Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Eagleman 2014 Race Report

This year marked the 5th time I've competed in Ironman 70.3 Eagleman.  Back in 2010, Eagleman was my very first half-ironman distance triathlon.  It was a major challenge!  I vividly remember the shock I was in following the race.  With temperatures in the 90's that day, it was the most difficult physical endeavor I had ever completed. 

To help put this year's race results in perspective, I went back and looked up my results from each of the previous four races.  It's very clear that my fitness has greatly improved since 2010, and most impressively, I ran almost 18 minutes faster than last year while also biking over a minute faster.  That's unbelievable!!!  The swim continues to be my achilles heel.

2010 - 5:26:09
Swim: 48:52 (Gender Rank: 986)
T1: 2:22
Bike: 2:32:08 (Gender Rank: 412)
T2: 2:17
Run: 2:00:30 (Gender Rank: 353)

2011 - 5:02:15
Swim: 42:39 (Gender Rank: 765)
T1: 2:20
Bike: 2:26:35 (Gender Rank: 249)
T2: 2:32
Run: 1:48:09 (Gender Rank: 241)

2012 - 4:41:09
Swim: 32:40 (Division Rank: 47, Gender Rank: 317)
T1: 2:18
Bike: 2:23:12 (Division Rank: 23, Gender Rank: 125)
T2: 2:18
Run: 1:40:41 (Division Rank: 21, Gender Rank: 108)

2013 - 4:48:27
Swim: 36:50 (Division Rank: 50, Gender Rank: 313)
T1: 1:48
Bike: 2:19:58 (Division Rank: 25, Gender Rank: 126)
T2: 1:37
Run: 1:48:14 (Division Rank: 38, Gender Rank: 173)

2014 - 4:32:39
Swim: 40:42 (Division Rank: 100, Gender Rank: 527)
T1: 1:36
Bike: 2:18:21 (Division Rank: 22, Gender Rank: 141)
T2: 1:20
Run: 1:30:40 (Division Rank: 16, Gender Rank: 101)

The Swim
There is no doubt that this year's swim was a failure (and it's ok to call it that).  I knew going into the race that in order to compete for one of the top places in my age group, I would have to minimize my losses with a swim time as close to 30 minutes as possible.

This year was a nonwetsuit swim.  The official water temperature was 76.5 degrees, which I was told is .4 above the wetsuit cutoff.  This didn't bother me though.  I was excited to try my blueseventy swim skin for the first time.  It fit like a glove. :)

I got in the water about 25 minutes before my swim wave to warm-up and get comfortable.  The water was chilly.  A fellow racer and I joked that maybe race officials just didn't measure the water temp in the right spot.  My warm-up was good.  After a minute of getting used to the cool water, my breathing was relaxed and my body felt good.  I put in a couple short sprints to be sure I was ready for the frantic start of the race and then headed to shore.

As I stood with my family (it was awesome to have a few minutes with them before the race), I was shivering.  It was a little bit of nerves combined with being wet in the cool morning air.  I didn't think anything of it, but would later realize this was a symptom of poor race preparation.

I love having them at races!

Happy 40th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Getting some last minute coaching tips from Luke.

As my wave entered the water, I kept thinking about what Coach Chad had told me, "stay in the moment."  He cautioned me not to "drift" at any point during the race.  If your mind wonders for just a few moments, you could be loosing precious time to your competition.  This would be a consistent thought throughout the day.

Into the water.

The in-water start was very shallow.  With the water only about 4 ft deep, we stood for several minutes half in the water and half out of the water.  I became so cold my teeth were chattering.  I was doing my best to move around in the water to try and warm-up, but it wasn't helping.  I still felt ready and postitioned myself behind the front line of swimmers figuring I wasn't the fastest out of the blocks.  Unfortunately, this proved to be a mistake.  As the horn sounded and we all set out, I could not find any rhythm.  I couldn't find any space amogst my competitors.  The water remained shallow for the first several hundred yards.  This made things even more chaotic as I and other swimmers stood and walked at times.  Overall, I'm guessing that it took me about ten minutes to finally start a normal rhythmic freestyle stroke.  I knew the consequences of the poor start, but focused on staying in the moment and controlling what I could control from that point forward.

