Hello…it’s been a long time. Can it really be over three years since my last post? To borrow from Elton John, “I’m Still Standing”. I’m here, I’ve just been a little absent for a while. I have a few exciting updates so I need to do a big omnibus ‘catch up’ post. Strap yourselves in, there is a lot to cover and I’ll try to do this quickly.
My last post on the 2019 New Jersey State Triathlon was published way back in September 2019 (and even that one was a bit late for a race recap). It is over three years later now and while the world turned upside down I was already a little behind in my race recaps and posts before everything shut down in March 2020. I guess that’s life. Now while I had plenty of ‘downtime’ due to race cancellations, life just got in the way. Focusing on family and work is more important than my ramblings on personal race experiences but people have reached out to see if I still exist and although there has been a gap I have indeed had some great race experiences since I last posted. WordPress knows I exist as my renewal notice for the blog/blog hosting just came up. Let’s get my money’s worth.
The only way I can really do this (and memory permitting) I’ll give a quick recap on where I left off up to the present and share a very exciting event coming up in November 2022 which is sure to be a once in a lifetime event for me.
This was a do no harm race the week before the Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City. Actually, I had forgotten I had signed up for the race and I think the only reason I had signed up was that there was a ‘Star Trek’ theme. The race was easy and uneventful and I was happy with my result. I finished with a time of 2:01:21.
This was a big race for me. It was my goal race for the year and a chance to make good from my last half iron distance triathlon (remember, the one I ended up in the emergency room!!). It was a good race for me, while I did not break my goal time I still finished in 7:04:49 which still made me happy. It was hot by the time I made it to the run and I struggled in the heat but I was not disappointed in my swim nor the bike (even though it rained and I was terrified cycling up the AC Expressway).
Pretty good day out on the course despite the cold, wind and rain. Not breaking any records but this was my 8th Philadelphia Marathon and I finished in 4:10:20 which I think is my 4th fastest of the 8 (to date) times that I have run in Philly. I always love this race as it was my first and I consider it my local run. I would do it every year if I could and hope to run this as long as I am able. In this race I received my medal from my friend Robyn who was volunteering at the finish who we both realized was standing next to Des Linden, the winner of the 2018 Boston Marathon and a two time US Olympic marathoner. Cool.
In early March my family and I ran a (very cold) local 4 mile ‘Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup’ race along the Delaware Canal. Little did I know that would be my only ‘official’ race of 2020…
AND THEN COVID…
March 2020 – Love Run Philadelphia Half Marathon – Cancelled
April 2020 – Rutgers Unite Half Marathon – Cancelled and race has not returned
May 2020 – Broad Street Run – Cancelled
May 2020 – Vermont City Marathon – Cancelled and Deferred (twice) to 2021….however
Although the race was cancelled, I continued to train (hey, I was working from home and had no commuting so had extra hours each day). While the race was still cancelled I decided to run the distance as a virtual race, so on the Sunday in May when the race would have originally taken place I headed to Warminster Community Park and ran multiple 2.33 mile loops. Around 14 miles in I was joined by my wife who ran the remaining distance with me. A local race director (RunBucks) saw my post on Facebook and rode up on his bike and cycled alongside us for the last 8 miles. As I crossed an imaginary finish line after 26.2 miles he pulled out a (none dated) race medal and awarded it to me. Awesome. So great to have such a dedicated running community here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. A fun day to make up for a cancelled race.
June 2020 – Rev3 Williamsburg Sprint and 70.3 Triathlon – Cancelled and Deferred to 2021
July 2020 – New Jersey State Triathlon – Postponed and Deferred to 2021 but ultimately, I did not participate in the event due to conflict (actually a great week away in Miami)
September 2020 – Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City – Postponed and Deferred to 2021
November 2020 – Philadelphia Marathon – Cancelled and Deferred to 2021
I had often thought about doing this race as my first ultra and first trail race but it always coincided with something like the Broad Street Run or was not really compatible with a training plan. This year, as there was nothing else I had planned and I had been running regularly, I decided a couple of weeks before the race to sign up. I had never run trail races before, did not have trail running shoes and then the weather was an absolute washout the day before leading into the race. I bought myself a couple of pairs of good trail running socks (one spare to keep in my bag in case I needed to switch half way as it was a two loop course), lathered my feet with Vaseline to keep them fairly waterproof (in addition to the rain and mud there were four stream crossings) and turned up with a positive attitude. I didn’t set any records that day (other than my first official 50K so a natural PR) but made a good showing. It was very muddy and hilly and at times I was running because of both gravity and worry that if I stopped, the wet mud would just take my feet from under me, but I had a great time. I finished in 7:07:09 and found muscles in my legs that I never knew existed before. Trail running is a completely different experience and there is a lot of balance involved compared to running on asphalt. The great thing about this race is that it was in Pennypack Park which is only about 30 minutes from my house. It’s an enormous park right in the north east of suburban Philadelphia, but you would never know it was there. It was so much fun. Oh, and muddy.
Finally…the redemption race. Returning to the scene of the crime. My goal was to stay on the bike and finish with no trips to the emergency room. Besides, my wife decided she wasn’t going to drive me there so I was on my own for this one. I decided to do both the sprint and half distance races again this year. Yes, stupid is as stupid does. I never learn. While the Sprint course was pretty much the same, the half distance bike course was different…and much hillier than last time. I did however stay on the bike the whole time so that’s a win. It was such a hot weekend. The water was so warm it was like soup, not wetsuit recommended. Saturday’s Sprint triathlon was fine. It was really an effort to just keep loose and get the nerves out. I finished the sprint in a time of 1:43:52 which was quicker than 2017 but then I found out after the race distance was a little shorter by just over a mile or so. Sunday, the day of the half distance, was why I was really there.
I had two great swims both days (it helped that there was a strong current for sure). The bike course for the half, as I said earlier, was a lot more hilly than the last time I raced. There were a couple of times when people were walking their bikes up the hill (me included). It was relatively flat in 2017…which I still managed to fall off. Anyway, by the time I made it to the run it was about 99 degrees in the shade which made it a long plodding half marathon. I finished in 7:29:42. Not my best and was about as long as it took to drive home in the horrendous traffic. At least I survived unscathed. Not many official race pictures but just evidence that I finished both races with a smile on my face.
This was my attempt to beat my 2019 time. I didn’t but I still had fun. The swim was interesting this year. The tide was so low that people just got up and walked…in the middle of the bay. I was swimming and there was so much silt you could not see where you were going. You would feel the bottom of the bay with every stroke. Weird. The bike was uneventful (thankfully) and as nerve racking as it had been the previous year along the AC Expressway. The run was impacted again by the heat. It got to me bad this year and my time reflected that. I finished in 7:22:00. I can do better than that but still, I’m always glad to finish a race. This year, the finish line was on the beach which made for a unique and fun way to run into the finish line as I finished my fifth 70.3 distance triathlon.
