The last time I raced the New Jersey Devilman Half Lite, it was a cold dreary morning. I vividly remember the “ice cream headache” I had gotten when I plunged my head into the cold, dark water of Cedar Lake. I ended up with a decent result, but I remember thinking I would not be in any hurry to go back there again.
Well, turn the clocks ahead two years and now with a cold swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene ahead of me, I returned. This time armed with a new neoprene swim cap I was ready to tackle the 60 degree(F) black waters of Cedar Lake. I also figure an increased FTP and a couple Ironmans’ under belt, I could have a potential podium depending on who shows up that day. Hey, I did cut 30 minutes off my 70.3 PR last year.
Looking at last years results for my age group in this race, something under a 3:25 could get me a spot on a box of wood at the end of the day. My previous time was a 3:44 and looking at those times I could possibly shave off about 15-20 minutes altogether if I had a really good day. So I set out to do that.
I had booked a stay overnight at the Fairfield Inn in Millville, NJ as we did last time. It is a nice hotel and stashed out of the way in what appears to be a shopping mall that never came about. There are usually a lot of people staying there that are doing the race. We were not in a big hurry to get down to Millville this time, since there is not much to see except for strip malls and big box stores. From what I found there aren’t many restaurants with any healthy food either. Everything is chain restaurant junk food. I think they have every fast food place imaginable. Sorry Quakertown, but I think they have you beat. The best option is probably the Kawa Thai Sushi restaurant.
So, we left later in the day and stopped in Manayunk at the Couch Tomato restaurant on Main St. It was really good. I had a Pistachio Pesto flat bread pizza that had baby arugula and a lemon aioli on it. It was quite tasty. Also, Arugula has a ton of Nitric Oxide in it, for a little cardiovascular boost.
We arrived at the hotel around 8pm and checked in. After settling in, I did my last minute race preparations, watched a little TV and then I was quickly off to dream land. I had a great nights sleep too. Last time I did this race I was so wound up I hardly slept at all. I surely do not get as anxious about races like I used to.
I recently read the book “Headspace for the Perfect Race: Create a Winning Athlete Mindset” by Carrie Barrett which had a tip about how to script out your entire pre-race morning plan in order to take some stress off of yourself. So, I created a script detailing everything I had to do, including brushing my teeth and going to the bathroom, and how long it would take. Despite the constant ridicule of my anality by my wife, this took a huge amount of stress off of my morning. It was great. And my wife later admitted that she found it kind of helpful too since she could plan her morning “duties” without conflicting with me. It seems a bit extreme but I would really recommend it if you stress out on race mornings.
The breakfast at the Fairfield does not open until 6:30am, so if you are going to stick around for that you will be a little late to the race. They do have microwaves and fridges in the rooms which is great. I packed a frozen jar of my usual green smoothie this time and it was the perfect pre-race meal. My morning went smoothly and we were off to the race venue on time and with no stress. It was a gorgeous morning too. There were strutting gobblers(a male Wild Turkey) everywhere we looked on the way to the race.
I did not make the Saturday packet pickup so I had to get my race packet and get all my stickers on first thing. Piranha racing now has race tattoos for body marking so that takes a little more time on the part of the volunteers. Race number tattoos are better when you have mandatory day before packet pickup with more time to put them on.
I headed into transition and setup pretty quickly. Piranha also has marked tranistion spots which is SOOOO Awesome! It just makes things so much more organized and people aren’t cramming you into a little space like usual. Transition closes(7:30am) an hour before my wave start(8:30am), so after I set that up I have a whole hour to relax. I made one last port-a-john run and then I was good to go.
I ran into my Ironman blogger friend Shanna and her friend Amy while trying to locate my wife. I caught up a bit with them and then resumed my search for the wife. Turns out she migrated down to the lake with our friends Kim and Kiersten. Our friend Kim was also doing the race, so I met up with her shot the breeze until race start. Kim is preparing for her first Ironman at Lake Placid this year, so I have been trying to help her through the process. Nothing like the mystery of your first Ironman. Exciting!
We were both testing out our new neoprene race caps….Pretty hot huh?! 🙂
Before I knew it it was 8:30am and my wave was being called to the chilly 60 degree water of Cedar Lake. It wasn’t too bad after the initial rush of water into my wetsuit. My hands and feet could feel the coolness, but it wasn’t too bad. There were a bunch of guys in my wave and it was rather crowded in the small start area. It was only a minute or two before the announcer was yelling “GO!”
The swim start was brutal from the starting line to the first buoy. I mean it was arms, legs and bodies everywhere. I must have had two guys swim over top of me and I think I swam over a couple myself. If an Ironman mass start is worse than that I could not imagine it. About 2/3 of the way to the first buoy I got a mouthful of the scum water and starting choking on it . It was one of those chokes where you keep choking every time you breathe. I started breast-stroking until I could regain my composure again. I was talking myself back to calmness again and I was back on track by the time I reached the first buoy.
