On September 11th I returned to compete in this year’s Hightstown Triathlon. This was my third triathlon of the year and final one of the season. I did the races in the reverse order than I probably should have – Half Iron, Olympic and finally a Sprint. Maybe next year I’ll figure it out.
I enjoyed competing in this event last year and was interested in competing again. My brother-in-law had recently purchased a bike and we talked about this event as this year they were offering a duathlon as well as a sprint triathlon. We signed up and made plans to travel to the race together. I also had planned to meet up with a couple of colleagues who were also competing in the event.
Peddie Lake – the location for the swim and the transition areas
Race packet pickup was on Saturday before the race at Peddie Lake in Hightstown, NJ. I traveled up to the race with my boys to pick up both mine and my brother-in-laws race packets as we were meeting him later that afternoon. It was a very hot afternoon and that bode well for the water temperature for the next day. I didn’t have a wetsuit for this race (it was a short swim and I didn’t have one!) and I would be racing in just a tri suit (or as my son calls them “pajamas”).
Me and my little guys at packet pickup
Packet pickup was quick and simple. As we got there they were still setting up the transition area for the next day and people were taking practice swims in the lake. It was a really beautiful afternoon.
Easy and efficient packet pickup
Setting up transition
My boys appreciated the frisbees in the race bags…they aren’t angels!!!
We left transition and headed back for a family afternoon. It was to be an early start in the morning.
My brother-in-law met me the next morning around 5am so we could rack our bikes to my car and set out early to get a spot in transition. I remembered from last year that we had to park in a lot a few minutes away from the transition area. Hightstown is about 45 minutes away so we made sure we had plenty of time to get there, unpack, transport our gear to transition, get body marked and then set up.
Yes, it is still early enough that it is dark. I had my headlamp on to get to transition
If places are unassigned I like to set up right at the end of a transition so I have a little extra space on the side to set up my gear and also that I will only have one person next to me (I’m not anti-social, I just like space at races!).
My ‘personal space’
My brother-in-law and I set up next to each other (it was his first duathlon) and coincidentally we set up in the row next to my colleagues. Nice to see familiar faces at races. I also recognized a member of the Bucks County Tri Club setting up and had a quick chat.
With my colleagues Bryan and Steve before the race
With my brother-in-law Mike before the race
After a quick pit stop, transition closed around 6:45am and we headed over to the staging area to hear the National Anthem and get race instructions. The duathletes would be running 1.2 miles as the triathletes swam 500 yards. We headed over to join our swim waves. I was with Bryan in the same swim wave.
There was about a 15 minute delay at the start of the race as the entrance to the water was blocked (the railing had to be removed so that swimmers could enter). Once the water entry was cleared the first couple of waves headed out. The swim starts in the water. This involves climbing down into the pond and treading water until the start signal. The steps in were a little slippy and slimy so I was not very sure-footed on my way in. Also, there are plenty of lily pads at the edge. I felt like I was trying to escape a net while starting to swim, I even had some strands of the lily pads attached to me until around mid race.
Looking a little awkward in my green swim cap
The swim was nice. I wasn’t going out too hard and just kept a steady pace. I was doing fairly well and my sighting was good. I got to the turn just as the fast women swim wave came upon me. At this point I got fairly well beaten up, kicked and stabbed by long finger nails. Needless to say I slowed down a little just to swim out of everyone’s way. Ultimately I got stuck behind a slower male swimmer ahead of me and whenever I tried to move around him he seemed to anticipate it and moved in that direction. Grrr…
The swim leg in Peddie Lake
Nevertheless, unlike last year, I got out the lake without falling over and grazing my knee. Success!!! Unfortunately I forgot to stop my watch so I wasn’t sure of my exact swim time and now my transition time was messed up. My watch said 14:15, my official swim time was 12:47.
I quickly dried off and got my feet into socks and my new bike tri-shoes. (I had recently upgraded my pedals and this was my first ride outside with them). Then just as I was putting on my helmet the strap came away in my hand. NOOOOOO!!!! With adrenaline running through my body my hands were shaking as I was trying not to rush and delicately thread my helmet strap back through all the loops in order to get my helmet back together. Ugh. Eventually I got out of transition and onto the bike.
Out on the bike…finally
The ride was fairly none eventful and enjoyable. I wasn’t killing it but I wasn’t going slow. My average speed was around 17.9 mph according to my Garmin for a time of 37:40. My official time was 37:43 at a speed of 17.8 mph.
The ride leg of the course
Interestingly I saw Mike as I was heading back for the last few miles. I thought it strange that he was so far behind me. It wasn’t until later after the race that he told me there had been a mix up on the duathlon. There was nobody at the turnaround on the first leg. While the duathletes were supposed to be running 1.2 miles they actually ended up running the full 5K course for their first leg. Oops. That would explain the distance between us.
Heading back to transition at the end of the bike course
Jumping off and re-racking my bike I quickly headed out onto the 5K course. My luck was continuing from the transition. This time my race belt came apart as I started my run. This was going well!! A quick fix (while running and not tripping over) and I started out on my run. Thankfully it wasn’t as warm as the day before. Last year I had run with a water bottle and I had mentioned to my brother-in-law that it might be a good idea to run with water as I remembered only one water stop on the 5K course. I was right about the one water stop. Unfortunately I didn’t follow my own advice and forgot to bring a handheld bottle. Thankfully it was just a 5K and was fairly flat and not too sunny at that time of the morning. It would warm up for later runners.
Feeling good out on the course
The run was the final leg of the race
The run felt good. It wasn’t anywhere near my 5K PR and I think I ran slower than last year’s 5K leg but I came in at 27:19 according to my watch with and official time of 27:15 for combined total sprint triathlon of 1:25:10. This was a couple of minutes slower than last year. Maybe it was down to the bike helmet issue but I think all three of the legs were 10 to 15 seconds slower. Nevertheless I was happy with my finish and proud of my 3 triathlons this year.
Enjoying my finish
Another fun race
A special medal to commemorate the day
The finish line was on the main street of Hightstown this year, different from the prior year and a much more fun finish. I felt good. I was a couple of minutes behind Bryan who was waiting by the finish line. We grabbed some refreshments and headed out to wait for Steve and Mike.
At the finish line with Bryan and Steve (you cannot see it but were were standing on the podium….before the real winners arrived)
I went back out to cheer in Mike and watch him finish.
