Monday, September 20, 2010

Phil's Nations Triathlon Race Report

As promised, here is Phil's race report. Grab a cup of coffee or a coke and settle in for a few is a little long!

Written by Phil:

5:00am: Alarm.  I do not enjoy waking up early.  Never have, never
will.  I am like a baby when it comes to sleep, if I do not get my
eight hours I am cranky.  I would like to say that today was
different, but I was not excited to be up at this dark hour.

I had been stressing over this morning for the last two days.  I
always stress about packing my bag and forgetting something.  I
generally lay everything I need on the table or the couch and pack the
morning of the event.  I tried to overcome this to reduce time and
packed everything the night before, it was a bit stressful, but I had
to trust myself.

I filled my water bottles, grabbed my bag, and Lauren and I started
our four mile journey to the race course.  Since my race bicycle was
already in the transition area, I was on my mountain bike.  This made
things easier as it was raining.  Now, rain comes I all sizes,
direction, and rate.  It was pouring!  The rain drops were massive and
stung my eyes as we proceeded.  The only redeeming quality of this
rain was that it was falling straight down and not “Raining Sideways.”
 We finally arrived, both completely soaked.  Yuck.  I locked up my
bicycle, gave Lauren a kiss and proceeded to enter the transition

My makeshift trash bag bicycle cover I set up the day before seemed to
work well!  My handle bars and seat were both still nice and dry.  I
got my area all set up and put on my wetsuit.  Burrrr!  It was cold
getting the suit on, but after I was fully encased it felt quite warm!

The start of the race was delayed 20 minutes due to the rain.  I was
initially annoyed as I just wanted to get started, but it allowed for
a restroom break and the wetsuit kept me warm.

Wave 12 was finally called and I entered the water.  I positioned
myself at the front middle of the pack.  I had two new pieces of gear
for this race, new goggles and a wetsuit. The wetsuit was already
proving it’s worth as I bobbed around without effort waiting for the
starting gun.  The goggles felt great as they sat on the bones on my
face instead of pressing into soft tissue like my old ones.

Boom!  We were off!  The wetsuit feels amazing!  There are people
everywhere, but I have enough room to do three stroke breathing and
get into a rhythm.

I get to the second marker (200m) and realize I forgot to start my
watch!  First mistake!  I quit stroking for a moment and start my
watch.  How much time am I missing on my watch?!  This would be a
question I would ask myself throughout the entire race!  After
starting my watch I realized that the water was so murky that you
could not even see your hand when pulling through the water.  This
meant that visibility was less than 4 inches… I hoped no one would go
under as it would be impossible to see them.

The swim was going very well.  I was a bit too far outside the buoys
as I approached the memorial bridge.  I worked myself back into the
middle off the pack to avoid the arch supporting the structure.

I couldn’t stop thinking about two things as I swam.  The first
thought was how much extra do I end up swimming because I am so far
away from the buoys.  I still do not know the answer to this question.
 The second was the shape of the swim course.  The announcer kept
saying the swim course was setup to look like the Washington monument.
 As I approached the ‘point’ I was wondering if this would be true.
It actually did look like the Washington monument as you had slight
turns from the buoys beyond the point of the monument.  This kept my
mind off the actual act of swimming.
Swim Course

As I approached the ‘point’ of the course I tried to hug the buoys.
Ugh.  People everywhere!  I was now working my way into the group that
had started before me.  The rest of the swim was spent mainly doing
two stroke breathing with lots of scouting and planning.  I worked my
way well into the two groups that started before me, and attempted to
not swim over anyone as I know I hate getting kicked or hit as I swim.

After navigating through the sea of athletes I was finally out of the
water and on the dock.  The swim went great!  My new gear worked
perfectly!  The path to the transition was quite a distance.  I
decided to leave my wetsuit zipped up until I actually made it to the
entrance of the transition.  I figured I could run faster with
something stuck to my body, rather than having a floppy piece of
rubber attached to my waist.  This seemed to work well.  Running into
the chute before the transition I saw Lauren and started screaming and
twirling my swim cap over my head.  From the photo I think everyone
around me thought I was nuts.  After unsuccessfully attempting to
throw my swim cap to Lauren I made my way to row 25 and took a right
hand turn towards my station.  I peeled my wetsuit off using the
‘little kid’ method; essentially I stepped my wetsuit with one leg and
pulled my other leg up.  It worked nicely.  I tore open the trash bag
I used to keep my shoes and gear dry, Velcroed my shoes, un-racked my
bicycle and took off.

I ran through the muddy transition area and hopped on my bicycle.  I
began my 25 mile journey with a seamless clip-in.  The bicycle portion
went really well.  I did a lot of passing and was rarely passed.
Nearly every person that overtook me had a tri specific bicycle with
an aero helmet.  Since they were so decked out I did not feel
obligated to keep up.

There were only a few highlights in the bicycle.  I spotted around 5
people with flat tires and one guy running barefoot carrying his
bicycle with around 5 miles left to cycle!  I may have heard someone
from the other direction run off the road.  It happened beyond my
field of vision and I did not turn around to check, but it sounded
like a large object crashing into foliage.  I just hoped he was
alright.  I paced my speed off of a guy in the same jersey as me (Just
by chance!).  At one point there were three cyclist’s with the same
jersey riding near me.  We passed a cheer station where someone
thought we were on the same team and yelled, “Go team green!”  That
amused me and eventually I caught up and talked to the guy I was
pacing off.

