Race Report: Washington, NC Olympic Triathlon

I’m not the only one who was crazy. There were 300+ other people who were just as crazy. I’m sure most people thought we were crazy because of the weather forecast. I swear North Carolina hasn’t seen a day below 90 degrees all summer and it just so happened that on Saturday, July 30, it was supposed to be 100+ degrees and humid as heck. Guess what? We’re triathletes. We’re doing stuff like this willingly all the time.

It is hard training in the summer consistently when the heat is atrocious. Seriously, the furnaces of hell focus its energy in North Carolina sometimes. To make matters worse, this year Jacksonville had fires and smoke that forced you to remain in doors. Training has been lack-luster. The last race I did was the White Lake Half in May. I set a personal best despite having a horrible 1/2 marathon experience (it was the first really hot day of the year). Mentally, I’ve been drained ever since. The combination of the heat, smoke, and trying to live a balanced life “kept me” from focused training.

The opportunity to race in close proximity to our HQ is extremely rare. Thus, I take advantage, even if I’m not up to full strength, to race in anything. I am a huge fan of FS Series’ Triathlon races. They are a well oiled machine. Check them out if you have not raced their races before. (Links are at the bottom)

Swim:
The water was eighty-four degrees and felt amazing. This was my first experience with a mild current and salty water. It was weird being tossed around every-now-and-then due to the current. Full ocean swims must be a pain. The salt water was very diluted since it was water flowing into the ocean, I tasted enough of it to know. I am not a swimmer. I don’t swim enough, but I’m working on that. I actually completed the 1500 swim in the precise time I was expecting (still embarrassing, but progress!!) My Garmin 310XT said my max swim speed was 49.4mph and that I swam 2.2 miles (Oh, how I love GPS in the water). I came out out of the water in the top 50 (out of 109 men).

T1:
For not practicing my transitions, I did okay this time. There was a lot of grass that stuck to my feet, so I took a little more time toweling my feet off. I cannot stand stuff in my shoes and I need to wear socks. I need to actually practice this stuff. I brought a Powerbar, a couple Accel gels, and my Cytomax drinks. (top 50 transition time)

Almost a great photo..



Bike:
I wanted to do the course in under an hour. It was 23.5 miles. Easily do-able. I am a cyclist first, triathlete second, and I work for a bicycle company, so I wanted to push it, even in the heat!!! This was my third race on my K Team Carbon Krono. I love my bike. She is super fast and keeps going even when I think I can’t go anymore. There were actually a couple “hills” (living in Jacksonville makes the slightest rise a hill) that I was not expecting, but no big deal.

My biggest issue on the course were riders who could not ride their bikes.

On pretty smooth turns (NOT sharp turns), riders would sit up and brake. I had to pull my brakes and almost wiped out myself due to this one rider. I ended up going into the other lane. Sheesh!

I was moving along very nicely on the course. There were a couple turns where the wind would slow me down, but for the most part it was great. I ate a gel within fifteen minutes. Fourteen miles in, I ate half a powerbar. Then, around mile nineteen I had another gel (I think). Well, I consumed too many calories on the bike because I started to feel my stomach act up. For this race, I wanted to check my ego at the door and slow down a little earlier before starting the run to let my body recover a little bit. As a result, miles twenty through twenty-three and a half were much slower. Thus, I missed the hour mark by two minutes. Oh well. The only issue with the course was a little section with “trenches” every ten feet. (Top 20 bike time, had I not slowed down, easily top 10)

T2:
I always have one of the faster T2 times. No difference here. (Top 10 transition time)

Run:
The 95 degree heat reared its radiating evil self. I may have been aloof to it on the bike, but not on the run. I have not been good with my running this year. To be frank, I have been a complete joke with my run training. All the time I earn on the bike is always negated during the run. However, I am getting better. Slowly, but surely. I started running at a 6:51min/pace and told myself to slow down. I ran the first mile in 7:41 and then the heat and subtle stomach issues emerged. I kept my pace in the mid-8min/mile a couple more miles, but the last 1.7 were rough. I made the decision pre-race to stop at every aid station to walk briefly and cool down. It was a smart move. The cold towels at the half way points were a life saver.

Not even 1/2 way?!!

A lot of people were struggling. A lot of people were walking throughout the course. At one point, one aid station ran out of cups. Most people just ran past as a result. The smart ones (and there were only a couple, I was one of them) picked up dirty cups and dumped cold water on ourselves. I was not drinking it, so it did not matter. I eventually made it to the finish line. (Top 50 run time)

My Biggest Take-Away:
It was the last lap. About 1.5 miles to go.

I thought to myself, “Just stop Zane, and walk to the next aid station. It’s only .1 miles away. Then, you can start up again”

I could have. It would have been “easy”, but I knew it would have hurt more starting up again from walking than slowing down my pace just a little bit to keep going. It was that mental toughness I proved to myself during the race.

Most Painful Moment:
A guy in my age-group passed my as I stopped at the cup-less aid station. He kept running. I thought to myself, “Oh great, lost another spot”. I didn’t want to push myself any harder because: 1) I’m not a pro, so I wasn’t risking my health in that heat 2) My stomach was really starting to act up 3) Did I mention it was hot? So, I dumped the cold water on me and stole an ice cube chunk and put it down my shirt (tingly!). I kept my pace. I saw him up the road. I had longing in my mind to beat him, but couldn’t go anymore. I channeled my Little Engine That Could and kept going. I started to catch up to him. Seven eighths of a mile to go, I caught up to him and “drafted” behind him. When we got to .2 miles to go, I went for it, sprinted at a 5:30mile pace according to my Garmin for the next 1:05min. Ended up putting twenty-eight seconds between us, but boy did I hurt upon crossing the line. Nevertheless, I beat him. Another little victory.


Truckin' to the finish!

Overall
Despite the heat, it was another successful race. I continue to improve. I am very conservative in my training, so I am not seeing the fast gains like some of my peers are, but I’m more focused for the long-term. It’s frustrating at times when I do so well in one discipline, but lack so much in the others. It’s the name of the game and I am aware that I did not start running and swimming frequently until two years ago, but I’ve been riding for my entire life. FS Series does great work. I finished in the top 30 out of 109 men.

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What’s Next, You ask?

  • I am planning on doing the Augusta 70.3 on September 25. The one year anniversary of my first 70.3, which just happens to be Augusta. I want to see how far I’ve come.
  • FS Series’ Washington Half at the end of October
  • There are a couple other races, but I’ll add those a little later

  • Odds and Ends
    Since moving to Jacksonville, I’ve been trying to form and connect a triathlon community in town. Pure grassroots. People are excited about it too. It has been coming a long rather nicely. It was great to know four other people at the race and be able to chat before and after the race. It is not as fun going to races and not really knowing anyone. As I have read the internet forums post-race, I made out very well. People had bee stings, flat tires, and snake bites! Finally, I ate 10 Dunkin Donuts donuts the follow morning.

    If you raced the Washington, NC Olympic Triathlon, how’d your race go? Ever raced an FS Series race before?

    Zane