Thursday, April 24, 2014

TryCharleston Half 2014 Race Report

I raced TryCharleston back in 2012 as my first ever Half Iron Triathlon.  I really enjoyed it, and have been wanting to come back.  Last year it didn't work out as I did the Boston Marathon, so this year I was glad to be able to work it into the schedule.  It was especially nice since it fell on Easter weekend and I had that Friday off of work, and the kids were on spring break.

Since its a Saturday race, it's nice to have the day before to travel and get your packet.  We headed out around 8am Friday morning with the popup in tow.  We stopped by Subway on the way and grabbed some subs for lunch later.  We got to the KOA and setup camp.  It was supposed to start raining around 1pm, so I wanted to be ahead of that.  We've stayed at this KOA in Mt. Pleasant several times before and it is really convenient for this race.  I can just walk over to T1 on race morning and not have to worry about parking.

We headed over to the Trek Bike store to pick up the race packet shortly after 2pm.  There was a short line, but they were pretty organized.  It went pretty quickly.  We headed back to the KOA and checked out the stuff.
All the Stuff you get . . . 

I do like their logo.  Makes for a good shirt.
 I was pretty disappointed to see that the event production company had provided the same kind of bike numbers as at their races last year.  It just has the two adhesive strips on the back instead of being a full sticker.  Its a real pain to find an aero way to put it on your frame.  If you don't care about that, its a pain to put it somewhere that it doesn't rub your legs and/or interfere with your hydration or flat kit.  For the "largest triathlon race producing company in the country" these numbers are pretty bush league.  Like I've said, my local yocal YMCA sprint tri has better race numbers than this.
The Dreaded Bike Sticker
It didn't start raining until about 4pm.  Initially it wasn't too bad.  We headed over to the Mellow Mushroom around 5:30pm for dinner.  I had the gourmet white pizza which was excellent.

Everyone got their own pizza, so that makes it pretty easy.  We then headed over to Walmart to get some rain gear and post-race celebration beer.  We got back to camp and basically just hunkered down as the rain kept coming.  Most people were checking their bikes because, as a security precaution, they were not allowing people to drive into the KOA to drop bikes off Saturday morning.

I got everything organized for the morning.  I put together my T2 gear in one bag and my T1 gear in another.  I've done quite a few split transition races (Over the Mountain, Rev3 SC, Lake Las Vegas 70.3) so I'm pretty used to it.  I had my bike in the Explorer so I put the stupid bike sticker on in there.  Finally I felt like I was ready to go.
GL: Locked, Cocked and Ready to Freakin' Rock

Went to bed around 9pm.  The rain and wind was pretty relentless.  A couple hours later the awning collapsed, bending a couple of the poles and tearing a hole in it.  We had a few spots that were leaking. It was pretty miserable.  We didn't get much sleep and were just praying that the popup wouldn't collapse and that the rain and wind would stop.

It stopped raining about 4am.  My alarm went off at 4:15 and I started getting ready.  Grabbed a bagel with peanut butter and stuffed that down (I had packed bananas, fig newtons, and GU Gels).  I was actually glad to have stayed at the KOA and keep my bike safely inside the car during the torrential downpour and windstorm during the night.  However, pumping up my tires while Green Lightning and I were inside the car was rather interesting.

Anyways, I got everything together and walked over to T1.  I dropped my bike and swim/bike stuff at my spot and headed over to the shuttle bus.  The first bus from T2 got there around 5:30.  A bunch of us took it over to T2 to drop run gear and pick up chips.  Then I hopped the bus again to ride back to T1.  I got body marked and used the port-o-let.  I talked with my training buddy Nathan, and finally got to meet my Big Sexy Teammate Brad.  He is Big (and women says he's sexy).

I ate (2) bananas, and had (2) fig newtons.  I got my wetsuit on and I hit a Salted Caramel GU Energy Gel about 20 minutes before the start.  I walked over to the start and did a short warmup swim.  Then Nathan and I just kinda hung out talking with our families waiting for the start.  There was a slight delay as they said one of the roads on the bike course was flooded.  They decided to switch back to the old course and the 7 mile section of rough roads.  We were supposed to start at 7:03, but didn't start until 7:10.

34:26 Officially, 10 / 28 Age Group, 58 / 158 Overall Men
The official time includes running up the hill, getting the wetsuit off, and getting into transition.  I clocked 33:46 as I actually got out of the water.  I had a little trouble getting the wetsuit off.  I just can't seem to be able to pull back the velcro to pull that zipper down.  So the wetsuit strippers basically did all the work.

