***WARNING***This report is a little short on pictures. I wasn’t planning on writing a race report and didn’t carry a camera on the course with me. It was a short race and what could I possibly have to write about? Well, Luke talked me into writing a quick race report. You have all heard the saying,
“A picture is worth a thousand words”, well since I am short on pictures, I made up for it with several thousand extra words. Enjoy…
It has been an unseasonably cold spring thus far where I live, even by Upstate New York standards. Plus, it has been raining almost non-stop for over a week with flash floods and rivers flooding a common occurrence. Not only has this hindered my training this year but as I found out earlier this week it could lead to the possible cancellation of the paddling leg of the paddle triathlon I was planning on attempting this weekend. If canceled, how would the event be run? What kind of race would I be running? Would the event be canceled entirely? Thursday night when I checked my email inbox I found an email entitled Important Paddle Tri Update! I anxiously opened the email, fearing the worst and found answers to all of my questions…
Important Paddle Triathlon Update
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Hello Paddle Tri Participant,
Due to the extreme velocity and volume of the water flow of the Genesee River, the paddle portion of the triathlon will be canceled. The event will now be a duathlon (run/bike/run) for everyone…
…Average river flow for this time of season is 4620 cfs (cubic feet per second, which is about half a million pounds). River flow for the event last year (April 24, 2010) was 1880 cfs. Current flow is up to 11,300 cfs and is expected to continue to increase to 12,000 cfs, about 3.5 ft per second velocity.
Not only is flow impressive, but there is a substantial amount of debris, trees, flotsam, etc. moving along the river with enormous size, that also is a concern for personal safety.
It looked like they waited as long as possible before canceling the paddle leg, hoping Mother Nature would cooperate, but she once again flipped me the bird. So much for my strategy of making up the time I lost while running the 5k with a great paddle leg. I was thinking the recent rain might actually enhance my race performance. I figured that I had more upper body strength than most of the other racers and was a decent paddler so maybe I could use this to my benefit in the 1.5 mile upstream portion of the paddle. The extra weight I would have to lug around the 5k course might actually help in the paddle portion of the race.
Once I got a look at the Genesee River (yes that is supposedly where the water that gives Genesee Beer, Genesee Light Beer, and Genesee Cream Ale (one of Luke’s favorite) it’s great taste comes from) as high as it was, my mind flashed back to the torturous up river pack raft paddle on the Rock River during the Thunder Rolls Adventure Race last fall. I knew I was capable of safely navigating the river and might even have climbed a few positions in the rankings. However, I was fine with not having to horse my kayak upriver with the water flowing as quickly as it was.
I now was lumped into the race with true Duathletes that have been training to run 2 5k’s sandwiched around a 20 mile bike ride while I, on the other hand, have been training for just 1 5k and a leisurely paddle on the river. Plus, since this race was lacking a Clydesdale division (for us big-boned, husky racers that are over 200 pounds), I would be competing with many people who weighed a fraction of my 235 pounds. I still was upbeat and planned to try my best.
After reviewing the times from the 2010 race and speaking with Dragon (Luke) about what I should expect for my race time and splits I came up with some goals. I decided that I was looking at around 2 hours and 15 minutes as a target for the whole race. 2 hours and 30 minutes was my absolute cut off for an acceptable time. Anything over this (barring multiple flat tires) and I would consider my race a failure. My secret, stretch goal (you are now the first to know my stretch goal) was to break the 2 hour mark. I felt it was realistically in my wheel house considering my current level of conditioning if I had a good race.
I figured I’d run around a 25 minute 5k, a 75 minute 20 mile bike ride, followed by another 25 minute 5k. I also had budgeted 2 minutes per transition. If I hit my targeted times I would cross the finish line in about 2 hours and 9 minutes. This would allow for some wiggle room for each leg of a minute or two and still allow me to hit my 2 hour and 15 minute goal. Usually when I race I do it just for fun, for a reason to run or compete, or a chance to spend some time with friends and family. I usually show up and go out without a targeted or expected result. However, since I was a team of one, I thought I’d try something a little different. For this race, I had a target finish time and was enjoying shooting for a goal and pushing myself to beat my target time. This was different, this was challenging, this was fun.
Friday night I checked the weather report and race day was looking ideal. It was going to be in the low 40’s for the start of the race and climbing in the upper 40’s or possibly the low 50’s by the end of the race. They were predicting little chance of rain (I think 10%), sunny, and a 5-10 mph wind. I have been reading a book by Dean Karnazes (50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days – How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance!) and he mentions a study that alluded to the low 40’s being the ideal temperature for performing your best during a marathon. While this wasn’t an actual marathon we would be covering the distance of the marathon. Great, I had ideal weather and now just had to perform in the morning at my expected level. If I fell short of my goal, I couldn’t blame the Mother Nature.
