I gave up Sonic Blasts after finally looking up the nutrition specs. Let’s just say it’s not low fat. That was last year and I was losing weight for IM Louisville. Fortunately, I haven’t felt any cravings until the night before this race. It was, of course, as good as I remember. Sweet creamy vanilla ice cream blended with chunks of Reece’s cups. Need I say more. That was savored for a couple of hours and off I went to bed. I planned on a 3:30am wake-up to leave by 4:00am. It takes an hour to get to the race site. All my tri-stuff was packed, so I just needed to slap Black Mamba on the bike rack and drive.
My stomach woke me up around midnight. You know that feeling. Not good. Got back to sleep and actually slept well. Not many people were in transition yet so I got a good spot. There were plenty of racks for just 250+ people. Thanks RD.
This was the first year of the race and the director wanted to keep it small to work out the bugs. It was a cold 45 degrees but not bitter. The water temp was 69 degrees so the wetsuits came out. Transition was set-up quickly. After a few trips to the Porta-John, including one about 10mins prior to my wave start, I was hoping the lingering gassy, crampy feeling was just pre-race nerves. My backside was not looking forward to sitting on my bike saddle for 2+hours as it was. Ok….In case, you’re wondering if the bathroom adventures are over…not quite. Stay tuned. On the positive side, I was getting very good at stripping down my wetsuit and trisuit.
The swim venue was beautiful. The panoramic picture above doesn’t do it justice. We started in deep water in waves. The course was a lazy loop swam counter-clockwise. I got in front and pushed the pace hard for 100yards and drafted off one guy/gal until they veered off course. It was choppy through the first section heading north into the wind, but calmed a bit turning south. I couldn’t find any other feet to jump on so just swam steady buoy-to-buoy. Not a lot of contact except when swimming through the earlier waves. The distance felt close to accurate. My Garmin spit out 2000+yards. I exited awkwardly onto their well intentioned, but makeshift platform in 30:50ish.
I bypassed the wetsuit strippers and took my Desoto T1 top off running into transition and proudly got out of T1 in a 2nd overall 1:02 mins. Getting back to that cold weather reference. I was freezing initially on the bike as I struggled to put on my arm warmers climbing out of Goosepond park. The cycling toe covers helped, but toes still cold to start the run.
Most people were bundled up with jackets, gloves, etc. This guy was arctic-proof.
After about 15min, I was warmed-up. Couldn’t stop my nose from running though. Gave me something to do every few minutes though. We had a headwind going out that slowed the pace. Traffic-control was excellent going through town. Out on the rural roads, we had a mix of smooth blacktop and teeth-chattering gravel-asphalt county roads. The trip back was obviously quicker. My power was near goal going out and dropped coming back. It was a combination of GI unrest and a shy bladder on the bike. By mile 40, I finally got my bladder to cooperate and felt better. I pushed harder the last 45mins back to transition to finish around 2:35. Like most of my rides this summer, it took a while for my legs to wake-up. Initially, my impression was that my endurance was poor. But looking closer at the power files, I slowed miles 25-40 dealing with cramps and a full bladder–lost a little concentration. My power/speed dropped and my variability index increased. In reality, my legs felt pretty good over the last hour.
I brought one large (30oz) bottle of water that I put between the aerobars and put a smaller rescue bottle (didn’t need it) behind the saddle. I used a 2.5 hour concentrated bottle of Infinit in an aerobottle on the seat-tube. According to the experts, this is the most aerodynamic set-up for my bike. I took a water bottle at the aid-station but I don’t think I drank more than 40 oz on the bike. Testament to cooler weather. I drank about 2/3 of the Infinit and took a gel about 30mins before getting off the bike. I didn’t cram in the water or fuel in the last hour and it really helped prevent that bloated feeling coming off the bike. Have to remember that for next long-distance race…Fuel early, slack off later before T2.
In T2, I decided to go with socks and my Newton-Motion shoes. I debated over the last few weeks about going sockless in my Saucony Kinvara3 shoes but I kept getting a blister on my left foot on runs longer than 5 miles. So, on went socks, hat, and race belt. I’ve found that keeping my racebelt clipped together and stretching it over my head is faster than trying to clip it together while running. Pro ITU Triathlon folks taught me this.
I stopped at the Porta-John at the run start and emptied the bladder again. Thought at that moment that my stomach was ok but I still had gas issues. My legs felt great starting the run though.
Mile 1 past in 7:10, then the feeling in my stomach changed. Perhaps you’ve heard the sage triathlon advice, “Never trust a fart in an Ironman.” Fortunately, there was a Porta-John at mile 1.5. Placed there, by the triathlon gods, I imagine. Up I run and a volunteer yells to me that it’s occupied. Of course, Great! Flashback to Gulf Coast Triathlon couple of years ago when I waited 5 mins to pee at an aid station. Don’t do that anymore, but this was a different kind of emergency. I helplessly paced in a small circle. Needless to say my second mile was 14+mins. Yep, that’s right. Was in stop mode for 7+mins. But, hey after that I was good to go.
My third mile past in 6:56. Yeah, I was a little keyed up. I still wanted to run sub 1:40 but didn’t realize initially if my legs were up for running a PR for this distance. My longer bike-run bricks in recent training were poor to say the least. However, my run volume picked up in the last few weeks with a few 12milers and a 15miler about a week before the race. That saved me I think. After mile 3, I just kept picking off the miles averaging 7:15s to the finish.
I slowly caught up to all the folks I was around before my detour finishing in a little over 1:37. This was the last guy:
Run fuel was a few GU gels plus gatorade/water on the course. The aid-stations and support on the course were great. With proper forethought, I brought a couple of no caffeine gels too. I used these early and my stomach stayed quiet the rest of the run. No cramps and though my legs were sore, they remained strong with my favorite Hammer Anti-Fatigue pills. The course was winding and rolling through a campground and surrounding neighborhood. I wouldn’t call it super flat-fast but I guess the ups and downs evened out. It was short by 1/2mile or so by my accounting. You’ll get no complaint from me. I was happy to finish the race without diving into the bushes.
The last mile was fun. I caught and passed the guy that passed me at Rocketman Oly earlier this year. Sweet revenge. He had a better overall finish by 2 mins…damn colon…but it was a small carrot for me. Twenty minutes after finishing, I realized how chilly it was. Good on ya, family, volunteers for helping us out there. I changed clothes then had some pizza, coleslaw, spicy jambalaya with rice, and beer for recovery. No Paleo diet today. I plopped myself down in the amphitheater and relaxed. Results finally came up and I finished in 4:46:40. Good for 22nd overall and 2nd in my age-group. Still a good race with a theoretical PR run but I left the door open for next year. I was very happy to run within 3% of my open half-mary time. Can’t do that in sprint races yet.
My finish also placed me first in the 40-44 male category for the inaugural Alabama Championship Series. With that, I got my new favorite triathlon trophy:
And even better than that, the RD said he would comp every winners’ entry into next years race. Can’t beat that. It was a good end to the triathlon season. Every race has it’s hurdles. You just have to stay positive and roll with the punches, right?
Thanks and credit goes to Gregg Gelmis with We Run Huntsville for some of the race pictures I borrowed.
Thanks for reading. Next up is ?Huntsville Half marathon maybe.