Sunday, June 21, 2015

2015 Ironman Eagleman 70.3 Race Report

For the last few years, I've been wanting to do Eagleman.  I always thought it was a bit of an iconic race (for a 70.3).  Maybe it's because Crowie and Rinny have won there.  Maybe it's because the bike and the run are uber fast.  I targeted it for this year because it is a course that closely replicates Kona.  Well, more than any other half course.   It's a non wetsuit saltwater swim with a hot, hot run.  I felt this would help me prepare for the Big Island, come October.  So I was in for the 19th edition of Eagleman.

Eagleman held a lot of firsts for me.  First saltwater swim race.  First race in Maryland. First time in the Delmarva area (actually first time I'd ever heard that phrase).  First drafting penalty on the bike (more on that later!)

I left work at lunch on Friday, and stopped to get my haircut as I headed out of town.  I drove all the way up to Woodbridge, Virginia, about 20 miles from DC.  I was glad to get off of I-95 as the traffic was getting worse as I got closer to DC.  I'd never been to Woodbridge.  I don't think I'm ever going back.  The hotel was sketchy, the area was sketchy.  I was just glad to get out of there with all my possessions intact.  I went for a run Saturday morning.  I was going to do 2 miles.  I ran in one direction until I didn't feel safe.  I headed back to the hotel and ran in the other direction until I didn't feel safe.  Then I headed back to the hotel again.  I only got 1.6 miles in.  Time to get outta dodge.
Welcome to Maryland

So the traffic on 95 wasn't much better Saturday morning.  Once I hit the loop around DC, it was moving good.  Then I got hung up in the traffic trying to get across the Bay Bridge.  About a 30 minutes and 6 dollars later, I was across and headed down to Cambridge.
The Bay Bridge

I pulled into town and went straight to the expo. They have the checkin inside a building at Sailwinds Park, with the expo outside.

There wasn't much of a line, but I walked straight up to the All World Athlete check in anyways.  So pretty typical Ironman 70.3 check in: Get your little number card, sign the waivers, get your packet, get your chip, get your t-shirt, then head to the merchandise tent to get your bag.

Admittedly, they had some pretty cool stuff at the merch tent.  I didn't buy anything, though.  I plan on blowing the budget at the merchandise tent in Kona.  Yeah, I'm gonna be that guy.

I checked out the expo some, and snapped a few pics.  I didn't really want to be in the sun too much, so I headed back to the car.  I decided to swing over by the Great Marsh Park to see how bike check was going.  People were parking on the roads, and it didn't look too bad.
Choptank River
I drove around a little and found a Subway. It was about 20 minutes before noon.  I grabbed the Subway and headed back to the expo for the noon athlete meeting.  It really wasn't that informative, other than they said there were athletes from 56 countries and 44 states (whats wrong with you ND?).

After that, I headed back over to the Great Marsh Park.  I found a spot to park and then went to work on getting Green Lightning ready for checkin.  I cut and put on the frame stickers, and got my wheels and hydration ready.  I had to walk a couple of blocks to get to the transition.

I guess I hadn't really thought too much about my race number.  I mean I knew I was 206 (instead of like 1657) because of the All World Athlete thing. I never really put much stock into AWA.  I mean they just add up your points from your best 3 Ironman brand races.  I guess some people do more than 3 IM events in one year, but I'm not thinking there are a lot.  But, basically if you do 3 races you are AWA.  You don't even really have to be very good.  AWA Bronze is top 10%.  That's a pretty big number of people.  I was silver (top 5%) from just 2 races last year.  So it's not hard or anything special to be AWA.

I just think its a way to stroke triathletes egos, and sell them AWA merchandise (which I did see people wearing this weekend).  Anyways, I thought it was silly and put zero stock in it.  Until I saw my bike rack spot.  AWA was right next to the pros.  In a transition of 2,500 people, having a spot right next to bike in/out is pretty sweet.  OK, so now I was all about this AWA thing.  Still wasn't pretentious enough to put the AWA sticker on my bike.
Look at that Rack spot.  Look At It!
So I racked the bike, let the air out of the tires, and that was pretty much it.  I then went and scoped out the transition and finish line setup.  Great Marsh Park is actually a pretty nice venue for the transition and finish line festivities.
Always a good time for a selfie
I then headed back to my hotel.  As is pretty common knowledge, hotel space in Cambridge is quite limited.  I was staying 30 minutes away in Salisbury at the Microtel.  I got back to the hotel and checked out all the stuff. I got everything ready for race morning and then chilled for couple of hours.

