2012 Ocean Shores Half Iron Race Report

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I decided on Ocean Shores Half Iron as my mid-season peak race this year for several reasons:

– My big race this year is Ironman Arizona in November and the courses are relatively flat so I wanted to do a relatively flat half iron as a build up. Ocean Shores fits that perfectly. This gives me a solid 2 hours or more in the aero bars at race pace to gage my fitness for IMAZ.

– I enjoy the smaller races because I don’t have to give another $250 to WTC when I already gave them over $600 to race IMAZ. Ocean Shores is much cheaper and I often get to race for even less because I help out with some clinics and volunteer work for the TriFreaks. Plus, I get to place much higher in the field in these smaller races and that is always fun!

– I enjoy working with the TriFreaks and get the opportunity to showcase some of my coaching skills every year by doing a swim clinic on the packet pick-up night. I think it works nicely for me and for the TriFreaks.

This year, my wife decided to do the Olympic Distance at Ocean Shores (her first Olympic) as well so both of us were racing. The original plan was to bring the kids out to the event and their Aunt and Uncle were going to come watch them during the race. However, plans changed a bit in the last week and we ended up leaving the kids with Grandma and Grandpa and getting a night away in Ocean Shores by ourselves. I was just joking today with some friends that it seems like the only time we get a night away from the kids, we ruin it by racing and having to get up even earlier than we would at home with the kids…the life of a triathlete couple. Either way, it was nice to have a night to ourselves!

Friday, July 13, 2012:

Packet pick-up is Friday night before the race, so we had to be out there nice and early to get our own packets and for me to do the course overview and swim clinic (similar to what I did last year).
Paula got off work a bit early and we headed out to Ocean Shores. We got there in plenty of time to get our race packets, check into the Ramada (the same hotel that was hosting the packet pick-up…thanks TriFreaks!), and get my stuff set up for the presentation. We even had a chance to go get some Subway before my presentations started.

The course overview was first and there were a ton of people there for the course overview this year. Unfortunately, there was no PA system like there was last year. We were just set up with a projector on the pool deck (a very large pool deck with a very small pool). If you know me, you know that my voice is not one that projects very well so I was a little worried. There were a few times that people could obviously not hear me and I had to repeat things but I think that part ended up being better than I expected. The part I was not ready for is that there were a lot of questions about the race details that I did not have the answer to and the race director was not around to help this year. I was not too happy about that. I think some people were frustrated by my lack of knowledge but my job was supposed to be do turn by turn directions of the race course and not questions about port-a-potty locations and such. I expected the race director to be there like last year but it didn’t happen. Unlike last year, where I thought the course overview went well and the swim clinic went worse, it was a complete opposite result this year in my opinion.

Anyway, after trying to field the questions and going over the course maps, I gave everyone some time to clear out if they weren’t staying for the swim clinic and then we got into my favorite part. This time, we had use of the hotel pool for actual demonstrations and I also changed my presentation from last year to focus on some key things instead of trying to jam too much technical info into the presentation.

So, I did about 20 minutes of talking about swimming and then we got in the water and I gave some swim and sighting demos and then let people try some stuff out. The swim clinic went quite well this year I believe! I was quite happy with it.

After the presentations, we went back to the room, got everything ready for the next day, and relaxed in the room. It was a nice evening. Morning would come way too soon.

Saturday, July 14, 2012:

I got up around 5:15am and started the day the way I start every day…Shakeology. Then, I got my UCAN and other race stuff all ready and headed over to the park. We ended up taking longer than expected to get everything in the car because we found out that they weren’t allowing late check out at the hotel so we needed to check out right then. That was unexpected. We still made it to the park in time but the body marking line was really long at that point. It appeared that everyone was being told that they had to be body marked to go into the transition area. Since my race went off first, I just went up to the front of the line and asked if I could go in and set up my transition area and come back and get marked. They let me in like it was no big deal. So, that is what I did while everyone else waited in line for body marking and worrying about not having time to set up their transition. It turned out that they had to delay the race a bit because of the slow line into transition and body marking.

ADF Photos: TriFREAKS Ocean Shores Tri and Foot Fest 7/14/2012 &emdash; TriFREAKS Ocean Shores

This event has three different distances (not including the kid’s tri and duathlons): Sprint, Olympic, and half iron. The half iron was scheduled to start first (at 7am) followed by the Olympic (7:45) and the Sprint (8:15). They all ended up a bit delayed but not too bad.

