1:12:38 - 471st out of 3061 Overall, 51st out of 215 in Agegroup
This is the time of year that race season begins to wind down as school starts up in a week. We usually try and plan our big season-ending destination race such that we do the race and then vacation for a week or two afterward just before school fires back up. Age Group Nationals threw a bit of monkey wrench in those plans as it backed up too close to school start to get any kind of down-time afterward, so this year we instead opted to spend about a week-and-a half in up-state Michigan prior to hopping across the lake to Milwaukee. While I wouldn’t exactly say that was a bad plan, spending the entire taper period on vacation could have been better thought out. We had tons of fun with friends and family, but we also enjoyed tons of food and drink as well. While I have not yet stepped on a scale since I last weighed in two weeks ago, I am betting I put on 7lbs since we left home. I kept telling myself “Meh, Milwaukee is flat, no big deal” every time I made a martini or ate a piece of Michigan fudge - ha. But we also did a lot of sporty stuff as well: running, swimming, biking, skiing, hiking, and paddle boarding, so it kinda/sorta/maybe balanced out.
one last stop before the airport.
We headed for the airport on Thursday afternoon and made a quick stop by the Seven Eleven to get a genuine slurpee (we don’t have Seven Elevens in Georgia) and Jennifer was excited to find out they had mustache straws. She immediately commenced to giving herself her annual freezy headache. The Traverse City airport is small, so check-in and security was a breeze, and we headed out on schedule for our connector in Chicago. While en route we turned our attention to finding a place to eat, of which Milwaukee seems to have no shortage. Upon landing in Chicago, we got bounced around from gate to gate and then of course we found out our flight was delayed. And delayed. And delayed again. We finally made it in and got to the hotel, starving. So despite all our restaurant planning we wound up eating at the hotel restaurant (which was actually a very good “farm to table” place). Following the old “when in Rome” adage, we ordered a way-to-big charcuterie board chock-full of local cheeses and enough cured meats to supply a hunting camp for the entire winter. I definitely got my pre-race sodium in. Still in vacation mode, we of course washed it all down with a little wine and local beers.
Back in the hotel, I unpacked and assembled my bike quickly, with the only little issue being my chain had dropped to the inside during travel and I accidentally spun the cranks backwards before I realized it and jammed the chain a little bit. I popped it out easily with no worries, and then laid my clothes out before calling a night and hitting the hay.
I woke up at 6am and bounced out the door before Jennifer (or apparently anyone else) was up: the town was very quiet. Heading out for my normal pre-race brick I rolled directly down to the waterfront, and on the way I could hear this slight “rub, rub, rub.” I stopped and checked both the front and rear wheels and they seemed fine. Back on the bike, and “rub, rub, rub.” Shit. Giving the bike a closer looked, I eventually found that evidently when I dropped my chain the night before I bent the thin aluminum plate that protects the bottom bracket from the chain in the event of a drop. It was bent just enough that it was barely rubbing against the inside of the small chainring. Since it wasn’t causing any damage I finished up the ride without worrying about it - that would be a problem for later. The morning was gorgeous, weather was great for racing, and just as I got back to the hotel it seemed that everyone else was getting up with the same idea: there were triathletes everywhere. I went up to the room, grabbed my shoes, and headed out for a 15 minute easy run with just a couple of strides at the end for good measure.
When I got back JT was up and knocking around, so we went out to grab some breakfast and then headed out to scope the transition area. They were already setting up the swim course, so we walked around the basin and took a look at that as well. After that we swung by the expo and picked up my packet, then walked back to the hotel to for my swim stuff before heading back back down to meet up with ChrisM. I didn’t really have much of a swim on the schedule - really just got in the water, sighted the swim lines, and generally just paddled around getting my bearings. After that I caught back up with Jennifer and we grabbed lunch at Cubanitas. I am a sucker for a good cuban sandwich, and their plantain chips with guacamole really hit the spot!
