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Race Report – Vincentown SuperSprint Triathlon

Here’s a quick write-up on my last triathlon event for the season (back in August). This was something that just sounded like a lot of fun to all of my fast-twitch muscles – a super sprint! Even shorter than a traditional sprint triathlon, maybe I could truly manage to sprint in this one?

The Vincentown SuperSprint was held in southern New Jersey in the small town of Vincentown. The event was also on a Thursday evening, which meant it was easier to manage it around my work schedule. The race distances were: 200-yard swim, 5.75-mile bike, and a 1.3-mile run.

Packet pick-up was that evening, and they were also taking on-site registrations. The atmosphere was low-key and beginner-friendly. There was plenty of parking at the fire house (this was also where packet pick-up was hosted), and the transition area was just across a small bridge from there. I set up my transition area, choosing to go with the no-sock approach again for speed in transition. The race also allowed you to choose your own place in transition, so I got a good spot – pretty close to the bike in/out, but right next to the run out.

Transition map

I spent some time walking around and looking at the water next. The swim was going to be in a small lake, and there were already markers set up to mark the exit point. However, while standing there, it became quickly obvious that a horde of wasps was in the process of building nests in the mud at the shoreline. I brought this to the attention of one of the volunteers, and he had the fire department take care of the wasps.

It turns out that the swim start was in-water, but everyone had to wade in through the swim exit to get into position. The event was so small that rather than age groups, they just divided the competitors into two groups – men and women. The men started first and were quickly away with the women starting two or three minutes later.

Wading in, the water temperature was reasonable (not sure I ever heard what it was though), BUT the bottom was rather unpleasant and mucky. So while the course and distances were otherwise beginner-friendly, this part of the day was not. If you’re squeamish at all about murky water, this may not be the race for you. I tried not to think about it too much and figured I’d be out of the water soon enough.

The swim course was a short rectangle with two left turns and a return back to shore. The race director had said that we would probably be able to touch the bottom and stand if we were nervous in the water. One one turn, I did reach down and found the bottom before changing direction and continuing. I didn’t have any problems and came out mid-pack. The run to transition was very brief (just across the street), and I easily found my bike and headed out on the bike course.

I did hear of one person crashing at the beginning of the bike section. There was some type of plastic grate on the shoulder of the bridge just after turning out of transition. I believe the athlete who crashed was focused on clipping in and hit this grate with his front tire (at least it was at low speed). I think a few people got lost on the course too, but I didn’t have any problem following the directions from the volunteers.

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The bike was a single loop, and as usual, I passed a lot of people on this part. I tried to race this more like a time trial, and harder than I probably should have. My heart rate was pegged around 175 – 180 for most of it. The road surface was mainly smooth and there was little traffic, although the roads were not closed.

I rolled back in to transition, stashed my bike, and ran out for a quick sprint. My legs felt better than they usually did at this point, maybe because the entire course was so short? The run course took me through town, up a slight incline, and out on a dirt road to loop around a field.

A couple of other women passed me on the run, but I knew I didn’t have much more speed to give. After coming around the back side of the field, the course retraced the outbound section, going downhill. When I knew I only had a short distance left, I was able to push harder for a strong finish.

The firehouse had snacks and drinks – pizza, bananas, and water. I don’t remember what the other offerings were. I hung around for a bit afterwards to find out my results, and yay – I ended up first in my age group!

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Race Report – NJ State Triathlon (sprint)

I finally found a little free time and am just catching up on some writing, so I thought I’d do a couple of belated race reports first. I raced in the New Jersey State Triathlon for the second time back on July 22, in the sprint distance event. I had participated in the same event last year, so this was the first time I’ve had a chance to compare my performance on the same event from one year to the next.

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Finisher medals from this event are huge!

This event consisted of a 500-meter swim, an 11.5-mile bike course, and a 3.1-mile run. The race was well-run and I had no trouble getting my race packet, finding parking, and setting up in transition. I’m starting to feel a little more accustomed to how this triathlon thing works and I think that’s helping with my pre-race sleep, although I’m still not a morning person.

Much of the race was identical to last year. My goals were to be faster in each discipline, but also in my transitions. I had hoped to fit in more specific training, but a sudden change in my work schedule made that impossible. I had only done a few short bike rides, a few 2-mile runs, and one swim session in the pool since Eagleman 6 weeks earlier.