I quickly moved to the outside of the swim channel where there was open water after making the first turn. This allowed me to get back on my rhythm again. I then settled into a really nice stroke and just cruised through the swim. I checked my watch once after the first loop and I saw around 11 minutes. That is not too bad considering my choking incident. Now that the field had spread out I could really gain some speed. I really enjoyed the swim here this time. Before I knew it I was done both loops and heading for the aluminum stairway.
I checked my watch exiting the water and it read ~22 mins. So for a 0.8 mile swim that is around 1:36/100y pace which is really good for me. Also, my Garmin said my average stroke rate was around 70 strokes/min which is a little higher than what I have been typically doing in the pool. I have been really focusing this season on increasing my stroke rate to gain some more speed.
Unfortunately, the Devilman folks place the T1 timing mat at the entry into the tranistion area which is about a 1/4 mile away from the swim exit. This annoys me because it does not give an accurate representation of the swim. A quarter mile jog will really through off your swim metrics. I thought about it while jogging over there and hit the lap button on my Garmin halfway to the transition mat just so I could get more accurate swim stats.
Denise and Kiersten were standing right at the end of the exit plank as I ran by and gave them a thumbs up. I then heard Shanna a little further down the line and did the same. Considering the amount of fans at the race I had a good percentage of fan support! 🙂
Transition went well. I skipped the socks for the bike and put them next to my run shoes. I purchased some spray on sunscreen this year, so I gave my shoulders and arms and good spray since they typically get baked on these races. I don’t usually wear tank-style shirts so my upper arms arm prime sun meat. The spray worked well.
The T1 exit contains the timing mat for the bike start and then there is a tenth of a mile jog with your bike to the mount area. Again, more transition time is added to your bike time. This kind of bugs me, can you tell?
This bike course is flat and fast. There was minimal winds this morning too, except for a very light breeze out of the North. This gave a little tailwind on the way out to the turnaround. Riding out at 20+ MPH you could hardly tell, but coming back was a little more noticeable.
I had peformed an race analysis for this event using Best Bike Splits web site. The site recommended that I maintain an average of about 213 watts over the course. I performed this using my last FTP test, which was done late last season. Probably not real accurate for my current level, but I never got around to doing one lately. So I ended up staying a little bit below that in the low 200’s. Regardless I was keeping a good clip and I was feeling really strong most of the way.
There was a lot of drafting going on in this race. There was one guy I was behind for a while that was going at my pace, but I tried to keep him about 4-10 bike lengths ahead of me. One guy came up beside me and told me stay behind him and he stay behind me. “Huh?!” I never had anyone do that before. I ended passing the guy ahead of me after he got too close and we hopscotched each other a few more times for the whole race. Eventually everyone spaced out and on the second loop I was one my own most of the time. I prefer that.
The 10 miles heading back was definitely a little more taxing on the legs. The North breeze was more of a headwind and it picked up as the morning progressed. I finished the first loop in about 43 minutes, which was a little faster than I had planned. I passed Denise and Kiersten at the turnaround and they were not even looking.
I finished a bottle of Skratch Labs hydration and nibbled on my chunks of Amrita bars the entire bike. I was starting to feel a bit full on the 2nd loop, so I cut back on the eating a bit. This isn’t an Ironman smorgasboard!
On the last 10 miles I was starting to question whether I went too hard on the bike. It is such a fast course that it is easy to get carried away. But, my legs were starting to feel a little crampy and taxed. Hmmm?
I finished the bike in around 1:51 at about 22.2 mph average speed. This was about 13 minutes faster than my previous attempt and over 2 mph faster. The average speed was probably a bit more than that due to the jog to/from transition to the bike mount/dismount area. If you compare the actual ride stats to the Best Bike Split(BBS) race calculation, you can see that the projected time on BBS was 6 minutes slower and the power was 7-10 watts higher. A little off I’d say.
Would I have been better off at maybe around 1:55-6 and perhaps not feel as crampy in the legs? Most-likely.
My second transition was pretty much business as usual. I took another spray of sunscreen on my shoulders and a shot in my face. I did close my eyes. It ended up burning a little so I had to use my towel to get if off my eyelids. I also had two Fuelbelt bottles, one filled with Skratch Labs hydration and another with some Perpetuem mix. I decided hydration was the more important of the two and I felt I was well fueled with my Amrita Bars, so I took the Skratch Labs hydration with me.
I made my way across some ball fields and a driveway comprised of very loose sand onto the run course. My legs, particularly my quads, were feeling a little crampy from the start. It was like an octopus had its tentacles wrapped around my legs and it was squeezing. A sure sign I had pushed a little too hard on the bike. I stopped for a second while heading through the school parking lot to do a quick quad stretch, but when I did that I could also feel my hamstrings cramp up. So I pushed on. I have had this feeling before in the beginning of the run and I knew if I just pressed on, it would eventually go away.
