All 2010 Race Reports

Patriots Half Triathlon 2010 Race Report

11 September 2010

by Dave MacLuskie

Short version

swim (1.2 mi) 47:17
t1 5:04
bike (56 mi) 3:05:19
t2 2:50
run (13.1 mi) 1:53:27
overall 5:53:55

47th out of 81 in my age group. Overall I was 200 out of 382 men.

Long version


The weather forecasts were looking remarkably good for race day; clear skies with a predicted high of 79F. As of a few days before the race the measured water temperature was 79F; not wet suit legal. I was prepared (but unhappy) for a non-wetsuit swim. In an effort to make up for my poor non-wetsuit swim at Luray a month prior I put duct tape over the pockets of my trisuit. One of the thoughts I had after my race was how the 5 pockets might be acting like parachutes in the water. The duct tape looked pretty tacky but if it meant a better swim I would deal with the fashion faux pas. We had a few cool nights and an out going tide on the morning of the race and when I arrived the official water temperature was 74F; wetsuit legal! I'm glad I packed it! I tore off the duct tape and gladly wore the wetsuit. I seriously doubt the water changed 5 degrees in 2 days and I don't think the whole river was that cool. I did swim through a few cold pockets out there, and a few warm pockets, and based on the fumes/taste, a pocket of spilled diesel fuel.

I ended up with one of the better transition spots. One row back from the bike entrance/exit, right along the aisle. There were only a few dozen people with better spots. The advantage of being close to the entrance/exit is that, while you still run the full length of the transition area, you don't have to do it with your bike in your bike shoes. On top of that I think there were only 5 folks on my rack instead of the usual 6 so we had a little extra room.

The walk from transition down to the swim start is quite a hike. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a quarter of a mile. From the swim exit back to transition is also a bit shorter, but still longer than normal. On the walk down I noticed most folks opted for wet suits though a few did not. The water wasn't cold enough to need a wetsuit for warmth and I suspect that strong swimmers prefer to go without; it does take time to take them off!


I got in a short warm up swim down at the beach. It was nearly low tide and the river was very shallow. Even 100m out the water was only waist deep. The swim was a bit different than last year. I can't see distant objects well without my glasses so by asking multiple people to be my eyes I found out there were some orange bouys in a row taking you out into the middle of the river followed by a yellow triangle bouy. At the yellow you turn left, swim down river, then turn left at another yellow bouy and head into shore. I can only make out 1 orange blur and one yellow blur. I'm hoping I can just follow people and spot the buoys as I get closer to them. Summary: turn left at yellow. I should invest in my some correction goggles.

I exchanged nervous banter with a few guys in my age group (same color cap) at the swim start. They were both new to the distance, but not triathlons.

I started in the 4th wave at 7:09 with the rest of the green capped men. Everyone was spread out so there wasn't as much bumping as I expected. I ended up swimming into a few slower folks even. That's a first! I'm usually in the back.

I passed two orange buoys and was ready for that the turn at the yellow. Sadly, all I spotted was another orange. Despite the confusion I was feeling fine. I was fairly relaxed and was focusing on keeping a half-decent stroke (for me) and just keeping forward movement. I'm sure I wasn't the only one out there reporting Dora's mantra (from Finding Nemo) of "just keep swimming, just keep swimming." Finally the yellow buoy pops up and I make the turn with some white-capped girls from the wave that started three minutes behind me. It gets a little congested at the turn but nothing too bad.

After the turn I have no idea where to go. I turned left about 90 degrees as best as I can tell and I didn't see buoys or people. Hmm. I aimed more toward the shore and caught some arms splashing so I followed them. The sun has peeked up from behind the trees on the shore now so we're swimming into the sun. I am wearing dark, mirrored goggles and I still can't see any buoys to aim for. I only know where the shore is because I know it's where the sun is.

