Monday, September 8, 2014

2014 Atomic Man Half Race Report

I wanted to get one more race in before Ironman Chattanooga.  Mostly because I had several things I wanted to test out in a race situation.  I also haven't raced much.  I've basically put my head down for the last 3 months and just trained.  I had heard of the Atomic Man race before, but not really any details.  It takes place in Lenoir City, but much of the bike course is in Oak Ridge, TN.  Oak Ridge was established in 1942 as a production site for the Manhattan Project.  Hence the nickname: The Atomic City.

When my Big Sexy buddy Brad said he was gonna do it, well, I decided that this race was just as good as any.  Despite being the 12th annual incarnation in 2014, there were not a lot of people signed up.  I checked the week before the race, and there were only 120 people registered.  So my immediate thought was that there was only one thing to do:

I started the leisurely 4-1/2 hour jaunt to Lenoir City, TN on late Saturday morning.  I arrived at the hotel about 5 minutes before Brad got there, so perfect timing.  We had some time before packet pickup at 5:30pm so we checked out the race site, and then drove the course.  One nice thing about a multi loop course is that it doesn't take you long to check the whole thing out.  We then grabbed a bite to eat and headed back out the event site to get packets.
For Brad's Mexican Obsession

There was not a lot of fanfare being a low key race like this.  It was kinda nice not to have to wait in line for 45 minutes, and spend 15 minutes getting your packet (I'm talking to you, Ironman Raleigh 70.3). The race goodies included a bright orange t-shirt, socks, water bottle and some gel samples.  I actually think the race logo is pretty cool, and makes a nice t-shirt.


So then we got back to the hotel and got everything ready for the morning.  Got the bike sticker on (no helmet sticker).  Loaded up my Fuel Belt gel belt with GU gels and my race number.  Made up my water bottles.  We watched the Georgia/Clemson game until Georgia started pulling away, so we retired a little early.
The Lake

Race morning it was any easy drive to the Melton Hill Dam Recreation area.  The designated parking was a good half mile away, but they let you park right next to transition to unload your bike.  The transition spots were first come, first served.  That's right, just pick your spot.  I took the second spot in the "Pro" rack.  You know, that rack all by itself right near the bike out.  It didn't look pro, but it felt pro.
The "Pro" Rack

So I got all my stuff situated and ready to go.  They announced the water temp at 84 deg F, so I started getting my BlueSeventy swimskin on.  The weather seemed to be holding.  It was overcast and a little foggy on the lake, but not raining.  I meandered down to the swim start and ran in another fellow Big Sexy Bill.  He wasn't racing today, but lives in Knoxville and was here to see some friends.

41:21 Officially, 33rd Overall
Garmin had 40:56 and 1.26 miles.  This is a 2 loop swim in which you get out of the water onto the beach and then jump back in.  I'm not really sure why you get out of the water, however.  There is no timing mat.  To me, you could just swim straight on in and then hang a right for the second loop.  Regardless, the start was at the yellow pipe that designated the swim area of the beach for the rec area users.  So we just hung on the pipe until it was time to go.  First wave was under 40 Age Group men.  My wave (40-49 Men) started 3 minutes behind.

At the gun, I dove under the pipe and headed out.  Tried to go out hard, and it was a little congested until the first turn buoy.  The water was warm and pretty clean.  I felt fast.  I wasn't going fast.  The first lap seemed to take a long time, and I got out of the water to see 23 minutes on the clock.  So that put me at 20 minutes for the first loop.  Kinda what I expected.  I mean I've usually been a 40 min half guy without a wetsuit.  The second lap went a little quicker, and like always, I was glad to get out of the water.  Bill yelled at me and I simply told him that it was now time to hammer.

Pretty fast transition due to no wetsuit and my "Pro" rack spot.  Most all the bikes around me were gone, so I knew I had some work to do.

2:18:09 Officially 1st Overall
Garmin had 55.81 miles in 2:17:54 (24.3 mph) and 231 watts.  Originally I had wanted to average 240 watts on this ride.  In retrospect that was a little ambitious.  The first 5 miles had some tough climbing.  There was 364 feet of gain in the first 5 mile segment and I only averaged 21.0 mph there despite pumping 260 watts.

Once we got out onto the highway there were several flat sections and I started reeling people in quickly.  At the first turnaround, the front guys seemed pretty far ahead, so I just continued to hammer.  At the second turnaround, it didn't seem like I was gaining, so I just tried to keep pushing.  I stuck to my nutrition plan that I will be using in Chattanooga and it worked fine.
Race Setup

Through mile 25 I had a 240 watt average, but it was killing me.  I had to back off some the second half, but at least I was able to average 5 watts more than Raleigh.   I finally caught Brad around Mile 40.  He said there were 4 guys ahead.  I was averaging 24.8 mph through 45 miles before I hit that last hilly stretch.  I caught one of the guys ahead of me on that stretch of the highway back to the rec area.  As I was coming into T2, I saw the leader heading up that first big hill.  A nice little girl told me I was in fourth place. I then saw 2 more guys head out right as I came into transition.

