Gulf Coast Triathlon Race Report

May 6 - May 12
S:  12,353 yds - 2hr 55min
B:  96.57 mi - 4hr 40min
R:  30.65 mi - 3hr 52min
Total:  11hr 27min 

Since racing at the beach is pretty much the best thing ever, I decided to put the Gulf Coast Triathlon on my schedule for 2013.  This half iron distance race is well known around the area and has been held annually for the past 31 years.  It also has the reputation for being the “Gulf Roast Triathlon”, as the second weekend in May is often scorching and athletes have not had a chance to acclimate to the hot weather yet.  Nonetheless, I decided to give it my best shot.  Fellow Accelerate 3 athlete Chris Borden would be in attendance, so I was looking forward to meeting and racing against him, as we are very similar in abilities.

our pad for the weekend

On Friday morning, Charles Brammer and I packed up his Excursion and headed down to Panama City.  The day was pretty jam packed, and left a little less time than desired/expected to relax and get ready for the race.  But at least we made it down with a bowl full of goodness!
freshly picked strawberries from Dothan, AL

We both anticipated getting to bed at a slightly more decent hour than 11 pm, but oh well.  The race started on Saturday at 6:15 am and transition closed at 6:00 am, so we wanted to be there by 5:15 am.  This meant leaving the condo at 4:45 am to allow for drive/park time.  Needless to say, my 3:45 am alarm came quite early.  After some aero pressed coffee, a half serving of Ultragen, and a bowl of Koala Crisp cereal with peanut butter, a banana, honey, and almond milk, we headed to the race site.  After setting up transition I met up with Chris Borden and we chatted for a little while.  It was good to hear about his training and the success that he’s having so far with Brian.  Soon after we headed down to the beach to get ready for the start.

perfect conditions for LC racing!

Swim - 30:21 (26th)
My wave (M25-29) was to go off at 6:40 am.  This is an important piece of information.  At 6:20 am I finished zipping up my wetsuit and started wandering around to waste a few more minutes before starting a warm-up.  At 6:28 am, I headed in the ocean to get a quick swim in to loosen up the arms.  The plan was to splash around for 5-7 minutes or so, which would give me 5-7 minutes to line up and get a good position within my wave.  After warming up a little bit I started to walk up the beach.  I was still on the shore line when I noticed a bunch of purple swim caps huddled around the start area.  What!!??  About that time, the announcer said “male 25-29 yr olds, go!”  What the heck??  I was very confused and it all happened very quickly, but my wave was starting (I think)!  Still only 90% sure that my wave was starting (maybe I misheard the announcer and there were other waves with purple caps) I jumped in with my wave near the back in horrible position and spent the next couple of minutes swimming over and around people.  After finding some open water I started to settle down and process what just happened.  At this point I remembered that the announcer had mentioned that athletes needed to enter the back of the starting line chute, which I obviously didn’t do.  Was there a timing mat in the chute that we had to cross?  Was my chip time even started?  It was pretty much the worst feeling ever.  I’m embarking on a 4.5 hour race and I don’t even know if my chip time has been started.  Motivation was way down, and I really let it get to me.  I admittedly didn’t swim as hard as I should have, and I later kicked myself for doing so.  It still felt like a good swim though, which made me even more mad because I realized I probably could have swim 29 low or so.  I later found out from Chris Borden and his wife that all the waves were started early.  I guess I should have been ready for that but in my opinion that is extremely poor form.  With 800 racers and their families on the beach, it was hard to see or hear what was going on so changing the schedule was a pretty terrible decision.  Oh well, it is what it is. 

T1 - 2:00 (4th) 
Still unsure of if my chip was even started, I made a plan to grab an event staff worker as soon as I exited the swim to get it worked out.  Luckily there was one standing at the swim exit timing mat.  I quickly told him that I did not enter the back of the starting line chute and he quickly answered that it didn’t matter and that I was good to go.  Whew…disaster averted!  Stopping to talk to him cost me about 5 seconds so it was no big deal.  My mood and attitude quickly shot way up, and after a super quick transition I was ready to crush the bike.

what my T1 looks like

Bike - 2:21:16 (21st) 
The bike plan was pretty simple: hold watts, change watts slightly depending on wind, adjust downwards if necessary, and take in calories/fluids.  The first hour of the bike was fast and with a tailwind.  I believe I hit the 40k in slightly over 60 minutes.  This only means one thing…the last half of the bike would be into a headwind.  This turned out to be true although it wasn’t too bad.  In general everything went smoothly here.  Watts were slightly higher than plan but it felt good.  Since my wave was one of the first to go off, I was completely all alone out there, as opposed to the 30-40 year olds who had the  slight advantage of being able to get some legal slingshot drafts.  All in all I was pleased with the effort, and a 2:21 is huge half iron bike PB for me.

T2 - 1:20 (38th) 
Nothing going on here, just put my socks and shoes on and I was off.

Run - 1:36:16 (24th) 
Nothing like a half ironman with a 13.5 mile run!  It may not seem like much, but when you've been racing for 4.5 hours an extra 3 minutes feels like an eternity!  Coming off the bike there was no one in front of me, but I knew that there were some 30-39 year olds that started 10 minutes behind me that would be right with me in terms of cumulative time.  I had passed local Birmingham stud Deanna Newman at mile 54 so I came out of T2 a little bit ahead of her.  Part of me was hoping that she would speed up and catch me so that we could run together.  I raced a 5k with Deanna earlier this spring and she threw down a 17:39 (only 9 seconds behind me) so I knew she would be a good person to run with.  My legs felt good starting the run but I really had to pee!  After jumping in a port-o-potty at mile 1 for about 15 seconds, I came out right in front of Deanna...perfect!  We proceeded to run the rest of the race together.  Miles 2-10 were around a 6:55 to 7:00 avg pace, some slightly slower and some slightly faster.  The last 5k was pretty brutal.  My stomach was not fully cooperating so I just focused on staying with Deanna.  At mile 12 my stomach really started to bother me so I let Deanna go and cruised in solo.  The last 5k was around a 7:20 to 7:25 avg pace so I somehow managed not to tank too terribly bad.

Charles let me use his compression boots post-race

Total - 4:31:10 (13th)
All in all I was please with the race.  Besides the hiccup on the swim and having to slow down a little bit during the last 5k of the run, the race went well.  Every time I race one of these half ironman events I'm reminded of how hard they are to get right.  I'm really looking forward to knocking out a few more of them this year and really dialing in my efforts.  Big congrats to Chris who dropped a 4:27:48 for 9th overall.  I'll be seeing him again later this year, hopefully the outcome will be different!

how it feels to leave the beach :(


chris freeman said...

Very impressive Chad, nice work!

CMAG said...

Great race. How is your helmet balancing on your aero bars with that water bottle in the way? It's hard to see.

Lori said...

Not going to lie, I read this because of the kitten ;)

Chad Williamson said...

thanks Chris!

the helmet lodges between the aero bar and the break lever, it just sits right up there quite nicely!

Lori, you better be reading no matter what :)