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.

Ironman 70.3 Augusta Race Report

First off the Augusta area is a nice place for a triathlon. The amount of volunteers was amazing and the police were friendly – thanking me for coming out after I would thank them for their service. The weather was also perfect as the day started out in the low 60s and reached a high of mid to upper 70s with partly cloudy skies. The downside to being the largest competitor field of any half-iron distance triathlon is the number of waves at the start: 27! I had to wait over an hour for my wave to get onto the makeshift dock.

Augusta 70.3 swim

View of swimmers coming down-river

So the swim: the announced water temperature was 69 degrees Fahrenheit but it didn’t feel so cold when I (finally) got in. I did feel a bit of a chill on my face a little later on but not too bad. Being in a big wave was bad at the start with a bunch of other guys jockeying for position, but it thinned out pretty quick. Going with the current is a nice way to start a triathlon. The replacement goggles I had picked up at the expo worked well as I had no issues with glare (full tint), fogging or leak at any point. I got to the ramp and trotted over to the strippers (forgot to bring singles) and then headed into transition.

augusta 70.3 bike transition

See – no sun-glasses! 🙁

Onto the bike: so the first transition is where it started going downhill for me. I got to the correct row (2240-2290) but somehow my bike and gear were not at my number – I spent a moment or two staring at sticker 2272, trying to figure how my stuff had moved since I was certain I had checked my bike on my race number. When I spotted my setup a rack down, I then couldn’t find my sunglasses – checked everywhere and then remembered that I had not taken them off my bag earlier that morning. After digging in my bag produced nothing, I am guessing that they had somehow fallen off between the car and transition. So I added bottled water to the Perpetuem already in my bottle (next possible error), put on my shoes and helmet, turned on my Garmin, and left transition.

We had driven most of the course Friday on our way to the expo, so we had some sense of what to expect, but I realized later the hard way some of the inclines are different in a bike than from a car. The first 20+ miles were manageable in elevation changed, but the roads were rough and a bit “bouncy” in the saddle. It was a few miles before the bouncy areas that my neck started to bother me (this will play a part later I believe) and the plain water (left my Nuun tablets at home) in my aero bottle along with semi-warm Perpetuem started to bother my stomach, or so I think as this combo was new. I usually freeze the nutrition but couldn’t due to the time from transition closing (7:15) and my swim start (8:44). So then I decided to grab a Perform at the first aide station to mix with the plain aero water – it might have had good stuff in it but the flavor was eck. Downhills were awesome (one was so long, I must have hit 30+ mph) and plentiful – except that an uphill usually preceded it. The long and low up hills were fine and there was only one steep incline (right after a downhill) that I did a little weaving for. I did a lot of switching from big to little chain ring, although there were some rollers I was able to develop enough speed to not have to switch into the little ring, just lessen the gear. Some areas were freshly paved – one intersection within possibly last week, that were nice towards the finish of the bike. Overall the bike course was full of nice views of hillsides, horse pastures, Jimbob’s Auto Sales, lakes/rivers and nice country with houses. Rolling into the Augusta Rowing Club meant the bike was finished and I could hop off and trot back into transition.

The run: oh, how that one hurt! Literally and physically. I started out okay, doing 8-2s for the first 3-4 miles of the two loop course. Then the pains started: neck pain (from earlier) spread to the shoulders and down my back, cramps in the lower abdominal area (thinking from un-chilled bike nutrition), and then upper leg and feet pains. The Heed I had with me I think settled the ab issues. I also found interspersing jogging with speed walking and regular walking worked out for me. The run course was pretty nice – the inner hook (east then west on Broad Street) was more populated with spectators than the outer streets. Aide stations were also nice, spread out and well stocked. I had my two fuel belt bottles with Heed, so I didn’t need (or want) the Perform, pretzels, gels or fruits; I did keep my bottles full whenever I passed the aide stations, except until I got near the end. I always seem to be able to jog the last mile of a long or rough run – crowds are always an adrenaline rush.

our moms cheering at augusta 70.3

Our cheering section waiting by the swim exit

The end: the first thing I did after collecting my Finisher medal and hat, water bottle and photo? Take off my Newtons! Wow, my feet felt better (not 100%) so I walked over to the massage area to get on the list, grabbed a beer and then said “hello” to my parents and in-laws before heading back for my massage, followed by pizza. The not wearing glasses for the bike would rear it’s pain later that day, requiring drops, and Five Guys would be the dinner we would consume – yummmm!

Lessons learned: double check that you have sunglasses, SoFla boys hate hilly courses, figure some way to keep nutrition chilled if you have a long wait until your wave starts.

