[B]Reason for Race Selection:[/B] Close proximity, well run races by REV3, National Harbor 70.3 Cancellation
[B]Brief Summary:[/B] Miserable conditions for racing. Great Course. Well run.
[B]Unabridged Summary: [/B]
Going in, I knew there was potential for there to be cooler race temperatures with it being October, but the steady rain exasperated the cooler temps (50' degrees) tenfold on the bike. This race would be ideal in mid- to late-September, but in October it is a toss-up. The course is great - challenging, but not killer like a SavageMan or Quassy and very well run as always by REV3. Best of all you can easily sleep in your own bed, wake up race morning and drive up from DC.
They had the transition setup in the upper grassy parking area (to the right when you come in Centennial Park) as compared to the Columbia Tri in the lower field area. The finish line and expo were setup in the area of the Columbia Tri transition. The transition seemed more spacious for HalfFull and I love the REV3 "ground" racks where you simple put your back tire in. It was nice that the expo (and race registration) was at the race site and you didn't have to drive to a hotel to register and then to the transition for the Saturday bike racking.
As for the race, with the warmer temperatures leading up to the day before the race (~80's all week), the swim was clearly the best part of the race - ideal water temps in the high 60's, wetsuit legal and warm compared to the 50' degree air temp. The swim course is essentially the reverse of the Columbia Tri since the transition was setup in the upper field. Coming out of the swim you head up the hill to T1, which was not the most fun, but not horrible. As I mentioned, the transition setup was great, with each row labeled (i.e., A, B C, D, etc.) and easy to see the swim in, bike in/out and run out.
The bike course is essentially the Columbia Tri course extended out a bit and of course 2 loops. Like I said, challenging course, but not the most challenging out there.
The run differs from the Columbia course in that it does not go through the rolling hills in the neighborhood once you get out of the park. In the place of all those rollers in the neighborhood, it continues on to more gradual climbs around miles 3.5 and 10. It of course is also a two loop course.
[B]Race Ratings (1 lowest <--> 10 highest):[/B]
[B]Time of year: [/B]6.5
[B]Recommend: [/B]Yes, but beware that the weather may not be ideal!
Not having done a half since REV3 Quassy in July 2010, mainly due to the collar bone break last year and surgery for a meniscus tear in March, I wasn't sure how my endurance would hold up on the run. That being said, I've worked in longer brick runs (1+ hrs) after every other weekly long ride.
Also for those not aware, Erin Bougie (aka BOO-jaah) and I both won free race entries from the DC Tri Facebook "likes" contest (those getting the most "likes" would win). She won the contest saying she wanted to race to see how many guys she could chick and me saying that I wouldn't be one of those guys! So clearly there was a lot on the line here for me on order to keep my man card. This free entry was a nice bonus since I was already planning to do this race for a while, after learning that National Harbor 70.3 was cancelled. For once, my procrastination in not registering early actually paid off.
Bougie and I have both been out at Skyline a few times this summer duking it out and there is no doubt, she can hang with the best. We both decided to do the half, a decision that race morning we both agreed that we should have switched to the Olympic with the horrible weather conditions - in fact an email went out early in the week allowing this due to the de-sanctioning of the half so the Lance could race.
The weather was ideal leading up to the race and then, of course, a wet cold front had to push through the morning of the race. I didn't think too much of the cooler temps at first, despite club members swapping emails on racing in the cold, since I had done the SavageMan 30 a few weeks prior in similar temps in just a tri kit and toe covers and was fine throughout. What I failed to take into account was the sun was out that day at SavageMan, the temps were rising (not falling), there was a later start, and it wasn’t raining.
As for the Bougie vs. Brady battle the hype was building prior to race day - she won her age group in the SavageMan 70 and I mine for the SavageMan 30 distance. I knew she was a strong cyclist and could run with the best, so I had to get out fast on the swim and try to distance her on the bike. Both of us were staying silent on the Twitter, Facebook and forum feeds as we both knew poking a bear is never a good thing.
I had a "stomach bug" that hit Friday afternoon and nothing was staying in my stomach. I was up most of Friday night with a continuous "wave" feeling (is that TMI?) and was not sure if I was going to be able to race. Luckily after a trip to CVS in the morning for some meds, things cleared up Saturday, though I had nothing in me and I was trying thwart off any dehydration. I did a quick 20 minute ride and brief run and things seemed okay so I gave it a go-decision to head up to rack my bike. Looking back, I’m 99% sure it was some bad salad dressing, since a few days after the race it caused a similar result (not fun).
