2013 Diamondman Half-Ironman Race Report
September 8th, 2013
Location: Lum’s Pond State Park, Delaware
Distance: 1.2-mile swim/56-mile bike/13.6-mile run
2012 Triathlon Race Number: 10
Career Triathlon Race Number: 136
Conditions: Unexpectedly hot and humid. High above 90 degrees with challenging humidity. Wind was a factor—probably 10-15 mph. Water temp of 76 degrees.
Just two weeks before my only “A” race in 2013 (IMLT), I was using this race as a final gauge of my fitness before Tahoe as well as a return to the scene of my first long-course Ironman race. Back in 2002 I did my first Half-Ironman with a 5:12 at this site.
I entered the race with a short three-day mini-taper, which really was the beginning of a 17-day taper for IMLT. There were 166 entered OA and 7 in my AG. As I looked at my AG competitors, only Chad Pearce was a real concern—Chad is a long-time LC specialist with many fine half and full IM results. That said based on his race last here at this event where he did a 5:24 I was reasonably confident I could prevail.
After getting set-up in transition and chatting with Chad I made my way down to the pond. Lum’s Pond is definitely not the nicest place to swim in the world and over the years I’ve raced here 4-5 times and have never been able to make the top 3 in my AG—I was hoping today might be different.
As we were waiting for the start I meandered over and sat on a picnic table with a young Black man (I mention his race solely because he was sitting in the most desirable spot near the water and he was all alone—could be coincidence but I doubt it) and we chatted for a while. He had competed in the race the year before and ended up in the hospital with kidney stones. He was excited that the weather looked like it might be nice but I cautioned him that it was going to be a lot hotter than one might expect and certainly hotter than the prior two weeks. I didn’t know at the time that I was talking to the eventual winner of the race (Larry Hutchinson).
Anyways, the ladies went first and all us boys followed 5 minutes behind. The swim course was essentially a rectangle with an in-water start. The leg to the first turn was at least 400 yards so it was possible to find relatively congestion-free swimming space. I don’t have much to report on the swim, as I was pretty confident that I was the strongest swimmer in our AG and as such I took a pretty conservative approach to this swim. I really did not find anyone to draft off and eventually found my way to the swim finish with very little of remark.
I exited the swim with a split of 35:50, which was a mild disappointment. Last year at this time I did a 34:22 at Shoreman on a course that measured 1.32 miles. I had the Diamondman course this year at 1.27 miles. Throwing out the course deltas, I was about 4% slower than last year, which I guess should not be surprising—given my approach to swim training this year. Still, I had hoped that my recent push in swimming might have caught me up to prior years’ fitness levels but this swim indicates otherwise.
The disappointing nature of the swim was reinforced by my relative competitive results as well. I had just the 57th best swim OA (66.3 %-tile) and while I didn’t know it, I was actually well behind Pearce with the second best swim in my AG. At the end of the day, I must conclude that I’m 1-2 minutes slower than I should be at this point in the year and this will probably cost me 3-5 minutes at Tahoe.
I took 1290 strokes in this swim (36spm) for an average dps of 1.73 yds. Not that encouraging. I averaged 28:16/mile. Here is where we stood in my AG after the swim:
1. Pearce --------
2. Christofferson + 2:48
3. Gramm + 4:06
4. Aker + 4:31
5. Chambers +10:06
I ran over the root and rock strewn terrain and through the pond-side woods to T1. I was a little disappointed with my swim split but shrugged it off by thinking that my swim was probably still good enough to top my AG.
I got to my spot, and has been the case for much of this year, I executed a solid transition. My T1 split was 2:43, which turned out to be the 11th fastest OA (94.0 %-tile) and the fastest in my AG. Only as I was leaving T1 did I glance across the aisle and note that Chad was already gone. This was a stunner for me. Until that point it had never entered my mind that Pearce had out swam me. As I sprinted to the mount line I was filled with a sense of determination to ride him down as quickly as possible.
1. Pearce --------
2. Christofferson + 2:26
3. Aker + 6:01
4. Gramm + 6:54
5. Chambers +12:10
After mounting I carefully negotiated the roads in the park until we reached the main road about 1.5 miles in. I then set about trying to run Chad down. I had no real idea of how much Chad had outswam me but in my mind I guessed it was likely to have been 60-90 seconds (not the 168 he had in-fact put on me!).
