Monday, September 9, 2013

FirmMan Half Ironman Triathlon

Narragansett, RI
Sunday, September 8, 2013

A grueling 5-plus hour competition.  While waiting for word from me, my Mom purportedly asked Jana, "Why does Jeff do these"?  Hmm, not sure I have a great answer.  I suspect much the same as with marathoners, rock-climbers, ultra trail runners, people swimming the English channel, etc., for me the lure includes the challenge, the experience, and the satisfaction of completing a personal goal set fairly high for my own standards.

This was my second Half Ironman, the previous one being the same event two years ago.  Going into this, I had a single goal (no "A" goal, "B" goal, "C" goal like I typically set for my marathons), which was to beat my 2011 time of 5:58:37.

Swim (1.2 miles):  52:20 (232 out of 255 swimmers); 2011 - 44:33 (215 / 240).  Net 8 minutes slower, but since my overall position didn't change much, I'm assuming [hoping?!] much of it had to do with current.  In these long swims with serious competition, my deplorable swimming skills stand out.  I know I need coaching help if I'm serious about getting any faster here.  52 minutes is a long time to be in the water swimming constantly, and not being able to get a drink.  At the beginning of the swim, with more than 90% in wetsuits, I remember snickering to myself of a blond 17-year old who stood out in wearing nothing but his outrageously small Speedo and a pair of goggles.  Yep, he won the whole swim - 23:33, less than 1/2 my time and four minutes over his next competitor!
Final swim buoys:
fortunately today the water is nice and calm

Bike (56 miles):  2:48:02 (55th place); 2011 - 3:28:38 (214th place).  Best part of my day.  Narragansett Pier to Charlestown hills to Westerly and back.  Took more than 40 minutes off my 2011 time!  Thanks especially to FiveK for joining me on all the training rides; they paid off!  Unlike last time dying before I even got to Westerly, I was feeling really good up until just about 10 miles to go.  The flats on Route 1 out to Kings Factory just flew by, and for every rider that passed me, I probably passed 4 others.  Climbing up Shumankanuc Hill, it was quite the adrenaline rush to see Jonny and his family out cheering the riders.  With the vast majority of participants being out-of-staters, hopefully he and his entourage enjoyed seeing me as well.  Didn't have any energy to speak, but rode close to his yard and slapped hands with Seth and Jonny.  Freshly charged from seeing Jonny, I caught the next rider that I would battle for the rest of the race:  "Mr. Newton" (he wore a green shirt emblazoned with a large "NEWTON").  I passed Mr. Newton up Shumankanuck, he passed me down Burdickville by Amtrak, I passed him on the Burdickville climb up to 91, and so it went...

Passed the Hammett entourage one more time back down the hills to Route 1.  I am certain if I had had WTAC cheering stations every 5 miles on the course, I would have done even better.  Route 1 to Westerly went fast, where the police stop Route 1 traffic at Robin Hills to let riders cross, and as I slowed at the 2nd bottle pick-up, Mr Newton passed me for the final time on the bike.  Last time I struggled with and hated the whole ride back from Westerly to Narragansett, but this time went so much better.  I was on the aero bars almost the whole time, and although the pack had really thinned about by now, I still passed 5-10 riders on the way back (and got passed by 2 - 3).  At about mile 45, I was getting really uncomfortable in the saddle, but I just kept counting down the miles and hung in there.  Just before turning off Route 1 near Wakefield, I hit some debris in the road and could hear that ominous sign of tire puncture.  Enough air stayed in the tire to make it back to transition, and when I got back from the run, it was completely flat.
Finish line I'll be crossing at the end of the run

Run (13.1 miles):  1:36:03 (52nd place); 2011 - 1:38:08 (30th place).  Fell apart on the run.  Should be my bread and butter, but I'm just exhausted and it's 80 degrees at Noon in direct sunlight.  Ran the first 4 miles about 6:50 pace - mistake, unsustainable!  At mile 2, a car stopped next to me before turning into a driveway.  Good, thank you for stopping - no, now as I'm crossing the driveway, despite yells from volunteers for her to stop, she turns into the driveway.  Ugh!  I end up running a ways into her lawn to avoid getting hit and in the process I completely miss a water stop.  The runner just ahead of me witnesses this and gives me what water is left in his cup - awesome!  Reminds me of the runner that gave Muddy a gel in the middle of one of his marathons.

