This is my first race report ever so you might have to bear with my tendency to be very long-winded and to avoid getting to the point for a very long time. But I’ll do my best. Hopefully it doesn't come across as too cheesy or sappy or something.
This is my third year racing triathlons, and for this year, I thought I would focus on some longer races and get comfortable doing them because I have the goal of completing a full Ironman next year (2011 Ironman Lake Placid, here I come). So I signed up for three Half Ironman races this year along with two Olympic distance triathlons spaced out as gauges for my training: Columbia Oly, Eagleman 70.3, Lake Logan Oly, Timberman 70.3, and Savageman 70.0. I felt it was a well-spaced out racing season with time for recovery and time for gauging my training. My goal race of the season was never going to be Savageman 70.0, that’s just crazy, so my A-races of the season became Eagleman and Timberman. I wanted to do really well at those.
--My Half Ironman “curse”--
It’s not REALLY a curse and since I’ve only done two HIMs prior to Timberman, there is no statistical significance to any of this, but I sure felt like there was a curse. I understand the Olympic/International distance triathlons. I get those. I know what my body needs during that distance and how it will perform. The HIMs, though, are another story. My first HIM was Longhorn 70.3 in Austin last October. I had been fighting shin splints in my right calf the months before the race and had even dropped out of the Baltimore Half Marathon to rest my leg. But 40ish miles into the bike ride, my left leg cramped up massively. I was able to work it out, but it came back to haunt me during the run and killed my run. Possibly worst run ever. Diagnosis: probably not enough salts during the race and favoring my right leg while trying to heal my shin splints overworked my left leg and it revolted during the race. My second HIM was Eagleman 70.3 back in June. I felt mostly healthy going into that race, but that course is very unforgiving. Given the heat and extreme lack of shade, I felt the need to consume about 2.5 to 3 bottles of water/PowerAde during the bike portion. Big mistake. Two miles into the run, I could actually hear the liquid sloshing around in my stomach. It was not pretty, and it killed my run. It topped Austin as the worst run ever. Diagnosis: overhydrating on the bike course led to too much fluids for the run. (I even contemplated making myself throw up, but that would’ve lead to a whole other set of problems.) So Eagleman was a disaster, which left Timberman as my goal race to kick butt on. Also, for both Longhorn and Eagleman, I had chosen to stop drinking alcohol for 2 weeks prior to the race, to get myself well hydrated. For Timberman, I threw that idea out the window, I was going to continue to drink. Maybe my body runs well on ethanol.
I had raced in the Lake Logan Oly triathlon down near Asheville, NC two weeks prior to Timberman. The course was gorgeous and lots of fun. My parents were sitting in lawn chairs right along the finish chute cheering for me. I had blast at this race. I placed 5th in my age group and 29th overall. I bested my previous Oly times by just over 5 minutes. I was feeling great and well trained and ready for Timberman. We headed up to New Hampshire on the Friday morning before the race. The Wang Chiang Vacation Rental’s property would only allow us to do Saturday-to-Saturday rental, so we stayed in a hotel in Concord, NH on Friday night. That was very nice as it allowed us to sleep in and take it easy that morning before heading to packet pickup and bike racking. We got to packet pickup and I have to say that this was the biggest expo for an M-dot race that I had been to. I thought Austin was decent with the race specific clothing and merchandise (same race director as Timberman). I thought Eagleman was incredibly bad, but the Timberman expo was phenomenal. Anything you could possibly want under the sun was available. Lots of Timberman specific gear. Lots of M-dot gear. And aside from the Ironman store tent, there were a bunch of other booths for other gear and services. I was very impressed. The mandatory race meeting was pretty uninteresting. The only key point passed along was water temperature: 71 degrees – wetsuit legal.
Oh, and I learned one thing about the bike passing rule. I always thought the rule said that you had to go from four bike lengths behind, to into the passing zone, to passing the other biker, to completely passing the other bike all within 20 seconds. I thought that was crazy, especially if you’re only going like ½ mph faster than the person you’re passing. Apparently all you have to do is get your front tire in front of the other person’s front tire and your commitment to passing is complete. That’s all you need 20 seconds for. After that, it’s the other biker’s obligation to drop back out of the draft zone. That’s not so crazy.
After the meeting, we headed down to the race site and bike racking. I scoped out transition. I felt like I was stuck down in the reject’s corner away from all the entrances and exits for the race, but it ended up being a pretty good spot. For the first time, I racked my bike with the handlebars over the rack. I have a road bike with aerobars and bottle cages on the downtubes, not behind the seat. Normally I just hook the seat under rack and go with that. So why did I change it up? Because apparently everyone in NH is short and they are biased against the vertically gifted (and I’m only 6’1). I either would’ve had to angle my bike at like a 45-degree angle to get it under the bar, or lift up the bar. I didn’t want to attempt either of those with bikes all around me during the race. So new bike position attempted on race day: handlebars over the bar.
