Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Timberman

August 18, 2013

 

IRONMAN 70.3 Timberman

By Ellen Witkowski

butriathlon.com

Final 6:08:32                  

                                        45th F25-29

 

 

After Sean Matlis and I went to the Timberman Half-Ironman last year to cheer on our teammate Breno Melo, I decided to challenge myself by trying a 70.3 distance triathlon the upcoming year. Breno, Ali Hall, Anna Geary-Meyer, some friends outside of the BU tri team, and I drove up to New Hampshire Friday evening, which allowed us to watch Vic compete in the sprint triathlon on Saturday morning. He did great, placing 7th overall! Watching the sprint also got me even more excited for my race the following day.

 

I woke up Sunday morning still feeling more excited than nervous. Driving to the race site around 5:45 AM allowed us to catch the gorgeous pink sunrise creeping up over the hills around Lake Winnipesaukee, and I remembered so many people’s advice that I should enjoy the day. As my first 70.3, I was not looking to stand on a podium, but to finish and know that I had given the race everything I had. As a secondary goal, I thought it would be awesome to break 6 hours and 30 minutes, but I had no idea what was realistic for me, especially with a hilly bike course.

 

I was able to do most of my typical pre-race routine minus a bike warm-up. Ironman policy is to not allow bikes in and out of transition area after they’re checked in the day before the race. My wave, the F 25-30, was one of the last ones to go so I had an hour and 16 minutes between transition close and my wave start. I used the time to wait in line for the bathroom again and do a quick swim. Waiting with my teammates also helped keep me from getting too nervous.

 

SWIM   39:06

 

The 1.2 mile swim was in Lake Winnipesaukee. Even though it’s in the lake, the water can get pretty choppy. Luckily, the waves were only noticeable in the later portion of the swim farther from the shore. Normally, it takes me a good 5 minutes to get in a groove on the swim, but I felt fairly relaxed and strong from the start. I tried to draft off some of the swimmers in front of me, but none of them seemed to be going in a straight line so I gave up on the idea and just focused on Vic’s advice of long, strong strokes, and siting often. I pushed at as hard of a pace as I thought I could maintain. The water is very shallow even a ways off from the shore, but I kept swimming thinking that even my slow swim speed would be faster than trying to run in knee-deep water. When I got out of the lake and looked at my watch, it read just over 39 minutes. I was already under my first rough goal time of 40 minutes.

 

T1   2:52

 

I skipped the wetsuit strippers and quickly found my bike as my row was the beginning of my row was next to a utility landmark. I smiled when I past my cheering teammates holding glittering signs, one with advice from another teammate for my first 70.3: Race it like a sprint. Needless to say, I did not take this advice, but it made me smile and relax, the true intention of my teammate I’m sure.

 

BIKE   3:20:48

 

I knew the bike course was going to be hilly and tough, but I was mentally ready. The first 12 or so miles were very hilly with a 9% grade hill at one point. A girl biking near me told me that the toughest hill of the day was over when we both reached the top. I wasn’t as worried about those hills as the one after. The bike course is an out-and-back route with a gradual decline extending for the second 12 – 15 miles until the turn-around point meaning that I’d be climbing for the entire ¾ of the bike course before hitting hills again. I wanted to push on the bike, especially since that’s where I’d been focusing my training all summer, but I was concerned about going too hard and hitting a wall before the race was over. I tried to hold myself back a little on the first half of the bike but with the long downhill, I was averaging much faster than any of my long training rides.

 

After the turn-around, I stopped worrying about holding back and just pushed. I could tell I was going uphill, and my hamstrings were starting to twinge like they were going to cramp soon, but I kept a pretty steady pace and tried to stretch my legs a bit on any short downhill’s where I could coast. My other concern on the bike was hydration. The temperatures that day were amazing; low-70’s, not too much wind. I had checked the weather before leaving Boston and decided that I would be okay with just the 2 water bottle holders that I currently have on my bike. I knew that there were aid stations where I could pick up more water and electrolyte-filled fluids, but I didn’t realize that the aid stations were passing out whole bottles. After I grabbed a water bottle at one of the aid stations, I chugged a third of the water and shoved the water bottle in the side pocket of jersey. It stayed for a grand total of about 15 minutes to no one’s surprise I’m sure. At the last aid station, I grabbed a water bottle and took a couple quick sips before discarding it in the trash right after the aid station. A second more pleasant surprise occurred towards the very end of the bike when I approached an intersection and saw a familiar Nissan XTERRA waiting at the stop sign for the police officer to let the vehicle through. “Yeah, go Ellen!” Vic shouted out the window. It gave me more motivation to push the last couple miles.

 

T2   3:53

 

I managed a flying dismount, quickly racked my bike, and pulled on my running shoes and visor. Then I stopped to go to the bathroom. I figured I’d rather have the extra time on my T2 than my run.

 

RUN   2:01:53

 

I had taken Vic’s advice and increased my cadence the last 10 minutes the bike to flush out my legs before the run, which probably helped ease my transition. I was able to hold a faster pace than I had initially planned. I was going to base my pace off of my heart rate, but my monitor stopped reading so I just had to use my straight pace and gage how my legs felt. I pushed on the run and was encouraged by passing a number of other athletes (which rarely happened on either of the other legs). I tried to pick up the pace on the second half (the course is an out-and-back twice), but my watch showed that my increased effort wasn’t translating too much of a change in speed. I got another GU, continued downing water and coke, and kept telling myself to go hard because I was getting close to the finish. Seeing my teammates with signs and hearing the cheers certainly helped. The last 3 miles, I just went for it and finished just over 2 hours, a couple minutes faster than my Hyannis half-marathon time. With a total time of 6:08:32, I was well under my goal of breaking 6:30 and thrilled. Everything had come together for me. It was undoubtedly the best race I’ve ever had.

 

FINAL   6:08:32

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Race Report: Boise 70.3

 

Ironman 70.3 Boise 

By Owen Kendall

butriathlon.com

June 8, 2013

 Final 4:35:30

6th M30-34, 35th OA!!!

 

The 59° water pouring down the neck of my wetsuit was not the first reminder that this was going to be difficult.  Another competitor, one of 100 in my heat of M30-34 year olds, had put a little water down his suit right next to me so it had seemed like a good idea.  It felt instantly like a poor choice.  But it was my first half-ironman; my first 70.3; my first 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run of my life.  I was just trying not to look like an idiot.  That’s not to say that I’d never done a triathlon before: I had.  I’d done a sprint triathlon one month before – my first – and it had gone incredibly well if you didn’t take my broken derailleur and inability to shift during the bike leg into account.  I wasn’t a complete newbie in the world of triathlon?

 

No, the first reminder that this was going to be difficult came when I realized it would take almost an entire day to prepare my gear for the race, which had two transition zones that were twelve miles apart from one another, and three different bags full of gear needed for each of the three components of the race:

 

1)    Swim bag: wetsuit, race cap, goggles, extra water

2)    Bike bag: 5 carbohydrate gels, two water bottles full of sports drink, two aerosol containers for flats (this does not even included the bike, bike shoes, and aero water bottle full of sports drink that were all together in the first transition area)

3)    Run Bag: Running shoes, 3 carbohydrate gels, salt tabs

 

SWIM   31:23

 

Less than a minute later they were saying go and my head was instantly fully immersed in the 59° water and I was trying to remember what one of my best friends, Josh Holland, had noted when I told him that I only recently realized that it’s best to exhale when your head’s underwater while swimming so you can take a full breath in.

