Category Archives: triathlon

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: 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.

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.

MiamiMan 2013 Race Report

Race Morning:

Miami Man triathlon bike

Cruising somewhere in southern Dade

The forecast was a mix of showers and clouds, with the rain percentages between 40-50% all day with mostly cloudy skies. The drive down to the Larry & Penny Thompson State Park held to the forecast. But by the time we got to the park, it had stopped raining and it actually held off for most of the day. It did sprinkle briefly waiting at the lake for the swim start, but other than that, there were only a few light spritzes out on the bike. In fact, it was during the bike that the skies actually cleared and remained sunny the rest of the day. It was due to the forecast that I didn’t apply sunscreen before heading out of transition – coulda, shoulda, didn’t.

Swim:

I was lucky (but later it turned out not) to be next to the end of the rack next to another rack set, so I had room for my bag. After setting up my little area next to my bike and covering both sets of shoes with towels (and the garbage bag used to cover the bike overnight, fearing the day full of rain), I took a gel and left transition for the short walk around the lake to the beach where the start would be. At first I was a bit worried that my AquaSphere goggles were going to be too dark, but when I held them up to my face I was relieved that not only were they not so dark from the inside, it was almost as clear as regular.  The reported temperature for the water was 78° (so wetsuit legal) but I think the brief sprinkle cooled the lake a few degrees.  I was in the second wave after the pro/elites, and decided to start off about half way back and towards the side as I didn’t want to get caught up with the speed demons, and just got into a steady rhythm with my stroke. First lap went without any real incident, so I trotted out and over the timing mat to get back into the lake for lap two. It was the second lap where I found myself drifting to the left several times: first time I looked up and was heading straight for the pier & the other times was just before the topmost buoy. I think it was also the second lap where my right hand (middle finger specifically) slammed right onto the foot of another swimmer that was doing breaststroke. I would have given him the finger, but it really hurt. Other than that, I felt consistent and strong the whole swim. I came out of the water, got my wetsuit ripped off by strippers (man these girls are at all the big events!) and slowly trotted into transition.

Result: happy with my time of 39 minutes and change

Difference from last time: I didn’t feel like I had “worked” to get through the two laps and beat my time of 45+ minutes

Bike:

I sat down in front of my bike & dried my feet, got my bike shoes & helmet on, and headed out of transition. There were numerous puddles and wet roads for the start, so much so that I think that was the reason for my right shoe being squishy for the first few miles. There wasn’t much wind for most of the beginning and I kept tabs on my Garmin the whole ride to make sure my heart rate didn’t get too high. It was going around the box two times that the clouds seemed to disappear and the winds picked up. Line of the day heard in my head: “You know the winds are strong when you see white caps on puddles.” So needless to say, heading back to transition was almost all headwind. I made a point to stop 3 times while out there on the bike to fuel and stretch my lower back, and that helped as later on my back wasn’t sore or tight, as it was for Augusta. I used the same nutrition I had used in training since Augusta: HEED in water and Clif Shot gels. And yet for some reason I started yawning around mile 45 which continued through to the run.

Result: felt good and consistent for most of the ride and pleased with my time of 3:21

Difference from last time: Maintained good heart rate and consistent pedal stroke throughout, but I am sure a port-o-john stop would have been better, as I only improved my time from 3 years ago of about 3:40

Run:

Got into transition and slowly trotted to my rack, resetting my Garmin for the run. I plopped down to get my bike shoes off, dry my feet again and put on socks and running shoes. After grabbing my race number belt, fuel belt and hat, I headed out for the run. Were there port-o-johns by transition? I passed the sign for “Finish/Lap” arrows and then realized something: notice how I didn’t mention I had put on my Garmin wrist strap? Or sunglasses? Yeah, just as well. So trotting away from transition I felt some pain in both of my armpits. After looking to see the exact areas, I came to the realization that the slight burning was due to chaffing from my wetsuit. Which is odd since I’ve worn this for 3+ years and never gotten pit burns. Thankfully the pain was not bad and dissipated after a few miles. About mile two I felt tired again. Jogging through the brief portion of Zoo Miami I spotted a restroom next to a snack area. Wow, there was an electric wall air conditioner set to 72° F, right above the urinals!! It was about the route where we were routed to the front parking lot and entrance to the Zoo that the tiredness started to get me. I said to myself, “Well, no PR today, let’s just enjoy it as best I can.” I sat down at the aid station near a timing mat for about 10-15 minutes, munching on peanut M&Ms, pretzels, even strawberries. After that I met up with Keith Andrews and we ended up chatting for about 8 miles. Did I care that we spent more time walking than running? Nope. I enjoyed more that we talked about a variety of things (athletic and non) than the race. About a mile after Keith and I started together, my wife caught up to us. Yep, second half iron in a row that Jess would go by me even after she start a few waves back. Speaking of animals, where were most of them? Just birds, two primates and tortoise? Seeing only a small handful of animals was a little disheartening – I wonder if ZooMiami had any paws in the route change.

Result: the timecard might not look good, but I would not change a thing

Difference from last time: none

Overall:

What I had thought would be my “A” race ended up being more of a long day. While I had a good swim and a decent bike, I think the lack of long bricks hindered me, especially as my nutrition might have been the culprit in my tiredness. Speaking of lacking, the port-o-johns on the bike course were definitely lacking. Multirace commented on a Facebook post that an aid station had one, but it must have been set so far back that it was unnoticeable from the road. Speaking of changes made to the course, I seem to remember seeing many more animals several years ago. In looking at the race program for this year and comparing it with my Garmin map from 2010, a large portion of the animal route was cut off: hippo, zebra, giraffe, gorilla, and African elephant were all avoided. Which goes against one of the races “features” of having one of your run photos with an elephant in the background.

Hopefully some changes will be made to the MiamiMan bike and run courses to make it more enjoyable.

My Experience at Ironman Texas 2011

Crossing the Finish Line of Ironman Texas

Just before I crossed the finish line of Ironman Texas

Wow, what can I say about it? My first Ironman distance triathlon is in books. It was a lot more difficult than I was expecting, but I am pretty sure it was due to the fact that the hills were more numerous than advertised. We got to The Woodlands on a Wednesday and when we got to the hotel and got our luggage to the room, spent some time getting our bikes together. In doing so, noticed that my bike seat had gotten squished to a side (thanks, Continental). Regardless of my seat, we were planning on heading to the Ironman Village anyway, so what better excuse? Walking around there, we didn’t find any vendor that sold any real selection of seats, but one did recommend Bike Land just five minutes away. So we woke up Wednesday morning, heading to the bike shop and after a few test rides, settled on a seat, so we then went for a 1/2 hour bike and 10 minute run, duplicated again on Friday after a test swim in the lake. The day ended with a good dinner at a local steakhouse. Surprised by a good sleep that night, Larry drove us to the transition area.

swimming the lake of Ironman Texas

A crowded swim for Ironman Texas

The swim was fine; yeah it was crowded and yes the final canal was more narrow than we would have preferred, but I still had a good time. Sure I could have had a much quicker swim if not for smacking into people, getting heels in my chest and head, and trying to get around crowds. I did find myself drifting to the right a few times and I can only remember seeing one of the red turn buoys, let alone even turning myself. It was a good thing that I was wearing my wetsuit, because that narrow canal got pretty chilly. It was announced that the water temp was 79° which I am sure the main lake was but that canal was definitely a few degrees colder.  It was a great sight when I came upon the arch for the swim exit! I trotted out of that animal farm, stopped to have my wetsuit ripped off my legs, and then headed to the transition tent to get ready for a little bike ride.