The water that morning was super warm – 88 degrees Fahrenheit – but I was still cold until the very end. My lack of swimming leading up to race day was apparent when I felt rather winded on the final inbound leg. Oh well, the bike was next and that is where I’m strongest.

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Transition set up

For T1, I only threw on my helmet, glasses, and cycling shoes, skipping out on socks, gloves, drying my feet, water, or a snack. This worked well and I was quickly out on the bike course. This was much as I remembered it, with several turns and a nearly flat course. Police directed traffic at intersections, and cones separated the athletes from traffic. I passed a lot of people, but that was how 2016 also went, and fit with my expected swim slow–bike pretty fast–run really slow pattern.

Finally I returned to transition and had to leave my bike behind for the final section of the race. I swapped out cycling shoes for running shoes, still with no socks, and exchanged my helmet for a visor, ditching the sunglasses, but also picking up my race belt and number.

I don’t think that the air temperature was as hot as last year, but I still felt like I struggled on the run. I had hoped to run under 30 minutes for the course, but couldn’t quite do it. I still finished about 5 minutes faster than last year, so I was happy overall. And the no-sock technique helped my transitions, but I did get blisters on my feet in the last mile of the run. Fortunately they were not as epic as those from Eagleman.

Race Preparation and Predictions – It’s Almost HERE!

I started this triathlon journey almost two years ago when I watched my brother, sister-in-law, and cousin complete the Ironman 70.3 in Racine, Wisconsin. All of the race excitement and their hard work made me wonder if I could ever complete the same feat. In a few days, I’ll find out.

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My brother in his signature flag shorts in Racine.

When I started trying to dabble in triathlon, I didn’t know if I’d be able to run very far, or for repeated training sessions after my previous ankle injuries and surgeries. I had to take it pretty slow, but I gradually built up the miles and fitness.

From my first triathlon (Rock Hall Sprint) in Maryland to a better effort in the NJ State Triathlon, I feel like I have continued to improve in all parts of the sport. My brother and the rest of my family was there cheering me on, as well. That first day was particularly tough, and their support was very much appreciated.

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Cheering me on in Rock Hall.

And now: Eagleman. In four days I will race my first Ironman 70.3.

Eagleman is a 70.3 mile race on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, along the Chesapeake Bay. That means that I will swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles back-to-back. I have done each distance individually at different times, but all together? I expect it to be a special type of hell.

Oh, and it’s traditionally hot, sunny, humid, and windy at Eagleman every year. The forecast is currently calling for a high of 87°F, high humidity, and some sun and clouds. The wind will be tougher to forecast.

Why did I pick this race, you may now be asking? Well, it was reasonably close to home and fell on a weekend that I was free. Oh, and my brother needs revenge upon the course. He raced in Eagleman last year and did not finish. Apparently the run is brutal, with full sun and radiating black asphalt. Unless you’re really fast, you will enter the lava fields of Eagleman in the full heat of noon. At least the entire course is flat.

I thought this would be a good time to think about my goals for Sunday. I feel ready for either a wetsuit or non-wetsuit swim (this will depend on the water temperature on race day). There seems to be a good amount of overlap between my fencing leg muscles and cycling muscles, so the bike segment will be the strongest part for me. I have to resist the temptation to push too hard on the bike.

Running is still pretty tough for me, but I have completed two half-marathons (13.1 miles) in preparation for Eagleman. My running goal is to run the entire run, only walking to hydrate at the water stations. If I try to drink while running, I will probably choke or drown. I want to finish strong, and I’m hoping that I don’t puke.

For specific times, here is how I break it down:

  • Swim – under 1:00 hour, ideally 0:45 minutes, but this could change depending on wetsuit vs non-wetsuit swim
  • Bike – 3:00 – 3:30 hours, but this is where I feel like I’m guessing the most. I could probably do it in under three hours, but then will I be able to run?
  • Run – 2:30 – 3:00 hours. My PR for the distance is closer to 2:22. I blame short legs.
  • Transitions (the part where I swap out equipment between each event) – 5 minutes each? depending on whether I need a bathroom break or not.

So on the high end, I should finish in 7:30, but would really like to be done in under 7 hours. If things go surprisingly well, could I be closer to 6 hours? I have no idea.

Oh, and you can track my progress on race day, if you’d like. The main Eagleman site should have live tracking. My bib number is #1362 and my swim wave begins at 7:36 a.m.

I’ll check in again after the race!

Race Report – Big Forest Half Marathon 2017

 

I’ve neglected my poor blog for a while now, so I’m going to post some non-writing, non-fencing stuff here sometimes. This is a race report from my second ever half-marathon!

