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OBX Triathlon Race Report (2017 Half) Part 1- Race

There’s just nothing like a racecation! A race combined into a family vacation in a wonderful destination. The last two years I’ve been taking a “racecation” to Nags Head, North Carolina for the Outer Banks Triathlon. Last year I raced the Olympic distance, but this year I decided to take on the half iron distance race!

As I started to write this report, I realized many of you may not have done a racecation before, so I’m going to do this in two parts. Part 1 (what you are currently ready) is all about the race. Part 2 (coming out later this week) will be all about coordinating a vacation with race week and how we did it.

So with that, let’s take a look at the best fall triathlon on the east coast!

Pre race

The people at Outer Banks Sporing Events have this thing down to a science! They organize races all year long and they really know what they are doing. Packet pick up on Friday was a breeze! I was in and out in around 15 minutes including the time I spent talking to a few guys about the course and finding out what the water temperature was.

Race morning was easy. Transition is set up between a small airport used for flight tours of the area and the aquarium in Manteo. After the disaster that parking was last year, things were a lot smoother this year. Good on OBXSE for learning and improving year after year! I got set up and ready to roll in no time. Except for all the sand that got wedged in my front brake wheeling into transition. I had to totally take my front wheel off to clean everything out.

The thing I love most about setting up in transition is how much everyone in the triathlon community helps each other out. We are completing against each other but have no problems giving tips and tricks to new athletes and helping calm each others nerves. We are also accepting of any and everyone! There was a guy on my rack doing his first race… a half iron distance triathlon… on a beach cruder with a basket on the front! I think the USAt official made him take the basket off, but other than that we all applauded him for his grit to get through a race like that on what bike he used!

Swim 45:09

This was the best swim of my life! Going into it I had one goal… swim straight! Last year I swam almost the same distance as a half iron swim but I was on the Olympic course… it was bad. This year, I slotted neatly into the second pack and, for the first time, I actually was able to take advantage of a draft for the first 800 meters or so! It was at that point that I pulled ahead of that pack I was in and got caught in no-man’s land for the rest of the swim.

T1 2:00

Coming out of the sound you have to run a good 200-300 meters or so to transition. It’s not a fun run though sand, concrete, grass, and then concrete again. The up side is if you can find your legs in a decent amount of time it is an opportunity to gain a few positions in transition.

I felt like I took my time, but it was still a pretty fast transition.

Bike 2:36:03

Lead up to this race, everyone had tigger eyes on the potential of Hurricane José making landfall somewhere along the east coast. OBXSE did a great job with communication on that by the way! The good news is that José stayed away… the bad news was he was hovering right off the NC coast. This made the bike course super windy!

For the half iron distance race we did two laps of the course which meant going over the bridge to the mainland 4 times! Going out was a tail wind, coming back was a head wind. With the wind at your back you just fly over that bridge! I set my top speed there going close to 40MPH! Coming back into a head wind… I was doing good to get 15MPH.

There was another first for me in this course and that was working with some legal drafting on the course. I came out of the water in 27th place. I made up a few spots in transition and went to work reeling people back in on the bike. I passed a group of 7 or so people within the first 6 Miles. From there I was counting people at every turn around and really started making up positions. Going back over the bridge I caught a guy who was taking it easy on the only up hill section of the race. Going into that headwind made it really hard and he passed me back once we got to the mainland. At that point I was a little spent and was content to sit at a legal distance in his draft. I was amazed that in the legal draft I was able to ride 20 watts less and keep my same speed! It was also helpful that he was in my age group so I wanted to keep him close.

I sat there for a few miles until the start of the second lap. We got to the turn around and looped around the sign making the turn around point. Except… that wasn’t the turn around. We were suppose to go around a traffic loop AFTER the turn around sign. 3 of us made the mistake and had to turn back around to get the loop. It was all of 75 feet or so but we lost a lot of time turning around twice.

