I hadn’t planned on doing this race. To be honest it wasn’t even on my radar. I decided to do it about 2 weeks ago after the triathlon for the Senior Games got canceled because they didn’t have enough participants. I searched the web for local races and the Tinman popped up. The only thing I wasn’t looking forward to was the two and a half hour drive to get there. So that meant I had to find a room somewhere near the event but because they were also running a USAT sanctioned Half Ironman race everything in the area was booked up. Fortunately for me, my daughter’s uncle has a camp that’s less than an hour from the race venue so I had a place to stay that wouldn’t require me to have to get up extra early to get to the race.
The race was on Saturday and package pickup was on Friday (and Saturday morning if I wanted to get up early). Because I’d never done the race before I decided to take the day off from work and drive up on Friday to pick up my packed and check out the course. After picking up my packet I drove over to the park to check out the course. While standing on the beach looking out at the buoy markers for the 3 different swim race distances (Sprint – .5 miles, Olympic – .9 miles and Half Iron – 1.2 miles) the half iron distance looked very intimidating. I could barely see the buoy’s that marked where you made the turn to come back. They are only about a half mile out but it seems so much further. Oh well, it was nothing I had to deal with so no point in me worrying about it. Don’t get me wrong, I could do it if I had to because I’ve done sessions in the pool where I’ve swum almost 3 miles in nonstop laps but I’ll save that for next year.
I got in the car and drove the bike course and it started off looking like it was going to be flat. I was thinking to myself this is going to be easy. But just as I was thinking that I rounded a corner and saw a long steep hill that looked like it went on for a mile. This was going to be challenging! It was getting late and I needed to get a meal in me so I decided to head back to the camp without getting a look at the run course. From what I saw on the website it looked simple enough.
The transition area was opening at 6am but no need for me to be there that early because I already had my packet and the transition area was pre-marked where your bike went so there was no need to be there when it opened to try and get a good spot. I had spent the day before running my race strategy through my head so I knew how I was going to get in and out of transition from the swim without making any mistakes. After getting setup, I headed over to the swim out area to get in a little swim practice. I wanted to test the water and see how sighting was coming into the beach. They had a big inflated arch on the beach for us to see coming in. It seemed OK during my practice.
They gave us course directions for buoy’s we made our turn at during the swim and it wasn’t where I thought we’d be going to so I was glad I was paying attention. There was no horn to signify the start they just yelled out go and people started swimming. I was doing great until I made the final turn to head back to the beach because I couldn’t see that inflatable arch. I don’t think I swam out far enough during my practice to get a realistic sense of what it would be like. We were swimming into the sun which was still low at about 8:20am. I tried using the other swimmers to judge where I was but when you see someone stop to see where they are you kind of lose confidence in knowing where you are. So several times I stopped swimming to look up and get a fix on the arch. I think I stopped 4 or 5 times to pick up that arch. I knew this was going to hurt my swim time but I wasn’t alone. I had to hope it was happening to everyone. As I swam to the beach I made sure I kept swimming until my hand hit the bottom so that when I stood up I was in shallow water and not have to waste time running in deep water. Once I got past the rocks I took off running past guys that were still walking.
As I was running I pulled my swim cap and goggles and the top half of my wetsuit off. I got to my bike quick, got out of my wetsuit and helmet on. I grabbed the bike and started to run with it when I realized my wetsuit had caught on my pedal and got dragged out of my transition spot. For a split second, I thought about leaving it but I backed the bike up, grabbed the suit and threw it back in my area. Good thing I did that as I probably would have gotten a time penalty for leaving it where it was. Everything else from that point went smoothly.
I knew it was flat going out so I just got my feet in my bike shoes which had already been clipped into my pedals, fastened the straps then got up to speed and relaxed knowing I had a monster hill to tackle. I’d past a few riders before I got to it and one guy passed me as I was going up it. I thought he was just going to ride away but I managed to keep pace with him as we crested the top. As we dropped down the other side I went back by him. We hit another hill and he went by me again but this time he had a little more of a gap on me. As we dropped down the other side of it I had to hit my brakes several times to keep three bike lengths behind him as I wasn’t ready to pass. I should have gone by because when we hit the next hill he opened up more ground on me. I kept him in my sights as we made the turn to head back to the park. He stayed out front and I wasn’t making up ground on him but I was losing any either. As we approached the first hill coming back another rider had caught and passed me. I lost touch with both riders in front of me on that hill. As I was coming in I lost track of what I needed to do and came around a corner and noticed I had to dismount soon. I wanted to do a running dismount so I tried to quickly un-strap one shoe and got ready to do the other but it was too late. The dismount point was just coming too quickly and I had no time to unstrap the other shoe and get both feet out. So I twisted my foot to unclip and ran with my bike shoes on into the transition area.
My transition here went OK. After getting out of my helmet and bike shoes I felt like I didn’t get into my shoes as quick as normal but I was out and running with no issues. I took a peak but didn’t see anyone else coming in from the bike.
After getting out of the park it was all uphill from there and it was hot. No clouds at all just the sun beaming down. I was not going to be running fast today. After about a mile I could see guys coming back the other way as they had already hit the turn around point. While out on the bike I thought I was in about 8th or 9th place but during the run, I counted the runners and thought I was in 7th. As I made the turn to head back I was able to pick up my pace. That was easy to do going back downhill but I decided not to push it. With the heat and not having anyone close to me I just ran relaxed. I didn’t really pick up my pace until I got close to the finish.
So I finished the race in 1:23:48, 9th place overall out of 75, 2nd in my age group. They guy that finished 1st in my age group did so 1 minute ahead of me…he came out of the water 4 minutes ahead of me so I made up 3 minutes on him but fell a little short. After looking at the overall times no one went really fast. My swim time was 18:33 which was slow by my standards but the best time was a 14:22 so either everyone struggled on the course or it was longer than the advertised .5 mile (a number of people thought it was longer than a half mile). I had the best T1 time of all the sprinters at 1:16 even with the wetsuit issue. I had the 5th fastest bike time at 37:06 but was amazed that someone put down a 33:55 on those hills. Turns out that it was that second person that passed me and that it was a woman…I need lessons from her as she blasted through those hills! My T2 was OK at 1:26 considering I ran with my bike shoes on. And finally the run was slow at 25:29 for the 5k but I didn’t have any cramps so I’ll take it.
I’m back at it in 2 weeks so I think I’ll take another rest day today and get back at it on Monday!