So bike being racked, Sandy, Lindsey and I scoped out the assigned DC Tri Club tent spot: under a big tree with lots of shade and right on the bike in/run out chute. Prime location. We set up the club tent and then noticed that some other clubs had picnic tables under their tents. We noticed some unclaimed picnic tables as well. Decision made: we’re yanking a picnic table for our tent. I swear we dragged a picnic table like a mile to our tent, but it was probably only 100 yards or so. Still, picnic tables are heavy, but well worth it. And with that, we set off for the Wang Chiang Vacation Rentals house and a relaxing evening with early bedtime.
We decided on a 3AM wakeup call and out the door by 3:30AM. The race started at 7AM. I was all for sleeping longer, but majority prevailed and I’m glad they did. We got to the race site and parked in the lot just after 4AM. We ended up about 20 yards from the DCTri Club tent and table. PERFECT parking spot. We got parked and seats went back and everyone started napping. I tried, but couldn’t fall asleep, though just lying there in the quiet of the car was peaceful anyway. Around 5AM, people started rousing and moving around. I headed for the port-a-potty to beat the long lines that would form later. Transition set up was smooth and uneventful. I scoped out the swim course and the logistics of the transition area. I lathered on the sun screen and made sure to get the lower back (don’t want the “tramp tan” (trademark of Carolina). Everything ready, I made my way back to the club tent to chat with my fellow club members before the race. The elite waves went off at 7:00AM. I had fifty minutes to wait before my wave.
I made my way over to the swim start around 7:30AM. I saw some club members ready to start the swim and I wished them well. It was 7:45 and time for me to cross the mat. No turning back now. I’m competing in my third HIM race. Go big or go home. I walk into the water toward the front of the group and then the music starts playing The Killers “Human” one of my very favorite songs. This is going to be an awesome race. I sing along quietly and smile happily. That song ends and then Scorpions come on with “Rock You Like A Hurricane.” This is going to be a fun race.
Our gun goes off and we’re off. For those who know me, swimming is my strong suit. I’m one of those who wish the swim were longer so that I had more of an advantage on the bike and run. The way out on the swim was choppy but I had no issues with it. Seven yellow buoys out before the red turn buoy. I pass each in turn. I’m sighting great. I’m keeping pace with the other fast swimmers from my wave. I reach the turn buoy and catch the mass of swimmers from the wave before me. I weave my way through them. I’m respectful enough not to swim over anyone. I’ll go around. Three orange buoys before I hit the turn for home. I catch another mass of swimmers at the next turn. I turn the corner and head for home and the fun part begins. What were choppy waves heading out become surfing waves heading home. I had a blast cruising along these waves as they sped me into shore. Seven buoys to the end. I reach the last buoy and I could probably stand, but I keep swimming. People around me are trying to run for the shore in waist deep water. I pass a few guys from my wave that stopped swimming too early. You’re strong swimmers! Keep swimming guys! Up the beach and into transition.
Goal time: none.
Dream goal: break the 30 minute mark.
Swim time: 29:05 (13th in age group, 83rd overall).
Dream goal achieved.
Pretty uneventful. I should be able to do faster T1s when I get my tri-top and don’t take time to put on my club bike jersey. I should also be able to do faster T1s when I invest in triathlon bike shoes. I currently have cycling shoes that you have to ratchet tight. At some point I’ll find the money for those. I might even save more time if I learn the whole keep your bike shoes on the pedals and run barefoot to the bike mount. For now though, I run in bike shoes and put on a bike jersey.
Goal time: none.
T1 time: 2:38
I raced this course site unseen. I had no idea what to expect from the bike course. I had heard rolling hills. I had heard some pretty tough hills. I had heard beautiful. Did it live up to expectations? It was beautiful. There were rolling hills. Were there pretty tough hills? Maybe it’s because I’ve been training for Savageman, but the hills didn’t seem that tough. Marsh Hill is supposedly the worst. There is even a lady dressed as a red devil at the top of that one. When I sped up that hill, I yelled at her “Is that all you got?” She replied “Yep, that’s it.” Marsh Hill Devil Lady, you were no Kyle Yost Westernport Wall Devil. I get to face him in 3 weeks and I’m sure I’ll cry on that one, but Marsh Hill was not that bad.
The course was fun. I took my hill tips from Andy Sovonick, my unofficial triathlon racing suggestion giver. He’s really fast. I take his tips to heart. Stay in the saddle on the climbs. Let gravity do its work on the downhills. I passed tons of riders on the climbs. I had a guy on a tri-bike zoom past me at the base of a climb. He came out of his saddle to power up the hill. I downshifted, stayed in my seat and passed by him like he was standing still. On a long downhill stretch, a guy on a tri bike had passed me at the top of the hill. He kept pedaling the whole way downhill. I coasted down with the occasional pedaling while stretching my legs. He stayed about 50 feet in front of me the whole way down. He never gained any ground on me.
There was some sprinkling rain on the course, but it felt great. Kept things cool. Never felt the ground was slick and that I would careen out of control. So I kept my pace up. I was aware of my Eagleman issues so I kept check on my fluid intake. The weather was cool and drizzly. I didn’t need a lot of fluids. I took in maybe a third of one bottle of PowerAde. That was it. VERY different from Eagleman. I won’t say I drank two bottles too much at Eagleman, just that the weather conditions provided for a very different race and one that was much better suited to me. I made the turn back into the park and I was done with the bike.