biking Ironman Texas

Riding the rolling hills of Ironman Texas

Wait, did I say a “little” bike ride? Who am I kidding, this was Texas and there ain’t nothing little about their bike courses. It is described on the website as: “The course is mostly flat but features some rolling hills” which is. of course, according to Texan standards. So I hop on my bike with my bottles of Hammer Perpetuem and Sustained Energy and begin my trek, with a decent crowd around me. I think the combination of the rough conditions of the swim, plus the granola bar I ate enroute to the race, played with my stomach as I had some G.I. issues for about half the bike, stopping at about four of the first seven rest areas to use the portable toilets. I did stop at the special needs stop to drank my Mix1, which I think helped with my stomach. Although it did not help with the rolling, rolling, rolling hills. Yeah, for those that do not live in “hilly” areas, imagine you are on the interstate and there are two overpasses in a row. Now imagine that for at least half of a 112 mile bike. It got pretty lonely after about mile 80, and was grateful that a random cyclist hung around for a few miles; it might not have been illegal, but at that point I would have taken a two/four minute penalty. Part of my desire to get off the bike was also due in part to a long stretch of road that was unfinished. My bottom was already sore from breaking in the new seat … it did not appreciate that dark new road gravel. I was quite pleased to make it to transition before the 5:30pm cutoff. I spent a few minutes getting my running gear before heading out for the last leg of my day – hopefully with some legs still left.

And so started my third leg of Ironman Texas and my third marathon. I had a feeling I was not going to beat either my A1A Marathon time from 2010 or my Mickey Marathon time from 2011. But what made it easier than you would think was that it was a three loop course which went through Market Street, a residential neighborhood, and circled around where the swim start was located. I jogged as much as I could. The first lap was spent mostly still in the sun, which meant there were a few points where I walked for a few minutes. I finally got to chat with someone for the first time that day and he helped the first lap go by smoothly. I wish I could remember his name to give him credit, but unfortunately all I can remember was that he was an older gentleman who had a bucket list to do all Ironman triathlons and had attempted St George two weeks ago but had crashed on the bike – still had two fingers taped. It was during our chats that we confirmed our theory on the cold swim – he regretted not wearing a wetsuit as he said his swim split was just over 2 hours. He must have had a good bike time as he was on his last run lap. Just before he jogged off (for some reason he wanted to run ahead of this lady instead of just behind her) he gave me the rest of his salt pills. When I came to Market Street, boy was that uplifting. The second lap was the start of the sunset so I tried to jog more, but that proved a bit more difficult. But once again I was grateful to chat with someone for about half of the lap, as Angelique (?) was on her last lap. We mostly just chatted about the bike, training, and the run course. After a good walk, I decided to start jogging again. When I came through Market Street again, I knew the last lap was going to be a b. it more difficult. After I passed the crowds, it got quiet and dark. There were some spots that were so dark that I was glad they had laid out the glow sticks along the sidewalk. But I knew that time was of the essence and I really did not want to stop in those areas. Who knows what weird Texan creatures were in those woods. So I pushed through those areas a bit more quicker. There was a rest area at about mile 22 where I heard someone mention that there was about one hour left. So I knew that as long as I maintained a 15 min/mile pace that I would be fine.

Just after crossing the Ironman Texas finish

Me just after I crossed the finish line of Ironman Texas

There was stretch that passed some restaurants which proved motivating, after which I walked. It was about mile 24 or 25 that I decided to not chance missing the cutoff and started jogging. Pretty soon I was upon Market Street, and the music and cheering became more pronounced. I will never forget that. Even as I type this I feel tears forming. Just before I turned the last corner I hear, and see, Larry shout at me. The home stretch with Mike Reilly and the arch that I have been waiting all day for. When I gave Mike a high-five in passing, that was awesome. Passing through the archway and having the medal placed around my neck, even better. I could probably go on and on about that day, but I have a sprint triathlon in a few weeks and, now that I feel that I have completely recovered, I was to see how much faster I have gotten over short distances.  😀