Prerace Nutrition: 1 UCAN Vanilla 45 min before race start

The Swim:

ADF Photos: TriFREAKS Ocean Shores Tri and Foot Fest 7/14/2012 &emdash; TriFREAKS Ocean Shores

The swim was in Duck Lake starting just off the boat ramp at North Bay Park on the north end of the lake. It was a deep water start (meaning that you are treading water when your wave starts…no running in off the beach or diving off the dock). The water temp was in the mid 60’s. I opted for my full length wetsuit.

They divided each race distance into two “self-select waves” just like they did last year. Basically, they got everyone up behind a timing mat and asked for those that considered themselves to be the faster swimmers to walk across the mat to activate their chips and then head down to the water. They let about 35 people go across the mat and then cut it off. Those people went in the first wave of half iron competitors and the remainder went in the second wave. I chose to go in the first wave.

I chose to race with my tempo trainer as I normally do and I set it at 1.03 this year. I had tons of training at this tempo and distance so I knew what I was in for…should be somewhere right around 30 or 31 minutes. I settled into a nice rhythm fairly early in the swim and felt really smooth and relaxed on my way out. I had no sighting or direction problems at all during this swim and ended up swimming the 1.2 mile course in 31:49 which got me out of the water in 5th place. That is a PR for me in a half iron race. I am pretty happy with the swim results in general. I am always tempted to push the swim a bit harder because I know from my pool swims that I can do this in under 30 min but I think this was the right move…keeping it relaxed on a bit slower tempo on the tempo trainer makes for a better race overall.

ADF Photos: TriFREAKS Ocean Shores Tri and Foot Fest 7/14/2012 &emdash; TriFREAKS Ocean Shores

T1:

The transition area is the same for all of the distances during this event and it is located within probably 30 yards of the exit from the water. So, there is almost no distance to run from the water exit to the transition area.

My T1 time was 1:29. I am fairly happy with that T1 time since it is a few seconds faster than last year. I went sockless for the bike even though I was planning on wearing socks for the run. I never have issues biking sockless so I just threw the shoes on and went. Once again, I have not taken the time to practice bike mounts with my shoes already clipped in. It is definitely time to take it to that level.

ADF Photos: TriFREAKS Ocean Shores Tri and Foot Fest 7/14/2012 &emdash; TriFREAKS Ocean Shores

The Bike:

ADF Photos: TriFREAKS Ocean Shores Tri and Foot Fest 7/14/2012 &emdash; TriFREAKS Ocean Shores

Bike Nutrition: 1 packet of UCAN in 20 oz. water (120 cal), 1 bottle of EFS Liquid Shot (about 400 cal), about 40 oz. of water.

Ah yes…the bike! I basically had the same setup as last year when did the Olympic and the race conditions were almost exactly the same except for a slight drizzle this year. Basically, it was overcast and cool and a 5-10 MPH wind. This year, the wind was coming from the south instead of the north. It made little difference though…the course is an out and back course so the wind direction is of no consequence. One way you have a headwind and one way you have a tailwind.

As I got out on the course, I passed two people that were ahead of me on the swim within a mile. So, now I was in third place overall and feeling really good on the bike. The course for the half iron is actually a two-loop out and back course so you get several opportunities to see where everyone is on the course. The first opportunity is at the first turnaround at 14 miles. When I was about 90 seconds from the turnaround, the race leader passed me going back the other direction. That meant he had about 3 minutes on me and the second place guy was about 90 seconds ahead of me. I was able to catch the second place guy and pass him just after the 28 mile turnaround and I stayed in second place all the way to the bike finish.

One unfortunate thing was that I had put my race wheels on my bike a couple of days before the race but forgot to adjust the speed sensor so my bike did not register speed for me for the entire race. It likely wouldn’t have changed my time but I do like to know how fast I am going.

I ended up with a 2:32:10 bike split for 56 miles which comes out around 22.1 mph. I was hoping for a little more on a course that flat but it is what it is. I felt good about it on the course and I love hammering the miles on these flat courses.

T2:

T2 also went pretty well. My T2 time was 1:38 despite having to put on socks…so I am happy with that. If you compare to last year, where I did a 1:00 T2, it appears that it takes me 0:38 to put on socks.

