Patriots Half-Iron Distance Race

12 Sept 2009


I survived. Again.

I did this race in 2007 and wasn't sure I was up to the distance. It's a long day: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

1.2 mile swim: 49:00 (swim course was likely longer than 1.1 miles based every elses times)
T1: 5:55
56 (actually 57 this year) mile bike: 3:03:27
T2: 2:01
13.1 miles run: 2:1114
Total: 6:11:21

I trained harder in 2008 and was disappointed to wake up on race day and welcome Hurricane Hanna. The race was cancelled for 2008.

This year, I missed all my earlier triathlons due to their not taking place, me not being in shape (I got a late start swimming this year), or missing the sign up. So, this was my first triathlon of the year.

The day started with a 4am wake up and 5am departure from the house. I got to Jamestown and set up my transition area, laying out the bike, bike shoes, run shoes, wetsuit, goggles, glasses, hat, food, water bottles, etc. It's an ordeal! It was also still very dark.

The announcer informed us that contrary to the briefing yesterday, the swim would start upriver and swim down river to take advantage of the current. I was pretty sure the tides are known well in advance so I can't see how this came as a surprise, but hey, I'll swim where they tell me to swim. The switch had a pro and a con. Pro: the walk down to the new start (it was the exit in 2007) is very long and unpleasant to run on barefoot. I'm glad we didn't have to run back up that. Con: the swim bouys will be on my left -- I breath to the right. This has the potential to cause me problems.

The water was measured at 74 deg Thursday night. I didn't catch the morning of temperature, but in a wetsuit it was quite comfortable. I did a little warm up swim in the dark and waited for the 7am start. The water was very smooth and calm. I wore my dark, mirrored goggles and was having problems seeing ANY bouys. They're way out there, it's dark, and I don't see distant things well without glasses. I got folks to tell me how many: 3 orange, then turn left at the yellow. 1 orange, then turn left at the yellow, then on in to shore. Ok. Got it.

I was in wave 2 and we got going at 7:04. I had a rush of nerves but kept the pace intentionally slow and calm. That worked out great and as folks spread out some, I picked up the power. About the time I got to the 2nd orange bouy the sun peeked over the trees behind us. Catching a sun rise at water level in the river was pretty cool. I actually ran into the 3rd orange bouy, and caught the rope for the yellow one as I turned. At least I was swimming in a straight line!

Now we're out in the channel (well, not really, but it seems that way) and there's no current to speak of. Apparently we hit the peak of the tide and it was pretty much going nowhere. The next orange bouy took a while to reach and I noticed folks veering left. I followed. The yellow bouy took forever to show up. After that was the shore. Except I couldn't see it and despite being quite a long way, there are no more bouys to sight off of to get there. We're now swimming directly into the sun and even with dark mirrored goggles I can't see anything. I try to catch sight of other swimmers and head in that general direction. The finish is on a small beach next to the Jamestown Ferry, so I figured if I followed the ferry dock pilings I'd end up close. At one point a kayak tells me to head left. Thanks! I had made a pretty broad curve and added a fair bit of distance to the swim. Bummer.

I still can't really see the shore, but I noticed someone standing and walking next to me. We must be close. As I stood up, my right calf charlie-horsed. I stumbled and thrust my left leg out, which also charlie-horsed. That resulted in what I imagine was a pretty comedic and spectacular looking face-first crash back into the water. Helpful tip: you cannot adequately massage your calves thru 5mm of wetsuit rubber. I ended up swimming another 25 yards to let my calves relax, then gingerly stood again. In retrospect I had probably been force-pointing my toes the whole time. I don't normally do that. Maybe it was nerves? I also don't usually swim in a wetsuit so maybe that changed my kick technique too much.

I was disappointed with my swim time (49:00 vs 44:xx in 2007) but pleased with the effort. I felt comfortable and strong the entire way. I had no panic attacks at all. In fact it was almost relaxing, aside from the confusion on the last part coming into shore. I also note that everyone's swim time is at least 5 min slower this year. If I hadn't taken the scenic trip back I might have gone faster even with the longer course.

I stripped off the wetsuit right as I got out of the water. It's easier while there is still water in the suit and the long run to transition would dry it off too much. I also managed to lose my goggles AGAIN this year. Grrr.