Then I quickly got my gear together and was ready for bed early for a night before a race. Usually, I have a rules meeting where I am given maps and directions. Then I have to drive out to the middle of nowhere to drop off my bike. Upon returning, I would have to plot points (or watch Dragon do it), pack gear, check mandatory equipment, annoy Dragon a bit (Editor’s Note: This should say “annoy the crap out of Dragon”), and finally crawl into my sleeping bag just hours before I had to get up to get to the starting line at 6:00 or 7:00 am. I was ready much quicker on the night before this race than I am for most races.
Was I forgetting something? I checked what I needed… bike? …check. Bike shoes? …check. Bike helmet? …check. Running shoes? …check. The clothes I was wearing in the morning? …check. Water bottle and a Honey Stinger Waffle? …check. My race bib and bike number? …check. That was all that I needed for this race and I had it all laid out and ready to go. So, I Hydropelled my feet and thighs and went to bed for a good night’s sleep.
I awoke (I had to pee) about 4:50 am. I climbed back into bed but couldn’t go back to sleep. So, I got up and started my race morning protocol (poop, whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter and honey, a PowerAde zero and get dressed). Then my lovely wife Lauren drove me to Rochester (30 minutes away) for the race.
Once I was there, I went through the usual pre-race dance. As I walked into the transition area I was assigned a timing anklet and instructed to put it on my faster ankle. Unsure which leg was actually faster I put it on my right ankle (I am right handed and punt with that leg so I figured it must be faster). Then, I set up my area in the transition area (Like the rookie I was I had my bike on the rack wrong, not exactly wrong but I was planning on coming up to my bike on the wrong side). Next I had to take another poop, decide what I was going to wear, warm up, and slam a Spike.
It was a crisp, cool morning with a slight breeze. I felt a bit cool standing around and wondered how cold I would feel once I was running and biking? I decided that I would wear long sleeves, so I stripped down bare chested (woof) and put on my thin merino wool shirt. I walked around a bit and looked around checking out the competition. There appeared to be some serious competitors, so I took notice of their clothing choices. Some were wearing long sleeves, some had arm warmers, and others had wind breakers and even a light weight fleece. I think one guy was going shirtless (or maybe he was just showing off or trying to figure out what to wear). Then I looked around some more and saw some short sleeves, some sleeveless jerseys, some with a singlet like suit, and a couple in costume (I wish I took a picture of team TMNT, they were a 4 person team and all in costume). I was warming up quickly so I decided to strip down again (double woof) and go back to my short sleeved shirt. Or maybe I was just showing off (not sure exactly what I would be showing off…my beer gut, my chest pubes?)
I was now ready for the race to start. They shortly announced to clear the transition area and start heading to the starting line for the start of the race in 10 minutes. I headed over. While waiting for the race to start, I chatted a bit with several friendly racers. Then I realized that I had to pee. I looked around and the nearest bathroom was a good 200 yards away and I only had about 5 minutes before the race started. I scanned the area for a place to discretely relieve myself…Nothing. I couldn’t spot anywhere to take a leak near the starting line. However, I did notice several police officers and wondered if they’d cut me some slack for urinating in public. I decided against risking a ticket and not racing and figured I’d take care of business when the chance presented itself (hopefully sooner rather than later).
5…4…3…2…1…GO! The race had started.
We took off, and I was feeling pretty good. I was running almost effortlessly and enjoying the moment. After a couple of minutes, as the pack was thinning out a bit, I glanced down at my watch and saw I was running a 7 minute 22 second pace. I felt like I could maintain this pace for the duration of the race and set a PR for a 5k (I have only run 1 other 5k). However, I wasn’t running a 5k. I thought about it for a bit and decided that it was a long race and that I should pace myself, at least for the time being. I slowed down to around an 8 minute 30 second pace (I knew I could do this without bonking).
The run was enjoyable and really beautiful. The entire course was within the park’s boundaries. The run was pretty uneventful except for when I decided I wanted a drink of water. I took a cup of water from a volunteer at one of the aid stations. Getting it was not a problem, the hand off went smoothly. It clearly wasn’t the volunteer’s first rodeo. However, drinking it was a different story. I was on my own here and the volunteer couldn’t really help me. I am pretty sure that this was the first time I had ever tried to drink out of a cup while running. You think it would be easy right? It wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated. I went to take a drink and almost drowned myself. I got only a couple of swallows of water and discarded the cup in the cup pile. I would recommend a couple of practice drinks before you try it during a race if you have never done it before.