You know me by now. Guess what…there was a challenge for this race weekend. The ‘Liberty Bell Challenge’. If you completed the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday you get another medal. Having done this type of challenge a number of times before (4 times at Disney and the inaugural ‘Rocky Challenge’ during the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon weekend) my wife just sighed and rolled her eyes as I told her I would be running both. This race had been postponed in 2020 and it would be the first marathon we were together as a couple since the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon.
Saturday’s race was smooth and uneventful. I ran the half in 2:05:26. The goal was to enjoy myself, finish without any injury and not beat myself up too much for the next days marathon. Mission accomplished. On Sunday my wife and I ran the full marathon together. This was my 9th Philadelphia Marathon and my wife’s 3rd. It was the first time she had run the altered course which takes a more scenic route through Fairmount Park and eliminates the horrible out and back near my 16-17 which I always hated. The day was fun and we supported each other well. We finished in 4:45:17 which is consistent with the two other times we have run this together.
At the finish line I received my second and third medal of the weekend. Another highlight is that we met Meg Keflezighi at the finish line. He is an Olympic Silver medalist at the 2004 games and finished 4th at the 2012 games. In all he has been an USA Olympian four times, three as a marathon runner. He has won the 2009 New York City Marathon and won the 2014 Boston Marathon (the year after the bombing). He’s an amazing person. This was really cool.
After multiple deferrals (the race directors had tried to move the race to October each of the years) we finally got to run the Vermont Marathon. The course had been modified to limit the amount of volunteers that were needed to support the race (still just post COVID) so the route was a two lap 13.1 mile course. We took our youngest with us that weekend as the eldest (now a high schooler) had commitments with the high school marching band. He plays the bass drum…the big one!!! It also happened to be Memorial Weekend so we made a long weekend out of it.
We stayed in the race partner hotel so we didn’t have to leave to get to the expo…which was a good thing as the rains came down heavy that day although it did clear up later and it was an absolutely beautiful crystal clear blue sky for the rest of our time there. We did some touristy things with our youngest (I recommend a trip to the Vermont Teddy Bear factory) which was fun. He created a new buddy for himself and named it ‘Vermonty Python’. I’m proud he recognizes his heritage!!!
Race day was beautiful, running along Lake Champlain. The neighborhoods we ran through were amazing. Many of the residents were out cheering and spectating. Some provided refreshment stations. It was a hot day and they had freeze pops at one of the aid stations. It was great fun. We finished in 4:53:20. Did I mention it was hilly. People go to Vermont to ski.
The highlight of the trip (and kind of how I roped everyone in to the idea) was a trip up to the Ben & Jerry Factory after the race. Treats were had by all. We finished our night with a trip to the Von Trapp Family Brewery (yes, THAT Von Trapp Family).
I would highly recommend this race. The place is beautiful.
So now the big reveal and the reason I have to catch up in an omnibus post. As I write this post my wife and I are three days away from heading to Athens, Greece to run the ‘Athens Authentic Marathon‘. It runs from ‘Marathon’ to ‘Athens’, celebrating the historic run of Pheidippides after the Battle of Marathon which inspired the modern day race. The race itself finishes in the original modern day Olympics stadium from 1896. The ‘Panathenaic’ Stadium. We are so looking forward to this trip and I cannot wait to share the details when we get back.
It’s nice to be back and thank you for your patience.
This July was my fifth year (attempting) racing this event. My first attempt (my first triathlon) back in 2015 was cancelled mid race and in 2017 I had to withdraw following my bike injury in the 2017 Rev3 Triathlon. So this was my third finish. The weekend is split into a sprint triathlon on Saturday and an olympic distance triathlon on the Sunday. I was entered into the olympic distance event. I’ll sum this up quickly….it was HOT but I finished!!!
The weather conditions for the event this year…all were ‘outdoor activities’
It had not done much pool or bike work since last year’s event and it did show at the beginning of this training cycle. However, I was signed up for IM70.3 Atlantic City this coming September so I was using this as part of my training on my journey into the half ironman. Having completed the Los Angeles Marathon back in March I took April easy and started my triathlon training cycle in May this year. The goal was to use a 12 week training plan into this race and roll into the half ironman training for the balance of the cycle.
Going into race week we were in the middle of a sustained heat wave in the area. I kept looking at the temperatures hoping that there would be some relief. A couple of days before the event the race director sent out the following announcement:
“IMPORTANT EVENT UPDATE
We are excited to have you compete with us at the 2019 New Jersey State Triathlon. It’s set to be a hot one this year! Due to the warmer-than-normal conditions forecast this weekend, our operations team will be implementing the following course changes in consultation with local public safety officials:
Sprint Distance – Saturday, July 20 No changes to the swim and bike portions. The run course will be approximately 2 miles. The event will begin as planned at 7:30am.
Olympic Distance – Sunday, July 21 Athletes will complete a 750m swim, one loop of the bike course (13.5-miles) and a 5k run. The race will also start at 7:30am.
We sincerely appreciate the understanding and cooperation from all of our athletes as your safety is our paramount concern. Additionally a comprehensive heat plan will be instituted above and beyond the extensive medical support we have always provided on site.
We’re here for you and the whole New Jersey State Tri team are ready to support you having your best event yet! Good luck this weekend.“
Phew….Essentially they halved all the distances for the olympic triathlon.
My goal for this was to complete the distance. The weather was not going to be conducive to a hard effort and I was not in any danger of pushing anyone of a podium place. I’d use this as planned as an organized (and well catered) workout on the road to my half ironman.
On the day before the race I drove up to Lake Mercer (in Mercer County Park) to pick up my race packet. It was so hot. All the volunteers out in the sun were amazing for their dedication. Race packet was quick and easy (I had registered for the correct event this year) and I also took opportunity to register early for next year’s event. There were some iPads set up for early registration. Unfortunately they were left in the sun and were hot to touch…the one that still worked that is. I took advantage of the early discount for registering for 2020 and signed up for the olympic distance again, only to find out when I came home that we have family plans…luckily a quick email to the race director rectified my error and I was adjusted down to the sprint. Crisis averted. It was so hot I was literally dripping with sweat under the tented areas. It was dangerously hot. The New York City Triathlon was held on the same weekend and it had been cancelled completely for the safety of the athletes. We just had our distances cut back. I was good with the downgraded distance.
Attending race packet pickup – a view of the finish line for tomorrow’s race
Packet pickup was quick and easy
Transition all empty and quiet before the next day’s events
Lake Mercer – where we would be swimming tomorrow
All packed and ready to go the next morning
Arrived early with enough time to set up and try to relax
Early on Sunday morning I headed down to the race site, got to body marking and made my way into transition with enough time to set up my gear and have time to hit the bathrooms before transition closed. With my age group placing I was not due off until after 8am and the race started at 7:30am. Transition closed around 6:45 so I had plenty of time to walk around before the race. I took a Hammer Gel, some salt tabs and some water before heading out. It was still warm. The race was too warm to be wetsuit legal although that wasn’t really a factor as I’ve never used a wetsuit for this event. It’s usually too warm this time of year.
