Tag 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: 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.

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!