When I tell people I live in Delaware, about 25% of the time I get the impression that they are trying to determine if Delaware is a CITY in either PA or MD.
Actually Delaware is a pretty cool place to live. We have a major rail that puts us in any major city on the Eastern seaboard easily. We’re a quick hop to Philly or Baltimore. We have our own beaches that rival those of our more popular neighbors. Also, did I mention we have TAX FREE SHOPPING!
My race this weekend was centered in Cape Henlopen State Park, which actually has bay-facing and ocean-facing beaches. As luck would have it, my swim was in the big blue (more on that later).
So way back in June I grabbed a hotel room at one of the secondary national chains. It’s not 5-star, but there’s a certain level of expectation when you see a decent rating on the American Express travel website (I’m a points-monger with AMEX). My wife and I packed the kids in the SUV and headed out on Saturday morning. It was about a 2 hour drive down, and long car rides do not normally sit well with my daughters (6 and 8 years old). The movie we played in the car helped though, and we pulled into the state park for packet pickup and hotel and checked in.
Once upon a time when I was bitten by the tri bug, I didn’t know that Clydesdale was an option, so my packet was set up for M40-45. I thought about changing it, and figured i would do it on Sunday morning if I had time.
When we got to the hotel I booked, things unraveled a bit. To say the hotel room was substandard would be a gross understatement! It stunk of cigarette smoke, like a poker game just broke up 5 minutes before we walked in. I immediately got on the phone with AMEX and my wife called a motel we saw on the drive from the race site. We pulled a quick switcheroo, and much to our delight the privately-owned motel was light years better than the ashtray I originally booked.
While my wife and youngest went out to explore a bit, I stayed in the room with my bike to do a quick go-over for the race. I had the best of intentions when I checked tire pressure, and then proceeded to shear the top of the presta valve off inside of my pump head! Luckily two doors down from the motel was a bike shop, and these guys rushed my repair right before closing, coming up huge for me! BikeLine had a mechanic available at the race site, howver i wanted to fall asleep knowing my bike was squared away (you will see why this was the right decision in a minute).
We planed on having dinner with my dad and stepmom, and a couple that they are close friends with that happen to live in Lewes. We found this awesome restaurant called “Fish On” that allowed us a reservation for 8, even though they don’t take reservations normally. The food was awesome (my 8 year old impressed the grown ups by ordering a crab cake!), and I sufficiently carbed-up for the race with Creamy Cajun Penne Pasta (Shrimp, Crab, Chorizo, Spinach, Roasted Tomato, Cajun Cream).
Then it was onto an early bedtime.
Somehow, we ended up running a bit late in the morning. The girls woke up and were very cooperative, which was a huge help. If you have kids that are disgruntled in the morning, you know how much it can slow you down. I ate a bagel and a banana, and hydrated. I also shot down a 5-Hour Energy in place of coffee, as I didn’t want the GI issues that come along with coffee.
We headed over to the park, and the parking situation was less than optimal. We had a 20 minute walk or so to the tents, and if I had a bike problem I would have had major issues getting them rectified at that point. I kissed everyone and then headed to transition to set up. I walked up to my rack, and the guy next to me had a time trial bike that looked like it could have belonged to Sammy Hagar (it was red and ‘turbocharged’). His stuff was also strewn across three rack positions, but it turns out he was a newbie just like me and he either bought or borrowed the bike from a friend.
So I was ready, and the competitors began the long LONG walk to the beach. My family already headed down a different pathway, but they took us down the way we would run back into T1 (transition from swim to bike). It was a blacktop path, that turned into loose sand, so immediately I saw this would be challenging on the run out of the water.
One other “glitch” – when I signed up for the race I did not enroll in the “Clydesdale” division, because I didn’t know what it was (men over 200 lbs, and I am very much over 200). I was told I could easily switch divisions on the morning of the race if I wanted to, but with everything running short of time I could not pull that off.
We headed to the beach and then proceeded to walk down the beach to the swim start area. It didn’t take an oceanographer to deduce that we would be swimming into the teeth of the current, based on the way the waves were breaking. I heard from another athlete that the race organizers have to make the call several hours before the sun comes up, and that sometimes the winds shift after sunrise. I think it’s safe to say that this was one of those situations. I headed over to the start, met some of my TriDawg teammates and got ready to go.