My gear is all set up
Ready to make a fun day of it
Finally my age group was called and we went across the timing mat and into the water to the sounds of ‘The Who’ blaring over the speakers. And then we were off.
I did my usual routine of watching everyone go, counting to ten and then setting of myself. The water was warm and visibility as usual was pretty much zero. I sighted pretty well but got bumped and battered a bit on the out part of the swim course. As I was on the back straight of the swim course I started to be passed by some of the faster female swimmers in the group behind but no major incidents. No one dug their fingernails into me this year!!! Once down the home straight I set my sights on the buoys marking the route to transition. Although the swim felt okay I didn’t seem to be making much progress to the swim exit but eventually I reached the swim exit and made my way to transition. Another example of my lack of training was that I pushed the stop button on my watch and not the lap button to move my GPS into transition mode. I noticed that before I jumped on the bike so I missed a couple of minutes but nothing major. My swim time was 22:09 (a 2:57/100m pace). Much room for improvement.
Transition was 6 minutes. I’m not going to move away from Injinji socks any time soon but that does take time each event trying to get the toes in the right place with damp feet 🙂 . At least this year I remembered to apply sunscreen before heading out on the bike. I grabbed a Lara Bar on my way out of transition and downed a couple more salt tabs before making my way out into the heat. I headed out on the bike course for what would now be one loop. I felt okay going out but towards the last couple of miles my legs were getting tired. It’s a flat course so there was nothing serious in terms of effort was required. I put this down to the heat. I was drinking plenty but I’m sure I was losing more than I was drinking. At this point I was happy to be done on the bike. Bike split was 52:25. Not my fastest. Time for the run.
Before I headed out to transition I took a couple more salt tabs, downed some more water and made my way out to the run course with my 20oz hand held water bottle. It was here with the current heat conditions that I was most grateful that the course had been cut in half. The normal 10K run starts with an out and back going left out of transition and the run for the most part is shaded as you approach the turnaround but with this heat 5K was enough for me.
The course winds around the boundary of the park and as it was close to the transition areas and finish lines there were crowds on this part of the course. Within the first mile volunteers were handing out towels soaked in ice water. Welcome relief for sure. I took a towel and squeezed as much water over my head as I could and placed it around my neck as I ran. Turning the corner I saw a trash can full of towels so naturally I thought we had to throw them away. Little did I know that there was another ice station ahead where we could re-wet the towels. Oh well, lesson learned. This part of the course is also an out and back. On the way out I could see that on the other side of the course cold showers had been set up for runners to pass through if they so wanted to cool down during the run. I’d think about it as I ran further out.
The volunteers on this side of the course were offering to throw water on our heads if we asked for it. I was stopping at each aid station for Nuun electrolyte fluid which during a 5K I would typically skip a couple of aid stations. Not today. I don’t recall seeing hoses spraying runners out on the course as in previous years but I’m writing this so long after I may be mistaken. Certainly they were very accommodating for the runners, trying to keep us cool and healthy.
After the turnaround you retrace your steps until you reach the finishing chute. I was so happy to see this and pumped to cross the finish line. Based upon the pictures below you can see I was more than relieved to be done. Run time 33:30. Let’s just put that down to the heat shall we?
Water was handed out to us as soon as we crossed the line. The race also had a mist tent beyond the finish line. Essentially a big tented area spraying cold water on participants. Let’s just say it was very well utilized. While we stood in line for the food tent, volunteers were handing out ice pops to all participants to help cool down. I grabbed my refreshments and headed back to the transition to sit for a while, catch my breath and try and cool down. Not easy.
Another finish line is always a reason to smile
As I was sitting in the transition area with the remaining participants who were still there we heard a ‘pop’ and someone pointed out that because of the heat, tire tubes were beginning to over heat and explode. Yes, it was that hot. I took my time to pack up and then made my way back out to my car where, once my bike was racked and my gear stowed, I sat in the car with the air conditioning blasting on me for about 10 minutes before I attempted to leave for home.
All packed up and ready to head home
CGI Racing put on a great event every year and their focus on runner safety is respectable. I’m a fan of their races and as already pointed out, I’ll be back again in 2020.
It took a while to sit down and write this review, after all this race weekend was at the beginning of July and I am writing this in early September. There’s quite a lot to tell about this event both good and bad and I’ve tried a few times to sit down to recap this all. Here goes.
I completed my first half iron distance triathlon (70.3) back in July 2016 and when I was looking to do a second I took a long look around at the options, from price and timing as well as location. The factors that made me choose Williamsburg was that it was drivable, the timing meant that I could bring my family along and also that this was priced very reasonably (vs some of the ‘branded’ events). So Rev3 Williamsburg was chosen and I registered for my second half iron distance event in early September 2016.
So, you know how I like challenges which involve back to back and multiple races in the same weekend, (think Goofy Challenge, Dopey Challenge, Rocky Challenge), back in December Rev3 announced that this weekend would offer two challenge races, the first was ‘The Double’ (Sprint Tri on Saturday and Olympic Tri on Sunday) and ‘The Revolution’ (Sprint Tri on Saturday and Half Iron distance on Sunday). I’m not one to miss a challenge opportunity for a bonus medal and so I spoke with the race team and registered for ‘The Revolution’. Got that? A sprint triathlon as a warm up to a Half Iron distance. It should be a busy weekend.
I chose the same training plan for the Half Iron race that I chose for my first 70.3 last year (10 week novice plan from Endurance Works). This meant that my training plan started on May 1st which gave me a few weeks of recovery from the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon back in mid-March. This worked well in the past and all I was looking to do was to finish both races not necessarily in podium position 😉
As this was going to be a family trip (we would be away Friday through Monday) I splurged a little and booked the family into Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg. It was about 20 minutes from the race site at the Chickahominy Riverfront Park. My family would be at the park for the Sunday race (families were encouraged to run the finish line with their athlete) so the kids would be busy and entertained on Saturday, Sunday morning and however long we would stay on the Monday before heading home.
As my boys were going to join me in the race I purchased these shirts online so they would look the part on race day 🙂
As I was getting all my gear ready for race day I was paying close attention to the weather forecast and also the river conditions. The Rev3 Williamsburg Facebook group was especially helpful in this. Based upon the feedback of the people in the group it was not worth packing a wetsuit as it was not going to be a wetsuit legal race. I had been experimenting with talking salt tabs due to the heat and I had picked up a new running handheld bottle for the run portion of the race that I planned to use to hold the salt tabs and also to refill at the aid stations as needed.
In some of my other races I had taken along a bucket to both store my equipment and also to use as a seat during transition. I hadn’t needed one for the half iron last year as there were stools provided to the athletes. I made what can only be described as an innocent mistake by asking the group if stools were provided or whether there was space for buckets and boy oh boy did that raise up a Facebook storm!!!!