I managed to follow the crowd and pass an orange buoy that I didn't know was there. I come across the last yellow and turn toward shore. There are arms, splashes, and caps across a huge arc in front of me. I have no idea who to follow so I aim toward the midde, put my head down and swim. I try to sight now and again and can't see anything. An orange buoy shows up not far to my left. That's probably a good sign. Eventually another one shows up to my left. Again, that's good. Wait. Is it? I didn't know there were any buoys heading back in. I didn't see them the start. Was that because I'm blind? Nobody mentioned them. Were they not there? Are these the same buoys? Am I headed back to the start, not the exit? Argh. I'm tired of swimming and decide to just head toward the shore and deal with it there.

Based on reading a few other reports and comments I wasn't the only one lost and confused on the swim course. I've yet to talk to someone who wasn't!

I swim smack into a person who's standing in the water. It's a life guard. "You can't swim here. There's drift wood. Go left or right." Er. Ok. I'll go right. It's nice to see I can stand now though! I do and see the shore is still quite a ways away but people are already walking in waist deep water. I swim on and flex my calves to stretch them out. Last year they both cramped up on me when I tried to stand after the swim. When I start grabbing sand while swimming I stand and walk out to the beach; that was probably 2 minutes just for that! I imagine the folks on the shore saw what looked like a bad zombie movie: a never ending stream of rubber-suited people slogging through knee deep water with hungry, blank looks on their faces.


I strip the wetsuit off right after I pass the timing mat down by the beach. The run up to transition is long and the suit is easier to take off while it's holding water. I left my goggles/cap on though and am glad to say that I did not lose them this year. Every previous Patriots Half I've lost my goggles before getting to T1.

There are a lot of bikes gone from transition already; you get use to it as a slow swimmer. I put on my cycling bibs over my trisuit. I did it last year and enjoyed the extra comfort. Once again I spent too much time washing off my feet and putting on socks. It's going to be a 3 hour bike ride and little discomforts can make for a miserable day.


Though my tri bike is working again I haven't spent any time on it so I took the cyclocross bike. It's not aerodynamic, but it is comfortable! I don't have the bike miles that most folks do. This became painfully evident a few weeks ago when I joined a mixed group of triathlese and roadies for a bike ride after work. I managed to keep for about 7 (of 30) miles before I felt out the back of the pack. They ended up averaging near 23 mph with some sustained efforts at 26+. It was a real eye opener on how far I have to go. Note that my friend Vince who started biking about the same time I did, and puts in some real miles and hard work, stuck with the group just fine. My bike commute addition has been a huge benefit in working in some miles. Next year I'll try to start that much earlier.

In any case, I was glad to get moving on the bike but a bit disturbed that both glutes seemed tight. I've never had that after a swim before. They eventually loosened up -- for a while.

I had put on my bento box the night before (it's a little nylon box thing that sits right behind the handlebars on the top tube. You can put snacks and things in it) and filled it with pretzel M&Ms and gummi bears. Overall I'd guess about 500-600 calories worth of snacks. I nibbled on them through out the ride. I wish I had a few more. I felt a little hungry at the end of the ride, but not famished or weak.

I was pretty happy with hydration too. I drank both bottles of water on the bike and even had to stop to pee (in the woods.) As much as I dislike burning the time, dehydration is really bad news so staying hydrated was a priority.

Speaking of hydration, I passed the usual number of yellow brillo pad things that pop out of the Profile Design aero drink bottle that folks put on the front of their bikes. The yellow things are there to prevent water/gatorade/whatever from splashing out but allow you to quickly pour in a fresh bottle of whatever while riding. They don't work very well. Folks install them like the advertising photos show (and how it comes in the packaging) and not the way the instructions describe (which is sideways inside the large open area at the top.) Every year on the bumpy parts of the road there's up to a half dozen brand new yellow pads. I've noticed the newer versions of the bottle come with caps AND yellow pads. Finally.