So this race is a double loop and 5 turns which I'm not a real big fan of.  It was pretty crowded on the first couple of legs.  As I approached the 2nd buoy I was still in the midst of a big pack, and so I knew I wasn't doing too badly at that point.  Then I hit the buoy.  Like literally with my head.  But once I got around it, I had pretty much open water the rest of the race.  It was kinda weird, like everyone else hit the buoy too and bounced back.

I tried to keep my focus and swim hard (and engage my lats!).  Anyways, when I saw the 33:4x on my watch, I was like, woah.  Seriously, woah.  That's like 6 minutes faster than my last race at Rev3 SC.  It was 5 minutes faster than I did this race last time.  But it also ocurred to me that in most races the swim is all relative.  How did I stack up against the competition?  Well I was almost in the top 1/3!  I haven't ranked that high since IM Augusta, because of the current aided swim.

I really think the Masters group has been paying off as well as increasing the yardage on my individual workouts.  I thought I read James Haycraft saying it was better to get in longer workouts than a bunch of short ones. Before this year I had never done more than 3,600 yards in any one pool session.  Now I do 4,000 or more twice a week.  I was psyched about my time and then realized that this race was on like freakin' Donkey Kong.
The Run Through T1
1:29 Officially, 3 / 28 AG, 25 / 158 Overall Men
 I grabbed a Strawberry-Banana GU gel I had opened and ready to go.  I decided to forgo the arm warmers as I felt pretty good. I had some clear lenses I put on as the sun wasn't out.  I had a pretty good spot in T1 as my bike was on the aisle.  I grabbed GL and we were off.

2:12:33 Officially, 221 Average Watts, 1 / 26 AG, 3 / 154 Overall Men
My Garmin had 53.14 miles and a 24.10 mph average.  I had a little trouble getting into my shoes, but this race starts out a little slow as you have a couple of turns early to get out onto Highway 17.  I had originally wanted to average 25 mph in this race, but as I headed out and felt the headwind, I threw that notion out.  As the wind was coming out of the northeast, I figured we'd have a headwind for the first 25 miles until we hit the turnaround on 17.

So my strategy now was to crank as many watts as I could for the first 25 miles to get to the turnaround.  I had decided that, since this was my first race with power, that I just wanted to race hard and not look at the watts.  So I didn't look at them at all.  I just tried to ride hard.  It was tough in a few spots.  I thought of Sebastian Kienle and his famous saying, "If it's hurting me, it's killing them".  So that was my attitude: hammer the headwind.

I caught my buddy Nathan around mile 12, that's when I really knew I had a good swim.  I caught Big Sexy Brad around mile 20 and yelled some encouragement to him as well.  That last 6 mile stretch up highway 17 was tough. As I came around the bend and saw the two police cars, all I thought was, Please let this be the turnaround.  And so it was.  I averaged 23.8 mph on that first 25 miles, but had to crank 235 watts to get there.  I hit a GU Tri-Berry Gel at 20 miles and another Strawberry Banana at 40 miles.
Felt good to have the wind at my back.  I averaged 24.8 mph the next 5 miles on only 213 watts.  I definitely had a few stretches where I 'rested' on the second half.  I took it easy on a few stretches that were straight, flat, and smooth pavement.  The reroute back onto Halfway Creek road was really rough.  I can see why they have avoided this 7 mile stretch the last couple of years.  It wasn't too bad as the wind was at your back.  Into the wind, that really would have stunk.
I saw the '45' mile marker painted on the road when we got back on course.  I looked at my Garmin and saw that the course was going to be short.  Crap, I really didn't want a short bike course.  It is not to my advantage.  But it was only a little over 2 miles, what are you gonna do?  Well I peed around mile 50, so take that!  But anyways I came into T2 feeling pretty strong.  I was pretty happy with the 24.1 average since it was a higher average than last time and I had the head wind to deal with.

