Thursday, June 30, 2011

Phil's Rock Hall Race Report

Phil had a fantastic race this past weekend so I asked him to write a race report. He is getting pretty good at these things! Here is his report- and I interject sometimes :)

Disclaimer: I critique the race a bit below, so first let me say that this race was amazing.  The race was overall executed very well by the race staff and I enjoyed the course, the volunteers, and the support of the citizens of Rock Hall. (I agree! It was my favorite tri yet!)

Rock Hall Race Report

I had no intention of racing this soon after Eagleman.  When Lauren asked me if I wanted to race Rock Hall I tried to convince myself that I was giving my body some time to recover and that it was too early to race… but after looking at my Garmin Connect I realized this was not the case and I had worked out for well over 10 hours the week following Eagleman.  (Let's be real- Phil did a 90 mile bike ride like 5 days after crushing Eagleman) It took some additional coaxing but Lauren finally talked me into signing up after she agreed to drive to the race and make reservations for a crab feast following the race.  (I obviously know that coaxing Phil with food works well)

Eagleman 70.3
Rock Hall was my third Olympic distance triathlon.  At Rumpass (The 2nd Olympic) I did not respect the distance.  I went in with a lax attitude as I had been riding and running much longer than the race distances.  That was dumb.  Rumpass hurt!  The bike was miserable and then I just went through the motions when I finally made it to the run.  I went into Rock Hall with the knowledge that any distance triathlon is difficult and to always respect the distance. 

I do a lot of research and planning for every race.  I primarily review course maps before a race.  I absolutely love maps (weird huh?) and have always been intrigued by them. (Phil keeps an atlas of the US in the car and hates my GPS.)  I look at the course maps to ensure that I know exactly what to expect, to create ‘milestones’ along the course and (most importantly) so I do not get lost.  The first thing I noticed that swim course was listed differently in the Rock Hall Details guide versus the Course Maps PDF.  Both swim courses listed had a lot of turns and appeared they may be confusing when in the water.  The bike and the run both looked very straight forward with some nice corners for milestones on both.  The bike course map did not contain a ‘close-up’ view of the course showing the route from transition to the highway and vice-versa.  I knew that I needed to look at both before the race.

the swim wound up NOT being this
As Lauren and I were approaching Rock Hall I noticed that we were driving on the same highway as the final 8 mile stretch of the bike course.  The course was advertised as “pancake flat” so based on my average MPH of 21.7 at Eagleman, I wanted to push the pace and average 24MPH on the shorter course.  My immediate observation of this stretch of road was that it was primarily downhill with some rollers.  Based on my expert knowledge of how the world works, I made the assumption that the first half of the bike course must be primarily uphill… ugh, the course was not as advertised.

We rolled up to the race site and got everything setup. The transition area was a nice open grassy field about 100 yards from the Marina.  The crab house sat about 200 yards away, taunting me of the future delicious meal. 

I scouted out the swim to bike transition.  The swim had a dock exit with around a 200 yard to transition.  I could not make sense of the swim course as it looked completely different from either map.  I biked the first 2 miles of the course.  The route from transition to the first highway was well marked except for the left turn onto the first major highway.  All other turns had a sign except this corner.  The bike to run transition was very straightforward and the course appeared to be very well marked.

At 7:45 everyone made their way to the swim start.  You had to jump off a dock to get in.  You could not tell the depth of the water so I tried to ease myself in.  I somehow ended up doing an ungraceful face-first-flop entrance.  After a warm up I got out, wished Lauren luck with a kiss and then got back in for my wave.  This time I just jumped off the dock and did a huge cannonball. I was ‘that’ guy.

The swim course was altered the day of the race.  The final course was a double loop following a triangle shape within the marina.  The swim was uneventful.  I sighted well and stayed smooth.  The exit was advertised as a ladder exit.  Instead, the exit consisted of a platform located a few inches below the surface of the water and then a large step onto the dock. (It was too high for me to jump out so I had to roll like a beached whale onto the dock as one of the race volunteers just watched me struggle. Jerk)   I pulled myself up and ran into transition passing two competitors.   I strapped on my HR sensor and pulled on my jersey and helmet.  As I ran out of transition two people were in front of me.  Both of them crossed the bike start line and stopped to mount their bicycles.  I sprinted past and executed my ungraceful, but effective flying mount.  I could hear fear in the volunteer’s voice as she observed. 

