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Righteous Richland Sprint Tri Race Recap

AKA - the Triathlon that Became a Duathlon

Saturday, June 29 - while sleeping the night before the race, I wake up to some thunder and lightning around 3am, and I am thinking - "Hm, that could be problems for the swim".

The Righteous Richland Sprint Triathlon is a half mile swim in the Columbia River (with current), 12 mile mountain bike, and 3 mile run.  Going into this race, I had two goals:

  1. Have a strong swim
  2. Have a strong run, PR on my 5k pace for the run (faster than 6:55 min/mile)
Well, goal number 2 had a bit of a setback this week.  Last Saturday (six days after the marathon) I was going on an 8 mile run and experienced some top of foot pain.  Well, it turns out I probably developed a minor inflammation in my foot, and was actually fairly painful to walk and especially run on.  Most likely some fatigue effects of the marathon.  After a week of babying it before this race, I would say it was around 60%.  Also, it seems like I picked up a cold on Thursday, so I was feeling maybe 85% overall aside from the foot.  So, let's modify the second goal to "Have good run form, not injure myself, and not worry about specific pace".
 

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Setting up transition

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Getting prepped for the swim

A few friends are undertaking their first triathlon, and we're all pretty pumped!  We get in the water, there is about one minute until the start of the race and then of course...
 
::LIGHTNING CRACK::   ... BOOM!
 
Ah, shit.  The race director has everyone get out of the water.  After about 5 minutes it turns out the storm isn't projected to blow over so the triathlon is now a duathlon.  So much for goal number 1.  I was mentally preparing for this swim - it was going to be a super achievable 8 minute (or less) swim to get my confidence back up.  Oh well, it's an outdoor sport, adapt to the weather and move on.

The Bike

The plan is to start on mountain bikes in transition, running two bikes at a time every 10 seconds.  We were asked to self-seed ourselves - the faster mountain bikers going first and the slower mountain bikers going last.  After the last mountain bike duathlon, I considered myself a "weak" mountain biker I started probably about 3/5 of the way through.  It turns out this was a mistake, I should have started sooner, much sooner.

I start next to an 18 year old kid, and after a few games of leap frog with him, he passes me for good - I let him go.  It turns out mountain biking is actually kind of fun!  This couse is a little funny in that it's a four mile ride along paved roads, four miles in off-road singletrack, four miles back along the same paved roads.  I pass around 10-15 people on the first four miles, and then we get into the singletrack - where it's not very wide and passing isn't very feasible.  We get to a wide section and I pass two people, then a few minutes later I fall into a line of about five bikers going relatively slow.  Hm, this is a bit slower than I had planned, but let's just go for a ride - it ended up being a relatively relaxed couple of miles and was actually pretty fun.  Once we break out of the single track I pass a few more people and I wonder how much time I lost being slowed down, I was only going about 60% effort.  A relatively uneventful paved four miles back, I take an energy gel, down my water bottle, and I finish right behind that same 18 year old I started with!  

Time: 45:36, 15.8mph
63rd fastest bike

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Coming in hot into transition

The Run

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Taking a sip coming out of transition

After a relatively smooth T2 (or is it T1?), it is definitely humid out.  I am feeling the foot pain, but I don't need to limp, and it's not terrible, so I press on.  Check my pace - 7:45 - hm, this could be a slow-ish run.  After about a half mile, check my pace - 6:55 - hm, that's better.  It usually takes me about a half mile or so off the bike to get back into run mode so this could be promising.  Pass by the first aid station, grab some water, a quick sip and then dump on my head - whoo that's cold, but it feels great.

Get to the halfway point, check my pace - 6:50 - hm, maybe I can get sub 7:00 min miles for this run?  On the way back I see my friends Nicole, Jenn, and Matt running and give them some high-fives.  Wow it's hot and humid out!  With about one mile to go, the foot pain starts getting worse and becomes distracting.  Normally I'd be picking up the pace at this point but it just hurts too much to go faster.  I maintain pace, focus on form, and just ride it out to the finish.

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Coming in hot to the finish line

Time: 21:12, 7:04 min/mi
17th fastest run overall, fastest run in my age group!

Wow, I am really happy with that run result.  ESPECIALLY on a hurt foot (and a cold)?  Oh what could have been if I was healthy!?

