Monday, October 14, 2013

Half Full Triathlon Race Report

Last weekend I raced in my final race of the season, the Half Full Triathlon in Columbia, MD. I wanted to close out my season with one last Tri and one more chance to do well this season. If I did well enough I would be able to qualify for the Rev3 Age Group Championships in Knoxville, TN next year. I really wanted to do this. I don't know why but I really love racing in championship races. I don't do as well as I should buy I always like racing against the best of the best. So with that, I drove down to Maryland by myself and was off to race.

Last weekend was unseasonably hot. Temperatures were in the high 80's and very humid so I didn't think I was going to have my best showing but either way I was going to go for it. 

The course was changed from last year to make it an official Olympic distance race instead of a slightly longer one. Last year the bike was about 31 miles and the run was 6.5 miles. Not a huge increase but still longer than a typical Olympic distance. With the changes, the elevation profile was supposed to also get a little flatter making the course easier. I was really excited for this since I wasn't down with pushing through serious hills. I wanted a nice, easy end of season race and I thought this would be it.

So after driving down the day before and checking in and racking my bike, it was time to get some dinner, head to the hotel and get some sleep.

Race morning was pretty standard. Wake up, have oatmeal, get dressed, drive to the venue and start. 

This race also served as the college championships so there were about 250 college triathletes there which was really cool. On a side note, where were the Tri teams when I was in college? I so would have been on a team. 

Getting into transition was normal. But it was so dark. Now that days are shorter, setting up my transition zone was a little harder than normal since I'm used to more daylight. There weren't so many lights in the transition area, but we all made due.  Since Rev3 was a sponsor, much like Maine, I had my own name plate, bike rack and staging area. It was a little small for me but not a big deal. 

Of course me and my loud mouth, I make friends with everyone around me. Some athletes were nicer than others. Some of us had fun and spoke to each others and other just stared everyone down and sized each other up. Really? We're all in this triathlon community. Lets have fun together.  I realized I forgot my earplugs and my transition neighbor offered to give me some. That was cool. 

After all the friend making and setting up, I left transition and headed to the race start. There were a few cool things. First, since this was a race benefiting children's cancer, the race announcer asked everyone who has been affected by cancer to raise their hands. I'd say that easily over half of the athletes raised their hands. The race also had a "survivor" wave which had anyone who had or beat cancer going off on their own wave. That was very moving

The race stared with all the college athletes going first. It got them on the course without anyone in front so they can race for their championship. It was cool to watch all these kids race. Wow, did I just call college students kids? Does that mean I'm getting older?

So now it was my time to get in the water. Instead of having a running start or all age groupers start together, the race had 2 athletes enter the water at a time. This led to less chaos and an easier swim start. Big props for that.  There was no scratching, clawing, fighting, or any of that.  It was just head into the water at your own pace.  

The swim was not a typical rectangular swim. You can see the map here

I thought this would make it faster since its a straight shot. 

I entered the water and started flying. I was passing people all over the place. I caught up to most of the waves in front of me. For the first 7-10 minutes I was hitting the bouys and thought I was doing so well. Then my goggles crapped out. I kept getting water in them. I had to stop every 2 minutes or so to fix them and drain the water. It ruined any momentum I had. Every time I got in a groove I had to stop since I couldn't see any more. I veered so far off course and my time kept suffering

Even with that I thought I was still doing well. But by the time I got out of the water and looked at my watch, I was heartbroken. 31 minutes for an Olympic swim. Horrendous. I thought my race was over. 

Exiting the water and running about 1/3 of a mile I had time to get my head right. I grabbed my bike, hit the road and went. I knew I needed a great bike to do well now

Knowing I needed a good split, I just throttled down on my pedals and started picking people off left and right. Because of the heat and humidity, my glasses kept fogging up. I couldn't see out of them. I had to drop them down on my nose so I could see. Even with this, the fog was so thick I could hardly see that far in front of me. I didn't like this since I always try to catch up to the person ahead of me.  Not being able to see that far, I had no idea where people were and sometimes they just creeped up in front of me or as I was making a turn, someone was in front of me.  

As time passed so did the fog. But I think the fog left the air and entered my legs. First off, the elevation was a lot more than I thought it would be. The hills were definitely more challenging than I was prepared for. It seemed like every time I tried to push myself up a hill or tried to push faster, I ended up going slower. It was the weirdest feeling. The harder I worked the slower I got. 

Bottom line, I knew this wasn't going to be my day. It got to a point where it wasn't even enjoyable for me. This was supposed to be a fun, end of season race, but it was more stressful and frustrating than I wanted.  My legs were just not under me. 

