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Race Report: Ironman Boulder 2017

Last season was a banner race year for me. Heading into Ironman Boulder I wasn’t sure if this would be a continuing trend or become more of a “hangover” season. Training for this race started early in December 2016, but after a nasty bout of bronchitis in February I lost a few good weeks that set me back. Despite the loss, I was feeling pretty good heading into my taper for Ironman Boulder.

I decided to fly out to Colorado about a week prior to the race to acclimatize to the altitude. I spent about 4 days up near Breckenridge, CO and another 3 days just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park in Grand Lake. This gave me a full week at around 8500 to 10,000 feet elevation, which is a few thousand feet above the elevation of Boulder, which is around 5300. I usually don’t have too much issue with elevation, so I figured this could even make things go a little better than normal.

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SUP-ing on Grand Lake, CO – Rocky Mountain National Park

We got down to Boulder on Friday before the race and headed right to registration. Registration and the expo was all centered at Boulder High School, which is also where T2 was. Parking in Boulder was a bit messy. There isn’t much parking on the side streets near the high school, but if you head a few blocks over near Pearl Street there are some parking garages. I love how they make you walk so much at these Ironman events. Like 140.6 isn’t enough?! Downtown Boulder, or rather Pearl Street, is loaded with places to eat and shop. It is great for your support crew to spend time while you are taking care of business.

I shipped my bike via TriBike Transport again. I am still loving this service. I just wish that my local bike shop would become a pickup/drop off point so I didn’t have to drive down to Philly twice to drop off and get my bike. Still It is better than shipping it myself or trying to fly with it. I also shipped a bag of gear which slimmed down my checked bag a bit. I was able to pack some tools, bike bag, spare tires and tubes, etc. I picked that up at the expo on Friday, but left my bike for Saturday when I have to come back for run gear bag drop and then take the bike up to Boulder Reservoir.

Ironman Boulder swim takes place in the Boulder Reservoir which is a few miles Northeast of downtown. The reservoir has been both wetsuit and non-wetsuit legal for races in the past, but those were all in August. This season they moved the full Ironman to June and the 70.3 is now in August. Chances are that it would most likely be wetsuit legal for the full in June unless they had an abnormally hot May-June. I think this year it was around 73 F degrees.

Run Bags on the Track

On Saturday morning I dropped off my run bags at the high school and picked up my bike at TriBike Transport in the event expo area. I took it out for a ride along the Boulder Creek Trail which is where the run course would be. I was pretty stoked that there were no big hills on the course. The course was also well shaded and the creek provided some additional cooling as well.  The only downside was that I would be running 26.2 miles on concrete. Not sure what that would do.

Bike Racks at T2 – Boulder High School Football field.

We then headed up to Boulder Reservoir to drop off my bike and my bike gear bag. Again, Ironman doesn’t think 140.6 is enough so it was a long walk to the transition area to drop off my bike and bag. It was really hot Saturday, reaching upwards of 92 F degrees. Fortunately, it was supposed to be a bit cooler on race day.

There was apparently some practice swims at the reservoir earlier in the week and also one on Saturday too. Which I found out later. Ironman did a pretty crappy job communicating this since I only heard about it afterward. I would have really liked to get an open water swim in since I hadn’t done any this season yet,

Instead of cooking my traditional pre-race Sweet Potato Chick Pea Curry dish, I opted for a Massaman Curry(not very spicy) at Basaba Thai Restaurant in Louisville. It was pretty good and seemed to sit well with me. Later I put together my usual race nutrition of Skratch Labs Hydration, Hammer Perpetuem, Amrita Bars, and a couple Honey Stinger Waffles with Peanut Butter.

On Race morning I downed a quick smoothie and some coffee and we headed to the high school from Louisville around 4:30AM. We ended up parking in one of the Boulder Parking garages(free on Sundays) and hoofing it over to the high school. The Special Needs bag drop was, as usual, a additional hike past the high school and back again to get on one of the shuttle buses to go to the reservoir. The shuttles where pretty quick and free flowing. This was the only way to and from the swim start and back again. My wife had to pack accordingly since she would be there for the swim and most of the bike leg. The bike leg comes through the reservoir for each loop of the 3 loop course.

When we got to the reservoir, we stepped off the bus to an amazing sunrise over the water. It was pretty spectacular. Then it was off to get body-marked, drop off water bottles on my bike and then head to the swim start. I said my goodbyes to the wife and seeded myself at the back of the 1:00-1:15 swim group. Denise then came down along the fencing right next to me for a bit until the race staff chased everyone away. Not sure why though.

Boulder Reservoir Swim Start – This was the scene after stepping off the bus in the morning before the race.

SWIM

The Course

The IM Boulder swim course is a one-lap, modified triangle that is swum in a counter-clockwise direction. The entry point and the exit point are about 100 yards from each other. The best thing about this course is that you never have the sun in your face the whole time. The water should usually be a wetsuit swim with the race being in early June, but with the amount of climate change these days, that is not a given.

The start is a rolling start where you seed yourself based on expected finish time. They have a very narrow entry gate that only allows one person through at a time, so every is well spread out. It is kind of nice.

My Take…

The canon blasted and the Pros were off at around 6:10 am. A second blast went off at 6:15 AM  for the Pro women. Then at 6:20 AM, the age groupers started heading into the water.

It took me several hundred meters to get in the groove of swimming since this was the first time in a wetsuit and in open water this year. Eventually, I settled into my normal stroke. Sighting was going pretty well, but the buoys never go by quick enough. The good thing was the altitude did not seem to affect me too much from what I could tell. Others I had spoken with who had done this race from lower elevations said that the swim would be the toughest part in regards to the altitude. I think my acclimatization plan had worked well for me.

I checked my watch a couple times during the swim and saw that I was pretty much on par with my typical Ironman swim pace. The last half mile or so seemed to get a little wavy. Although the waves were coming from the side and back of me, they still were throwing me off a bit. I don’t know what was causing them. The Wind or a safety boat…no idea? Before I knew I was touching the bottom and up and out of the water.

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Huh??!

A volunteer had stuck his phone in my face as I came out of the water and I was wondering what the hell we was doing. I ran up the boat launch and almost ran right through the wetsuit strippers. They actually stopped me and I said “Oh yeah I guess I need to ditch the wetsuit?”

T1

The first transition is pretty short from swim exit to when you get your bike. The point from getting your bike off the rack to the mount area is a different story. It is probably longer than the swim exit to the bike rack and it is also uphill. Seems especially long since you have your bike shoes on too.

I ran through the lines of bike bags and grabbed my bag from the volunteer. A quick change into my bike gear and I was off. Denise was standing right at the gate before going into the bike pickup area. I ran over to give her a smooch and was off. Once I got the bike it was a nice longer uphill trip, in bike shoes, to the mount area. Finally off on the bike.

BIKE

The Course…

On paper, the course is listed as having 4,436 ft elevation gain. For comparison, Lake Placid is listed as 6898 feet and Mont-Tremblant is 1800 meter or around 5906 feet. Both are well over 1000 feet elevation gain more than Boulder. Also, my Garmin 520 showed an elevation gain of 4944 feet and when corrected on Strava showed 4797 feet.

Ironman Boulder 2017 – Bike Course Elevation

Ironman Lake Placid – Bike Course Elevation

Ironman Mont-Tremblant – Bike Course Elevation (1800m = 5906 ft)

The course starts at the Boulder Reservoir drive above the bike rack area. It consists of 3 roughly 35-mile loops of the following:

Head South out the Boulder Reservoir gates and make a quick left turn and are immediately met with a short, but steep little hill. A nice welcome for your swim legs to bike legs for the start of the first loop. You then make a right turn onto Jay Road and eventually another right on Route 36. This is a gradual uphill for the next 7 miles until you reach the right onto Neva Road. You definitely want to keep things in check on this section.

From the exit onto Neva Road, left on 63rd Street until you reach the left on Nelson Road is about 7-8 miles of mostly downhill to flat. This section is where you can regain some speed lost from the previous section, so hammer it here.

Next, you will make a left onto Nelson Road and life will suck for the next 5 miles until you reach the St. Vrain Road exit. Especially, when you hit this section for the 3rd time. It is about 500-600 feet of elevation gain each time.

The sections on Route 36 are open to two lanes of traffic. So you basically have the shoulder which seems rather narrow and close to traffic. I also had to go around some cars when exiting the ramps off to Neva and St. Vrain, which was a bit too close for comfort.

The next 10 miles back to the Boulder Reservoir is mostly downhill or flat. Again, here is another place you want to hammer and make up for whatever you lost on Nelson Road.

As you enter the Boulder Reservoir you start to feel a sense of relief knowing you finished another loop, but that is quickly eradicated when you hit the little energy stealing incline reservoir drive. Eventually, you pass the band and fans with some downhill and re-energize a bit. Then, oh no another loop. Ugh.

After three of the above loops, you make a quick left and right instead of the right onto Jay Road again. Then you make a right onto the narrow Boulder Creek recreation trail for a mile and a half which is net uphill. Next, you make a left onto 26th Street and head South. The next 3 miles is a rather technical labyrinth of turns making your way back to the Boulder High School culminating in a total of 113.5 miles of fun. Not just 112, so you get your money’s worth here!America, Colorado, Endurance Sports, FinisherPix, Full, Ironman, North America, Race, Sports, Triathlon, USA, United States, boulder, multisport, tri

My Take…

I headed out the gate of the Boulder Reservoir, made a left and immediately hit with a steep little incline. Nice start! What a way to wake your legs up from the hour plus swim where they were just along for the ride. As I showed above,  the Ironman Boulder looked pretty tame compared to Lake Placid, Coeur d’Alene, and Mont-Tremblant. It was listed at over 1000′ less elevation gain than the others. The first uphill section on Jay Road and then left on 36  seemed like there was a pretty good headwind to add a little more resistance.