 

“So you’re saying you basically didn’t breathe for entire races in high school? No wonder you liked the sprints.”

 

The water was choppy to start with, but with two hundred swimmers hacking through it, it soon looked like rapids.  There was a swimmer four inches to my right, another less than a foot ahead of me, and two more somehow swimming on top of one another less than six inches to my left.  I managed to stay calm and keep swimming, sighting buoys that were 100 yards apart every six to ten strokes, and felt like I was going in a good direction for the first two hundred meters.  Then, I realized there were hardly any swimmers around me.  In fact, there was no one around me.  I sighted again and noticed I was twenty yards away from the main slipstream of swimmers.

 

My direction was good, but I’d somehow drifted left – possibly to avoid the maelstrom that was their arms and legs and possibly because I was terrible at swimming in a straight line in open water.  I changed direction slightly and headed closer to the buoys and headed on, soon turning right around the red turn buoy.  Pretty soon I was fifty to one-hundred feet away from the buoys again.  I turned back in to get close to the buoys, but every time I looked up, I was far away.  I was trying to swim a straight line parallel to the line of buoys, but was only managing to swim in zigzags towards and away from each one.

 

Then, I remembered my practice swim in the reservoir three days before, remembered the strong current pulling me towards the far corner of the reservoir – in exactly the direction I was being pulled as I tried to stay parallel to the buoys. When I realized this, I changed my plan and began swimming slightly towards each buoy.  My line straightened out, but it was clear that I’d swum several hundred meters extra over the 1.2 miles of the swim.  I started swimming harder as I turned around the final red buoy and towards shore, six hundred meters away.  The way to swim faster is to kick harder and pull harder and so I did, but since I’d been pulling hard the whole time the main thing that changed in my stroke was my kick.  I started flying by people and, because I was swimming directly into the current, my direction was good.

 

The problem came with 100 meters left to go in the swim: my right calf cramped up completely, pulling my foot into the position ballet dancers call en pointe and everyone else calls uncomfortable.  I kicked harder with my left leg, which caused my left calf to cramp 25 meters from shore.  I’m glad I’m good at pulling because I ended up dragging my body through the last 25 meters of the swim and painfully standing up in the shallows, at which point I tried desperately to relax my calves as I ran up onto the boat launch.

 

T1   2:57

 

I later saw Lexi’s video of my exit from the water.  No one was fooled. ‘Why is he cramping up? Why is he cramping,’ she keeps repeating as I stumble onto the boat launch.

“Are you okay?” the race director said as I came up the boat launch.

“Yeah, fine. Both calves cramped,” I said, “I’m just gonna bike it off.”

“You sure,” a medic standing up the boat launch said. “I can stretch you out if you need.”

“I’m good,” I said.  My calves started to relax as I ran up the ramp and around the corner of the transition chute.

At some point I saw my girlfriend and my parents with giant posters held high; they’d hid them from me so I wouldn’t be able to see them until the race.

 

            Go Big, one read.

O, the next one read.

You are F*#%ing Awesome, read the third – homage to Macklemore.

“Let’s go, O! Let’s go!” my dad and girlfriend and mom screamed.

“You’re fifth out of the water,” my girlfriend yelled.  “You’re doing awesome.”

 

I ran and ignored my calves. Ran harder and unzipped my wetsuit down to my waist, pulled my arms from the sleeves as I headed towards a giant line of wetsuit strippers (no, not that kind… the roles are switched), in front of whom I sat down so they could tear my wetsuit from my legs.

 

“Thank you,” I said. “You are all amazing. Thank you.”

 

I ran down past some people handing out water, drank a cup on the run, and then passed row after row of bikes costing upwards of $5000 apiece, rear disc wheels like black holes pulling my gaze. As I ran my body relaxed, but it still felt odd to hurry.  The day was just beginning.

 

Almost every bike in my age group was still on the rack.  The swim had gone well.  I grabbed the two aerosol containers for flats and jammed them in the pocket on the right side of my BU Tri Team jersey, slipped a handful carbohydrate gels in the pocket on the left side, jammed my wetsuit in the plastic bike bag so it would get to the finish line, and began running towards the bike out area with my bike light by my side.  My calves felt good as I ran.  The cramping gone away it seemed, and as I passed through the “bike out” arch and the bike mount line, I heard my girlfriend and my dad cheering me on.  I’m sure my mom was cheering, too, and I felt her cheering, but her voice is a touch quieter, but knowing they were all supporting me was a pretty intense lift that rivaled the 20 mph blowing wind I was about to ride into for the next thirty miles.

 

BIKE   2:37:57

 

The first part of the bike course in Boise is perfect for improving morale.  First, while slipping on your shoes, there are speed bumps so you don’t feel like you’re losing; you can’t pedal hard anyway.  Then you cruise over the Lucky Peak Dam – the one creating the reservoir – and then it’s straight downhill with 20 mph gusts pushing at the flanks of your bike so you feel like you might slip right over the side of the road and down the cliff, at the bottom of which is a small water park.  At least the landing would be cool.

 

There was only one rider ahead of me on my descent since few competitors (besides pros that were far ahead and had started in a wave 19 minutes before me) had beaten me out of the water; each wave was only separated by four minutes.  The woman was in her forties and I passed her like she was frozen in time even though she was in aero position.  My gears were maxed out and I was spinning fast, likely going over 50 mph, making the gusts feel like slaps in the face, tears pouring from the corners of my eyes.  At the bottom of the grade, the road curves slowly right and that’s when I saw the line of bikes making their way up the grade.  There were fifteen or so riders ahead of me over the coming two miles of road that reached up and up.  I passed every one of them over the course of the hill and never once came out of aero position; even though I had no tech on my bike and no way to guess my speed, it felt like things were going well.

 

At the time I felt good, but the heavy headwind, too much excitement, my lack of technology, overexcitement, and inability to switch off my crazy got the better of me and I started slipping off the pace after about thirty miles.  I remember long stretches of straightaways with desert to my left and the airport to my right where I could hear nothing but the howl of the wind in my ears.  Fast, sleek riders passed me, their disc wheels howling eerily as they buzzed by.  There were times when I felt I was back to spinning well and feeling good and I’d pass groups of bikers, doing especially well uphill, but by mile thirty my left hip was tightening up.

 

By mile forty I felt a twinge in my left groin that left me grinding out the miles awkwardly, but by that point nearly everyone had been fried by the heat and the wind and even those who had passed me were coming back.  I’d pass them, they’d pass me, and back and forth.  There were two riders who kept switching position with me over the last twelve miles and that gave me hope, made me push the last few miles harder even with my hip and groin screaming, my pedal-stroke sometimes catching and clacking as I came through wonky on the left side.

 

Most of the bike course was out of town and, besides the bikers and the volunteers, who were amazing; there was almost no one out there to cheer us on.  There was only the wind to keep me company over my first 56 mile bike race ever.  I learned how to use the aid stations to rid myself of empty bottles and get two full bottles of PowerAde Perform rather than just the one I’d expected to use, dumping one in my aero bottle between my aero bars and stashing one in my bottle holder for later, learned how to pass legally (turns out that if you get within four bike lengths of the rider ahead, you have to pass within 20 seconds or you get a 5 minute penalty; you have no option to back out of a pass… giving the leading rider a sneaky way to punish a rider attempting to pass), and learned that very few fellow riders say “hi” during a pass (these guys are serious!).  One thing that helped me tremendously during the bike portion and kept me going when my body started to crumble and my hip felt like it was going to explode were the words I received from a fellow rider.  Maybe I looked bad or maybe he was just a nice guy.

