The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

Challenge Cedar Point - Race Report - Full Iron Distance


I wasn't exactly sure what my official race time was, but it was a few minutes before 2pm when I exited the T2 tent and started the marathon; an easy four hour run would get me to the finish at sub-11. Five-forty pace.... we've had this conversation before. I had my Garmin set up to just show one field... Average Pace. In large, 3/4 inch high numerals, I just wanted to see 5:40. This would get me to the finish line in four hours. "Do NOT run any faster than 5:40 pace or you will blow it". I've had this talk with myself every night for the past 3 months in anticipation of this very moment...

5:05... 5:10... 5:07.... "DAMMIT! I'm running too fast". "Slow down, slow down, slow down". The first kilometer chirped at 5:17. "Come on Phil, don't do this... slow it down!" Km 2 at 5:30. "Too fast, slow it down...." As much as I tried I could not. I was feeling like the King of the World.  Km 3 at 5:17... "Oh what the hell, let's see what happens..."

It was the 19 kilometer mark, when it all started to unravel. My knee was throbbing, my quads, glutes, hammies and calfs were all cramping; every step was torturous. I pulled into the special needs area at Mile 13 and popped two extra strength Tylenols (numbers 5 and 6 on the day), washed them down with some apple juice and continued to the turn-around for my second loop.

Despite a tumultuous start to the weekend, a bum knee, a rough swim, a loooong T1, a windy bike and messing up my run pace again, I survived Challenge Cedar Point 2015 and even came in first in my division, crossing the line triumphantly with my daughter in 11:04:05.

I'm a winner!

Course Time Pace DistanceDivisionGenderOverall
Swim 01:08:31 01:46 /100m 2.40 mi1/2610/11512/169
T1 00:07:56 - -1/269/11510/169
Bike 05:35:11 20.05 mph
(32.2 kph)
112.00 mi1/265/1156/169
T2 00:02:23 - -1/265/1156/169
Run 04:10:02 09:33 /mi
(5:56 /km)
26.20 mi1/2610/11512/169
Finish 11:04:05 - -1/2610/11512/169

In a nutshell:




Andrew (Sprint) and Laura (Kid's Race)

What a total Shit Storm. We woke up at 5AM to get the kids ready to their races. First bad news of the day was via email from the Race Director, from the night before.

Dear Participants in the Sprint and Kids races,

As a race director for the past 10 years, I experienced some of the toughest conditions today in my history of race directing. Mother nature gave us a tough fight today. Here is a summary of what we experienced: Our massive finish line anchored down by thousands of pounds toppled over today. Many tents were destroyed. Our boat capsized while setting the swim course and had to be rescued by the coast guard. Much of our important equipment was ruined. Nonetheless, we are excited to put on a great race tomorrow. However, we are forced to make some important safety changes.

The sprint and kids races were going to be duathlons... bummer.

We pulled into the Cedar Park parking lot in the windy, rainy blackness. The first observation was, there were a lot of cars with bikes still on the back... We started unloading the bikes, when an official from the race came up to us with the bad news. "We're cancelling the swim and bike."

Laura spontaneously burst into tears.

We joined the rest of the eerily quiet participants mulling around the toppled finish arch, there were sporadic announcements - "we're looking into options, we'll keep you informed, looking like we'll do a 5K run at 7am."  And that's what it turned into.

Andrew finished just over 22 minutes, and certainly the first U19 participant... no timing. Bummer. Laura sucked it up for her run, despite looking forward all year to dominating on the bike again.

The rest of the day...

We were all bummed and not in a good mood. There was NO WAY, I was doing anything but a triathlon the next day. If ours was cancelled and changed to a "fun-marathon", I was not going to do it. We searched up the Google, and were starting to plan for a newly found Ironman in Oklahoma.

There is probably a world record for the number of times someone has checked the weather network app in one day. We probably hold that record now. Every 5 minutes, we would check..... temperature, rain, wind. It wasn't looking great.

Mandatory Day-Before Athlete Meeting...
The incredible news. We were going to have an Ironman on Sunday. The lake was expected to be too rough so the swim would be at an alternate location - in the "protected" marina; the dangerous algae bloom that had been looming in the marina was dispersed by the storm. Cedar Point is the self-proclaimed roller-coaster capital of the world. It was certainly a roller coaster of emotions up to hearing that announcement.