The first uphill section started on Jay Road, and then turned right on Route 36 until it exited onto Neva Road. It was not terribly steep, but just a constant uphill and false flat in some sections. It also seemed like there was a pretty good headwind to add a little more resistance.

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The left onto Neva Road until you hit Nelson was a blast. I was hitting high-20’s and 30’s here pretty easily. Weee!!! I was definitely reclaiming some speed in this section that was lost on the previous. I remember seeing my average speed go from 17’s up to 18.5 or more.

Next up was Nelson Road. Ugh. Again, this didn’t seem too bad on paper, but this one really sucked the life out of my legs. Especially after the 3rd time! Nelson also leads to a right turn on Rt. 36, which has a short uphill.

The weather was pretty nice early on. A lot of cloud cover and a cool wind that seemed to always be hitting me head on. As the bike progressed the clouds burned off and the sun started to blast. I think the heat and the Nelson grind took its toll on my legs. I was feeling it towards the end.

My back was extremely stiff the entire bike. It was causing me to have to have to stretch everytime I hit a downhill. I had never had this stiffness before on any of my long training rides. I didn’t understand it. The only thing I can come up with is that I had not done any open water swims in my wetsuit at all this season and perhaps that had caused it.

Our friend Pat, who we were staying with while we were out there, rode her bike out on the course to cheer me on at different points. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew and it surely was nice to see her out there. I went through 2.5 bottles of scratch in two loops and another two on the second loop. I also took on a couple bottles of water from the aid stations too. I had around 3-4 Amrita bars, a Honey Stinger Waffles Peanut Butter sandwich, and a bottle of Hammer Perpetuem. I don’t think I ever finished the perpetuem though. As the temperature rose, I had less and less of an appetite. This probably didn’t help things.

My Stages power meter actually worked this race since it was dry and it didn’t rain. I was able to watch my power numbers the whole bike ride. I was shooting to stay around or under 0.68 Intensity Factor, which would put me under 300 TSS for the whole ride. I was on track  and actually dropped off a bit on the 3rd loop. That 3rd loop sucked. Not sure if it was the mental aspect of 3 loops, my screaming back or that the heat kicked up, but I kind of tanked on the last loop. And to top it off, I got stung by a bee that flew down my jersey on the 3rd loop.

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If you couldn’t tell, I didn’t really like this course. The course being open to traffic was too close for comfort!  There were a couple times where I was stuck behind or had to navigate around vehicles. One time I was actually stuck behind a box truck and was basically drafting it since I could not get around it. Since the course is 3 loops, you have access to your special needs bag 3 times. I guess you can only access it once and then you are done though.

It was such a relief to finally finish the 3rd loop and make the left onto Jay Road instead of a right. The section back to the high school kind of sucked. Riding on the recreation path feels rather odd after being on the road. For some reason it made me not want to go fast. Then it was a series of streets and turns making your way back to the high school which seemed to go on too long. I saw 112 miles come and go and thought “are we there yet?” What the hell?

T2

I finally saw the high school and hit the dismount area. My wife and our friend Pat were standing there. I told them that that was harder than I thought it would be. My wife told me later that I didn’t look good there. Not sure if that was my bee sting or just that I was pretty exhausted.

The distance from the dismount to the high school track seemed really long. Again running in bike shoes on concrete. My feet were also partially numb which actually hurt when I stepped. I dished off my bike to a volunteer as I entered the stadium and then grabbed my run gear bag which was in rows in the track lanes. I stopped a took my bike shoes off since my feet killing me now. Much better.

I entered the tent and took a little longer to get changed into my run gear. It was kind of hot now and I was not sure what lay ahead for me in the run. I finally headed out the change tent, stopped to get re-lubed with sunscreen again and headed out onto the run.

RUN

The Course…

The Ironman Boulder run course takes place entirely on the Boulder Creek Trail recreation path. The good thing about this is that it has a lot of shade and some coolness coming from the creek running right next to it. It also doesn’t have any major hills on it either.

The surface is concrete, which can be rather unforgiving. The course was also open to non-competitors, which could be pretty annoying if you are trying to get a PR. I am not sure if they were supposed to be on there, but no one was telling them to get off.

The course has two out-and-backs, or three, depending on how you look at it. They call it the “Flux Capacitor!” From the start at the high school football field to the first out-and-back is about three miles of slight downhill.  Then, you have the first out-and-back which is about 3 miles total. It is a slight uphill, but very gradual.

The next out-and-back immediately follows. This one is about 4 miles total and no major hills here either. There is a little less shade on this stretch too. Then you head straight back to the start and then past for what I would call the third out-and-back. From the point that you turnaround on the second out-and-back to the turnaround on the third out-and-back is about five miles of gradual uphill the whole way.

And repeat.

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My Take…

I started out on the run and saw Denise and Pat standing there as I hopped on the path. My back seemed to be fine on the run and at first thought I might have some running legs. That didn’t last very long though before things started to cramp up. I took my handheld water bottle and filled it with ice and water at every aid station. The legs were obviously not working and I began a walk-run rather quickly.

Immediately, the negative thoughts started to flow. Another DNF? I battled with my head for a while and finally overcame it. I knew I could walk the whole thing, but then I thought about my wife having to stand around waiting for me all day. The first 13 miles was a battle of pushing myself to run, which didn’t last very long. I was so dejected. There were a lot of other people walking too, which made me feel a little better. But that’s not me.

I always feel so unworthy or almost patronized when people cheer for you and you are walking. It is so humiliating. I started playing games of trying to get ahead of some other people. Mostly we were just hopscotching each other all day. Another thing that took my mind off the pain.

Another thing that took my mind off the pain was that the run course was open to non-competitors. There were people whizzing through the athletes on cruiser bikes. Whole families pushing baby carriages.  There was barely enough room for two-way runner traffic, let alone regular people lollygagging. I literally had to stop, during a one of those short bouts of actually running, to get around a family walking down the path. If I was actually having a good race and running I would have been pissed. But I wasn’t.

Eventually, I made it back to the start and saw Denise standing there. She had a slight look of panic on her face, wondering what was going on with me. I broke down a little bit thinking I wasn’t going to finish. Once she realized I was basically fine and could at least walk, she quickly said well at least you can walk and finish. I think that put me at ease cause I was more worried about her having to wait around that long. My whole attitude changed at that point. I told her go get some dinner and I would see her in a few hours.

The second loop was more of the same although this time I had a more positive outlook. Yeah no PR this year, but I was going to finish. There was a lot of people partying and having a good time along the trail, so I just took it in and enjoyed the experience. Maybe that sweet smell in the Colorado air had something to do with my change in attitude too, who knows. LOL!

Something went awry with the GPS on my Garmin(920xt) watch at about the 6 mile point that caused it to add a few miles. This really screwed me up cause I always thought I was farther than I was. I was making sure that each mile stayed under 15min/mi, so I would run as much as I could to keep it under that. I actually started to pick it up a bit and was fearing that Denise would miss my finish.

Finally, I passed the finish line for my last out-and-back section. It was just starting to get dark and they were putting the utility lights on. Fortunately, I still have not had to wear a glowstick to this day. The closer I got to the finish, the more I was running. I could feel it now. I ran the last mile straight through to the finish.Where did that come from? Mike Reilly finally got the full phrase out “Brian Schwind from Alburtis, PA…You are an Ironman!” Funny how he got it right on my worst finish to-date…LOL!

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#4 in the books! Not pretty, but done!

I slapped the hands of some random people as I came down the finish chute and shot up 4 fingers as I crossed the line, so someday I can remember my fourth Ironman finish. Not pretty, but got it done!

Overal Time: 14:08:33

The Finish

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The finish line was pretty unimpressive after Mont-Tremblant. What no massage? No Poutine? One thing that was nice was that they didn’t fence off the athlete food eating area, so you could sit with your family or wife to eat. The bad thing was there was no where to sit down and eat either. We had to sit on the grass, which is pretty difficult to get to and up from when you just went 140.6 miles. They also had Domino’s pizza which is so lame. What about giving a local pizza shop some business instead of some corporate slop pizza?

I waddled over to the football field to get my bike and gear bags, then dropped my bike off at TriBike Transport. I love TriBike Transport! We walked down the street to a local pizza shop and bought a couple slices to take home. The walk to the parking garage seemed like forever. I threw my stuff in the 4Runner and headed back to Louisville. Another Ironman down.

After Thoughts…

I am still mulling over what went wrong with this race. The only thing I can come up with is the heat got to me. Yeah it wasn’t 107 like Coeur d’Alene was, but I also really hadn’t trained much in temps over 80 degrees. In some of my recent training runs after the race where it has been in the high 80-90’s I was really feeling it. My pace was slow and my heart rather was high. The heat also makes you not want to eat much and that is never good.

Although I was not short of breath from the altitude at all, I wonder if it still has some other effects on your physiology that are not as physically apparent. The dryness at altitude can also play a factor too.

Regardless, I don’t seem to do well at early season races, races on the Western half of the US, and races in warmer temps. This was all of the above. Given that, I will take a finish even if it is 14 hours. It was also NOT my A race for the year. Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid in nice cool September is my A race and the last one for the season. I also still have Rev3 Pocono Half as well. Still a lot to look forward too. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

St. Lukes Half Marathon – 2017 – 10 Seconds?!

