30th Annual Memphis in May
By Patrick Moseley
1st Male Collegiate
I was really happy that this year my summer travel plans to come visit my family in Memphis lined up with the Memphis in May Triathlon Weekend. This is one of the country’s longest running triathlons (the first one being held in 1982) and formerly a qualifying race for the Hawaii Ironman. Also, the 2011 race was my very first Olympic distance, and my second triathlon ever, so I was very excited to come back and race again.
Memphis in May is part of the World Triathlon Corporation’s 5i50 triathlon series that culminates in the highly competitive Hy-Vee triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa, so this might be the largest event I compete in this season in terms of participants (almost 1,700 entrants) and density of the event weekend. There are 3 races over the weekend: a 10k run on Friday night, sprint triathlon Saturday morning, followed by the Olympic distance on Sunday. The race expo, swim start, transition area, and finish line are all in the immediate vicinity of the Veranda Hotel at Harrah’s Casino Resort in Tunica, Mississippi (which is about a 50 minute drive from Memphis). It’s really great to be able to wake up and walk 6 minutes from your hotel room to transition.
RACE PREP/RACE MORNING
Race morning I woke up at 4AM. Collegiate men were scheduled to start at 7AM sharp. After my usual race day breakfast of oatmeal, raisins, and a banana, I grabbed my stuff and headed to transition. Another great thing about this event is the pre-race bike check-in. I checked my bike into transition Saturday afternoon and left it there overnight. Some people don’t like to do this so they wheel their bikes through the hotel and maneuver them into the elevators to have them in their room. The event staff guard transition all night and were on top of everything, so I took advantage of the convenience of early bike check.
After getting body marked, taping two chocolate Clif Shot gels to my top tube, and pumping up my tires, I headed out for a warm up run. About 8 minutes with some race pace accelerations, then the same thing on the bike, with a practice dismount at the end. Then, I grabbed my swim cap and goggles and headed over to the lake for a swim warm up. That didn’t go as smoothly.
One new piece of gear I have this year is a Garmin 910XT and heart rate monitor. I wanted to do the first couple of races of the season with it to be able to look at a HR chart for a sprint and Olympic distance race. After walking onto the swim start ramp and diving in to warm up, my heart rate strap was immediately around my waist (I was not wearing a wetsuit). I did a warm up anyway for about 10 minutes. I tried adjusting it and dove in a couple more times. More of the same. I decided not to race with it. In addition, one of the last times I went to get out of the water, I nicked my right big toe on the ramp and it started bleeding. At this point, I’m 20 minutes away from the swim start. I ran back to transition to put away my Garmin, get some band aids, use the hotel bathroom to clean and dress my wound, and make a mad dash to the medical tent to get taped up. I ran back over to the swim start, spoke to my parents for a second who came to watch me race, and finally lined up.
Memphis in May does a time trial start format, where racers in each category are lined up and released one at a time every 3 seconds. I really like doing a mass start, but it’s cool to experience this different format.
The water was 80+ degrees, non-wetsuit legal. This was my first no-wetsuit swim. It felt great to not have a wetsuit on; my lungs weren’t compressed and my shoulders felt so much fresher throughout. Also, the swim is in a man-made lake that irrigates the golf course at the resort making the water nice and calm.
I was the only person in the male collegiate category. I basically got to swim by myself the entire time. The swim course is set up as one big clockwise narrow rectangle loop (approximately 600m out, right turn for 50m, 600m back) keeping buoys to your right side; swimming a narrow canal to a smaller lake where the swim exit is located. Overall, my swim was strong, and I know I need to get in some more open water sighting practice as had difficulty navigating the return swim efficiently.
Upon exiting the lake, I instantly saw a spectator that had been taking pictures running across the pathway into T1. I was headed straight for her. A volunteer yelled “Ma’am move QUICKLY!” but it was too late. As I was turning right to head into the transition gate, my right shoulder hit her right shoulder, and almost sent me crashing into the fence. I luckily saved it and just ended up looking like I was doing the carioca drill into T1. I had a super-fast transition due to no wetsuits, just threw the goggles and cap down, put my sunglasses on, helmet on, grabbed my bike and headed out on course. I always leave my shoes clipped in and put a rubber band around the loops on the back to keep them upright; one attached to the rear skewer and one to the bottle cage on my seat tube. I’ve also practiced a jumping bike mount so I don’t have to slow down at the mount line.
I left my feet out of my shoes until I crested the small incline immediately out of transition. Once I got strapped in, I tried to settle into a pace and let the excitement of T1 cool off before taking any nutrition. The one-loop bike course was flat with only 3 or 4 turns. I had to stay focused, alert, and maintain my aero position. I also brought an extra bottle on the bike because the temperature high was in the low 90s. I did not want to be short on fluid going into the run. In the middle of the ride, there’s a fast and flat 9 mile straight stretch. I was able to hold 24 mph without feeling like I was going all out. I kept the fluids going the entire time, probably going through approximately 30 oz. of the First Endurance EFS I had on board. I took in gels at mile 2 and 22 of the bike.
I took my feet out of my shoes immediately after the final turn and cruised down into transition. I had a successful dismount and carefully navigated over a curb. I noticed pros having difficulty with this during their race later that morning. Now it was time for hottest 10k run of my life….
My strategy on this run was to take the first 5 minutes to get my legs under m; keep a posture proud, cadence high, and build into my race pace goal. The run goes up the same incline out of transition and around a turn style in front of the casino. It continues down a short gravel road onto a 3 mile flat, but un-shaded out-and-back. The gravel road was tough on the legs – trying to build into race pace on tired legs and having to balance (as to not roll your ankles). I was glad to get off it.
Upon first getting to Memphis earlier this week and doing a couple of run workouts I knew I didn’t feel quite the same in the 90 degree heat, but I wasn’t sure how it would affect me on race day. Ultimately, it adversely affected my run (my target 10K pace for a triathlon is normally 6:15-6:25 per mile, but averaged 6:58 today). I feel I did a good job of damage control once I assessed how I was feeling. Just to give some insight into how hot it was – I later heard a racer who had done the Hawaii Ironman saying today’s race conditions are about the same as those in Kona during that race. One of the female pro racers blacked out at mile 2 of the bike and had to be given an IV for fluids. At every water stop I tried to grab two cups: one to dump on my head and one to have a few sips from. At mile 4, I started to cramp up under my ribcage. Other racers were beginning to stop and walk. I typically try to accelerate at mile 4 and then give everything I have left in the tank at mile 5. I decided to be conservative and stay steady to the finish line. I think with my key races coming in August-September in VT, NY, and MA, I will fare far better on the run in those cooler conditions.
I ended up winning the collegiate division by default. I was the only person in the division. There was only one female collegiate as well. There were other collegiate athletes there from Northwestern, Auburn, and Georgia Tech to name a few, but they all chose to race in their age groups. If I get to come back next year, I’d like to email some of the teams ahead of time and see if we can really make it a competitive collegiate field.
My main goal with this race was to just get an Olympic distance under my belt to test my fitness at this point in the season, and I did that. One of my goals for this year was to go under 2:20 for an Olympic, and I achieved that as well. I know what I need to work on this summer to be the best I can be for my key races, and I am improving with every race. This was a great event and a fun course, and I hope I can return to compete for many years to come!Read More