Pretty happy with this time as my sock-putting-on didn't seem to slow me much.  Grabbed my visor and Fuel Belt and I was off.

1:25:10 Officially 1st Overall
Garmin had 12.92 miles for a 6:36 average.  As I headed out of transition and started up the big hill, I asked the girl if I was still in fourth.  She verified that I was.  This course is a double out and back.  It's scenic for a course of that type.  And pretty hilly.

I came up on the first couple of guys within a mile and a half.  As I got close enough, I checked the first one's age on his calf.  He was 48, and I thought crap: he's looking pretty strong.  The other guy was 27, so I already had 3 minutes on him from the swim stagger. I asked him if he knew how old the lead guy was and he said twenty something, so I had 3 minutes on him as well.

Only problem was that  I couldn't see him to know how far ahead he was.  This course is on some twisting, hilly roads so you could never really see more than a 1/4 mile ahead.  Because of that I didn't see the leader until the first turnaround after the 3 mile mark.  I checked the time as he went past me the other way and I was 1:50 behind him.  So that meant I was actually 1:10 ahead of him.  I tried to do some quick math in my head to figure out how much faster than me he would have to run to win.  But then I thought, there's almost 10 miles of race left and I just need to run.

I was actually feeling pretty comfortable and I wasn't really pushing too much.  I took it a little conservatively as I had tried to kill myself on the bike.  The next few miles to the turnaround near the finish were mostly down hill.  I was averaging 6:27's through 6 miles and felt fine.

Big Sexy Bill was cheering at the turnaround and that gave me some energy.   At that turnaround I was only 1:15 behind the "leader".   I felt better now that I knew I was gaining on him.  So then I thought that it would be pretty cool to be the first one across the finish line.  So I put a little effort into the hills on the beginning of lap 2.  I caught him even before I got to the next turnaround.  The hills must have really got to him.  I had to work the last 3 miles, and averaged 6:37's on the final leg.  I crossed the finish line first with very little fanfare.  It was a bit anticlimactic, I'll admit.  But it was still pretty cool.

4:26:27 Officially 1st Overall
I ended up winning by over 6 minutes.  Full Results here. I felt pretty drained at the end, but seemed to recover quickly.  They had a good spread of the usual soda, water and fruit.  They also had catered in ziti, alfredo, and breadsticks.  Those were all quite good.  I had a good 2-1/2 hours to wait for the awards.  I fueled up for a while as I watched people finish.  RD Kevin Mahan was announcing people's names as they finished.  I grabbed my finisher's hat that we got along with a wooden medal.
Totally Nailed that Second Swim

Eventually I packed up my stuff and rode back down to where my car was parked.  I loaded everything, up changed, and drove back to transition and parked there.  I hung for a while and talked with Bill and Brad and their friends.  Finally for the awards, I got a framed "plaque", a really sweet transition bag, and a big jug of drink mix.  I also grabbed Brad's award, but then I headed out.  Four and a half hours later I was home. As I've always said, winning is hard.  It just takes one guy to show up and kick butt and then everyone else is racing for second place.  Today, I was that guy.
Pavilion for Post Race Food and Awards

I'm surprised that this race doesn't have a bigger turnout.  Maybe its all the double loops on each leg of the race.  The event venue is very nice with the beach and the pavilion and being in the rec area right next to a campground.  Parking isn't plentiful but you can park temporarily to drop off your stuff like 20 yards from transition.  The roads on the bike are really smooth.  The first and last 7 miles are newly paved.  The run is challenging with the hills, but there are hardly any cars.
He's Big.  I'm Sexy.  We're both Racing.

The course is extremely well marked with volunteers at every turn.  They had a timing mat at the far turnaround on the run, which I always like to see.  You get a t-shirt, hat, socks, water bottle, and medal just for racing.  And if you sign up early, its only $100.  Seriously.  For the 12th running, I would think they would  get more people than the 120 that were registered and 100 that finished.  I guess its just all the competition with all the half races that time of year and it being a smaller event management company.

Anyways I was quite happy to win this non-wetsuit race.  I had a faster winning time than the previous year, when the race was held in October and was wetsuit legal.  So if you want a cheap, extremely well run race, with easy logistics, check it out.  It'll even be wetsuit legal next year as they are moving back to the October date.
To the Victor . . .
Getting close.  It's almost time to "Do the Choo"!