Yesterday, I ran the St. Luke’s Half Marathon in Allentown, PA for the 4th time. Last year I had gotten a new personal best time of 1:45:10 since the first time I ran the race back in 2010 with a time of 1:46:41. 6 years older and over a minute faster.

This year my plan was to start out a little slower so that I had a little more energy for the last half of the race. The second half of the race runs through the Lehigh Parkway which has some crushed stone paths and this short, steep little hills that seem to suck the life out of my legs.

I also planned to down a caffeinated gel around the halfway aid station so I had a little extra energy too.  Last year I didn’t eat anything and I thought that may have left me a little depleted at the end.

The race started out well. I was running in the 7:45-7:55/mi pace and was feeling quite comfortable. Heading into the Parkway I kept my cadence steady and slowed a bit on the uphills to try to save my legs a bit. The hills still took their toll on my quads but I managed to keep a little quicker pace than last year.

At around mile 9, I looked at my Garmin virtual race partner and it showed I was about a minute ahead of last year. Hold steady now! Next thing I hear someone say the 1:45 pace group was coming up behind me. WTH?

The pace group passed me on one of the final little inclines and it kind of took some wind out of my sails. I never looked back at my Garmin to see if I really was over 1:45 because I thought it would depress me more. Now I wish I would have.

So I crossed the finish line in 1:45:20. I didn’t realize until I got home, but I had finished 10 seconds slower than last year. It is a bit frustrating to think that a little extra effort and I could have beaten last years time. Well, one thing is for sure I am pretty consistent I guess. Next up, Ironman Boulder!

Source: St. Lukes Half Marathon – 2017 | SportTracks

My 2016 Year in Review – Topping My Charts

I have just returned from another fabulous Winter weekend in the Adirondacks to celebrate the New Year. While I was there I had gotten in some ample cross-training time skate-skiing, hiking and some photography. This outdoor time gave me a good amount of time to reflect upon the last year. I keep hearing others saying over-and-over how 2016 was such a horrible year, but for me, not so much.

Cascade Moutain – Lake Placid, Adirondacks, New York

You would think that as one gets closer to the big 5-0 that PR’s and things would become less frequent. But my 48th year was full of them. What is up with that? Perhaps the fact that I had well preserved myself well during my 20’s and 30’s may have something to do with that.

December(2015) was full of Winter cross-training in Banff National Park in Western Canada. They had gotten a good amount of early season snow there and Lake Placid had none. We hit the downhill slopes at Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, got some snowshoeing in on the Bow River and a ton of photographing the beautiful Winter scenery on the Icefields Parkway leading to Jasper.

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First Light on the Icefields Parkway

In January, we had plans to spend a week in the warmth of Sedona, AZ but that was cut short due to a blizzard that delayed flights for several days. We still ended up with an amazing, activity packed long weekend there. We got out for some amazing hikes and photography some beautiful scenery. I replenished my vitamin D store with the clear skies and bright sunshine. It was a great reset before turning my attention back to the long Ironman training season that lies ahead.

Chillin’ on the Bell Rock Vortex

In February I started up my official Ironman training season with Todd Wiley. I had gotten to know Todd over the last year or so through some of his workshops and Lake Placid training camp and really like his personality. He was a prior pro triathlete and has had a lot of success with some pretty high-level athletes over the years, so I thought I would see what he could do with this old, average dude. My goals for the season was to increase my IM run performance while maintaining my bike and swim and finalizing that with a sub-12 hour Ironman.

In March, I had my first official race of the season, The St. Pat’s Allentown 5k. While it is only a 5k, this would be the first test of my fitness to see what I had accomplished during the last two months. I would also use this as my Lactate Threshold(LT) test for my training. It did not disappoint. I finished with a 1 sec PR of 22:45(chip time) over my prior PR from 2013. 3 years older and getting faster.

St. Pat's West End 5k 2016

St. Pat’s West End 5k 2016

In April, I took things up a notch and competed in the local St. Luke’s Half Marathon which I hadn’t run in since 2013 when I ran with my wife. I was planning to run it in 2015, but got a stomach bug the morning of and had to bail. My current PR for this race, and half marathons in general, was from back in 2010 when I finished with a 1:46:41(chip time). I also had challenged my co-worker Steve, who is what I would consider more of a “runner”, to a duel for this race. It was a bit of a stretch, but I thought the extra competition would bring out a little extra in motivation for me. Although I didn’t come close to beating him, I did manage to eke out another PR for myself finishing in 1:45:10 after 6 years. 2 races and two PRs…not too shabby a start to 2016.

Next up was my first triathlon of the season, the French Creek Olympic Triathlon. I had never done this race before, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. I knew it was a pretty brutal race with a very hilly bike and run, so you could not even compare it to any other Olympic Distance race. I obviously did not PR this race, but I did end up on the podium by taking 3rd in my age group. This was the first podium since my very first multisport race, the Belleplain Duathlon, back in 2008 where I finished 1st in my age group. So now 3 races and 3 top outcomes.

French Creek Tri Podium

French Creek Tri Podium

In June I traveled up to Syracuse, NY for the Ironman 70.3 Syracuse triathlon. Another race I had never done before, but was hoping for a good finish here given the prior results so far this season. The race started off well with one of my best half-iron swims and a decent bike leg where I felt I hadn’t “burned too many matches.” The run leg was a different story. The sun came out and the heat turned up towards the end of the bike and my body turned to mush. Reminiscent of the Ironman Couer d’Alene run I fell into a walk-run for the very hilly run course. Ok, you can’t have them all! So with no PR to be had this time, I took my setbacks here and turned it into motivation for the true goal “A” race of the season at Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

Finish Run Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016

Hurtin’ for Certain – Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016 – High Temps on the run left a little to be desired for this race.

July turned out to be a pretty hot month, so I gained some pretty good acclimatization to the heat while training. If Ironman Mont-Tremblant (IMMT) was going to cook me like Syracuse, I was now prepared. Well, as much as someone who does not like the heat can be.

August came around quickly and tapering was in full swing as we made our way up to Mont-Tremblant for the peak race of my year. When race day came I could not have asked for better weather conditions. It was very cloudy in the morning as I prepared to hit the water. A fighter jet buzzed us so close it brought tears to my eyes. Then the cannon blasted and we were off. The rain started during the swim and poured down all day! For me, that was perfect conditions. I was like a pig in the slop.

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 Bike Rain

Terrential Downpours on the bike leg of Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016

Due to some choppy lake conditions, my swim was not as fast as I thought it would be, but still one of my faster IM swims. My bike was one of my fastest so far but yet I still held back as I planned to save something for the run. The run was my best ever Ironman run. The rain came down and kept me cool while cranking out some 8:30-9:00 pace miles. I felt amazing the whole time. I blew away my sub-12 hour goal by about 14 minutes and coming away with an Ironman PR of around 50 minutes! I chopped off almost 30 minutes on my IM run time alone. Mission accomplished!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Finish

So now 5 races completed for this year and 3 of them were PR’s and 1 podium. What more could I ask for? A fabulous end to an epic season for sure. Proof that aging does not mean you get slower. At least not yet. Maybe by the time I am 50 I can qualify for Kona? 🙂

Usually with the last race of the season comes a little depression that it is all over for another year. I like to schedule something big for after my last race that keeps me on the up-and-up. Just when you think things can’t get any better we headed to Iceland for a two-week journey around the island in a camper.

Kirkjufellfoss – Iceland 2016

I let my body recuperate a bit and broke out my camera for an incredible trip. It was the perfect diversion for someone who has only thought about training for the last year. The scenery was out-of-this-world and it was a great end to all the hard work that was put in over the last 8 months. I have been working on a full report blog post on this trip which I hope to be published very soon. Stay tuned for that.

While you would think that was all for this year, I had to do one more race. I signed up for the local South Mountain 10-miler run which was kind of a birthday run for me. I had never done this race before, but it looked to be quite challenging. It starts not too far from the Lehigh Univesity’s Goodwin Campus fields and a makes it was up to the very top of South Mountain, turns around and heads back down again. It is very steep and a big slog. I ended up 40th overall and 6th in my age group. Not a great result really, but I maintained a 8:12 pace which is just a bit off my half marathon pace. It was more for fun so I am not too worried about that.

I concentrated on my photography a bit for the remainder of the year, which tends to play 2nd fiddle to my training. I made a couple trips to Lake Placid and a short trip to Salt Springs State Park(PA) for some photography sessions. I came away with some keepers and also started getting more active with my Instagram feed. I dug back into my photo archives and found some great pictures I had taken in the past that never made it off my laptop.

So now as we head off into 2017 and I set my sights on Ironman Boulder and the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid this year, I have great memories looking back on the amazing year that was 2016. Despite what many others have felt. I have so much to be thankful for. I can only hope that 2017 is even half as good as last year.

I can only hope that 2017 is even half as good as last year. Although, it is already shaping up to be a pretty full one. I have several races on the docket and plans are already being hashed out for an amazing trip to Croatia and Slovenia during post-race season. As for goals, Ironman Boulder should be a challenge in itself given the altitude so I am not putting any time goals on myself for that. Perhaps working on pacing myself would be enough. I think Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid may be my A race for the year and I would like to shoot for a half-iron distance PR there.

My other goal for 2017 is to get back to regular blogging here. I have fell off the wagon a bit over the past year so I hope to pick that up again. I have just “cut the cord” and cancelled my cable TV subscription, so besides saving money I plan on spending a little less time in front of the tube.

If you are reading this, I hope you had a great 2016 and a even better 2017 as well. Thanks for reading!

Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2016 – Feeling pretty relaxed after finishing and just coming back from my post-race massage.

