Radical Immersion

Ironman Training with Life, Marriage, Children & Work

Category: Transition

Montclair Triathlon — Nine Years in the Making

Nine years ago, I took part in the 18th Annual High Country Triathlon in Banner Elk, North Carolina.  Immediately afterward, we went on a family camping trip.  We prepared more for the camping part of the trip than I did for the race.  Nonetheless, something started there and shortly after completing that first race I registered for a 70.3 the following spring.  The race has its charms — a lovely little lake, an out-and-back bike course that climbs and descends over the local ridge line of the Appalachians, and a one-of-a-kind reverse order to the events with the five kilometer run coming first and the finish line on the beach after the swim.

Last weekend I went back to the sprint distance for the first time since that rookie race.  I rode my own bike instead of borrowing a friend’s bike.  I didn’t crash.  I was able to run the whole way with no walking.  And, I may have had as much fun as the first time out.

Sunday I was in the little community of Montclair, Virginia with six others from the Tri 360 team and 310 other individual participants.  I ended up first in my age group out of 42 finishers and 10th overall with a time of 1:08:47.42.  The breakdown for the three sections is 11:27.98 for the swim (4th overall and third male), 31:47:34 for the bike (7th overall and 6th male) and 22:27.54 for the run (55th overall with a 7:15 minute mile pace.)

I’m not really sure how the results work because I was awarded the top place for my age group but the guy who won fifth place was 40 years old but listed in an “Open” division.  He also turned in the fastest swim split and fastest bike split of the day.

Wearing the club gear and holding my new paperweight.  Old men can still race!

Wearing the club gear and holding my new paperweight. Old men can still race!

I’ve now done 26 triathlons.  I’m going to keep at it as long as they stay fun.  If Montclair is an indicator, they will be fun for quite a while.

The Nuts & Bolts of Montclair
  • I was passed in the last few meters of the run by a hard charging 15 year old.  I could hear the crowd urging us on and he was obviously closing a gap, but there was nothing I could do.  I simply had no more juice in my legs.  As it turns out, according to the magic of Garmin the last little bit of my run was at a 5:46 pace and my heart rate spiked to 163.  He still blew the doors off of me.
  • Speaking of run splits, I did a 7:24 followed by a second mile at 7:49.  The second mile was nearly all uphill at about a two to three percent grade.  The last mile came back down to 6:56 pace.  Those are respectable times but when you note that my swim and bike splits were both top ten and I only turned in the 55th fastest run, it is clear where I need to focus.
  • My average cadence on the bike was 92 and it got all the way up to 117.  That is good — I’m finally developing some of those fast twitch muscle fibers.
  • The power and speed numbers for the bike are a bit hard to read.  It seems that I forgot to hit stop on the Garmin as I racked my bike.  As a result, Garmin thinks my ride was three hours long.
If you look closely, you can identify where I put my feet in the shoes in the first two minutes and the four distinct U-turns where power dropped to zero.

If you look closely, you can identify where I put my feet in the shoes in the first two minutes and the four distinct U-turns where power dropped to zero.


  • The maximum average power over 20 minutes was 264 watts and I did an average 259 watts over the 31 minute ride.  I had been hoping to break 270 which is the number I did in a test last month and produced my current FTP of 257.  Alas, I think the downhills did me in.  Even though I kept pressure on the pedals and used every gear on the cassette, at several points you can see the power drop down around 200 watts.
  • My strongest one minute average power came right at the beginning.  There is a 5 percent grade up to the main road and the second minute of the bike shows a 325 watt average.
  • There isn’t much to say about the swim.  I wore the Roka Viper speedsuit and I love it as much as the day I got it.  I took off to the front of wave three at the start, was caught by the eventual swim “winner” just after the first 100 meter buoy, tried to draft but only stayed with him for another 75 meters or so, and then chugged along until I was finished.
  • I took a Gu Roctane about 20 minutes before the swim and two sips of Perform during the bike but otherwise didn’t worry about food and energy until it was all over.
  • I really like racing with the data on the bike but the course was crowded enough and we were going fast enough that I didn’t spend much time looking down at the Garmin.
  • Both transition times were about one minute and change (1:38 and 1:28).  That is good and can always be better.
  • At this URL, you can find short video clips of me running across the beach after the swim and coming into the finish chute after crossing the dam.  Funny thing, the 15 year old mentioned above is in both clips.  In the first one he is a few steps behind me and in the final shot you can see him make the pass about 10 meters from the finish line.