I went back to the hotel and since I didn’t have the tools needed to remove my crank I instead just used a screwdriver to bend the protection late back even more so that it cleared the chainrings. While only a temporary fix, at least it saved me a trip to the bike service tent. About 4pm Jen and I went back down to the even site one more time (good thing the hotel was only a 5 minute walk away!) to drop my bike off in transition. I have to say I have never seen so much bank in a transition area in my life: just by my quick calculation I would bet that there were about $25 million worth of bikes in the corral. Crazy. I did a few more walk throughs and visualizations, and then headed back with JT to get my race day crap organized, shower, and head out for a relaxing, romantic (ha!) anniversary dinner at Zarletti. The food and wine were awesome, and we had a really pleasant evening together. We were asleep by 9:30, and I slept like a stone.
pre-race meal: wild boar Ragù
I woke up at 5:00am on the button, grabbed a quick cup of tea and a couple of Pop Tarts before heading down to transition. While racing in Chattanooga a few weeks prior I had actually lost the lid to the CalPac on my Felt IA somewhere out on the race course. Felt was great enough to actually replace it under warranty, but it did not make it to the LBS before I left for vacation. It finally came in on Thursday, and one of my Podium teammates who was racing the sprint brought it up from Atlanta for me. She got in late on Friday night and dropped it off at the front desk, so I swung by and picked it up on the way out of the hotel. Got in transition right as it opened up at 5:30, and there was hardly anyone there, so I got set up fairly quickly. The first thing I did was borrow a pump, well before the guy that I borrowed it from’s patience for such had worn thin. I mounted up the new cal pac lid, and checked the gearing and wheel clearances one last time. When I spun my front wheel backwards and squeezed the brake, one of the brake pads shot out of the caliper and out into the grass. “Ah, shit!” I thought, but after a couple of minutes of scratching around I found it and slipped it back in place. Not sure if I lost the set screw or what, but I knew as long as I didn’t roll the wheel backwards with the brake applied it would be fine. I did a few more walk throughs, and went back to check my transition one more time. When I turned on my head unit and calibrated the zero offset on my power meter, I got a “power meter battery low” warning. “Well it is always something, isn’t it?” I figured it would not change my ability to turn the pedals as hard as I could, so I just put it out of my mind and didn’t think about it. I headed back to the hotel just as the real masses of folks started rolling in. I felt a little like a salmon swimming upstream….
Who could POSSIBLY miss that stripy transition towel?
Since my wave was the second to last and didn’t go off until 9:40am, I crawled back in bed and grabbed another 1.5 hours of sleep. At 7:45 Jennifer woke me up (again, I was sound asleep!) and we went down to Starbucks to get a tea and Jen grabbed breakfast. Appropriately caffeinated finally, I went back upstairs one more time to change into my race kit and grab my dry clothes bag and swim start stuff and head out.
our funny little pre-race ritual in which JT asks me “Which way to the gun show?” just before we head out. It just never gets old!
Back down at the race venue no one seemed to be where they wanted to be, and everyone was on the wrong side of the race course from where they were trying to get. We were no different: it took us a long time to get across the bike out and over to the Discovery Center and swim start. Eventually we made it, and I left my stuff with Jennifer while I went out for one last little ten minute warm up run. When I got back, a couple of Beginner Triathlete friends Randy (Slowrnow) and Rene (Catwoman) had come down to watch the race start and were hanging out with Jennifer. It was great to finally get to meet them both, but it was unfortunately only for a second as I had to dart off to the swim start. I got suited up, popped a gel and a couple of salt tabs, hugged JT, and headed down and jumped in the water for a little warm up with ten minutes to spare.
suiting up: OMG, is that actually Body Glide for WOMEN????
25:03 - 1177th Overall, 116th in Age Group.
We lined up beside the big yellow banana buoy with Queen “We Will Rock You” playing over the loudspeaker. A gong boomed out the last ten seconds, and then FINALLY we were off! I started wide to the left about 3 or 4 rows back and began to make my way steadily toward the first orange buoy marking the left side of the bridge abutment. The water was perfectly flat and the group was not too rowdy. “This is going to be great!” I thought to myself, as I sighted one more time on the left-most buoy. Then all the sudden I was about 35 yards to the right over next to the buoy on the right side of the bridge, and now idea how I got there. I was seeing stars, my nose was KILLING me, and I was generally kind of stunned and addle brained. Evidently I got kicked, elbowed, or otherwise clocked in the nose and it sent me loopy for a bit - and I still don’t really have any recollection how I got from one end of the bridge to the other. Now over the years I have taken my fair share of inadvertent shots to the head during the swim, but BOY! did this one this one ever take the cake. I did my best to shake it off, but honestly I was more than a little disoriented for the rest of the swim.Still seeing stars, I swam away from the pack and basically tried to stay wide from the group in the middle of the course. After rounding the first little penensula I eventually got herded back on course and around the next turn buoy by one of the course guards. Finally approaching the swim out, I was convinced it was actually the bridge and began to swim left away from it, almost up against the boulders along the west side of the basin. When I finally realized my mistake I got really angry and began to swim very hard for the exit. That actually seemed to clear my head somewhat, and I flipped the switch on the swim and started to run through T1 in my head. “What is done is done,” I said out loud on my last breath out and I stood up on the ramp and began to run.