In all of that I made up one slot and once we were in a tailwind I made my pass on my draft partner before the bridge. I went hard for about 30 seconds and made my gap. I also kept that going over the bridge and never saw my friend again 🙂

It was on the bridge that I actually passed the SAG car (an ATV they used to pick up the cyclists who dropped out of the race for whatever reason). The problem was that he was taking up the whole lane on the bridge. I couldn’t pass on the right because there was a concrete barrier and I couldn’t pass on the left because you are suppose to go over the double yellow line. I yelled and yelled but he never heard me. I threw up my hands and the race official coming the other direction got his attention and he pulled over so I could pass. That was a bit frustrating and another place I lost time on the bike.

I ended up with the 3rd fastest bike split and I came off the bike in 5th. From 27th to 5th… not bad 🙂

T2 1:45

Coming into transition I took my feet out of my shoes before getting off the bike like I normally do. That is when I knew there was a problem. I cramped. Bad. So much I had my right leg sticking out to the side unable to pedal or more at all. It was all I could do to keep coasting and not fall over. I got it loose enough to jump off at the dismount line and jog to my rack.

I had taken a HotShot before the bike, but I needed another one and couldn’t find it in my bag. I sat down to put my shoes on and took a big gulp of water. That was enough to get my mind back in the game and run out of transition.

Run 2:10:25

I thought I just needed a little food and water and I’d hit my stride on the run. Sadly, that never happened. I ate and drank as much as I could on the run and I couldn’t make it back up. My theory is that I didn’t drink enough on the bike. It was a warm day, but I think it was deceiving because of the wind on the bike. I only used the 3 bottles I brought myself and never grabbed any extra. I probably should have had at least 4 if not 5 for the bike.

I started running at 8:00/mile. I started taking walk breaks every mile. That turned into every other mile. Then my running was only 9:00/mile. Then I was walking every quarter mile and running 10:00/mile. It was all I could do to keep the cramps at bay. I’ve honestly never gone deeper in a race. Ever.

I was still towards the front of the race and I know I had a top 10 coming into the last mile. Then it felt like every muscle in my leg was cramping. That last mile is along the open field at the end of the Manteo airport, totally exposed to the sun. I got passed by 2 people (ladies no less…) and it was there that I lost my top 10.

I was able to limp along to where I saw my family at the beginning of the long finishing chute. I knew I had to run past my awesome fan section, but once I passed them I cramped again. I limped for a bit and then was able to run across the finish line. I’ve never been so happy to finish a race in my life!

Post Race

The post race was a little disappointing compared to last year. I guess all the Olympic athletes took all the good food and drinks. I was left with only a sprite, but at that point I really wasn’t complaining. Oh… and there was pizza too 🙂

Checking my results I realized I got 2nd in my age group. First place was the guy I (legally) drafted for a while who then passed me around mile 3 of the run.

I think there are really only 2 things I could have done better. 1) drink more 2) knowing I was towards the front of the race I should have stayed with the pack and benefited from the legal draft. That may have saved me some more energy for the run and let my muscles work to their full potential.

I ended with a 5:35 finish time. My plan was 5:05 after a 1:45 run. So the extra time was all in the run. And I think the conditions really wanted a slower time. The overall winner finished in 5:06. At the end of the day I am very pleased with that race and I think I made a successful jump up to long distance triathlon. I may have found my distance sweet spot 🙂

Stay tuned for part 2 of my report on the vacation side of the “racecation!”

How Local Race Directors Can Harness the Power of Super League Triathlon

Super League Triathlon has taken the triathlon world by storm! A great mix up on the Swim-bike-run format that leads to more excitement and better viewing both in person and on TV. The format is great for a pro race, but how can local race directors harness this same experience for age groupers?

The Special Sauce
The main ingredient that generates all the excitement the “special sauce” so to speak- is the multi-day, multi-stage, race within a race format.

A local RD needs to start there. A simple stage format would be awesome for a local race! Start with a Friday, Saturday, Sunday layout. Go with a simple sprint triathlon on Friday night. Anyone can participate. Many will do the Friday night sprint and not participate in the other days of racing. This is actually great for a few reasons.

