Monday, June 20, 2011

Race Report: Patriot Half Ironman

The night before the race, literally everything was going according to plan. We got to the hotel on Friday night about the time I expected, even with a late start and a stop for lunch, got our packets, played some games at the amusements place across the street, and had a great pasta dinner (Olive Garden FTW). We got everything packed and ready and even had time to get a couple last minute items before a pretty good night of sleep.

Evidently this prayer at packet pickup didn't do us much good
Race morning, we ate, packed, and checked out of the hotel. We got to the race site plenty early to set up, organize, and even spend time with some Wheelworks Multisport teammates. I was feeling confident about everything other than the swim at this point, and my nerves had pretty much completely disappeared by that point anyways. When race time comes around these days, unless there's something very unusual going on, I'm too busy in mental preparation to be nervous.

Then race was delayed by at least 1/2 hour as people who apparently can't figure out how to read a clock were still in line for their packets. Most big races have a little delay at the start, but half an hour for a race this size is really unacceptable. Especially when you factor in how much this affects the race for everyone by moving the heart of the race deeper into the afternoon, and that there was a 3 hour window the day before that could have handled the entire race field.

The Swim - water, water everywhere
After watching my buddy John Young start his first 70.3, the only thing I was thinking about as I stood there waiting for my wave to start was how I just had to get through the swim. I knew I was stronger on the bike than last year and my run was my run, but I had to get through the swim first. At least the sighting was good due to overcast skies that made the buoys really stand out. We haven't been swimming as much as I'd prefer due to our lack of a gym membership right now, and I really thought that would hurt me. Especially since the last pre-race swim we did during taper had me feeling not so hot about my swim.

The swim start on Friday afternoon looked like the swim start on Saturday morning
My wave was big but not overly so and I picked a spot to the back and right so that my tendency to swim a bit to the left wouldn't see me straying inside the buoys and wouldn't see me run over by too many in my wave. I felt pretty strong to start and reached the halfway buoy inside half an hour. I took a quick breather and then kept going, and wound up crossing the line in under an hour.
Swim Results
2011 Patriot: 58:44
2010 Timberman: 1:02:50
Improvement - 4:06

Transition 1 - You better "watch" what you're doing
As usual my T1 was slow, but it was at least 30 seconds longer than it needed to be. I haven't been wearing a watch to time my swims, but I put one on for the race and forgot to remove it before I tried to take my arms out of my wetsuit. Other than that, it was a slow but uneventful transition. At this point in my racing, though minutes matter, I'd rather be careful and get everything ready before heading off on a 56 mile ride than rush through it. Overall it was a smoother version of slow, and I learned that eating a gel pack as soon as I get to my spot is helpful for how fast I can recover from the swim.
2011 Patriot: 7:33
2010 Timberman: 8:46
Improvement: 1:13

Bike - What is that giant orange ball in the sky?
As I was swimming towards transition, I noticed the clouds were beginning to break. By the time I was on the bike and on my way out of transition, the sun had poked through the clouds and the day started to brighten up. I felt very good as I got going on the bike, and was moving well enough that I made sure to hold back a bit. I was looking for a 15 MPH average on the day, and I didn't want to burn out too fast. At 10 miles in, I was averaging just about 15 MPH and things were going well. The first bottle hand-up was uneventful; I tossed the old bottle, took on a new one and kept on trucking. When I got to the halfway point for the first loop, I was just under 15 MPH but had gotten through the biggest hills on the course with no problems.

During the second loop, the sun started to really bear down on the course. I started passing a few folks, but was really getting hot. The water and sports drink being handed out on the course was now quite warm, and doing nothing to cool the body temperature. I was definitely slower as I passed the first bottle hand-up of the second loop. Unfortunately, I dropped one of the bottles during hand up, and didn't think it would hurt if I continued on without it. Little did I realize the sun was still going to get hotter and I had forgotten the last half of the course has fewer but taller hills. The second bottle hand up went better. The last 6 miles of the bike course dragged on, and I wound up walking about 150 feet combined of two hills. The course on it's own wasn't that tough but the heat certainly affected me. I can say I passed a few people right near the end of the bike, a couple of which wound up DNFing on the bike.
2011 Patriot: 4:12:26
2010 Timberman: 4:16:50
Improvement: 4:24

Transition 2 - 5 minutes? I barely even remember this!
When I pulled into transition, all I could think was "Ok, the course cutoff was supposed to be 4 PM, and we started at least 30 minutes late. What does that mean? How much time do I have left?" I got through transition as fast as I could, and got out onto the run course.
2011 Patriot: 5:23
2010 Timberman: 4:48
Regression: :35

Run - Anyone know how to put the wheels back on?
Here's where things go bad: As I'm a few hundred feet into the run, I asked the Race Director how much time is left before cutoff. I had no idea what time we actually started but could account for all but a few minutes of T1, and guessed I was about 5:25 (which was very close). He told me "2 1/2 or 3 hours".