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016 Race Report

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse was my “B” race for the year. This season has started off quite well for me so far, and I was looking forward to keeping that momentum going with a good performance here. I knew the course would be challenging, but I was hoping to get something around 5:30-6 hours.

Heading into the weekend the weather was looking pretty good. Sunny, mid-80’s and minimal winds. Mid-80’s is a little high for me but hopefully, I would be finishing by the time it got that high. My plan was to have a good swim, take it easy on the bike(~0.75-0.78 intensity factor), and then finish with a solid run in the 1:50-2 hour range.

Travel & Lodging

We headed up on Friday and spent the day in SkaneatlesNY. We were hoping to get out on the lake for some SUP time, but the wind was a little too brisk. I didn’t want to be out there paddling my ass off two days before my race. So we walked around town and did some window-shopping instead.

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The crystal-clear water of Skaneatles Lake

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Dewitt for the weekend. It was fairly nice hotel. It had been there for some time but was clean and well kept. The location was good for the race and was also easy drive to locations downtown

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Core Life Eatery Bowl

for dinner. It also close to the Erie Canalway path which is great for a short bike ride or run.

The Hotel also had a pretty good looking breakfast, but we opted for something a little better at the Rise n’ Shine Diner  in North Syracuse.  Really good breakfast! For a healthy lunch I would also recommend the Core Life Eatery in North Syracuse too. We have one of these opening near us and I am so stoked. I will be hitting that on a regular basis for lunch!

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Erie Canalway Path

For a really good dinner, head downtown to the Armory Square area to the Aster Pantry & Parlor.  Really good food, amazing service and cool atmosphere. So good we ate dinner here twice.

On Saturday, we headed over to the race venue to check-in and drop off my bike in transition. Temps were already heading past the forecasted temps I had seen earlier in the week, so I was already starting to suspect this was not going to be an easy race.

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Jamesville Lake Beach

Water temps were in the low 70’s according to the guy doing the Athlete Briefing meeting, which I overheard as I checked in. Pretty sure it would a wetsuit swim, but I was going to switch to my “john” wetsuit instead of full-sleeve. With the heat I generate, staying cool is priority one for me.

Pre-Race

I suspected a long line of traffic getting into the parking field at Jamesville Beach on race morning since it is only one road that all funnels into one entrance to a big field. We left the hotel at 5am for the 15-20 minute drive to the race, and it turned out to be not that bad. We only got backed up about 1/10th of a mile out from the entrance. The worst part was the traffic directors randomly decided to send us to the farthest point away from the race venue after parking everyone in front of us to the closest point.

I made my way over to transition to set up my small plot of real estate. I bumped into Megan, who had also did Ironman Coeur d’Alene last year and we both share the same coach. I was situated pretty close to the bike out, so it was pretty easy location to spot. Just to be sure, I hung my lucky Notre Dame golf towel next to my bike on the rack.

I then decided to walk all the way back to the car and drop my transition bag off at the car. I don’t know why I did this. It is a pretty long walk and I probably would have been better off just relaxing.

My wife and I made our way to the swim start and I got into the water to do a little swim warm-up. Little is not an understatement here. They had the swim warm-up contained within the tiny, roped-off beach section of water. It was packed with a bunch of wetsuit-clad triathletes trying to swim circles in this ridiculously small area. It was almost comical.

My wave was one of the last waves to start, so I had plenty of time to stand around waiting. Eventually, the yellow caps started congregating and I moved into the mix as they slowly made their way to the swim start arch.

Swim

I positioned on the far outter right-side of the group to give myself some clear water to swim. Or so I thought. I immediately became draped in seaweed. I felt like the creature from the black lagoon! I started trying to make my way back into the pack to my right, but the seaweed continued. Eventually, it did get better and the pack started to space out a bit. I kept sighting the pylons but they seemed like they were moving away from me.

I settled into a nice stroke rhythm and before i knew I was making the first right turn. As I made my way back I was right on the inside track going right next to the pylons. I felt like I was cruising now and even passing a bunch of people. Some from my wave and some from earlier waves too. I had a feeling it was going to be a decent swim, but I didn’t dare take the few extra seconds to look at my watch.

Eventually, I was nearing the shoreline as started to see the sand on the bottom. I swam past a few guys who stood up early. I always make sure I don’t stand up until my hand touches bottom. And then touchdown! I got up pulled my goggles onto my forehead and looked at my watch…34:5?? something….Sweet! By the time I hit the timing mat and pushed my lap button it was around 36 minutes and some change. Pretty happy about that.

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Swim exit – That’s me just heading out of the frame

T1

The race had wetsuit strippers and I was debating whether to use them or not. I decided at the last minute to use them which, unbeknownst to me, threw off my wife from videotaping me. She was apparently standing near the first couple strippers, and I hit the last ones due to my indecisiveness. They struggled a bit getting my wetsuit over my feet, so I had to pull my legs towards me to help them.

I then made a steady jog through the long aisle to my bike, spotting my old lucky Notre Dame(Go Irish!) towel. Shoes, socks, helmet, sunglasses and unrack bike. I was off…

Bike

The bike exit was all grass for about 10-20 yards and what seemed like a long little uphill jog until you reach the pavement where the mounting area was. I mounted my bike and headed out onto the road. I quickly came up to my on the side of the road wife taking pictures with her iPhone and gave her a wave as I cruised past.

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Out on the Bike…

The first 12 miles of the course is, well, uphill. There is short steep downhill at around 4.25 miles, which is followed by a sharp 90-degree right turn and then right back to climbing again. My plan was to put it in an easy gear and spin easy for the first 12 miles. I felt I did that pretty well too. There were guys flying past me, out of the saddle, and I just laughed to myself how that was going to hurt later. I checked my Garmin after the hills subsided a bit and I was at around 0.82-0.85 Intensity Factor(IF). My goal for the bike was to be in the 0.75-0.79 range, but the hill climbing would surely skew that higher.

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016-Bike Elevation Profile

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2016-Bike Elevation Profile

The course then turned to long sweeping downhills and flatter sections. I switched into a bigger gear and settled into a nice cruising cadence. Speeds then ranged from 18-22+ MPH for the next 30 miles. There was an occasional hill here and there, but nothing like in the first 12 miles. There was one steep downhill where I reach over 48 MPH which was scary fast. The excitement was quickly squelched when the uphill that followed was just as steep.

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Around mile 45 we hit some more longer, less steep climbs before the final steep descent into the transition. I really felt good heading into T2 and I felt like I succeeded in my plan to take it easier than usual on the bike. Looking at my IF on my Garmin showed around 0.75, which is right at the lower end of my plan.

The one factor I did not take into consideration at the end of the bike was that the temperature was starting to hit the high-80’s. It is not always very obvious when you have a 20 MPH wind in your face.

T2

I cruised into T2, dismounted and headed to my transition spot. I was feeling really good and remember thinking to myself how I thought I was ready for a good run. I put my running shoes, hat, sunglasses and bib on. Sprayed my shoulders with some sunscreen and headed out on the run.

Run

The first quarter mile or so was paved, a little uphill and headed past the finish line area. We then passed through a treeline  and out into the large field were the car park area was. We ran around the perimeter downhill and then it made two rights up a rather steep hill until we got to the road. This is where things started to take a turn for the worst for me. The heat eliminating from this field felt like it stole my oxygen or maybe just my “mojo.”(Not too groovy, Baby!)

The uphill part of the field, right before you got on the road, really sucked too. My legs started to feel like they were going to cramp which sent a wave of panic through my head. I decided to walk up the hill.

 

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Not enjoying life right here

I eventually reached the road which was fairly downhill for a stretch. There was no shade though and the heat was baking the asphalt. I told myself to just keep a steady pace until my legs came around. I settled back into an 8:30-9:00min/mi pace. Not really were I wanted to be for a half-ironman, but looking at it retrospect I would have done well if I could have maintained that.

I hit the second aid station and loaded up with some water and ice. Things were starting to feel a little better now. Until…

Mile 2.5…My run took a turn for the worst. It was almost a mile of steep uphill. Not fun. Lots of walking. Just the view of this steep hill that doesn’t seem to end really played with my head.

Part way up the hill I heard a female voice from behind me say “I love Amrita Bars!” It kind of startled me at first and took me off-guard. She then said that she had 3 of them on the bike too. I was in such a world of hurt at this point I could barely get the words “Cool!” out of my mouth.

Once I reached the turnaround at the top of the hill I got back into a jog again downhill. I then decided to walk the aid stations in order to get liquids in. I also started drinking Coke. I usually save this for the end, so this was not good. But it did help.

My mind was dreading the thought of having to do this all over again. The temperature was getting hotter too. Probably reaching around 90 by now.

I came back into the turnaround, which the make you run right past the finish line. Thanks Mr. Race Director! I came upon my wife standing in one of the few shady spots near the finish line. I had my head down and told her I was not doing good. I was also about 20 minutes past the time I told her I would be back. She told me to “breathe” as I headed past her on my way for another 6 and whatever miles.

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Relieved to have the finish line in my grasp. The red glow is not from me overheating but actually the flow of the finish line decorations…I think?

I continued to walk the hills and aid stations. It was mostly damage control at this point. I remember somewhere feeling a bit dizzy from the heat. I was on my threshold of heat tolerance, but managed to push through it. I was dumping ice everywhere in my race kit and hat. Chugging coke along the way. I could not get enough liquids.

I started to get into a slow but steady shuffle for the last couple miles. I think the magnetic force of the finish line was pulling me to it.

I finally reached the finish line, relieved, and gave a half-assed arm wave as I made my way through the archway. A bit disappointed, but happy to be done.

I found my wife and met her at the fence while I collected myself a bit.