Having slept like a baby the night before, we woke up at 5am ready to head to transition and set up. It was nothing near as rainy or windy as the day before. It was cold, very cold. 10*C, but we didn't care: the race was on!

The Swim -
Because of the new swim course (marina), it was not a mass-start, but a self-seeded, 2-at-a-time, time-trial start (leaving on 5 second intervals). Your official time started once you crossed a timing mat to enter the water. I was a little bummed, as I was hoping for a good (legal) pack swim. I wasn't exactly sure where to seed, I expected to swim 1:05 ish, that would certainly be top 1/3rd. I went for broke, no one was too eager to start, so I lined up about the 5th pair.

Ready... go.

It was awesome. We were swimming with a current. The first 750 meters felt like I was on a lazy river. Sighting was great, my line was great. I passed four swimmers. We took a left hand turn, and were heading down a narrow corridor. "This is Freaking Awesome!" .... and then we were through the "breaker wall" and into the wild tempest. Oh god, was it ever wavy. Oh geez, this totally sucks.  It was bad. I felt sorry for weaker swimmers. I was honestly scared for my own well being. No one would know if I drowned. The waves were massive. I swam along the breaker wall and found the opening back to the marina. I couldn't find the turn around buoy, but I kept swimming, finally I realized I was way off course, and made a correction to hit the turn around properly. Loop 1 was 35 minutes. Not great. I was hoping for less. Loop 2 I didn't make the same mistake, and even though it was somewhat choppier, I got to shore a little faster.

The blue line is approximately the 1.2 mile loop of the Modified Swim course.
I could not recall the swim map while I was swimming, nor could I see the buoys along the lake-side stretch behind the breaker wall, so I stuck close to the wall, the Green line.
I  didn't remember it had a big bend in it - it looked straight from the water.
I ended up swimming an extra 100m total because of that. Oh well.

This was going to be long. They announced 1/2 a mile. 800 meters. I had resigned to losing 4 minutes just running there. I got the wetsuit stripped at swim-out, slipped on a pair of shoes set up at the swim-out and ran (intentionally not too fast) towards transition changing tent. It was cold, cold, cold, and after struggling a bit with to get my arm-warmers on, I was out of the tent and on the bike. [Edit to add: actual run from swim out to T1 was a tad over 1km!!!]

The Bike
My (in-my-mind rehearsed) timing strategy was: Watch for the swim. Ditch the watch in T1. Garmin on the Bike, for T2 and the Run. I had it set up in Auto-Multisport. I remembered to start it when I crossed the line. I wanted 2 fields: top line - elapsed time, bottom line - average speed. I did not want to see what my current speed was at all. I wanted to hold a good average and not be constantly chasing it by worrying about my instantaneous speed. My bike nutrition plan was to eat every 30 minutes. Easy enough to remember.

Notes about the bike course: 
The bike course is described as a lollipop - you do the stick (south-east direction), and then two loops of the lollipop (a rectangle that runs counter-clockwise in a east, north, west, south general orientation), and head back up the stick (north-west). The first 8 km are on a very rough road. The rest is mostly pretty good condition. There is some rough "chip-and-seal" sections. I found the bike course to be surprisingly smoother than expected. AND - despite being often reported as "pancake-flat", I found that not to be the case, I was scrolling through my gears often, and was out of the saddle for a few climbs. Finally, I am a terrible bike-handler; this bike course has no fewer than 53 speed-sapping ninety degree turns.

The wind: It was "hella" windy. But, from my perspective, it only seemed to slow me down whenever I was heading in the Western direction - and to make things even better, there isn't a long stretch of pure West - there is a long stretch of pure East on the bottom - but the top part of the lollipop loop goes West, North, West, South, West, North etc. etc.

I was very pleased to see that I was averaging over 32 kph, for not an excessive amount of effort. I did try to dial it back a bit and not be a loop 1 hero. Of course, my splits show that loop 2 was slower than loop 1 - but I don't think I over did it. I am happy to report that I was aero for 99% of the ride.