At that point, I had a decision to make; do I go out and try to finish knowing my best race ever is at least 15 minutes longer than the time cutoff or do I stop, and go cheer on teammates while waiting for Rach and John to finish. Based on the fact that I wouldn't be able to finish in time, I made the decision to stop and support my friends.

Post-Race - Medic! Medic!
I got some food and headed over to find a shady spot near the finishing chute when my cell phone rang (I picked it up after I stopped, didn't carry it during the race). It was Rachelle on the phone, and she was in the hospital. She'd had heart palpitations during Mile 7 of the run. So with the help of a couple of volunteers I got all of our stuff out of transition, got the Wheelworks tent taken down and was screaming down the highway as  fast as I could. When I got there, she was her normal old self, doing so well that she was talking my ear off. She said when she arrived she didn't feel well, but her cold IV fluids must have brought her around. A few tests later and she was good to go and told she was safe to travel. In fact, she was doing so well she got bored and took a self-portrait as she often does when she's looking for entertainment

This isn't even the goofiest picture she's taken of herself this week
Post-Post-Race - WHAT THE WHAT!??!! &^%$#*&!!
Wondering how John and some of our other friends did, I started reading the race results, and I saw people with finishing times between 9 and 10 hours. Now let me be immediately state that I'm very happy that the race director made the decision to allow these brave souls the ability to finish after such a long day on the course. With my 8:57 at Timberman 70.3, I know how hard it is to push yourself to finish after a day that long. I was lucky to be in a wave that gave me that amount of time at Timberman.

That said, I'm pissed at the race director. If he'd told me they weren't going to pull anyone off the course, I clearly I would have made a different choice. When I asked the Timberman RD, he knew exactly how much time I had left on course. I'm also more than a little pissed at myself for leaving the course regardless of what the RD said. It's just that I wanted to be there for John and Rachelle though if my efforts weren't going to wind up in the results column. I was quite content with my suffering on the bike and would have finished the run if only I'd know.

I did appeal my DNF to USAT on the grounds that I didn't finish not because of the cutoff, but because the RD provided me bad information. He changed how long I had to finish the race while I was on the course by telling me a different time than anyone else, and I should be credited with the Aquabike completion. Maybe I'm wrong, and either way it won't take the sting out of not finishing. And maybe, I wasn't supposed to finish the race so I could be there to get that phone call from Rachelle and be there for her at the hospital. But just like with my DNF at MA State Triathlon last year, I'm going to take this experience and learn from it to prepare for Rev3 Cedar Point. Plus I'm just glad Rachelle is ok, and now safely off in New Orleans for a work conference.

Though it could be worse, I could be this guy.


  1. I'm glad to hear Rachelle is okay.

    Look at the positives: You gained 4 minutes on a swim that you felt you were under-trained for and gained another 4 minutes on a bike leg where the heat was starting to hit you. Just stay focused on the big prize because you're still heading in the right direction.

  2. Ugh! I'm sorry it didn't work out for you guys. But +1 on the big improvements - 4 minutes on both the swim and bike, in what I assume were worse conditions than 2010. That bodes well for Cedar Point, right?

  3. Wow! That made for quite a day!

    I agree that the improvement is huge.

    I am sure that I would be really really frustrated by that too.

    See you in CP!

  4. Aw, Ben, sorry to hear you had a rough day, but glad to hear Rachelle is recovered. Like others have said, take the positives of your improved times and keep building on that and pushing forward.

  5. Congrats on the improvements. I believe that all things happen for a reason and maybe your reason was to be there for Rachelle (as you said)
    It was a tough race day and many of my club members (who are super strong athletes) stuggled to finish and there were 2 DNF's.
    Chin up :D

  6. I really appreciate the positive thoughts everyone. I'm going to turn this into an advantage in the long run.