Race weekend finally arrived; we picked our boys up from their day camp and headed down to Virginia. We arrived at 9pm that evening just in time for the late night kids activities at Great Wolf Lodge. This gave me plenty of time to check in and bring all my gear up to the room to prep for the Sprint tri on Saturday morning. As race packet pickup was on race day we didn’t need to arrive any earlier. With everyone settled into the room and my bags packed for the next day we called it a night and I tried somehow to get enough sleep before my first race.
It took a while but we made it safely
Made it to the Lodge
Saturday July 8th – Sprint Triathlon
Saturday morning came early and I tried to very carefully get up without waking anyone else in the room. I did my best but my wife said she heard me. Luckily the boys didn’t. Although my gear was ready to go, I still had to take my water bottles out of the refrigerator and move my bicycle out of the room like a ninja in order not to make any further disturbance. I still have no idea how I managed that.
It was still dark outside when I left the hotel, packed up my car and racked my bike. The drive to the park was down a long unlit stretch of highway. I had been followed out of the hotel parking lot by a couple of cars that also seemed to be heading to the race. I was up in the front so they were relying on me to lead the way…uh oh. On the side of the road there were plenty of deer and other wildlife. I was very much on alert not to 1) get lost with everyone seemingly following me and 2) not get hit or hit a deer running across the road. Not the most calming of drives. Finally I (we) made it to the entrance to the park and we were directed by the race staff where to park.
It was still dark when we arrived and I was very grateful that I had packed my running headlamp in my transition bag so I could see what I was doing in the unlit field. Race packet pickup and gear pickup was very simple. They had a board listing all the athletes so they could look up their race numbers if needed. I grabbed my race packet and went over to pick up my special ‘Revolution’ gear and was able to head back to the car to grab my race bag and bike. They also gave me this awesome note in my race packet 🙂
Cookies? It’s like they really knew me.
The sun was starting to rise at this time so I was able to put my headlamp away, change out of my outer clothes (my tri-suit was underneath) and head over to the transition area. All were very clearly marked out and there were plenty of volunteers available to help out.
I found my spot to keep my bike. I was at the front with all the other ‘Revolution’ entrants. There were about 20 or so people doing the Sprint/Half Iron combination and we would have the same number both days. As we were at the front of the transition area, once I had set out my gear for the day, I was able to move my transition bag to the side to save some space. By the way…I saw people with buckets!!!! One bucket was even decorated with tinsel for the event 😉
All set for the Sprint tri (no bucket)
Ready to go
A nice clear morning
The race was due to start at 6:30. I was in the second wave so we were called out of the transition area just after 6:00am. It was a long walk to the boat ramp where the swim would start and I hadn’t thought to bring any throwaway sandals. I knew that this was going to be an issue for me and I would need extra time to get down to the water. I was fine walking along the grass but ultimately I had to traverse a gravel path bare foot….I’m a delicate soul and all of a sudden I was moving as if walking on egg shells. Not fast and not glamorous. I was walking so slowly I was blocking traffic when a minivan pulled up beside me and told me to hop in so they could drive me the last couple of hundred yards to the start line. They people who ‘adopted’ me in the minivan were camped by the edge of the river and this was a nice thing they did for me.
It was an in water start so although people were able to do a practice swim (I didn’t) you had to get out of the water to cross over the starting mat to get back into the water. After the National Anthem they started letting the waves of athletes out. I had two caps in my race packet, one for today and one for tomorrow. I was nervously checking everyone around me to make sure I had on the right one for the day.
They announced that the water temperature on the day was 83 degrees (definitely not wet suit safe for the swim). Each wave was called and they had a couple of minutes to enter the water via the ramp and then tread water until it was time to go. Once it was my turn I made my way in (towards the back of the pack) and waited for the announcement to go. Then we were off.
The swim was an out and back around the buoys in a sort of triangle shape. Some part was into the morning sunshine and you could feel the heat, some was in the shade and you could feel it cooler. The river itself had shallow pockets of river mud. In fact on the way out if you were to swim too far the right of the course you would swim through shallow grass. Indeed there seemed to be some sort of rise in the lake bed and a couple of people actually stood up around me in the early stages of the swim right in the middle of the lake. It was weird to say the least.
Once around the turn it was slightly with current and I made my way along towards the bridge in the distance. As we approached the bridge and moved towards the shore I could feel my hands brushing the bottom of the river. The next thing I know I’m practically crawling along the bottom. I looked up to see that everyone was slowly walking into the shore through the deep, sloppy mud. I stood up and joined in. The river bed was soft mud so as you took each step you sank down. This made it a little difficult and made for slow egress out of the water. It also takes a bit of extra effort at the end of the swim. Finally I made it to shore and made my way into transition. Total time for the swim 28:34 minutes.
Sprint Tri swim
With no bucket on which to sit(!) I was able to dry myself and as always struggle to get my Injinji toe socks onto my damp feet. Not my fastest transition (6:06 minutes). As I was close to the front I grabbed my bike and headed to the exit in front of me only to find out that it was the run exit not the bike exit so I quickly turned around and made a beeline for the correct exit.
The bike course was a simple out and back. There was a bridge that we had to climb immediately on leaving the park but this wasn’t too cumbersome. As the course was fairly flat I was able to get into aero position relatively quickly and powered my way down to the turnaround (by powered I mean my speed…not too fast). The ride was nice and cool as it was mostly in the shade. The road was open to traffic and so there were a few cars to contend with but not too many and never crowded. The turnaround took us off the road and onto the riding/running trail that was all paved so it was pretty smooth coming back.
We had been warned to slow down going back across the bridge as there was a 90 degree left turn back into the park at the base of the bridge and we risked overshooting it and riding into the 5K course if we went too fast. It was a nice ride on the day and I was happy to return into transition and quickly change into my running gear. My ride was 54:34 minutes at an average speed of 16.82mph. I grabbed a salt tab and my water bottle only as I didn’t think I needed a gel or anything to boost my energy levels.
Sprint Tri ride
The run was also fairly flat and out and back. We had to cross one road and there were police controlling traffic. It had started to become much warmer by this time and it was still before 9am. I held a pretty decent pace coming off the bike and my legs felt fresh. I ran the 5K in 27:55 minutes at a 9:01min/mile pace.
Sprint Tri run
The finishing chute had us run off the paved road and along the grass. This felt good underfoot and the crowds were really great. My total time was 1:59:30 for the sprint.
The race provided free finisher photos which was really nice of them.
Post-race we were awarded a medal and a bottle of water and Gatorade and I headed over to the post-race refreshment tent. This was great. They had pretzels, animal crackers, Goldfish crackers and I grabbed a back of Famous Amos cookies and chilled out for a couple of minutes before heading back to the transition area to pack up.
