Monday, May 20, 2013

2013 Gulf Coast Triathlon

Best view in PCB!
My workouts leading up to the 2013 Gulf Coast Triathlon in Panama City Beach, Fl had been rocking. I trend through phases of peaks and valleys in training, and I was just off a really strong last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, that meant I was heading into the valley. Typically that zaps my confidence, but I've learned to trust the Accelerate3 protocol and just ride the waves. Sure enough, by race day I was chomping at the bit.
Always remember to brush and floss!

Breakfast (~850C)
32oz of coffee
1x Ensure plus
Blueberry muffin from Cracker Barrel

Typically I have two ensures and a lot more coffee, but that left over blueberry muffin was just too tempting.

Transition should have been totally uneventful, but I arrived to find my ever-so-perfectly taped bike number had begun peeling up thanks to the overnight temperature drop. Now the morning dew on the frame kept it from adhering. Fortunately, Dragon Sports had a bike service setup and some extra tape that rescued me. It may seem petty, but bouncing around in my noodle is the faint memory of reading an Ivy League grad student's study finding the effect of poorly placed bike numbers causing more aerodynamic drag than a fancy new set of wheels saves.

I'm the one in the black suit and blue cap.
Soon enough, I was in the Gulf warming up. Last time I tasted salt water was my terrible swim at IRONMAN Los Cabos. I have been banging out the yardage, and seeing Brian in Asheville two weeks ago gave him a chance to doctor my position and catch.

I had great expectations for the swim. My best was 37 minutes at GCT '11, and I was expecting a 35'. The swim was pretty uneventful. No cramps, no real contact, lots of open water, and a nice little push getting back to shore. I was shocked to hit the beach and hear Emily yell "33 minutes!"

Ejected my swim cap with a few hundred meters to go.
Em's favorite haircut was hanging over my goggles.

1.2 mile swim
Swim Split Time 00:34:06
85 overall out of the water

I've made it a rule to walk while in the deep sand, but as soon as my feet hit the wooden walkway, I started clicking through transition. I'm always a little surprised that I don't need more stuff in transition. I see other athletes' battle rattle scattered all about. It's just a helmet and a bike for me. I still get that uneasy feeling that I leaving something.

Transition 1 :
Time 00:02:13, 8th fastest T1

For the 3rd time in a row, I mounted my bike to find my quads were absolutely screaming. Its the oddest feeling. Almost as if my legs have gone numb and the sensation is returning. It starts as a distracting, painful stinging but fortunately wanes over the first hour. Aside from that, the majority of the bike was pretty boring.

My bike strategy was simple; I had 3 phases and three power targets. We had a nice little south wind going out, and I was pumped to see a 25mph average wrapping up the first 18 miles, the lowest power phase. From there, I got a little more slack in the reins and was able to crank away for ~75 minutes.

At this point, we started down the 2 out&backs along the course. These gave me a good opportunity to assess how far back I was from some of the competition. My fellow A3 athlete, Chad Williamson, has been antagonizing me for a rematch after beating the pre-A3 me last year at the RocketMan Olympic. I'm all for rivals; it makes for a much more interesting races. So the out&backs gave me a chance to gauge just how far back I was on him. I knew he'd out swim me, and I thought he'd out ride me. I was surprised to measure the same time difference on both sections. Chad wasn't getting away from me.

As we turned south for the final time on 79, I was passed by another guy that'd put a target on me, Austin Hardy. We've exchanged a few emails and compared training logs. I'm definitely winning the spreadsheet challenge with Austin, but he has a pretty impressive résumé including a TT and trail run win just the week before GCT. The other big kicker about Austin, being 35, he started 5' back. You can imagine my disappointment to find him so very excited to see me. Austin and I went on to play cat & mouse with each other right until the last few miles. The storm had began to roll in, and the roadway was ever so barely damp. As Austin began to bend it into a turn, he found some paint that sent him onto the asphalt with a spectacular explosion of his PitStop flat repair canister just in front of me. In a final attempt to deter me, he hurled a water bidon at me with exclamatory profanity (maybe he was frustratingly spiking the bottle, but as I tell the story he was using it as a RPG).