 

“How you holding up?” he said as he passed me.

 

“My hip’s shot and I’m in a lot of pain,” I said. I couldn’t tell if he had heard me over the heavy wind and the wailing of his disc wheel.  Two miles later, I overtook him while he was taking a drink and eating a gel.

 

“You’ve got this, man; you’re doing great,” he said.  Three miles later, he passed me again and soon disappeared ahead of me, but his words stuck and I kept hammering.

 

As we closed in on downtown, the crowds grew and the support was unbelievable for such a small community.  There were groups with cowbells, families in yards, men with big bellies cheering loudly, and small groups of young people yelling support and then I realized we were closing in on transition two.  I recognized the chute into the transition area from about 400 meters out and, when I did, quickly unvelcroed my shoes and took my feet out, pedaling hard with my feet atop my shoes until I turned into the chute… and there was my cheering squad.  Incredible.

 

T2   1:59

 

My body was aching, my back killing me, my hip felt horrible, and I knew I’d pulled a muscle in my groin or hamstring, but when I saw Lexi, my dad, and my mom, I really didn’t care about any of that.  I had survived the bike and was now starting my specialty.  Everything was fine and all my energy and enthusiasm came back like I hadn’t just biked 56 miles in 2:37… The third fastest I’d ever biked that distance and certainly the fastest if you took the conditions into account.  My dismount from the bike was fast and smooth even though my feet were numb on the ground, and I quickly found my run bag in the transition area.

 

With my bike racked, I unloaded my pockets (both full of sticky, brown goo from partially eaten gels), grabbed three new gels from my bike bag, slipped on my socks, and then pulled my shoes on.  The transition was slow because my back was so tight I was having trouble thinking, let alone moving, and I was yelling back and forth with Lexi who was outside the transition area telling me how well I’d done and how impressed she was.  With my shoes on, I took off towards the entrance to the run, my stride a bit off, and headed out towards the course, spinning my race belt around to bring my number to the front.  As I did, I tore my number from my race belt.  Running quickly out of the chute, I asked a volunteer if it was a problem that my number was now blowing and twisting around, hanging from one string.

 

“I hope not,” the only one who responded said.

‘Me too,’ I thought.  ‘Me too.’  I tucked the torn side under the belt itself and hoped it would stay.  Then I ran like hell, blowing by runners like I was still on a bike.

 

RUN   1:21:14

 

Running is my specialty.  It’s what I love to do.  It makes me feel free. Completely free.  Like I’m actually flying.  Like I’m a bird.  And I’m pretty good at it.  Better than the average runner, at least.  And I’m also a strength runner, which means that when I got off the bike I knew I’d be able to power through the run even with a pulled hamstring and legs that felt like mush.

 

The route was two laps of the downtown park with asphalt paths that are partially tree covered, offering shade for slightly less than half the time.  That means that when we were in the shade the temperature dropped from 90 to 86.  This helped.  There were a few hairpin turns, including one about 100 meters before the finish line.  The course was beautiful and the volunteers on it handing out ice and water and sports drink and gels every mile incredibly supportive.  I needed them.

 

I passed one of the guys who’d biked by me near the end of the bike section after 800 meters and thanked him for pushing me on the bike.  He didn’t say a word at the time, but he came up and gave me a hug after the race, telling me then how impressed he was by my run.  I passed two more people in my age group over the next 400 meters.

 

I came through the first mile in 5:45.  Shit, I thought… that’s my goal pace and I’m actually doing it.  I pushed on, but tried to relax.  I reeled people in like they were minnows and I was using 100 pound test line.  Ahead, I saw someone who looked like a strong runner whose form was breaking down – he was hurting bad and looked like he’d be leaving it all out there.  As I neared him I recognized my old goalkeeper from Vassar – Chris Bagg, now a pro triathlete.

 

“Hey, you’re Chris Bagg, right?” I said.

“Yeah.”

“Nice job.  You’re looking good.”

“Thanks,” he said.  He seemed humble and kind – the way I remembered him from college.

“I’m Owen.  We played soccer together at Vassar years ago.  I don’t know if you remember me.”

“Wow, cool,” he said.  He was out of breath and I wasn’t, so I felt like an asshole for keeping him talking since he’s a pro and I was still on my first lap.

“This your second lap?” I said. He nodded. “Kick ass, man. Kick it in hard.  I’ll be cheering for you.”

 

I left him behind as we passed mile marker 2.5 and picked up the pace once more, passing people as I went.  Ahead were two runners running side-by-side.  I only recognized the guy who’d spoken to me on the bike when we were running three-abreast.

 

“You’re killing this run. Go get ‘em,” he said, slapping my ass and sending me on my way.

 

My pace drifted up to 6:15s and 6:20s as I clicked away the miles through the first half, my mind keeping me from pushing for fear that my whole frame might collapse if I went too hard, though I’m sure now that I was being conservative.  I poured water over my head, put ice down my shirt, took a tiny bit of water and sports drink.  At one point I thought I was going to puke, but then that feeling went away, too.  My feet hurt, but I knew the only way to make that stop was to finish the race and lie down, so kept on, turning my legs over fast, leaning, but not pushing hard.  30 seconds after going around a hairpin I saw Chris Bagg coming my way and cheered him on.  He looked destroyed, but smiled still, and I was impressed by how hard he could push himself.  He made me feel weak.

 

Then came the sharp turn left up towards the finishing stretch, but I’d be doing the hairpin instead.  I wondered if I should just cheat and run through the finish line.  I wanted it to be over.  I felt both completely spent and capable of another three loops, if necessary.  I was so tired I almost felt like I was watching myself run.  I turned the corner a second after catching a glimpse of the finish line.  I’d be there soon enough.  I picked up the pace and then cheered for Chris Bagg a few seconds later as he passed on the way to the finish line.

 

I have no recollection of how the next lap went except that I was happy.  Ecstatic.  It was like I had every known upper in my bloodstream with none of the side effects.  I was so high I was giddy, thanking every volunteer and cheering on every runner I saw.  At some point I caught the guy I’d been talking to before the swim start.

 

“You’re having an amazing first half-ironman,” he said.

 

I thanked him and pressed on because running any slower than hard hurt too much and made me worry I might stop.

 

The turn towards the finishing stretch came quicker than I thought and I dropped the pace down below six again.  I passed the aid station and pushed on and there were my dad and mom.  There was Lexi.  Each one held a sign high over their heads.

 

Go Big O… You are f*#%ing awesome!

 

            “He’s right behind you!!! You’ve gotta push it!!  He’s gaining on you!” my dad screamed as I passed.

 

I’d told him to tell me if anyone was near so that I could push at the finish and make sure I didn’t get out-kicked.  So I kicked and pulled away from my biggest competitor, finishing the race at sub-5 pace while high-fiving kids and adults, mothers and fathers.  I fist pumped as I crossed the finish line.  I’d done it.  Reached my goal.  I said I wanted to do it in 4:30 or below and I’d run in the 4:30s.  I crossed the finish line all alone in 35th place overall and 6th in my age group with no one nearby.  They announced my name as I approached the finish.

 

“And here’s Owen Kendall, running a fast time for the Terriers. Let’s cheer him across the line!”  I don’t remember any cheers.  I was too excited to be done.

