I just had the most epic week of vacation that a triathlete with a family could ask for. I won’t bore you with blow-by-blow race reports or recounting everything we did. I’ll give you the highlights of the Nations Tri, the Dewey Beach Sprint, and share a bit about what came in-between as it pertains to my progress in the sport, and with the DB>IM project.
Last year, Nations was bought by Competitor Group, the owner of the Rock and Roll marathon series, and the spin-off TriRock races. TriRock Annapolis 2011 was my first open water swim race, and first real open water swim of any kind. I did the race in 2012, and looked forward to the 2013 edition. Sadly, it ran into problems and was cancelled, so those who were registered were given a chance to move their registration to another race in the TriRock series, or Nations. Nations is an Olympic distance, and a more expensive race, but the real deal was in the venue. Swim by the Lincoln Memorial? Run by the Jefferson? Fully closed roads in downtown DC? Fun!
Of course, with a venue like this comes some logistical wrangling. We arrived in Mt. Rainier, a suburb of D.C. on Saturday to stay with friends Trina and E.J. for a few nights. I didn’t want to deal with traffic in the city, so I got on the metro and took my bike to Columbia Heights, and got off to walk it. I’ve never ridden in a city, but eventually when I saw a huge downhill, and how many people there are on bicycles, I decided to cautiously hop on and save some time. I didn’t have my bike shoes, so I was very deliberate. I got to the Hilton safely, and lo-and-behold, at the check-in, I was greeted with an energetic hug from the face and voice of TriRock, the effervescent Ann Wessling.
The expo was typical, lots of gadgets, electronic massagers, gels, tri clothing for sale. Something you don’t see every day, stewardesses evoking the era of Mad Men, promoting Etihad airline who was there with a tie-in for the Abu Dhabi triathlon. I think I’ll skip that one.
But Vinnie Tortorich and the paleo-ish or NSNG racing community will be happy to know that at the xpo full of heed, hammer, nuun, and gels upon gels, I sampled SARDINES at the expo. You heard me, sardines. Wild Planet Sardines. Check out this wild caught, sustainablility-centric company.
There was also a photo booth.
I attended the last course talk of the day, but slipped out early. I had to get my bike to the transition area, and I didn’t have a lot of time. I really didn’t want to ride there, but in one of the moments of the week where I had to rely on the kindness of strangers, I talked to a young woman outside the expo who was driving there, and I asked for a ride. I helped navigate (barely helped) and had a lovely chat with a first time triathlete. The F25-29 AG seems to be rich with marathoners who are just starting to dabble in triathlon. I saw my new friend a couple times the next day and looked up what I believe to have been her race results, looks like it was a good day for her.
Checking in, I had my bike looked at by the REI techs briefly, racked my bike, and walked to the metro.
Getting to the race meant making Meg drive me to the Hilton for the shuttle around 5:30. There is no traffic on D.C. roads at this time. Still, the traffic circles combined with a slow-reacting GPS can make for some frustrating moments, but she got back ok. She would wake the kids much later for a Metro trip to the mall, then a long walk to the finish line.
Like I said, this is a race full of logistical wrangling. There’s a price to be paid for such a unique racing venue. Part of that price is a 34 wave swim start. I was in wave 21, so I wasn’t in the water until 8:30. Nearly an hour later, the last wave stepped up to the dock. We went in 8 second time-trial groups of 8. It’s the only way to do it in that space, and it worked as well as it could.
The swim was not wetsuit-legal. It was very warm and quite humid by 5am, I must say I enjoyed the swim in my tri shorts and tritop. That was the first time I ever swam in it. It takes me forever to get it on while dripping wet, so I figured, why not? It was cool to sight off the Lincoln Memorial. A helicopter was sweeping by, taking photos and I definitely spotted a flash while breathing. I know I could find myself in the photo, but I have no idea where they are online. They weren’t part of marathonfoto’s images, but I did hear Ann mention the helicopter photos over the PA. I’ll find them eventually.
Out of the water onto the platform, there’s the bell of the ball in her swimcap dress as usual. As I “ran” (ok shuffled) up the ramp to the transition area, I heard Ann mention my name over the announcement which was very cool.
On to the bike for two loops, and it was fast and furious. I stay right, I’m used to it. Not everyone does. Ask the guys with disc wheels who post on slowtwitch how they feel about that. I don’t blame them. It was a double loop of 12 miles with 4000 people on it, many at the same time in the middle of the race, some doing their second loop, some their first. The bike course was a source of great controversy on the boards, and there were some crashes.
I just followed the flow. It wasn’t hard to know the course since they were the only closed roads, and they were well staffed at the problem spots. Still, imagine trying to navigate this without markings:
I have biked longer than this route, but I finally discovered something during this race that will be helpful going forward. I’ve never ridden this far without stopping before. That matters. In a half-ironman, or a longer training ride, I’d get off the bike a couple times, even take my shoes off once. There was little opportunity to do this at Nations and I didn’t intend to, but by mile 18 my feet were on fire. I’ve felt this before, but it was worse. Cyclists call them hot spots. I just assumed it was part of my generally bad feet, or a suck-it-up situation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. More on that later.