Photo of the right way to install the yellow thing: squished inside sideways so you can't see it and it doesn't bounce out! (My tri bike from another race -- not what I raced at Patriots in 2010)

The bike went quite well and I maintained a steady effort throughout. About half way through I got in with a group of folks that I swapped places with the rest of the ride. There was "girl in blue" who had a road bike and mostly rode on the hoods. She never seemed tired and I imagine she's a pretty solid cyclist. There was "older guy in green" who'd fly by me then drop 2mph and I'd pass him a minute later. There was "Mrs. Incredible" who had an Incredibles inspired jersey that said "Tricredibles." She had a great aero position and seemed pretty consistent. I wouldn't be surprised if she was riding with a power meter. I was pleased that none of us was drafting. We'd pass and ride clear but we each had our strengths. I think they helped me focus and have something to think about on the three hour ride. When I made a pass I felt compelled to keep the pace up and not put them into a drafting position (even though technically it's their problem, not mine -- the person in the back is at fault.) I imagine they felt the same as they usually passed with vigor.

Later on we came across "tri guy with spinergy wheels" (Spinergys are a four spoke carbon wheel that had a few reports of dramatic failures a few years ago.) A few times I found him drafting off me and I'd often speed up to open a gap. He wasn't in my age group but I didn't want to give any free rides. The last 10 miles were into a bit of head wind and less fun. I was also getting tired. My left knee was hurting and my glutes/piraformis was really sore and tight.


T2 was sufficiently uneventful. Rack the bike, remove the extra bib shorts, switch shoes and go. I did spend 30 seconds tracking down my body glide and applying to my arm pits. The swim had chafed a few spots I had apparently missed and the sweat from the bike was making them burn quite badly. I grabbed my second baggie of gummi bears and a bottle of water to carry with me so I didn't have to wait for aid stations to hydrate. This worked well.


As I ran out of transition my clock showed almost exactly 4:00:00 hours racing. If I wanted to make my goal of breaking 6 hours I had to run a 2 hour half-marathon. While that's not an issue for me in an open half-marathon I've never had a good run in a half-iron. Last year I was in the exact same position and was able to hold the requisite 9:00 min/mile pace through mile 9 before I felt apart. I was hoping better bike fitness and better run fitness would let me last the extra 4 miles this year.

The course is pretty nice. Flat, half-shaded, half-walking trail. There are plenty of water/Heed/coke stops and few porta potties. It's two loops, each about 6.5 miles. It's a little depressing to start your run and pass the "7 mile" sign knowing that it's not 7 miles for you!

13 miles is not long for me. I've been running with a group who is deep into fall marathon training and have done a few 20 milers so far this fall. The shortest long run has been 15, so 13 should feel easy. It does not feel as easy after 4 hours of previous exertion though.

The first lap went pretty well and there were a lot of folks on the course going both directions. Based on the first few mile splits I was running about 8:20 which seemed a bit fast but I felt good and decided to go with it. There is a theory that your half-iron half-marathon pace should be about the same as your open marathon pace. In that case, 8:20 was on target (not that I've ever run a marathon that fast, but I _should_ be able to run one that fast! I've never pulled off a good marathon.)

I had a fresh snack bag of gummi bears on me from which I had carefully removed all the pineapple flavored ones. They taste like bile and making myself nauseous + running is bad. The good flavored gummis went down well. During a few 15 sec walk breaks I'd stuff my cheeks chipmunk-style and slow chew on them as I ran. Bonus: a bag of gummies doesn't rattle around and make irritating noises like M&Ms or jelly beans. Plus, if you swallow gummi chunks I'm pretty sure they just dissolve in your stomach. What are they really? Sugar and bears? They go down easy.

Even other gummis shun the disgusting pineapple "tastes-like-vomit" gummi. The yellow guy up front is lemon. Sadly, I ate the other colors prior to the photo shoot so the rainbow effect is lost.

At the end of the first lap my glutes/piraformis were tight. My left knee hurt every step. Walking on it didn't feel any better so I kept running hoping that it'd go away, or I'd cross the finish line; whichever came first. I had hit the turn around in about 56 minutes. I had a little padding. A second lap at 1 hour would be sufficient. That took a bit of the pressure off. As it turns out I was able to maintain the same pace for my second lap. There were a lot less folks out there this time and I passed a lot of folks. Even though I'm no threat to placing in my age group it was always a thrill to pass someone in my age group.