Mike heading in (note that he has a water bottle!)
Happy with our medals
After grabbing some refreshments we headed back to transition to pack up our gear. As I was cleaning up I found all the missing pieces to my helmet and thankfully I was able to put everything back together for real. My helmet is good. It will live to ride another day.
A fun month with lots of running, relaxation and family time. No races this month but lots of other activies.
August 2016 – Nike+ Summary
This month was the most running I had done in a long time as I am ramping up the training for the upcoming Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon in early October. We also had a family vacation so I used this extra time to get a few extra miles in (I ate a lot of ice cream that week).
I didn’t do too much cross training this month. The majority of my miles were from running although I did do a couple of swim sessions totaling just over 3 miles. No bike riding this month though.
Garmin Connect – August 2016
The month started off with a quick work trip to Atlanta. Atlanta in August is hot hot hot. I had a couple of hot runs out there but I was fortunate that the hotel where I stayed provided cold towels in their gym so as soon as I returned from my run I went up to the gym and grabbed a couple of cold towels to cool down. BEST THING EVER.
Cold towels provided to hotel guests. So welcome.
I got back from Atlanta and we took a quick family trip to Washington DC to see some of the sites and explore the museums. It was a really hot and humid weekend but the boys were troopers and the museums were nicely air conditioned so that helped.
A great family weekend in the Nation’s capital.
Another week at work followed but I took the Friday afternoon off to see my boys to finish their summer day camp. I was happy that my son came home with the following award from his bunk at day camp. I can only hope he enjoys running as much as I have over the last few years.
My future pro?
Packing with a 6 year old is always a challenge/fun. Here I am trying to pack my bag…he was lucky I didn’t put him on the roof with the rest of the luggage!!
My 6 year old’s attempt at packing a suitcase. Not what we had in mind.
Finally we were all packed and headed out on the road to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Looking forward to a week of family fun together.
On the road
So, Myrtle Beach in August is hot and humid. Very. I haven’t really done marathon training in the Southern States during the summer and it was quite a shock to the system. I had on my plan a 17 mile run at the beginning of my vacation and an 18 mile run before heading home. I had plenty of time to relax during the week so I didn’t mind getting up early to beat the heat. There were, however, a couple of times when the heat nearly beat me. Thankfully I run with a debit card and a $5 bill in my running belt when I travel away from home. This was the first time that I had to stop midway during a run to refill my 50oz Camelbak water pack.
I had to stop around mile 9 of my 17 mile run to replenish all my fluids.
I’m not exaggerating (well maybe a little) but I swear I saw this on my run:
Anyway, hot or not, there was ice cream to be had this holiday in addition to daily rounds of mini golf for the boys so there were daily runs by everyone in the family. We had been working with the boys to run a 5K this summer and I had signed them both up for the runDisney ‘Virtual Running Shorts‘ series so by the time we reached the end of summer they could run a 5K and earn the ‘Red Pants’ medal.
Despite the heat and humidity (they would be running later in the morning than I would) they both managed to run and finish their 5Ks. Luckily we planned the route so everyone finished at Dunkin’ Donuts everyday for a treat and some chocolate milk (and coffee for the parents). Both boys seemed to really enjoy the experience (one more than the other) and they were both totally thrilled when I produced the medals for them to wear.
Asher completed his run first.
Micah completed his run the next day.
Both boys were really happy with their new medals. The medal was quite impressive.
It was a great vacation (the boys said it was the best ever) but ultimately it had to come to an end and we had to get back home and get ready for the start of the new school year.
A fun family vacation.
Back home and shopping for school supplies.
August was a fun month and as we wound down our vacation ready for the new school year we look forward to what September will bring.
July was a great month. I achieved things that a few years ago I never would have thought possible. Time for a quick recap.
July 2016 – Nike+ Summary
My running mileage looks low this month compared to my usual months of training. Indeed it was probably my lowest training month of running in a long time. I did however more than make up for that in total distance with swimming and running. My Garmin data below shows total monthly mileage of just under 308 miles made up of 9.8 miles of swimming, 190.6 miles of biking and 106.8 miles of running.
July 2016 – Garmin Connect Summary
The first couple of weeks of the month were tapering into the event, focusing mainly on swim and bike (I think I’ve got the running thing down). I had such an amazing experience competing in and completing my first half iron distance (70.3 miles) triathlon at the HITS Hudson Valley Triathlon. You can read the race recap here. I followed this up just two weeks later with the New Jersey State Triathlon to complete my first Olympic distance triathlon which you can read about here.
With all this talk about triathlons I was invited to be a guest to talk about my transition into the sport for an episode of the Team Shenanigans Podcast. A great bunch of folks who I got to know through the Mickey Milers running team. You can hear the episode here.
On 4th July my family all participated in the Washington Crossing Revolutionary Run in Washington Crossing Park, PA. My Wife and Father in law ran the 10K and my boys and I ran the 1 mile fun run. It was a hot morning but we had fun and after some refreshments (donuts) we had a nice fun family afternoon at the pool in our development following by a nice BBQ at home with the extended family. A good holiday weekend.
Happy 4th of July from The Running Crew
Later in the month I got to enjoy my Fathers Day present, Paul McCartney in concert at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Awesome!
Thank you Sir Paul
So yes, July was a good month. I also have some new hardware on my office desk. Well earned. Makes me smile every time I look at it.
Some new desk hardware
I know this recap is a little late (hey, it’s still not September) so thanks for hanging in there with me and thanks for reading.
Having completed my first half iron distance triathlon a couple of weeks earlier I was excited and determined to get back out there and do another triathlon (it’s an addictive sport). I also wanted to complete the course this year!!! My confidence was high having just gone almost twice the distance. I just wanted to put in a good time for myself and finish strong.
This was a hot weekend. Very hot. The temperatures were in the 90s which would be a challenge though. To make matters a little more complicated we had a family reunion down in Margate, NJ the day before the race which meant I had to drive home about 90 minutes after a day at the beach. Yeah, well planned…not to mention that I had to drive back after the race to pick up the family who were staying overnight.
I went to the race expo on the way home from work on Friday evening. It was held at the same location as last year, Mercer County Park in West Windsor, NJ. There was a full expo this year which was different from last year. It was a warm sunny evening and it was actually quite busy when I arrived. The Sprint race was on the Saturday while my event, the Olympic, was on Sunday morning.
