Saturday, August 8, 2015

Block Island Triathlon

Here is my account of my 4th consecutive Block Island Tri, my favorite tri.  Why I am enamored with this tri?

  • Barefoot run on the beach!  
  • Block Island is beautiful.  We usually make a day of it with friends, including the ferry ride and a nice lunch.
  • The camaraderie of my WTAC peers.  Each of the last few years I've persuaded at least one WTAC'er to drink the Kool-Aid.  Two years ago Tom and Matthew, last year Mike B (although he dropped out this year to our disappointment), and this year Chris.
  • Being a runner, the proportions work well for me (see examples below with mileage by event):

Chillin' on the ferry ride over
With the move to the morning last year, this meant an early ferry (6am) and generally getting up about 4am to get the day started.  Picked up Chris along the way and then met up with the rest of the merry gang (Steve, Polly, Tommy, Shara) in Galilee.  After an uneventful sailing, we set up in transition and went for a beach warm-up, giving us our first indication of how hard running at high tide would be.  I saw my "frenemy" Jim Ortel, who just turned 50 this year, and asked him why couldn't he have stayed in the 40s age group longer.  (The one time I beat him was by 5 seconds sprinting at the end in soft sand, the other two times he beat me by more than 2 minutes).
Matthew (foreground) and I
en route to the start of the tri
(Photo by Chris - riding and taking pics?)

Swim:  10:57 (133 out of 354)
A short 100-yard dash on the beach precedes the entry into the water.  Being in wave 14 (of 15), I got to see most of the waves ahead of me.  The first wave stood out for me, where Shara absolutely pulverized her competition, as did Wave 9 (Chris and Tom's wave).  In the latter, a guy absolutely sprinted the beach run part, and then all eyes were upon him to see how he would best that in the swim.  Epic fail:  you could hear the laughter as it became apparent he was almost a non-swimmer with the head way above water, bobbing around, as he got passed quickly by nearly the whole wave.

When it was my turn, I started in the middle, ran easily around the flag and quickly got in a rhythm swimming.   Not fast, but steady, even passing people from the previous waves.  At the Block Island tri, you see everything from great athletes to vacationers backstroking and riding bikes with flowered baskets.

Coming out of the water, I spent a full 2:14 in T1, nearly double Chris' time.  I think I'm wasting too much time putting on mascara in transition; it's time to "man up".  Matthew came into transition as I was finishing up (he was a wave behind me, but nearly a minute faster on the swim).
No repeat of the 2014 tri weather!
(Pouring rain:  Matthew, Mike, Tom)

Just a calm day for swimming (first buoy on swim course at 1:00)
with a sunny blue sky

Bike: 37:34 (27 out of 354)
Really enjoyed the bike this year, and this is not an easy course.  Odd start when I was climbing the airport hills the first lap (of two) and the guy right in front of me just fell over.  Not exactly a crash, but rather he was moving so slowly that he almost came to a stop and then just fell over, perhaps couldn't unclip.  He was laughing about it, so I asked if he was OK, then ran him over rode around him and kept going.
The bikes awaiting us in transition
(Matthew's left; mine right)

Other than the real sharp 90-degree turns, I was able to stay on the aero bars most of the time and was passing left and right (again, remember some of them were riding flowered and single-speed bikes).  Really happy with my ride; averaged 20.0 mph.

Run:  24:57 (2nd out of 354!)
The RD shortened almost 1/2 mile off the course, due to high-tide at a section with protruding rocks.  I was running a not-so-blistering fast pace of 6:40 (~20 seconds slower than last year), but apparently the high tide was affecting others as well.  You could either run in harder sand near the shore but at a steep angle, or softer sand up a ways but at least flat ground.  I chose the shore.  Quickly lost count of the number of runners I passed, but kept my eye on the 50-somethings.

With two turnarounds, you get two chances to assess your competition.  Approaching the first turnaround, I saw Jim Ortel much too far ahead of me for comfort, then Mark Burbelo of Westerly and Chris Huesman of Stonington.  After the flag turn-around, I quickly passed Chris but was dismayed that on the whole 1.5 mile run to the north end of the beach I never saw Mark nor Jim.  Finally approaching the 2nd turnaround I saw Jim, again too far ahead of me.  Had I made up any ground at all?  I yelled to him to take it easy and that he was going too fast, but all I got back was a smile.  Should I work on Jedi mind tricks for next year?

At the flag, I passed Mark Burbelo and the hunt was on for Jim.  Unfortunately I never saw him the whole way back to the pavilion.  I did pass one other 50-something (one advantage of tris is you can see everyone's age marked on their leg), but Jim finished first in our age group and I was second behind him; unfortunately awards go only 1-deep.  As I crossed the finish line, I saw the RD congratulating Jim and I went over to the RD and said I wanted to file a complaint.  Both Robbie (RD) and Jim looked at me seriously and asked about the complaint and I said the half-mile taken off the run today cost me any chance of catching Jim.  We shared a laugh, as Jim said he was fearful that I would catch him and that with the extra 1/2 mile I probably would have, but he was too modest as he beat me by a full 41 seconds.
Cool run stats:  WTAC for 1st four places,
with the next guy, the overall tri winner, over a minute behind!

Final results:  1:16:58, 7th out of 354, 2nd in my age group.  Full results.
Fun outdoor lunch with the gang of 10 at Beach Head on Block Island:
Clockwise:  Steve, Tom, Shara, Jeff, Matthew, Katie & Maisie, Seb, Chris, Polly
Shara won the overall female division, Chris 2nd overall, and Tommy 3rd!  Matthew came in 2nd in a tough teenage age group.

Had a great rest of the afternoon on Block, and then on the ferry ride home, Shara, Tom, Matthew, and I promptly crashed and slept until we arrived back in Galilee.  Steve was upstairs on the ferry, apparently came by to check on us and later remarked, "It's like a retirement home down there!".
Now how am I going to make up those 41 seconds over
Jim Ortel next year?!


  1. Nice race Jeff! You'll find that 41 seconds somewhere... Trip him getting off the ferry next year? (KIDDING)

  2. Outstanding race, Jeff! Despite the conditions, you still rocked the run. Add another 1/2 mile to the race and I'd put money on an age group win for you. 7th place overall is quite impressive. Thanks for a fun day and hope to be back out to the Block next year.