Before I forget…

The weekend in Raleigh was big fun all around. We spent time with friends, saw familiar and welcome sights and were able to race at a well-organized venue. While I’ve written the race report up at BT, there is a lot more to unpack and explore. It may take a while. Therefore, I’ve made a handy list of things that I want to think a little more about.

1. Dana did the whole race, didn’t really have any trouble, finished with a smile and didn’t get sore this week. Wow, simply wow. My biggest regret is clearly that I missed her finish because I was trying to get the camera in order to capture it for posterity.

2. My swim was slow. Some of that may be attributed to the lack of a wetsuit. Others wrote in their race reports that it was choppy across the long side of the triangle. I didn’t notice this and find it dubious. There was more physical contact in this swim than any that I’ve ever done. Notwithstanding all of these circumstances, it was a slow swim. I felt fine — not low in the water, heavy, or tired — and accelerated where I wanted to do so. This is troubling. In advance of the race, I had a goal of improving by 10-12 minutes and a wildly ambitious goal of going 4:44:59. Had I swum well, or even just swum better, I would have made that wild number of 4:44.

3. My bike cadence was high. Much of the time I was in the high 90s or over 100 and not in the low 90s. I was able to go into the biggest gear — riding with a 25-11 — a couple of times and pedal right on through a gentle downslope. I don’t think I’ve developed a ton more power and the road tilted up as much as down so this is something to think about. In addition, for nearly the whole ride my heart rate was in the high 130s.

4. I was unable to piss the bike. On the upside, I think for the entirety of the bike course I was only passed by three people. On the downside, I pissed the run as I finished the second loop at the art museum. Like Lake Placid, I did it at the end of an aid station. Unlike at Lake Placid where I stopped moving and essentially bent over and just breathed, at Raleigh I started the piss while walking through and just kept moving. The effect was to fill my left shoe. In the hunched over position it is possible to get the piss to ramp off my knee and or ankle band and stay out of my sock and shoe. I’m not sure what would happen if I was actually running. It may shut off the spigot (like when swimming) or it may ramp off the knee and fly back like when cycling. Or, it may simply fill my shoe but I’d make faster progress then pissing while walking. These are empirical questions and should be tested — in trianing.

5. I started the race with a plan to run agressively and did so. While I didn’t negative split, I did bring my times back down for the last 3.5 miles and I’m immensely happy with that outcome. I’m not sure why, but I find the prospect of a negative split something of the holy grail in pacing.

6. On the run, I took most of a single Gu and either water or Perform or both at each aid station. At this distance, even on a hot day, I can do the run with nothing but fluids. This is good to know.

7. I was dropped in the last aid station by a guy who’d been running shoulder to shoulder with me since mile 9. I slowed for fluids and he didn’t. He put 20-30 yards on my that I could not bring back and then they eventually turned into 50-60 yards. It was a tactical mistake — he was in my age group. Live and learn.

8. My age group had five slots for the Ironamn 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas. When roll-down started, two had been claimed. I got the last one in my age group. I really cannot believe it and find the whole prospect of going to the race a bit sureal.

I ride clean -- and consent to all manner of testing.

I ride clean — and consent to all manner of testing.

The race is September 8th so I guess my training plan will be to continue to train and taper for Ironman Lake Placid, rest for a week and then develop a plan to get me through August that includes a second taper and a trip to Family Camp.

9. I rode with Aaron’s helmet and with the aerojacket on my back wheel. Before the race I thought of each as a luxury. Now, they both seem like necessesities. Funny how quickly perspective can change.

10. I ran almost the whole race with a heartrate in the mid- to high-140s. This is great for Ironman because the top end of zone two for me is 148-149. However, I would have liked to push hard enough to have that average in the high 150s. I think I can sustain it for more than 90 minutes. This is something to figure out because I was pushing on the run. There wasn’t a lot of “saving for later” going on.

11. I was nervous about the pre-race breakfast plan but it worked well enough. I had five eggs between 4.00 and 4.20 a.m. along with two cups of tea. I had a liquid powerbar at about 4:45 a.m. as well as a banana and a Bonk Breaker between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. along with some water. Start time for my wave was at about 7:52.