Final time: 1:07:43
41st out of 144 finishers
5th out of 13 in my age group 

Considering my reduced physical capacity and the poor self-seeding, this went about as well as I could have hoped.  Too bad about the swim.  It sprinkled a bit while biking but I finished before any real storms came through (which they did in force about 20 minutes after finish).

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Post-race with friends

Next up is the Half-Ironman in Lake Stevens on July 21.  Special thanks to Cory and Jenn for some pics!

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First Marathon Race Recap

An Ironman triathlon concludes with a 26.2 mi run (a marathon).  As part of training, it would make sense to complete this distance on it's own, so ... low and behold the Vancouver USA Marathon this past Sunday.  I had heard the course was pretty flat which is always a nice thing for running.

Vancouver, WA is about a 3.5 hour drive from the Tri Cities, so we went up on Saturday and stayed at a hotel across from the starting line how convenient is that?!

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The calm before the storm

Pre Race

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Getting prepped

The race started at 7am, so I set my alarm just before 5am - enjoyed a coffe while eating a bagel with peanut butter, some carbo-pro with a nuun tablet, and started "lubing up" - many people report getting very bad chafing while running marathons, so I used generous amount of Body Glide all over (feet, toes, arm pits, thighs, etc) to try to prevent this.  I start warming up around 6:30am, and my friend Nicole came to the starting area to take some things from me - my long sleeve, phone, water bottle.

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About to head to the starting line

After speaking with my coach and reading numerous articles about marathon strategy, the overwhelming advice is to go slower than your target time for the first portion of the race and negative split.  My target goal was between a 3:30 - 3:40 finish time, so my plan was this:

 

  • First 8 miles: 8:15 min/mile pace
  • Next 8 miles: 8:00 min/mile pace
  • Last 10: below 8:00 min/mile pace, ideally 7:45 min/mile
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Writing down the mile markers for when to consume my four gels

Race

There were three starting waves based on projected pace - under 8:00 minutes per mile, 8:01 - 10:00 minutes per mile, and above 10:00 per mile.  Since I am trying to go conservative - let's go in wave 2, which started one minute after wave 1.  Weather was great, high 50s at 7am, warming up to the low 60s.  The sun never came out during the race which meant no overheating.

The First Eight Miles

The starting line was electric!  They played the Final Countdown, which as an Arrested Development fan, I was a huge fan of and I was so amped!  Wave 1 goes, then wave 2 goes - the start of a great morning!  After a few blocks in downtown Vancouver with good crowd support it goes really, really quiet.  Check my pace - sub 8:00, uh oh, let's back it off.  Some people start passing me, I resist temptation to pass them back, I am thinking to myself - "I will see you again".  I relax, and it feels like a great endurance-paced run.  After about mile 1, I need to pee already.  Really?!  I peed four times this morning!  There was a porta-pottie available at the aid station in mile marker 2, so I decide to stop.  After what seemed like forever (maybe 15 seconds) I get out and get on my way.  My calves start to feel a little tight as well as my right IT band.  This gives me a little bit of concern so early on, but this isn't uncommon for me, and they loosen up after about mile 5.

I take my first gel just before the aid station at mile 5.7.  This was a really enjoyable eight miles, the atmosphere and the energy of the other runners was fantastic and I think this was perhaps the easiest and most enjoyable eight miles I have ever run.

111269-006-016hAnd we're off!

 

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Staying relaxed through mile 5

Average Pace: 8:07 min / mile - maybe a little fast but it felt great.
Average HR: 141 BPM (Mid Zone 3)

The Next Eight Miles

I'm feeling great, I let my pace increase slightly and pass about ten people in a group in front of me... but wait - I have to pee again!  Seriously?!?  I see an open porta-potty around mile 10, so I stop and go again.  What seemed like another impossibly long 15 seconds, I step out to have that same group catch up to me!  GRRR!!  Well, the aid station was 200 feet down the road and I take some water at full speed and pass that group back without any extra effort, ha!  I take my next gel prior to the aid station at mile 12.

I pass mile 13 and look at my watch, I'm right around 1:45 and I am thinking - "Hm, I just set a new half marathon PR, sweet!"  I am now thinking - this is the longest I have ever run before ... and now I just need to do it again.  Hm, that's not helpful thinking.  How about - "imagine this is a half-ironman, I've just completed the swim and bike, and now I only have a half marathon run remaining to do - let's see how many people I end up passing?"  OK that kinda sounds like fun!  Miles 14 and 15 go back through Vancouver downtown with some crowds and it's awesome!  I'm feeling great and start counting.  I think I got around to around 15 people by the end of mile 16 and aside from some blisters starting to form on my feet I am feeling great!