On out and back sections, I passed Elise for the 1st of 3 times.  She said her legs had just given out.  Reached Mile 5 and this was no longer fun or easy. Slowed pace into the 7s.  A momentary happy moment as I caught and passed Mr. Newton and saw him for the last time.  By Mile 8 turn-around; my fuel gauge was on Empty.  The urge to walk was real strong, especially seeing quite a few runners walking now.  I kept trodding on until Mile 11, where I was feeling like I was going to faint and throw up.  Walked through the water stop and up a small hill.  As with times I've walked in marathons, I was afraid I would be walking/jogging the rest of the route, but the short break and refuel was just enough to keep running the rest of the race, albeit by now at about 7:45 pace.

The final 1/4 mile is on heavy thick sand on the beach.  I can see the finish line now and spectators are lining both sides of the run course leading to it.  All of a sudden, a rather large, older woman steps right into the run path!  The guy on the megaphone yells for her to get off the course, I try to move left out of her way, but she moves the same direction - COLLISION!  I'm running; she is just standing there; something about the physics law "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" takes place, and she goes flying down into the sand as I run to the finish line.  Do I attract idiots? (Mike B, it's a rhetorical question, but feel free to respond anyway.)  Sorry, lady, I feel bad, but you left me nowhere to go.

Final Results:  5:23:16 (52nd place); 2011 - 5:58:37 (161st place).  Full results here.  PR by over 35 minutes!  I crossed the finish line, ate about 6 pieces of watermelon, and as I walked back to the ocean to cool off, my legs cramped and started to spasm as they gave out and I fell on the shoreline and just lay there until my calves subsided enough to get up.  Spent the rest of the day eating everything in sight, and hobbling around, especially on stairs!

I'm dubious for running the beach race Tuesday, but the next three races will be easy by comparison:  Surftown Half, OCY Tri, Smuttynose Marathon (yes, even that should be easier for me!).  Will have to seriously reconsider whether I would or could ever do a full Ironman, but for today, I'm thrilled with my FirmMan outcome!


  1. Great work Jeff! Completing this event is a major accomplishment and you looked really strong on that Shumankanuc hill.

  2. I had to laugh at the finish line incident. Didn't you have a similar experience at the Cox Marathon a couple of years ago? Tremedous job out there. You looked fast and strong going by my house.

    1. Yes, but at least at Cox Marathon I didn't knock anyone down! Another Westerly triathlete there watching the FirmMan asked me jokingly afterwards if I was planning to body-slam any more spectators or beach-goers today.

  3. That's a great race, in spite of the "obstacles" you had to overcome!!! Now on to the easy stuff (and you know you have issues when the marathon is on the "easy" list), and great WTAC representin' at Surftown!

    1. EasIER, Mike, for the marathon (seriously), but by no means easy.

  4. Congratulations Jeff! Excellent job on the bike and outgunning your 2011 performance! Older *is* better ;-)

  5. Nasty. Great work out there! Most impressed that you still had the energy to drop a body slam at the end of that badboy. Kidding aside, impressive performance.

  6. Congratulations!!! Your blow by blow was entertaining. I too am impressed with your ability to first avoid denting someones vehicle and two dropping a large spectator in a poof of sand! Or should they be idiot #1 and #2? Well done and well recapped!

  7. Great race! I was the runner in a relay team for this race. My first time. I thought it was great. Not my best race but I did get a small PR. Loved the course but I am partial since I live in Narragansett and know the streets so well. Congrats on a 35 minute PR!