully there were some animals that littered the courses: saw a raccoon scampering around some shrubs the first loop of the bike, lots of birds all around, some dolphins at the run bridge, and enough crabs (both dead & alive) to stock a seafood restaurant for a week. Also thankful that around mile 7 I held up a bit and stuck with another fellow Boca Tri member, Kyle and we kept ourselves sane for the rest of the race. Always easier to keep moving with someone.

So what did I learn? Never do a half or full iron distance race between March & October in the state of Florida, or southeast US – the heat (plus humidity) can be a killer. What’s next? The relay at GFT with my wife and we are sooooo glad we downgraded from the individual ultra distances. Will I do another solo half iron or longer? Probably not

Race Report: Huntington’s Disease Olympic Triathlon 2015

So according to Athlink.com I hadn’t done an Olympic/International distance triathlon since 2012. So when the Huntington’s Disease Triathlons sort fell into training for the GFT in October (maybe more on that in a later post) sign up was a gimme. Now much has changed since the last one – Escape to Miami. Even in just the run alone, I have made some big strides (pun intended).

So race morning was typical fair: got to Larry & Penny Thompson State Park just after 5am to get our race numbers and a good spot in transition. It was a little cloudy and humid, but it’s July in South Florida, that’s to be expected. After getting my shoes and stuff set up, headed to the lake right next to transition. Just before the first wave (elite) went out, one of the bouys was moved. Now I was in the third wave, so when the elites went straight instead of to the far left buoy, everyone around began to wonder. So when we crossed the start mat, we were told to go straight, cutting off the left triangle, probably eliminating 0.1 mile from the scheduled 0.7 mile swim. Water was relatively clear and neutral in temperature. Everything went well until about the last 1/4 when my goggles fogged up and I stopped quickly to clear them out, and realized I was facing 2 o’clock instead of the swim exit. Cleared the goggles, turned slightly to face the exit, and made my way out of the water and into transition. Swim time: 19:00 minutes.

After grabbing the bike stuff and leaving transition (rocky and root-filled) I made my way out of the park. It was then I noticed that my bike computer sensor was just a bit too far from the magnet to register, and I was not about to stop; although I should have because at several points the cable wacked the wheel spokes a few times. I actually stopped about 5 miles before the end to try and tighten the cable (should have checked before the race). So I basically did the bike on “perceived effort” with several times of short pushes. Heading west was into a headwind, south was pretty smooth, as was north and east. There was a brief encounter with a shower, which kept me cool and thankfully didn’t become a heavy shower or downpour. The roads were typical Miami condition: near the state park were bumpy and few dips, along with a railroad crossing, but most of the 21 mile course was decent. The road did have vehicular traffic on it, which for the most part knew how to pass cyclists, except for a caravan of three work vans. I was not far from the end when I came up them. When I got close and noticed they were slower than me, I shifted gears and checked for oncoming traffic (car and bike) I found out there were two female riders going side by side leading the caravan. So after passing them and several other cyclists (mostly sprint). I bumped my way over the roots and rocks into transition. Bike time: 1:10:37 (17.8 mph)

Got my run shoes (and socks) on, grabbed my race belt and jogged out for the run. Run went out through the paved trail and into the RV park (just like Miami Man), turn-around and then back into the paved trails, around the lake, and then loop two. Kept a steady pace throughout, only slowing a few times at aid stations for water to splash most of it on my head – the iced water felt good in the humid, mostly unshaded park. The bunny hopping on the trail during the second loop was a pleasant surprise  – joked with a guy passing me at the time if we had to race the rabbit, too.  There were some slight rolling parts and a section of roots on the course – the latter was spray marked. What was also marked was each mile, and even a spray painting at half mile points. That made it easier to know when to push it some more for the finish. Crossed the finish line to hear my name (last name butchered as usual). Hey, you’re on this site, so you know. Run time: 55:12 (9:12 min/mil)

Total: 2:28:35

For a race where all of the fees go to medical research, they put on a good event. Lots of volunteers, a bottle exchange on the Olympic bike course, several water and gatorade stations on the run. Except for the no real explanation on why the swim was changed (& possibly shortened), and they ran out of race shirts (I have enough), it is well organized race in its 24th year. Check it out for next year @ http://www.huntingtonsdiseasefl.org.

A Tale of 5 Half Marathons

Some races just stick with you. The fact that the last 5 half marathons have remained in the memory banks … well, it led to this writing. The quest for all five of them was the same: get as close to (if not under) 2 hours. It was a small goal of mine since I started in the sport back in 2009 with the 13.1 Fort Lauderdale and finished with a 2:15. It took several races and 2+ years to get under 2:10 with the A1A Half in 2012. Some attempts were not really attempts (Miami Beach Halloween Half) and others were a part of a triathlon (every Miami Man). So I had a good amount of time and focus to make it possible.

