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.

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.  


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.

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


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.

Coming out of transition from swim to bike


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.  

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

Alicia on the bike in the Sprint Triathlon

Alicia completing the Sprint Tri!


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!


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.  

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.  

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.  


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!

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

Me with team "Danger Zone"

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Ironman Canada Signup! (Plus a new 5k PR)

Swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112 miles, then run 26.2 miles - within 17 hours.  Sounds simple enough, eh?

That's what I'm telling myself :) 

I recently signed up for Ironman Canada, held in Whistler, BC on August 25, 2013.  I plan on taking some time off work to devote more time to training for this event.  The most common question I hear is "WHY?!?!".  I think each person has their own reasons, here are some of mine:

  • Last season I started getting into triathlons and I really loved it.  I enjoy the race planning, the transition setup, the multiple sports aspect (swimming is my weak sport), the timing, and the competition.  I feel Ironman is the "pinnacle" of the sport, and completing one seems to be an unofficial goal of most triathletes.
  • Training is actually kind of enjoyable.  When I was just cycling or just running, the training became rather monotonous - it is difficult to do the same thing over and over again.  With the three sports, it's harder to get bored because you are always training
  • Performance - my running performance has really improved over the last seven months.  My last half marathon in February was 1 hr, 47 min, nearly 14 minutes better than my previous one back in 2006
  • Coaching - My tri coach has really helped with the performance and training.  I know that I can be well-prepared for this
  • Philosophical - when we used to live in Madison, Ironman Wisconsin was held there every year, and I used to think I could NEVER, EVER complete an Ironman - it was downright impossible for me to do.  This past year has been around accomplishing things, from participating in my first triathlons even though I was a HORRIBLE swimmer, to launching, and now to tackle a full Ironman at the end of this summer.  

So, hopefully come August 25, 2013 ... I will be saying "I AM AN IRONMAN"

Oh, and I did a 5k this weekend, 21:30 - a new personal best by 2 min, 30 seconds.  Not bad for pretty much zero race prep or taper (and semi-heavy drinking two nights prior).

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A New Half Marathon PR

Saturday, February 23, Richland, WA: I finished the Tri Cities Half Marathon in 1 hour, 47 minutes, 16 seconds.  Thirteen minutes faster than my previous personal record in the half marathon, just over 2 hours when I ran the Chicago Half Marathon in August 2006.

I finished 76th out of 468 finishers, 10th out of 22 in my division.  I had a very effective race plan established by my triathlon coach, executed it well, and finished with a very great personal result.  The race plan was to keep the HR under mid/high zone for the first mile, then very low zone 4 for miles 2-4, low zone 4 for miles 5-7, mid zone 4 for miles 8-10, then somewhat high zone4 for miles 11-13.  I didn't have much of a time goal, I just wanted to break two hours for my time.

Here is the play-by-play of the day.

  • 5:40am - alarm goes off, wake up and start some coffee
  • 6:00am - drink single cup of coffee, have an english muffin with butter. Open up the laptop and review the race plan and race route
  • 6:30am - have a clif bar, start getting the race clothes ready
  • 7:00am - wake up my wife, she is going to drive me to the race, which fortunately is only three miles from the house
  • 7:20am - head down to the race course
  • 7:30am - arrive at the race course, start my warm up
  • 7:45am - get in line to go pee
  • 7:55am - super long line!  Finish up and get to the starting line.  Take a clif shot gel and a swig of water.
  • 8:00am - gun goes off, race starts!
  • 9:47am - cross the finish line!
Now for the actual race, let's take it mile by mile:
  1. OK, need to not be above 160 HR. Check the Garmin, ooh, only at 155 and I'm holding an 8:00min/mile pace, ok this is good!
  2. Crossing mile two I bring the HR down to 149 as per the race plan.  Some people start passing me ... grr ... must restrain self.  Pace drops to 8:30.  I'm thinking well, 8:30 pace is still going to set me up well under 2:00 hrs to complete, so this is good.
  3. HR up to 150, pace drops to 8:20
  4. Feeling good, HR up to 151, pace dropping to 8:10
  5. Take a Clif Shot at ~5.5 mile mark then wash it down with water at the aid station.  HR up to 152, pace stays 8:10-8:20
  6. Race plan says I can go up to 154.  End up staying around 152-153 and pace falls to 8:20
  7. Something clicks here, maybe it's because we hit the halfway point but pace goes to 7:56 and I'm feeling awesome. However, I'm starting to feel blisters on my feet from the run.
  8. 7:50 pace, HR 153, my fastest mile of the race
  9. 8:10 pace, HR 154 - fatigue might be starting to set in
  10. Take a clif shot at mile 10, HR 155, small hill in the course and pace drops to 8:17, starting to look forward to being done
  11. 157 HR, 8:03 pace - clif shot kicking in and I find another gear, knowing we're going to be done soon. Blisters starting to get painful
  12. 157 HR, 8:02 pace - struggling to keep the cadence up, left IT band starting to tighten up due to the slope of the road. Find some sidewalk sloped better to support the left side
  13. 159 HR, 8:03 pace - are we done yet?!  
  14. 0.2 miles to go 166HR, 7:43 pace - Finish, finally!  1:47:16.
Bib #331 ready to roll!

On course, in the home stretch! 

Complete! Looking forward to the next race!
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