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Summary

This race felt like a smaller version of last years’ Ironman Coeur d’Alene, except I actually finished this one. I executed my swim and bike exactly according to plan. Unfortunately, the heat had gotten the best of me again on the run. I just don’t do well in the heat, no two ways about it. I also wasn’t really acclimatized to it yet since this was an early race.

One other thing I realized after was that I don’t feed well on the run. I always bring my beloved Amrita Bars, but I just have no desire to eat them or anything solid for that matter while I run. This happened during my half-marathon earlier this year too. I have always been anti-gel, but I think I may need to consider this for the run. I need something that is a quick shot of energy that will go down easier. Especially when it is hot.

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I am going to revisit this aspect of my run nutrition for the next couple months before Ironman Mont-Tremblant. I need to get more energy during the run and this is critical when I have to do a full marathon. Stay tuned on that.

This race has was a bit of a blow to my confidence. But, I need to leverage this setback to help push me harder for my A race. I have to acclimate better to the heat and improve my nutrition on the run. I think the swim and bike improvements are also a good step in the right direction.

Thanks for reading!

 

Race Report: Steelman Olympic 2015-Finishing on a High Note

This year hasn’t really been one of my favorites. It started off finding out that our dog Yuki had Lymphoma two days before we were supposed to leave for Sedona, AZ. We then had to cancel our trip only to find out that his cancer had spread throughout his spleen and liver. Fortunately, we were able to have 5 months of quality time with him while we battled his disease. During that time, he had returned to the vigor he had as a puppy while we fed him with the best home-cooked meals we could make. This extra stress on top of my heavy training load was surely not optimal.

In June, we traveled to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho so I could compete in my “A” race of the year, Ironman Coeur d’Alene. I had spent the past 8 months busting my ass to prepare for what I had hoped would be my best Ironman performance yet. Then, a freakish heat wave moved into the Pacific-Northwest just in time to peak out at 107 degrees exactly on race day. The result was a DNF.

After returning back home, we saw a very quick decline in the health of Yuki. On August 3rd we then had to say our last goodbye to my little pal after almost 13 years. Six days later I had my last race of the year, Steelman Olympic Triathlon. I was determined to put forth my best effort in honor of my little buddy and finish off the season with a decent result.

Me & Yuki-Hiking Three Pond Loop, Adirondacks, NY

Me & Yuki-Hiking Three Pond Loop, Adirondacks, NY

The last time I competed in the Steelman Olympic was back in 2012 where finished in around 2:43 and 23rd in my age group. I was eager to see how much I had improved since then and my hope was to finish in the top 10 of my age group. After IMCdA I figure I had plenty of endurance built up, so I focused on speed and instensity in the 4 weeks prior to the event.

Pre-Race

One thing I hate about Steelman is that you have to be there so early and then you are stuck there until at least 10:30am or whenever the last cyclist finishes. So, I was up at around 3:30am and we had left for the 45 minute drive to Lake Nockamixon by 4:15 so we could get there by 5:00am. Well, that was until I realized I had left my water bottles with Skratch Labs in the frig when we were about 5 minutes away from home. Ugh! Nonetheless we still made it to the marina by 5:10a thanks to my wifes’ lead-foot. We were early enough to still get a spot in the main marina parking lot and avoided the long trek from one of the overflow lots.

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Pre-race sunrise on Lake Nockamixon-Photo compliments of Sports-In-Motion Race Photography. Straightened and color corrected by me.

I quickly setup my transition area and there was some good real estate on the rack too. I was only about 4 bikes in from the main aisle too. Usually Steelman transition is crazy since there are no assigned spots on the racks.

I ran over to the single port-O-John line and waited my turn. For some reason people form only one line for about 20 port-O-johns at this race. Every other race has several smaller lines spread across the toilets. So annoying!

The morning went pretty quickly and before I knew it we were all gathering at the swim start for the national anthem and the start of the waves. I somehow ran into my wife amongst the masses of athletes too. I also ran into a guy I met at Todd Wiley‘s LP camp this past Spring and chatted with him for a bit. Before I knew it they were calling my wave. Swim time!

The Swim

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Getting ready to start – Photo by Denise

I was one of the first few guys to get in the water for my wave. I quickly moved up to the front and outside of the lane which was on the right side for the counter-clockwise odd rectangularish swim. There were tons of guys streaming in behind me and I think they were still coming in when Dale the RD blew the start. And we were off.

I started off a little faster than I nornmally do, with thoughts of getting out ahead. I quickly realized that I am still a slow swimmer as I never really made any progress doing this only managed to hold my own. I settled into a pace which was a bit faster than my IM pace but still fairly comfortable.

The only issue I had was in between the first and second left turn when I swallowed some water while spotting the turn buoy and had a bit of an choking episode. I think I have had one in every race this year! I eventually calmed down enough so I could breathe again and returned back to my pace. I felt as though I was have a really good swim and was thinking of possibly being around 25 minutes. I didn’t look at my watch at all during the swim as this would lose a few seconds and could play with my head a bit.

The last couple turns into the marina area were a bit hard to navigate since I was having trouble seeing the buoys. I think they were smaller ones too. Eventually, I reached the slippery boat dock platform and exited the water with the help of a throng of volunteers. I glanced at my watch while crossing the timing mat…27:53. Eh!

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Steelman Olympic-Swim Exit

At first I was a little disappointed with that time. But after comparing it to my 2012 time of 32:05 I realize that this was a 4 minute improvement on a 0.9 mile course. Not too bad! 🙂

T1

The 1st transition went pretty smoothly. I did struggle a bit with my wetsuit, but nothing major. I chose to just put my bike shoes on in T1 and skip the attempt at a fly mount with shoes pre-mounted and rubberbanded. I hadn’t practiced doing that in a long while, so no reason to try it here. Onto the bike in 1:53

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Steelman Olympic-Bike Exit

The Bike

The start of the Steelman bike is always a little tricky. While it starts out pretty flat, it quickly shoots up to a dandy little climb after the left turn out of the marina parking lot. It is usually quite the jolt to the legs after you have been swimming for 25-30 minutes and all blood is still working its way out of your upper-body. My advice is shift to our one of your easiest gears as you make the left turn and spin your way up the hill. You can easily burn some matches on this hill very early.

The park has decided to add these really obnoxious yellow plastic speed bumps to the road in and out of the park. They are not rounded and more like a triangle coming to a point. I have never tried to ride over one and can’t imagine that being a real pleasurable experience. They also stretch across most of the road only leaving us about 10 inches skirt around them. If there is oncoming traffic that only leaves you one option. So, unless you have supreme bike handling skills you have no choice but brake to get around them. If there are other riders near you you will have to go through single file.

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Steelman Olympic-Bike

Eventually I survived the obstacle course of exiting the park and made my way onto Route 563 where the majority of the bike course is. The first section is mostly downhill and pretty fast to the first turnaround near the Haycock boat access. Unfortunately the condition of Route 563 has really deteriorated in the last couple years. They also patched and oil & chipped a bunch of potholes which are right in what was previously the best line. Now the best line for riding is basically the shoulder of the road now. The main part of the road is really bad and the surface in general is much rougher than the shoulder surface.

Riding on the shoulder was not an issue on the first lap of the course since it was mostly just the Olympic distance athletes. The second loop is a different story. Now you have all the sprint athletes to contend with and the slower riders blocking the left side of the shoulder. Not fun.

The longer stretch from turnaround to turnaround seems to be a mix of ups and downs. There is one tricky stretch right past the main marina entrance that forces you into a little passage on the right of the whiteline because of the hideous condition of the road covering the entire lane. I didn’t get past a slower rider quick enough on my second loop here and was forced into a very bumby ride.

I had gotten behind another guy in my age group and we played hopscotch a bit for most of the bike. I also got stuck behind another younger rider who would speed up everytime I would try to pass him. He would give this quick turn of his head when I was coming up past him and then he would then take his cadence from 110rpm to 130rpm. It was so annoying. I then finally passed him after the 2nd turnaround and then I didn’t see him again.

The stretch from the 2nd turnaround back to the marina entrance starts out with fairly decent climb. I usually go right down to my small chainring here and get into nice easy spin. Once you crest the hill it is pretty flat most of the way and then you hit a pretty fast downhill which seems fairly long. You quickly ascend again and then there is a section of patched road that covers the entire right side of the road but a small little opening on the side. You really have to make sure you are single file here or it could be a bumpy one. It will definitely cause you to lose momentum doing up the incline.

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Steelman Olympic-Bike

I felt really good the entire bike and I think I picked up a little speed on my second loop. I had two bottles of Skratch Labs hydration and one Amrita bar for nutrition. How easy is that?!

After a little over an hour, I was headed back in to the marina entrance towards T2. There was another yellow plastic speed bumb ahead which I had planned to go around on the inside of the lane again. When I approached it there was a pylon on the inside and I had another rider to my left taking the other side. I had no choice but to brake and go behind him. I then had to speed up a bit to get back to speed since there was a little incline ahead. It totally threw off my momentum. I grumbled about the pylon to the other guy as I sped by.

I cruised in to the dismount area, calmly dismounted and crossed the timing mat in 1:10:20, about a 20.6 mph pace. In 2012, the same course took me 1:17:27 at 19.2mph. So we gained another 7 minutes over my previous PR. So, now we are up 11 minutes total. Looks look it is going pretty good so far!

Looking at my Training Peaks actual bike stats, I managed a Normalized Power output of 224 watts with an Intensity Factor of 0.89 over the 24.6 miles(not sure why TP only has 24.1). Comparing that to my Bike Plan on Best Bike Splits(below), you can see I was just a little under what that predicted for watts and intensity, but time-wise was pretty much dead on there. I found BBS’s to be a little high on my IM Coeur d’ALene project too, but at least it is consistent.

