IT WENT GREAT.
My overall goal was to finish in less than 2:50, which was a repeat of my goal from 2016 which I missed my just over three minutes.
The weather for the day was awesome. Very calm, neutral wind and the temperature (61 degrees with a 3MPH wind out of the south, which happened to be back to the beach) was ideal for a high level of exertion. By 9:50 at the start of the run it had only climbed to 66 degrees with a 4 MPH wind.
I got up about 4:45 and ate my bowl of cereal (Special-K Yogurt and Berries with whole milk), drank a Diet Mt. Dew for the caffeine and took a shower. After the shower I ate my banana wrap. BM’s were had. I repacked my Tri bag with my checklist and verified everything was good, I did pack a provided small cliff bar into my bike bag in addition to the larger one that was also in there. I checked the tire pressure on my bike (set it to 110 PSI) and mounted it to the car with a final once over visual inspection. I managed to drink a bottle of water during this time. More BM fun. Based on experiences with recent distance rides, I had a Muscle Milk protein shake. We planned on leaving at 6:45 for a prior to 7 arrival, and the time quickly passed.
Kristin drove me in along with Derek’s bike. I decided to leave the bike pump at Mooney’s due to the fact that we both just checked and adjusted our air pressure. We arrived at about the time we expected to find the Transition area packed. I was able to snag a spot in the same area as previous, chosen for the fact it was on the T at the end of the long aisles so I could just run straight to the end and find my bike in a much smaller area coming into T1. It also meant less distance to run in my bike shoes as I can take get them to stick to the bike when coming into T2 but I am not even trying to get them on the bike coming out of T1 at this point, I just clomp out. Derek, Dave and Marcus were separated from me to a different section of the Transition area so they could stay together. I missed being a part of the pre-race banter, but I liked that spot better and I am already too slow working through putting my gear in place. We had to be on the beach meeting to be at no later than 7:40 and I barely had time to lay out my stuff. Using the lest frequented second set of (older?) bathrooms that are to the east of the main building allowed me to skip the lines, do my business and get back into position.
After hearing the safety briefing and not hearing the national anthem that I could see them swimming but not actually here, we moved to the beach. A year before, I was instructed by another competitor on how to use Triathlon mode on my 920xt. This year it was fighting my Zoggs to be watertight. I really like the lens and how they can be pretty tight and be comfortable, but the size is too large I think (XL) and I had real issues during training swims in getting them to stay where they were supposed to. I entered the water several times, and I was able to secure a solid seal after a couple of attempts and got back on the beach and out of the water just as they started the countdown to the start. In the past, I thought that spending energy in the water before the race was a waste. What I have realized this year is that this allows not only for a full equipment check, but if that first 50 yards or so during the race is adrenaline fueled it can throw off your breathing and pacing for quite a while so it is better to burn that and come back calm and collected to the beach confident in your own abilities and in your setup.
Prior to this race I logged many fewer yards (about 1/3rd of the year before per week) – but I logged nearly all of my swims in open water this year so I was much more confident against waves, encountering weeds and other people by surprise and just the idea that I needed to swim for thirty minutes solid in order to swim the mile. In this sense, my mental game was much more were it needed to be. I was ready to spot continuously, adjusted my path to stay on a very efficient line (compared to 2016 where I got lost and essentially had to be herded by a paddle boarder back on course). The problem was a familiar one that I had encountered on my once a week lunch swims leading up to the event – my abs just were not up to the task. A 20 minute 1050 yard swim is all good, but that last 10-15 minutes and those last few hundred yards exposed a huge issue that I had. At this point, I was also considering whether or not the protein shake was a good move as my hydration levels dropped. I would get a lot of time to reflect on this during the entire course. I was able to come in semi comfortably, but like in 2016 I managed to run into someone in the last couple hundred yards. This time it wasn’t a guy right beside me, but rather some old dude that kept crossing back and forth in front of me. Great effort, but just swim straight or get a head of or behind me. We nearly collided several times and finally he got on a better line and we got the muck of the beach. I was up and out and despite the slight cramping I felt good as I came out of the water and ran to the transition area. Prior to the previous year, I swam about 170 yards fewer(!) and got out of the water with about 3 minutes less invested. My cardio levels were overall superior to the previous year, so my “suffer score” on Strava was much lower year over year (13 vs 63). My goal was to shave three minutes off my time with more efficient swimming that maintained the same pace – official time for 2016 was 37:32, 2017 was 34:36. I don’t think it can get much closer than that!
Transition One went pretty well. Rather than try to refill my hydration unit on my bike midcourse, I simply decided to hit some water on Transition and use the secondary bottle on the bike when I needed it. I even remembered to get my number on this year and while the transition was still “slow” at over two minutes I felt good coming out of it. I even saw Derek getting out of his wetsuit!
The bike, well, the bike went really well. I was racing on Conti Grad Prix tires instead of the Gatorskins but I had also focused on ride lengths in excess of 30 miles each week to get me ready for this ride, including at least one Transition workout on my actual Tri-Bike. You can’t use music on the course, but I didn’t need it… in my head Nightwish Shudder Before the Beautiful was cranked to 11 and on a loop. “Deep silence between the notes Deafens me with endless love” I could tell I had more legs than the previous year, and I notched split after split just above or just below 20 mph (20 mph was my goal speed). I choked down most of cliff bar as I went through the first lap so I could digest it as much as possible with the water I had easily available on the bike. I was really bummed when I saw Mooney with a flat on the side of the road! That would have been game over for me, but he evidently got his stuff together with Meghan running him a tire pump. There was a bit of dueling with another tri-bike over most of the course but I was able to hang in there much better than the previous year when the ride was such a mental battle. Additionally, I knew that the second lap was going to have way less traffic on it so it was not so much thinking that I was way off.