I stopped at a porta potty somewhere in the run, but I don't remember where. I took that to mean adequate hydration and was pleased. I think deyhdration was a strong possiblity for my failure last year on the run. I was nervous passing the mile 9 marker in the same place in the woods. Last year I got dizzy, light headed, and all kinds of bad things. I was anxious to get by it and maintain pace.

Over the course of the run I finished the water bottle and started taking cups of water; drinking half and pouring half into my bottle. I'd take a sip every half mile or so just to keep my mouth wet or wash down the gummies. I had meant to chuck my plastic bottle into a trash can and run free but for some reason it felt like a talisman by now and I carried it (empty) all the way to the finish line. That makes no sense in retrospect but I had some irrational sense of security while I carried the empty, crushed bottle. (I did not draw a face on it ala Wilson in Cast Away.)

As I passed the turn around (hurray for not having to turn around this time!) I saw 5:50 something on my watch. There was about a quarter mile left to run, but I was surely going to finish sub-6! BJ and Kaylee were among those lining the finishing chute and gave a wave and a thumbs up. They had come out earlier and enjoyed the beach by the swim exit and the rock music being played over the loud speaker.

I crossed the line next to someone one else; someone not in my age group. Neither of us had the energy to care about out sprinting the other person. Overall the run pace averaged about 8:40 including the porta potty stop and walk breaks. I stopped for a gloved volunteer to remove my chip from my ankle (I guess we do get disgusting after 5-6 hours) and accepted my finishers medal (from a co-workers son who was volunteering at the race, no less.)

Post race

I walked around for 5-10 min it a bit of a daze. I felt lousy, but not nauseous. I didn't want to eat or drink, but sipped on some cold water (I finally ditched my security bottle and got a fresh, cold bottle.) I found BJ and Kaylee and we sat down for 10 min, then moved to the shade for another 15 minutes of sitting. I shared the rest of my gummi bears. Kaylee liked that part. I finally started feeling human again and I packed up my transition stuff and we left.

The day after my knee is still sore. I think it's really the IT band. If I can get things stretched out enough it'll go away pretty quickly. I haven't taken any anti-inflammatories for it yet and it already feels a bit better. Going down stairs is the worst for it. I have an over all muscle ache and fatigue which I attribute to leaving it all on the course and racing pretty close to the best I can. Overall I'm pleased.

While my swim/bike times were about the same as 2009, I didn't fall apart on the run this year. I'm quite pleased with my run time. I attribute that to better bike fitness as much as more run miles on my legs. The bike didn't wear me out (as much) this year. Maybe next year I'll get more bike miles in and get some speed going. I'd like to average 20mph for the bike (about a 2:45 bike split) and still pull off a 1:45-1:50 half-marathon. I'd like to follow the trend of dropping 15-20 minutes. (I'd also like a zillion dollars and infinite free time... and a pony.) It's getting hard to find places to make big gains! The bike is the best place, I think. The swim is a prime candidate for 5-10 minutes also but that involves actually swimming a lot and it's not my favorite thing to do. Plus I think I need consistent coaching help to pull that off.

On a closing note the finishers medal was better this year. It has a nice heft to it and is race specific (vs a generic "race weekend" medal.) It also has an amusing mistake. See if you can spot it. (Hint: I'd be a world record holder swimmer if my 47 minute swim time applied to the distance claimed on the medal.)

If you guessed "half triathlon" know that that irritated me too. I did a full triathlon. It was a half-iron distance. It should be the "Patriots Half" triathlon, not the Patriots "half triathlon".

Some stats

Times (The race was cancelled in 2008 due to Hurricane Hannah)

  2010 2009 2007
swim (1.2mi) 47:17 49:00 44:31
t1 (beach to transition is a hike) 5:04 5:55 7:23
bike (56mi) 3:05:19 3:03:27 3:13:17
t2 2:50 2:01 2:41
run (13.1mi) 1:53:27 2:11:00 2:22:43
overall 5:53:55 6:11:21 6:30:32

Relative placement in 2010

  2010 Mens
out of 382
2010 Age Group
out of 81
swim (1.2mi) 247 60
t1 265 57
bike (56mi) 287 61
t2 247 51
run (13.1mi) 113 28
overall 200 47

dave.macluskie AT