Tag Archives: bike

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: 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.

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!