 

 

T2

T2 went pretty well. I put socks on for the run, which cost me a few minutes but still better than dealing with blisters later. Despite that I was still 15 secs faster than T2 in 2012. I also had to take my bike shoes off and in 2012 I slipped out on the bike and dismounted in barefeet. I thought about doing this this year, but said the heck with it. WIth my luck this year, I will probably stub my toe or something. Better safe than sorry. Gotta run!

TheRun

The first quarter mile was a little rough as I worked the bike out them. I finally settled into a about a 7:45 pace which would be great for me. My PR pace for a lone 10k is only a 7:42, so trying to hold this for a olympic triathlon 10k would amaze me. I heard someone yell my name as I popped out of the trees along the first part of the path. I looked back and it was Todd Wiley from the Lake Placid Camp I went to this year. Always nice to have some unexpected fan support out of the course! Thanks Todd!

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As I meandered through the winding and more uphill sections I settled back into a more of a 8-8:10 pace. The run course is pretty narrow. It gets very congested when you have a few hundred people trying to run both ways on the same 6 foot wide path. Passing people forces you into more of karaoke or grapevine motion instead of a run. You defintely lose time as you get later into the run.

After the first turnaround I heard one of the volunteers at the aid station yell “hey bri-tri!” as I ran by. I was past them when I realized what he said but gave a “hey!”  and a wave while turning around. I wasn’t really sure who said it either, but was anxious to see who it was on my 2nd lap. Anyway, it was kind of cool to know I had some supporters out there that I wasn’t expecting.

Things were really starting to hurt by the end of the 1st lap. My legs were screaming and it seemed to be more uphill. I saw Denise standing along the side right before the turnaround for the 2nd lap. I was struggling to put a smile on my face as I was really hurting now. I think I managed to squeeze one out but it wasn’t easy.

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I made the turn and headed back onto the second lap. I really don’t remember too much from that second lap other than it really hurt and I had this inner dialogue going on where I was just fighting with my mind to keep pushing as hard as I could. I was trying to think of things to really push me harder. I was thinking about Ironman Coeur d’Alene, my dog Yuki and that this was my last race of the year. Leave nothing on the table today! I really think I gave it all I had.

Noone, at the aide station where someone yelled to me, ever said anything when I went by again. I don’t know if they left after that or were maybe embarrased to admit they knew this guy struggling to run an 8:00 min/mi or what. I did end up finding out later in the week that it was one of my Strava buddies, which was cool. I have the greatest ways of meeting them!

I ended up running the last mile with a young girl in front of me. She couldn’t have been more than like 11 or 12, but she was running a solid 8:00 pace. I passed her once and then she came by me again, so I decided I was going to let her escort me to the finish. She ended up making the turn around for the second loop and I kept on going. I finally made the left to the gravely road to the finish. My legs were smoked and I was slowing down before I reached the finish. I crossed the line in 49:31 which was about a 7:58/mi pace. It was a little over a minute faster than my last Steelman 10k, but an improvement nonetheless!

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Steelman Olympic-Run Finish

Race Finish: 2:30:47

Previous PR: 2:43:40

Overall Race Summary

 I would have to say it was a pretty successful race for me. I succeeded in getting in the top 10 of my age group with 8th place and I PR’d the race by about 13 minutes over my 2012 result. I improved in each discipline, except for T1 was 3 secs slower. So I may be getting older, but I am still getting faster, which makes me happy. I can safely say that I ended the season on a high note, but there is always a lot of things to work on going into next year.

I don’t really have anything planned for the rest of this season, but I may pick up a running race before the year ends. We have some vacation plans too, so I want to enjoy that a bit. Thanks for reading along this season and I hope that if you are reading this you got some enjoyment and maybe a few tips out of this. I would love to hear from you if you are reading and am open for suggestions. I hope to do a few reviews on gear and the books I have read throughout the year.

Enjoy your off-season!!

Race Report: Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015

Last year at Ironman Coeur d’Alene the weather was pretty windy and cool. The water temperatures was in the 50’s and it was cool and windy. I signed up for this race specifically because that type of weather suits me well. Cool, damp and even a little rainy. I don’t like the heat. So, when the weather forecast was predicting temperatures of 107+ for raceday, I knew my perfect race day was not to be.

My goal for this race from the minute I finished Ironman Lake Placid last season was to go sub 12 hours along with around a 4 hour marathon time. That goal went by the wayside in the last two weeks leading up to the race. I knew from there it was going to be a matter of just surviving at that point.

Pre-Race

We arrived in Spokane, Washington and made our way to Coeur d’Alene, ID, which is about an hour drive, on the Thursday before the race. We settled into our AirBnB accomodations which were about about 20 minutes northwest of town and about 10 minutes from the bike & run course on Coeur d’Alene Drive.  It was nestled on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding mountains. A perfect location to get away from all the Ironman drama that goes on in town. I have to say though that I think Coeur d’Alene is a little better than Lake Placid in this respect since it is larger and more spread out. Lake Placid is so small and there is just such a high concentration of athletes there, so you can’t get away from overhearing all of the pre-race chatter.

We headed down to Tony’s Restaurant for dinner which just down the road on Coeur d’Alene Drive and overlooks the lake. It is nestled in cove which is great because it gets shaded from the sun in the evening. They have a big outdoor deck and  the food was great. We were fortunate to get a table since we didn’t make any reservations. We ended eating here twice during our stay.

On Friday, we headed over to Post Falls and had a killer breakfast overlooking the Spokane River at LePeep. Then we headed over to the race expo area in City Park for athlete check-in and to check out the expo. I had “All World Athlete” (AWA) status this year, so one of the perks is that you get to go to the front of the line for check-in. This was nice at first, but then you end up having to stand in the regular line with everyone else once you fill out your waiver forms. When I went up to register, I handed the girl my drivers license and she said “Pennsylvania?! There was just another athlete from PA.” I said “is her name Megan?” Sure enough it was Megan, who I met up at the Todd Wiley Lake Placid camp a couple months before. I spotted her ahead in the line and we chatted a bit while waiting in the line. This would be Megans’ first Ironman.

The other AWA perk was that you get an special swim cap for the race. I thought this would be great for my wife to pick me out from the other swimmers. When they gave it to me it was a black cap and the volunteer said that they prefer you not wear them since they are hard to see in the water. Who the hell came up with that color??!! They gave me a typical bright green one along with it which is what I wore anyway. This AWA thing isn’t turning out to be any big deal so far.

One nice thing was the swag backpack they gave out this year. I really liked it since it was kind of a duffle/slash backpack and very functional. I will probably a lot more use out of this than the other ones I got in previous years. I also like the Seattle Seahawk color scheme too!

Ironman Coeur d'Alene swag

Ironman Coeur d’Alene swag

I decided to attend the pre-race meeting this time since it was a new race venue for me and with all the heat concerns. They really didn’t say a whole lot about the heat other than they would meet with local emergency officials on Saturday night and determine if any other changes to race would need to be done. They had already announced that we would be starting an hour earlier at 5:45am for age groupers to help get out of the hottest part of the day. Personally, that would not help me much since I would be getting more run time in the hottest part of the day. I would rather be biking during that time.

Ironman Coeur d'Alene Pre-Race Meeting - Notice how everyone is sitting in the shade?

Ironman Coeur d’Alene Pre-Race Meeting – Notice how everyone is sitting in the shade?

I had used TriBike Transport to ship my bike to the race along with a gear bag to put my aero helmet, bike shoes, tools & spare parts and my wetsuit. We were staying in CdA for vacation the week after and I didn’t want to be lugging this stuff around. TriBike Transport is a great service and I will be doing a separate post on that with more details soon. They allow you to check your bike in and out as needed in case you want to take it for a spin before the race. This was great cause I didn’t have any way to transport my bike back to our apartment. I also checked my gear bag out and left my bike with them. They also had mechanics there to pump tires and put your pedals back on.

After the meeting I did a short swim in the lake just beyond the beach swimming area. The water was quite refreshing since it was already around 100 degrees out. I was surprised how cool the water had remained despite the heat of the week.

For the rest of Friday and Saturday I pretty much laid low. I did take my bike out for a ride down CdA Drive on Saturday afternoon to make sure everything was working correctly. It also gave me a taste of the heat and I tested out my new cooling sleeves. I was surprised of the cooling effect that the material provided. It felt like I had menthol on your arms. Ride went well and then I checked it into transition for the race. I had bib #462 for this race so I was pretty close to the bike exit in the transition area. I also checked in my bike and run bags with the essentials in them. I left out any nutrition stuff which I would put in before the race.

On Saturday night we cooked at the apartment and I made my traditional pre-race Chickpea Sweet Potato Coconut Curry. It is just packed with good stuff, but I usually cut back on the spice a bit when I make it before any races. After dinner I prepped and packed all of my race nutrition so it was ready to go in the morning. I loaded up two ziplocs full of 4 chopped up Amrita bars each, 5 bottles of Skratch Labs hydration, 1-3hr bottle of UCan SuperStarch, Base Performance Salt, and 2 PB&J sandwiches to put in special needs bags. I didn’t get to bed until around 10PM though, so with a 3am wake-up 5 hours of sleep is not great for the night before an Ironman. I did sleep fairly solidly though.

