Sunday, October 3, 2010

Race Report: Myrtle Beach Tri/USAT Club Nationals

I've been having trouble trying to sum this weekend up in words. I think it's because Club Nationals meant a lot to me for a lot of different reasons. 

First, it was a chance to give something back to the Wheelworks Multisport team. Just by showing up, I put us in contention to win a national level club award. Unfortunately, Division III was the most popular division in the club competition with no fewer than 12 teams showing up to compete. My travel and participation points were good enough for 9th place, which while I wish was higher, is pretty good for just a single person. What's funny is if we'd had a mere 10 more members, we'd have been competing in Division II, which was not as strongly contested, and we'd have taken 3rd place based on the points I earned. 

It doesn't really matter where I ended up in the club standings, because I got to compete in a national championship in the sport I love for the club that has given me a lot this year. Plus I learned what to expect from an event at this level, and had a great time, so hopefully my experiences will help encourage other members of our team to want to travel to this event in the future.

One reason I wasn't expecting was to be there to cheer on a friend. I didn't think I'd know anyone down there, but as I was thumbing through Facebook on my phone, and saw my nearly lifelong friend Monica West had posted a status update that she was in Myrtle Beach getting ready to run. Monica is a terrific triathlete, and was racing to qualify for Team USA at the Long Course (half-iron) distance. It wasn't her first time either, as Monica represented Team USA last year in Perth, Australia for the 35-39 age group. I didn't think fast enough when I saw her to get a picture, but I did get a chance to high five her as she ran by into transition.

Unfortunately, yesterday wasn't her day. She ran a strong race, but her best leg is the swim and the swim was cancelled (I'll get into that in a bit). Monica still wound up with a time of 4:51 for the bike and run. To put this into perspective, my Timberman bike of the same distance was over 4 hours by itself. While she didn't qualify for next years worlds, I am proud of her effort, and prouder still to call her my friend. She's a great triathlete, and I know she has a lot to look forward to next season and beyond.

As for my race, I found it kind of ironic. My first race of the year had the swim cancelled (for everyone after my wave of course), and the last race of the year had the swim cancelled. The inter-coastal waterway where we were to swim tested positive for higher than allowed levels of e. coli, meaning the department of health wouldn't allow us to swim. I was a bit bummed, because while I'm not the strongest swimmer, I enjoy the swim. Plus the swim course as planned wouldnt require much sighting and would have allowed me to be at my best.

The Inter-Coastal waterway... evidently it's icky with e coli (and probably sharks)

Instead, the race organizer used a time-trial like start to simulate a few swimmers coming out of the water at a time in order to reduce the chaos of a mass start into a bike transition. While this meant a 200 yard run into transition, it was a heck of a lot better than if the race had become a duathlon, which would have likely doubled the run distance. I've never done a time-trial start before and it was actually kind of neat.

At first, I didn't think my first transition would even as good as normal. My set-up was not very good because our transition prep was interrupted for the swim cancellation announcement. Plus, I forgot my bike bottle in the fridge at the hotel, so during set-up I had to steal a bottled water out of transition to stick on my bike so I'd have something to drink. I managed to run 200 yards, grab the bike and jog at least another 100 yards to get out of transition in 3:21. I'm pretty happy with that considering how much running was involved.

It took me a minute once I crossed the mount line and hopped on the bike to get my shoes in the toe clips. I really need to replace those suckers with some Keo pedals again in the spring. Once I got going though, I was flying. At least I thought I was. The course was a mostly flat out and back, 5 miles each way. My computer on the way out was telling me somewhere between 17-19 MPH, and on the way back 14-17 MPH into a fairly strong headwind. 

I knew the computer was acting up because I couldn't get it to sit in the mounting properly, so I figured it might be a little off on the time, and I figured it was a bit slow. I didn't have any idea how slow until I glanced at my watch timer coming back out of transition and it said 35 minutes. I was pretty psyched because it meant I had to have been close to a 20 MPH average and blown away my PR for 10 race miles on the bike. 

My second transition was pretty smooth, and I have to say I was mostly happy with it considering the height of the bike racks (very high) and how different this setup was than my previous races. Wound up being 3:00 in and out of transition on the nose. Considering the size of transition, and the fact that my bike was almost as far from the run out as possible, it could have been a lot worse.

The run, on the other hand, couldn't have been a lot worse. After my PR on the bike, I had what amounts to a fairly average run for me. For a course this flat, I had hoped for something much more, but by the midway point in the run the heat was beginning to get to me. The run was mostly blocked from the sea breeze, and open to the sun, which adds up to a far from ideal situation. On top of that, the time trial start didn't give me any way of knowing how I was faring against the folks in my division. I had nothing to push myself against, so I just dug in as deep as I could. I wound up with a run time of 42:39, which while not the worst run I've ever done was a full 3 1/2 minutes off my PR for a 5k, and this was only 3 miles.

Overall I'm pretty happy with my race. If there had been a swim, it's very likely I'd have set a PR for a sprint distance race. I just felt great, even when I was tired on the run. As it was, I had an amazing bike, and an average run that allowed me to finish in 1:17:49, 177/188 finishers. I finished last in my age group, but by less than a minute and I wasn't the last male in the race either. 

Food, drinks, my medal, and a towel - Photo by Laurel Tabat

Once the race was over my sister-in-law Laurel and I went and did some shopping and had a post race meal at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Laurel had never had it before, and I promised her she'd love it, and she did. We followed lunch up with some shopping and touristy exploring before settling in at the hotel for dinner and a few drinks.

Blueberry vodka + lemonade + Sprite = Happy Laurel!
It was a great experience the whole weekend, and getting a chance to spend the weekend with my "sis" was definitely the best part. 


  1. great job Ben! I hate to nag but really a meat filled greasy pizza the night before the race and then 5 guys burger (very high fat content). If you are going to meet your goals for next year you are going to have to your diet on track

  2. Tuna - Thanks!

    Derek - Thanks man!

    Anonymous - When I ate the pizza, it had been 12 hours since my last meal, and I didnt have access to cash til the next morning. This was definitely a beggars cant be choosers scenario. As for the 5 guys burger, a post race celebration meal is something I allow my self after each race. I mostly kept my calories in check this week, and my effort during the race allowed me this treat. I'll be very careful to avoid these types of foods now that triathlon season is over.

  3. Way to finish out the season! On a side note, that face on your sister-in-law looks really familiar. I think your wife makes the same one on her blog:)