The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

Tupper Lake Tinman: Race Report. Half-Iron Distance.

Prologue

  • Arrived at Tupper Lake Motel around 3pm. 2-star accommodations, 5-star price. A swimming pool with a water slide = big hit with the kids.
  • Hit the Registration/Carbo-load/expo around 6pm. Easy enough race-kit pick-up (nothing too exciting in the goodie-bag). Atmosphere was not too chaotic. Food was piping-cold; but plentiful. $5 extra for kids, and $15 for adults : yikes.
  • Won a door prize : some kind of safety swimming belt. Oh well, at least I won something.
  • Expo featured many sexy bikes: Cervélo, Guru, Serrota. Definitely a Carbon-load expo.
  • Some guy from Hammer Nutrition was giving a talk. I couldn't hear much - but what I did take from it was something like, "Don't think about the bike when your swimming, and don't worry about the run when you're biking". Seems obvious enough, but I actually drew on this during the race.
  • Visit the race-site. Check things out. Swim looks faaaar. Notice that they have corrals set up for swim starts. Interesting.

Race Day Morning

  • Slept ok. Had a few nightmares about having to change a tubular.
  • Got gear organized at the motel. Went to top-up tires with air. Front : ok. Back : uh, oh. I couldn't get a good seal on the valve.. air leaking out.. eventually flat: Argh! Make a game-day decision, and swap out Zipps for regular wheels. Fortunately, this puts my mind at ease.
  • Kiss the kids and Guylaine... off to set up. Roll down the hill from the hotel to the transition area on my bike. I smile, knowing that I'm a part of something special.

Set up

  • Very well organized. You can't get into the T-zone, until you are body marked and chipped. You can't get chipped until you are body marked. T-zone is nicely laid out. Racks are assigned. Plenty-o-space between bikes. Plenty.
  • Lucked out with my assigned spot. Right beside a non-obstructive tree. A nice marker to sight on.
  • Set up was pretty easy, and quick. 30 minutes before start, notice the line to the porta-potties. I don't really need to go, but I figure I should line up, just in case.
  • The line is moving very slowly. I wonder if I'm going to be able to complete the transaction. By the time, I have advanced 1/2 way through the line, I'm in dire need to go, and am thankful for lining up earlier.
  • Get it done, with time to spare.
  • Wetsuit on, and down to corrals. I'm in the 3rd wave. Powder Blue caps - very fetching (not).
  • A note on the caps: They are very cheap - meaning, very thin. Thankfully. I've got a huge mellon, and this was the first cap that didn't feel like it was sucking the life out of my head.
  • Got recognized, from my blog. Tim from Syracuse, introduces himself. (Hi Tim - great race for you by the way - we must have exited the water neck-and-neck).

What, no anthem?

  • Maybe I missed it?
  • First couple of waves head out, and we waddle down to the water

The Swim. 1.2 Miles. (1932 meters)

  • The swim is a "reverse-V". .6 miles out, .6 miles back. The reverse V is a great idea, as it means you are never in danger of swimming head-on into someone. The ride back to shore is infamous. On a sunny day - you are swimming right into the sun : sighting = impossible.
  • Had about a minute to get positioned, and prime the wetsuit.
  • Lined up, about 2nd row. Right in the middle. Prime wedge spot. Prime washing machine spot.
  • Siren. Got pummeled. Got kicked in the face pretty hard. Goggles filled about 1/4 with water. (Just enough to be irritating, but not enough to warrant stopping to fix them).
  • It was a fairly chaotic swim. I swam pretty well. Things never really seemed to settle down. I didn't really get a great draft. Spotting the buoys on the way out wasn't working so well. I just followed the crowd.
  • Hit the turn around right at the buoy.
  • The swim back was exactly to be expected: Zero visibility. I sighted off the kayaks that (I hoped) were manning the line. As it turned out, I was able to swim the perfect line back to shore. I passed beside every single buoy.
  • An observation: What's with all the kicking!?!? Maybe it's me, but I don't kick in a triathlon swim. I don't think it's necessary? Wearing a wetsuit, to me, is like using a pull-buoy. Anyhow, the youth of triathlon (the green caps), were kicking like mad. It made trying to pass them, a bit annoying. I got kicked hard again, and someone pushed me down.
  • 40 feet from the shore, I could see the bottom. I tested the depth, and found that I could in fact stand up. I stood up, and started run-waddle-dolphining to shore. I laughed out loud, as it seemed everyone else was swimming like mad, and I could walk faster than they could swim.
  • I exited the water, feeling pretty good.
  • Swim time: 36:21 (1:50/100m; 25/85 M35-39; 193/731 overall)

T1

  • The run from swim exit to the bike racks was pretty short.
  • I had a tough time getting the wetsuit off my legs. I finally managed to leverage it off my left leg. But, as it would turn out, I ended up ripping my chip off in the process.
  • I didn't have too much trouble getting organized. Hit myself with some sunscreen spritzer. Ripped a pack of "Fruit Gushers" (My alternative to Gel packs... as I can not stand Gels or Gu).
  • I've been practicing barefoot mounting, and riding with feet on shoes, and putting shoes on en route. I crossed the line and headed on out with little trouble.
  • T1 time: as I had lost my chip in T1, I didn't register a T1 time, but it was pretty fast. I'll give myself 2 minutes.