Two years ago about this time I had averaged 221 watts at SkipJack on the bike and last year I did 201 watts at Shoreman. I was hopeful to be closer to 220 this morning (but SkipJack was probably my second best triathlon of my career so maybe I was being a bit delusional). I had tested my FTP at 280 this summer so 225+ certainly seemed reasonable.
As I hit the first 5-mile lap I noted my power was only 202 watts and given how I felt, I sensed straight away that my power goals might have to be more modest:
Mile 5: 22.5mph/159bpm/85rpm/202 watts AP/203 watts NP
I was a little concerned that I had yet to see Chad and I kept anxiously looking up the road for him (he was in a distinctive IMLP shirt). Finally at about 9.3 miles I closed in on him. I threw a few logs on the fire and went by him at 25+ mph. I didn’t know it at the time but I was moving at 15-16 sec/mile faster than him through this first 9-mile section, which would indicate that I’d get off the bike with a 12-minute lead. Based on my (false) assumptions about my disadvantage I was guessing that I was looking at only a 5-8 minute advantage after the bike, which did concern me.
I just tried to relax and stay comfortable during this early part of the race. There were quite a few turns and an out-and-back section that had a surprising amount of hills:
Mile 10: 22.5/157/90/207/209
Mile 15: 22.2/154/88/205/207
Mile 20: 23.0/153/87/206/210
At this point in the race I felt pretty good about things. I was averaging around 205 watts, which seemed ok and I was spinning well. My HR was higher than I would have expected but I was unaware of that at this time.
After the turnaround, which was around 22 miles or so we came into a surprisingly strong headwind. It was clear to me right away that it was going to be tough to break 2:30 on this bike (which I had fully expected to do). The bike was turning out to be harder than I had expected and I also began to sense that I wasn’t 100% this morning.
I carefully looked for Pearce and saw him shortly after the turn. I calculated that I was now 160 seconds ahead of him, which indicated that I was riding about 13 sec/mile faster than him. Based on this, I now estimated that I would hold a 7-minute lead on him getting off the bike. Helpful, but too close for comfort for sure. There wasn’t much to be done about it however as in my judgment I was going about as fast as I should given how I felt this morning.
Mile 25: 21.8/152/88/201/203
Mile 30: 20.5/151/88/201/206
Mile 35: 21.6/150/87/200/203
Mile 40: 22.6/152/89/193/195
Mile 45: 23.3/150/86/193/196
As the above numbers indicate, I lost a bit of focus between 35 and 45 miles. There were very few people on the road in front of me and I was busy convincing myself that I was a stronger runner than Chad and so I would be fine AG wise. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was also blowing my energy and more importantly fluid intake as I had not properly modified my plans for the increasingly challenging conditions this morning.
I came back into the wind and looked for Chad after the final 180 turn but never saw him. I continued to be convinced that I would have a 7-9 minute lead leaving T2.
Mile 50: 21.3/152/87/206/208
Mile 55: 20.3/152/89/199/204
Mile 56: 20.9/157/90/210/210
I jumped off the bike with a 2:33:00 split. This is off-course disappointing. I averaged just 201 watts with a NP of 204 watts. My measured IF was just 77.2%, which means I was 20 watts short this morning—a pretty big shortfall. I averaged 21.9mph with an average cadence of 88rpm and an average HR of 153bpm—the later is worrisome given my lack of power. My TSS was 147.5, which indicates a very conservative ride. I recorded 869 feet of climbing and burned an estimated 1684 calories during ride.
From an external perspective I had the 9th fastest bike OA (95.2 %-tile) and was dramatically faster than anyone in my AG—in fact, I ended up beating Pearce by over 15 minutes which led to a better than expected gap after the bike:
1. Christofferson --------
2. Pearce +12:42
3. Aker +28:03
4. Gramm +35:09
5. Chambers +49:54
As I jumped off my bike I noted that I felt pretty good and in my mind I had an eight-minute lead on Chad—which seemed to me as good enough, but not without risk. As I was doing my T2 stuff, I saw Larry come in shortly after me and as I ran out of T2 before him I said hi and told him I’d see him soon enough on the run. Little did I know I was leading and talking to the eventual race winner in T2. I had the 36th best T2 (78.9 %-tile) and I lost 39 seconds to Chad and as such had the 2nd best T2 in my AG:
1. Christofferson --------
2. Pearce +12:03
3. Aker +29:12
4. Gramm +39:03
5. Chambers +51:16
Naively, perhaps, I was really looking forward to this run. It’s an interesting run with about 6 miles of true cross-country running and then a few miles along the canal that connects Delaware Bay to the Chesapeake. I was pretty confident that I would run under 2 hours. I was in for a big surprise.