Arriving at packet pickup
I hoped to be able to get to the finishers chute this year
The big difference from this year vs last year would be the distance. Last year the swim was 500m vs 1500m this year, three times as far. I had just completed a half iron distance of 1.2 miles (1900m) but that was wearing a wetsuit. This would be the longest swim without that aid of a wetsuit. Temperatures would be too high to wear them legally. Besides, I’d already returned my rented wetsuit so I had no choice. Also the bike and run courses were double the distance, although I wasn’t too worried about that as I’d completed that distance many times in training.
Packet pickup was fairly straightforward. We had to park in a field opposite the staging area and walk over. It was a very hot day and there was a lot of dust being kicked up in the parking lot but it was easy to access. I noticed from the pre-race details and confirmed at pickup that I would be in one of the last waves to start. That would mean 55 minutes from the start of the first wave (7:30am) until mine (8:25am). Coupled with the fact that transition closed at 7:15am meant that it would be a lot of waiting around on the day.
Well organized packet pickup
Volunteers were very helpful at pickup
The swim wave schedule. I was due out at 8:25 in Wave 12.
The expo was pretty small but more than they had in place last year. There was a merchandise section for the race which was new this year. The merchandise seemed good quality branded gear. I bought a visor (my usual race purchase) to add to my collection and I planned to wear it on the day.
Expo – vendor and merchandise area
Expo – vendor and merchandise area
They had race specific gear this year
They had race specific gear this year
I took the chance to walk around the staging areas. The set up was similar to last year with the only difference being instead of bike racks where the bike would rest and hand from the seat post, this year everyone was assigned a race box which held the bike from the rear wheel. Each box was equidistant so everyone would be evenly spaced.
Transition area looking empty
This is the biggest triathlon held in New Jersey so there were lots of spaces to fill
Bikes were held in these racks rather than on a rail
The lake where we would be swimming on Sunday
I got back home from the day at the shore around 9:30pm the night before the race. I had packed up all my gear on the Friday night and pretty much had it ready by the door so I was able to grab a quick shower and get a few hours sleep before getting up at 4:15am the next day, packing my car and heading back to the race site.
On race day after packing the car, I grabbed a cup of coffee and a light breakfast (a Powerbar for breakfast with a Honey Stinger waffle to eat around 7am), and headed out to the race site. After unpacking my car I walked to transition and had my body marked with my race number and age and headed into transition to set up my gear. It was already quite warm.
Up early on race day
I don’t seem to travel light
Setting up my gear. I use the painters bucket as a stool to sit on during transition
I think that’s everything (and perhaps a little more)
Actually very excited at this point
I was earlier than I expected to be there so I set up my gear and made sure I went over my transition plan. As it was early and I knew I had time to wait I headed over to have a practice swim at the side of the lake where it was sectioned off. I didn’t go out too far, just a quick out and back. I noticed that the timing chip was chafing my ankle a little so it was a good opportunity to get all my gear right before I actually started the event. The water was warm (like bath water) and unlike my swim up in Kingston at the half iron, the water wasn’t clear so I could barely see my hand in front of my face. Based upon my exceptional ability to not swim in a straight line this would make the swim a lot of fun!!!
As the weather was warmer than expected, the race organizers announced that they would be reducing the time between each swim wave to 4 minutes from 5. This doesn’t sound like a lot but it would mean my time would start around 10 minutes ahead of planned and would allow for people to finish a little earlier in the morning as it was getting hotter.
I watched the first few waves go off and stayed under a shaded area out the sun. I wish I had thought ahead to bring a bottle of water to sip as it was a warm day and I had plenty of time to be waiting around. Eventually my wave was called into the waiting area (they would call up a wave and have the next wave waiting directly behind them to keep things moving). It was time to pop in the ear plugs, put on the swim cap and fix the goggles in place. Go time.
As per my usual start, I went off to one side and stayed back. I waited for the announcement to go and then waited as I counted to 10 before setting off. No point in getting caught in the tangle of thrashing swimmers at the front of the pack. I’m not the ‘podium type’.
Although it wasn’t planned, I tucked in along the left hand side of the course which pretty much had me tight along the course markers. At least I wasn’t off swimming in a different direction. This actually helped as all the buoys were on my left side (I don’t see out of my right eye) and this helped keep me straight. I maintained a pretty even and comfortable pace and was pleased with how the swim went. It felt a lot longer than it probably was and I didn’t have the extra buoyancy that a wetsuit would have provided so it was a little harder to maintain swim form, but this is what I had trained for so I kept it together and kept swimming.
The only time I veered off course was the final turn. The first three turns were all left turns and I was tucked in along that side. The final turn for home was on the right. As I said earlier I don’t see out of that side and we were swimming straight into the sun. I didn’t turn early enough when I should and so went a bit further in one direction and had to make up some ground just to get into the finisher chute. Still, I felt like I held it together well and wasn’t too tired or out of breath getting out of the water and heading into transition. I was out of the water an into transition in a time of 43:20.
Made it, although my swim cap looks like I resemble Dr Evil
A pretty clean line around the course
I’m not going to podium but I think I swam a respectable time
As I didn’t have to change out of a wetsuit this race my transition time was much quicker although it still takes time to get into the Injinji socks. The transition area was large due to the number of entrants in the race (about 1,500 I think) and I was well at the back of the transition so there was a long walk/jog out of transition to the point where I was able to mount the bike.
Where I had struggled in the last triathlon with the bike, this was a lot easier. Well for a start it was pretty much flat. It was the hills that did me in last time. I managed to get up a good speed on the bike and maintain it. I was passing quite a number of people considering I was in one of the last few waves of swimmers. I was feeling pretty good on the bike. There were quite a number of turns on this course but everything was pretty clearly labelled or they had a volunteer showing the direction.
On the way back towards the transition area we had to take a detour into and around a school campus. You can see from the map above where the course turns right and has a small out and back. As I said the course was pretty flat and at this point as it was a parking lot I put the hammer down as we were not on the road and was able to pass quite a number of riders. I’m not a fast cyclist by any means but I was able to average 17.4mph over the 20 mile course to finish the ride in 1:07:55.