Then finally, as I approach transition and prepare to dismount, another athlete zooms by just before the line. I hadn't recognized him and still didn't at this point. I supposed that he was simply squeezing ahead of one more guy on the bike leg. I later find out, he was a ghost of Gulf Coast past. We had a very close race last year, and I am sure he had some cheerleaders out there pulling for him to absolutely crush me. More on that later.

Coasting in!
Recognize the pink photographer on the left of the frame?
56 mile Bike, 22nd Overall off the bike, Click for Garmin File
Bike Split time 02:19:59, 24mph average, 15th Fastest bike split
Calories: 850

Into transition, all went well except I forgot my precious Gu espresso, and I had double back for it. This has been a necessary evil for me in the past. I love having the extra caffeine, and I'm a fan of Gu over the alternatives, but it's repeatedly cost me time. Well, Gu espresso, it's been a great journey, but I'm one-with-the-course from now on. I'll live off the land.

Coming out of T2 so fast, the Moms missed me.
You can spy her still looking down the chute on the right.

Transition 2:
Time 00:00:59, 7th fastest

Onto the run course; I felt like death. Quickly, immediately, Austin trots up and is too comfortably chipper. He gave me a Mr. Rogers worthy friendly greeting and scampered away. Fortunately, I was getting updates from my cheer crew that I was 10' back on Chad.

Kenny giving me updates, and showing me
just how easy it is to run with good form
I had some chores to handle. I secured my run nutrition, and setup my tri top so I could dump ice into my makeshift man-kini top. Unfortunately, I immediately ejected my precious Gu Espresso and decided to donate it to the course. Hopefully those 3 gel packs found a home from an athlete in need.

Me barely hanging on to Austin early in the run.
Austin made it ~25 yards up on me, and we settled in to our pace. By the park (4 mile), I'd got an update that I was 8' behind Chad. He started in a wave 10' earlier than me, so that put me just ahead. At this point, Chad was waning and I'd closed the gap on Austin. I still felt like steamy brown pasture pie, but having Austin to focus on made the world a little brighter. We chatted as we looped through the park. He was first out of the water and lead his age group on the bike, and he still had 5' on me. All he had to do was cruise in. As we rounded into the final 10k, my legs were coming around, and I was beginning to feel brave. I wished Austin the best and told him I was going to chase those 5 minutes. I wasn't sure I could run five minutes into Austin; that's a pretty dang tall order for the last 6 miles of a 70.3.

I learned that shouting "GU!" at volunteers doesn't get any calories when the gel on course is Cliff Shots.
It took me 3-4 aid stations to finally get a gel and realize why the volunteers hadn't been feeding me.
Within a few minutes, I ran upon the dismount line guy. Only now, I immediately recognized him. As I ran beside him, he asked if I was "Borden" and introduced himself by the nickname I'd given him in my race report last year, Big Yellow. I'm not sure if he cared in the slightest if he finished ahead of me this year, but it absolutely motivated me to run harder. I ran for a few minutes thinking since I had closed the gap on Chad, ran away from Austin, and caught Yellow that I as long as was steady or faster, I would be in good shape.
Guess how I melt the ice?

I really wanted to know if I had any company behind me, but I wasn't about to look back. As a trailing runner, I really get a boost when I see a competitor checking his 6 to see if I'm still in the hunt. It's like a little glimpse into their mentality. I know they are suffering the decision to back off; it's just a matter of time. I wasn't afraid to look back because I didn't want anyone else to think I was hurting; I didn't want for me to think it was okay to back off if I was alone. After all, I'm not racing the guys behind me anyway.

I actually feel pretty dang rough at this point.
It's good to know I can fake it for a while.
I continued feeling better and better as the run went on, and I crossed the line feeling like I had more to give. I'm not sure if its a product of long course training, or if I just sandbagged a little. Regardless, I'm glad to know there is some more tics on the clock for me shed in the future.