Off the bike, on to the 10k run. I got to talk to lots of people going by. This is where I have to offer some advice.
Open Letter to All Late Wave Starters
Look, I get it. You started late in the day and the first waves were done with the race by the time you hit T1. It’s frustrating. There are plenty of slower people ahead of you on the route, just because of the wave start. So there are lots of opportunities to set walk/run targets out there. I know I’m your target. I can read your minds. I know that you see me up ahead, and say to yourself “As soon as I pass that really slow fat guy, I’ll take a walk break.” You know how I know this? Because you make it obvious. You run a step past me and stop running. It’s not subtle. Just, please, next time you set a fat/slow target for this, run maybe 15 yards beyond them before stopping, make it less obvious. It amuses me, but it might be discouraging to others.
Back to the Race
I tried to assess at the 5k mark whether I would make my goal/predicted time of 4:30. I would be close. In fact, I got as close as any triathlon finish prediction ever. I biked a lot faster than I expected, then ran slower. So it averaged out, and I was off by less than 2.5 minutes.
The first sight at the finish line was once again, the lovely Miss Wessling, who may not have expected it, but she got picked up and spun around once. Through the chute, I saw Meg and the kids cheering. They had just made it!
The finishers medals were apparently missing, so I’m supposed to get one in the mail. Kind of pointless after missing the photo op in DC but oh well. Trinkets. Getting the kids something to eat and drink, walking to the Metro and getting back to our hosts, well it may as well have been another endurance event. Another quibble with the race production, the food for athletes was nearly gone, and the vendor for the spectator food wouldn’t sell my wife a bagel though it was clearly sitting right there, and they weren’t sure whether or not they were open. This is well before the finish line closed. Don’t advertise a rocking finish line fest then make it hard for people with young kids to feed them. I snagged some peanuts and cookies, the only thing left in athlete food, for the kids just to get something in them before the long walk back to the mall.
The In-Between Time
Of course, we did the Smithsonian and the Mall.
Tuesday we drove to the zoo and had a great visit. Even saw the Daddy panda. (Mom and brand new baby will be in the house for months.)
Pandas spend 16 pounds a day eating 100-120 pounds of low nutrient food. I don’t believe they’re Chinese, that statistic is solidly AMERICAN.
Now, the next 24 hours can become a long story, but I’ll try to do it twitter style:
Car died in rush hour…. AAA tow…….meg and kids take metro to extra night at hosts’ …I bike from garage…bus to garage in am….fixed in 2 hours!….. drive to beach a day late…. new best friend from the bus….
I have still failed in my photo setup that I’ve wanted to do the last three years. We end up in Dewey/Ocean City area at the same time as Bike Week. I need to take my bike and wear a bright kit, get a picture standing in a mass of motorcycles and caption it: BIKE WEEK, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. With the delayed trip due to the car, I didn’t get the time to do that. Maybe another time.
Three blocks down from our motel in Ocean City …… and full of bikers of course.
One Lone Training Ride
Getting ready to do a second triathlon in a week, I didn’t want to just sit around not moving. The Olympic did take a lot of energy out of me, but I had to stay loose. We moved from Ocean City to Dewey on Thursday, so I rode my bike. Easy ride, dead flat, no wind, 24 miles. I did start it with yet another fall while clipped-in yielding a bloody right knee. That gave a few bikers something to laugh about. It was worth it just to log my first official interstate bike ride.I had a dedicated bike lane the whole way. It was great. Part of my trip was the Dewey Tri bike course.
Let’s Go Shoe Shopping
Thanks once again to the solid advice of my friends at Beginner Triathlete, I finally did something I should have done long ago. I upgraded my bike shoes. I was ready to give up and go to toe cages with my running shoes. Tell that to a triathlete or cyclist, and it’s like telling a teenage girl that you’re getting rid of your smartphone for a pager. All the bike shops around Rehoboth/Dewey are very attuned to the specific market of beach cruisers, and rentals. I took a trip into Delmar Delaware to Pedal Works Cyclery at the suggestion of Jonah (BT’s jmk-brooklyn). Great bit of advice right there. I got stiffer shoes and some minor fitting done. I may end up doing wider pedals if I need to. I had to do something to eliminate this unnecessary limitation. It’s a heck of a thing to know your legs can keep pedaling but your feet feel like they’re going to fall off.
A Word about the Dewey/Rehoboth Venue
Not to get political again, but I just absolutely never understand homophobes. Rehoboth is a historically gay-friendly town, and certain knuckle-dragging types I run across will react to your plans to visit there with “oh hey, did you hear that place is really Rehomo?” Duurrr…… so clever…. anyway, my response is the same “oh yeah, I just hate going to a beach town where everything is impeccably maintained and clean, there are nice stores with style and art, and people are friendly. Yeah that sucks. It’s much better down in Ocean City where everything is loud and brash and they have a Hooters like proper Americans!”