Finishing the bike and dismounting meant the long run back into and to the back of the transition area. I had neglected to put on sunscreen for the bike portion even though I had left a note in my bike shoes. I had been in the blazing sun for over an hour. I had a pretty interesting tan line later. I had left a second reminder to put on sunscreen in my running shoes and this time I didn’t forget. It was around 11am by this stage and it was hot.
The run course was a two out and backs. 3 miles out and back towards transition followed by another 3 miles out and back on the other side of transition. Because of the heat the organizers had set up sprinklers at a couple of locations on the course. The run was mainly on black top which made the heat a little more intense but there were some shaded areas. At two points on the course there were ice-cold towels available which were definitely appreciated.
On the first half of the course it was a little tight as we passed through a narrow pathway among the trees but at least it was shaded. At this point I was planning to stop at every water station and drink water, pour a cup over my head and have some Gatorade at every other station. The volunteers were great. It cannot have been easy for them to spend all this time standing around in the heat either.
The water was cold, ice-cold on occasions. I loved that. I’ve not been to many races where they have made sure that the water temperature was well-managed. It was so hot and running a 10K around the middle of the day after a 21 mile swim/bike warm up meant that most people were in danger of overheating. The volunteers made sure that we were taking on water. At some stations they had people offering to splash you with cold water in addition to giving you something to drink. Nice.
The second out and back started beyond the transition area and passed briefly by the finisher chute. Only a few miles to go. Again, a narrow pathway with two directions of runners but this time there was less shade. I saw many people at this point just walking because of the heat. I slowed down to keep my heart rate from being too elevated but was able to maintain a steady pace. The second sprinkler on the course was truly appreciated. Just around mile 4.5 and was perfect. Once I reached the final turnaround I had a huge smile on my face. Just 1.5 miles to go until the end. I was ready to head in.
Given the heat conditions I was beginning to wonder why it seemed all triathlon clothing was black…
The photographers managed to capture a few action shots.
And then I heard it, the finish line was ahead. Music and cheering. I turned towards the finish chute and ran towards the finish with a huge smile. I had been pulled off the course less than half a mile from the bike transition due to weather last year and never had the chance to finish the race. There was no one or no conditions stopping me this time.
Heading for the finish line
Made it! You can see how happy I was.
Completed my first Olympic distance triathlon
I crossed the finish line with a 10K time of 59.20, well short of my sub 50 minute PR but less than an hour in these conditions, for an official total time (including transitions) of 3:02:02. Now I have a baseline time to work with for my next Olympic distance.
At the finish line they had cooling tents where you could walk through cold showers. I was already wet enough so I grabbed my medal and water and headed to the food tent to grab the post race goodies. We were given water, fruit, a soft pretzel, chocolate milk. There was some type of sandwich which I couldn’t eat (as a vegetarian) but the food was plentiful. I briefly stopped by the Bucks County Tri Club tent to say congratulations to everyone before heading back to transition to pack up. I had to drive down to Ocean City, NJ to pick up the family. No rest…
Olympic Distance Finisher
Looking back to the finish
Some well earned bling
The potential ‘Pinterest’ image
I have to say that this was a fun distance. It wasn’t as exhausting as the half iron distance (which makes sense) but it was still a challenge and just long enough to make me feel like I really had to push. The heat was a big factor in my slow run pace but overall I am very proud of being able to finish this one. This was definitely a place I had to return to complete my race from last year and I think I did a pretty good job. It was fun. This triathlon sport is getting very addictive. It is so rewarding. If you have thought about doing this but never pulled the trigger, I say give it a go. You never know if you don’t ‘Tri’!
I was recently invited to be a guest on the Team Shenanigans Podcast to discuss transitioning from pure running to stepping into the world of triathlons. While I might not be the most accomplished triathlete (I’m still a newbie) this was recorded just a week after completing my most recent half iron distance triathlon. It was a fun conversation (with some very good editing before publication).
On July 9th I completed my first half iron distance triathlon at Williams Lake, NY up in the Hudson Valley put on by the HITS Triathlon Series. This is a 70.3 mile event made up of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run.
Since I started running back in the late summer of 2010 I have achieved many things I didn’t think possible. Just getting off the couch and training for a 5K was a big accomplishment for me. Slowly I built up my running endurance and 15 months after my first run I finished my first marathon, the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. Since then I have achieved some big milestones for myself. In May this year I completed my 15th marathon and I have completed a number of the runDisney Challenge races and even an ultra distance run.
However, I never even considered a triathlon. I don’t know what made me finally decide but in late 2014 I signed up for my first triathlon, the New Jersey State Triathlon for the Olympic distance in July 2015. My problem was that I hadn’t been swimming in years and I needed a lot of work. I ended up freaking out a few weeks before the race and stepping back my distance to the sprint triathlon as I was really nervous for the swim. I did conquer the swim in my first triathlon but unfortunately the race did not turn out as planned. It was cancelled due to a lightning storm mid race. I quickly rebounded by signing up for another sprint distance a couple of weeks later and finally completed a triathlon. I followed up that after some encouragement (peer pressure) by a number of work colleagues to sign up for another local sprint triathlon which I successfully completed. Okay, my triathlons were over. Done. Complete…Or so I thought.
Competing in the Medford Lakes Colony Sprint Triathlon last August.
Some of my friends were talking about doing longer distance triathlons and a few were actively talking about half iron and full iron distance races. Around the same time they announced a new 70.3 distance race down in Atlantic City, NJ and I was considering that, however, it was a little costly and the timing didn’t work out. I also lacked the ability to swim far enough at the time (or so I thought) and I only owned a hybrid bike which I knew wouldn’t get me through a longer distance race. Speaking to my friend Bob, he mentioned that he had signed up for a smaller sized 70.3 race up in the Hudson Valley. It was also held on a Saturday so it wouldn’t take up a full weekend away and it was a good value (about the same price of a runDisney half marathon). I looked into it and thought maybe…I just had to convince my Wife. Challenge accepted!
Somewhere somehow my Wife was informed (probably by my Sister-in-law) that triathlons involved swimming in shark infested waters. I had to convince her that there were no sharks. All my previous sprint tri’s were in ponds or man-made lakes but she was still convinced there would be sharks. I explained that (at the time I signed up) the swim was held in a bend in the Hudson River and that there were no news reports of sharks in Upstate New York (bears maybe but not sharks). She then asked if I had enough life insurance and whether it was fully paid up. Seeing as my Father-in-law is our insurance agent I said we were covered and paid up. Finally she said I could do it as she knows there was no talking me out of it. So, in early November last year I signed up for my first 70.3 race, the HITS Kingston, NY Triathlon.
