Monday, August 4, 2014

Block Island Triathlon

Block Island, RI
Saturday, August 2, 2014

This is my favorite triathlon each year, and one that I have made an annual event ever since Steve Schonning talked me into back in 2010.  Even if you can't name your favorite road race, trail race, triathlon, etc., odds are you can quickly cite some of your favorite events as well as some of your least favorite.  So what makes this one a favorite for me?  I know you're asking that question, so I'll tell you:

  • A tri distance ratio that is geared for me:  short swim (1/4 mile) and comparatively long run for a sprint (4 miles).
  • Barefoot run on the beach.
  • The whole experience of a day on the Block (OK, probably more of a minus than a plus this year with the pouring rain, but normally it's a pleasure to visit one of RI's greatest treasures, including the ferry, going out to eat afterwards, etc)
  • The low key home-town atmosphere.  Some may deem that a con, as the course isn't going to be as well as marked as TriMom or HMF events, there won't be computers for you to look up your results at the finish, etc.  But I like the feeling that you get.  The RD was out there in the pouring rain as well, playing 18 different roles, from checking you in with a smile, cheerfully answering questions, announcing race results, serving Gatorade himself, and he came up to me personally afterwards to ask feedback on the new start time and suggestions for next year.  Nice!

Each year I try to proselytize the WTAC masses and get more to join our quest.  I got Matthew to drink the Kool-Aid, FiveK was an easy sell when he was on the Block for a wedding a couple years ago when the tri was going on, and this year Mike B joined us.  Even WTAC newlyweds Kate and Josh competed this year.  Chris, you're next on my convert list.  You know you want to do it, so just block off the first Saturday in August.

And now, at long last, on to the event.  Did I mention it rained?  Mike B arrived at my house at 4:36:22 AM, and by 5AM, we had picked up FiveK along the way, had 4 bikes on the back of my car, and were off to catch the special 6AM ferry out of Point Judith.  (in past years, the race was held at 3:30PM; this year it moved to 9AM)  It was sprinkling when we left the mainland, but a near downpour by the time we arrived on the island.  We got soaked on the short ride to the town beach transition area, and I wrapped my change of dry clothes in garbage bags as best I could.  Matthew, Tom, and I went out for a short run on the beach, came back, suited up, and got ready for our respective waves.
The calm before the storm:
red swim buoy at 3:00, as ferry returns back to Pt Judith

The Swim:  13:44, 116th of 407 finishers.  16 different waves, 1 minute apart.  (the four of us were all in different waves)  Pre-swim we could scoop up polliwog like jellyfish by the handful; we joked about how much "sushi" we'd probably eat during the swim.  The water got increasingly choppy, but I got into a rhythm and actually starting passing people in waves ahead of me (you can differentiate by the color of the swim cap).  The abilities in this tri always run the full gamut, so even back-of-the-pack swimmers like me pass quite a few.
Here is the motley crew at BI Town Beach just before start of tri

The Bike:  37:35, 32nd of 407.  It's a downpour by now.  Didn't matter much on the swim and those that know me know that gazelles run in all kinds of weather, even prefer running in snow in shorts at 20 degrees to a 90 degree run.  But I'm a complete fair-weather pansy when it comes to riding and have no experience in the saddle in the rain.  Time to change that.  Nervous and abundantly cautious at first on puddles, downhills, and sharp turns where the bike skidded upon braking, but as with the swim, I got into a rhythm after a bit and actually averaged 19.8 mph, even with the slow steep airport hill climb.  The whole course is two loops of continuously rolling countryside.

The Run:  26:55, 5th of 407.  Once I could finally locate my bike in transition, was happy to hang up the bike, lose the shoes, and hit the beach for a run.  I started in Wave 15 (of 16), so I had a lot of people to pass.  No one passed me; I lost count of the people I passed somewhere after 70 with a long ways to go.  It's really fun to pick off runner after runner.  Miles 1 and 2 were 6:28 and then 6:39 into the wind.  Mile 3 was into a driving rain and headwind and slowed me down to 6:45.  Just before the turnaround, I passed perennial 50s-age-group winner Mark Burbelo, and not knowing there was no one left ahead of me in my new geezer age group, I continued to pour it on.  Turned around and now going with the wind gave all I had to run the 4th and final mile in 5:55.

Finishing time 1:22:08.  18th overall, and 1st in my age group!  Full results here.
My hard-earned and much coveted award:
engraved mug for 1st place in age group

Other WTAC performances:
  • Matthew took 1st in his age group.  The awards only go 1-deep and when someone mentioned father and son both took their age groups, it was a proud moment for me.
  • Tommy 5K had a great performance, and got so closely edged out for winning his age group.  A mere 17 seconds!
  • Mike B was looking really strong and fast on the run.  He was either having a great run, or he was coming after me to seek vengeance for dragging him to this soakfest.
  • Steve was looking much better on the run than the hobbling he was doing at Crabman.  Hope that's a good sign of things to come.
  • His wife Polly scored an age group win.
  • Josh was the fastest of all of us on the bike.
This is my "white trash" team,
 everyone all decked out in the latest black garbage fashion trend,
as we start the ride back into town in pouring rain and strong winds
(left to right:  Matthew, Mike B, FiveK)

Not long after finishing, I was shivering and starting to shake.  A hot shower and dry clothes did the trick, and then we were off to lunch at the National and a brief stop at a hippie coffee shop before the ferry home.  Even with the pouring rain, all turned out OK and I'm already looking forward to next year's BI Tri.


  1. Wow!! Another awesome performance and domination in your new age group. It's even cooler that both father and son took their divisions. Despite the rain and conditions, it was a very fun day.

  2. Seeing you won the 50+ age group – does THAT cup come with a sippy-cup cap
    Nice job Jeff – thanks for dragging me out to the rock

  3. Looks like a great time! Super awesome both you and Matthew placed, that had to maybe make Matthew smile? I'm sure you were beaming. Glad there were no crashes on the bikes in the rain, that is some scary stuff! Great job!

  4. The Gazelle does love to play in the rain! Congrats!

  5. What a day! I'm not sure this motivated me to sign up for next year's race, but I certainly enjoyed reading about this year's adventure. You guys are animals!