The course meandered through the park and crossed the Genesee River several times. The water was really moving and to be honest I was a little glad that I would not have to paddle 1.5 miles upstream later in the race (it would have been the last 1.5 miles of the race). I was feeling strong and was even looking forward to the second 5k…
The mileage of the first run leg was 3.18 (view course here) and my split was an easy 26 minutes and 23 seconds (an average speed of 7.23 mph or 8 minute 17.8 seconds per mile). It wasn’t a PR but I was still feeling good and still on pace to reach my target finishing time. Goal accomplished on the first leg, now to get in and out of the TA in less than 2 minutes.
My first transition went fairly smoothly. I found my bike, changed my shoes, ate a Honey Stinger Waffle, took a big drink of water, threw my helmet on, and headed to the TA exit (you had to walk/run your bike not ride out of the TA to the bike mount zone). As I was leaving the TA I headed 90 degrees to my right (the course was 90 degrees to the left). A helpful volunteer tried to redirect me. I told him I had to pee and was headed to the port-a-potty across the way. I dropped my bike and ran to the bathroom. Finally, I was able to relieve myself even though it would cost me a good 45 seconds on the bike leg since my clock had already started as I left the TA. I ran back to my bike and took off at a good pace. I was feeling good and ready to reel some of my fellow racers in. ***NOTE – Only thing I missed at the TA was I forgot to put on my bike shorts, luckily this didn’t cause me any issues later in the race and probably saved me a little time.
I was hauling ass on Tron (my Jake-The-Snake cyclo-cross bike) as soon as I began to peddle. Tron was one of quite a few other cross bikes in the race and one of at least 3 Jakes that I saw during the bike leg. There also were a handful of mountain bikes entered in the race, but most riders were on road bikes. However, I was the only one that I saw riding a cross bike with off road cross tires (I should have invested in a pair of road slicks for my bike – next race I think I will). I began to pass people at a surprisingly quick rate. Was I heading out too fast? Was I going to bonk hard, as the saying goes?
I felt good, so I kept on pushing the pace a bit. The ride was great, but it was much hillier than I anticipated. After passing a good 50 people, I settled in with a group of riders that were riding around my pace. There were men, women, young, old, first starters (first start time), and second starters (second start time). We took turns passing each other, each with their own strengths and everybody racing their own race. I thought of the advantages of a pace line and wished for my Virtus teammates. We rocked the pace line earlier in the month at the Lightning Strikes Adventure Race and would be crushing this leg of the race together, if they were here.
I passed many of my peloton on the bigger climbs and they in turn would catch me on the flats. One guy always seemed to pass me on the big climbs, and as he passed me, he would say that he’d see me on the next flat area. I’d bomb down the hills and cruise on the flats and eventually catch and pass him. I’d return the comment by stating that I’d see him on the next hill. He’d smile, drop back a bit, and then pass me on the next climb. We did this for the rest of the bike leg.
My group of riders would spread out at times and then bunch up and we’d all be together again. We passed another 10-20 riders as a group and were occasionally passed by a faster biker. One time when we were spread out I saw a shadow creeping up on me. I looked over, expecting to see one of my peloton, and saw a new biker passing me. He looked hardcore and had on one of those aerodynamic, racing bike helmets that matched his bibs and jersey. Plus, he was laid down on his handlebars and was keeping up a quick pedal cadence. He glanced at me, and I said, “You’re only passing me because of your helmet.” And then I smiled and nodded at him. He was not amused and decided to pick up the pace and put some distance between us.
I was tempted to give chase but figured it was hopeless since I was catching so much wind in my regular helmet (Plus I still had a ways to go and didn’t want to bonk). I let him go on his way, but I had a big smile on my face for the next couple of miles. I think I might have to get myself one of those helmets for the next race. Do you think it would help much during a mountain bike or adventure race? Maybe it would help me go faster during the paddle. Just think how fast our pace line would move if we all had aerodynamic racing helmets. They could get progressively smaller from the leader to the caboose. We’d be one large aerodynamic helmet train. I apologize for not having any pictures but I wasn’t carrying my camera this race.