 

FINAL   4:35:30

 

I finished.  I tested myself in new ways.  I found out I can push myself beyond what I had previously thought possible and then keep pushing.  I found out I can still be a nice person while I’m doing it, congratulating both bikers who passed me and runners I passed.  For me, this was important because I remember times when runners in previous races told me to stay with them when they passed me, told me I could do it and that we should run together.  Sometimes I couldn’t dig any deeper, but they often reminded me that there was a little more to give and that another person’s support can help bring that out.

 

My mom and dad and Lexi were all there when I exited the finishing chute.  They hugged me.  I think they were impressed that I wasn’t dead.  They told me they still liked my mustache.  I told them I was tired.  I told each one of them that I loved them because those 70.3 miles had reminded me of my mortality and my frailty.

 

After the race I ran into a lot of the triathletes I’d either been passed by or who I’d passed during the race.  I got hugs and handshakes and a lot of congratulations.  Some gave advice, some complained about the conditions, and some just smiled and said how happy they were to be done.  Matty Reed, the previous year’s winner, came over and said hello while I was soaking in an ice bath.  We’d spoken the day before and he was clearly a nice, genuine guy.  His race hadn’t gone well.  The heat had gotten to him and he’d come apart at the end of the bike, he told me. He was frustrated, but he still congratulated me and wished me a good evening.

 

While I sat in the ice water, the cold worming its way into my exhausted muscles, I thought back to my first marathon.  I remember thinking I never wanted to do another marathon because the race had been so painful.  I’d finished in 3:11:56.  I’d wanted to qualify for Boston and had missed the time by 57 seconds, but I’m not sure I cared because the experience had been so painful and I couldn’t figure out why I’d raced a marathon in the first place after crossing the finish line.  In the ice water, after a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike, and a half-marathon that I’d run in 1:21:14, all I kept thinking was,

 

            I can’t wait until I recover and get stronger so I can do this again, but next time do it better. 

 

            Triathlon is f*#%ing awesome.

 

The Boise Half-Ironman 2013 was an amazing and humbling experience.

 

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Race Report: Central FL Tri Series #1

June 8, 2013

Sommer Sports

Central Florida Sprint Triathlon

Series #1

By Patrick Moseley                                        

butriathlon.com

Final 58:17

1st M25-29, 9th OA!!!

My 12-week clinical rotation in Gainesville, FL this summer has allowed me the opportunity to do a few races around Florida, a place I have never raced before.  I picked the Central FL Triathlon Series Race #1 for my first race down here.

 

I was feeling really run down the day before the race from a long work week, and wasn’t able to eat dinner the night before until later than desired due to completing a 2-hour drive after working a full day in the clinic.  Also, I had not slept well Thursday or Friday nights, and Saturday morning I awoke feeling more like staying in the bed rather than racing.  Upon arriving to the race site, getting checked in and setting up transition, I started warming up.  As soon as I got moving, I instantly felt better, and ultimately, I’ve never had my legs start feeling that good during a pre-race warm-up before.  After running and biking for 10-15 minutes each, I got my bike shoes hooked onto my bike with rubber bands and headed down to the beach for a swim warm-up.  The same thing happened during the swim warm-up: I felt really solid the more I swam.

 

Ever since having major respiratory difficulties at Collegiate Nationals in April, subsequent doctor appointments and pulmonary testing, my breathing has been getting gradually better and better the longer I’ve been on a new asthma medication.  The humid air down here feels great to my lungs as well.

 

Normally when I do a swim warm-up before a race, I feel really stiff and have trouble getting started, but not today.  Everything felt strong.  After about 20 minutes in the water I got out to get ready for the 7:30am start.

 

SWIM

 

The race was a beach start, which I really like, and non-wetsuit due to temps, which is to be expected all summer down here. I lined up at the very front toward the inside close to the line of buoys.  At the horn, we all sprinted toward the water and it was on.  I was able to stay in touch with the lead swim pack for around the first half, then a couple of faster guys got away and I tucked in with the chase group.  My stroke felt so much better since recently getting some solid critique on my technique from the coach of the masters’ group I’ve been swimming with on campus at U. of Florida.   Once the swim finish was in sight, I put in a solid acceleration all the way in and came out in around 6 minutes flat.

 

I would discover at the end of the race that my timing chip did not survive the swim.  I felt arms hitting my legs during the initial melee first getting into the water, so I suppose it fell off then.  My finish time was verified, but none of my splits were recorded. Comparing my swim time on my watch with other splits in my AG, I was 3rd out of the water in M25-29.

 

T1

 

I entered transition, got my speed suit off and simultaneously put on my bike helmet. Then, I grabbed my bike to head out.  Another athlete across from me quickly asked a volunteer which direction we were supposed to go out.  Prior to the race, a volunteer had told me the opposite direction. If I hadn’t heard their exchange during the race, I would have run to the wrong end of transition. That wouldn’t be the last of my navigational issues during this race.

 

BIKE

 

I felt solid on the bike. I really wanted to push hard since the bike is a weaker discipline for me.  Only 2 guys passed me on the bike. I put in some good surges to try and stay in touch, but they were too strong.  They were both collegiate athletes also, from U. of Central Florida in Orlando.  It was cool having them there to give the race a small amount of collegiate race dynamic.  I didn’t let it get in my head once they were out of my sight, and felt confident I would see them again on the run.  The bike course directional signs for turns really snuck up on you, but I did not have any navigational crises during this leg of the race.  The worst was yet to come in that department.

 

At mile 7, a squirrel ran out in front of my bike.  The whole thing happened so fast I didn’t even have a chance to reach for the brakes.  The squirrel ran into my front wheel, hit my spokes, was launched vertically upward and hit my right arm with a fair amount of force.  My initial reaction was to try and get it off my arm, but it wasn’t on me and had instantly fallen off.  That rattled me a little since that could have easily resulted in an end-over bike crash, ending my race or resulting in a hospital trip since I was descending a hill at 24+ MPH. I mentally recovered and pushed hard to the end.  The first of 3-4 fairly steep hills over the final 2 miles came at mile 8 and really took the sting out of my run legs.  Otherwise, it was a superfast bike course.

 

T2

 

I did not know where exactly the dismount line was and took my feet out of my bike shoes a little early on the winding road back into transition. I came in without incident, got into my run shoes and set out to track down the cyclists from UCF.

 

RUN

 

I never felt my legs under me well after the hard cycling hills, but my run turnover and posture was solid, and my breathing was nice and easy.  The run course was up and down hills until the last ¾ mile – a flat and fast finishing chute.  On the first hill, I caught the first guy that had gotten away from me on the bike.  I found the second with 1 mile to go.  Shortly after passing him, I reached a point in the course where you could either run left through a park, or go straight up a neighborhood street.  I had no idea which way to turn. There was no sign! I chose to turn right.  Seconds later, the athlete I had just passed came up to that point on the course and called out to me that I had gone the wrong way.  Upon hearing his voice, I turned around but didn’t stop running, and WHAM! I ran right into a light post!  Luckily I didn’t hit my head, it was mainly my torso and left ankle.  I turned around and sprinted back to get on course.  I passed the same racer again, and was limping slightly due to hitting my ankle on the light post.  By the time I got back into my rhythmic stride, I had ? mile to go and finished strong.