1:15 Officially, 3 / 26 AG, 21 / 150 Overall Men
This transition is pretty small, and I was glad it was paved.  I had a little trouble getting my socks on, but overall it went pretty smoothly.  I threw on my Inside Out Sports visor and grabbed my Fuel Belt race belt with 2 GU gels in it and took off.
The Run Through T2
1:23:15 Officially, 1 / 26 AG, 6 / 144
My Garmin had 12.86 miles and a 6:29 average pace.  Normally I feel awesome coming out of T2 and today was no exception.  I had to do the usual slow down mantra in my head.  My plan was to run 6:45's as that would easily put me under a 1:30.  I hit the first mile in 6:33 and thought, well ok, that's 10 sec under pace, but it felt good.  So then I fell into a pace and started reeling off miles at about 6:25 pace.  It felt smooth, so I just went with it.  The Champion Systems tri kit was really comfortable, and I didn't think about it even though it was my first time wearing it in a race.

Double Out and Back Makes for Good Run Support
I was cruising along through 7 miles averaging 6:28 miles when I had a little mishap.  The rains had caused huge puddles in the walking path we were running on.  The grass was soaked and muddy in spots.  Some of the puddles were above ankle deep, and I ran through the grass quite a bit.   Well I stepped off the path and must have found some mud, because two steps later my foot felt funny.  I looked down and saw sock.  I looked back and saw my shoe stuck in the mud!  I turned around to get it and put it back on.  Then I was off.  There was also a trail detour due to construction that, again, was a mudpit due to the rain.  That all killed my split as I ran a 6:53.  I gathered myself a bit and averaged 6:30's over the next 4 miles.

I hit 12 miles feeling OK.  I really wanted to push, but it kinda hurt, and for a second I thought about backing off.  Then I thought about Boston.  The marathon was two days away and I had several friends up there running.  I pushed some more.  It hurt more.  I thought of Boston 2013.  I thought about how I felt that day and the days after.  I pushed some more.  I got pissed off at the events of last year all over again.  I pushed some more.  I pushed to point where I was grinding my teeth and I didn't want the race to end.  I just wanted to run.  To work all my frustrations out.  I averaged a 5:58 pace over that last 0.86 miles, and a 5:38 pace over the last half mile.  I felt BostonStrong.

4:12:56 Officially, 1 / 26 AG, 5 / 144 Overall Men
I saw my time on my watch, but didn't think much of it because the bike and the run were short.  I really didn't have much of an idea of where I finished.  I was pretty sure I won the AG as I didn't see any M40-44 guys on the run.  So I wandered over to the results tent and had to wait like 5 minutes for it to finish scrolling through the sprint results

When I saw the 5th overall, I was like wow, that's crazy.  I had to stare at it a few times to make sure I was reading it right.   Full Results Here.
I caught up with Nathan afterwords and his wife and mine were chatting it up the whole day.

Fellow Big Sexy had an awesome run to finish 2nd in his AG.
T2 Aftermath
The awards didn't start until 1:30pm, so we grabbed my bike out of T2 and headed back to camp for a much needed shower.  And a tradition unlike any other:
Post-Race Beer!

The awards started a little late, but I got a couple of goodies.
Gathering up the Goodies

Always nice to be atop the podium

Nice Bag
It felt pretty good to have such a great race right out of the gate.  It was definitely one of my best races. My finishes at IM Augusta and Rev3 Florida are probably more impressive.  However, those races hid my swim deficiencies with the current aided swim and cancelled swim respectively.  This was a legit swim.  

Plus I was pretty happy with the average speed I held on the bike with the amount of watts I was pushing.  One thing that stuck in my head that James Haycraft (the Aero Guru of Charlotte) mentioned to me while we were working on my fit.  He said that when you get your position dialed in, you can go faster on the bike and the run.  I think I saw that in this race.  My run pace would have put me in the 1:24 range for 13.11 miles. I have also been working on my nutrition.  I had 7 GU gels on the day, and had a GU Brew Electrolyte Tablet in my drink mix on the bike.  That definitely helped keep me strong.  I know that nutrition will be extremely important in Chattanooga.

Size Doesn't Matter
When I did this race 2 years ago, I was 5th in my age group.  This year I was 5th overall and won that same age group by 18 minutes.  After I got out of the water, I was the second fastest person on the day. Nothing to be ashamed of as ICE Racing's Mike Starkey destroyed that course.  I'd like to think I've made some progress in the last couple of years.  IM Raleigh will be a real test. I need to have a good swim there.  I celebrated this race with a 4,000 yard swim Monday morning. #GTWD  The real focus is still on Chattanooga.  Oh, and if you're in the market for a Monsoon-Proof 1994 Jayco Popup Camper (sleeps 5-6), drop me a line.