There was a nasty and a steady drizzly prior to the transition closing. I had setup my area and then found Bougie and Ellen who were both setup near each other. At the time being all bundled up, I think we all under estimated the cold and were discussing what to wear on the bike. I was convinced that the toe covers and (possibly) arm warmers would do it. Especially after seeing that several of the pros were going sans-arm warmers. However, I was not thinking how they were doing the Olympic, not the half.
Since the half didn't start until 8:30 AM, Bougie and I headed to the cars to stay warm after a brief bathroom break. She grabbed her wetsuit out of her car and we headed to my car parked up close in VIP. On the way to my car we saw a Range Rover pull up near mine, stop, and drop off a "packet pick-up" bag before pulling off.
I though "hmmm, that's odd," so of course I had to check the bag which seemed to have something in it. As soon as I opened it, I instantly realized it was not good, a steamy, smelly surprise, that required all I had not to gag – not a good feeling before you’re about to do a half Ironman. I still believe this would be the last way I would ever think to go #2 - in a bag, in the car. And on top of that - there were not one, but two empty roll off dumpsters less than 10 yards from the scene of the crime. I mean seriously, couldn't you find a tree to lean up against? Not to mention, even if you did have a porta-john phobia, there were bathrooms with flush toilets that weren't that crowded. I mean pooh in a bag is fine, but only if it's a dogs!
Moving on (as hard as it is), I saw Lance's "rocket" (aka bike) being whisked to the transition - I can only assume to prevent a crowd during transition setup. We then stayed warm in my car with the heater blasting. Oh and yes, I know, allowing the enemy to seek shelter in your house, but you know what they say - "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."
We suited up around 8:15 AM and headed down to the swim start where Lance was doing a pre-race interview on the loud speaker as the corrals were lining up. Bougie and I thought we were going to be able to start next to each other, as it was a time trial swim start by wave, and we were in back to back waves. However, it ended up her wave was 2 ahead of mine and the volunteer was adamant that she start in her wave. She ended up starting a little less than 2 minutes ahead of me.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect as this was my first TT style swim start. I knew that it wouldn’t be a great advantage for me, as I general try to hang on to the feet of someone towards the back of the faster swim pack. For the TT start, you were basically paired up next to someone else in your wave and you walked across the mat and your race “timer” starts. I didn’t really like this format as it’s a pretty uneventful start and I found it took a few minutes into the swim to get my adrenaline going.
The swim course was the exact reverse of the Columbia Tri swim course (clockwise instead of counter-clockwise). For the most part, I took an inside line to the right to avoid all the traffic and cut out around the buoys at the corners.
As I turned around the last buoy for the home stretch, I somehow came up on Bougie right next to me. And as luck would have it, she breathes to the right and I to the left, and I was on her right. So I had to step on it to get her out of my view and beat her out of the water, which I managed. Otherwise, the swim was fairly uneventful.
Total swim time: 24:56, 4th age group, overall satisfied as had to avoid a lot of traffic and couldn’t get a good draft.
[B][I]T1 - 03:18[/I][/B]
As I ran out of the water and up to the hill to transition, I heard Bougie yelling “I’m coming after you Brady!” This thought would stay in my head for the next 56 miles on the bike, mainly to get the thought out of my head that I failed to put my wind vest on in T1. Although, thankfully, I did manage to put on my arm warmers. But I would have to say, not putting on another layer in T1 is probably the biggest transition mistake I’ve ever made!
As I made way onto the bike course, most of the male pros were coming in off the Olympic course. I was doing a good deal of passing at this point being in a later wave – with all Olympic waves starting before the half. There really weren’t too many “packs” out on the bike, which was nice, and I suspect the reason for the swim TT start.
The first 15 miles weren’t too bad despite a steady rain and 50’F degrees temps. But with just a tri top and arm warmers, my upper body started to shiver on the descents and I knew it was going to be a tough second lap. This race was one of the first where I was actually looking forward to the hills so that I could “warm” up! I really couldn’t get the thought of the cold out of my head until I passed by fellow club member Stephanie Brown, which gave me a little momentum when she told that she too was doing the half. I also got a push from spectators on the “big” hill about half way into the loop, which included regular Tuesday/Thursday HP AM rider Jessie, decked out in his Speedo and devil horns spear. It also helped that for most of the first lap, I was trading positions with “camo-kit” guy (being sure to stay the legal distance of course), who I decided to let go just after starting the 2nd loop, since he started to push the pace.