Now that I was signed up I found a half iron distance training plan that seemed to fit into my schedule from Endurance Works, I joined LA Fitness so I could go swimming regularly (the plan called for at least 3 swims per week, I subscribed to a swim training plan (Tri Swim Coach) and purchased a road bike (with all my saved up gift cards and a some birthday money) from my local bike store (Guy’s Bicycles). The training plan fit in perfectly between the New Jersey Marathon and the actual race. I steadily built up my swim distance and endurance in the pool and got used to sitting on that bike saddle for a few hours. By the time the race approached I felt that I was ready, nervous…but ready.
One final thing I needed to take care of was a wetsuit. I hadn’t used a wetsuit for any of the sprint distance tri’s I had done last year but based upon the distance it was recommended that I take advantage of the extra buoyancy a suit would provide me and so not wanting to jump into a big expense straight away I decided to rent a wetsuit. I ended up renting from a company based in Florida called Tri Wetsuit Rentals. The owner, Mike, was very helpful in answering my questions about sizing and suggested a couple of suits and even said that in the (unlikely) event that I lose some weight before, all I had to do was call before the suit was shipped in late June and let him know.
I had my first minor freak out when the wetsuit shipped but got lost by the US Postal service for about a week. I could see from the tracking information that it was close but it had gone via multiple post offices including my local post office more than once before it was finally delivered exactly one week before I was due to leave for the race. Mike was very helpful throughout and we had a ‘Plan B’ to send a replacement but thankfully it wasn’t required. Unfortunately I missed my last opportunity to try out the suit in an open water swim with the Bucks County Tri Club as the suit arrived too late. I wouldn’t get a chance to try the suit in the water before race day. I did watch a few YouTube videos in advance of receiving the wetsuit (some more helpful than others) on how to get into and out of a wetsuit, none of which helped prepare me for the full body workout that was putting one on without any help!!! It was a struggle the first time but after a couple of attempts I found a method that worked best for me.
For someone who has been overweight most of their life, having Orca emblazoned across your chest isn’t exactly flattering.
When my Wife saw this she had a field day with orca related jokes…
Thanks honey for all your support…
Race weekend finally arrived. I had been in touch with my friend Bob over the weeks leading up to the race and we had planned to meet at the staging area (Williams Lake) and get a quick open water swim and then grab lunch before the mandatory athletes’ meeting that afternoon.
Having taken a vacation day from work I packed up my car and headed (via a quick stop at my chiropractor for a last-minute alignment check) on my way to Kingston, NY.
On my way. 70.3 or bust!
Thankfully it was a smooth and easy ride up. About 30 minutes out from my destination I pulled over at services to grab a drink and a snack before the last leg of the journey and happened to bump into Bob who was also on his way up to meet me. I followed him the rest of the way to the race area and we quickly set about getting ready for a swim. Bob gave me a couple of tips on putting on the wet suit and we headed down to the water. It was a hot and sunny day and the water temperature was really nice. It was time for my first wet suit swim…I let Bob go first.
Arriving at the race site. This confirmed we were in the right place.
The finish line just a day away.
Williams Lake. The buoys were being set up as we arrived.
Bob went first. We planned to swim out and back to the first buoy.
Not nervous at all…
I ventured out. Bob advised me to go a little slower than I would in the pool to keep my heart rate down as you can quickly overheat in a wetsuit. Once I started swimming it did feel a little weird and there were a couple of anxious moments early on but I followed his advice and I set out to the buoy, circled around it and came back. One thing that was very evident from my swim is that my sighting in the water needs a heck of a lot of improvement…that would be evident the following day as well. As you can see from the GPS map below, this was supposed to be a simple out and back, i.e. pretty much a straight line. Not quite.
Not the best sense of direction
I did it. A little out of breath but I got it done.
Even though it was a short swim I felt comfortable in the wetsuit, the water temperature was warm but not too warm and the spring fed lake was clear (you could see your hands in front of your face!).
After we both completed the swim we stayed to talk to a few of the people setting up and looked around the staging area. This was a small race to be sure. There were 5 events going on the next day – full distance, half distance, Olympic distance, sprint distance and an open distance.
Hanging the suit up to dry
The packet pickup tent
Swim course map – Two loops around the lake
Bike route around the Ashokan Reservoir
The updated run course
A small merchandise tent who made custom shirts on request (more on that later)
When I had signed up for the race originally it was a two-day event. The swim was supposed to be in a bend in the Hudson River in Kingston, NY with the full and half distance being held on the Saturday and all other races being held on Sunday. Back in February it was announced that the location was moving to Williams Lake in Rosendale and that it would be a one day event with the races staged at 4 different times during the day (the full and half would start together).
After the swim we went to pick up our race packets. I have to say that the staff were all very friendly. The staff took time to ask if we were okay and were happy to chat and answer questions.
Bob and I headed into Rosendale and had lunch at a small cafe with lots of vegetarian options (perfect for me) and chatted over lunch. Bob showed me how to use my Garmin 910 in multisport mode which I hadn’t really tried before. We then headed back a few minutes before the Race Director started the athletes meeting.
Tom Struzzieri, the founder and CEO of HITS, was there to talk us through each leg of the event, the how to’s of the transition area and the weather outlook for the next day. He shared the plans for the aid stations and explained what would be provided even down to how many scoops of Heed would be in the pre-made water bottles on the bike rides (so that we had an idea how much nutrition to carry and could take in on the route).
The race director giving the pre-race athletes meeting
The weather overnight was forecast with a storm and lots of rain. As the race wasn’t too big most people decided not to check in their bikes the night before so we could keep all our equipment dry and bring it the next day.
After the meeting Bob and I took a walk through the transition areas and walked the start of the run course. As the course had changed from the original location I hadn’t seen the new map. The course was described as an initial run out, a loop through a cave (a bat cave…) and then a double out and back along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail across the Rosendale Trestle Bridge.
Everyone was provided with their own individual transition box. It was spacious compared to other events I have taken part in and the stool they provided was a nice touch.
The exit from the swim to transition
The exit from transition to the bike course.