The ride was going pretty smoothly, and I was maintaining a surprisingly quick pace for the amount of limited training I have been doing as of late. Our group once again bunched up as we crossed a major intersection where the police had kindly stopped all traffic for us. We were in a tight little group taking up about half of the right lane of traffic (2 or 3 bikers deep) when a black car came flying by us, surprisingly close. Then it slowed down and a jack hole leaned out the passenger window and started yelling at us.
He asked us if we were “F—ing stupid” and did we want to get “F—ing” killed. In my head I answered no to each question. Then he yelled that we should get off the f—ing road. He was yelling some more garbage when the rider in front of me flipped him off. The yahoo in the car went off, flipped us the bird, and began yelling some more obscenities and telling us he was pulling over and would be waiting for us up ahead. I told the guy in front of me that I had his back, not to worry about it.
Then a girl behind me pulled up alongside me and said what an A—Hole that guy was. I said I kind of hoped he would and that I’d throw his ass into the river (we were biking alongside the Genesee River). She laughed and then pulled ahead of me a bit. I assumed she thought I was joking, I was not. The car drove away and we didn’t see them again. I was thinking that I probably could have taken care of business and still made my goal of 2 hour and 15 minutes because I felt as if I was crushing the bike leg so far. As we came around the corner we had another major crossing that was manned by a couple of local police officers. I looked around and couldn’t see the car and didn’t think to get his license plate number. I let it go but happily used the little adrenaline surge it had provided me to keep pushing the pace.
(Editor’s Note: I’d like to remind you that Casey is a professional MMA fighter. That guy has no clue how close he was to getting his ass handed to him. What a jerk!)
My little peloton stuck together and passed a handful of bikers over the last couple of miles. There were tons of volunteers along the course, which was well marked and easily followed (I also always had many bikes in front of me to follow). Finally, we were directed into the final turn and came into the TA for our final transition. I was still feeling pretty good as I jumped off my bike. When I hit the ground, though, my legs felt a little squishy. Almost like I was still biking and not walking. It was kind of like when you roller skate all afternoon and when you finally take your skates off and walk for the first time and feel as if you are still skating. Most of my brick training (training multiple disciplines consecutively) was running to bike. This was how I trained and what I planned for this race…Run…Bike…Paddle. Now I would have to run again for the first time in my racing (and training experience).
The mileage of the bike leg was 20.04 miles (view course here), and my split was a surprising 1 hour 6 minutes and 29 seconds (an average speed of 18.09 mph or 3 minutes and 32 seconds per mile). I have never raced 20 miles before so I guess I set a PR for a 20 mile bike ride. This split and these times are with my 40-45 second pee break included since there were no bathrooms in the TA and you had to leave it to reach a bathroom. Once you leave the TA your split time was started. Now for a quick transition then the final running leg.
This transition was a little different, and my legs were pretty numb. I put my bike up, changed shoes, took a swig of water and headed out. I still couldn’t really feel my legs as I exited the TA and my final leg time started. I told my legs to run and my leg muscles remembered the task and begrudgingly obliged. As I headed out, I took a cup of water from an enthusiastic volunteer and did better this time. I was able to drink it a little better while running, and I didn’t even choke. I threw the cup in the cup pile and headed up the incline and over the Genesee River yet again.
It was clear to the volunteers that I was a runner now. As I passed some volunteers, I thanked them and they cheered me on. A couple of volunteers seemed surprised to see a man of my “husky” stature so early. I heard, “…a big guy…” accompanied by clapping, I received a couple of startled looks. I hoped it was because a “big boned” guy was doing half way decent in the race and not because something was hanging out the bottom of my shorts. It gave me a little surge, and I picked it up a bit. I appreciated their efforts and responded by increasing mine.
Still on phantom legs, I plodded on. Around 7 tenths of a mile into the run I began to feel my legs again. They were telling me that they weren’t too happy with me and seemed to question the need to continue and slowed the pace slightly. I was a little pissed at my legs and willed them to move at the pace I was trying to maintain. I knew I could run this pace and wouldn’t accept a slower one. My gait might have been a little stiff and might have looked a little awkward but it was working and I was moving towards the finish line. My legs ached but continued to turn over at an acceptable rate and each step I took was one less I would have to take to get the finish line.
Somewhere around 1.5 miles into this running leg, my legs came back to life. They had feeling, they weren’t hurting, and they were beginning to pick the pace up, and the run was once again fun and enjoyable. I felt like I could run at this pace for much longer than I had left to race. In hind sight, this is where I should have stepped up the pace, but I was afraid the reprieve from my recent dead leg syndrome would be short-lived, and since this was my first race of this type, I didn’t want to hit the dreaded wall. So I kept my usual consistent pace. I passed a few runners and was passed by a couple others. We crossed back over the Genesee River again and started the final stretch of the race.