The Bike. 56 Miles. (90 km)

  • The first 3 miles of the bike, is a little tight, as it passes through town. I was getting passed like crazy. I tried to not let it bother me. I promised myself to take it easy, work up the legs, and prepare for the first big hill. This is a 90K bike ride, and I was determined not to wear myself out in the first 10 minutes. It's tough to let people pass you, when you know deep down you can go much faster. Some passers were legitimate speedsters. The others, I would catch shortly.
  • Mile 1: Three police vehicles go whipping by at about 90MPH.
  • Mile 2: I find out why. A girl had crashed. It looked pretty bad. Plenty of help on hand already.
  • The big Hill: no problem.
  • Bike rules : There are many rules in triathlon cycling. The primary rule is : don't draft. The first 5-8 miles of the bike ride was pretty congested, and it was difficult not to draft. I tried my best. I did notice that there was little-to-no blatant drafting.
  • The second rule : don't block. In other words: keep right. (because passing on the inside is not allowed). It drove me KRAZY at how people would be so unwise as to this rule. The first 12 miles was block-fest. At one point, an official motorcycle came up close behind me, and I saw an official writing a number down in his book - I was sure, I got nailed for drafting, even though someone was blocking me. (It turns out I didn't get a penalty - I also noticed other USAT officials writing down numbers throughout the race - even on the run - I think it's an internal audit to verify that racers are actually completing the course).
  • Rookie Mistake: I had my Aerobottle on the front filled with Powerade, and a second bottle of Powerade in my cage. I had forgotten to unseal the second bottle: meaning, I had a shrink-wrapped plastic to rip off the top, and a foil seal to remove after unscrewing the cap. Somehow, I managed to do this all with one hand and my wide mouth. I even kept my own garbage.
  • Guylaine is always right: I knew that 2 bottles of Powerade would not be enough. But, I didn't want to have to carry too much on the bike. I figured I'd be able to get refills at the aid stations along the way. Only problem, was that the aid stations only had water and bananas! I survived. I took a bottle of water at the turnaround and had about 4 banana halves along the way.
  • My flat tire: just before the turnaround, I started to hear and feel a bit of a soft grinding from the front tire. I promised myself at the turnaround that I would stop and check it. But, I convinced myself it was nothing, and didn't stop at the turnaround. A mile past the turnaround, I was getting paranoid, so I stopped. Turned out it was fine. Whizz, whizz, whizz, whizz - about 30 bikes pass me in the mean time.
  • No odometer: I had decided not to wear a watch, not to wear the Garmin, and not to use a bike computer for this race. I thought this would be the most difficult thing to do. It turns out, it was quite easy. And with no average speed to worry about, I just went by feel. Average speed is highly overrated anyways. If you're doing a course, you've never done before - it is impossible to gauge your performance based on speed. Power and heart rate are the only things worth measuring. Unfortunately, I don't have an SRM, so RPE was my substitute. What this meant though, was I had to guess approximately where I was on the course. There weren't many mile markers. I do remember the 50 mile marker; and thanking the tire gods that I didn't get a flat : If push came to shove, I could probably "Chris Sadowski" the last 10K.
  • RPE: Rate of Perceived Exertion. I tried to keep it at about 80% on the bike. To keep myself in check, I'd whistle and sing out loud on the climbs. I'm sure people thought I was nuts ... but it worked.
  • Aerobars: I had tooled with my bike the last couple of days before the race, and as luck would have it, I managed to get a really comfortable set-up with seat height, seat position, bar height and aerobar width. Going aero for so long, is still a comfort challenge. I was about as comfortable as I was going to get, but there were times, that I was hoping for some hills just to give myself a little break.
  • The last 2 hills: Who put those hills there? They weren't there earlier. They certainly weren't that big before.
  • The monster descent: wheeeee! Somehow, I have managed to bury my fear of descents. I didn't hold back on any of them, and the last one was fun. I was sorry not to have had a bike computer, because, I'm sure I broke my top speed record several times this event.
  • Passing the Cervélo P3C with Carbon wheels and Aero helmet: You know the bike - it makes that nice whooshing sound - Clearly the most beautiful of all bikes: I think there should be a rule about owning this bike - only fast people need apply. Maybe he had a flat along the way.
  • Approaching T2: I have mastered the feet out of the shoes trick and cruised one legged to the dismount line like a pro - I was pretty proud of this.
  • Bike time: again, no official time here because I had lost my chip; I'm estimating 3:01:06 (for an average speed of 29.85 km/hr); one minute and six seconds over goal - but pretty darn good - I'll take it.