Goal time: beat my previous HIM bike times of about 2:46; just over 20mph average.
Dream goal time: none yet
Bike time: 2:37:43 (21.3 mph avg) (41st in age group, 195th overall)
Take home message: I like hills a LOT better than flat.
For the Oly race I did down in NC, I tried something new. I unlatched my bike shoes on the approach to the dismount and took my feet out of the shoes. I then ran in my socks back to my transition spot. That worked well. I did it again at Timberman. It worked well again. I think I’ll continue doing that. Yes, my socks get really dirty, but I can run faster in socks then I can in bike shoes. And it’s a quick wipe on the towel to get any big pieces of dirt off before slipping on my run shoes. And so running shoes, running visor, and race belt on, I’m out onto the run course.
Goal time: none
T2 time: 1:57
The run: the leg that had defeated me in my previous two HIMs. But this was going to be a great race and I felt great. I passed by the club tent and there was Amanda with her camera and notepad cheering me on. AJ’s and Toby’s parents were there too making for a big cheering section as I went by. I had to make a quick port-a-potty stop, but the first ones were full and I didn’t want to wait. I kept going and hit up the next one about a half-mile into the run. Bladder relieved, I was off onto the course. This might be the most supported run course I have ever been on. They said we have 18 stations we hit. That’s more than one every mile. That’s crazy. About a mile or so into my run, I saw Chrissie Wellington coming the other way heading for the finish line. She had a smile on her face and just looked happy. I called out to her cheering her on, but I doubt she heard me.
I cruised along the course on my way out for my first loop feeling great. I had yet to have a good run after a 56 mile bike ride, so I didn’t know what to expect from my legs. But they felt great and didn’t feel tired from the bike. I was going to have a great run. I normally run around 7 minute miles, so I was going to be happy averaging around 8 minute miles for this.
Looking at my Garmin, I was holding sub 7:30-minute miles and felt solid. I was on the portion of the run that runs parallel to the bike course and I heard my name called out from club members as they were coming in on the bike. Toward the turnaround point, the course makes a bunch of turns in a small community. My first time through, I swear the course never ended. After every turn it kept going. It made me think of Killer Miller but without the climb. I made it to the turn-around point, passed through the bubble-blowing machine, sang along to some “America is awesome” song, grabbed a cookie from the awesome cookie-lady and headed back. The run is a two loop course out-and-back, so I began to see lots of DCTri club members and it was really nice to hear them cheering for me and to cheer for them in turn.
I passed by the finish line and transition area as I began my second loop. I passed the club tent again with another roar of applause from Amanda and the parents. How could anyone not be spurred on by their awesome cheering? My second time heading out felt great too. A bit slower, but I was still holding sub 8-minute miles. I made the turnaround for the finish and the last 3 miles and began to feel it. I was tiring, but still kept chugging along. There is a semi-steep hill about halfway through length of the course. Going up it the first time was fine. Going up it the second time, I swear people could walk it faster than I was running. I kept checking my Garmin. I had a dream goal that I wanted to attain. I knew I was definitely within reach of doing it. I kept telling myself that if I had to walk for a bit, I actually had a few minutes to spare. So I could walk if I needed to. But I got to the top of that hill and it was mostly downhill from there. I kept running along. My feet counted down the steps and my Garmin counted down the mileage to the end. I reached the corner to turn into the park and head down the chute toward the finish line. There was Amanda with her camera and the loudest cheers of anyone there (or maybe I was biased because she was cheering for me). There was the archway. And I was done. I had beat my dream goal and I had minutes to spare.
Goal time: none
Run time: 1:45:03 (8:01 minutes per mile avg)
Overall goal time: beat my previous HIM best of 5:34 at Austin
Dream goal time: come in under 5 hours.
Overall 2010 Timberman Ironman 70.3 time: 4:56:26
(nearly 40 minutes better than Austin and over an hour better than Eagleman)
I ended up 52nd in my age group and 262nd overall. I typically hang around the top 10% in my age group and overall, but I have to say that the competitive field from my age group was extraordinary for this race. Of the 261 people who finished ahead of me, nearly 20% of them were from my age group. That seems like a lot.
So my take home message from this race: I think I need to set a new dream goal time.
Cut the cord. Are we human? Or are we dancer? That day, I was a dancer.
Excellent race report Bryan. You had an outstanding race. it's great to see one of our NTP leaders kickin' butt and takin' names. You've inspired this member of your NTP flock. Congrats. Joyce
Wow! Great race, great report...so much fun to read that I'm sure you've inspired many of us to add HIM to our tri goals next year. For better (or worse!). Congrats!!
Bryan, did you put that quote there to annoy me? :)
Congrats on a fantastic race! Can't wait to hear about Savageman.
Epic. I told you that you'd get at or under 5!
Great race and report Bryan!! Very motivating. :) Looks like hilly courses are for you! Good luck at Savageman.
It's very easy to cheer ones head off when people are doing AWESOME, having fun, kicking a$$ and taking names. Congrats on a great race!
And all you other T-man people, pictures are coming soon. PROMISE!