After I went around the final turn buoy to swim the final half-mile or so, it felt as though making progress became significantly more difficult.  I wondered if the shallow water meant the tide was going out, the Choptank River is a brakish river that experiences high and low tides, and thus we were swimming against the current back to shore.  Finally, with about a hundred yards to go, the water became very shallow again, and I stood and did my best to get to shore as quickly as possible.  As I stood-up out of the water, I looked at my watch to assess the damage and saw 39:30.  Again, I knew what this meant for the overall goal of competing for a Kona slot, but quickly disciplined myself to "stay in the moment" and control what I could control.

The Bike

While disheartened by the poor swim, I wasn't going to give up on the goal.  I knew it was unlikely I would be in contention at the end of the day, but I wasn't going to let 8 months of hard work go to waste.  I was going to execute the plan Coach Chad and I had talked about along with my own new goal of getting stronger and stronger and stronger as the bike leg went on (I was a little angry).

The first ten miles ticked by quickly.  I focused on taking in my nutrition and once again, "staying in the moment."  With a bunch of age groups having started ahead of me, I was continuously passing other riders keeping my wattage in the 260-280 range.

As I passed the 30 mile mark, I said outloud to myself, "Come on, Ben.  You can do this."  I wanted to increase my overall avg watts without blowing myself up for the run.  Coming into T2 still feeling strong, I was proud of my effort on the bike finishing with a personal best and an overall average speed of 24.3 mph while moving up from 100th place in my age group to 22nd.

Coming into T2.

The Run

The plan was to run a 1:30 half.  I accomplished this last year at the HalfRev at Cedar Point, but that was after a full summer of training.  Previously, my best run at Eagleman was 1:40:41 in 2012 and 1:48:14 in 2013.  These were the thoughts running through my mind as I exited T2.

As I headed out on the run along what would be the finishing shoot, my family was lined along the fence cheering for me.  I shouted Luke name and told him I would be back in a little while.  My greatest hope in all of this is that I am setting a good example for my boys.  Maybe one day they'll read this blog and see the pictures and know that I didn't just talk about hard work paying off.

Headed out on the run.
I ticked off the first three miles at 6:38, 6:48, and 6:38.  I was pleased to see this, but knew that keeping it up was unlikely.  The next three miles were at 6:56, 6:59, and 6:49, and I told myself it was a 7 mile race.  After mile 7 was at 7:12 pace, I was starting to tire and knew I had to do something differently.  I started putting in 1 minute intervals of increased effort.  For 1 minute I would run harder, then give myself a 30 second "break."  The next four miles were at 6:51, 7:04, 6:57, and 6:57, and I was putting distance between a few competitors that were close behind me and passing one or two in front of me. 

Waiting patiently.

"This is taking longer than I thought."

With a 7:12 12th mile, I knew I had to hurt myself, which sounds extreme, but is the truth.  I had two competitors within striking distance in front of me and one breathing down my neck looking to make a pass.  I couldn't tell if they were in my age group, but knew it didn't matter.  It was a personal challenge.  I would either conquer the fear and hurt or settle for "good enough."  I ran the 13th mile in 6:47, my third fastest mile of the day, and raced a final competitor through the finish line to end with a run split of 1:30:40 moving up from 22nd to 16th place in my age group.

Luke's helping hand.

Empty the tank!

Overall, I'm extremely proud of my preparation and effort at Eagleman 2014.  It was another fantastic race experience and to have my parents, Laura, and my boys, Luke and Matty there is the best.  My parents were awesome this weekend!  Congratulations to them on their 40th wedding anniversary!  I always owe an extra special thank you to my wife, Laura, for her support.  She is an awesome mother and my best friend!  Finally, to Lucas and Matthew, you make the finish line extra special.  I love you all!  Thank you!



Post-race Picnic

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Kona Project: "The Hay is in the Barn"

The preparation is complete and it's time to race!

Sunday morning at 7:40 am, the horn will sound to start Ironman Eagleman 70.3 and my 35-39 age group.  As I think about it, I get butterflies in my stomach.  All the hard work over the past 8 months will be on display.

I am confident I will have a good day; a personal best in fact.  But, will it be good enough to compete for a Kona slot?  There is one slot allocated for each age group.  Any slots not taken will then be reallocated to the age group within that gender that has the most participants.  Since the 35-39 age group is one of the largest, there is a chance there will be two qualifying slots.

It pretty much breaks down like this.  I need to have a time of 4:15 or better.  30 min swim, 2:15 bike split, and 1:30 run split.  Throw in transition times and this becomes a worthy challenge for sure!

Laura and the boys will be there with my parents cheering me on.  It's awesome to have them making the trip with me.  It definitely provides a little extra motivation.

I can't wait!