 

After losing my timing chip, running over a squirrel on the bike, going off course and running into a light post, I checked the preliminary results and compared it to what was on my watch. I had won the M25-29 age-group!  Luckily, I was able to speak to a race official. They verified my overall finish time (finish line video?) and the official results were updated to include me. It feels really good to get my first AG win! Now, I look forward to getting back to the Olympic distance after racing 3 sprints over the past month.  In the future, I’m going to do my due diligence on making sure I know the transition flow and clear up any confusing spots on the run course. Next up, the JAX Olympic Triathlon #1 in Fernandina Beach on June 22 – highlighted by an ocean swim in the Atlantic and a flat, fast bike!

 

FINAL   0:58:17

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Race Report: Flat as as Pancake Triathlon

June 9, 2012

Pantanella’s FLAT as a PANCAKE

Sprint Triathlon


By Nick Wendell

butriathlon.com

Final 54:45

1st Overall

A few members of the team and I drove down to New Jersey the day before the race.  We were graciously housed by the Timmes’ family where we had a great pasta dinner and were able to sleep on comfortable beds the night before our race.

The team woke up at 4:30am and had a quick breakfast of bagels eggs before driving out to Staten Island to make it in time for 6am packet pickup.  Chris, Max and I set up transition right next to each other.  We had plenty of time to check our bikes and get a nice run warm-up before the race.

SWIM   6:01

The swim was a salt water ¼ mile point to point swim.  You were allowed to go on either side of the buoys (they recommended weaker swimmers to stay to the left).  I was the 2nd wave (M20-24) which allowed us some time to get in and acclimate to the water.  I chose to swim just wide-left of the buoys which gave me clear water.  I felt great and was actually swimming next to Max and Chris for the first 200m of the swim.

T1            1:25

T1 went smooth.  Max and Chris arrived shortly after.  It was nice to see that we all had a strong swim.

BIKE            0:29:16

The 12-mile bike course was on a closed highway consisting of 3 x 4-mile loops.  My goal was to keep a high cadence and see where my legs took me on the first loop.   I was averaging approximately 25MPH after loop one.  I decided to attempt to keep that speed as long as I could.  At the end of the first loop, a triathlete from Rutgers passed me.  My main goal was to keep him within eyesight for the remaining laps and give myself a chance at catching him during the run.  The bike course was nice because I was able to see the whole team at various points along the ride and we could all cheer each other on.

T2            1:01

T2 went smooth.  I congratulated the Rutgers athlete on his strong ride and got ready for a strong run putting my focus on catching him sooner rather than later.

RUN   17:04

During the early part of the 5K run, I was focused on catching and passing the Rutgers athlete.  I was able to make my pass in first half mile of the course.  The course was partly on a boardwalk near the swim and then transitioned to a paved path next to the beach for the second mile of the course.  Mile markers were clearly marked.  I tried to keep my pace under 6-minute miles for the first mile and then increase my pace with each of the remaining miles.  Since I was in the second wave there were a few people ahead of me which helped motivate me to keep increasing my pace on the run.  I was able to see the finish line from about 800 meters out and I was able to kick it in and pass one last athlete about 50 m before the finish line.

FINAL   54:45

After my race, I cheered on my teammates as they all finished with strong times (every racer finished in the top five of their age group!!!).  After everyone finished, we went down and the times were posted.  I knew that I had a good race, but I was completely surprised when I looked up at the results and saw that I was the overall race winner!  Since we were in the second wave, I was not the first to cross the line.  But, it just so happened that my time was the fastest of the day.

The race was a fun event overall and well run.  I would recommend it to others as a fun summer sprint triathlon.  The flat course helped out and everyone on the team was able to put up some really fast times which can be helpful to motivate you in the middle of your summer training.  I think next year I will try to do the race again and I would recommend others as well.

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Race Report: Mooseman 70.3

June 3, 2012

by Nick Smith

butriathlon.com

Final 5:11:10

I headed up to New Hampshire the evening before the race to pick up my race packet and attend the athlete pasta dinner at a Camp Wicosuta.  The race site was awesome – right in the woods, decked out with Ironman brand race gates and ads. This was my first Half Ironman (Swim 1.2 miles / Bike 56 miles / Run 13.1 miles).  Seeing all of the logos and gating was the first time it occurred to me that this was more of a real-deal triathlon than any of the sprints I’d done before.

My pre-race accommodations didn’t work out quite as planned. I ended up staying the night 5 miles from the course in the trunk of my CR-V; spacious as a vehicle overall, but not comfortable to sleep in. I was asleep by 10PM, but woke up a few times during the night and just never slept all that soundly – partly because there was a street lamp outside. Next time, I’ll camp or make sure I’ve squared away a bed or couch.

RACE PREP/RACE MORNING

I awoke at 4:30AM, headed for coffee and a bagel, and made it to the race course by 6AM (traffic). By the time I was body marked and into the extremely muddy transition, I had only 25-min. before I had to make the hike down to the water for the swim start.  I skipped warming up, set up transition, found the port-a-potties, fueled up on Gatorade, and set off.

SWIM   32:48 (1:41/100M)

I got a short swim in before I was taken out of the water.  I took Vic’s advice and stayed as far right as possible for the start.  I’m a decent swimmer, but I’m not going to win any open water swims, and for me staying clear of any commotion is a bigger deal than getting a great line. This was the single best piece of advice all race.  Not only did it not affect my line, but I encountered almost no swimmers the entire time. I got out in front while others fought behind me and jockeyed for position and I swam the coolest, calmest, easiest swim of my life. It was a walk in the park.  I never once felt out of breath.  To compare how easy this was to something more tangible – the New England Season Opener had a 400 meter swim and my pace was nearly 20 sec. per 100 m slower.

T1            2:43

I felt TERRIBLE coming out of the water. My arms and legs were rocks. I was a little concerned about the effects but they later wore off.  I made a couple of mistakes in transition; not having help getting my wetsuit removed and putting booties on my bike shoes pre-race. The thought was that it would keep my shoes dry while I was swimming, but taking the booties off (because I decided to on the spot) required effort and time. As soon as I put my shoes on in transition, I stepped in a giant puddle and soaked my shoes immediately anyway.  Not to mention my mount was weak and I almost ate it.

BIKE            2:57:38 (18.92MPH)

I refused to not to get bullied on the hills. The Mooseman course includes tough 1000 ft. climb completed twice.  I stayed composed, within myself, and hoped to catch guys who had gone out too fast later in the ride. I maintained a 155 HR for the majority of the bike, dipping to 143 by the end and never above 165 on the hills.  I had a lot of fun making a day of calmly riding up hills and catching anyone who passed me on the way down.  I tried to keep athletes in my age-group in sight.  I even spent the entire ride going back and forth with another rider.  It was fun, but tough not to get overzealous.  I wanted to focus on being aero at all times. I felt focused, comfortable and only experienced some difficulty staying tucked.

Additionally, I wanted to be smart about nutrition. My stomach gave me problems with my diluted Gatorade mix.  I experienced digestion problems – stomach fluid “sloshing” and burping.  Switching to the Ironman Perform offered on the course helped.  I tried to get all of my calories from fluids.  I only used one GU and thought it might give me digestive problems.

T2            1:55

T2 did not go well. I was cramping up.  I had to wash my feet off with Gatorade.  I didn’t want rocks and mud to be a problem, so that took extra time.  I also couldn’t feel my foot from the arch up – a combo probably of the wet, cold, and saddle pressure during the bike.

RUN   1:36:05 (7:20/mile)

I left some energy on the bike course to have gas left in the tank for the run.  I was happy with how I felt on the run so it worked out, although I’m a little curious what the impact would have been if I had tried “beasting” a hill or two once in a while.

