SunMultisport Patriot Half Race Report
So, I’m trying something a little different with the race report….written, rather than video. I just feel like I can get my thoughts across better and it won’t take me three weeks to edit a video, lol! Anyway, yesterday was the SunMultisport Patriot Half Iron distance race. I signed up for this back in October for a couple of reasons: 1) I needed a half in early June for my IMLP prep, and 2) the race director, Mark Walter, is supporting my Shriner’s efforts this season, so I felt that it was only right to come do his race. I had actually never done the Patriot Half, despite it being a local race, and around since 2007 (I did volunteer the first year!). In fact, not only had I never done the race, I had never even ridden the bike course. All I heard was don’t bother riding it, it’s flat (more on that later!).
Leading into the race, I had some big training weekends. The week before Patriot, I jumped in a local TT (first time riding with my new race wheel set up), and the weekend before Patriot I put in a 6 plus hour brick effort, with a climb to the top of Mt. Wachusett. Suffice it to say, there was no taper for Patriot. I only took it easier a few days before the race. Patriot is a strange race to get ready for in that it’s on a Saturday, when most races are held on Sundays. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it makes a difference with race prep. Fortunately, I was able to take Friday somewhat off….working from home, then taking the afternoon pretty much off to get ready.
Of course, I couldn’t and wouldn’t miss my BIG breakfast! Ben was kind enough to keep me company!
Since I was bringing the entire family down to East Freetown, approximately an hour away, we made the last minute call to grab a hotel about 15 minutes away from the race site. I’m not sure if that was beneficial or not. On one hand, the kids got to sleep a little later. On the other hand, they got to bed much later than usual. Personally, I slept rather well, which is not always the case.
Race morning, the alarm went off at 4:30…up, coffee and some nutrition. My race morning nutrition has always included soft white or wheat bread and simple peanut butter. But, I have recently been adding Kodiak Cakes. I really like them. They give carbs, plus some protein. Anyway, they seem to work for me. I forgot the apple sauce, and forgot to eat the banana I had. Oh well! The kids were a joy at 5am in the morning! Ben had a tantrum in the hotel parking lot. I just wanted to get to the race site to get into the prime parking lot. Turns out we were literally the last car admitted! I got the bike ready and off to transition. This race just had a different feel to it…not good or bad. I think it’s just that….it’s a half ironman. Most of the SunMultisport races I’ve done are sprints…and in my head, I’m just thinking, local race….MUST GO FAST! Everything else, pre-race, was uneventful.
Since I was racing “elite/open”, I was in wave one. Originally, I was going to race age group. But, a few weeks ago, I got talked into racing elite. When I was younger, I typically would race elite. But, I’m going to be 48 in a few weeks. While I can still hold my own, I’m honest with myself….I just don’t have the speed to hang with the younger guys. But, I figured, what the hell….let’s do it. I knew that I likely wasn’t going to be on the podium here. The gun went off and I realized that the elite field (both men and women) was pretty large….probably about 40 or so. I really wanted to swim well here, but it didn’t happen, again! The top swimmers took off…and I just couldn’t grab any feet to follow. It didn’t help that I was inhaling boat fumes after about 5 minutes of swimming (a boat was to our left and following us). The wave broke up quickly…and I found myself pretty much alone. My problem with the swim is that I find myself loafing…not thinking about the task at hand….maybe trying to conserve too much energy. That may help me in an ironman, but I need to swim faster for a half. Anyway, you don’t win the race in the swim, so I got out of the water and made my way through T1.
I was quickly out of transition and out on the bike. As I went to get my feet in my shoes, which were on the bike, I realized that the Velcro strap had come out of the loop. I tried a few times to rethread it while riding, without luck. I had to stop. I’m not sure how long it actually took, but cumulatively I estimate it was probably a minute or so with all the fumbling around. Once back riding, something else didn’t feel right….my position on the bike. I knew that this might happen. The Tuesday prior to the race, I put angled risers on my aerobars and replaced my Felt armrest pads with Cee Gees (cushioned pads). I didn’t think I would notice much, but I did immediately. Why would I do this? Well, Patriot wasn’t an “A” race for me, so I figured better to test it now. Anyway, the first loop of the 2 loop course was a bit of an adventure with all of the jostling and repositioning on the bike. I think I might need to move my saddle back a touch. I had a lot of back and forth with some athletes. As mentioned, I am so accustomed to racing short course SunMultisport events that I had to remind myself a few times that this was in fact a 56 mile bike….not 10 or 15 miles….settle down….don’t worry about the other athletes. Finally, on the second loop, I started to get into a groove.