We got to downton CdA a little before 4am and found a good parking spot on the Coeur d’Alene Ave, just off of 1st Ave. This would give my wife the ability to not be trapped in by the race course and it was very close to the transition area. At 4am I walked down to transition, dropped my special needs bags off, got body-marked, and loaded up my bike and bike & run bags with nutrition. All in about 15-20 minutes. The transition area is nice and compact so you don’t have to hike all over the place like you do in Lake Placid. I even managed a couple Port-O-Can stops in there too. I headed back up to the car and relaxed with my wife for the next 45 minutes or so until it was close to race time.

Denise and I headed back down to transition about 5:20am. We said our goodbyes and I then made my way into the herd on route to the swim start. I also dropped my swim cap along the way and another athlete was nice enough to grab and run it up to me. Thanks dude! The first cannon blast fired as the male pro’s started their swim promptly at 5:30am.

The Swim

I made my way down to the beach and saw there were a ton of people trying to do a warm-up swim. It was so packed I didn’t know how they could actually swim. I wanted to get in the water though, so I waded in up to my shoulders. There was a bit of an opening at that point so I did a few strokes just to make sure everything was working right and my goggles were not leaking. The cannon went off again as the female pros went splashing into the lake. I had a good perspective on that being just out from them.

I got out of the water and then situated myself at the very front of the 1:16 – 1:30 finish corrale. I figured I would split the difference between my last two IM Swims(~1:17) and my goal time for this race, which was ~1:15.

Eventually the age groupers were started and we steadily moved towards the start archway like a herd of cattle. Before I knew it, I was heading into the water and on my way. I b-lined for the outside lane which was on the right side of the counter-clockwise course. I had a pretty open lane to swim in with minimal traffic. The only bad thing about this location was I had to spot to the left to see the pylons and the sun was coming up in that direction. I seemed to manage ok though by utilizing the kayakers and paddleboarders on my right.

The water was mostly smooth until we got out to about to pylon 6 or 7(of 8). The water got a little more choppy out there and there a few more boats around. There was also the taste/smell of gas out there too. Yuk!  From the first left turn until the second where you start to head back was really difficult to see since we were heading right into the sun. It also seemed to be more congested with swimmers here too, since the boats were up close the pylons.

The swim back to shore was fairly smooth, especially after the light chop smoothed out. I stayed on the outside all the way in. When I finally touched sand with my hand, I popped up and made my way down the beach for lap #2. I checked my watch and it read 0:35:40…Sweet! I quickly multiplied that in my head and thought “a possible 1:12 finish?!!”

Now with a boost of confidence with my first lap split, I decided to swim on the inside lane this time to hopefully gain some more time by staying closer to the pylons. I was actually swimming inside the pylons at some points too. This approach actually backfired on me though. The additional traffic in this area actually slowed me down a bit. I do get a bit flustered when there are other people swimming in front of and around me and this happened much more on this lap. I probably would have done better on the outside again and I probably would not have had to go as far out this time too. Oh well, lesson learned.

Eventually I was coming down the home stretch. Not before seeing a big beach chair on the bottom of the lake though. I had to do a double-take under water. The water in Lake CdA is pretty clear and there is always things on the bottom to look at and help pass the time away. It is not quite as clear as Lake Winnipesaukee(Timberman 70.3 in NH) though.

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Swim

I finally reached the sandy bottom for the last time and exited the water. I looked at my watch and saw 1:14 and some change…not the 1:12 I was thinking but still under my goal of 1:15. Mike O’Reilly called out my name and town at about the same time I was looking at my watch too. As I made my way up the beach, I heard Denise yelling my name. There was a buffer area between us and the spectators so I could not reach her, but gave a wave.

Offical Swim Time: 1:14:57

T1

The 1st transition went rather smoothly. I headed over the wetsuit strippers and got stripped. Then down the nearby row of bags to collect my bike bag and into the tent. Tent was pretty full but I quickly found a couple empty chairs. I got my shoes on, helmet on and my new arm cooling sleeves. I had to pack my wetsuit and everything into the bag myself since most voluteers were pretty busy at this point. Then out of the tent to the sunscreen applicators.

Wetsuit Burn-Ironman Coeur d'Alene

Wetsuit Burn-Ironman Coeur d’Alene

The lady said I had a bad wetsuit burn on my neck it was going to hurt. She said something like “better to have a little burn now and not a sunburn later!” As she padded the suncreen on the back of my neck it instantly started to sting. I let out a long grunt of a yell and it eventually subsided. They lathered me up quite well and even got my bald head so I wouldn’t get racing stripes fromt he vents in my bike helmet. I left my helmet off until after they put the sunscreen on. I then headed down the rows of bikes to the last tree on the right and halfway down the row instantly spotting my black and yellow Quintana Roo. Unracked her and out the archway.

This was one of my fastest Ironman tranistions so far. Partly due to the compact transition area of this venue, but I think I did go quicker than usual.

T1 Time: 0:05:55

The Bike

The start of the bike weaves through town and eventually heads up Lakeside Ave paralleling Sherman Ave, which is the main street in town. People line the road cheering as you head up the slightly inclined street. It surely gets you fired up to get moving on the bike . You then make a few sharp turns zig-zagging through a few other back streets in town before heading out onto Coeur d’Alene Drive. This first out-and-back 14mile section to Higgens Point is pretty flat and you get into a nice steady cadence with speeds well into the 20’s. You surely don’t want to get too carried away here since it is just the beginning of a long day. There is one smaller climb on this section right after passing Tony’s restuarant, but it is over pretty quickly. The wind was out of the North-Northeast that day, so the way back to town was a bit easier I felt. This wind would also help on the first out section after heading back to town too.

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Bike

I settled myself into a nice easy pace and immediately started taking on hydration and nutriton. My thought was to try to take in as much as I could early since I may not feel like eating much once the heat kicks in. I had about 4 cut up Amrita Bars and 3 hour bottle of Ucan SuperStarch, plus two bottles of Skratch Labs hydration mix. I also purchased some Base Performance Salt a week before the race due to the iminent heat. I heard about this stuff from Christine Lynch on the ZenTriathlon Podcast, who spoke very highly of it. I had not trained with this stuff so it was a bit of a gamble. I figured it was just salt so it wasn’t that big a deal. I had used salt tabs in previous years without any issues.

The 1st 14 miles went by pretty quickly and I was heading back into town again. I was scanning the streets the whole time for Denise but didn’t see her until I was heading out. She didn’t even see me as she was trying to get her iPhone setup to videotape me. I yelled to her as I passed by and she looked up with a look of surprise on her face. Next it was up the ramp and over the Spokane River bridge in a single file, no passing zone line.

There is a about 2 major and 1 minor climb on this next section. The first one, Cougar Gulch, is the toughest one at about a 6% grade for a mile and half. You hit this one at mile 21 and 77 on the course. I was able to pass a bunch of people here by spinning a high cadence in a easy gear. You surely don’t want to burn yourself up in a big gear here as you have to do this again at mile 77. One guy I passed was nice enough to tell me the back of my tri tank was riding up exposing my lower back to the sun which was cool. I surely didn’t want a trampstamp sunburn!

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Bike

The next climb was Mica Bay to FIghting Creek which is only a 2% avg grade, but it is 3.3 miles long. Seems a bit worse than that, but that could be since there is another climb right after from Fighting Creek to Sun Up Bay Road which is another 2% for 2.1 miles. So basically you are on a average 2% grade for over 5 miles here. The nice thing is what comes up must come down and you get some pretty good downhill speeds on these descents since the road is in good condition and you have a good amount of room. I stayed in the aerobars for most of them and just let it rip.

There is a smaller uphill section right before the turnaround at 37.5-38, but it isn’t bad in relation to the others. Some say that this back to town section is easier, but on this race day we had a bit of a headwind out of the North-Northeast, so it wasn’t as easy as I expected. The climbs were still pretty decent on the way back, but probably not quite as bad.

I continued to drink and feed often on this first out-and-back. I went through my hydration bottles and started taking water from the aid stations. I finished my 3 hour Ucan Superstarch bottle in less than three hours (hmm?) and ate almost all 4 of my Amrita bars. That is a lot volume to put in ones stomach. One thing too is that the Special Needs station is at the Higgens point turnaround at around mile 66, so you have 10 more miles after the halfway point until you can refuel again.

I passed by Denise again, now ready for me and situated on the median by Northern Idaho College just before the halfway point. I flipped my Garmin to the total bike time screen and saw I was just a few minutes under 3 hours…Sweet! I surely didn’t feel like I overdid it so far and my watts were below my goal watts too. I thought…”Wow! I could go under 6 hours maybe?”

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Bike

I cruised out along the lake again to Higgens Point to pickup my special needs bags, which had 3 bottles of Skratch Labs, a big bag of Amrita bars and a fresh tube of Base salt.  I think I may have had more than 4 bars in there since I had trouble squeezing it into my bento box. I also had packed a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, which was cut into quarters. I grabbed a quarter of that and stuffed it in my mouth. I am really getting an huge amount of calories in so far here.

Everything was going pretty well despite the heat really kicking up now. That was until about mile 85 of the bike on the South Whitemire Drive climb. I had taken a big lick of Base Salt and a swig of my water bottle with my very hot hydration mix in it. It immediatly turned my stomach. It was imminent that I was going to puke. Do I pull over and do it? I was in the middle of the highway so that was not that easy to do. I was on a hill too, so if I stopped, getting moving again would not be easy. I could not stop it now and it just came out. Once …. ugh… OMG! …and another wave… blah! all that food and drink gone…to the pavement..and again! Three times!

Things kind of went downhill from here. The heat was really kicking up now. The ambient heat coming off the black pavement was like being in a sauna. My stomach was still a bit queasy, so I wasn’t able to replace the lost nutrition right away. I ended up just ditching my heated water bottles and just getting cold water bottles from the aid station. They didn’t have any electrolytes in them so now I was going be depleted there. I was not going to do Gatorade either. I couldn’t bear to do any of Base Salt either. Just a bad situation here.