1. More “easy revenue” to make the race as a whole stay afloat
2. Those Friday only participants may stick around to be fans on Saturday and Sunday
3. It allows a qualification race to set the stage, groups, etc. for the following stages

Keep it simple
In these early beginning of a new format, simplicity is key. I would stay away from a points format simply because an age grouper wants to know if he won as soon as he crosses the finish line. The final day of racing has got to be a pursuit style. That means that whatever you do on the second day, you need to let the athletes start the final race in the order and at the interval that they need to overcome to win. The order they cross the finish line is the final finishing placing

Mix it up
One of the great things about super league is the triple mix format. Start Saturday with swim-bike-run, then do a bike-run-swim, then finish with a run-swim-bike. The order doesn’t matter. What matters is it’s not a traditional triathlon. Another option is to go time trial style like the Island House Triathlon and have the second day be 3 individual time trials. Cumulative time overall wins.

A word of caution here is to not make the second day pursuit style. That is needed for the final race (see above) but it could either be discouraging for the racers, or it could be logistically challenging for the organizers.

Keep the competition separate
This is going to be the biggest obstacle to making this work at the age group level. You don’t want to have other racers on course confusing things. I would suggest doing waves that complete a whole race before going to the next wave. Either create your own groups based off of the Friday sprint qualifiers, or combine age groups and keep them separate through each stage.

A simple bracket format with only the top 20-30 completing on the final day would work too. This all depends on the number of registrants and your area, but please, please, please make this clear to the athletes ahead of time (at least a week out). There is nothing more frustrating than a tournament organizer doing things on the fly!

Final thoughts
There is definitely a lot of potential in this area of new, exciting formats for triathlon. This is the perfect time for a local RD to get a plan together and promote a neat race for age groupers in 2018! I would love to see races like this pop up all over the country and get a new and exciting flare in the Multisport community and give people more to work towards beside going longer distances. Pushing the envelope is awesome, but pushing it in different directions is even better.

Do you have any ideas for a neat race format? Let me know in the comment or on twitter! I’d love to discuss them?

Are you a race director and want to put something like this on in your area? I’d be glad to lend a hand or even just a brain to help work through ideas! Use the contact form, hit me up on twitter, or email me directly!

70.3 Race Plan

For many people, the Half Iron distance is the first big step into the long distance triathlon world. It makes sense. 70.3 is a whole lot shorter than 140.6. Most people can only handle one Ironman in a year, and the jump from Olympic to Half Iron isn’t as insurmountable as the jump up to Full Iron. The biggest hurdle comes in the form of planning. Pacing, nutrition, gear… it all changes in the jump to long course! Continue reading

Trisports.com Closing

**An updated article on the future of Trisports was posted on 10/14/17. You can find that here**

In the fast paced word of online information, this would be considered “old news,” but I wanted my readers to be aware of the changes in the Triathlon world that recently happened. Trisports.com, founded and run by Seton and Debbie Claggett, recently announced that they were closing tiger doors due to the final ruling on a lawsuit surrounding their bankruptcy from 2013.

On the one hand, I am sad to see a great company company close. On the other hand, I even more sad for the great people that made Trisports who it was. If you have spent any amount of time around here you know that I was sponsored by Trisports these last two seasons. The people were great to work with and an awesome support for my tri naming and racing. I also had a wonderful time writing articles for their Trisports University. If you haven’t check out that page, do it now before it goes away. (I have high hopes that at least TSU will continue even if their retail store does not)

So what does the future hold for Trisports? Continue reading

How to Test Your Race Nutrition Strategy

Bonk!

You hit the wall.

You know what I’m talking about. You ran out of energy on a long training day or in a race. What was wrong? You didn’t fuel right or you went too hard… or maybe both.

How do you fix it? Practice of course!

We all need to spend extra time practicing our race day nutrition strategy. Even sours course racing requires fuel to get to the finish line, so the question is… how do we do that?

I think weekends are a great time to work on your fueling. Here’s how!

1. Pre fuel
This is something you should do for every workout, not just weekend ones. The only exception to this could be if you are experimenting with fasted workouts. Even then, your big days need to be training ground for your race day nutrition. What are you going to eat for breakfast on race day? Do that in your training! Try it out. Take notes. See what works and what doesn’t. Don’t forget to note the timing too. Oatmeal takes longer to digest than peanut butter and jelly with chocolate milk!