I lined up on the far extreme left side, meaning to go way wide of the buoy. My tactic worked as I only had contact with one other swimmer one time. The water was a lot colder than was announced the day before (they announced 71 degrees at check in, but on race morning it was 65). I still had the same trouble that plagued me at the Marshman tri a month ago, and that was breathing. I felt terribly stressed and panicked and could not take a full breath between strokes. I would swim freestyle as much as I could, then flip onto my back for some backstroke, and then repeat. Again my swim experience was miserable, and I was very slow as compared to my age group competitors. The worst was the run across the loose sand of the beach and dune path. At one point I lost it and I wiped out into the wooden fence that holds the sand dunes! I pulled myself up and walked it off. Once I reached the blacktop path I saw that the sneaker and flip-flop “drop zone” (here everyone left their throw away footwear) was not actually throw away – most of the shoes were gone as the competitors were throwing their shoes back on and running to T1! I wish this would have occurred to me because it would have made that run much better.
Swim time – 24:11
I took my time in T1 since I was sucking wind from jogging up from the beach, and my feet were angry at me. I swigged some hydration (diluted Gatorade & GNC Blox), clipped on my helmet, threw on my bike shoes and off I went.
T1 time – 3:50
My plan was to hop on and MASH IT! I did just that. In the first mile I passed a bunch of people. The course was flat, and many of the folks I talked to said that wind would be the wildcard. I tried to stay in aero as much as possible – my bike does not have aerobars so I stayed low and in ‘the drops’ on my handlebars.
The course was a pretty simple loop with a couple of technical turns. The scenery was beautiful but the wind was howling quite a bit. I planned to slug down another GU gel around mile 10, but I found that a time saving cut-corner might have cost me. I made two bottles of my drink mix before my last training ride, and one was untouched on the ride, so I put it into the garage fridge. Instead of mixing up a new batch, I just grabbed it and rolled. I made a fresh batch in another bottle that stayed in transition, but the stuff on my bike turned rancid and sour. I still gagged some down to help the gel go down, but thankfully I didn’t get sick. I knew I didn’t want to bonk, and there wasn’t any other nutrition available on the bike course.
I came back into transition strong, and ran the bike back to the rack for my quick change to the run.
Bike – 42:48 (averaged close to 20 mph, which is WAY faster than my hardest training ride)
In triathlon, T2 is the easier of the two, since you don’t have to deal with wetsuit issues. It’s really just trading bike shoes for running sneakers (and bungee laces make this so fast), helmet for visor/cap, and off you go.
T2 – 2:01
Since I cranked it on the bike, my goal was to just keep steady on the run. I was figuring a 10-11 minute mile, but the course was much more hilly than I thought. My Garmin Forerunner 910xt was not giving me data, since I messed up the settings before entering the water, but i did have heart-rate coming to me real-time. I was finding it hard to stay below 150, and I wanted to keep it under control as much as possible. The hills surprised me, and we ran up through the fort that was built during WW2. It was longer than the 3.1 miles – I am convinced of that!
My family met me about 150 yards from the finish line (we didn’t work this out beforehand) and the girls tried to run with me to the finish, but dropped off. We should have gotten good photos of that, but it honestly didn’t occur to us.
Run – 32:49
TOTAL – 1:45:41
If I had been in with the Clydesdales, I would have finished about middle of the group. In the 40-45 group I was 2nd to last, but a 5 minute improvement would have put me close to the middle of that more competitive group.
Either way, I was very pleased with the race. Again the parking and logistics pre-race were goofy with this Piranha Sports event, and I know some of that is outside of their control however these two races are perennial events. I was disappointed to find that they ran out of commemorative pint glasses 2 people in front of me in line! It’s not like they don’t know how many people are registered to participate!
We hung out for a bit with my family, and then headed back to the motel to pack and shower. We then headed home and made it home in time for the Eagles game and an afternoon of Chinese Food, October craft beers, and rest!
My wife and kids have been very supportive and a great cheering section for me throughout the last year. Even on days when i don’t feel like making it happen, they help hold me accountable and for that they have my love and appreciation!
Next post – outseason plans and goals.