What do I think of this race? If you are not a fan of swimming and/or don’t mind hilly bike courses – DO IT!! There is a reason this is the biggest 70.3 in the world and a popular one for first-timers of that distance. I may never see a 26 minute 1.2 mile swim again. Unfortunately as of press time I have yet to resolve Garmin’s error in uploading my data to Connect, even though it imports to Training Center fine, so I can’t do screenshots of the maps or data, nor see what speeds, elevations or heart rates I had.

Oh well, on to the Miami Man Half in November!

Rocketman Half Iron Race Report

Nothing cooler than standing next to the announcer’s tent for the national anthem and then for Sister Madonna Buder’s invocation. Transition was small but well placed (a bank parking lot) and the overall race location was nice. The finish area was a space center park next to transition. The organizer’s even color-coded the wrist bands to match the racer’s distance for the swim buoys and bike signs.

The triathlon in one word: rough.

The swim for the half was a long triangle done counter-clockwise. And it seemed the farther out we went the choppy it got. Especially when we made the first turn, that is when it got slow and most choppy. After turning again and heading to the exit dock, I picked it up, even catching a group when I got to the exit. Exit was a pair of ladders from a pool secured to a dock with volunteers there to offer assistance getting out. There was a bit of a run to get to transition – down the dock, across a small park and around to the back of transition before entering. Took longer to get on my bike shoes than normal. Mount line was just outside of the parking lot.

I am 50/50 on the bike course: nothing beats going by the launch pads, vehicle assembly building, and seeing nature on the course … but about ⅔ of the roads were almost as bad as the washboard at Ironman Florida. There were a few portions that were decent, even a stretch around the launch pads which had been paved not long ago. It started with the one major climb of the course – the causeway that joined the mainland to Merrit Island which started ½ mile from transition, climbed up 65 feet and lasted about ½ mile. The next 9 miles or so were bumpy, yet, thanks to a tailwind, I maintained about 18-20 miles/hour. The half iron course had a turn for an out-and-back, which was so thankfully smoother so I was able to stop and pull up my right arm pad which had bent down due to the earlier bumpy section. After the out-and-back, I continued south past where the classic and internation turned east. The going was decent, even after the u-turn, until there was a right turn to head east. This road was relatively less bouncy, but the tailwind was pretty strong (I saw 24+ mph) which led to a slow return (10-13 mph). Oh, yeah, that was the 3rd out-and-back, 2nd that went east-west. I then rejoined the classic/international course that was heading for the launch pads and vehicle assembly building (the KSC photographers were positioned for that shot). At one point there was a turn by one of the NASA buildings and I then saw signs for turn for half irons. This ended up being about a 1 mile box that ended up putting me back before the first turn. Not only do I not remember this box on the map nor a part of the race briefing, but who is to say that some people … missed it? After the big loop around the pads, I then had the pleasure of turning east … remember the out-and-back of 10-13 mph? Yep, those winds again. There were some portions that were easier to deal with than others, but there was no sweeter site than that of the bridge and nearby apartment complex. Thanks to time spent in headwinds and bumps, I still surprised myself by averaging 10 mph up the bridge in the headwind, zig-zagging and passing people. Then it was the downhill – I thought I could get by without peddling, but half way I noticed I was only doing 15mph and slowing down, so I started peddling again and cruised the last 1/2 mile to transition.

Got one pair of shoes and headgear (helmet) off and another pair of shoes and hat on. The exit from transition took almost the same path around transition as the swim to the road. For the half marathon course we followed the road along the river south for about 3.5 miles, headed back to the park, turned around and did the whole loop again. It would have gone a lot better if not for three issues: my legs were sore from the windy bike ride, my butt was sore from the bumpy bike ride & it was not cloudy. Still, when I was not walking the aide stations (two set up on the course passed four times each loop with water, gatorade, ice & Clif Shots) I was doing a decent pace (~10 min/mile) for good portions, especially when there was a breeze. There were a few spots where locals were parked in lawn chairs cheering runners on – not along a stretch on US1 with businesses (one lane was coned off for runners). I think I ran the last mile in. The finish wrapped around a lake in the space park with music and a guy announcing finishers – fudged my name a bit (duh!), but made a point to ask the correct pronounciation as his girlfriend also has a last name with many consonants. Water, soda and even a few slices of pizza were consumed afterwards.

Did I beat my time from Miami Man a few years ago? Sure. Did I think I would do better? Of course. I might have shaved several minutes off in better weather and/or road conditions. But, I can’t control the weather. Would I do the race next year (if offered)? Depends on what, if any, changes are made.