As I was racing the next day I didn’t need to return my timing chip. I would need to come back later in the day for the mandatory athlete meeting and to pick up the Quarq Qollector GPS tracker that I had I had rented for the next day so my family could track my position via an app on the phone. Also as I had the same race number for both races I was able to leave my bike in transition for the next day so I was able to travel back to the hotel with less logistics to work out.
I headed back to the hotel (with a short stop at Walmart to pick up a cheap pair of flip flops for the walk to the boat dock on Sunday) where I arrived just as my family had come down for the day. The boys were getting face paint in the lobby and my wife had just grabbed breakfast for everyone. I timed it well. Fresh coffee and a bagel were waiting for me as I sat down with them. They went off to the water park and I got showered and dressed ready to head back for the 1pm meeting.
I Tri on Dunkin’
All cleaned up and ready to head back to the expo/race site
Feeling refreshed I headed back to the park and took my time to take some pictures of the venue, walk through the expo tent, look at the vendors and then grab my GPS tracker for Sunday. The race meeting was held on the stage and I was early enough to grab a seat under one of the tents out of the sun that had been set up. It was really hot by this time and shade was very welcome.
Entrance to the expo
Information center manned through the whole weekend
Really straightforward. Even I could figured this out.
Easier to find your number in the daytime than early before dawn. Make sure you come prepared.
Race packet pickup was very smooth
The Quarq Qollector I rented for the half. It was a bit bigger than I had anticipated and they had run out of the race belts. Fortunately it was small enough to tuck into my tri suit pocket and didn’t interfere with the bike or run.
They had lots of merchandise available
I came early enough to grab a seat under the tent for the race meeting. It was very hot out in the sun.
The race team did a great job of keeping everyone entertained. The race announcer was awesome and very funny. The race director and the USAT professional gave their brief course description, reminder of the rules and other comments before opening up for questions. It was all well run.
Pre race meeting was very informative and we were entertained while we waited
After that I headed back to the hotel to join my family and hope to grab a nice dinner and an early night. My boys were having too much fun though so I had to join in as they started their ‘MagiQuest’ throughout the hotel. They were having an awesome time but eventually (I think around 10pm) everyone was back in the room and ready for a good night’s sleep.
Sunday July 9th – Half Triathlon – 70.3
Sunday morning started early. I’m not sure how well I slept but by this stage I was both excited and nervous to get through the day. Having learned my lessons from yesterday and not having to remove my bicycle from a room of sleeping people I was able to get out and on the road without too much disturbance. I had my goal in mind as I prepared. Beat last year’s time!!!!
The drive in was easier today having already made the journey twice the day before. When I arrived I saw that it was much more crowded than the day before.
Ready for day 2 of ‘The Revolution’
Much more crowded for the second day
All set. Ready for my second 70.3
The race director had advised that bike pumps would be available within the transition area provided by the race mechanics (Gonzo Gears) so I didn’t have to bring mine from the car. I took my bike to them, they asked what PSI I wanted and that was that. A few nervous trips to the bathrooms and it was soon time to head to the water again for the swim. This time I was prepared with my $5 flip flops from Walmart. As I arrived to the water’s edge the lady who had driven my in the minivan yesterday recognized me as she was spectating today and wished me luck. I also ran into Meghan from Team Shenanigans who was there to cheer on her husband who was also doing the half. We chatted for a while and that helped calm me down before it was time for my wave to be called.
My wave was called and I moved up a little from yesterday to make sure I wasn’t too far back when it was time to go. The swim today was a similar course (out and back in a triangle pattern) just further with a few extra buoys to swim around to reach the 1.2 mile distance. The temperature of the water today was one degree warmer at 84 degrees.
I swam steady and kept a fairly straight line. My sighting is not usually my strongest part of the open water swim. As we rounded the furthest buoy and turned for home we definitely had a slight current as I had started to drift a little. Similar to yesterday, as we approached the shore line the river got shallower and we were back in the mud. At least today I was able to anticipate this a bit more. Overall, I was very happy with my time of 41:49 minutes for the swim. I knew I had beaten my swim time from my first half last year by a good margin (54:32).
Half Iron swim
Out of the water and heading to transition
I made my way through transition and today I struggled with my Injinji compression socks. They were long…and tight. That probably wasted a little extra time than I should have needed. Maybe next year I just go with the short socks and my regular Zensah compression sleeves. My transition time was 8:28 minutes!!! Seriously??? At least I knew which way to go out of transition today so that probably saved a few minutes 🙂
The bike course started out the same as yesterday. However, this time we went past the Sprint turnaround point and continued on for what would be our 56 mile ride. Again, this was fairly flat and I was making good time and keeping my average speed/pace up high like the day before. I was touching between 16.5 to 17.0 miles per hour which is pretty solid for me and was going well and on pace to beat my time from last year (although that was much more hilly up in the Catskill Mountains).
Looking very focused on the bike
All seemed to be going well and I was in aero position for most of the straights and then…
At mile 24 I was down in aero position tucked in to the right hand side of the road (as was the rule for the race). The road was slightly cambered and I was pretty close to the edge. Too close apparently as I drifted slightly to my right and dropped off the road a couple of inches into the dirt at the side of the road. Instinct made me try to steer left back up onto the road but my wheel was too low below the black top to reach the flat paved road. With my wheel locked against the road and the speed I was going I was thrown over the top of the bike landing hard on my right shoulder.
I landed ahead of my bike and I looked back to see my bike and gear strewn all over the road. I knew instantly as I couldn’t correct that I was going to fall. It happened really quickly and I literally went down, rolled and pretty much saw stars for a few seconds. I tried to get up and out of the road but felt a searing pain on my right. I was able to pull my bike off the road and move my gear but I was clearly quite stunned at this time. Thankfully I hadn’t hit my head on the road as I came down really hard.
A couple of riders called out to me as they passed to see if I was okay…which I said “Yes” to without thinking. I could see that my chain had come of the bike and tried to get it back on the cogs. What was I going to do out here at mile 24?
Luckily, very luckily, within a couple of minutes after the fall two trucks pulled up behind me. One was being driven by EMS and the other by the bike crew and a member of the race team. The EMS asked if I was okay, I told him I fell on my shoulder and slowly lifted my arms in a rotating movement. It hurt like heck but I said I could move it. I asked him if there were any bones that looked out of place or anything poking out where it shouldn’t and he told me no and said if I felt okay he’d like to move onto another part of the course where he was needed.
The bike crew behind me meanwhile had fixed my bike and cycled through all the gears. The bike wasn’t damaged (a bit banged up on the right hood and aero bars) and was rideable. The race team member asked if I was okay and if I wanted to continue and whether I needed anything. I was still shaking at this point but I gave her my name, asked if she had any water or Gatorade (they did) and said I’d try and continue at least until the next aid station. One thing I remember from all this was that a member of the bike crew was called Micah like my eldest son. I don’t remember much else though 😦
I got back on my bike and tried to move on. I didn’t notice until after the race that the force of me coming off the bike had ripped of my bike cleats in half. Based upon my Garmin data I was off the bike for about 5 minutes. I still had another 32 miles to go on the bike. The first few meters were really painful as I had to use both my arms to steady myself on the bike. I realized that as long as I didn’t move my arm too much I could manage the pain. I knew immediately that going aero was no longer an option. I just couldn’t move my arm that way and although I could move onto the handlebar drops it was very painful. My legs worked and other than a slight graze to my knee (luckily I couldn’t see how much my shoulder was bleeding) I was able to pedal forward albeit at a much more careful and slower pace.