One of the most obvious differences is how mile 8/21 went. This features a 90 degree turn that I am way to much of a wimp on my incredibly tall bike to take as much of a sweeper that transitions to a 35’ to 40’ climb at a solid, stand up and pump grade that uses the tallest gear my bike affords, then over the next two miles you get all the elevation back on a long left hand curve. In 2016 I really struggled up the hill and then transitioning to the acceleration which is where my electronic shifters should really shine. In 2017 I can remember getting passed by a gal in full tri-gear on the uphill on the way up the hill on mile 21… in 2017 through this section my average power as 50W for mile 8, but 75W higher for mile 21!
I passed the gal in pink on the downhill using the full left lane as there were multiple bikes there but I was going to go full speed. Thankfully there wasn’t a car there on this non-closed course. I was biking with a smile, feeling great and where I faded about mile 10 in 2016 I was able to keep it up throughout the course this year. I could feel the cramps in my abdomen from time to time, but I focused on hydration and then slipping my feet out of my shoes at the end of the final mile. I ceded eight seconds on the last mile to 2016 but came out in my bare feet – and given how damn long it was from the dismount to the transition I was really happy that I had spent some time learning that trick earlier in the summer. I know it wasn’t too pretty of a maneuver, but it worked! Overall, I shaved about 4:20 off the ride YoY and increased my average speed from 19.4 MPH to 20.7 MPH! Now, all I had to do was stay ahead of Mooney. I had heard that he was about 15 minutes behind me, I estimated that over the course of the run he would regain up to 12 minutes… I thought that I should be able to beat him given he had a freaking flat tire.
I hauled through Transition Two in a 1:29, more than a minute faster than 2016 (2:39) which showed the relative exhaustion I had faced at the same time in the previous year. I pulled on my socks and shoes, took a hit of water and headed out feeling pretty good.
During the run my goal was to run about 7:40 splits. My recollection of 2016 was that I ran about 8:40 splits and if I could get a minute per mile that would be amazing. Also, I was confident that it would be really difficult for Mooney to run the sub six minute splits it would take to catch me at that rate. As I ran out of transition though, I could so distinctly feel my right abdomen cramping. I pushed on, trying to work on running at the lowest possible level of effort, maintaining a good upright form yet pushing for my desired pace. As it turned out, I was never able to get a sub 7:40 split, with my first split at 7:47 being the fastest I would post. Mile 2, 3, and 4 crawled by and I despaired with splits just over 8 minutes. At some point there, I think during my fourth mile, I saw Mooney – he was heading out on the out and back while I was doing the back portion, and doing some hard number crunching in my head I determined that he was about 1.5 but not more than two miles behind me. If he was putting down what he was capable of, that put him in striking distance over the final three miles. I redoubled my efforts as can be seen in my steadily increasing heart rate over the last three miles. I was also able to run faster and push my splits back under 8 minutes. My abdomen was burning and it was taking a lot my mental bandwidth not to double over or stop and try to stretch it out…
A huge, fantastic special highlight of this section is that Kristin came out from the finish about three quarters of a mile and my cheering squad was in prime position to high five me as I pushed to the end… but Gabe did more. He did a high five and then he ran with me for about a block or more… and I mean he *ran* – I looked down at my watch and our split time was about 7:30! He really picked up my last push and helped me keep that pace for final push! I will do my best to bottle up this in my mind and keep it forever. This really took my mind off the grind for a couple hundred yards and helped me finish strong.
And then I saw the clock come into view and it read 2:3* something! I couldn’t believe it. I had hoped that maybe, I would get under 2:45 but instead I was able to finish in just under 2:40! I was so happy… and so feeling like I needed to puke or fart or both. I grabbed a water from the cooler at the finish and walked some thirty or forty yards away and found a tree to put my head against as I fought the urge throw up, which wasn’t that strong but my core was feeling very disturbed. Finally, a couple of gaseous purges later I felt good enough to get back to the finish line and I actually arrived back just as the Mooney crossed the finish line and the families reconvened around the finish as well. I managed to eat a couple of snacks and finish a water and relaxed levels of exertion allowed me to really feel a lot more comfortable quickly. Our new racing buddy David Katz finished and we all took some pictures together and I got to just be elated about meeting my goals for the day. I am so blessed for the family that supported me both during the race but also during the six plus weeks of ramp up to the race that I spent doing much more preparation than the year before… and not being sick the week of the race helped too.
Thoughts for doing this next year are to swim at least 2x in preparation (two swims a week should not be out of reach) and work on strength training for both speed and just overcoming those core strength issues. Ha, just add another 2 hours a week for about eight to ten weeks leading up to the event! No problem given I peeked out at about 8 hours per week!
2016 Final Results: https://www.mtecresults.com/runner/show?race=5769&rid=32
2017 Final Results: https://www.mtecresults.com/runner/show?race=5769&rid=32