Luckily the rain let up at the start of the second lap and made it much more enjoyable, especially due to the fact there was basically nobody out on the course, with only about 250 racing the half . My nutrition was going well, though I was definitely burning more calories than “normal” in order to stay warm, so I shot to take in a GU every 30 minutes (as opposed to every 45 minutes). I shyed away from any solids due the stomach issues from the day before and for the most part it worked well. My pace dropped a little on the second lap, but besides that fact that I couldn’t fully feel most of my fingers or left foot, my legs still felt good.
I saw Abby as I was coming into T2, which again gave me a nice boost. I had been shooting to stay in the 2:40 – 2:45 time range for the bike, but considering the conditions and how I felt the day before, I was fairly satisfied coming off the bike. And unbeknownst to me at the time, I had a about a 15 minute lead on Bougie.
Total bike time, 2:50, (off at 03:18 total time), 3rd age group.
[B][I]T2 - 01:34[/B][/I]
Besides the fact that you could have stuck a knife in my left foot and I wouldn’t have felt it, a relatively easy T2. It was a little difficult getting my shoes on with limited mobility in my hands due to the cold, despite clenching my fist the last few miles of the bike in an attempt to get some feeling back.
I felt good starting the run, though my quads felt a little tight. About 2 miles in, two of the REV3 4-wheeler carts came through saying the first male athlete was coming through. I didn’t think much of it and about another ½ mile later he did. I didn’t even look over as I heard his footsteps and said “good race,” not realizing it was none other than Lance Armstrong, who of course said nothing back in return. I actually kept him in my sights for a good half mile, but he was definitely hauling.
Like I said before, the run course is fairly similar to the Columbia Tri course, though the middle section is a slow steady climb around miles 3.5 and 10, instead of cutting into the neighborhood for a few rolling hills. At mile 3.5 by this time, I still felt good and was holding pace on the hills. I continued to take in GU, and even did a half of a banana. I managed to finish the first lap in a little over 50 minutes, though it was a little demoralizing making the turn for the second lap and coming within 20 feet of the finish line.
On the second lap, I really started to feel it in my legs, although I was happy with my decision to go with the new pair of tri shorts (Orca 226 Compression) that I had gotten at TRI360 a few weeks prior (thanks Karen!), over the Champion System DC Tri ones. Maybe it was psychological but it felt like they warded off any bad leg cramping that I’ve had in the past.
Since I really didn’t have much food in my system coming into the race, I think it really affected me on the second lap. I started to feel pretty depleted, so I took in some Gatorade, over my usual sticking with Nuun. It seemed to help, but my pace really started to take a hit and the hill at mile 10 was painful. I did a slow jog up most of it and took a few walk breaks. After getting up that hill, there’s one more little hill, but you turn back into the park before getting to the top.
At that point, once I was in the park, I took a look over my shoulder to make sure Bougie wasn’t behind me, but I still had to pick up the pace a little. I was relieved to be done. Little did I know she had pulled 11 minutes back on me during the run. I wasn’t overly happy with my run time, but was happy to be done!
I wrapped up in a plastic heating blanket and headed to the med tent where they had heaters. I talked to the medics for a few minutes and heard the stories of them pulling people off the bike course with hypothermia like conditions. I then headed back to transition after getting some of the awesome post-race food to bundle up. I ran into Bougie heading out of transition and both of us were just relieved to be done. She told me her time and I was amazed how much time she pulled back on me on the run, finishing just under 4 minutes behind me. She had a great race, taking 1st in her age group. It looks like the duel will continue next year at Ironman Lake Placid, and maybe she won’t run out of real estate!
Run time: 1:54:52, 6th in the age group, finished: 05:14:51, AG: 6/26, overall: 16/221
Looking back the race was "fun" between the poo-bag, the Lance hype that wasn't, the miserable weather to talk about, the Bougie vs. Brady comradely, and even witnessing a finish line marriage proposal. I still haven’t decided if doing a tri in extreme cold is worse than extreme heat like at Smallwood, but neither are the most “fun” to be racing in. I think I learned that I need to be a little more careful what I eat leading up to a race, though sometimes this can be hard to control. I of course also learned that it’s sometimes better to error on the side of caution in deciding what to wear on the bike. All-in-all, definitely looking forward to the off season.