Average Pace: 7:55 - Looking good
Average HR: 146 BPM - Top of Zone 3

The Last Ten Miles 

Shortly after mile 16, I see the 3:30 pace runner!  Hey, I could break 3:30!  I push myself a little bit and catch up to the pace runner around mile 17 (my fastest mile of the day - 7:24), and I'm feeling good so I pass it.  This is great!  However, I started getting some foreshadowing of what is to come ... after an aid station around mile 17 there is a turn in the road and my legs are acting like they have a mind of their own and are not as responsive.  Hm, weird ... 

Halfway through mile 18, we go down a hill and all of a sudden my left IT band starts hurting, badly.  I go up a hill and it's no better and I have no choice but to stop and stretch it during mile 19.  It helps a little bit, and my feet really hurt and my legs are feeling the distance, it's a struggle to maintain pace.  Many people say that they hit a wall somewhere on the marathon.  Mine occurred just after mile 19.  Then, something happened - the 3:30 pacer catches back up to me and I decide that I will NOT fall behind them.  This is just the distraction I needed.  After about a mile running with the pacer - suddenly my IT band doesn't hurt and my feet don't feel as bad.  I move on past the pacer around mile 22, and then the struggle comes back - feet hurt, IT band hurts, all I want to do is walk.  The pacer catches back up, I stay with her.  I talk to her a little bit and it's a great distraction.  It's also great to just run and not look at my watch, not check my pace or my heart rate.  

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Spent a lot of time with the 3:30 pacer down the stretch

Miles 23-25 are really, really tough.  I spend most of my time alternating running beside the pacer to 10 feet in front of the pacer, and everything hurts.  Thinking about form and stride rate helps the pain but my legs are so tired it's difficult to do so.  

The light at the end of the tunnel comes when I check my watch and I'm at 25.3 miles complete, 0.9 to go, and I'm even with the pacer.  I KNOW that I'm going to finish my first marathon at the top end of my goal pace - I am going to be at or under 3:30.  I pick up my speed, distancing myself from the pacer, wow my legs have nothing left.  I get into Vancouver downtown, there are more people around, more cheering, I hear the rock music blaring from the finish, I see the final turn, pick up the pace even more.  Final turn - there it is, round the turn, I hear "YEAH ERIC", check the crowd - I see Jenn!, there is the finish, give it everything, they announce my name, and raise a fist as I cross.  

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Rounding the final turn

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Crossing the finish!

(Last 10.2 miles):
Average Pace: 8:01 - wished for a little faster but was doing what I could to survive!
Average HR: 151.5 BPM - low Zone 4 

 

Final time: 3:30:10

Good for 81st out of 631.  The pacer was about 15 seconds off, but no big deal - I can still say I am a 3:30 marathoner!

Post Race

A young child hands me my medal, someone gives me some water, I can barely walk.  Holy shit.  My left leg wants to lock up, but I can walk, very very slowly.  Jenn and Nicole come by to see me and I walked by to say hi.  I head to the athlete finish area, make some jokes about "I feel like I just ran a marathon", stop and stretch my IT bands, pick up a bunch of drinks and food and regroup.

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Finisher

Alicia and Matt did the half marathon, which started two hours after the marathon, so I showered up and very slowly went back to the finish to watch them come through.

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Alicia and Matt finishing the half marathon

Overall, a really great day - I did about as well as I thought that I could have, had good support from friends and had some fun checking out some neighborhoods/restaurants in nearby Portland, OR.  I will say this was by far the hardest physical challenge I've ever had.  Towards the end it was a combination of my fatigue plus pure physical body pain that made it so, so, difficult, but I can finally say I am a marathon finisher - and it was worth it.

Would I do another marathon?  Well, not right now :)  I've never been so sore following the race.  I would probably up for doing a major marathon in the future, with 10,000+ participants with lots of crowd support.  I do also think running in Boston some time would be awesome, but I'd need to drop 25 minutes off my 3:30 time.  Might be a bit of a stretch - maybe reconsider in the next months or years, no hurry :)

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Moses Lake Olympic Triathlon

AKA - a wide range of emotions on a one mile open water swim...