I don’t have any HR info for the run as I forgot to pair my new HR strap to my 910 but I was a bit surprised at how hot it was on the first mile and how slowly I was running. The next couple of miles confirmed that this was going to be a very challenging run. It was brutally hot and there was limited fluid and energy available on the course. I began to get a sense that I might be in a bit of trouble. My first three miles were: 8:59/9:23/9:23.
At this point I was resigned to a slow run and just wanted to nab the AG win. Based on his past performances, I was anticipating that Chad was going to average 9:30/mile so I was feeling comfortable that I was staying reasonably even with him on the run. As we wound our way down to the canal I became aware of how brutally oppressive the conditions were. Not as bad as Eagleman or Gulf Coast of 2008 or IM Germany of 2010 but pretty bad for sure.
I became concerned as I continued to slow out to the turn-around on this out and back course. My next three miles were 9:58, 9:58, and 10:24. By this point in time it was clear that the course was miss-measured as well (and it would turn out to be a half-mile long at the end) and I began to feel pretty concerned about my ability to hold onto first in my AG.
I tried to run hard after the turn, as I wanted to look strong when Chad came by the other way, which he did about 4 minutes after I made the turn. This indicated that I was still 8 minutes ahead, which was a real plus in my mind. Based on this, I felt I was probably running the same pace as him over the first half of the run course. In fact, I had already lost 4 minutes too him and I was not feeling well at all—if I had know this I probably would have conceded that I was destined to finish second.
I kept pushing on but beginning around 7 miles I felt a profound sense of fatigue. One of the water stations had run out and I felt like I was frying out there. I knew I had screwed up and was now facing both an energy and a fluid bonk—not fun campers! I ran the next miles along the canal in 9:56, 10:01, 10:54, and 11:57. The last mile included some walking up the steep hill up away from the canal.
In my mind, I had probably lost 3-5 minutes relative to Pearce after the turnaround. I was cooked. I began to get dizzy and my arms and calves began to cramp pretty badly. I had 5-k to go and I decided that it didn’t matter if I won or not (although, that was really not true). I wanted to just finish in one piece and to get my mind focused on IMLT. If Pearce caught me that that’s the way it goes—I tactically blew my energy/fluid plan today.
I could barely manage 150-200 yards of consecutive running before I would feel faint and my legs would really cramp up. Mile 11 was 12:21 and mile 12 was 12:30. Shortly after 12, I almost fainted and a giant horsefly started attacking me and bit me 4-5 times before I killed him—the bugger was about 2 inches long!
I made a deal with myself. I convinced myself to just keep pushing through the woods and then when I got to the open field—about 400 yards from the end—I could look back and see if I saw Chad. If not, I could just walk it in. If I saw him I could just walk it in as well as I was completely fried and worried about just getting across the line.
When I reached the open field I looked back and saw---nothing! So walk I did, except for the final 50 yards and mercifully I finally crossed the line. I stopped and almost immediately passed out. My blood pressure plummeted and I bent my head over just 5 feet past the finish line to try to keep enough blood in my brain. This attracted the attention of a cop and a paramedic. They attended to me for the next several minutes right there at the finish line (during this time Chad finished) and they eventually brought me a chair where I sat for 15 minutes with cold, wet towels draped over me. Eventually, I was able to get it together and while I’ll spare you the details of what happened post race, suffice it to say, I was a hurting puppy.
My run split was 2:27:41. For the 13.62-mile course this works out to 10:51/mile. There was 299 feet of climbing on the course. Only Pearce was faster than me in my AG on the run and he too had suffered mightily down the stretch. I was just 82nd OA on the run (51.2 %-tile) and I finished 41st OA (75.9 %-tile) with a time of 5:40:59. Here is how we finished in my AG:
1. Christofferson --------
2. Pearce + 2:07
3. Aker +62:16
4. Gramm +64:43
5. Parson +77:56
Winning ugly is the only way to characterize this. I really sucked it up down the stretch despite feeling worse than I have in all but maybe 2-3 prior races. This was very, very hard. I did get the victory, my 7th in 10 races this year and the 45th of my career and I feel like I really earned it. Beyond that, I’m going to mostly ignore this race and look forward to IMLT with optimism. Sometimes, you have a tough day in the office. I give thanks to have persevered despite that today!