2. Fuel
This is what most people think of for their nutrition strategy, but it is really only the middle pice of the puzzle. You know it’s hard to put a puzzle together if you he middle instead of the edges right?

Look at what your race demands are going to be. If it’s short, you may not need anything or just a simple hydration mix. Going long? You need something else to keep you going. Remember to look at hydration and nutrition. Read the labels and see how many calories and how many grams of crabs you are getting. Aim for 30-60g of carbs per hour, but don’t be afraid to go outside of that.

Again, take notes and see what worked and what didn’t. Try it out with bike rides, runs, and bricks so you can see how your body responds in each workout.

3. Refuel
The often neglected refueling. (Except on race day when there is pizza and chocolate milk and who knows what else waiting at the finish line!) You need to refuel so your body to repair itself and be ready for the next go-round.

There should be two parts to refueling: immediate recovery and your next meal. Get something in your system as soon as you can when you finish. My go to is chocolate milk! Then, make sure you eat a good meal in the next few hours.

Again, take notes and see how you feel. Do you feel tired for the rest of the day? Eat some more! Your brain isn’t getting enough glucose since it’s sending it all to your muscles.

If you practice this in the 12 or so weeks leading up your race, you will not only be better prepared to execute on race day, but you will go into the race stronger because your workouts will have been more productive!

What have you tried for your nutrition plan? What worked? What didn’t? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

4 Thoughts On Season Planning

You may have noticed things have been quiet around here over the last month. I would say that was intentional… but that would kinda be lying a bit. The month of July has been crazy for me, and that’s normal for my job (I’m a Youth Pastor… summer means we throw the schedule in the trash as soon as we make it and pack in as much as we can while school is out!) This past month we’ve had a Community Outreach Week, a trip to an amusement park, a week-long trip to Atlanta, GA (Go Braves!!) and various other things thrown in like planning for the start of the school year,  family coming to town, and even church softball.

With all that craziness, my triathlon focus went out the door. I was able to keep up my bike rides for the most part. Runs were cut short, and swimming… well… I only swam 3 times in the month of July.

That put me down the path of thinking about season planning. We all know when our busy time of year is. If you’re in retail, Black Friday to New Years is your time. If you are in Education, the start and end of the school year are your time. I’m not going to go through them all, but you know what your time is. Since you know it, you should also take a look at your triathlon (or individual sport) season and plan accordingly. Here are 4 ways you can help ease that tension between life and triathlon life by planning ahead. Continue reading

Running Power Meters… First Impression

Being on the bleeding edge is exciting. But you can also get cut deep (hints the “bleeding” part). Power meters were once bleeding edge technology, but today they are common sights. Ask experienced cyclist or triathlete the best upgrade they can make, and they will (should) tell you to get a power meter (If you don’t already have one). But running power meters? That’s bleeding edge!

There really are only a few names in the game right now as it comes to running power meters. The big name is Stryd, now on their second gen unit. The other is RPM2. A few others are out there, but they are more fringe and aren’t specifically power meters like Lumo run and SHFT. The biggest question hanging over running power meters is, are they worth it? Continue reading

5 of my Top Posts- 100th Post Celebration

Today I just realized that my post this week was number 100 on Triathlonpal.com! Crazy to think I’ve already made it up to number 100.

And to celebrate, I want to look back on 5 of my tops posts (according to view statistics)

1. Super League Triathlon Pro Race Report
This is my most viewed post, and for good reason. Super League triathlon is a big deal. It has the potential to make big waves across the sport. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series turns out. Check it out to see my thoughts on the race.

2. Hammer Nutrition: Fully Charged Product review
To be honest this one has taken me a bit by surprise. I was not expecting it to be so popular, but since it is a fairly new product on the market, people want to know what it’s like. Thanks to Trisports.com for hooking me up for the review! Check out the post and see if it’s something you would like to try (and use the code TEAMSHARE15 to get 15% off at Trisports)

3. Finish Line Super Bike Wash Product Review
Another product review in my top posts. I think people just like to see other’s experiances and know what they are getting. I use this stuff every time I clean my bike. Love it!