With the warmer months having arrived, the water temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are rising and that means triathlon season has started!  Our first triathlon was Saturday the 8th in Moses Lake, WA, about 90 minutes away from Richland.  They offered both a Sprint and Olympic distance, I opted for the Olympic while Alicia registered for the Sprint.

Now, I have previously completed an Olympic Triathlon, but the swim was shorter in that it was in a river going WITH the current, which means that a one mile swim really feels like a half mile.  Now, I'm not a strong swimmer.  I only started swimming last summer and still am not that great.  Compound that with the fact that I'm not a great open water swimmer, you can see where this is heading.  Oh, and did I mention that though I went through the registration process, it turns out I never received a confirmation e-mail, CC was never charged, and of course I wasn't on the registered participants list?  Fortunately, they did offer day-of registration, so crisis averted.

The race was held at Blue Heron Park in Moses Lake, and it's a really nice park, I should have taken some pictures.  Weather was great too, perfectly clear, about 60 degrees at the start, water temperature in the upper 60s, and warming up to the 80's by late morning.

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Setting up Transition

Set up transition - for the first time in a race I'm going to transition with my pedals clipped in and use the "rubber band" trick (not shown above).  Also, a chance to try out my new aero helmet.  Warm-up was OK, didn't have as much time as I planned, but no big deal.

After the pre-race briefing they had us sing the national anthem.  Cool I guess?  It gave me a chance to try to get used to the water which felt really nice actually.  I position myself towards the back and side of the group as I don't want to get run over by other swimmers.  It's a two-loop course to make up a one mile swim.  Men started at 8:00 and the women started at 8:05.  

Swim

GO!  We're off.  First two minutes go great - then we round the first buoy, a lot of people around, getting clawed/punched/etc and then it starts - panic sets in.  People new to open water swimming often talk about panic attacks; to me it's a combination of claustrophobia, fear of drowning, can't breathe (because your face is in the water), and fear of failure.  My mind goes into a frenzy and the following goes through my head:

My arms are tired, shit did I not pull my wetsuit high enough?  
Why are there so few people behind me, am I really that bad?
I've never continuously swam more than 20 minutes before, how am I going to complete this?
Let's do sidestroke for a bit
Let's roll onto my back and try backstroke
This is impossible, this is going to take forever, and I'm not going to make the swim cutoff.  
Is there a swim cutoff?
Why the F am I doing triathlons, why don't I just stick to running and what I am good at?
F it, I'm going to get to this first buoy and bail, I don't care about triathlons any more, I don't care that I signed up for Ironman, I'm done with this stupid sport
Wait, who is that big group behind me?  Oh, it's the women's wave!
Wait a minute, I have a 5 minute head start on these women, I highly doubt I'll be the last one finished!
OK let's try swimming for 10 strokes, not bad
OK let's try sighting every 6, not bad
OK let's try bi-lateral breathing, not bad, now sight - ohpfhgs water in my mouth
OK let's do sidestroke for a little bit and then go back to freestyle 

Repeat the last 4, my total time was 38 minutes for one mile.  Good for the 88th fastest (or 13th slowest) swim time out of 102 finishers.  Far from great but it was was indeed the longest open water swim I've done and the longest continuous swim (IE not stopping on side of pool) I've ever done and for that I have to be pretty happy.

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Don't let the smile fool you, that swim really sucked at times 

Bike

Alright!  Swim is done, let's bike and see if I can catch anyone.  The bike course was fine, though about as plain as you can have, one road out-and-back.  Consumed two gels on the bike and my legs felt good.  I was passed by two women and one man; where I passed three men and one woman.  It turns out I didn't do this as fast as I would have liked, the 22mi ride was completed at an 18.7mph average - good for the 68th fasted bike time.  I was hoping for high 19s mph. However, after the race I did notice that my front tire had low air and my bike felt squishy when I was standing at the end to wake up my legs.  Did I really just complete a race with a low-aired tire?  I pumped it up in the morning but didn't double-check at transition. Maybe, and that could affect the speed a bit, but whatever, not the end of the world.

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Coming out of transition from swim to bike

Run

Generally, swimming is my weak sport and running is my strong sport.  Fortunately for me, running is last.  I was able to get my legs into running mode relatively quickly, only about half a mile into the 10k and I was feeling fresh.  Let's play a game - how many people can I pass in the run, and how many people will pass me?  It was a really fun game, in total I counted eleven people that I passed and no one passed me.  At the half-way point downed another gel and finished the last 5k.  My run time was 46:02, good for the 31st fastest run.  

