This triathlon was the result of a vacation I took with my girlfriend to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Like any dedicated runner or triathlete, I decided to look to see if there were any races going on while we were there...and there was one :-) It was a 500m swim, 20K bike and 5K run. I figured racing while at the beach would be perfect. I could get in an ocean swim the day before the triathlon and be comfortable in the water.
All the courses were very straight forward and the bike and run course were pancake flat. The swim course was 500m with the current.
The bike and run course were around the same loop. The bike route was 4 loops and the run was one.
We got to Hilton Head on Thursday, went to the beach for a bit on Friday and rented beach cruiser bikes for the week. We rode these to packet pick up and I tried to talk my girlfriend into doing the tri with the beach cruiser since she didn't have her bike. She has never done a triathlon but she taught me how to swim and she also bikes and runs. It's probably a good thing she didn't go the beach cruiser route since they were one gear and running after riding one for 12 miles would more than likely suck. Strangely enough there were 2 girls who rode beach cruiser rental bikes in the race. Packet Pick Up was very small, no bag for my number or swim cap. Since it was a mass start they let everyone pick their own swim cap colors. I considered going with hot pink but decided against it and went with blue. This turned out to be a great decision since not many of the women went with hot pink...or maybe that would have been a plus. Maybe someday I'll have a pink swim cap in my collection and it won't be by choice.
The race started at 7 on Saturday and I decided to wake up at 5:20 or so and the g/f slept in. Our condo couldn't have been in a better place for getting to the race. We were a block away. If you look closely at the bottom right corner of the bike route you can see a traffic circle. The condo is right on the opposite side of the circle...beach front of course. I got to transition right around 6 and picked up my chip as soon as I got there. I bought a new timing chip band since the first one I bought didn't have a slot on the padded strap for the chip to rest in so it's not directly touching your skin. I'm not sure if this made a difference since I doubt I noticed it during the previous races. Either way it helped me mentally before the race and I didn't have to think about it. I took the picture below as soon as I racked my bike.
The gentleman in the left of the picture did not seem very happy that I was taking a picture of (I'm assuming) him and his wife. His fault, he wasn't racing so he shouldn't have been in the transition area. On that note, I've been very displeased with the lack of security at the transition areas during the last two races. The first race had stellar security I saw them stop a few people to make sure they were racing. The second and third let anyone in...strollers, dogs, little kids...probably not the ideal place to let your kids run around in. I don't think anything was stolen and I didn't see anyone get hurt.
I set up my transition area with my new wetsuit and headed down to check out the water and
the path from the beach...It was a long walk. To get there I had to walk out of the transition area, down a mat across some pine needles and through some trees, across a 4 lane road, at least 100 yards down a parking before I got to the beach. I realize some races have much longer runs from the beach to transition but, this one was across a lot of rough pavement in bare feet.
Not a bad set up, it would get smaller since I hadn't attached my shoes to my bike yet. Notice the blue Gatorade frost trend.
This picture is about 10 feet from the edge of the parking lot we must run across. I'd guess the beach is about 150 yards since the tide is out. Notice the small person and yellow buoy in the distance. He hadn't reached the water at this point.
I walked back to transition to see if my girlfriend had moseyed out of bed yet and down to the action...she hadn't. I can't really blame her, who wants to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and stand around while people place their shoes and put on wetsuit. At this point I had no idea what to do. I should have been tying my shoes in place with dental floss but I wasn't thinking. I spent some time chatting and watching other people. I'm not much of a conversationalist but, I'll talk to you if you talk to me. The race director, or someone, kept announcing what time it was and finally said the water temperature was 74 degrees...time to wetsuit up! Oddly, the water temp was 74 every morning while we were there but one day it felt like bath water.
It was extremely humid and not many people were wearing wetsuits. I had mine half on and some guy noticed I broke a sweat. He said "are you sure you want to wear that, you're not supposed to be that sweaty until after the race." "You're telling me...you should have seen me the time this guy at the store told me I would wear a large wetsuit. (I wear and XXL) It's half way on so I might as well wear it" I replied. Then I walked down to the beach and over to the start. The girlfriend found me right after I stepped on the beach. She zipped me up and wished me luck.