4. A Tour of My Pain Cave
This is another fun post. I give you all a tour of my “Pain Cave” or my trainer set up. This has changed a bit since the relocation. It’s so much sweeter now. I’ll have to revisit this one soon.

5. Zwift and FTP Tests
Zwifters are fanatical! It really has grown quite the following over the short time it’s been on the market. I beta tested it, but am no longer on the program. Still, it’s a great program you should check out!

I hope you all enjoyed this trip down memory lane! I sure did! Thank you all for reading the blog as consistently as you do, and if you are new around here, subscribe to stay up to date on all that happens. Here’s to the next 100 posts!

Race Report- Bridge to Pier Triathlon

Your first triathlon will always hold a special place in your heart. Somehow, we feel a special connection to the place we first cut our teeth in the sport. The first time we put Swim, Bike, Run together in a single event. For me, that was on Oak Island, NC at the Bridge to Pier Triathlon.

I had this event marked on my calendar this year, but through a series of random events had decided not to register. Then, the monday before the race, I get an email telling me this was going to be the final year for the event. “I have got to do this” I told my wife. So… We did. I signed up at 7:30am on thursday, 30 minutes before online registration closed. At 4:30am Saturday, with the car loaded down with food and toys for the family (oh… and my triathlon stuff too lol) we started the 2+ hour drive to the race.

Pre Race

We got a nice view of the sunrise over the lovely North Carolina farmland. I ran over an opossum trying to cross the road. We made 2 potty breaks… 1 along the side of the road, and our 2 year old didn’t go back to sleep at all in the car. But we got there with plenty of time for the family to change out of their PJ’s and for me to pick up my race packet and set up in transition.

I figured out pretty quickly why this was the last year of the race. less than 100 people were in transition. A big thanks to Jones Racing Company for not canceling the race. I hope they didn’t lose money on it. On the flip side, my whole rack in Transition was first timers. Something I love about the sport and this race in particular. I shared some encouragement and got all my stuff in order. They announce that the official water temp was 76 degrees… Wetsuit legal! This would be my first race with a wetsuit, and only my 2nd swim in one!

Swim- 1/3 mile 12:16

The swim was rather choppy. Being in the ocean I had expected as much, but it seemed a little more so than usual. I was in the first wave with about 12 or 14 other guys. Going out to the buoy was rough! Once I made the tun I couldn’t see the sight buoy over the waves, and it didn’t help that our swim caps were red and the sight buoy was orange! I had to strategically time my sighting so I was at the top of a wave to get a good sight on the buoy. As is normal for me, I couldn’t swim straight and had to swim most of the course alone. I made decent time though, and I even think the course was marked a little long. My time 3 years ago for my first tri ever I did was 10 minutes. I know I’m a better swimmer now, so that would be why my swim was over 2 minutes slower.

The other obstacle was the rocks right along the edge of the water. I got out way off the mark from the flags they put down, so the rocks hadn’t been cleared. I still ran as much as I could to get to the timing mat up the road about 100 yards or so.

T1- 1:15

Another 50 yards from the timing mat and I was in Transition. It’s a little weird that they put the mat for Swim end and run start so far outside of transition. That would explain the long T1. I was very pleased with how fast I got my wetsuit off. For my first wetsuit race, I was thrilled actually!

Bike- 16.25 miles- 43:13

cycling has always been my strength! since I’m in the middle of building towards the Half-Iron distance, I didn’t quite have the short course speed I wanted, but I rode at about 95% of my FTP as much as I could. That high-end sustained power just wasn’t there. Still, I biked down about 3 guys in front of me and was the 5th guy off the bike. (Once you count the other waves, I was the 6th fastest bike split of the day). I was thrilled with that again.

I had some tought mental issues at the start of the bike when my power wouldn’t come up, but I eventually got it there and by the time we crossed the bridge again I had passed the only guy I knew  would be competitive in my age group. I knew he was a decent swimmer and a poor biker, so I planned to catch up and put as much time as I could into him on the bike. I got about 2 minutes on him, but I also knew I couldn’t match his run.