And back to transition. You can see from the debris on the side of the transition that this whole area is currently under development. This should make the site much more attractive and with added features in the coming years.
The view back into the transition at the start of the run
I hadn’t realized before now but as soon as we started walking the course we saw it was a proper trail, i.e. not paved…mud, rocks, sticks and roots…and a bat cave.
Yes…that’s a trail.
I will point out that this is ‘before’ the heavy rain that fell overnight.
Yup, that’s a cave.
They said there were bats in side.
I just looked straight ahead to the exit and didn’t look deep into the cave. No need to cause a kerfuffle with the locals…
I’m ready for the next day. I may have to change my outfit though.
Bob and I decided around 4pm to head back to our respective lodgings (I was about 15 minutes away in a hotel in Kingston and he was staying with family about 30 minutes south) and so we wished each other a relaxing evening and said we would see each other bright and early the next day.
By the way, you may notice from the above picture that I am wearing a ‘Team Up! Autism Speaks’ shirt. Since 2013 I have run a number of events for this charity and this was the first year I had missed running the Walt Disney World Marathon (or Challenge) with them. Over the last three years I have raised close to $13,000 for the cause. As this was to be a special event for me I decided to dedicate my race to continue to raise funds for them and I signed up through their Team Up! Your Way with the goal of raising $1,000. I’m pleased to say that in addition to completing my event (spoiler alert) I was able to meet my goal. As of the date of posting this recap I have raised a total of $1,092.
I headed to my hotel in Kingston and moved all my gear (not packing light) into my room on the second floor.
My two-wheeled roommate for the night.
I quickly looked through my race packet to make sure I had everything and decided to find somewhere local for an early dinner. As I was traveling on my own I asked the front desk at the hotel for places to eat and was recommended the Olympia Diner across the street. Well, I love a good diner so I was happy to head over and see what they had. Although the diner was just across the street there was a huge downpour and I ended up driving over. Glad I didn’t leave my bike outdoors overnight.
After a meal of gazpacho and spaghetti marinara, I followed my usual pre-race routine…a cookie (unfortunately not oatmeal raisin)…and headed back to the hotel and started getting ready for the next morning with a goal of getting some sleep.
My pre-race ritual. Stick with what works, right?
I unpacked all my gear for transition and laid it all out for one final check. As you will notice from the pictures below I used flash cards in my shoes to remind me of the steps I would need to remember in transition if I was not thinking too clearly in real-time the next day.
I think that’s everything.
Cut me some slack…I’m 44 with two kids. Sometimes I cannot even remember their names.
At least I didn’t have to tell myself which wrist to put it on.
With all my gear repacked I took a hot shower and put myself to bed around 8pm hoping to get as much sleep as I could.
My Fitbit shows that I got just under 7 hours of sleep, waking up just before my 4AM alarm (one of three that I had set just in case). I made myself a cup of coffee and tried to remain as relaxed as possible. I grabbed my pre-race Powerbar for breakfast and checked my emails, other messages and the weather before getting all my gear ready. As expected, my Wife sent me a message wishing me all the best in her own way.
Thanks again honey…
My training plan sent me this message to my inbox.
I headed out around 5:15AM to the race site. There had been plenty of rain overnight and you could the result of the storm as there was quite a bit of debris on the road. I was a little nervous about riding in the rain on my road bike tires. I already had concerns about the elevation of the course and making the cut off time (I hadn’t trained too much on hills). I had never ridden on wet roads before.
When I got to the race site the course had been impacted by the rain too. Although the temperature had cooled considerably the parts of the parking areas were under water. I arrived as cars and trucks were being towed out after getting stuck in the mud. I moved my car further away on some higher ground and started to unpack.
Cars being towed out.
The aftermath. I hadn’t considered what it would do to the running trail yet.
I’m here, the bike was pumped up and so was I.
On Thursday night before I left I decided at the last-minute to grab a few kitchen trash bags to pack up any wet and dirty gear after the race. I’m glad I did as there was more rain scheduled for later in the day. I’m so glad I had them with me as when I got to transition it was very wet underfoot (and squishy) and so I used one of the bags as a waterproof barrier between the ground and my transition set up. With the extra bags I wrapped up my bike and running gear to protect them from the rain that was predicted. That was a good move.
My home base for the next few hours.
I ate my Honey Stinger waffle for a last-minute fuel top up and after a couple of bathroom breaks I got my swim gear ready and my wetsuit on and made my way through the transition to the edge of the lake.
Everyone getting ready in transition.
Ready to suit up. See you in a few hours.
As we got to the beach for the final race announcements before the start the race director asked that due to the road conditions that we are extra vigilant on the bikes and announced that they had people out on the course doing clean up where ever needed so that conditions would be as best as they could get them for us for the bike.
The race was scheduled to start at 7AM. The full and half distance athletes were due to go off at the same time. The full distance athletes would swim four times around the buoys and the half distance athletes twice. My plan was to stay steady and smooth and try to keep my heart rate down. As the race started I stayed at the back of the pack and waited until almost everyone was in the water. I didn’t plan on getting into a mess right out of the gate.
The temperature was great, a couple of degrees cooler than yesterday, and my plan was to keep a steady rhythm. My sighting wasn’t perfect…I did veer of course a couple of times but it got better as I started to get into a groove. I actually found myself passing a few people. I could feel the difference that a wetsuit provides. It was a definite help. My confidence was building as I rounded the first loop and I was able to maintain the same rhythm on my second loop. I still had a couple of sighting issues but if you look at my map below I didn’t do too bad. Ultimately my distance swam was 1.4 miles not 1.2. Not sure if it was my bad sighting or the GPS trying to grab a signal which led to the difference but I was pretty happy.
The official results had me at 54:32 for the swim. I was pleased with that. Anything under an hour for that distance was a win for me. I actually got out the water and wasn’t too out of breath. As I got out the water the race had ‘strippers’, volunteers to help you get out the wetsuit. On a side note I mentioned that in the car the next day when I was talking to my wife. She was quite taken aback…however, two little voices from the back of the car then asked “Daddy, what’s a stripper?” Oops. I explained in triathlon terms. Move along. Nothing to see here.