I made it to the next rest stop and struggled to slow down and dismount. I knew I couldn’t ride through as I would have needed both hands/arms to ride and grab refreshment and that wasn’t about to happen. I kept telling myself that my legs worked and I could make it in. The pain was bad and I was thinking of worst case scenarios about what I may have done to my shoulder but at least that was making the time go by (although not the most positive way of thinking).
At one point as we went past another plantation (this one owned by former President John Tyler) I almost went off the road again. My heart was racing. This was tougher than I had planned. It was a flat course and should have been really fast. I was really on course for a fast time before the accident. Plan B was just to finish the bike and see how I felt.
I was really grateful when I made the turn left back onto the home stretch. I knew that I was slow and probably near the back of the pack at this point. I could see the runners on the trail running the out and back. Many of them were close to finishing or were done with the first out and back. I felt having made it this far I had to continue. Again, my legs still worked and I’d figure out a way to make it.
As I come over the bridge and rounded into the park I made my way off the bike (awkwardly) and back into transition. My bike time ended up being 3:44:10 at an average pace of 14.88mph.
Half Iron ride
I had probably lost 30-40 minutes as a result of the accident. Back in the transition is when I felt bad pain. I had to lift my bike to rack it and then I had to reach down to put on my shoes. It was hot at this point. My transition time was 3:39 minutes. I picked up my water bottle and grabbed a couple of salt tablets as it was now really warm and headed out of transition. I couldn’t swing my right arm and in the absence of a sling to hold my arm I immobilized it by grabbing hard onto my shirt with my right hand to keep it from moving about too much.
As I headed out on the run I saw Meghan who was waiting at the turnaround point (the 13.1 was a double out and back…over the bridge twice!!). She asked how I was doing and honestly said I wasn’t doing great. I told her I fell but I was determined to finish, and with that I set off to run the half marathon distance.
The heat was a factor at this point and I was feeling pretty fatigued. It may have been a combination of the injury and trying very hard to focus but I was clearly off pace and struggling. All I could do was keep moving forward slowly. I was well off my regular pace (I can run a 1:50 half marathon) and although I anticipated running slower during a half iron distance I was much slower than usual. Last year I ran the half marathon during my 70.3 in 2:18 and I knew I could do better. This time however my run time was not going to be relevant. My goal was just to finish.
As I passed through the aid stations everyone was cheering and very supportive. A couple of people asked if I needed anything for my arm (remember I couldn’t see it) but I said I was fine and used the aid stations to refill my bottle with water and ice so I could carry on.
Weirdly I’m smiling…probably because I saw the photographer. I certainly didn’t feel like smiling.
The out and back is along the paved trail. It was somewhat sheltered by the trees but there were some exposed areas that you could really feel the heat coming down. I have to ask why are all my tri-suits black? I have to do something about that!!! One of the great things about a triathlon is that all the competitors seem to be very supportive of each other and people were really gracious in encouraging me along. As the USAT rules do not allow headphones to be worn, runners are not tuned out of what is around them and so it made for great camaraderie during the out and back portions.
Not smiling so much now. As you can see I was gripping my tri-suit to keep my arm immobilized as much as possible.
I finally made it to the first turnaround (it seemed to go on forever) and headed back to the second turnaround over the bridge. I was still struggling. I made it up and over the bridge and I saw my wife and the boys waiting at the turnaround for me (actually I heard them before I saw them). They were cheering loudly and all I could focus on was them. I didn’t actually see that Meghan was still there and that two other friends from Team Shenanigans were also there supporting me. Brittany and Kendrick had driven up to cheer me on. I didn’t actually realize that until a couple of days later. I told my wife I was hurt and she suggested I see a medic to which I replied I would when I was done. What more could I do? The injury had already happened but I was still running and so I just needed to keep going to finish and so up and over the bridge I went out into the distance. If they can adjust the course for 2018 to make the turnaround on the other side of the bridge that would be great.
On my way back from the first turnaround
I didn’t see this picture until a few days after the race had finished. Here I am coming to the half turnaround. My friends said that this was the first time in a race they have never seen me smiling. I was really struggling and knew I had to go back out again.
The second half was a struggle. It was very hot, it was early afternoon and I’d been out on the course for almost 6 hours at this stage. My arm still ached and I was run/walking (more walking) by now. Once I hit the final turnaround I knew I had only 3 or so to go. I started to be more optimistic. I’d made it this far when it would have been very easy (and excusable) to drop out. If anything this was going to make for a good story and perhaps my kids would remember this. As this weekend had been all about family and I had promised the boys we could cross the finish line together all I knew was that I couldn’t quit. The thought of disappointing them was too much for me and forced me to keep moving forward.
As I approached the mile 12 aid station I saw Meghan, Brittany and Kendrick waiting for me. I was so surprised. I had been in a bit of a fog for the last hour and it was great to see them. They told me they saw me struggling (again, I hadn’t noticed them at the turnaround) and they wanted to make sure I finished. They ran with me up and over the bridge. They all wore flip flops and kept up with me which pretty much shows you how slow I was at this point. As we approached the base of the bridge they let me continue on my own as they and my wife and the boys headed towards the finish line. I still had to go around the transition area first as part of the course.
It was so great to have friends supporting me as I made my way back in. Very special.
As we rounded the transition area I threw my bottle towards my gear bag (FYI, I made it) and made the final turn into the finish chute where I was joined by both the boys and my wife following behind. This is why I didn’t quit. This was what made the weekend for me.
With my family approaching the finish line
My reward for this weekend. Made everything worth it.
Crossing the finish line together – as promised. This was my motivation to get through the run.
Finally I crossed the finish line. I received my medal and an ice cold towel (how awesome was that?) and even my boys received their race medallions for crossing the finish line. I was handed a bottle of water and asked immediately for medical attention and was taken straight to the medical tent. I finished with a time of 7:26:37 with a half marathon time of 2:48:32. About 10 minutes slower than my 70.3 last year and I was much slower on both the bike and the run as a result of my fall. At this point it didn’t matter about my time, the win was that I actually picked myself up and finished.
Half Iron run – not what I had planned for sure
My family followed me into the tent and I was soon followed by Brittany, Kendrick and Meghan who had gone to grab me a cold Yuengling from the cooler. So I was able to enjoy a refreshingly cold beer as I was being attended to by the medical team. The prognosis was that I may have separated my AC joint judging by where the doctor was prodding my shoulder and how high I jumped when he touched a certain part of the shoulder. He advised I get a precautionary x-ray just to confirm there were no fractures. They washed out my wounds and patched me up while I chatted with everyone. I was pretty much on a high now that I had finished. Once I was in a sling they allowed me to leave the medical tent.