OK, anyway…. I love Rehoboth and Dewey. It’s worth the higher cost. And, Rehoboth Boardwalk is nothing without:
By now, everyone has a souvenir from the beach. Meg has a seriously comfy Rehoboth Beach Running Co. hoodie that she is putting to use right away in the cool breeze, Jack selected a ridiculous junky plastic space gun with sounds and lights, a delight for a 6 year old, and Olivia has her slice of Geode she picked out at the Smithsonian. She’s beyond kitschy toys, she’s into minerals now. Yes, my daughter is becoming Hank Schrader.
Of course, I hardly need to claim a beach souvenir, as I just spent some clams on new bike shoes, and well, two races. But in the junky store, I spotted something I had been on the lookout for, relevant to this blog. Now that I want to carry my own olive oil, but not take a huge flask out in a restaurant, I’ve been looking for something small. Well thank you personalized flask display! Along with the names, they had letters. So this one is reserved for Villa Capelli Olive Oil only. Yes, I am a total nerd.
Dewey Beach Triathlon 3.0
Why do two races in a week? Why not!? Well, really, the truth is, I had a lot of mis-steps in 2012, and this year has been about getting some check marks in the unfinished business department. Dewey was a great race for me in 2011, done on Olivia’s 8th birthday. It was my first season. It was a rough swim, as all ocean swims are for me. But I placed not-dead-last on the bike, and had a decent enough run for me, and it was just fun. Great finish line with the 16Mile brewery, I met a BT’er who has become a real online and sometimes real world, friend. (We’re both doing IMMT 2014.) – So I returned in 2012. That was the time the current changed 180degrees and after being in the water over an hour, I was removed along with several others, and told to just continue on the bike. It was less than a mile into the bike where I flatted, and DNF’ed the race. I salvaged it somewhat, by turning in the chip and doing the run anyway, since my family was watching for me along the run course. It was still a fun morning.
Yet with a DNF, I wanted to knock it out again, and finish the swim legit. This time we stayed at The Beach House, right across the street from the Bottle and Cork. A very nice, recently renovated motel with hardwood floors instead of carpet. Most of our motel was occupied by volunteer firefighters in for a conference in Dover. Good folks. Being on that side of the road, the run course was right there. I parked my car 4 feet away from where we ran.
So now I know the drill, ride the bike to transition, I’ve been here before. The sea looked calm, despite having a small craft advisory just ending at 8am, and seeing some serious wind.
This race always starts late, but it was about half an hour late this time. We walked north on the beach and swam south with the current.
When will anything be easy for me?
So, yeah…. easy swim. Truly. Everyone probably PR’ed this leg. No fighting the current. It swept us along. So why did I have such a rough time?
In the easiest of oceans, I still get queasy. I thought I would throw up on at least three occasions. I just have to accept the fact that there is nothing in the athletic/physical world that will every come easily for me. Not running, not swimming, not strength, not flexibility, not balance, and apparently not even sitting still in the water. It’s frustrating but I am coming to terms with it. I know this is all a challenge for everyone if you push yourself, but I seem to find nothing that comes naturally. Moreso the victory then, right?
My wave was first, so I had plenty of time before I ended up the last one out there. I was in shore within 23 minutes. I took forever to walk up and over the dune and do T1. Really. Forever. I saw Meg and the kids at swim exit (read the 2011 race report to see why she will always wait for me at the swim exit) She claims I looked like the swim took nothing out of me, like I had energy. Wow I am a good actor.
Cruised south on the bike without incident with the benefit of a tailwind. Near the bridge, a guy passed me leaning over on his bars, not exactly aero as such. I looked, and he was texting on an iPhone. I was amused and loudly asked “seriously?” He chuckled. Less amused was the very fast woman behind him in full aero that he was now blocking during his slow, distracted pass of me.
The bike was otherwise uneventful. At the turnaround I discovered the full force of that wind. My fastest mile going south was 23mph. My slowest coming back: 10mph. It was brutal.
Nice run, seeing the kids and Meg and my parents’ pastor and a good friend/colleague of mine who happened to be in Dewey for the weekend with his wife. They actually stuck around to see me return on the run, while Meg was packing in the motel room.
Seriously, does it get any easier for a family than to be able to casually stroll down the beach to see the part of the race they want to, then stand in front of the motel and be done with it?
I finished in 2:40, which reflects how beat up I was from the seasickness. My run was pitiful. But I can say that I didn’t notice any hotspots with the new shoes, and I wasn’t totally wiped out or anything. I skipped the long beer line, grabbed a bit of food, and rushed back to the motel on my bike to check out. The late start put my plan to shower before the road in danger. I made it just in time, and we were on our way.
What a week. Besides all this, while away, I booked our place for Mont-Tremblant, I registered officially for the last stop of the 2013 unfinished business tour: The Chilli Challenge, and I came to a decision about my racing and this blog. All that will be discussed later.
It used to be that I considered a vacation a success if I could move as little as possible between meals. Now I think of two triathlons in a week on vacation as one of my best week’s off ever. Even with the car trouble, even with the logistical problems. The family got to do the beach, we saw dinosaurs and space ships, and watched fudge being made. What else could I want?