We walked down shore and I was wondering how the mass swim start would go. I didn't come up with a strategy since the last two times didn't work out at all and decided to wing it. Strangely, I was not comfortable in the water during my warm up swim and was worried I was going to have a three peat. I stood on the shore and waited for the mass start. I didn't have a swim plan per se, other than not running out with the lead group. The horn went off and I hung back and slowly made my way into the water. Using my amazing logic abilities...I decided I was going to quickly move farther into the ocean and wait until almost everyone in front of me started swimming. Right before I started swimming I decided I was going to breaststroke out to the first buoy since it would be easier and not as tiring to get through the ocean waves this way. I made it to the first turn buoy and had to tread water since there was a ton of bunching. After the turn I pointed myself where I wanted to go and freestyled. I swam along with a decent amount of room at a comfortable pace and just waited for my breathing to get out of control. IT NEVER HAPPENED! I just cruised along stopping to breaststroke a few strokes every minute or so to see if I veered off course since I was passing some people and didn't trust their (or my own) open water navigational skills. The rest of the swim was as smooth as I could have hoped for, I managed to roll with the swells in the ocean and control my breathing. When I made the last turn it became very crowded and I had to stand up sooner than I wanted to. I got about thigh deep and decided it was time to unzip so I didn't overheat on the run to transition. I had a minor problem. A while ago I watched a very nicely done transition video on Youtube. The person in the video suggested unzipping your wetsuit while running out of the water then taking off your goggles and swim cap. Next you're supposed to take the wetsuit top off while holding the items in one hand and letting them get caught in the arm of your wetsuit so you don't have to carry them. I tried this technique and had no problem getting my wetsuit off and leaving the swim cap and goggles in the arm but, when I checked a couple seconds later my goggles were gone. They only cost $15 so I decided it wasn't worth the time loss and definitely wasn't worth pissing a bunch of people off...I still wonder if anyone found them on the beach later that day. I ran up the beach, across the parking lot, across the road and to transition. Not an easy task, if I had a heart rate monitor I'm sure it would have been off the charts.
Total Swim Time: 14:30 which includes the 300-400 yard run. 110/154 for the men.
T1 time was pretty slow as usual...1:57...Everything goes smoothly except I can't do it quickly since my heart is racing. I managed a flying squirrel mount and was off. The first mile was decently slow since I had problems getting my shoes on. Speedplay shoe cleats on Shimano tri shoes are next to impossible to run in.
Once I got my feet in my shoes I picked up speed very quickly. Since the course was flat I figured this would be my fastest bike ride yet. The first loop went by pretty quickly and I passed a good number of people. I was also lapped on the first loop by a decent number of people. I'd love to know how fast they were riding. I averaged 20 mph but hit 25 mph at a few points and still wasn't able to keep up with people on tri bikes. The bike part of the race is probably my least favorite of the three. I have very strong legs but, I'm weak on turns and hills. I probably just need to get out and ride more often rather than taking spin class twice a week. The second and third loops went by a bit slower than the first. Most of my time was spent either passing people smoothly or slowly passing someone and having them pass me after making a turn. I was very pissed off on the second loop when someone decided to pass me on the right side during a turn. He had enough room on either side but, I'd never expect someone to cut me off on a turn from the right side. No one had a penalty assessed the whole race. On the third loop I had just passed someone and I suppose he didn't like this and started to speed up after I passed him but hadn't gone all the way back to the right. There was another group coming to lap up and he sped up and yelled "on your right." I don't think I'll repeat what I yelled back but, he stopped trying to pass me. No one needs to be passed on the left and the right at the same time. Then, the fourth loop seemed like forever but, I did pass one of the girls on the beach cruiser whose chain had come off. I felt pretty bad for her but what can you do.
Total bike time: 38:34 and 100/154
T2 was much slower than T1 considering I had problems getting both my socks and shoes on. The Yankz really help save time but I've decided I have them too tight.
T2: 2:39...WTF was I doing? I could have made lunch faster than that.
I don't have a lot to say about the run other than it was boring and I ran it. I said "good job" to everyone I passed and everyone who passed me. One guy about my size but a bit taller said " You too! It's hard for us big guys." FINALLY! Someone set me up..."It's hard carrying around all this muscle" I said as I passed. Then the last person to pass me told me about how he had been picturing in the finish line in his mind since he got off the bike. I told him I just hope it comes sooner than I think it will.
I rounded the turn for the finish and heard "Here comes Brian J from Alexandria, VA and crossed the finish line in 1:29:07. I tried to talk my body into sprinting to make it under 1:29:00 but my body said Hell No and I slogged along, I should have transitioned faster. Not bad, 10 minutes faster than my previous two. Considering the run on the last tri was .4 miles too long. (Admitted in a reply from the race director to an email I sent about the problems with the course)
Run time: 31:29...much slower than I thought it would be and 127/156 for the men.
Total Time: 1:29:07 -126/154 and 4th (last) in the clydesdales
If I knocked a minute off each transition my place would have only dropped two spots. I was very happy with this race and feel much more confident about doing an Olympic distance in July...Rockett's Landing in Richmond, VA.
I wear Tri Tats during the race since I think they look much better in pictures than magic marker. I'd advise taking them off after the triathlon if you're going to spend anytime in the sun like...at the beach.
Otherwise you'll have 16 year old playboy bunny sticker-like tan lines.
It's still there as of this posting...no one has asked about it...other than people who do triathlons