Either way, I battled the bike the rest of the way and was so happy riding back into transition. 

My bike split was impressive with a time of 1:07:25.  I averaged about 22.5 mph's. About the 2nd or 3rd fastest of the day. I didn't know this at the time, but I thought I had a good split, but assumed there were so many more people in front of me.  

I knew coming off my bike that I was at least in pursuit of the top racers in my age group. I didn't feel that way, and mentally checked out in some ways, but I knew there were a few I could pick off on the run.  Right after exiting T2, I saw 2 racers I was destined to get.  One was a tall guy with a porn mustache that got into T2 about 15 seconds before me, and the other was someone I thought I was in my age group, but he was about .25 miles ahead of me.  After about the first .5 mile, I caught porn mustache guy and asked him if there were any racers from our age group, and he told me maybe 1, but not sure.  He had me laughing saying he was a horrible runner and wished he could get better.  This guy was about 6'3" and skinny.  He just had that look about him.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  Those tall runners who make everything look so easy.  I thought to myself "how can he not be a good runner".  I figured he was playing with me and that I should watch out in the last mile, but after passing him and not seeing him anywhere near me, I knew he wasn't going to catch up to me.
Next up was a runner who had a nice pace going and I knew I would be challenged in getting to him, but if I did, this was the age grouper that "porn guy" told me about.  So if I caught him, then I would be in great shape.  After about 2 miles, I ended up catching him and saw his calf.  His age was 27.  DAMN.  I worked so hard to get to him that I'm not sure how much more I had to catch anyone else.  But when I got up to this runner, we realized we weren't competing against each other and that I was beating him anyway ( I started after him in waves), so we ran together for the next few miles.  It was great. We paced each other and pushed each other.

The run was relatively flat with the exception of 2 hills at mile 3.5 and then again at mile 4.7 which was a pretty steep uphill.  But after getting past those hills, the last mile and change was downhill so it was time to let it fly.  During my run, I ended up passing so many college athletes.  I couldn't believe this since I started at least 25 minutes after them.  But I kept wishing them the best and giving words of encouragement to keep them going.  They are so young that you could just see themselves mentally fighting with their inner demons.  Any encouragement would definitely help these guys.  

After making the last turn, I ran up the finisher's shoot to the finish line and finished my season.  Thankfully. 

Run time of 44:19 for the 6.5 mile run.

Post Race:
 The medals they gave out were pretty cool.  The design was great, but the medals also doubled as a beer opener.  Very functional.  Very cool. 
Yes, it's been used already to open some post race refreshments

And instead of a finisher's shirt, they gave away finisher's jackets.  Really nice.  I can wear these on those cool mornings when I want to go for a run.  They even have the thumb holes.  Sometimes it's nice to get something other than a t-shirt.

Nice lightweight comfortable jacket

Once I got my medal and fluids, I went over to check the scoring tent.  It was weird since all athletes started at different times, so I wasn't going to know exactly where I stood for a while, but when I first checked, I placed 2nd in my age group.  Sweet.  This way, I had a chance to place.  After stretching, I rechecked the results, and now it said I placed 3rd in my Age group.  Ok, going in the wrong direction here.  So I went to check out my bike, pack up my bag and put it in my car.  I called the wife and explained that I would leave if I didn't place and I didn't need to stay around for the ceremony, but if I placed, then I was staying. Once the car was packed up, I threw on my Skora shirt and HoneyMaxx socks so I could get them some publicity if I placed.  I went back to the finishers area and rechecked the results.  This time I was in 4th.  DAMN.  Once again, always a bridesmaid, never a bride.  I did place 17th in the whole race though. Just imagine if I would have felt great today and my swim didn't get derailed from bad goggles.  So I walked back to my car, and headed home.  Contempt with my placing and happy my season was over.

Looking back on this race, I can say that I am just ready for my season to be done.  This is the first time in any race that I have done that every time I tried to push myself, I ended up going slower.  I've had races where I haven't performed, I have had problems during the race, I've been tired,  I stopped caring and wanted to enjoy the race, but I have never had a race where I just didn't have my legs underneath me.  I think my body was trying to tell me that I've had a long year with Riley being born and not really having an off season last year, so I need to shut it down now.

I'm not upset with my placing.  It's always nice to get a podium, but I was so past that in this race, that it just didn't matter.  I think I ended up qualifying for Knoxville, so at least one of my goals was completed.

Right now, it's time to shut it down, rest, relax, and enjoy some family time.  I've already looked into planning my 2014 race schedule, but for the rest of 2013, my legs are on a hiatus for racing.

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