 I was meeting one of my Big Sexy teammates for dinner at the Hyatt resort back in Cambridge.
Rapp doing some shopping with some rollers.

As I'm walking into the Hyatt main lobby I pass Jordan Rapp coming back out.  I tipped my head, "Mr. Rapp".  I saw a couple of other ladies who I'm sure were probably pro, but I didn't recognize them.  Anyways, dinner was with my Big Sexy Teammates, Ian and Natalie, their friend Peter and Ian's parents.  You remember Jerry's parents on Seinfeld?  Ian's parents are kinda like that, except funnier.  We had a great time at dinner and for a while I actually forgot about the race in the morning.  I got back to the Microtel around 8:30pm.
Me, Peter, Ian, and Natalie
I put my temporary Big Sexy Racing tattoo on.  Still wasn't pretentious enough to put the AWA tattoo on.

Race Morning
It was an early morning for sure.  With the 30 minute drive and the severe lack of parking, I set the alarm for 4 bells.  I actually slept pretty well for me.  I typically get little sleep the night before a race.  I got on the road pretty quickly and headed to Cambridge.  I found a relatively good parking spot a block back on Talbot Street near the YMCA.

I got body marked and then went into transition.  It seemed busy already.  I took my bike over to the bike techs and got the tires pumped up.  They had a bunch of pumps lying around that you could use.  Another bonus with the bike rack being so close.

I got everything set with my rear wheel cover, bike stuff, and run stuff.  I left my shoes off my bike again.  I've done that since Raleigh last year.  It's been no big deal to run a little with my shoes one, so I've been doing that instead of trying to slip them in while I'm weaving around on the road. I balanced my Rudy Wingspan helmet on my bars and it seemed to stay, so I left it there.

After checking everything 87 times, I eventually slipped my Blue Seventy PZ3TX swimskin on my bottom and headed out of transition towards the swim start.  I took the rest of my food and water with me.  I had eaten a bagel, a couple of bananas and 3 gels. I grabbed my purple cap and goggles.  Still wasn't pretentious enough to wear the AWA swim cap. I still had some time, so I stood in line for the port-o-let.

I checked out some of the action with the Pros starting.  They didn't seem to be moving very fast.  I bumped into Peter and we talked some.  He had an earlier wave.  Eventually I found Ian and Natalie, they went off after me.  I was quite nervous that morning, so it was good to find some people to talk to.  Then it was go time. 

Officially 42:19, 68 / 242 AG, 396 / 1416 Overall Male Non Pro
Garmin had 42:01 and 1.23 miles
This was probably the most congested swim that I have done.  It didn't really bother me, I mean I didn't swallow a bunch of water or lose my breath or panic.  I had been quite worried about this saltwater swim.  I went swimming at Myrtle Beach one time (like real swimming) and got sick.  Swam down the shoreline 1/2 mile, got out and walked back.  I felt fine in this swim.  Midway through, I had even forgotten that it was saltwater.  I guess it was the waves that made me sick.
Swim Start
So part of the problem that got everyone all bunched up was the current that was constantly pushing you off course and the water support crew.  Yellow buoys are for sighting.  You are supposed to be able to swim on either side of them.  These people were funneling everyone to the outer side of the buoys, so there was less room to swim.  You only HAVE to go around turn buoys.  Maybe in year 20 they'll get that figured out.
Out to the first turn buoy
So I tried to swim.  Tried to kick.  To swim hard.  I felt ok, no cramping.  I was able to catch some feet on the way out. At the bottom of the "U" I sighted straight across to the next turn buoy.  I didn't pay attention to the yellow buoys at that point.  So I got yelled at that I need to move over.  Looking at my Garmin data, I swam pretty straight.  Luckily I just kept sighting on the next turn buoy and ignored the kayakers.

And down the home stretch we come.  It was uneventful except for the usual dodging of doggie paddlers, and breast strokers.  Who does the breast stroke?  Now that I'm doing breast in my masters group, I can't understand it.  It is slow and harder than free.  And I can't breathe easier.  So with about 100 yards to go I started scrapping the bottom of the river.  I look up and everyone is walking.
Final Leg
So I hop up and try to 'jog'. When I stood up, I looked at my watch and it was already at 40 minutes.  That was deflating.  I'm thinking about all that swim work that was totally useless.  Water jogging is tough on the legs. but I kept pushing and eventually made it to the beach.
Swim Exit
The thing about the swim, more so than bike and run, is that your time is relative.  This was a slow time (even for me), yet my ranking was the highest percentage wise as I have ever had in a half race.  I'm usually in the top 40%, but today I was almost in the top 1/4.  But you don't know that at the time.
Swim run up to transition

Man, the AWA bike rack is sweet.  Definitely helps with the transition time.  
T1 Tracking

Officially 2:17:59, 2nd AG (1st was 2:17:21) / 242, Officially 17th OA non-pro
Garmin had 2:12:15 for 56.13 miles on 233 watts (25.5 mph avg).  So there's a bit of a discrepancy between my Garmin and the official results, hmmm . . .