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Finish Line

Overall time was 2:36:55, which placed me at 62nd out of 102, and pretty low in my age group.  Admittedly, I'm a little disappointed in my placement, but that's what happens when you're in 88th (or 13th to last) place after the first activity.  Though, I have to remember what my objectives were for this race:

  • Complete the swim
  • Not injure myself
  • Test a nutrition plan
  • Have fun!
I would say all four objectives were achieved, and so I must say this was a success!  I had no regrets in participating in this race and I am glad I did the Olympic.  Even though the swim was a struggle and it really sucked at times, it's actually a very big confidence booster.  I just need to get into the river and practice more open water swimming and it'll come around..
 
Also, out of curiosity, I decided to take all 102 finishing times with the splits for swim, t1, bike, t2, and run and decided to calculate a total time removing the swim time (obviously not realistic), and I had the 43rd fasted time out of 102.  THAT sounds better!  Let's get that swim faster!  And the bike.  ...and the run too :)
 
Next on the race plan is the Vancouver WA (USA) marathon this Sunday, then a mountain bike sprint triathlon in town on June 29.

Some other pictures from the day

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Alicia on the bike in the Sprint Triathlon

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Alicia completing the Sprint Tri!

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Finishers

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Packed up, heading home

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Fiasco in Pasco Road Bike Duathlon

In preparation for Ironman Canada, I've got a relatively full season of multi-sport racing this summer.  A few weeks back I participated in the Rage in the Sage Mountain Bike Duathlon, where I finished 46th out of 125.  It was a tough race and I determined that 

  1. My run is really coming along
  2. I kind of suck at mountain biking
OK, no big deal, most triathlons are on road bikes anyways.  Today, I had the Fiasco in Pasco Road Bike Duathlon, a 5k (3.1mi) cross-country run, followed by a 30k (18.6mi) road bike, followed by that same 5k cross-country run. I also had an added bonus of a couple of friends along that took pictures!

Preparation

I've been on the road for work the past two weeks, which normally I would say would be poor preparation, but I had been getting eight+ hours of sleep with relatively light workouts.  Almost like a taper?  We arrived at the race about an hour early, just enough time to pick up the packet, set up transition, do a warmup ride and some warmup runs.  

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Setting up transition 

All set to go!

The Race

The first run started off pretty well.  My only real parameters from my coach was to keep the HR underneath 172 (my lactate threshold).  This is a cross-country course, which is all dirt/gravel/grass - anything but fully solid ground.  It's also very hilly.  The hills were getting to my legs a bit, so I kept it steady around 165 HR most of the way, finishing the first 5k run in  23:37, which is actually my 2nd best 5k time.

Getting on the bike, I was feeling pretty good.  This is my first competition on my time trial bike, and I think it's making a big difference.  It was decently windy today, any time going into the wind I was loving my aero bars, playing leapfrog several times with a few riders depending on slope and direction. After mile 6 I kick it up a notch, and then by mile 10-11 I'm feeling some fatigue in my legs.  I power through the rest of the ride, finishing in 58:17, for an average speed of 19.1mph.  I was kinda hoping for 20mph, but gotta start somewhere.  

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C
oming out of T2

After transitioning to the run (where I had trouble remembering where I racked my bike!), holy cow it was hot.  It had gotten into the upper 80s with some unseasonable humidity.  Slogging along the uneven terrain and hills, the water station at mile 2 had never been so appreciated.

IMG_2342Surviving the Second Run

Maybe it was the water or the fact that it was almost over, but my running form improved.  My stride rate quickened and I was more relaxed and my pace picked up a bit to finish strong.  I completed the second 5k run in 26:02 at a pace of 8:24/mi.  

Results

My total time was 1 hr, 50 minutes flat.  I finished 38th of 98 overall, and 3rd in my age group - the first time I've ever placed!  What's funny is that I'm in the Male 25-29 year-old age group, I turn 30 this coming Wednesday - and had I been in the 30-34 age group I would have only been sixth in the group!  My last race as a 29-year old - looks like I made it count!

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With my third-place prize - a pint glass from White Bluffs Brewing!

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Me with team "Danger Zone"

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