When the 2016 tri season started I had no intentions of doing any half iron distance races. Over the past few years, I’ve been racing on average 3 halfs and I really wanted my year to be about building speed and achieving the sub 2hr Olympic distance race. If you’ve read any of my past race reports or seen results from this year, you know I have been fairly successful at building speed coming off exclusively racing long course triathlon, but came up very short of the breaking the 2hr mark this year.
All I can say is, learn from your mistakes. After a less than stellar performance at Nationals in Omaha, I decided to reanalyze everything that could have possibly affected my performance. I also decided to extend my season into the fall signing up for a half iron race knowing the fitness level was there and that I would need to build some extra base mileage over the next 5 weeks to try and end the year on a high note.
Hydration and nutrition are pretty much what got me at Nationals, other stresses and some overtraining were also definitely some of the factors. For this half, I really decided to stick to the training plan, not pushing too hard on easy days and if I wasn’t feeling it on a specific workout, I’d bail and do something comparable or shorter. With my built up fitness, I was still only training 9-10hrs per weeks with targeted workouts for each discipline.
In the weeks leading up to my race, I did most of my training solo. I really tried to be in the moment, staying focused on the workout and actually enjoying it all. I did a few workouts with Coach Ben and teammate Holly which were a good change to grueling it alone. The focus on stretching, strength training was also important. Typically later in the season, the core and weight lifting workouts don’t happen as often, but over the 5 weeks I really tried to get in 1-2 50min gym session in to supplement the tri training. These we all for the most part low weight (20-25lbs free weight) with high rep style exercise, with a focus on form. I know this is something I need to continue in the off season looking at 2017.
Race week, I took my taper very seriously! No extra miles, no unnecessary time spent standing. Got on average 8-9hrs of sleep each night and come race morning I felt great. I’ll say it again, but the local racing was very enjoyable this season, the extra stresses of bike traveling with you or making sure you know where things are located in case of potential mechanical issues aren’t even on your mind and make for a more relaxing race experience.
Race morning Tori kindly drove us to Rock Hall, MD site of the Waterman’s race weekend with VTSMTS series. This was my second trip racing in Rock Hall this season and have raced past race a couple of times so I am very familiar with the venue and course which always helps. I setup my transition area and went to warm up before my 8am race wave start. I found Holly who was equally racing and we each went into our own warm up zone. The weather on the east coast had been questionable for days, and I had almost been expecting the race to cancel the swim portion like Ironman Maryland had to do. Luckily this didn’t happen and the water temp was 70F. I opted to use the Xterra Speedsuit like in the spring to save time in transition. Right before entering the water, I ran into friend Vincenzo who was also racing. We joked around and he told me not to swim to fast to give him a shot in the race.
The horn went off and I immediately regretted wearing my clear blue goggles that I thought would help me sight buoys better, but the grey overcast sky made it difficult to find them in the distance. The swim is in a protected harbor in Rock Hall which is why the race was able to have the swim considering the terrible weather forecasted, however the entrance of the harbor channel was quite choppy for about 100m on each lap with 1-2 foot swells. I ended coming through transition 1 in 28:53 even after stopping momentarily 5 times to sight and clear foggy goggles. I was pretty happy to have stayed course and was told I was in 5 position running down the boardwalk. I quickly made my way through T1 and came out in 3rd position.
Within the first 5 miles I caught the second place biker and would spend most of the next 53miles mostly alone. The course was 2 loops and the first 10miles of each loop was extremely windy. I was testing out a new Rudy Project Wing57 aerohelmet for the first time which worked great. However I had not secured the visor properly and with the strong winds, I had to stop for 30 seconds to fix it, nevertheless I came through the first 24miles in 1hr flat; I knew I had to slow down or I would be cooked for the run.
I had taken 2x 20oz bottles of GU Roctane energy mix and 5 Roctane gels flushed down with sips of water for the bike leg. I thought my nutrition was pretty spot on until I hit mile 48. Luckily I had a strong tailwind pushing me, but I had overcooked the bike. My quads were getting tight and by mile 53 I heard a bike passing me, it was Vincenzo. I told him he was in first of second spot since I hadn’t seen anyone pass me, and that I was bonking. I focused on finishing water and maintaining a smooth pedal stroke using the upstroke to maintain power and stay within reach of him going into transition with a bike leg PR of 2:22:30, normalized power of 250W at 23.5mph average on a fairly windy day.
We both entered transition, I grabbed my race belt and realized I had forgot to layout my GU carb drink bottle, but I exited 1 minute before him and started running at 6:45/mile. By the first mile, my quads weren’t happy, I had already used one Roctane gel exiting transition and knew I would need more than 2 for this half marathon if I wanted break 1:30 off the bike (something that has been eluding me ever since I started doing half irons). Vincenzo came by at 1.5 miles and had stopped momentarily to pound and massage my cramping quads. He gave me one of his extra gels and told me to keep pushing. After having the gel, I slowly picked it up to a 6:30 pace trying to stay with him before backing off and staying steady at 6:40 until mile 7. I was using each water stop for Gatorade. At the halfway mark I was at 43:45 and I know I could run under 1:30 but it would be close. The next 10k was mental fight of gauging effort and keeping my running form in check to avoid quad spasms from ruining the rest of the day. I looked at my Garmin and could only watch as my pace got slower to 6:56 overall pace. I came across the line in 1:30:42, just missing that run goal but with a huge 10 minute personal best since Raleigh 70.3 the year before.
Knowing that I had run a 4:25:22 and had gotten 3rd place behind 2 Pros (7min back from Vincenzo in 2nd and 12min from Todd in 1st place) was a great feeling. I was ecstatic to have finally been able to tie all 3 disciplines together and end my 2016 on a high note after great disappointment at Nationals. 50 minutes later Holly came across the finishline in first place for the women’s race under 5hrs mark, something she hadn’t yet done. It was a great weekend for both of us and huge thanks goes to Ben Bartlett for coaching this season, we are both proof of his success as a multisport coach. Huge thanks to all the family and friends who I’ve been able visit, train and have cheer me on this year, I really appreciate all the Love. As the 2016 season comes to an end for me, I’ve decided to take 3 months off to let my energy bank rebuild for 2017, hoping to fatten us for the winter too, you know I’ll be eating those Cheez-Its!!
4:25:22 (S: 28:53 T1: 1:40 B: 2:23:05 T2: 1:04 R: 1:30.42)
Waterman's Half Iron
Age Group Triathlete enjoying the World through triathlon and eating Cheez-It!