I’ve never run a half-marathon.  I really had no idea what to expect. My 1:30 goal was a crazy idea I had as a way to break 5-hours, not any sort of actual calculated pace based on previous runs.  Despite a slow start, and a mile 2 bathroom break, the run went very smoothly.  I haven’t run in two weeks because I’ve been staying off my left foot.  Though it didn’t affect my stride, it was uncomfortable starting at mile-6 on.  I drank IM Perform at every mile, had 1 GU, and focused on catching a friend of mine who was a mile ahead.  There are a mix of short challenging and rolling hills on the run.  I tried to motor up them, but was careful not to cramp up (which was a big fear).  I maybe ran more conservatively than I’d like, keeping my heart rate at 165.  Seeing my parents, Max and Kara at the finish provided a huge uplift, and I was pretty much in tears as they blanketed me after the finish.

FINAL   5:11:10

Today was amazing. It was by far the most exhilarating race of my life, and I was choked up the whole last mile. It might seem silly, but I had my parents cheering me on waiting at the finish, and it felt like I was making them proud. The way the run course was set up they were able to see me four times during the run and once on the bike, and knowing I would have to look put together as I ran by, lest my mother worry I was dying, helped me through some tough aspects.

This was my first half ironman and I did a lot of high volume work to train for it in the month and a half prior.  If I come back next year, I want to prepare with more run/bike hill work (as both courses are brutally hilly), and more brick workouts as to get comfortable pushing through my cement legs after transitions.  I have a lot of work to do on the bike portion to catch the top echelon of my age-group peers, but my swim and run are more or less competitive.  I think with work I can come back in future years and put in a great effort!

I am so addicted to triathlon. I will definitely be back to Mooseman, and this definitely means I will do an Ironman when I feel ready.  The physical aspect is awesome, but I think the mental aspect was most enjoyable.  I don’t know what it is but there’s something about being able to be competitive for 5- hours that makes me happy.  Having someone to race for every stretch of the course was phenomenal.

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Race Report: Memphis in May Olympic Triathlon

May 20, 2012

30th Annual Memphis in May

Olympic Triathlon

By Patrick Moseley

butriathlon.com

Final 2:18:44

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.

SWIM   25:03

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.

T1            0:39

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.

BIKE            1:08:44

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.

T1            0:50

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….

RUN   43:28

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.

FINAL   2:18:44

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!

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Westchester Triathlon Race Report

By Natalie Tukan

butriathlon.com

Final 2:48:15

19th Female Collegiate

The Jarden Westchester Triathlon was my second triathlon and first Olympic-distance race. It was such a great weekend, both due to the energy of the race and to the fun (and crazy) B.U.T.T. members I was with.

We left BU around 11:30AM on Saturday. Eight of us packed into a van with our bikes and gear. After picking up our registration packets, we stayed at Dave’s house for the night, where we enjoyed a great pasta dinner and a soak in the hot tub. I was very anxious about the race and didn’t sleep much, but I was ready to go when my alarm went off at 3:30AM on Sunday morning. We arrived at the race site at about 5:30AM, and I was glad to have an hour and half to calm down and get excited for the race.

SWIM 23:53

I hadn’t realized until the day before the race that the swim was in the ocean. I’m not familiar with NY geography. I had mistakenly assumed it would be a freshwater lake. My background as a club swimmer means I’m used to lane lines instead of open water, but I was much more comfortable in the open water this time than I had been at the Hopkinton Season Opener Triathlon in May. I was initially undecided on wearing a wetsuit, but I was glad I pulled it on at the last minute. The 0.9-mile course wound around rocks on one side causing me to sight the buoys more often than I would have liked. This made it harder for me to keep up a fast pace.

T1 2:10

I yanked off my wetsuit as fast as I could (which, admittedly, is not very fast!) and took a gulp of water before running out of transition with my bike. I put the swim out of my mind and prepared to focus only on the upcoming 25-mile ride.

BIKE 1:26:20

Since I don’t own a bike, I borrowed one for the race. I completely crashed on the bike about a mile into the course. I don’t really know how it happened, but I’m lucky I was wearing a helmet. A police officer was nearby and helped me up, but there wasn’t really anything he could do for me. After a minute, I got back on my bike and rode off shaken. I had road rash on my left arm and leg, but I knew I could keep going. Gripping the handlebars for the next hour was painful since my right palm was bruised from landing on it, but I’m so lucky that I didn’t sustain any major injuries.

The uphills weren’t as difficult as I had been expecting, and some of the down hills were very steep and fast. I would check my watch each time I saw one of the 5-mile markers to make sure I was maintaining my pace; just a little over 17 MPH. The highway was uneven and made me nervous of falling again. Otherwise, it was a great course and the scenery was beautiful.

T2 1:06

After dismounting, I tried to run my bike back into transition, but slowed down to a walk because my legs were so wobbly. I re-racked my bike, grabbed my hat, and then headed out for the run. I had a GU as I was starting the run; I’m not very comfortable taking my hands of the handlebars during the bike. This made me too scared to fuel up during the ride. I also brought a water bottle with me for the run because I knew I would need the extra fluid.

RUN 54:49

I was concerned about how the run portion of the race would go since my right foot had been bothering me all week, but I had so much adrenaline that I didn’t even notice my foot. All three of the BU men passed me at the beginning of the run. Seeing them sprint past me motivated me to keep going despite my exhaustion. My pace was about a minute per mile slower on the run than I would normally hold for 6.2 miles, but I maintained a steady pace and even sped up near the end. I was definitely glad I had my water bottle. It was warm and humid outside, and I used the water at the aid stations to splash on my face to cool myself off. I started to reach a wall around mile 4 but started giving myself a mental pep-talk and managed to sprint into the finish line where I promptly collapsed before finding the medical tent to get my injuries bandaged up.

I didn’t have a goal time entering the Westchester Triathlon other than just finishing. Considering my wipe-out on the bike, I did better than I expected. I’ve decided that I need to invest in a bike, because my ability to improve is limited by not being able to train on the bike and practice bricks to get used to running after cycling. I really enjoyed the race and had such a fun weekend with the team.

FINAL 2:48:15

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Lake George Olympic Triathlon Race Report

By Patrick Moseley

Final 2:25:18

22nd Male Collegiate

The Lake George ODT was my 5th triathlon and 6th race this year.  Also, as a new member of the team, I was really excited to compete in my first Northeast Collegiate Triathlon Conference (NECTC) race.  I had raced twice with the team over the summer, but I expected the collegiate conference division to bring something new to this event that I had not experienced before. The race and trip definitely exceeded the high expectations I had.

RACE PREP/RACE MORNING

We met up at 11AM the day prior, loaded up and set out for the 3-4 hour drive.  It was easy to pass the time either enjoying the beautiful natural scenery of upstate NY, or listening to bizarre music courtesy of Dave and Peter.  When we arrived at packet pickup, we met up with the Northeastern University Triathlon team, and went to a restaurant with them.  They were a good group, and it was cool to talk with other college athletes from Boston.

On race trips, I’m always kind of the black sheep in that I bring every single thing I will consume with me from home.  While everyone else is doing the pasta thing at this Italian restaurant, I pull out my salad, beans, and quinoa.  This is just the routine that has worked the best for me. I feel much better having familiar foods in my body the day before and the day of a race.

Race morning, I wasn’t feeling too hot due to sleeping (or not sleeping much) on the floor of a hotel room.  Only getting 3-4 hours of sleep before a race is certainly far from ideal, and was in the back of my mind as I got my bike ready, ate breakfast (banana, raisins, and dry oatmeal), and got dressed.  I quickly put it behind me by recalling my best race of the summer back in June where I also barely slept the night before.