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.  😀

What I Have Learned About Triathlon

With only a few weeks left before Ironman Texas, I decided to give a breakdown of the three disciplines (swim, bike, and run) and what I have learned about each of them. I am in no way an expert but I like to think that I have probably experienced enough in training for Texas and the other races before, and also listened to friends’ experiences with the sport to be able to put down on “paper” what about each leg is easy and difficult.

Swim:

Probably the easiest of the three legs of the race to pick up, given the fact that a majority of kids are taken to swim classes. But even better: it is also the cheapest of the three sports since all you need are swim trunks & goggles = you’re good to go! And freestyle, the easiest of the swim strokes, is also the most recommended in triathlon. And what beginners should know is that swim portion is also the shortest compared to the bike and run legs. But the best part: it is water! There is the resistance of the water itself, but that is it (unless you wear paddles) so there is a less chance of developing joint pain, broken leg, shin splints, brain injury, etc.

What makes it difficult: I am used to breathing on the bike and run, but breathing in a pool/lake/ocean is a different ballpark. I can go for long hours on the bike or on my feet without any breathing issues (note: except running in high humidity), but I am still trying to figure out how much/little air to take in for long swims. So let’s say that you mastered that. With regards to training locations, you are limited to the ocean (dependent on weather, jelly fish, algae, etc, if you even live near one) and/or pools (probably this). Depending on your area, some indoor pools are not long and usually require a membership (gym) and outdoor pools can get crowded (not good for lotta-lap-workouts). If you have a rainy season (like South Florida), lightning can play havoc on schedules.

BEGINNER’S TIP: With sprint triathlons, the swim is not long (around 400meters) so not much training is required to make in through the distance. Simply go to your local pool to get some laps in to build distance, with a couple hard/fast laps to help out. At the race, be sure you start in the back of wave or veer to the sides, as the center can be, well, let’s say, rough for those not used to tri swims.

Bike:

The one part of the triathlon that you can sort of take brief physical breaks and still be moving forward. Yes, you can sort of glide through the water, but only for a second or two; and forget about running (feet don’t move, you don’t move). If it any time during a ride, forward momentum will carry you along for some time; if you are lucky and get a downhill timed right, you might not have to peddle for a good while. Of course, a nice downhill meant that you probably had to get up it. But with the multitude of bicycling training videos and group rides being held, it is possible to develop into a quality cyclist within a few short months.

Of the three disciplines, this can get to be the most expensive. It is recommended that when you are first entering the sport to go “affordable” for your first bike: WalMart, Craigslist, garage sale, or even someone within the sport that has one lying around or wants to sell. Then, when you realize how much fun the sport is and that competitive juice starts building up, you will want to upgrade to a more speedier bike. And once that starts: lighter wheels, better gears, clip pedals, bike/triathlon shoes, bottle cages, bike sensors, aero helmet, bike clothes, bike trainer (don’t skimp on this), and probably more stuff that I can’t remember.

BEGINNER’S TIP: Go affordable, but if you come across a deal, jump on it. I got my road bike on consignment at a local bike shop. Still have it, too. Unless you truly care about time, fancy helmets and aerodynamic products will only shave minutes off of Ironman-distance events, not sprints.

Run:

The one discipline that can be trained for almost anywhere, at any time, in any weather (less lightning). You also do not need any special equipment, which is good for beginners. Basically any type of athletic shoes are okay, but, of course, running shoes are preferred, and better for you in the long run. And if you have the right running shoes and you train with the correct form, you can get places. One can wake up in the morning, go out for a jog (through in some intervals), take a shower and pick up some coffee on the way to work. When I started running, it was the end of summer, beginning of fall, so I did not have to deal with extreme heat/humidity. This lead to me being able to build up my distance fairly quick: from not being able to finish two miles in Sept 09 to a 2:15 half marathon Nov 09. The other benefit of the run leg over the other two legs: you can run with the other participants. Drafting in cycling not legal (note: there are draft legal races, but not many) and while it is legal to draft in swimming, it is difficult to talk and swim at the same time. And since wearing headphones/mp3 players in triathlon is illegal, running with someone can help.

That being said, running is also the most impactful on the body, from the feet (duh) all of the way up the legs, hips, and even back (unless you don’t have a spine, then what are you doing on this planet?). Even getting the best quality shoes can’t prevent feet pains, especially after lonnng runs. Unless running is all that you train, your feet might hate you. There are several running forms (chi, posed) and ways to prevent injury, but: everybody is different, every body is different.

BEGINNER’S NOTE: Go to a runner’s store and spend some time there. You will want to have a comfortable pair of shoes. Start out by just seeing how far you can go, even if you have to break it into walk/run. And that is perfectly fine in any race!