I started out running about a 8:20/mi pace except for the 1st mile where I stopped to stretch. My plan was to run sub-8, so I was figuring the crampiness would wear off and I could pick it up a bit.
The majority of the out-and-back course runs across roads through very wide open farm fields except for the first mile that turns through some homes. The sun was starting to cook and there is no shade for relief. Fortunately, on the way out there was a slight headwind that helped to limit the heat. I dumped a cup of water over my head at each water stop to cool me down a bit.
I had my run shoes loosely tied in transition in order allow me to slip in them quickly. I knew I had to tighten them eventually, but I was putting it off as much as possible. At around mile 3-4, my laces decided for me that I finally had to tie them and came loose.
Now that my laces were snug I could really kick it in now right. My legs were just not there yet. I had a few people pass me, but fortunately they were all younger age groups. I hadn’t seen many in my age group all day. Only 1 or maybe two on the bike too. EIther I was really doing well, or I was way behind.
I finally reached the turnaround point at 4.4 miles. Now there was a tailwind and it was really feeling hot. I saw a K-17 team Jersey coming towards which turned out to be Ashley Stumpp who is from my area and also did Ironman Lake Placid last year. I gave her a shout of encouragement and may have startled her a bit. She looked to be “in the zone!”
My run pace continued to decline during the second half. My crampy legs were still there, but were tolerable. The reprecussions of the heat and going a little too fast on the bike were taking their toll now. My pace slowed into the high 8’s now. I felt I was still keep a steady pace, but my watch indicated otherwise. Not my plan.
I passed a younger guy in the last mile, who asked if I knew Todd Hydock. He said “He wears that stuff too.” Presumably referring to my Amrita tri jersey. I said I didn’t and he commented “that is probably why you are so fast!” I laughed and said “I am surely not fast!” Then after I was about 10 feet past him he picked up speed, past me and then slowed down in front of me. WTF?!
I then passed him again on the turn to the main road before turning into the school. I picked up my pace a bit so I would not have to deal with him again. I made the turn into the school, rounded the school and headed down the loose sand driveway to the ball fields to the finish line. My wife Denise and our friend Kiersten were there cheering as I past them. The younger guy I had previously passed twice, decided to make a last blast to the finish. Denise and Kiersten yelled to catch him and I just made a wave him by gesture. He wasn’t in my age group so I didn’t really care at that point.
A couple observations on the run…
As you can see from the run stats below, my heart rate continued to steadily increase over the run and was maxed out on the 2nd half. My HR was highest when my pace was actually slowing down. Surely a sign that the heat was effecting me. I haven’t really had to deal with much heat this season so far.
I always thought that the new Garmin Run Stats that come with their new HR monitor were a bit of a novelty. I happened to glance at these from my race and noticed a few things. My run cadence started dropping in the 2nd half of the run. My vertical oscillation, vertical movement while running, was higher on the 2nd half and my ground contact time decreased. So I was apparently spending more time in the air than on the ground. That is most-likely not a good thing since my pace slowed and my HR was increasing. Perhaps something I should keep in mind when my run starts to faulter a bit.
Run Time: 1:16:46
Finish Time: 3:36:32
I crossed the finish line and headed right towards the race tent to get some shade. I was totally wiped out. I started feeling like I was on the verge of puking. Not sure if that was from just racing hard or something leftover from last weeks stomach bug, or maybe both. Denise and Kiersten came over and we started chatting a bit. Things starting to spin as I was talking to them. I decided I better sit down for a bit and eventually everything calmed down. I did end up getting a chill and some major goosebumps. Definitely some affects from the heat.
I think I left everything I had on the race course. Now I was wondering where I might have placed. I ventured over to the timing table to see. I finished 44th overall which was easy to figure out. Age group results were a little more difficult to figure out since the screen kept scrolling. I finally figured out that I was 5th in my age group. Technically, I was 6th, but the one guy in my AG was in the top 3 overall.
While I didn’t get a podium spot, I am still pretty happy about my result. Overall I gained 8-9 minutes over my previous attempt which is a decent improvement for a shorter race like this. Placement-wise I moved up 21 places in the overall standings from 65th in 2013 and 5 places in my age group(11th in 2013). I really did pushed my limits and now have a very good understanding of where those limits are right now.
That’s my only race before my “A” race at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, so it is back to hard training again. The biggest takeaway from this race is that I really need to concentrate on a mellow bike leg at IMCDA. I am talking 0.70-0.75 level intensity. I want to have a really good marathon leg and trying to push the bike under 6 hours would not be wise. I need to shoot for a 6:00-6:15 bike leg in order to have a great run.
I now definitely have a different perspective on the NJ Devilman race as what I had previously. I would defintitely consider doing it again. I learned a few things and feel like it was a good pre-cursor for IMCDA.
Thanks for reading!