By the way, whoever said that the Patriot course was just flat was just plan wrong. It’s not flat. It rolls…and rolls….and I had around 1800 feet of climbing. That’s not flat. I also lost a bottle on the second loop (hit a bump and it bounced out)….and I didn’t have any fluids for about 10 miles. My only saving grace is that I brought one SIS gel with me, along with my Cliff gels. Those are pretty easy to take down without water….so at least I could get some nutrition in. My coach had given me a plan to hold 230 normalized power on the bike and 147-50 heart rate. Well, I didn’t hold the heart rate (it would up being closer to 140), but I was dead on 230 normalize power. So, that’s a positive!
Off the bike and onto the run. I’m always pretty efficient through the transitions, and Patriot was no different. I had some of the fastest transitions of the day. In T2, I put socks on, which I didn’t do in April at Texas 70.3….and I paid for it there. It took my feet weeks to heal. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice! Socks on…..then I blazed out of transition with another guy who I quickly passed, with 2 others up the road.
My coach had given me a plan for the run…basically a heart rate progression, broken down by 5ks. I was immediately running at a higher heart rate (but not too much higher) than he wanted, but I felt good. So, I figured I’d settle in and see how things went. I clicked off the first couple miles around 6:20-25. I passed one of the guys in front of me around 2 or 3 miles in. But, the other guy was pretty far in front and wasn’t coming back. And, I wasn’t feeling great. So, I dialed it back and just ran. Like the bike, the run rolls, a lot! I grabbed water at every aid station. I took Gatorade at mile 3 and it didn’t sit well with me. In fact, I wasn’t feeling too good. Around mile 5 I started to feel a bit sick. It didn’t help that the course is pretty exposed and the sun was just beating down. That said, I was actually reeling in the guy in front of me. I passed him around mile 6…gave him a word of encouragement and kept running. As bad as I was feeling, I was still clicking off 6:40-50 miles. Around mile 9 I snuck a peak behind me….no one. The one thing about this course is that you can see your competitors….there are long stretches of roads to see people in front and behind. This work both ways, however, because I also couldn’t see anyone in front of me….and I mean no one. The gap must have been pretty big. Given that, and the way I felt, I did my best to lock in and just run. It definitely helped to get on the final stretch with a couple of miles to go….where we’re on course with the cyclists still coming in. There were lots of words of encouragement which helped! Patriot has a great finish with the last half mile on the grass. I passed my family and gave them a thumbs up (despite not feeling it was a “thumbs up” effort)…then crossed the finish line.
I was cooked. Half ironman distance is a hard distance…maybe the hardest from an effort standpoint. In looking back at the results, despite not feeling great on the run, I still had one of the faster runs of the day….which demonstrates that the conditions were less than ideal. Anyway, I finished 10th overall and was the oldest guy in the top 10. The athlete who finished second was 40 years young. But, other than him, I had 10 years (at least) on everyone else….my personal victory!
One of the positives I took away from this is that my effort was routine. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way….but when I wasn’t having a great day, I buckled down and got myself through it in pretty efficient manner. I can race this distance now and it doesn’t feel too much more than just a longer race. I think that comes from years of racing. I still respect the distance though. Ironman will be a different story in a little over a month! The other thing I want to mention is that this is my first time racing in my charity race kit, and not in the Boston Triathlon Team colors. This wasn’t necessarily a popular decision with some on my team, but I made the choice to do it this year and I have to stick with it. It was weird, however, not having my team colors on and not being recognized on the race course as a BTT athlete. That said, all of that was forgotten when I was approached at the race by a woman who asked me about my affiliation with Shriners. Her son was apparently a Shriner’s patient at one time and she thanked me for doing what I was doing. That made my day. It’s not all about raising money….it is also about raising awareness too.
I spent the rest of my father’s day weekend spending time relaxing with my favorite peeps (wife not pictured)!
Up next, I have some big training weekends planned, including another quick trip up to NH to get some climbing in, plus a mini vacation over the Independence Day weekend up in Lake Placid to ride the course. As far as racing is concerned, I have one sprint race planned two weeks prior to the Ironman. It’s something I’ve done before IMLP in 2010 and Mt. Tremblant in 2013….do a shorter race to “blow out the tubes”. Not sure how much I’ll have in my legs with the upcoming big training weekends, but it will be fun to race short!