I crossed the line and met the fam'. I'm so lucky to have so much support. I waited at the finish to see Austin roll in with 23 seconds to spare locking him into 8th overall just ahead of me. I congratulated Big Yellow on a solid finish. Chad found me in the massage tent and offered a big congrats. He went on to rock Memphis in May the following weekend with some absolutely ridiculous splits. I have no intentions of matching up with him at short course.

13.1 Mile Run Course (FYI, the course is long. 13.5-8 miles. I wish it were longer!)
Run Split Time: 01:30:35, 5th fastest run, click for Garmin File
Run Calories: 300 (1 Gu, 2 gels on course)

Official Time 4:27:48, 9th overall, 6th M30-34
Tough year to be 30-34!  

Finish Time: 04:27:48, 9th overall

Over all, GCT is an amazing race. The event is cheap enough, you can register up to the day before, beach front lodging is cheap, and the local restaurants are amazing. They have free beer and grub at the awards ceremony at Spinnakers and trophies 10 deep in the age group! This is my third year to do GCT, and I have no intentions of missing it next year, but I know 3 dudes' races I'll be following closely this season.

Chatting it up after the race with Austin and my friend Big Yellow (white suit)
Chad rocking a solid PR at the half distance.  4:31:10, officially

Can't say enough how much I love having a dedicated cheerleader!

Austin got me by 23" on his way to win the M35-39 age group with a very solid performance (04:27:25),
especially considering he tossed his bike just before the run.

uhoh, I've got him scratching his head!

Chad captured the win for the M25-29 category.  And I got the very "Meet the Fockers" 6th place wood for the M30-34.  

Glen Rickard heading on his way to his first tri ever!  Very ambitious start in the sport!

Me, Glen, and Kenny Marsh at swim start

Chad at swim exit looking much better than I do out of the water.

Mom, me, and my aunt Dewonna.  I'm so very blessed to have so many people that love me!

On my way to recovery with Salty Sea keeping me cool!
And thanks to Ruster Sports for sending me some casual gear!


  1. Great racing.. interestingly I get those same damn quad-crushing feelings right after swims!! It's worse after salt-water swims.. weird

    1. Thanks Steve. Have you found any cure for the killer quads?

  2. Nice race! I stumbled onto your blog last year after gulf coast and figured that if you had a similar result as last year that I might have a chance to catch you. Clearly you have gotten faster. You actually walked right by me at bike check in. I had the green QR and I didn't realize it was you until I saw the pictures of your bike this year. I wish I would have said hey.

    Curious about your bike data. Are you including zeros in there? Also curious about how much you weigh if you don't mind me asking. -Joseph McLeod

    1. Thanks, man! I always spot the QRs; I remember the bike but not the man. Sorry. I would've loved for you to say "hope you don't bring that weak sauce from last year back again!" Ha!

      There is a link to the Garmin data in the blog. I just double checked for you, and I am including zeros. You spooked me a bit.

      I weighed ~164 lbs for GCT, my FTP is around 292W, and I had maybe 3 minutes of legal drafting with Austin. So I road GCT somewhere around 3W/Kg.

      Last year, I weighed less and road more watts, but I also spent 3 minutes bent over at mile two staring at the ground wishing my hamstring would stop cramping long enough for me to get a SAG back to transition. Maybe that was the poor run fitness I brought in from dealing with ITBS or maybe it was an ambitious bike strategy.

      Hope that helps, and let me know if you have any more questions!

  3. Thanks that does. I was worried my quarq might be a little off. My average power was higher than yours for the ride, but I managed a slower split then you. However, I wasn't including zeros so I was probably closer to your average. I probably weighed closer to 183 around the race too. That would have had my W/kg less than your you 3W/kg average which means my expensive toy isn't malfunctioning. Whew.

    Thanks for answering the question. I would have never talked smack to someone who smoked me so soundly the year before on that course.

    That was my first race with the big boys (30-34) too. Yall don't play around do you? Haha.

  4. Good luck! You'll do great. My advice..take a picture of your transition area after you set it up. that way you'll be able to look back and determine if you liked it or not and set it up differently. I'm actually posting about triTraining tomorrow! Watch for it. :) triathlon