I knew I had a lot of time to make up.  My target was 235 watts.  I started out a little hard as there are more people to pass. Eventually got into a rhythm.  There was a bit of a tailwind for the first half of the course. At the 30 mile mark, I was averaging 26.2 mph on 238 watts. The next 25 miles I averaged 24.8 mph on 229 watts, so I guess not much of a wind.  Felt harder though.

So I was pushing.  I could feel it in my legs.  I knew it was tough, but I thought that was what I needed to do.  I was 'all in', as they say.  The course does not have hills.  It got to the point that you were hoping for a turn in the course so you could get out of aero and stretch a little bit.

 I wanted to hammer to 50 miles and take it a little easy on the last stretch in.  I took a gel every 15 miles and drank my malto mix often.

All of sudden, around 45 miles there was a group of 4 guys with me.  We started going back and forth repassing one another to stay legal.  This is typically not an issue for me.  Being a slow swimmer and a fast biker, I'm usually just chewing through field and no one can ride with me.  Mostly because the really good guys are way ahead of me already.  So we did this for like 5 miles.  At one point I had to pee, so with no hills to coast down and pee you just kinda sit up and go. So I did and I let all these guys pass me and get up the road a bit.

Then I settle back in and moved ahead, eventually catching and passing all of them.  Then this one guy on the lime green Trek gets ahead of me and just sits there.  I thought to myself, I think I'm back far enough, but I wasn't 100% sure.  Evidently I wasn't.

The motor scooter pulls up besides me and she goes, I'm giving you a blue card for drafting.  I just look at her.  Blue? I say.  She goes, stop at the penalty tent and sign in.  It was a weird feeling.  I think the new 5 bike length (10 meters) rule this year is what got me.  I need to pay attention to that better in Hawaii.  I am not making excuses.  I did it.  I knew I was a little too close.  That penalty is 100% on me.
So then I get done talking to the moto lady and for a second I think my day is over.  I knew any chance to win was gone, but my day is not over.  I took off.  I passed that SOB on the Trek and high tailed it back to transition.
5 minute Rest Stop Tent
The penalty tent is after the dismount line and before you get into transition.  I pull in there and I'm like 'Number 206, Blue Card!'  Like I'm a big deal or something.  I hit lap on my Garmin. 5 minutes.  The kid starts the stop watch.  They put a sharpie mark across my bike numbers and my helmet number.  They sign me in, take my name and all that.  So I'm talking with the volunteers.  They are asking me stuff about my bike.  I'm not upset with them, so why not have a conversation.  5 minutes can seem like a long time.  Eventually he gives me a 10 second countdown and I was out.  I then hit the timing mats and got into transition. Here's the Garmin Proof.  Notice the total elapsed time that shows I served the penalty after the bike as opposed to taking a 5 minute rest in the middle of the ride.

Garmin had 6:35 as I switched it to transition as I came into the penalty tent.  I had a pretty quick transition.  Got my socks on, slipped on my Newton's, grabbed by Fuel Belt Race Belt and headed out.

Officially 1:33:49, 3rd / 238 AG, 12th OA ~1350
Garmin had 1:33:51 for 13.20 miles (7:07 avg).  I made sure I didn't start out too fast, and did that with a 6:29 first mile.  Problem was that the second mile in 6:40 felt tough.  I could feel my legs weren't there.  This was the first time in my career that I will admit to biking too hard.  Or maybe it was the humidity.  It was hot, around 85 degrees, but not overly so.

I felt slow, but still got into a bit of a rhythm.  I was just running 45 seconds to a minute slower per mile than I wanted to. At about 5 miles out you make a turn onto Horns Point Road and you are in no man's land.  There's an aid station on the corner, and then nothing but a flat stretch of road almost 2 miles long.  At this point in the race, it was pretty lonely out there.  There is an aid station near the turn around.  I hit it pretty good.  I had 3 gels total, but drank water at every stop.  I got ice and plenty of sponges.

After the turn around I was able to hold a consistent pace.  Not fast, but consistent.  Like I said, it was weird.  I didn't bonk to a 8 or 9 minute mile or anything.  Every split was under 7:30, I just couldn't get it going.  Honestly I didn't feel that hot.  Again like the swim, you don't really know how you are doing compared to everyone else at the time.

