Some of you may recall that I was signed up for the Patriot’s Half Ironman last summer as well. I was in pretty good shape for it, but a hurricane whose name I cannot recall hit the east coast and had enough power left to pummel Williamsburg, VA the day of the race. Happily, the race organizers canceled it the day before so we did not have to make the trip for no reason. There was no refund for the race, but they did give us a 50% credit toward signing up this year. So here we go again…
The best thing about the race being canceled last year is that I resolved to keep the running and biking volume high so my base did not dwindle too much. I think I was successful and felt pretty confident during my taper. The only training hiccup was 4-5 days of being pretty sick in August which included missing the Luray Triathlon.
My goals lined up like this:
- Finish without contemplating retirement from the sport
- Finish without walking during the run
- Finish in under 6 hours
If you are confused by me having so many goals, this is typical in endurance sports. Athletes tend to have tiered goals and often there is one that they keep to themself…sort of a super stretch-goal that will work out if the stars align perfectly and they feel like superman. Last Saturday was pretty close to that for me.
I was very well-fueled throughout the week, got plenty of sleep, we arrived in Williamsburg early without incident and the hotel treated us well. The environment there was quite conducive to a good nights sleep. The weather on Saturday was almost perfect. The course was pancake flat which I highly recommend and, as a bonus, the run course went through some last minute changes that put large portions of it on a shaded trail. Shade is my best friend when running, especially from 11 am – 1 pm. All of these factors helped make it a great race.
If you are impatient with my rambling, here are a few pictures.
Swim – As usual, if anything suffers during training it is the swim for me. However, it’s also the shortest portion of a triathlon so not that big a deal. This race was small enough that my wave (men age 20-39) was not that big. We were running a little behind which in some ways is good as it leaves no time to get nervous. This was one of those days were I no sooner had my goggles on as it was time to go.
The slight current in the James River made my normal inability to swim straight even more pronounced which needed some serious correcting early on. Overall I was feeling good. After the first left turn, I looked straight into the rising sun and could not see the next buoy at all. I needed to use other swimmers to site and hope they knew where they were going. At the next turn (back to shore), I once again could see nothing. Eventually, I saw a buoy and started moving toward it. A few minutes later, I realized that the buoys were not aligned with the ext point and I was very much by myself. Heather reports that it was quite clear others had this issue as the whole pack was all over the place. The good news is that I didn’t even feel fatigue as I was swimming. It took about 39 minutes and I was expecting 3-4 minutes shorter. I attribute this to the crazy course. I was 9th out of 45 in my age group which made me happy. I normally do well in the swim and wait patiently for many of the slow swimmers to zoom by me in the bike. I would not be disappointed. No issues in T1 other than freshly cut grass everywhere.
Bike – As noted earlier, the course was completely flat and many parts were shaded. I realized pretty quickly that my goal of 18.5 – 19.0 mph was not ambitious enough. After about 10 miles, I resolved to keep the average speed over 20. This leg was pretty much uneventful. Much like during the Diamond in the Rough Tri earlier in the summer, I noticed groups of riders working together illegally. Drafting is not legal in these events. This is a HUGE advantage and it really pisses me off. There are not that many race officials on the course to catch them either. I deviated from my fuel plan a bit as I ran out of time and did not eat 2 small bars I had with me, but other than that all was well.
Run – T2 was -interesting-. I had a bad feeling I was forgetting something, but didn’t see anything else in my area. I also forgot to take off my biking gloves and was about halfway toward the mat before I realized it. This isn’t too big of a deal as I had pockets to put them in. As I neared the mat, an official informed me I did not have my race bib on. D’oh! I ran back, threw down the gloves and sure enough there it was. It had somehow moved off my towel. I probably gave up about a minute which is sad. My plan had been to complete this leg in about 2 hours (a 9:15ish pace). I must have been a bit excited as mile 1 was 7:45 and mile 2 was 8:15. After those 2, I settled down and did the rest somewhere between 8:45 and 9:30. The shade on the course was key. I estimate that about 7 or 8 of the 13 miles had good coverage. Water stops were everywhere. Nice job by the people at Setupevents. I only had 3 gels with me and my stomach was wide awake. I had eaten all 3 by mile 6. This meant that I had to eat something at the water stops and all they had was Hammer Gel. This was scary to me, but necessary. I took one and made sure I was near the water when I ate it. Good plan. It was orange flavored and generally heinous. Never again! I finished in about 1:57 at a 9:00ish pace.
Overall, it was 5:31 (should have been 1 minute less). I met all of my goals and was more than happy. My race supporter (Heather) did a nice job of taking pictures, cheering and keeping herself from melting in the sun or going crazy with boredom, especially at 21 weeks pregnant with twins. Now after such a good race, I need to somehow stay motivated during my 4th attempt at a 3:40 marathon in a few weeks.
Sidenote: Williamsburg is a strange town. There were at least 10 pancake houses in a 5 mile radius as well as countless steak and seafood joints. However, if you wanted chicken wings (and Heather did), you needed to either go to the edge of William and Mary’s campus (which we did) or to the Marriott (which we also did).
Another sidenote: We spent Sunday night at Keswick Hall (a resort) in Charlottesville since Heather is headed to her extended bedrest in a few weeks. Keswick was fantastic. Our 2.5 meals were great, we loved the pool and the veranda and the grounds and the atmosphere in general. If you have the chance, go there. We vowed to return someday.