…still a little stunned.
What would I do differently on the swim?
I think I was better trained and and prepared for this swim than I have ever been in my entire career of racing. I honestly thought I would finally be able to pull off an Olympic swim in under 24 minutes, but damn, this one stunk it up, but again, that is racing an exactly why I love the sport so much. In the end even if I had the best swim possible I still would have been a couple of minutes out of the big show. This proved to be a good wakeup call for exactly what I need to do if I want to continue to improve at this sport.
Oh, and maybe I should wear a helmet next time.
2:31 - 607th overall, 45th in Age Group.
I got up the ramp quickly with no issues and had my cap and goggles off by the time I hit the top. The run in to transition was long, but I actually kind of like that as it gets my legs going a little quicker than if I just jump on the bike. Getting vertical really seemed to help clear the final little bit fog from my head as well. I ran hard, and got my top up over my head and off quickly, then shrugged out of my shoulder straps and shoved the bib john down on the fly. When I turned the corner into the corral I saw Jennifer yelling at me and I managed to get a little wave off, and then promptly almost slipped down and busted my ass in the slick muddy spot created by all the previous athletes that had come into T1 before us. There was a volunteer there warning us about it and Jennifer said she saw several athletes go down. That would have been just awesome!
….sneaking a little wave to JT.
I beelined for my bike rack, and no lie: every single bike around me was gone. Every. Single. One. Got my helmet and shoes on with no problem and hustled out of the exit to the mount line.
What would I do differently in T-1?
Nada. This was a good transition with no mishaps at all. And VERY glad to get to see Jennifer after such a crumby swim. That really helped to get my mind back right for the most part.
1:02:33 - 442nd Overall, 55th in Age Group.
I mounted up and and put my radar on high alert as there was a lot of pedestrians crossing back and forth. I cleared the exit chicanes quickly and thought “well that wasn’t so bad,” and then right in front of me a jackwagon just up the road began fiddle-farting around trying to get his shoes on and while doing so careened right into another racer. That guy subsequently darted to the left into my path, but I have learned over the years to be extra-cautious for this kind of foolishness coming out of transition so I got way clear of the melee. I didn’t look back to see, but my guess is at least one of those guys went down, if not both of them. I seriously do not know why there are so many idiot-sticks that think it is a good idea to put their shoes on their bikes like a pro in an age group wave start race - the roll out of T1 is just way too dangerous as it is.
After that though folks got orderly enough rather quickly and I commenced to rolling. Having ridden this part of the course during my pre-race brick I was not surprised by the little hill we had to get up to the turn around. This was the only spot on the entire course that I put the bike in the small chainring, and that was really only to spin the legs up and get them going. There were a couple of guys that just murdered it to the first turn around, but then they came back very quickly on the descent back to the event site. Remembering the little bit of cramping I suffered on the run in Chattanooga, I took the opportunity to pop a couple of salt tabs as we descended back towards the crowd. There were some volunteers that waved us down for rough road transitions just as we went by the start line and began the southbound journey out of town, but from there I dialed my effort in as we began to climb up and over the big bridge. My cadence and effort were right where they were supposed to be, and I was moving quickly, but for some reason my power was a little low and when I would allow it to creep up it just felt like I was going to pop. So I decided to ignore my power meter and just rode what felt right. Taking advantage of gravity, I ate a gel on the descent.
rolling up the big bridge.