Receiving medical attention and some cold refreshment.
All of us proudly displaying our medals.
Temporarily patched up. I’m still smiling though which is a good thing.
I headed to get some food with the boys. There was a good amount of food and I opted for some vegetarian lasagna and some oatmeal raisin cookies. The boys had a lot of fun waiting around the vendor booths earlier in the day and so were really happy that I was back, (maybe so they could go back to Great Wolf Lodge for the rest of the day). We sat down to eat and to literally catch my breath. I couldn’t believe I had finished but I’m glad I really toughed it out.
The boys were great. As we were sitting they were announcing and awarding the prizes. They boys asked me if I needed to be over there to get my award. I love them 🙂
We decided that as we were staying over for the night and the boys would be entertained back at the hotel that it might be best while I had the time to head over to get that x-ray today as we were not too far from the hospital. We had planned to join Brittany and Kendrick for some post-race refreshments but I hoped they understood that I needed to get checked out. I owe them a beer or two for coming to support me. Kendrick helped me pack up my gear and also helped me put the bike back onto the car for the journey home. I definitely could not have done any of that without him. I guess that’s an extra couple of beers I owe him. It’ll be my pleasure to provide them.
We left the race site and my wife took me to the local hospital (incidentally it was where the medical team for the race were from). My wife dropped me at the ER and I said I’d let her know any updates but that I’d be fine taking an Uber back to the hotel. At least there was something for everyone to do there and it would be better than having to wait around for me. Luckily the ER wasn’t busy and I was soon taken in to the treatment rooms to be checked up. Once I was into the treatment area they announced that I was the first triathlete they had seen today. At least I came first in something!!!!
Made it to the ER
Luckily there wasn’t a long wait for treatment
The medical team (once they heard my story) were impressed that I’d got back on my bike and finished. I spent my time waiting before and after being taken for x-rays catching up and explaining to my friends and family what had actually happened. Thank you Facebook!
When the news came back that I had indeed separated the AC joint and thankfully not broken or fractured anything I was put into a sling that immobilized my arm (it wrapped around my shoulder and around my waist) and was told to follow up with my local doctor when I got home. The nurse practitioner who set me up in the sling told me that it would take time to heal and that a fracture would probably have healed quicker. Gee, thanks…
A fancy new sling. Nothing fractured thankfully.
Once all my paper work was in order (yes, the bills came soon after 😦 ) I called for an Uber and made my way back to the hotel. Luckily everyone was having fun and hadn’t really missed me, although my wife did show some concern. The boys were disappointed that I couldn’t do the water slides with them but they were happy I was okay.
I went back to my room to shower and rest. Do you know how painful and difficult it is to get out of a tri-suit with a separated AC joint, not to mention the lack of skin on my elbow and shoulder? Yes, not the most pleasant experience showering. Getting my t-shirt on and off took a few deep breaths. Finally I was all clean and took some time to rest before dinner.
Post shower. Ouch. Took a couple of days before I was brave enough to attempt to scrub the tattoo off.
A unique weekend. 3 medals and 5 x-rays.
Sprint Tri medal
Half medal (the ribbon for the Sprint and the Half was different
‘The Revolution’ – I conquered The Revolution (although it almost conquered me).
We headed over to a nearby restaurant for dinner as I had plenty of calories burned and there was no way I was going to use them all, although I did try. They boys were happy that we were able to spend the evening at the hotel to continue their MagiQuest.
I was able to get a reasonable night’s sleep that night and realized how truly lucky I was that all I had was an injured shoulder that would in time heal. There were no other riders involved, there were no other vehicles involved and I hadn’t fallen on my head. I was very lucky and relieved.
On Monday morning we let the boys finish up their MagiQuest. I accompanied them up and down through the hotel as they completed the scavenger hunt until it was done and their names were listed as having completed the quest. They were extremely happy. It was a great weekend and we definitely have lots of memories to take away from here.
We all had some good but different memories from this weekend
I was very fortunate that I hadn’t travelled alone to this race. I am not sure how I would have managed to get back from the race, go to the hospital or even drive home. My wife took the driving role as we left Williamsburg and even though we took an unexpected tour through Washington DC(?) we made it home in good time. I’d like to thank her for her infinite patience in putting up with all my training and putting up with what happened over this weekend.
In summary, accident notwithstanding, the whole race weekend was really great. I have nothing but good things to say about the Rev3 team. They put on a well-organized and well supported race and made it fun. They made it all about the athletes and their families. I would recommend that you give them a look and if you are considering a triathlon to check them out. I plan to be back in 2018 to do this properly and see what I could really do (when I’m fully upright). The race director even followed up with me by email after I got home once he had heard all about the accident. I hope to sign up again soon although my wife will not allow me to even discuss signing up for anything until I’m fully healed. I have time.
It’s like falling off a bike. Just make sure to get back on.
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.
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.
Phew….what a month. Along with the training for my upcoming half iron distance triathlon I had a very quickly arranged work trip to the UK. Lots of hours of training and traveling. My training total was almost 396 miles (136 miles running, 252 miles cycling and 8 miles swimming) but you can add 6,980 for flying (but someone else was the pilot).
June 2016 – Nike + Summary
June 2016 – Garmin Connect Summary
The intensity of the double workouts stepped up and my weekly training hours got into the double-digit realm. Interestingly enough in all the training cycles I have done for marathons it has been mileage based but this training plan is time based. Not focusing on exact mileage requirements has been a lot of fun but I have definitely racked up distances without needing to specifically plan out routes. It was kind of liberating. At the height of my marathon training I’m probably putting in 7+ hours a week and running into the low 40s in terms of mileage. For this training plan I’ve been putting in 10 to 12+ hour weeks. It’s exhausting but hopefully making me ready for the big event.
The unexpected work trip to the UK was a nice surprise. My parents and sister still live in the UK so I extended my work trip with a couple of vacation days on each side of the trip. My only issue with this was having access to a pool so I could continue my training program and also the ability to cycle. I took my swim gear with me on the chance I could find access to a lap pool (not so easy in Central London) but didn’t take any bike gear as I figured I could just use a hotel bike (and I had no desire to cycle through the streets of London).
As it happened I didn’t get the chance to swim and I had one bike session in the hotel…but I did a heck of a lot of running. Since I didn’t run when I lived in London and I was just sightseeing on our last family trip with the boys I took the opportunity of travelling alone to explore.
I tried to map out a couple of runs in advance of the trip based upon the distances assigned on the training plan but pretty much ended up winging it and had a lot of fun doing so. I was based very close to Tower Bridge in London and got the opportunity every day to run along the Thames and across the bridges and when time allowed to explore some of the more famous sites when time allowed.
