Blog

ChelanMan 2014 Long Course Race Report

Even after having completed nine previous triathlons I still learn new things.  On July 19 I competed in the ChelanMan Long Course (Half Ironman) Triathlon in Lake Chelan, WA: 1.2 mile swim, 58 mile bike (a “normal” half ironman distance is 56 miles, why the extra 2?!), 13.1mi run).

I chose this race in preparation for Ironman Wisconsin: looking for a hilly half Ironman, and this certainly delivered.  There was also an Olympic distance triathlon starting thirty minutes after the half iron race that Alicia signed up for. After a pretty relaxed race prep week we drove over to Chelan on Friday afternoon to do packet pickup, drop off our bikes, and do a short swim in the Lake.  Friday was windy, there were some pretty big waves, but the water was decently warm, 72 degrees or so.

Race Morning

We had to stay in Wenatchee as there weren’t any available hotels in Chelan itself – about 40 minutes away.  Hit the road by 5:15am and arrive to transition a little before 6:00am.  For some reason it takes me what seems like forever to set up transition, was talking to a few half-iron first timers, people kept borrowing my bike pump, messing with my bike, etc … eventually grab my wetsuit, goggles, cap and get out around 6:25.  Do a little bit of jogging around then swim for about 10 minutes.  Water feels really nice and fortunately it’s not too windy this morning (or at least not down by the water, more to come on that).  Take a gel 5 min before the start, edge into the water, and then GO!

Swim

I’ve had some up-and-down swims in recent races; it’s been a bit of a wildcard.  My strategy was to start off easy, really easy, then gradually increase effort as the race progressed.  ChelanMan is really nice in that there is an underwater rope that you can see the whole time while swimming that helps keep you on course.  There were buoys spaced about every 100 yards or so and I had counted 9 small buoys until the turnaround.  The start is a little crowded, but I find some clear space and some feet to draft off for a bit.  Things are feeling good, but I play it conservative and contrinue to hold back on the intensity.  Myself and three other swimmers form a bit of a draft pack, taking turns at the front but really I think we’re all the same speed.  Towards the end I forget to look for the last large triangle buoy and go off course a little.  Eventually get back on track, round the buoy and get out of the water.

Time: 40:16.  Was hoping for sub-40, but I played it pretty conservative on the effort.  Place in race: 65th / 116

Into the first transition: My philosophy is that I may not be a fast swimmer but I am damn fast in transitions.  Swimcap off, peel the wetsuit off,  put on sunglasses and helmet, grab bike and run to the mount line.

Time: 1:14 (5th fastest individual T1), place in race: 49th

Bike

Mount the bike, pedal a bit, slip one fit into the shoe, then the other, and I’m on my way.  The first 35 miles are an out-and-back section.  On the way back we start catching up to the Olympic distance racers, I start seeing people in Alicia’s age group and wonder if I’m going to catch up to her.  I pass rider after rider, still don’t see her, then looking ahead I see a bike leaned up next to a porta-potty and I my internal monologue went something like “Ooh, road porta-potty, that’s not a bad idea.  Wait a minute … that looks like Alicia’s bike … that IS Alicia’s bike … what is she doing?  Oh man, she must really have to go” So I yell “GO ALICIA” and here something muffled coming out of the porta potty.  Ha, hope she’s ok.  After the out-and-back we take a right turn and start the climbing section of the course.  Turn and … HEADWIND.  Holy cow.  Well, this kinda blows (ha).  Pass a couple of riders on this hill (~450  vertical feet), but then we make a big decent (~750 feet) INTO the wind.  Normally I’d think this is great, except that 25mph+ downhill on the bike into 25mph+ headwinds including gusts makes for a really unstable (and kind of terrifying) riding experience.  Anyways, after the decent we then make another turn for another 1000 feet of climbing (into the wind again somehow?), eventually descend back towards the lake and a straight shot 9 miles back home.  

Bike Time: 3:13 (38th overall), 18.0mph, place in race: 40th

T2 goes smoothly – feet out of the bike shoes, approach the dismount line hop off the bike while still in motion, run down to my spot in transition, rack bike, put on socks, shoes, visor, grab race belt, switch watch from bike to run mode, and I’m off.

Run

It was starting to get hot.  Hold pace back a bit from the start; take my first gel at mile 1 (meant to take it before getting off the bike).  Uff da, this is tough.  Around mile 2 my legs start to feel a little more normal and I start catching up to people.  As a fast runner, I enjoy playing a game of “how many people can I pass on the run”.  Being a slower swimmer and biker helps too for this game.  Mile 5 pop the next gel, get a hosedown from the volunteers and start taking two waters per aid station – one to drink the other to douse.  Approaching the turnaround I have passed about twelve people and there is a 130-foot hill to go up and then I start cramping.  My rhythm is thrown off; I cross the turnaround point but don’t feel great going downhill, still pretty slow at 8:30 pace downhill.  I normally don’t take electrolytes on the run during triathlons as I have loaded up in the day’s prior and on the bike, but apparently I needed to on a hot day like this.  In what feels like limping I make it to the aid station at mile 7 and start taking HEED along with water.  After another half mile it feels better and I alternate between water and heed at each aid station along the way.  Pass one more guy in my age group around mile 10 and then do what I can to maintain running form.  Last mile, I see the swim course on the left and start counting down buoys as a distraction.  Round the final corner and cross the finish.

Run time: 1:46:59 (15th overall), 8:10 pace, final place in race: 24th.

Post-Finish

Wow that was tough.  I didn’t have too strong of time expectations but I was hoping for a little faster.  However, with the wind the way it was I threw out any bike split expectations.  I was definitely expecting a faster run.  I think the (lack of) electrolytes and heat affected me more than I was expecting.  I also realized I was a little short in my pre-race calories.  Basically, I think I could have dialed in my nutrition a bit better for the conditions.  Food for thought (literally) for Ironman Wisconsin.  In the end, it was a good, tough, race – I’d be open to doing it again sometime. 

So what DID I learn?

  • On hot days, I need to take electrolytes on the run.  This may seem super obvious, but gels and electrolytes don’t mix.  As long as I space out the electrolytes a little bit before/after the gels I should be fine
  • Don’t skimp on the pre-race breakfast – another obvious one, but I was about 300 calories short on what I was planning to have due to running around in the morning and forgetting about it.
  • Not all courses are equal, nor are all weather conditions equal.  On the hot and windy days generally things won’t go as fast, need to adjust expectations accordingly
  • Need to keep a check on the running cadence while on tired legs.  Looks like I was only running at about 166 steps / min towards the end (versus my normal 178 or so).  My watch can track this, so I’ll add this to one of my running settings to keep an occasional eye on during the race
  • Sunscreen coverage, see below

Next up – some serious training blocks in preparation for Ironman Wisconsin!

A few pictures from the weekend: 

Untitled
Loading up (yes, we have matching bikes)

Untitled
Transition in the morning

Untitled
At the finish

Untitled
Cooling off after the race

Untitled
Oops, poor sunscreen coverage...