The entire bicycle ride I was checking my mileage, the time on my
watch, then calculating average speed and project finishing time, this
was an inexact science as I still did not know how much time I missed
when I forgot to start my watch.  My realistic goal from the beginning
was to break 3 hours, with a lofty goal of breaking 2:30.  From my
calculations I could reach my lofty goal if I kept my cycling pace and
ran a sub 8 minute mile pace.  “Easy!” I thought, but was still
questioning if my legs would brick up on the transition and how Haines
Point would treat me.

As I neared the finish, I successfully took both my feet out of my
shoes before the stop line, pedaled for the last 200 meters on top of
my shoes and ran into the transition area barefoot.  Lauren was at the
dismount line cheering me on and taking photos!  It was a great

I again made my way to row 25, this time taking the outside, less
muddy access corridor.  I grabbed my dry socks out of my trash bag and
inserted my feet into sopping wet shoes and ran away into the mud!

I saw Lauren again leaving the transition, cheering and taking photos!
 No bricking, Legs felt great! I got the see Lauren!  “To the finish”
I thought!

Since I run around DC quite often I knew the run course well.  The
description stated there was a short steep hill around mile one.  I
knew this was an overstatement.  The hill they reference is right
before the finish of the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler.  It is fairly
short, but is definitely not very steep.  After the massive hill the
course looped around Haines Point.  Haines Point is very scenic, but
having completed many training runs and rides at this location, it has
lost luster.  Haines point is now just a painfully long and monotonous
loop.  The only milestone you have is reaching the end of the point
and essentially running back on different, but similar looking road.
I was feeling great throughout the run.  Determining my pace during
races has always been a difficult task.  I can generally tell how fast
I am running when training, but for some reason racing is different.
I forgot what time I transitioned and kept missing the mile markers to
look at my watch, so I could not determine how fast or slow I was
going.  For around two miles I was essentially pacing off of a guy in
front of me.  Around mile three and a half I caught up with him.
Seeing that he had a fancy GPS watch I asked him if he had a pace
function.  He replied that he did and the pace was right at a 7 minute
mile!  I was ecstatic!  During my training runs before the race I
would struggle to keep a 7 to 7:30 minute mile pace.  The pace I was
running felt great and more like a 7:45 minute pace!  I ran with him
for about a mile until his shoe came untied.  I wished him luck and

At this point I forgot about the sub 2:30 finish, I knew that would
definitely happen.  I was only picturing one thing at this point, the
small bridge over the inflow for the Tidal Basin for the Jefferson
Memorial.  The small bridge would mean that I have .2 miles left, so I
could sprint the rest of the way.

As I reached the bridge all focus turned to the finish line.  I passed
around 8 people in a large group.  There was around a 50 meter gap
before the next runner.  I knew I could make this distance up and pass
one more competitor.  I dug deep.  I sprinted hard.  I always have a
focused tunnel vision for hard finishes.  I do not look at the crowd,
I look at the finish.  Every picture of me finishing shows my very
upright running style and the appearance that my eyes are closed.  I
think this is because I am looking at the finish line mat and do not
want to trip over it.  When the photos are posted I will see if it
happened at this race, but I bet I will look exactly the same.

I ended up passing the competitor with around 50 feet left before the
finish.  I pretended all the cheering was for me and crossed the line.

Time on Watch:  2:16:39

There was no way that it took me more that 10 minutes to swim 200
meters!  I had surpassed my lofty goal!  I proceeded to get my medal,
and walked towards the post race celebration.

One cool thing they did was have a race receipt report offered
immediately after the finish.  Essentially you could have all your
times printed off immediately.  In some ways I wanted to wait until
the times were posted on the Internet, but I knew if I waited I would
be checking for the results online every minute, so I got my times

Swim    24:09           (1:36 per 100 meters)
T1      3:38
Bike    1:07:05 (22.21 Average MPH)
T2      1:53
Run     42:47           (6:52 Miles Pace)

Overall Time: 2:19:30

Very Excited!!!


  1. Funny thing- I totally forgot to start my watch on my first triathlon. Got it started as I left the water. It screws with you the entire time! Guess it runs in the family.

    Congrats on your finish. BTW- I will never do an Olympic distance tri so you dont have to worry about me ever doing this faster than you. Ha!

    Jenn Kealy

  2. Title: Nikki's Triathlon of Reading Report

    8:47 AM - Oh wow, Phil posted a blog. Sounds cool. I've been training myself to read more lately, so I will attempt this feat. Just grabbed a fresh cup of coffee and I'm ready to begin.

    9:47 AM - I'm about 46 paragraphs in and I'm getting a little dizzy. Luckily I prepared for this blog by reading War and Peace last week. I think I'm about to get to the good part.

    10:55 AM - I have no idea where I'm at and the clock may be referencing mountain standard time. These paragraphs have some muddy transitions and I keep losing my place. So far, I have counted 226 exclamation points and I'm starting to sweat. Luckily I'm reading this blog in an air-conditioned office.

    11:35 AM - As I reached the final few sentences, all focus turned to the finish. Easy I thought, just two more paragraphs and a few pictures from here on out.

    12:13 PM - Damn!!!!! There were another 33 paragraphs hidden below what I thought was the final paragraph. This is truly an epic test of reading ability. As I remind myself that I am not reading a Men's Health article written by J.D. Salinger, I struggle to concentrate.

    1:22 PM - I finished! I pretend that my boss is congratulating me on my reading accomplishment as she walks into my office. However, she wants to know why my 15 minute project is taking me all day to finish.

    Congrats Again Phil.