There was just the tiniest bit of crossing wind out of the east, but it was not enough to really effect anything. I was catching guys from my age group very steadily. I suppose that is one of the good things about having a terrible swim: at least there are A LOT of folks up the road to run down - ha! After the bridge the course seemed flat as a die to me, which does’t play very well to my current strengths or training, but it was OK - nobody got around me and I just focused on getting from rider to rider and worked the slingshot a bit. I was kind of surprised though that in this kind of field no one seemed interested in working the legal draft, but on the upside I didn’t see any blatant drafting out on the course either. When we exited the interstate and headed east back toward the lakeshore you could just feel a little bit of headwind but again it was nothing major. Just as we began rolling on the surface street section of the course the only guy to get around me all day came by like a rocket. He was a big dude, and he was motoring. When he got about 100 meters up the road I decided to notch it up and see if I could ride just a little harder than I wanted to and I picked the effort up juuuuust enough to move up to within about 30 meters off his rear wheel. I felt moderately ok, so I just sat there and paced off him. That was just the ticket to shake a couple of guys that had been pacing off me and at the turn around saw that there was actually a fairly sizable gap behind. On the return trip my pacer slowed down a little bit, but I had kind of zoned out and it took me a wile to notice that my effort had also dropped to match his. Honestly I think in a moment of mental weakness I was feeling a little sorry for myself for such a shitty swim and I let my mind wander. I got a little angry with myself for losing my concentration like that on something I couldn’t do anything about and even though knowing I was burning a match, I picked up the effort A LOT. I went by my pacer hard, but within 4 minutes he passed me again even harder: I think HE was more angry at HIS loss of concentration than I was - heh. For the rest of the return trip I sat about 50 meters back and averaged 5 watts higher than the outbound leg - perfect! By the time I hit the bridge for the last time we were well into the thick of the slow part of the waves that went off in front, so there was a little bit of struggling going on. I got up and over quickly though, and zipped down toward T2 with no issues. Turning back into the chicanes I popped out of my shoes easily, had a good dismount, and darted into transition. “Legs feel very good!” I remember thinking - and got really excited. I remember feeling VERY happy.
What would I do differently on the bike?
Even though the power was about 10 watts south of where it was supposed to be this was still an OK bike save for the brief moment of self pity and personal loathing. I rode smoothly (NP was only 4 watts higher than AP for the entire ride) - and a lot less surgy than is often the case as there was very little cat-and-mouse yo-yoing going on. Again, I think this was due to: A) the lack of hills on the course, and B) the fact that I came out of the water so far back I was a little faster than most of the riders I encountered on the road. If I come back next year the key to be faster on this course is pretty straightforward: I will have to increase my FTP, and that is going to have to come from increasing functional strength, pure and simple. I have been talking with my coach about doing a bike-focus block during the fall and winter and then building a season around races that will favor that work (Leadman, anyone?). While it wouldn’t be right for everyone, he thinks I actually should incorporate a legit, straight-up strength block in the out season with the express goal of building some leg mass (and just accept the weight gain that goes with it) as well as targeting building strength at my “extreme range of motion” to aid in the swimming. I am going to talk to a couple of very good strength trainers here locally in a couple of weeks and see where that goes. I have never been much interested in gym work (and it shows!) but I do feel like I have gotten back in race mode and want to be faster. Normally I just train to train and racing just validates that - at the moment though I think I might REALLY be interested in doing what I need to do to actually race faster. That feeling honestly comes and goes with me, however.
1:16 - 605th Overall, 35th in Age Group
Rolled in and hooked a left onto my row. ChrisM had his most-awesome Time Machine already racked just up the row from me and I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I thought for a brief moment about the kidding we had done about just where on the run I might catch him and in that brief moment of mirthful distraction I ran two whole racks past my spot. “THAT FUCKING CHRIS!” I thought as I u-turned my bike and headed back to find my lucky multi-colored stripy transition towel that I have used for twenty-plus years. And that is a funny thing too: for the most part everyone in this race really knows what they are doing, right down to their transition towels. Normally I have no problem picking mine out in the crowd as it is rather distinct. But not this time, as EVERYONE (and I mean EVERYONE!) had their own lucky, multi-colored stripy transition towels marking out their areas. The transition was a virtual cacophony of colors. Even my towel was a small fish in a big pond today.
Racked the bike, slipped on my shoes, grabbed my visor, race belt, and sun glasses, and I was off for the run exit. just as I ran through the exit arch I passed my bike pacer who did not look nearly as happy as I was to start the run. “Fantastic pace on the bike!” I said as I ran past. And immediately realized that probably sounded like a pretty douchy thing to say. But I genuinely meant it - without him making me work just a little bit harder than I wanted to I would have probably been at least a minute or two slower on the bike, and I truly appreciated the effort. But I am sure it still sounded douchy to him. I might as well as said “sorry you can’t run, fatty!”
What would I do differently in T-2?
1) Tie A big helium-filled Sponge Bob Balloon onto my transition rack.
2) Don’t be douche.
41:12 - 476th Overall, 46th in Age Group.
So here we go: this is what I came here to do!
Aaaaaaand I was immediately passed by another guy in my age group.
Huh, well - ok, NOW here we go!