As I got out the water there was a little light rain. I’m glad I had my gear wrapped up. I was even more glad for the stool. I was a more tired from the swim than I thought I would be. I dried off my legs and my feet, covered them in talc and popped on my Injinji socks (not the best at helping me rush through transition). 8:02 in transition. Not good but I had a 56 mile ride ahead of me and I wanted to make sure I was ready (my longest ride previous to this was 52 miles on a bike trainer). I quickly ate an energy gel and grabbed my bike and headed out.
Once out of transition and on the bike I started slowly. I started out on the small chain ring so that I wasn’t beating up my legs early into the ride. I didn’t get out of the small chain ring for the first 8 miles.
The bike route
Bike elevation chart
The first big hill (big for me) was around mile 6. Thankfully I was able to get up the hill and knew that somewhere on the back of the course I would probably make up some time coming down the same hill. My cadence and speed were not very fast for the first hour. It was really a matter of me getting up the hills for the ride around the reservoir. My goal was to maintain an average speed over 14mph so that I would make the four hour cut off. After the first hour it wasn’t looking good…13mph. I settled into a rhythm on the bike and as the course flattened out in areas I was able to make up some time. There was light rain at the time and I had to stop a couple of times to wipe clear my glasses as they were getting wetter and wetter.
Around mile 20 the heavens opened. This was rain. The real stuff. Not the wet misty type that had been going on from the start. It was a slog for the next 20 or so miles as the rain continued. For someone who was nervous about riding in the rain and worried about the bike cut off this was not a good combination.
What I can commend the race organizers for is that despite the conditions out there, each turn on the course was clearly marked out or was manned by police or volunteers who stood out in the rain the whole time. For a race with such a small field it must have seemed a very arduous task and I fully appreciate all the volunteers that day.
There were two aid stations, one of which we passed twice, for a total of three stops. The first was around mile 12 just after we had climbed a big hill. I made a quick porta potty stop there (obviously I had been hydrating to this point) and grabbed some more fluids. The aid stations provided Hammer gels, Heed and water. The second stop was around mile 30 I think. When I got there the rain was heavy. The table was set up for a bottle exchange. I stopped and poured a bottle of Heed mix in with my existing bottle of Heed and moved on as there was no point in hanging around too long with the rain.
One thing that I will take away from the ride is that I am weakest on the bike. I have definitely become more comfortable in the seat but I did most of my riding either on the bike trainer or outside in an enclosed park loop with little elevation. It showed. I need to do more hill riding and get my cadence up. It’s all too easy to ride for three hours watching movies but I really need to know how to maintain a high cadence with my legs and how and when to push. I also need to learn how to properly fuel while riding. I kept to my plan on taking in an energy gel every 45 minutes but I had to pull over each time for fear of falling off the bike. I was able to maintain my drinking every 15-20 minutes just slowing down while I used a bottle.
The route along the reservoir itself was beautiful…well at least what I could make out through the rain and clouds was beautiful. There seemed to be a lot of ‘S bend’ curves as the road travelled around the reservoir and by this point we were sharing the road with cars. We had travelled down a major road (Route 213) earlier, however, there was a wide shoulder and although cars and trucks were zipping by, there was plenty of space for riding.
I played leapfrog along the bike course with a couple of other riders almost the whole way. I didn’t catch up with many people nor was I passed too often other than by participants in the full distance race on their much more expensive and faster tri bikes.
Finally, with about 15 miles to go the rain ceased and the skies cleared a little or maybe just the clouds got thinner. Either way the last 15 miles were more comfortable weather wise. My socks inside my shoes were soaked through by the rain and so I had to endure the sound of squelching for the last hour but I figured it was a small price to pay. My average speed was now over 14.5mph so I knew I would make it under the time limit and I still had a couple of large downhill rides.
The roads were still damp on the reverse trip down to the transition area but I flew down them (white knuckled). At one point I hit over 36mph. I’m not one for riding roller coasters…and this to me felt almost as freaky. I guess that’s another thing I have to get used to in training.
I finally made it back into transition with a time of 3:48:19 (official split was 3:48:58). Not great by any means but a) not last, and b) under the cut off. I now have a baseline for a 1.2 mile open water swim and a 56 mile bike ride (although my actual GPS distance was just over 55 miles).
On returning to transition after the rain I was glad to have kept my gear wrapped up in those trash liners and was extremely pleased that I had packed a second pair of socks. My feet were soaked through and I pretty much had to repeat almost the same transition that I had after the swim (minus the wetsuit). Dry off, talc on feet and the struggle back into the Injinji socks!!! Time in second transition was 6:01. Slow but typically it would just be changing shoes and swapping my helmet for a visor. I took the opportunity to take another energy gel before heading out on the run.
I’ve done many brick work outs in training (bike to run transition) but never after a 56 mile ride nor anything longer than a 30 minute run. This was going to be interesting.
As I headed out to start the run the ground was more soaked than before. As I ran up the hill to the first aid station I was told that the ‘bat cave’ was wet and to be careful. That was an understatement. I hadn’t even reached the cave yet and I was already having to be careful with my footing. The trail was soggy and puddle filled. In fact there were a couple of places early on where I had to walk for fear of slipping in the mud. I didn’t expect to run my normal pace for the half marathon (my PR is 1:51) but I also didn’t expect my first mile split to be 11.36min/mile.
When I had walked the course the previous day I wasn’t wearing sunglasses so when I got to the cave I could kind of see my way through with the little daylight that was streaming through the entrance and exit. I was also walking. Today I was running and wearing sunglasses. BIG difference. Once I hit the cave I could barely see. I decided to take the higher ground on the left of the cave on the assumption that it might be drier as the water would flow down to the lower side. What I didn’t know about or see was that there were rocks on that side. I tripped…twice. While I didn’t wipe out I was a little shaken and pretty much ended up walking through the cave rather than run (hence the slow 1st mile).
Once out the cave I was back in the daylight and it was then just the double out and back to run. The ground was still soaked, soft, slippy and puddled in many places. My nice clean shoes didn’t stay that way for very long. I stepped in a few places where I went down into muddy water to the tops of my shoes. I had been glad I had some dry socks on to start with but they were soon beginning to get damp from the ground below.
The run was a double out and back.
I passed the first aid station again (I would see it two more times) and the folks manning the table were very cheery and supportive. Each aid station stocked water, Heed, flat Coke, chips, orange slices, candy and cookies. At first I drank only water and Heed at each station (there were another two out on the course) but as it was getting hotter and I was beginning to feel more tired so I started to dunk a cup of cold water over my head at each station too.