Around 10 miles I come up on a guy who looks like he's running pretty good.  I see the 34 on his calf, so I'm like, c'mon man let's go.  So he hangs with me for a half mile or so.  He tells me the guy way up on us in the white is 40.  I need to catch him.  So I push.  Just after the 11 mile mark I catch up to him and see the 42 on his calf.  I push passed him without saying anything.  Then I set my sights on home.

The last couple of miles were tough admittedly.  I just wanted to finish.  I felt pretty drained.  For the final mile you can see the finish line across the water.  You just push and push until you eventually make it. 

Officially 4:37:08 3rd AG, 16th Overall Non-Pro 1,350 male finishers.  Full Results Here.
So turns out that the guy I passed with 2M to go put me on the podium. I cross the line and stagger a little.

I tell the volunteer I'm fine.  They hand me a bottle of water that I drink in about 10 seconds.  I get my hat and medal and try to find the food.  I wasn't hungry but wanted to get a cola.  I hung out for a while just drinking water and cola.  Just recovering. I couldn't get my phone because my car keys were in transition and they wouldn't let us back into transition until 1:30pm.

So I'm sulking about the terrible race I had.  Slow swim, penalty on the bike, fading on the run.  Luckily I was too tired to get really upset.  Eventually I got into transition and took everything back to the car.
Finish Chute
I got my phone and tried to check but it wouldn't come up.  I called my wife and told her how crappy I did.  She cheered me up, reminding me that the real goal this year is Kona. I finally got hungry and grabbed something to eat.  Then I found Ian and his mom and hung out with them as they waited for Natalie to finish.
Multisport Map
I then was able to check results on my phone.  I'm not sure why Ironman doesn't have something setup after the race to check results like everyone else.  Maybe they figure they have too many athletes.  So I look me up and I see the 3rd in age group. Holy crap.  This changes everything.  So I start looking.  I actually had a good swim ranking.  I biked so hard that the penalty just made my split 'normal'.  Everyone was slow on the run.  So now I was jacked.  Keeping my 70.3 streak alive.  Augusta, Raleigh, and now Eagleman all with top 3 podium AG finishes.
Finish Area

Food Pavilion
I text my wife with "I got 3rd AG, guess I don't suck".  It felt good to have what I would deem a "bad" race and still make the podium.  I had a real crappy feeling in my stomach about the drafting penalty.  I mean I wasn't trying to draft.  Sometimes it takes more work NOT to draft.  But at the end of the day, I broke the rules, I got a penalty, and I served the consequences.  That is fair.  I mean people get called for penalties in football or fouls in basketball.  You serve the consequences and you go on with life.
Awards Stage and Tent
The downside is that nobody knows about my stinking, unbelievably, incredibly, stupendously awesome 2:12 bike split.  The upside is that when you look at the results, my splits seem to make more sense.  I mean, I'm not that idiot who bikes a 2:12 and then runs a 1:33.  Nice pacing, moron.

I think I overestimated my fitness. I mean I would have had the fastest overall age group bike split without the penalty.  That would have been sexy. The penalty didn't affect my AG place (those top two guys were men among boys).  It would have pulled me up to 11th overall AG, instead of 16th.  But then again, you don't know how it would have all played out with the 5 minutes of stoppage.  It probably only really cost my 4 minutes because maybe I biked faster the last 5 miles.  Maybe I ran faster the first couple of miles.
So I hang out with Ian, and Natalie, and we find Peter, and Ian's parents.  They get some food and head out.
All About the Bling
I stick around for the awards.  I go over to the awards tent talk to some people for a while.  I just felt like hanging out and talking tri crap.  Eventually I ask the lady for my award and I head out.  Feeling good about my new shiny red license plate.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge
So I headed out of town.  I stopped at Hardee's to get one of those nasty all-american burgers, fries and a shake.  I'll probably get unfollowed by Tara.  The drive home was long.  Highway 50 down "Delmarva" had a lot of lights.  $15 to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel into Norfolk.  Although I do like exploring parts of the country that I have never been to.
Tunnel Entrance
Another stop at Wendy's for a cheeseburger, fries, and a frosty. Finally got home at 1:30am.  That race destination is not a good weekend jaunt.  If I do it again, it will be like Ian, and stay 4 nights at the Hyatt.  Otherwise I'm not going.

Finisher Swag
Now it's time to take some rest.  The body is a little rundown.  I need to be rested as I'm now switching over to my 140.6 training plan. Longer stuff, less intensity.  At least that's what I tell myself.