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Bike

My pace on the bike slowed from 19-20mph to around 16-17mph now. As I made my way on the last leg back to town, the carnage on the road was everywhere. Bikes were laying on the side of the road and people were just sitting in the shade under trees behind them. People were cramming underneath the tents at the aid stations. Athletes walking their bikes up the big climb. The heat shimmering off the road ahead was causing a mirage above the road. It was all starting to play on my mind.

I finally hit the bridge over the Spokane river and made a sharp right down the ramp and headed for T2. Finally, the bike was done. Surprisingly, I still managed to pull out a decent 6:20 bike split. Only 5 minutes off my PR of 6:15 last year in Lake Placid. Had this been a “normal” weather day in CdA, I probably could have pulled off a new PR bike split. Not to be. I swung into the Bike In chute, dismounted and handed off the QRoo to a volunteer.

Bike Time: 6:20:13

T2

I ran through the racks of bikes and picked up my run bag and then off to the changing tent. A big burly guy was standing outside the entrance with a big bucket of ice cold water. He asked if I wanted to get dumped and I said “Hell Ya!” Aaaaaaaahhhhhh! That was freakin cold, but man did it feel good.  There was not very many people in the changing tent. I figured there was a lot of people still out on the road. One guy came in behind me and just laid on the ground. The volunteers came running over to him and then medical staff came over and started asking him questions about where he was and what his name was.

I really took my time getting changed. The volunteers were bringing over ice cold towels over and draping them on my head and neck. It felt so good. I was in no hurry to leave. I ended up changing my race kit tank top. My black Amrita jersey is mostly black and is really hot in the baking sun. I had the wherewithall to stick my white Sleeping Dog Bike Shop tank in my run bag and it was a smart move. I ate something out of my bag and had some water too. I also took a leak which was really dark. Not a good sign. I eventually got done changing after about 15 minutes in transition. A new record long time in transition. I stopped off at the suncreen stand and let them lather me up again and then headed out of T2 running.

T2 Time: 0:15:02

The Run(?)

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Run

I started off on the run and through the spectator-lined chute heading to the run course. I started taking inventory of my physical ability to run and everything seemed ok. I was running, not very fast, but I was running. I eventually saw Denise about halfway up Lakeview Drive and stopped to chat with her for several minutes. I told her about the conditions on the bike and she couldn’t believe I was doing this. My Dad called her while I was standing there and I answered the phone. I think I suprised him a bit . I told her I was going to go out and see what I could do. We said goodbye and I’ll see ya in a couple hours..hopefully.

Chatting with the wife on the Ironman Coeur d'Alene run course

Chatting with the wife on the Ironman Coeur d’Alene run course

It was around 1:30-2:00PM at this point and it was REALLY freakin hot. I continued to mostly run for the first several miles which meandered through some smaller backstreets in town before turning right back onto Coeur d’Alene Drive. Many of the people that lived there were out hosing us down and cheering us on. I didn’t realize it but my socks and sneakers were getting really wet. A sure way to cause some blisters and foot problems. I didn’t care. We passed by a small beach and there was an older Ironman athlete coming out of the lake in his running outfit. I was entertaining that idea and thought maybe on the next loop.

Once out on Coeur d’Alene drive people were actually running in the grass to the right of the path. It was next to the golf course and it had some trees lining it giving some shade. it was like a mad hunt for any shade you could find. That ended shortly when we hit the large condo building. The running trail that parallels CdA Drive and runs along the lake is very exposed with minimal shade. It was so hot. I ran through the first aid station and the stench of the port-a-johns’ was brutal! I took ice and water at every aid station and walked through each one. I filled up my handheld water with ice and water and would just constantly drizzle it over my head, back and arms as I ran.

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene Run

Walking became more prevalent as I go closer and closer to the turnaround point. I had a pain on my toes of my left foot. I stopped at a bench and took off my shoe to see what was going on. Meanwhile, Denise is seeing me stopped on the athlete tracker and starting to freak out a bit. I apparently didn’t cut the toenail on my “pinky” toe and it was cutting into the side of the toe aside of it and it was bleeding all in my sock. I got some Ruby’s Lube out of my FuelBelt and rubbed it on it to ease the cutting a bit. it helped but I could still feel it. I wished I had some nail clippers!

By the time I reached the turnaround at mile 6.5 I was doing more walking than running. My quads were cramping up whenever I tried to run. I started taking some Coca-Cola and potato chips along with water & ice. Some aid stations had ice in the coke, but others didn’t. I asked why and they said Ironman said they are not allowed to put ice in the coke and gatorade? WTH? Nothing like 106 degree coke! Ugh. What is the purpose of that WTC?

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
– Harry S Truman

I pretty much walked the entire way back to town. The heat was unbearable and I could barely maintain a trot for more than 10 yards now. Throwing up on the bike had really taken its toll on my now. That was just too much lost hydration and nutrition at a key time in the race. My quads were now starting to cramp just walking up any incline in the path. I started entertaining the  idea of dropping out. This was becoming not fun and the thought of having to walk another 13 miles out-and-back again was not something I wanted to do.

I passed my friend Megan from LP Camp near the big condo buidling. She had just started the run and was actually running. Denise was tracking her on MyAthleteLive and had told me that she saw her bike splits really slow down when the heat picked up. This was her first Ironman, so I really hoped she would finish, so I was glad to see her still going.

At this point I am not being at all competitive and it would be just finishing for the sake of saying I finished. I also thought that I could end up doing more damage to myself and screwing up the rest of our vacation or maybe worse. I have finished two of Ironman events already, so just finishing doesn’t really appeal to me now. I wanted a sub 12 hour finish and now that that was out of reach, I was lacking the desire to finish. It just seemed like a waste of another three or more hours. I also didn’t want to Denise to have to stand around worrying for another possible 3 hours.

I walked the 2 miles back through the neighborhood streets again into town. The spectators were still cheering away and but it didn’t help me. I made a right turn and saw Denise sitting on the curb ahead. She had a bit of a stressed look on her face and asked how I was doing. I said that I am thinking of dropping out and I could easily see a sign of relief on her face. That pretty much made my desicision for me. She said that she could hardly bear walking around out here and she didn’t know how I was managing to do this.

There was still another .5 mile to go to the turnaround point down at City Park. The worst thing was I had to walk down Lakeview Drive again which was still lined with spectators cheering. You could also hear people finishing on Sherman Ave. which was a block over. I walked down to the turnaround and just kept going straight through a small opening in the fencing that lined the course. It was a fairly easy decision at this point. But it still sucked.

Run Time: DNF

Post-Race

I found a nice shaded spot under a tree near the transtion area and took relief. I was bummed to not have finished, but also relieved to be out of the heat. Trevor and Heather Wurtele were sitting not too far away and Trevor was looking pretty wiped out from the race, which he finished 3rd overall. I eventually gathered up enough energy to get up and go gather up my bike and transition bags. I found some Ironman staff people and handed them my race chip. I just wanted to get out of there at this point and go get something to eat…and have a cold beer. It really sucks that Ironman does not even give you any food unless you finish. $700 should atleast get you a slice of pizza, regardless of finishing.

I'm Done! Ironman Coeur d'Alene Post Race

I’m Done! Ironman Coeur d’Alene Post Race

I keep thinking back on the day and having some regrets of not finishing, but I quickly remind myself of why I think I made the better decision. If this was my first Ironman, I probably would have pushed through it, but it isn’t and my goals are different now. So, time to re-focus on my remaining races this year and then on to next year.

I also started thinking of Megan who was still out there. We were tracking her on MyAthleteLive and saw she was walking a lot based on her splits. We drove out along the course after getting some food to find her. Her family had stayed at the home they rented and tracked her online and would then meet her for the finish. We figured she could probably use some encouragement. We finally spotted her at mile 19 on the course and she was looking pretty deflated. She said she was considering dropping out, but I told her she was almost to the turnaround and that she can do it. I think it helped her because she seemed a little more uplifted when we left. She was also afraid she would not make the cutoff.

We tracked her the rest of the night and I was happy she finished in a little over 16 hours. Probably not her goal time, but given the situation finishing is a huge accomplishment. I was happy for her and she texted me the next day thanked us for coming out to cheer her on. She said it really helped her finish. If I am not going to finish at least I could help someone else to.

 

Race Report: NJ Devilman Half Lite 2015

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.

Travel

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?! 🙂

NJ Devilman 2015 Kim Swim Caps

Kim & I looking cool in our new neoprene swim caps. at NJ Devilman Half 2015

Swim

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.

NJ Devilman Half 2015 Swim Exit

NJ Devilman Half 2015 Swim Exit

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! 🙂

Time: 0:24:26

T1

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.

Time: 0:01:44

Bike

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.

Best Bike Split-NJ Devilman Half 2015

Best Bike Split-NJ Devilman Half 2015

NJ Devilman 2015 Best Bike Split Race Projection Details

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?

Training Peaks-Actual Bike Stats

Training Peaks-Actual Bike Stats

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.

Time: 1:51:26

T2

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.

Time: 0:02:09

Run

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.

NJ Devilman Half 2015 Run Finish

NJ Devilman Half 2015 Run Finish

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.

NJ Devilman 2015 Run Pace vs HR

NJ Devilman 2015 Run Pace vs HR

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.

NJ Devilman 2015 Run Stats

NJ Devilman 2015 Run Stats

Run Time: 1:16:46

Finish Time: 3:36:32

Post-Race

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!