This past weekend, I participated in the Big Forest Half Marathon in Tuckerton, NJ. I had thought that this was the second time that this race had been held, but it seems like may actually have been the inaugural one.

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T-shirt design (front). The back has sponsors in white.

I wanted to run at least one half marathon before my first 70.3 triathlon (Eagleman), and I chose this race because it was being held on a Saturday so I wouldn’t need to take off work. It was easy to register for the event, and I received an email a few days before the race with updated course information.

I decided to drive down to south Jersey on the morning of the event because it didn’t start until 9 a.m., with packet pickup being held from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. The race was held in Bass River State Forest, which was only a short distance from the Garden State Parkway. It turns out that the same race organizer puts on the Bassman Triathlon, which was being held on Sunday.

When I arrived at the park, it was pretty easy to tell where to go, and there was plenty of parking. I think there were about 120-130 people in the race, so this was a much smaller event than the other half marathon I’ve done. Check in was simple, but did take a little longer than I thought it should because everyone had to sign a waiver and show ID. I’m not sure what else would have slowed down the line, but after a bit, they started passing the waivers out in line so we would have them ready by the time we got to the front. It was a bit chilly standing in line because the wind came right across the lake to hit us there and I wish I had pulled my fleece on beforehand.

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The cold beach next to check-in.

There were a few free samples to grab and a t-shirt. I like the design – see my photo. After checking in, I focused on getting myself ready to run by donning my number, drinking a little more water, and stashing my blocks in my sleeves. The temperature was in the low 60’s with a little breeze. There were a few port-a-potties, but these were adequate. The race announcer even let everyone in line know that they wouldn’t start the race until everyone had made it through the line. The other half-marathon that I ran gave out clear bags for your personal effects to label with your name and leave in bins. This one did not do that, but the parking was so close that it was unnecessary. I’m used to carrying my phone and car keys in a running belt anyways.

Before the start, there were brief announcements, with particular attention given to the course. The original course had changed due to an obstruction, and I had only briefly looked at the new one online before arriving. The race was three loops – one 3.1 mile loop, and then two laps of a 5 mile loop. The announcer made some confusing comments about following the red arrows, but then also sometimes following the yellow ones. I hoped there would be volunteers to direct us (unlike a 5K I did last month where everyone got lost and I was waving runners back onto the course).

And then we were off! I started off slowly and found that it wasn’t hard at all to follow the course. If the volunteers hadn’t been there though, I definitely would have been lost. But they happily pointed out the way, and mile markers also reassured me that I was head the right direction. The 3.1 mile loop overlapped parts of the 5 mile one also, and it might have seemed repetitive for some people. I didn’t mind traversing the same bits of road though, as the forest was pretty. The road surface was pretty smooth to run on with only one particularly bad section of pavement where I had to watch my step more carefully. One stretch on the 5 mile loop also went off the road and through the forest, but despite my bad ankles and reluctance to even consider trail running, this was my favorite part of the course. The trail was very hard packed dirt covered with a tiny bit of pine needles and sand. The only parts of the course that had any more annoying amounts of sand were where I had to turn from the road onto the trail, and then at the finish line (on the beach). There was also a short stretch back at the beach house (where we checked in) between the loops with a little sand. The course was also mostly flat – just a small rolling hill here and there.

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Finish line – from pavement to a short stretch of sand.

I carried my own blocks for nutrition, but the race offered a selection of gels and banana pieces. The aid stations were plentiful, and I even had to skip then a few times to avoid feeling sloshy. They had water and Gatorade.

A few spectators watched at the beach house, but for the most part, it was a lonely race (fine by me). The state forest featured campgrounds, and a good number of them were occupied. Some of the campers cheered at first, but then I think they grew tired of seeing us. The roads were also open to traffic, but with only local campers out and about, there weren’t a lot of cars to worry about.

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Awards presentation finishing up.

I finished in 2:22:36.0, so a PR for me! However, my Garmin only registered it as 12.82 miles. I don’t know who was right. I received an email with my result, but the link to the full race results took me to a different event. The full results can be found here. Awards (plaques) were handed out to the top 3 overall male and female finishers, as well as top 3 in all age groups. All finishers received a medal with glittery trees.

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Glittery trees!

Post-race food included fruit – apples and bananas, I believe – as well as bagels and cream cheese. I grabbed a half a bagel, devoured it, and then headed home.

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