Just like my pacer on the bike, this guy was moving just a little faster than I wanted to, which meant he was going at about the pace I need to go. I sat on and trailed him all the way out the first little peninsular out-and-back. And just for the record according to the photographic evidence it was just after the turn onto this part of the course where I caught ChrisM: you can juuuuuust make him out behind me in the polka dot top - how crazy is that (not his polka dot top, but rather the fact that the photographer caught us both on the course together)?!?
oof. Chris really put a beating on me in the swim!
At the first aid station I grabbed water and drink it all, and then dumped the remaining ice down my pants (yeah, that’s what I do). When we passed the same aid station on the way back sucked down a gel and grabbed two more waters and did the same. My pacer and I were picking off guys in our age group like crazy. Just after we made the right hand turn to begin the longer out-and-back I was passed by another guy and I aaaaaaalmost let him go, but then I thought about all the track intervals I had run to get ready for this race and instead dug in and surged up to him. And somehow stuck. We promptly passed my previous pacer, and I was hurting, but continued to stick to my new guy. I was too focused to even try and read what his team name was, but I do remember his kit had a skull right in the middle of it.
I just kept my eyes riveted on that skull.
And kept thinking “just another 400. Now just do one more loop around the track,” etc. On occasion when we passed guys they would sit on for a moment, but I would punch it for 20 strides (and I would literally count “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten” just to get through it) and then settle back in, which served to shake them off. My guy would surge away at the aid stations, and each time would put a little more space between us, eventually building his lead to about 30 meters. Knowing there was no way I could actually catch him I just kept turning myself inside out so as not to lose touch with him completely. With about 1200 meters to go I saw Jennifer and she was jumping up and down yelling her head off, and she took off running down the sidewalk ahead if me. That gave me just the final boost I needed to turn the screws one more time and as the finishing arch finally came into view I resolved to run down the final few guys remaining between me and the end. I caught the last one at the beginning of the carpet. He picked it up and I immediately thought “Oh, please don’t do this to me!” Not wanting him to come around me at at any cost, I sprinted to the timing mat, completely jacking up the woman-in front-of-me’s finish line photo. Ah, well, sorry about that. But this ain’t Ironman. At Age Group Nationals and with a guy in my bracket right on my feet at the finish line I am racing all the way to the tape.
this hurt, pure and simple.
What would I do differently on the run?
So during the entirety of the run I never looked at my pace, time, or effort. I just ran, and from that regard this was a very good race, and even an Olympic PR, at least since I threw out all my “young boy” record book and instead started keeping track of my “old-man” personal bests. I am VERY, VERY happy with the result. But honestly the post race analysis is that I should have been about 12 seconds per mile faster on the run based on my training, on this course, and with this weather. But instead I decided to take a family vacation for the two weeks leading up to the race and subsequently we ate and drank WAY too much, and generally had more fun than I should have. In that time I put on a whopping 7 pounds (I have since checked since starting to write this report), and instead of racing at 142 pounds I raced at 149. That was a conscious decision I made and I have ZERO regrets about it, which is easy to say and feel actually, as it would not have changed the final results in a meaningful way. I have had a blast racing well this summer, and ending it with a great, fun, and relaxing vacation just before work fires back up was just the icing on the cake. And as I proved over the past couple of weeks, I do like me some icing!
It is WAAAAAY too early to get too serious about it, but if I do this race again next year it will be with an eye toward not just having fun, but to actually try and qualify for worlds, or at least get on the bubble. If I decide to go that route I might do things a little differently in the weeks leading up to the race. We will see.
I staggered around and almost collapsed, just managing to catch myself with both hands on my knees. I thought I might fall over when they hung the medal around my neck, and eventually a couple of volunteers coaxed me into shuffling out of the way of the finishing chute. Jennifer found me immediately and that buoyed my energy one more time. I glanced at the post-race food but had no appetite, not even for a beer - oh, the horror! We went over and got in line to retrieve my dry clothes bag, and then in line to get in transition to retrieve my bike, helmet, shoes, etc. While still n transition I quickly got out of my kit and into my dry clothes and we headed to the hotel to drop all my crap and then out to get a bite to eat.
From there we headed back down to watch the pro-am super-sprint exhibition, which BTW was awesome, BUT DAMN, that Starky is one big, lumbering dude. Incredibly fast, but lumbering.
Never have I witnessed a faster lumberer.
After the super sprint we FINALLY headed back to the hotel for glorious, glorious, showers, got packed up for a 6:30am flight home, and then went downstairs and met up with ChrisM for dinner and beers! All-in-all a pretty good day, and a perfect end to a perfect vacation.