My first run after checking into my hotel in London
Morning run on my last day in London
Here are a few of the highlights from my trip.
Running along a very busy Oxford Street during a break in the rain
Running past the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
The Houses of Parliament from across the Thames early in the morning
Early morning at Buckingham Palace
Picadilly Circus before all the tourists arrive
My daily view on my run
Finishing my time in London with a final run over Tower Bridge – Maybe one day I will be able to get back for the London Marathon
After my work was done in London I went up to visit my parents in Leeds (in the north of England). I tried to map out a route for a long run but it had been years since I have lived there and I ended up finding a route without any sidewalks so this involved a few miles running cross-country style along the side of the highway. I also didn’t consider how hilly it was. However the countryside was beautiful and I earned plenty of dessert calories.
Heading out of London on the train from Kings Cross (for all you Harry Potter fans)
Welcomed off the train by my Mother in a totally non-embarrassing way
Running around the areas where I grew up
I could have planned a better route…
Great to be outside of the city
I did take the opportunity to do some shopping for a few or my favorite items from the UK…mainly chocolate. I ended up having to take an extra suitcase home with gifts for the kids and chocolate for…well, mainly me.
Just a small stop for some UK treats (and this was before I finished going through the supermarket)
Okay, maybe more than a few treats – the smaller one has the chocolate and gifts
I arrived home on Father’s Day so I got to spend the morning with my Father in the UK and the afternoon and evening with my boys back in the USA. It was a little like Phil Collins at Live Aid (okay…stretching that one a bit). Either way it was a nice weekend and I was delighted with my Father’s Day gift which was tickets to see Paul McCartney in Philadelphia in July. Happy days.
My boys were wearing UK and England shirts for a full week after I got back
My wife had to travel to San Francisco the day after I got home so I wasn’t able to get back in the pool for a few days (all in all about 2 weeks with no swim training!!) and combined with the jet lag I was a little behind in my training but luckily the weather was great towards the end of the month so I was able to get back on plan with the triathlon coming up in the second weekend of July.
As I said, a very busy but rewarding and fun month.
Okay, so I know this is late June as I write, but May is still technically last month so I’m squeezing in a late ‘Month in review’ (you’ll understand why below).
May 2016 – Nike+ Summary
At the beginning of the month my wife and I ran the 2016 New Jersey Marathon. You can see the distance recorded at the start of the monthly summary. What you see after that is a long gap of 9 days between runs and a total of just under 84 miles run in the month. I shall explain shortly. As you can see from my Garmin data below (where I record all activities swim/bike/run) I covered a total of 288 miles (8 miles swimming, 196 miles on the bike and 84 miles running) as my focus after the marathon was on training for my half iron distance triathlon in July.
May 2016 – Garmin Connect Summary
As I mentioned in the review of the 2016 New Jersey Marathon, it was a very wet and cold day. After the race I came down with a cold and a bad sinus infection which resulted in a nice expensive journey to the Minute Clinic early on a Sunday morning to get a prescription for some antibiotics. In addition to this, I had a pretty bad cough which led to some sore chest and back muscles. I took a few days of rest to help everything clear up. I thought I was doing okay so I got up on the morning of the 10th to do a bike workout and as I bent over to put on my bike cleats I threw my back out. Ouch….a long crawl back to bed where I was laid flat on my back for two days with a strained sacroiliac joint. That kind of put a damper on all the triathlon training I had planned.
I ended up missing almost two weeks of my training plan and was getting a little concerned as I haven’t gone beyond a sprint triathlon before. Multiple trips to the chiropractor over a series of a few days, lots of ice and heat treatment and I started to loosen up. My wife was the race director for an inaugural 5K for her company and we had been the first to sign up. I was a little concerned about running still so I took an easy 2 mile run the day before to see if all was okay. Thankfully it was. No sign of any recurrence. I was feeling good going into the race.
The morning of the 5K my wife left early to set up so I headed down with my Father-in-law and the boys. My Father-in-law and I were running the 5K and the boys were running in the 1 mile run which took place after the 5K had completed. We got to Cooper River Park early and my boys went straight to the post race refreshment table. I don’t even want to know how many donuts they ate while I was getting everyone’s bibs for the race. I was still a little concerned about my back but the park looked pretty flat so I thought I would see what kind of pace I could maintain as I don’t run many shorter distance races these days.
My favorite Race Director
Ready to run the Freedom Mortgage 5K and 1 mile Fun Run
I actually ended up running a very decent pace (although the race was actually more than a half mile longer than a 5K). I ended up 10th overall and placed 3rd in my age group with a sub 8 minute pace. Pretty happy considering that I was laid flat on my back a few days earlier.
Good enough for 3rd place in my age group.
Proud parent moment. The Heir and the Spare running the 1 Mile Fun Run
Priceless. Crossing the finish line
Two very happy boys.
My eldest however didn’t realize how many laps made up the mile distance. It took him a few minutes to recover.
With the boys new-found excitement for running we decided to do what we could to encourage them to do some more. I signed both boys up for another 1 mile fun run on July 4th (the Washington Crossing Revolutionary Run which I ran last year) and I also signed them up for the new Disney Shorts Virtual 5K. We plan to train with them all summer and run the actual 5K when we are on vacation in Myrtle Beach in late August. I will give them their medals and they can wear them around the beach resort.
Mickey Shorts medal
We took the boys out to run along the Delaware Canal Towpath over the Memorial Day weekend which was a lot of fun. Hot, but fun. As we did when we ran with them in the stroller together, we started and finished outside of our favorite bakery so there was some incentive to their efforts.
Running south on the canal on our first outing.
Running north on the canal on our second outing.
Running back to the bakery on our second outing.
Now that I was feeling back to normal it was headfirst into the triathlon training. I’ve trained many times for marathons but this was a whole lot different and much more intense. I guess it’s the daily double workouts typically about an hour each which is the main difference. I am doing my second workouts sometimes after the boys are in bed and it is pretty late for someone like me who is usually an early bird when it comes to training.
The biking and running brick workouts on Saturday are typically more time than I spend exercising especially when I still have my long runs to do on Sundays. It is worth it to achieve my goals but it is exhausting. I’m sure it will all pay off as I have put in a lot of effort to try not to miss any scheduled workouts. I am feeling much better with my swim. I still have my concerns about the bike but I am at least feeling a little more comfortable in the saddle. You can see from the summary below how much time I am putting into this.
Training Peaks workout summary for the triathlon training.
And how early I am getting up to do these workouts (from my Fitbit sleep tracking).
With all this extra training, it does build confidence. I am feeling stronger in the pool and I’m actually enjoying and looking forward to my swim sessions. The bike, I’m still ‘eh’ for now but hopefully I’ll be more comfortable as my training progresses in June.
Thanks for taking the time to read. Apologies for the late write-up. As I said when I began, technically it is still last month so I’m getting in before the SAG wagon creeps up on me.