We arrived at the race site earlier than most people (probably just before 5AM), before transition was really supposed to be open.  After getting body marked and settled into transition, a few of us went for a warm-up run in the dark of the morning with assistance from Colin’s head lamp.  My run legs felt pretty good considering the sleep thing.  Shortly after, we did a warm up ride.  I lost the group right out of transition because my bike was making some concerning noises.  I stopped to check it out, but there were just leaves in my rear brakes.  What a massive relief considering this was 30-ish minutes before our wave start.

After getting back, putting on the wetsuits, and doing a quick swim warm-up, it was time to wait for the 6:55AM wave start.  I usually just try to stay as relaxed as possible waiting for the start, focusing on how confident I am in my training and what my goals are for the day.  I’ve had my sights set on a sub-40 minute 10k run all summer.  It was a big thing weighing on me standing outside of transition.

SWIM   25:56

There was an issue with the buoys before we started.  Two of them would not stay in place.  We were instructed to “ignore them.”  Definitely some confusion in the water due to that, but things happen and you roll with it.  Also, after coming out of the water, you had to run across the street to get to T1 after coming out of the water.  The volunteers/directors were on top of that and really watched for us and held off the passing cars.

At the start of the swim, I went out pretty aggressive like usual, but had something happen to me that hadn’t before…I panicked.  I never panic during races, but about 60 seconds into the swim, I really noticed feeling fatigue (from not sleeping…I think?) which didn’t instantly cause me to swim much slower, but got in my head.  I really began to wonder for a second if this would be the longest Olympic triathlon I had ever done, but somehow I settled into my usual pace and regained composure.

I was able to sight and stay with a group for most of the swim, but I’m not sure if the buoy situation caused me to swim extra distance or not.  The swim itself would be a little long.  The race directors told us the lake was high from the recent storm that went through New England.  It just meant you had an extra 50 meters or so to run in one to two feet of water at the end of the swim.  All those things considered I was satisfied with my swim split.

BIKE 1:16:57

When we drove the bike course the day before, the other guys that are stronger cyclists than me were pretty stoked about how flat and downhill the course was.  While this is a big advantage for a strong cyclist, it is also great for me as someone who races with a really run-focused plan.  I was excited to have less hills, meaning fresher legs for the run.  The course did not disappoint during the race.  I felt the most confident I have ever felt during a bike portion of a triathlon during this race.  I had a professional bike fit done by Grady at Landry’s a couple of weeks before this race.  I also bought a more comfortable saddle, which resolved many comfort and inefficiency problems I had been struggling with on the bike this summer.  I was able to hit 32 mph on some of the down hills, and maintain 19 to low 20s on the flats.  The last leg of the bike was really nice. We rode alongside the lake we swam in.  I had some great scenery surrounding me as I prepared myself mentally for the run and race finish.  I almost had a snag at the end; it was kind of unclear where to go to get back into transition, and the volunteers were directing traffic and didn’t see me as soon as I would have been comfortable.  I lost a little speed coming into T2 trying to make sure I rode into the right spot, but nothing major.

RUN   40:29

I think one of my favorite parts of a triathlon is putting on my running shoes in T2.  Mostly because the run’s my favorite and best leg; and partially because I can be relieved I didn’t have a race-ending mechanical problem on the bike.  I haven’t had that happen yet, but it’s a definite point of anxiety for me.

The run course was great!  It was a two loop course, with a short, steep downhill on each lap.  I know from my classes in biomechanics that running downhill still is putting substantial stress on your muscles and joints, but it still feels different, possibly better if you’ve just run uphill.  I told the other guys afterward that I really felt the downhill section breathed some life into my legs each time around.

I tried something new on the run during this race.  I paced myself with my watch on each mile.  I knew to break 40 minutes I needed to be at or under 6:24 miles for the 10K.  I think this technique helped.  Even though I did not hit my run goal, I still ran my fastest 10K!  After the first mile sign, my watch said 6:11.  I felt good and I thought I was easily on my desired pace.  However, after mile 2 or 3, my pace was 6:48, and I started to get anxious.  But, I told myself that the mile signs may not be exactly 1 mile apart, and of course my pace will be affected if a certain mile is predominantly uphill, downhill, or flat.  Somewhere during the middle of the run, I passed a few people from MIT and Northeastern.  It felt good to gasp out some encouraging words to some fellow Boston collegiate triathletes, but it also bumped up my confidence that I was moving up in the collegiate division.  By mile 5, I think I almost said out loud to myself, “STOP looking at the watch!” because I knew it was time to stop being a scientist about the race and just let it all out.  I still had enough energy to steadily accelerate all the way to a sprint finish over the last mile.

I’m really happy with my results. This was my best race so far.  I finished 23rd in the collegiate division, and was the 22nd male collegiate.  I had a great time racing my first NECTC race, and can’t wait for the next one. Bring on MightyMan!

FINAL   2:25:18

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Patriot Half Triathlon

By Ben Lakin

butriathlon.com

 Final 5:55:53

15th M25-29, 224th OA

Having spent a year intensely training with the BU Triathlon Team, I was ready for a new challenge.  I had completed three Sprint and two Olympic Distance Triathlons over the past year, and I was ready to try the Half Ironman distance.  I registered for the Patriot Half in East Freetown, MA in January, knowing that I wanted my second race of the season to be a half ironman.  I trained hard all spring, focusing on building a lot of base for the longer distances.  My goal was simply to finish in less than 6 hours (I was striving to break 5:45), and I was fairly pleased with my performance on race day.  I raced hard, learned a lot and gained confidence that I could complete longer endurance sports.  

RACE MORNING

 

Since the swim waves started at 7 AM for the Patriot, I awoke at 4 AM on race day.  I quickly dressed in my tri gear and warm ups, prepared an English muffin with peanut butter, woke up my girlfriend who agreed to come to the race with me (I know…what was she thinking?) and lugged all my previously-packed gear to the car.  We drove down to East Freetown as the sun was cresting over the horizon, and the scene made me more excited.  The drive lasted about an hour, and during that time I ate my English muffin and continued hydrating.  We arrived at the parking area around 5:30 AM. 

Unfortunately, the lines for registration and body marking were already fairly long and growing quickly.  I hurriedly signed in, picked up my “schwag bag” and waited to be body marked.  Once marked, I proceeded into the transition area to set up everything.  Typically, I warm up with a short run followed by a swim before the race start.  However, due to the lines to get body marked, I had to settle for just a warm up swim.  After ensuring my transition area was arranged correctly, I studied the entrances and exits to the transition area, memorized the location of my bike rack, donned my wet suit and headed to the race starting area for a warm up swim.     

With swimming not my strongest sport, I’ve started doing a warm up swim before each race to calm my anxiety and let my body adjust to the water temperature.  Thankfully, the water wasn’t cold on Long Pond as it was 70-degrees on race day.  This is my first year racing with a wetsuit, and I have greatly enjoyed the investment.   Before starting the swim, I examined my goggles and ensured they were adjusted correctly.  For the warm up, Mark Slater (another graduate student on the BU Tri Team) and I swam out to the first buoy and back, and I simply focused on sighting and form and mixed in a few accelerations to increase my heart rate.  Feeling pretty loose after the warm up swim, I proceeded over to the starting area and was ready to race.