I passed Bob on my way out the first time. He had a much stronger ride than me and was at least 30 minutes ahead of me. Just before the third aid station we ran across the Rosendale Trestle Bridge. If you are scared of heights you may want to rethink this race. The bridge was wide, sturdy and safe but quite a way up.
Rosendale Trestle Bridge (picture from the HITS Facebook page)
An aerial shot of the bridge on a much sunnier day
It was a spectacular setting and the benefit of running mostly in the shade kept temperatures down. It wasn’t the sunniest of afternoons as there was still a lot of cloud cover but it did feel cooler in the shade.
The turnaround was about a mile past the bridge and at that point I was taking my time negotiating points on the trail that were like mud rivers. Nevertheless it was a keep moving forward mentality. By this stage I had been on the go for over 5 hours and counting.
On my way back to the first aid station (and turnaround for the second leg) I took another energy gel to give myself a boost. I needed something at that point. At the aid station one of the volunteers suggested I take in some flat Coke. I had heard that ultra runners used this as a quick sugar energy boost and as I had just taken a gel I decided to pass this time around but as I progressed on my second out and back I decided to try something new (yeah…during a race…smart!). Luckily I had no bad reaction to ingesting the flat Coke. I haven’t had any soda since quitting last August so this was a bit weird. I had sworn off soda and now I couldn’t get enough… I was still pouring water over my head at each aid station but I was now substituting the Coke for the Heed just to keep me going.
It was at this point that I started playing the math game. I had no goal time other than to finish somewhere between 7-7.5 hours and I knew that my bike leg would eat up a great deal of that time. I was now looking at my Garmin every few minutes to see how much distance and time was left. I had seen Bob on the second out and back as I was going out and he was coming back. I figured he would be done before I reached the turnaround for the second time.
As I rounded the turnaround for the last time I began to realize that I had just under 5 miles to go. I could do this. I was going to do this. Having once run 39.3 miles in 7 hours I knew I had the endurance, but that was straight running and now I was beginning to feel a soreness in my left quad and hamstring from the bike. Everything else felt good other than tired and achy shoulders. I just put one foot in front of the other, walked around the muddy parts and powered on until I saw the first aid station for the final time.
Once I hit the aid station it was just a small up and down hill to the finish line. This was not a fast half marathon for me by any means but I was going to be under 2:20 and that meant I would be under 7:20 total time. I just had to make it another half mile to the finish.
Rounding the corner to the finish I could see Bob standing by the finish line and he had his camera out taking photos of me coming in. I ran up and gave him a fist bump and turned towards the finish line where to my surprise my Wife’s Aunt had driven down with her family from Albany (about an hour north) to meet me at the finish line. What a wonderful gesture. Totally unexpected. I got so excited I jumped high in the air as I crossed the finish line. Having family and friends meet me at the finish really lifted my spirits and took away any tiredness I was feeling.
Bob took this photo of me running into the finish
Woohoo….70.3 DONE!!! (Thanks for the photo Francine)
Hey, I know you!
Let me stop my Garmin so I can give you a High Five
I arrived during the awards ceremony so, as had been my luck all through the event, I missed having a photo taken by the official photographer. Luckily, between Bob and his wife Francine and my family I was able to get some photos at the finish line. A volunteer handed me my medal and a bottle of water and I stopped to catch my breath and take some finish line photos with everyone.
Nice to have a family meet me at the finish (Thank you Nadine, Steve and Benjamin)
Bob and I. He looks a little more rested than me.
Bob making sure I saved my multisport event file.
My official finish time was 7 hours 15 minutes. Not great…but not last. I did my first half iron distance triathlon and finished smiling. That’s enough for me. Will I do another 70.3? Probably, but I’m going to enjoy this one for a long time.
I said goodbye to Bob who had been waiting to see me finish and went over to transition to pack up my gear. My family wanted to take me to lunch (a late lunch) before I had to drive home. There wasn’t much food left by the time I had finished. I was told they were going to order more food (pizza) within the hour for the final finishers and for the full distance finishers. I decided that I would be better off having a full meal to refuel.
So much for my fancy shoes…
…and fancy socks. Just a little muddy
In transition I used the changing tents to put on some dry clothes. Those trash bags came in handy as I threw all my wet gear and towels into them to carry to the car. Before I left transition I sat down and took it all in. I had just finished my first 70.3. It was a different feeling than finishing my first marathon. That was a runners high which lasted days. This was more a mix of joy and relief. I tried to explain to someone a couple of days later that sometimes when I run I can zone out and just get into a rhythm until I am near the finish line. With the triathlon it’s a matter of focus, concentration and technique. You cannot really zone out doing a triathlon. You’ll drown or crash!!! I’m pleased to say I did neither.
I quickly called my parents in the UK to let them know I was done. I’m 44 and I still call my mother to let her know I’m okay🙂
Once I was dressed, the car packed and the bike racked we headed to Kingston where we had a late lunch/early dinner at an Irish pub. Those were the best fish and chips I’d had all day! I drank lots of water to rehydrate and a few cups of coffee to keep me awake before I said goodbye to the family and headed for my three-hour drive home…with a HUGE smile on my face.
The guy on the left in 2010 has just finished a half iron distance traithlon in 2016
I really enjoyed the event. HITS put on a professional, supportive and friendly event. For anyone dipping their toes into longer distance triathlons I would recommend one of their events. Their communication was responsive in the weeks leading up to the event, the staff were friendly the whole weekend and it was just a relaxed informal atmosphere the whole weekend. They took care of the athletes and it was good value for money compared to some of the other big race organizations out there. Check out their events list.
Oh, by the time I got to the finish line the merchandise tent was being taken down. I wasn’t able to get a finisher shirt that I had spoken to the supplier about the day before. I was waiting until after so not to jinx myself. The owner gave me his card and told me to call him the following week and he would customize any shirts that I wanted and ship them to me. Pricing was very reasonable so I followed up and ordered a customized long sleeve and short sleeve ‘70.3 Finisher’ shirt. Nice.
That night I had a pretty good long deep sleep.
Something like this. Even my kids let me sleep in.
In my inbox the next day was this message from my training plan. I didn’t need telling twice🙂
Thank you for sticking with me for this (longer than normal) race recap. At least this took you less than 7 hours to read.