Once again, looking back, I should have stepped up the pace for this last bit. Finally, when I could see the finish line in the distance I began to kick it in a bit and passed another runner as we approached the finished line. Another runner had the same idea and kicked it in as well. He too passed the other runner with me. He then challenged me down the shoot and I did what I thought I would never do. I let him cross half a step in front of me.
I felt like I could have kicked it in and beaten him across the line, but I let him go. I am not really sure why I did this, and I was a little angry at myself for not sprinting across the line ahead of him. At the very least, I should have made him really earn it. I am pretty sure that he was actually several minutes ahead of me since he appeared to be several years older than me (I was just under the cut off for the first start) and I had a several minute head start on him since he started in the second group. I guess I need to race more and get more experience. Next time I will beat everybody near me across the finish line or else make them really earn crossing the finish line ahead of me.
The mileage of the final run leg was 2.8 miles (view course here) and my final split, dead legs and all, was a very surprising …wait for it…wait for it… (Rat Baxter flashback)…wait for it…23 minutes and 51 seconds (an average speed of 7.22 mph or 8 minutes and 18.6 seconds per mile). In case you haven’t been keeping a running total of all my splits, my total time was 2 hours 0 minutes and 27 seconds. I beat my minimum goal, I beat my realistic goal, and I missed my stretch goal by a lousy 27 seconds.
If I didn’t have to stop and take a leak I would have beaten my stretch goal. In hindsight I feel as if I could have made that up on the final running leg. 1 second faster per mile and each transition and I beat my stretch goal. I had a watch on and was timing each leg. However, I made the mistake of not keeping a running total. My watch, a Garmin Forerunner 310XT, is capable of this feat, but I have yet to learn how to use that function. I will learn how to do so before a multi-discipline race where GPS watches are allowed (they are not allowed in orienteering or adventure races).
My first attempt at a duathlon (actually I was trying to do a paddle triathlon) was mostly a success. I was mad that I missed my stretch goal by only 27 seconds, but after thinking about it for a while I am (or at least should be) happy that I only missed my stretch goal by 27 seconds. It was a lofty expectation given the training I put into preparing for this race. I knew that I could have done better if I trained a little more. I know that I could have broken the 2 hour mark and will smash it on my next attempt.
How did my just over 2 hour performance hold up to the competitors? Well, I was 16th out of 26 in my division (Male 35-39) and 135th out of 380 racers (many were 2, 3, or 4 person teams). View official results here.
After the race, I had a banana, a couple of cookies, pretzels with peanut butter, a hotdog and diet coke (that I shared with my kids). They had come out to support me. I had no idea they were there until I crossed the finish line and saw them headed my way. I wish that I had seen them during the race; I think it would have provided me with a much-needed energy boost. During the race I saw some kids and spouses standing along the route with “Go Daddy” or “Go Mommy” signs. These signs and the anxious looks on their faces made me smile and picked me up a bit. Had I caught a glimpse of my kids at the last TA, maybe I would have been sub 2 hours (hey, you never know). Or maybe I would have called it a day and taken them to the blow up obstacle course. During Adventure races, there really aren’t many places for friends and family to view you since most of the race route is unspecified and determined by the racers.
After the race and once I was reunited with my family (sans Austin, he was working the tables at a wrestling tournament), we walked around a bit while I munched on a banana and a couple of cookies provided by the race. We drank some water and watched the kids climb on a free obstacle course that was set up at the finish area. After several trips through the obstacle course we coerced the kids to head to the other side of the finish area. We shared my post race hot dog and diet coke and headed to the TA to get all of my belongings. As we were packing up some people were still coming in, we clapped for them and offered words of encouragement. We headed back to the car as a family with Colton and Joselyn mounted together on Tron as I pushed them to the parking area (it was mostly uphill).
It was a great race, a great experience. My first foray into the Duathlon Venue was a success and a very enjoyable experience. I will be doing another one in the near future. The race was well run, and a huge thank you goes out to Fleet Feet and Yellow Jacket Racing for putting on such a quality event in the Rochester area. A sincere thank you to all of the generous race sponsors. The success of this event is in a big part due to the hours many volunteers unselfishly give to help wherever they are needed. A thank you to all the volunteers, you make these types of events possible. I’ll be back for next year’s race (hopefully the Tri) and encourage you to come out and give it a “Tri” with me, I gaurantee you’ll have a good time. I hope to see you there!