SWIM   36:34

 

The swim was a 1.2-mile rectangular course with a shallow water start.  When our wave was called, we all proceeded over the timing chip mat and into the water.  I dipped under the water once more to check my goggle seal and then made my way over to the right side of the mob in an effort to avoid some of the craziness when the swam began.  Finally, the bell sounded and we started.  Despite trying to move to the right before the start, I still was kicked and whacked a few times in the first 100-yards. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to stay with the leaders on the swim.  I tried to stay focused, concentrated on my form, breathing and conserving energy for the remainder of the race.  Thankfully, my open water swimming skills have begun to improve, and I found myself tracking fairly straight and sighting well.  After about 200-yards, I fell into a rhythm and swam the long distance. 

T1   4:04

This year, I learned that swimming until your hands reach the ground is faster than standing up earlier and attempting to run out of the deeper water.  That’s what I did, swam until my hands touched bottom. Emerging from the water, I was dizzy.  I often become dizzy after a hard swim, but I focused on jogging out of the water and removing my goggles and swim cap.  I started stripping my wetsuit as I ran towards my bike. As I ran to my bike, I noticed my friend Mark was already at his transition spot.  Since we were the first wave, we were some of the first racers out of the water.  Being new to wearing a wetsuit, I learned I need to practice removing it quickly.  I struggled to remove the wetsuit from my feet before finally succeeding.  Since I was doing my first half ironman, I decided to don biking shorts for more comfort on the ride.  I slid those on over my underarmor shorts.  Then, I put on my shoes, gloves and helmet and ran out toward the mount line.

 

BIKE   3:11:32

 

Initially, it was a little cool on the bike as my skin began to dry in the wind, but the sun was continuing to rise, making for a beautiful day.  Thankfully, the bike course was fairly flat throughout the race.  I quickly settled into a rhythm and cranked out the miles.  The course was a double loop course and was not closed to traffic.  It was well managed and policed at the major intersections.  There were two water bottle exchanges on each loop that I later realized I should have utilized.  I had planned to average 17-18 mph on the bike to save something for the run.  My legs were feeling strong after averaging 18 mph on the first loop.  I kept the pace for the second loop.  It was encouraging to pass my friends, girlfriend and all the spectators at end of the first and second loops. 

After completing the first loop, the temperature began to rise.  I realized it was going to be warm on the run.  There was a beautiful causeway section over a lake on the ride about 20 miles into each loop.  It was foggy and gloomy on the first loop, but the scenery was spectacular on my second pass.  As I approached the camp and headed into the second transition, I knew I had lost a lot of ground on the bike.  I anticipated this. I’m fairly new to cycling and I don’t have an aerodynamic time trial bike.  I was also determined to save some energy for the run.        

T2   3:09

As I entered transition, my legs had their usual wobble.  I quickly racked my bike, changed into running shorts, slipped into my running shoes, grabbed my race belt and hurried toward the run out.  As I exited the transition area, I realized I forgot to grab my next GU.  Oh well…there would be plenty of aid stations with Hammer Gel.  I decided not to turn back. 

RUN   2:00:36

The first ½ mile of the run course follows the same route as the bike.  I had focused on bricks going into this race.  My legs quickly loosened and my stride settled.  I passed several people as I held my 8-minute mile pace.  I passed Mark around mile 2.  My legs and body were feeling great for the first 6 miles, and I maintained my intended pace.  At the six mile marker, I suddenly ran out of steam.  It literally felt like someone had turned off the power to my legs.  My legs didn’t hurt, but I didn’t have any energy.  At this point, I realized that it was quite warm (I later found out it was about 85 degrees) and I was beginning to feel the intensity of the sun.  I slowed and walked for about 20-yds to try to regain my focus.  I started running again, but my energy still was significantly lacking.  After struggling to get some momentum going, I finally reached the mile 7 aid stations.  I gulped down some water, HEED Sports Drink, and dumped a cup of water onto my race hat to cool off.  At this juncture, I created a new plan to finish this race.  I realized I was too dehydrated to maintain my goal pace.  I started running to each aid station.  I walked through the aid stations to pick up water, HEED and/or an orange slice (those tasted so good after 5+ hours of competition!).  Then, I ran to the next aid station.  I simply focused on running to the next aid station.  After 3 miles, I began to get into a rhythm.  This strategy quickly helped me get passed the 12-mile mark.  My adrenaline began to surge as I continued to run towards the finish.  I heard the spectators’ cow bells as I drew closer to the finish line.  What a relief.           

Coming into the camp, over the foot bridge and down the final straight across the line was a great feeling as the announcer called my name.  I grabbed a water bottle, took a seat and tried to relax for a minute as my girlfriend came to greet me.  I was pleased to complete my first half ironman and grateful that I was supported by several good friends.  I learned a lot from this race, and I think my next one could be even faster.

FINAL   5:55:53

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Cape Ride to Benefit the Halls Step Foundation and Fisher House

By Katie Weller – May 23, 2011

butriathlon.com

Sandwich to Provincetown…and back – 112 miles

THE EARLY MILES

Overall, the CapeRide went really well and was an awesome experience for everyone. Gordon, Chris, and I left from Shawme State Park at 8 AM after having a quick breakfast of bagels and peanut butter. Chris and I camped there the night before in a yurt and the campsite let Gordon park his car in the parking lot all day. The prices were really reasonable and they had great facilities – I recommend the campsite to anyone who races on Cape Cod and needs a place to stay.  The weather was a little rainy and cold, but we all had the right gear; long cycling pants, under armour, light cycling jacket, full gloves.  Chris and I both carried Camelbacks.  Gordon carried two extra water bottles in his jersey pockets. We all had 2 water bottles on our bikes, GU gels, and NRG bars.

We stayed on route 6A the entire ride which was really convenient because there was no chance we could get lost.  Last year, Chris and I spent 10 miles riding around Sandwich looking for our car. We kept the pace around 17-MPH; relatively easy for the first 30 miles. We each pulled for 5 miles and took turns drafting.  The roads were not busy for the first 30 miles.

PROVINCETOWN AND BACK

We turned onto 6A.  Our pace slowed for the next 30 miles to Provincetown due to long hills and busy roads.  We each had 2 gels and a couple small NRG bar samples along the way.  We stopped in Provincetown to use the public bathrooms on the pier and ate sandwiches at one of the snack bar areas. We rested for about an hour, which gave us enough time to relax but didn’t put us behind schedule.  Provincetown was really cold and windy when we arrived, but we made use of a Bank of America ATM area and crammed all 3 of us and our bikes in to get warm!  We received some very weird looks from people walking by.

We finished eating, filled our water bottles up and headed back. At first, the ride was a lot harder.  There was a huge headwind and we were all cold from the rest. We powered up some big hills, which we found were a lot bigger on the way back than the way there. We struggled for a few miles and took turns pulling.  Once we hit 6A, the ride went really well again. We picked up the pace back to 17-18 MPH and finished the ride back in Sandwich where Chris’s parents picked us up.

The cool weather also kept us from sweating excessively. We ended up bringing more than we needed.  I ended up drinking all the water in my Camelback but only half a water bottle.  I wouldn’t bring less because if it were hot, we would have needed the extra calories and water.

This is my second year doing this ride.  It has been a great experience, but I probably won’t do it again. Route 6 is very busy and feels like you’re riding on a highway. It has also been cold and rained both years.  Many of the roads don’t have a much of a shoulder to ride in.  Regardless, I’m really happy I did the ride this year, and look forward to doing more century rides in other parts of the country.

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