I tried something newish on race day (a huge no-no) and put on my biking bibs over my trisuit. The padding on the trisuit isn't much and 3 hours on the bike is a long time. I've read about other people doing it and it seemed smart. I've done one 5 mile ride that way and was fine (not a good test, I know)

I've been biking 50-55 miles every weekend for the last 5-6 weeks with my friend Vince, and lately Kevin has been joining us for 20-35 miles too. (Actually, that is the only biking I've been doing.) The distance has become comfortable, but that's with drafting and rests. Vince let me borrow his race wheels: ZIPP 404's with a disc cover for the rear. A very intimidating set up! It looks like a real time trial bike. We've ridden the race route once this year and I'm glad we did. I knew where the long parts where, where the inclines are and it just makes it go faster as you recognize land marks. I stayed in the aero position the first 40 miles, sitting up every 5 for a minute or so to stretch. I went thru all three bottles of gatorade that I carried with me over the course of the ride, and half a clif bar. Around mile 40 I got a side stitch that covers most of my right side (always the right side). I've had them before on rides and this one wasn't bad, but I sat up and pretty much stayed that way the last 16 miles. My guess it's from sucking too much air from the long straw in the aero bottle, combined with the bent over aero position. Fortunately we had a tail wind and I was still able to do 19mph without much effort.

I clocked the course at 57 miles and averaged around 18.5 mph (18.0 in 2007). My official time was 3:03 (3:15 in 2007) The best part was that I felt pretty fresh. The bike bibs over the trisuit worked great and I'll definitely do that again on a longer course. I did take 2 salt tabs. The first an hour into the bike, and the second an hour after that. The heat wasn't bad, but I know I was sweating a ton and losing salt in a big way. Plus, from experience training, it makes a big difference on the long days. I get far less cramps when I take salt on the hot/long days (stuff over 2-3 hours and/or over 85 deg).

My second transition was easy. Take off the bibs, bike shoes and helmet and put on run shoes. I grabbed a snack crammed it into a pocket. When I ran out of transition my watch said 4:01. If I could come up with a 2 hour half marathon (something I can do with a fair bit of confidence without the whole swim/bike thing) I'd come in at 6:00. That'd be awesome!

Running after riding is always hard. It took about 3 miles to shake things loose. I'd stretched out my calves on the bike. The left one was feeling pretty good. The right one was sore, but not holding me back. It never did get any worse, so that's good! The run was different this year, and I liked the change. It's 2 loops and about 75% in the shade. 5-6 miles in there are on a gravel trail through a forest, so it's quite nice. I walked very water stop and had a cup of water. They have no gatorade on the course, just Heed (a sports drink brand that I find disgusting. I've tried it a few times and cannot get the stuff down. It makes me gag.) I continued one salt tab per hour (S-Caps for those who care) and had my Sports Beans (jelly beans with some trace eletrolytes like pottasium and magnesium)

I was able to maintain pace for a 2 hour time all the way through mile 9. I was tired, but moving. No pain, just fatigue. I was passing a lot of guys in my age group. At mile 9, the wheels came off. My best guess is that it was dehydration. I was feeling warm and flush. My chest/back felt tight. I started getting an extra cup of water to throw over my head and cool down. I'd been drinking very regularly. I tried the coke instead, which just made me belch a lot (it's usually de-carbonated, but this wasn't). I ended up walking and doing a 10-11 min mile pace for the remainder. Breathing was a real chore. I could feel the tension in my shoulders too.

On the way down the cute I was greeted by a cheering BJ and Kaylee! They had come down for the finish. (Races this long are terribly boring for spectators. You go through transition twice, but otherwise I'm basically gone for 6 hours. I suspect one day they'll have GPS trackers on everyone so you can watch on a laptop or big screen and see the little dot move around the course.) I managed to attempt a running high-5 with Kaylee and headed on down to the line.

I finished with a 2:11 half marathon and a 6:11 total time. It's still a PR by 19 minutes, which I'm pleased with.

I ended up 41 out of 61 in my age group. If I'd made the 6:00 time, I'd ony have bumped up 5 places! Lotta guys in the mid to upper 5's! Mostly due to the bike I see. Many had runs a few min on either side of 2 hours, so I'm not far off there.

I was feeling pretty lousy the first 30 min after the race, but came around. I even managed to get a complimentary post-race massage from a local sports massage shop on site. BJ and Kaylee enjoyed the little beach at the swim exit. Kaylee had her Ariel costume on and was having a grand time frolicking on the beach.

As of Sunday morining I feel pretty good, though both calves are very tight. Once I get moving, they're not bad, but standing up from sitting is a real chore.

Photos from the race. Ignore the person who clearly isn't me!

I have a two-piece wetsuit and have removed the top part already in the swim exit photos. I took the bottom half off right after I crossed the timing mat.

Male Age Group Results for those interested:

(that's a weird looking URL. not sure how long it'll last)