The 13.1 Fort Lauderdale (Nov 9) is a race (along with the Publix A1A Half) I have done a few times already and I like the course – run around downtown, head to A1A, and then go north and south. The race started out normally, albiet a bit humid. But as the miles ticked on, it got more and more humid until I hit about mile 8 and the downpour started. I think it rained on and off for the next few miles. I had already slowed up a bit due to the humidity, but once the heavy rains started, it made everything else heavy: shirt, shorts, shoes, mood. Needless to say, the rain washed away any goals for that race. I plodded along mixing jogging and wringing water from everywhere for a 2:36 half. 13.1 Ft Lauderdale Runtastic stats

#1 for both of us

#1 for both of us

It’s amazing what a difference a month makes, especially in South Florida. A slightly warm and very humid beginning of November led to a cool and dry beginning of December. The start of the Weston Rotary Run for Tomorrow Half Marathon was quite chilly (55° F) and partly cloudy. This was the first time we had run this race and was quite pleased with it: even being a small, local run race it was well laid out and organized. The start/finish was in a town center for a planned community and the course was a pair of out-&-backs. It also helps that Weston is right off I75/Sawgrass. When the gun went off, I stuck to my plan: run at a steady pace for the first 9-10 miles and push it for the last. At least until I found a false flat at mile 7 that lastest about 2 miles. I could tell because my run app that went from telling me I was doing 9:30s changed to say that I was doing 10 min/miles. After that I tried to push it to make up the minute (I did do 2 miles of sub-9), but it had been too long of false flat. When I hit mile 10 I was at 1:36 – if it had been 1:30 or under it might have been more manageable to break 2hrs. As it was, I was greatly pleased to finish with a 2:04, a half marathon personal best of about 8 minutes. Weston Rotary Half Marathon Runtastic stats

The Skydive Ultra was another race that I went into not having done before. No, I did not do “an ultra marathon” there (this post is about half marathons), nor did I skydive (I’ve already done a tandem skydive, twice) – but both are options available to the crazies. It is one of those local races put on by an individual – even smaller than the Weston Half, but offering numerous distances from 10K to 100 miles, in a semi-remote area of Clewiston next to a small airport, appropriately. Each distance had it’s own start time, with the 100-milers starting at 7 (?) am; being in the half marathon group, my “wave” did not start until noon. This brought upon two dilemnas: starting in the middle of the day and what to do about breakfast. For all of my previous races, I might have a little coffee before leaving the house and some gel right before the race. This time I tried a “normal” breakfast of a bacon breakfast wrap from Dunkin. What I did not take into account was hanging around the race site for a few hours – walking between the run course and the sky dive hanger several times, after walking around Wal-Mart picking up snacks and such. This, along with the course having no shade and partial trail, led a slow start and several walking breaks, and that weird feeling in the stomach. It was definitely a learning experience, as I finished with a 2:38 (only slightly off the rainy 13.1 in November). Skydive Ultra Half Marathon Runtastic stats

A1A finishers

A bunch of happy people

This lead to the second half marathon in downtown Fort Lauderdale & along A1A for this season: the Publix A1A Half Marathon. It follows most of the same course as November’s 13.1 Ft Lauderdale and can be equally as chilly; this year was no different. It was in the very low 50° F at the start and I don’t think it went much higher than that by mid-day. The pomp & circumstance of the race signalled the start and I started out good. That was until the laces for my right sneaker came undone before mile 1 – twice! After the second loosening I double-knotted it. I was wearing my Saucany Kinvara that I had gotten a few weeks ago. I usually swap out the regular laces for the elastic/bungee style after a test run or two but I didn’t have an issue before the race. I was a bit worried that the time spent stopping to retie would have an effect, but once I hit A1A (and stumbled over a reflector) I got into a good groove, or in this case, gear. From Sunrise Blvd (Birch State Park) and on each mile reading had under a 9 min/mile. I even had energy to push it the last mile or so. Which considering I only took a total of 1-1/2 gels goes against convention of a “whole gel every 45” that the packs state; I think I took 1/2 a gel every 45 minutes. So the combination of chilly weather (w/out rain), effective fueling, and training all led to it: 1:57:19! A1A Half Marathon Runtastic stats