Special needs on the bike was at about mile 50 and again at mile 85 (?) I blew by it twice. I really wanted that Milky Way bar I had packed in there for myself, but not at the expense of a minute to stop and get it.

The odd thing about the entire bike ride was that I hardly saw anyone. I was passed exactly twice. I didn't pass anyone (except for a few people who I was lapping on my second loop). There were 3 people who got in the way where the 1/2 IM course meets up with the full. I passed one of them, and never saw them again, and the other 2 passed me and I never saw them.

No problems. I decided to suck it up and not change, but to run in my tri-shorts and tri-top. 2 tylenol to numb the throbbing in my knee. And off to the run.

The Run:
Well, I had been planning on forcing myself to take it easy and hold 5:40 pace. I couldn't. I physically could not run that slow. I was running at 5:20 and it felt great. I knew the wheels would fall off, I just hoped it wouldn't be too soon, and that it wouldn't be too hard. Turns out it was going to be 19K, I had just passed Guylaine who was starting her run (relieved that she had finished the bike without any problems).  Everything in my body cramped up simultaneously, and my knee was throbbing. The "hill" on the causeway that has maybe 5 meters of elevation felt like Mt. Everest. I picked up my special needs bag, and chugged half my bottle of apple juice and popped 2 more tylenols (#5 and 6 on the day). I lost about a minute total, and headed out to the turn-around.

I accepted the predicament I had put myself in, and resigned to getting the second loop done with as little walking as possible.

SALT! It hit me at the third aid station on the second loop. I need SALT. And that I took - for the next 3 stations. It seemed to at the very least not make the situation any worse - the only problem was that every step forward was incredibly painful. This is where I started "chunking-up" the course in order to "get-er-done". Causeway - check, Marina - check, Loop-de-loop - check, bridges - check, Finger 1, finger 2, finger 3.... back up the road, back to the causeway.

Just before the bridges after the park, a guy caught up to me. "Hey, we're #6 and 7". "Really?" "Yeah, Let's run together". I couldn't. "Go ahead, I'm fading big time". I was pretty surprised to be so far ahead... ... and then the procession of people passing started: but with the 2 loop course, it was impossible to tell who was on loop 1 and who was on loop 2.

For the last 5k, I had switched my Garmin to show the time of day. At one point, I figured I could go sub-11 if I ran 6:00ish kms, I tried for a few steps, but alas, could not. I knew it would be just over 11 hours, and I was good with that. With 750m to go, I spotted Laura sitting on the side of the road waiting for me. "Can I run with you ???" Of course!!! That picked up my spirits. "I hope I'm not running too slow for you, I joked."

"Can I finish with you?" - "You sure can". Just before we hit the red carpet, I asked her, "Is there anyone coming in behind us?". "Nope". "Okay, let's do this!" I used to have strong opinions about kids running in with their parents - all that went out the door - and I was happy to have shared it with her. Especially after the Roller-Coaster of a weekend we had just had. Final time was 11:04:05.

Guylaine came in 10 minutes faster than last year at 12:47:36. and 2nd in her division.

Official Results

The Data!!!

Bike Splits

Run Splits


Breakfast - Large Bowl of Fruit Loops + Apple Pastry Bread.
Pre-Swim - Cliff Bar + Gel
T1 - Cliff Bar
Bike - 7 Gels, 1.5 packs of Cliff Blocks, 1 Cliff Bar, 3/4 bottle of Gatorade, 3 bottles of water
T2 - Nothing
Run - 2 Gels, 1/2 pack of Cliff Blocks, 1/2 cup of Coke @ 5 stations, 1/2 cup of Gatorade at 8 stations, water at every station.

The Pics

Andrew's Big Finish

Laura's Big Start
Laura, smiling, even after a cancelled swim and bike.

Pre-race briefing

Swim-Start. I'm the guy with the orange cap (and blue goggles).

Shoes lined up for the 1/2 mile run from Swim-out to T1

Finishing the first loop of the swim

Guylaine Rocking the Bike

Guylaine, Pro-Style

Aero is everything

Guylaine's Big Finish
Woot! 2 Finishers.

Good night, Cedar Point.

Me, on top of the Podium! (3rd place was absent).

Guylaine in second spot on the Podium