ADF Photos: TriFREAKS Ocean Shores Tri and Foot Fest 7/14/2012 &emdash; TriFREAKS Ocean Shores

The Run:

Run Nutrition: Several gulps of EFS Liquid Shot and not enough water (no aid stations)

I was a bit stiff in the lower back when I came off the bike. I just recently had my position on the bike tweaked and I think I either need some more tweaks or I just haven’t spent that much time in the aero position (well over 2 hours of the 2:32:10 ride was in aero). Either way, I was stiff and it took a good half mile to loosen up but I eventually did and starting putting down 8 minute miles. I was hoping to go a little faster than 8 minute miles but I was pretty happy with running that pace and felt good at it. I was planning to pick it up when I got my legs under me a bit better after about 2 miles or so.

The run course is an out and back and is almost completely flat as well, but about 4 miles of the run is out on the beach. Most of that is on the hard pack and does not really affect running speed but there is a short section (probably about 200 yards each way) that is soft sand that most certainly slows you down.

I was only about ¾ of a mile into the run when I was passed for second place. I was a bit surprised because I didn’t think anyone was that close on the bike but he was running 7 minute miles and so I didn’t try to follow. I didn’t feel like I had that in me but 8’s were feeling fine. I waved off the water at mile 1.25 and had a small drink at mile 2 and continued on out onto the beach section. At about mile 3, I looked behind me to see someone closing fast. I knew I was about to give up third place. Turns out it was a fellow West Sound Tri Clubber, Justin Jablonowski. He was hammering out 6:50 miles and was obviously feeling good. I gave him some congrats as he passed and kept chugging.

I was planning to take some water and some EFS liquid shot at the 4 mile aid station. However, it didn’t exist so I kept going…still in 4th. Then, there wasn’t one at mile 5 either. What the heck is going on here? OK, no problem (I told myself), I will get water at the turnaround at mile 6.55 and I will be fine. Well, guess what…no aid at the turnaround either. Now, I am starting to get pissed. I have now been running for over 6 miles with just one sip of water. Not in my race plan at all. Now my brain is starting to tell me that I can’t sustain a good pace without some water (I get dehydrated easy and then puke). I started running back the other way very pissed off and not in the right mindset to finish the race off strong. At about mile 7.5, I saw a truck out fixing cones and patrolling the course so I flagged them down and they were unaware that there was no aid. When I hit mile 8.5, there was a makeshift water station set up and I was able to get some water and some fuel. By this point though, I had let my negative attitude defeat me and was sure that I could not run fast anymore. Two more people past me somewhere in this section and I was down to 6th.

We still had to run all the way from mile 8.5 to mile 11 with no aid and I was just getting more and more defeated mentally. Two more eventually passed me on the beach and put me in 8th place overall.

I ended up with a disappointing 1:56:31 run.

Overall, it was a 5:03:34 half iron performance and 8th place overall out of over 100. I am not going to complain about that. It is a 9 min PR for me and it was a great race for most of the day.

ADF Photos: TriFREAKS Ocean Shores Tri and Foot Fest 7/14/2012 &emdash; TriFREAKS Ocean Shores

ADF Photos: TriFREAKS Ocean Shores Tri and Foot Fest 7/14/2012 &emdash; TriFREAKS Ocean Shores

It is amazing to me how much the mental side of endurance sports can affect your performance. Could I have maintained my pace despite the lack of aid stations? I don’t know if I could have physically but I allowed myself to be beaten mentally. I let the course and the situation beat me. Justin ran a 1:30 half marathon with the same aid as if he didn’t even notice. Mental? Physical? Not sure, but I do know that the mental side of things is VERY powerful. I did almost puke at the end of the race though…so there is some physical side to it.

After the Race:

Not much to say here. We would have liked to have stayed for a while to see some friends finish but we had to jet back to Bremerton to pick up our kids. We had a great time overall at this race (Paula did quite well in her first Oly), and we will likely be back despite the aid station issues.

The Aid Station Issues:

After talking with the Race Director (who I consider a friend), I understand why there were issues. He gives assignments to volunteers (which are needed to make these events happen) and if they don’t show up as they promised, it is difficult to recover in a small race like this. He had a BUNCH of volunteers just not show up and not even tell him. That is a very difficult thing to recover from. If you don’t have enough volunteers and you know it, you can hire some people if you have to. But, if people say they are going to show up and they don’t, you will have a hard time recovering from that.
Don’t take the volunteers at these races for granted…they are necessary to make these events work and they are vital to the success and safety of the athletes on the course. I am not upset about the aid station issue, I am just disappointed that it turned out that way. I will be back to a TriFreaks event and I still recommend them.

Special Thanks:

I want to send a big special thanks to Doug Felts (see his work here) for taking some photos out at the race for me.
I also want to thank De Soto for the great tri gear as always.

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