transition area, Clermont

Bike & run exit for Intimidator

So riding the high on the success of A1A Half Marathon I entered into the run leg of the Intimidator (Florida Challenge) Half Iron Relay on March 21 with confidence. I had never done a triathlon relay before, but I learned from the late start of my wave at the SkyDive Ultra about what not to do: don’t do too much standing, light on the food, and stay cool. The latter was almost too easy with Mother Nature keeping it overcast with a slight fog and chilled all morning. But then the clouds broke around 11:30am and the temperature slowly rose. After about a half hour after the clouds broke, Jess came into transition after finishing the swim and 56 mile bike and I got the timing chip and her Garmin. I knew after the first mile or two that it was going to be a hot one. I stuck with a slower pace than from the A1A Half, although I still ended up pulling the black WoB tank up to my shoulders and used it to hold ice and water around my neck. That helped a bunch, along with the numerous shaded areas along the trail. Staying in control and not overexcerting myself definitely made for a good 2:28 run – not that I could have beaten A1A, but it was probably a PR for super hot weather. Even with the slight rolling terrain and bridge.

If you want to try any of the races yourself, check out the list below

 

Race Report: Egg Hunt Sprint Triathlon 2015

First multi-sport race of the 2015 season, first race at C.B. Smith park. Day started out early and was going good until we got the park – cars were crawling to get in. Turns out the lines to get in merged into one lane, which then split into three paying lanes. Tradewinds only counts the number of people entering but C.B Smith insisted on collecting entrance fees, which added 15 minutes to parking. Luckily we got in the park line by 6am so w had time when we eventually parked and then hunted for transition – just follow the other bikes.

Transition, just like at Tradewinds, is situated in a parking lot and the racks were well spaced. But I think the numbering was out of order, or at least they weren’t consistant with the alternating from side to side. Got transition set up: bike, bike shoes, glasses, helmet [check], run shoes and race belt [check], goggles and swim cap [check]. A quick double check and then heading to the lake – where is the lake? Walked out of transition the bike-out end and then walked around to the other end where the lake is. It took reading the shore flags to figure out where the swim start and exit were – “if those say ‘start’ then the other pair must be the exit.” Water was a comfortable temperature and somewhat clear (for a lake), and the sun was creeping up, so I was glad I had semi-tinted swim goggles. When the race started (and I always seem to be in the first wave of these sprints), we got into the lake and told to spread out … why did no one spread out? I found myself in the middle of square of guys in knee deep water. “GO!” I think I spent the first 50 meters wading and doggy paddling until there was room enough to actually swim. Then another 50 meters or so until I could get around the slower guys in front of me. Before I had even gotten to the first turn bouy, I was almost completely by myself – all of the speed demons were pulling far ahead and the rest were behind me. After the first left turn the second leg was almost all in the sun – it was very difficult to spot the bouys. I actually stopped for a second or two to get my bearings. Made the second turn and got into a rythym heading to the swim exit. Crawled out and jogged into transition – which was not a direct shot.

Clipped the helmet on, strapped the shoes on, shaded the eyes with glasses and grabbed the bike. The mount line was pretty close to transition (10-15 feet) so it wasn’t long until I was weaving around the inner loop of the course. The bike course is not as technical as Tradewinds, but it is no walk in the park. There are some long and short curves and about 6 right turns per loop. Just like with the swim, there is one leg going directly into the sun. Some of the cones to separate the bikes from the cars seemed a bit too inside – I was heading east (into the sun) when I heard a crash behind me. I glanced off to my left and just caught a guy on a bike go down. For a half a second I considered stopping – I heard later that the guy bounced back up. Second lap on the bike was pretty much the same, but without the crasher and more cyclists on the course. So many cruisers and hybrids, oh so many beginners. There were many instances where I had to go a bit outside to get by the newbies. They did provide some good slingshots.

Back in transition it was a quick one set of shoes off, another set on and making sure the helmet was off and that I had grabbed the race belt before trotting out. The run course is a nice, shaded 2-loop 90% paved trail. There are 1-2 bridges that, if wet or raining, could be a concern. It also is not 100% flat, but the inclines are either long and slow or steep and short. Mile markers would have been helpful as I didn’t use a gps, but the loops went around the lake so the transition/finish was pretty much visible the whole time. It took about a mile or so to get comfortable, but I definitely feel like my second loop was faster then the first. And the fact that I did a 26 minute 5k is good. Especially siince I had just done a 5k on Thursday in Ft Lauderdale of 24 minutes (and the Corporate Run was super crowded).

Final words: pleased with my 1:10 sprint, pleased with my 9th place in my age group, not so pleased with the early morning park entrance, defintely not pleased with the 45 min delay in duathlon awards that got contested and the fact the triathlon awards weren’t ready right after, but still pleased with the overall course. Due to the length of the award ceremony and amount of first timers that got podium, a lot of other people also think so, too.