T2

  • No problems finding my spot, thanks to a conveniently located tree.
  • Legs felt fine coming off the bike. Suprising fine. I completely expected them to feel like boat anchors, but that was not the case.
  • Took my time to get socks and shoes on properly : no sense being uncomfortable for 20+ K at the expense of 15 seconds of care in T2.
  • Head off to the run out.
  • Head back to get my number (on race belt)
  • Head off to the run out.
  • Cross the timing mats -- no beep. Look down, notice no chip. For some reason, I don't freak out too much. The fact that SportStats.ca was the official timer, kept me at ease, I just shouted out "Sport Stats!? Is there someone from Sport Stats here? The Race Director happened to be manning the Run-Out line, and the Sport Stats van, happened to be close by. Long story short, I was re-chipped and on my way pretty quickly. Of course, it felt like an eternity, but I think I only lost about 2 minutes total because of this.
  • I was a little worried that my timing would be completely off, but deep down inside, I knew that Sport Stats would figure it out - and they did (GOOD WORK GUYS!)
  • T2 Time: I'm guessing 2:30 for actual transition plus 2:00 for replacement chip ordeal.

The Run. 13.1 Miles (21.1 km)

  • I ran pretty good, considering. I was not trying to PR on the half-marathon.
  • The run course is NOT a half-marathon PR course. Definitely a challenging run. A few long gradual hills. At least one steep hill cruelly placed at about mile 8.
  • The first mile went right by our motel, and Guylaine and the kids were out front waiting for me. A quick photo op.
  • The Porta Potty: At mile 3-ish, an aid station was set up with a porta-potty. Perfect. My bladder has been ready to explode for about 10 minutes now. Dammit - the guy right in front of me stops in. No problem, I'll hang around for a bit... It didn't occur to me, that I'm probably the only modest male triathlete out there. If a guy stops at the porta-potty, it's probably not for a quick release. This guy was taking forever. And I'm standing there thinking, Ghesh, I've waited this long, I may as well tough it out. Eventually, I had to pry myself away - and head back on the course. I found a clearing in the bush about 30 meters down course, and was done with my business in less than 30 seconds. Note to self: don't wait 2+ minutes for anyone else again. (This 2+ minutes is permanently etched onto my final time).
  • The run would pass back by the motel at about mile 5. Andrew tried to give me a granola bar, but I had to decline (as per USAT rules).
  • "I'm just taking it easy for the first 10K": I was running beside a lady for the first part of the run; I was pretty much going as fast as I could, and burst out laughing when she dropped that gem on me. "I'm glad you think this is easy!"
  • The sand and ATV trails: Not a fan of the off-road experience, a short part of the run, is on some rough trails. Sand is bad. I was careful not to roll an ankle.
  • Damn that 50 year old: Get passed by this guy, with 51 on his calf. His age doesn't bother me so much - it's the fact, that he doesn't look like he's really running - rather, it looks like he's just 'falling forward'. I'm thinking if that guy just passed me looking like that, what the heck do I look like??
  • The aid stations: Wow. All I can say, is that there were tons of them. And I'm thankful for them. I pretty much stopped at each, for a shot of PowerAde, and I started to treat myself to orange wedges on the last couple.
  • Pretzel Sticks: Cool. why not. Note to self - not a good idea: A mouth full of saw-dust is not desirable when running - the next aid station couldn't come fast enough to rinse that out.
  • Energy level was starting to fade at about mile 8. There's a psychological advantage to running in the US, using mile markers though. 6 Miles to go, is a lot easier to swallow than 10K. And "I'll tough it out for this mile", means you can tough it out 1.609 times longer than back home.
  • Mile 9: More Cowbell!
  • Mile 10: Double Digits: Whoo hoo! This is a Good News/Bad News marker. The good news is that we're in double digits; the bad news is that it is actually located less than a mile from the finish line; you have to take a convoluted route back to finish - so close, yet so far.
  • Mile 11: Thighs are shot. Starting to feel discomfort in the knee.
  • Mile 12: "Looking Good", "Great Pace", "Looking Strong" : Yeah right, but thanks anyways.
  • Mile 12.2: "Dude, keep it up - less than a mile now!" : This actually helped. Thank you.
  • Mile 13: Enter the finish chute. Somehow, find energy, I didn't know I had left, and power it through the field to the finish line. Spot Guylaine and the kids in the crowd, blow a kiss.
  • Mile 13.1 (70.3 on the day): Congratulations!!!
  • Run Time: 2:02:06 (9:20/mile; 5:47/km; 56/85 M35-39; 389/731 overall) Maybe, I could I have gone sub 2 hours if not for the Porta-Potty ordeal!

Final Time

  • 5:46:15 - 55/85 M35-39; 352/731 overall.

Epilogue

  • Immediately after the race, I confessed publicly that half-iron was too long, and that I would stick to Olympic as a max distance; however, strangely, that sentiment eludes me now.
  • As always, special thanks to Guylaine for supporting me and helping me through this adventure. And to the kids for putting up with me.
  • Several months ago, I wrote down some ground rules for my conduct during training. I'm certain I broke them all.
  • The magic of Sportstats has all of a sudden published splits for my T1, Bike and T2: they are 1:40, 3:03:28, and 2:41 respectively.

The finish line Photo