As I turned onto the first long stretch of highway I could see around six people in front of me.  At this point I had no idea what place I was in.  As planned, I tried to push the pace.  This was very unsuccessful.  A strong head wind with a false-flat slowed the pace.  I was cranking hard, but was only holding 20-21MPH.  The first half of the bike was extremely difficult.  I kept telling myself to just keep pushing. (Same for me- I stopped looking at my watch because I was getting frustrated at my speed)  At the turn around point I finally felt warmed up.  I am sure the flat terrain with a bit of downhill assisted. At this point I tried paced a competitor that had cruised past me.  I kept an elevated pace and always had him in sight.  It was great motivation. 

As I neared transition I unstrapped my shoes and prepared for the running dismount.  I forgot to pull one water bottle from the cages behind my seat.  As I tried to swing my leg over the top I had to really flex to pull my leg over the water bottle. Another ungraceful, but effective transition.  I ran out of transition at the same time as the person who passed me on the bike.  He was not in my age group and looked like a strong runner.  I let him go as I held my 7:00 minute mile pace. 
The first lap felt great.  I held my pace and passed multiple people.  The second lap was rough.  I was getting tired and my HR was peaking.  I played mental games and just kept pushing, trying to keep a rhythm.  The last 3 miles were painful but melted away quickly.  Before I knew it the last turn was in sight.  I pushed hard, running the last mile at under a 6 minute pace.  I felt great!  I crossed the line with a smile seeing that I had a PR by around 1 minute!

I got some Gatorade and went and cheered on the rest of the racers.  It was a ton of fun!  I saw Lauren finishing her first loop and she asked me “If I had won my age group.”  (Phil is a really great cheerleader- he was cheering for me until I could no longer see him!) I had no idea.  I walked back over and saw they had results posted.  It was like I was going to check my grade on a final.  I was nervous and excited.  I ended up 8th overall and first in my age group!  My first age group victory!

I was so excited to tell Lauren.  I went back out and cheered for her as she came into the finish looking strong and setting a PR for herself.  As soon as she crossed the finish line she asked me, “Did you win?”  I said “I think so.”  I think she was more excited than I was- she started screaming and cheering! (Of course I was super excited for Phil! Don't let him fool you- he was damn excited too. He just wasn't jumping up and down and screaming like I was. I was also pretty pumped for myself because I PRed as well! It was a great race day all around.)

I got a nice plaque and we hung it near the Allied Medal display.  Yippee!
Phil's Results:
Swim     26:15
T1           2:06
Bike       1:05:22 (22.63 mph)
T2           :46
Run        43:43 (7:03 min/mile)
Total time:  2:18:11, 1st in AG

Laurens Results:
Swim  31:47
T1       2:25
Bike    1:20:44 (18.4 mph)
T2       1:28
Run     1:00:53 (9:40 min/ mile)
Total time: 2:57:16, 5th in AG


  1. I think I need to follow your map-studying strategy!

  2. Phil is a beast. He's doing Cozumel, right?

  3. By the way Lauren, this is my first ever Blog post!

  4. Great report and race! I love Lauren's commentary with it :)

    PS - can you teach me how make my transitions faster?

  5. 1. I hate when courses aren't as advertised. See: Total 200.
    2. I need some of that T2 speed!
    3. Phil should blog. And maybe write my race reports for me.
    4. CONGRATS to both of you on a great race!

  6. Congratulations to both of you! I love race reports, so it was fun to read two of them. I guess I need to learn how to flying mount, because I look so lame kicking my pedals around.

  7. this is cute. CONGRATS to you both! and i also need to learn this flying mount business. sigh.

  8. Congrats to Phil! I think it's great that you are both into tris and can do them together! I'm sure it's really nice having someone who understands what you are going through.

  9. I read this earlier on my phone but couldn't comment! congrats on an awesome race, both of you!! You are both super speedy. That's an awesome plaque, Phil!! Well deserved:).

  10. Im just now reading this! Great Job Phil! I love that you guys are able to race and train together :)