T2- 0:57

Not much to say about my transition. Again, this is pretty slow for me for a T2 time since the run start timing mat was a good 50 yards up the road.

Run- 4 Miles- 29:02

Like I said, I didn’t have the short course speed. and I hadn’t done a brick since my last race in late April. So my run suffered. I struggled to hold 8:00 and had horrible side stitches. A mile in a started to feel better, and 1.5 miles in I got passed by the guy in my age group. Right before that, as I saw the guys up the road and started to feel better I had a thought of running them down, but that all faded. I did my best and held on for 9th place overall! I’ll take a top 10 when I can get it!

Wrap-up- 1:26:40

I love this race. It may be because it is the place of my first race, but they just do sch a great job making it family friendly and encouraging first timers. I thought my 4:30am wake up and 48 hour prep time was spontaneous (I am not spontaneous at all!) but there was a guy there who woke up at 2am and decided to race and made the drive from even further than me that morning for his first triathlon ever! They really went out of their way to encourage him. It was awesome!

Some takeaways for me personally is- Run more! I know your bike pacing is key to a good run, but I really havn’t pout the speed work in that I need, even for a 13.1. Also, my open water swims need help. I should put more time into that.

A big thanks to Trisports for keeping my kitted and equipped. I also felt great in my Brooks shoes and a HotShot before the race kept me cramp free even with red-lining the whole race! Of course, Honey Stinger filed me race from start to finish.

Next on the schedule is hopefully an olympic sometime in August and then it’s off to the OBX tri for the Half-Iron Distance!

What’s your next race?

Are you stressed out?

Are you stressed out? That’s a phrase we hear a lot. I’m stressed. Don’t stress about it. Man, this is stressing me out!

We throw that word around, but do we really know what it means?

The actual definition of stress is either “pressure or tension exerted on a material object” or “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

So really, there are two types of stress that an athlete needs to be aware of. The first is the kind we are all focused on: training stress. If you use Training Peaks you are probably very familiar with the term TSS or Training Stress Score. This is developed to help an athlete track the amount of tri naming stress they were placing on their bodies. This metric has become very popular now simply because it is such a good way to measure training load. It takes into account not only the duration of your training, but also the intensity of it as well. Over time an athlete can know very well how much they are able to handle as well as how much they need to increase their training week after week to see continual benefits.

The other type of stress is life stress. where training stress is mostly physical, life stress is mostly mental. We all know that feeling we get when work gets crazy or things are piling up around the house. The mental strain affects us physically and can adversely affect other areas of our lives such as training.

I recently got clued into this and how the two are so closely linked. I knew they were, but had never really tested the limits of how much stress my body can take. (Side note: this is not something I recommend as you will see.)

Coming off my first peak of the season I took a good week off and then slowly started to edge back into tri naming. I had a few weeks wiggle room in my plan so I wasn’t really going to hit things too hard at the start of this next build to give myself some more time off without being fully “off.”

About that time, my boss took his summer vacations and I was the one tasked with picking up the slack. Things went very smoothly, but there was a larger load of stress on my shoulders than I have been use to. I handled it well and was able to keep raining like I had planned, but then a few nights of not sleeping well on top of it all and I could tell I was not my normal self.

During this time I had also been tracking my Heart Rate Variability (HRV). This is a metric that, like resting heart rate, can clue you into how well you are recovering. My numbers had slowly gotten worse without my tri naming really ramping up yet. I knew something was up but I didn’t do anything about it.

To start off my first block of rinsing building to my next peak, I had an FTP test scheduled. That morning I could feel a little something off, and my HRV confirmed what I felt. The app I’ve been using (HRV4training) told me to take it I didn’t listen. I ran into the test full speed… and blew up catastrophically! I was a mess.

Thankfully I knew what my FTP was from a recent test so I just left things the same. But, I learned an important lesson: stress comes from many places. Take it a rest day when you don’t have one planned is ok. When you pr body tells you it’s time to ease off the gas, LISTEN!

Sometimes stress comes from many places. Just because you could handle more tri naming stress, doesn’t mean your body isn’t already at its limit due to other factors like sleep and life stress.

The moral of the story, don’t overdo it. And track your HRV… more on that soon!

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