Monday, June 23, 2014

Storm the Fort Half Iron-distance 2014

Fort Southwest Point, Kingston, Tn
I am typically a big wimp when it comes to racing often.  My willingness to hurt just doesn't grow back very fast.  I think it is because I have such a good memory.  Regardless, I am trying out a race heavy schedule this season.  After shopping around for a half iron-distance race within driving range, I decided on Storm the Fort in Kingston, Tn.  It wasn't a hard call when I saw the trophy.  I am not too ashamed to admit that I get a little excited about new mantel jewelry. 

My friend Dylan Beck and his dad, Chad.
Chad opened up his tri resume here with a solid day of racing.
It was an inaugural event and, as expected, had a few gremlins.  Overall, they were pretty minor considering just how great the event turned out.  I usually go for plain, fast courses that are simple expressions of fitness.  I am not attracted to racing through picturesque or historical scenery.  I see buoys, white lines, and turn markers.  This course though, it was pretty dang happening.  I couldn't help but be aware of just how cool of a course it is.  While riding, I decided its just how I would've laid out the bike course.  The run had a few annoying miles in town to hit that magical 13.1 distance everyone likes.  I really wish races could still be shaped by the terrain: swim to the far shore and back, ride over that mountain, run along the river path. 

The fam' showed up to surprise me just before I started warming up.
 Its not a long drive, but I wasn't expecting them to make it.
~82F water temps meant no wetsuits, my first in a while.  It was a surprisingly cool 58 degrees for a June morning, and it felt nice to get into some warm water.  The RD sent us in to que up for a deep water start.  Rumor was the race was to be started with the firing of the cannon from the Fort Southwest Point, but after or during the pre-race announcements, there was a chirp from the PA system and a handful of guys took that as the starting signal.  There is no calling back the hounds once they are turned into the woods to hunt, so we were off.

Lots of ambiguity about were the start actually started.
Not getting much of a headsup on the start meant that we were mostly still holding the peer and a handful of guys that were treading had a bit of a jump on us.  I played leap frog between a few drafts before making the first turn buoy of a giant triangular course.  After making the second turn, the sun had crested and was blinding.  I couldn't spot any bouys so I swam towards swim caps.  Mistakingly, I was chasing a "no wake" marker and swam significantly off course turning my triangle into a jacked up quadrilateral.  I started pouting when I realized, but I pulled it together and made the most of it.  Swimming to the boat ramp, meant maneuvering through the Sprint wave that had started 6 minutes behind us.  Lots of athletes trying to wade through deep water made for an interesting final 20 yards of swimming, but I managed without giving or taking a blackeye.
Somebody drafting ME!

Lots of traffic closing the swim out as we overlapped the sprinters.
It was a short prance to T1 where I saw a 30 minute swim time and had E yell that I was 5th out of the water.  Knowing that I get faster all day makes 5th a pretty nice spot to start racing.

Look at all those bicycles in transition!  The Accelerate3 program means lots of time watching the tiles fade on the pool floor in the winter.  I am beginning to believe!
Onto the bike, we were faced with riding through the back of the sprint bike race.  That meant a lot of bicycle traffic and a lot of very fast closing speeds with other racers.  After a short loop, we are directed out of town, leaving the sprint racers behind to start their run. 

The bike course is basically a pair of peaks bookending a rolling course.  The descents are just tricky enough to tighten up your cheeks if you haven't developed good handling skills on the bike, but they can be taken at full speed, no sweat.  Its really a perfect setup.  These two descents offer an opportunity for a proficient cyclist to exploit their talent over the typical athlete.  Its just another skill to separate the competition.
Strava Data Link
I spotted 2 riders just ahead of me after the first descent.  Catching the first, he said there was just one rider in front of me.  The next guy, was not as informative.  He gave me the solid we-aren't-friends vibe as he cut his eyes and commented "I couldn't tell you" when asked if anyone was up the road.  That made me happy; I can respect indifference in my competition. 

I rode a 245W average at GCT a few weeks ago, but I was kind of being a dandy about putting down the watts this time.  I had a major fatigue meltdown the Sunday before the race and bounced off rock bottom with a lot of sleeping and resting the last week.  That meant I hadn't tapered so much as just stopped training.  Ultimately, my pacing strategy turned into "ride as hard as possible without hurting" which was around 230 watts.  By the turn around, I managed to gapped 60 seconds into 2nd place and I still had an hour to ride.
DimondBikes #9 was the first one back to transition. 

I love to come back to a ghost town.

I arrived back at T2 confident and ready to run.  I imagine my races like avalanches.  The swim is the initial crackle as there is barely enough movement to even be noticeable. Then the bike starts a massive powerful slide gaining momentum.  Finally, the run finishes off with a nasty crescendo as all the kinetic energy is exhausted.  Yeah. Sure, I am just like that. 

You can barely see the lady miss me with the splash of cold water as I check out of T2.

BUT! this guy chased me down for a
 second chance at that splash. 
That's my kind of volunteer!
So I hit the ground and started my lickty-splittin'.  As I made the first turn, I found 2nd place was only 60 seconds behind me.  I was surprised that I hadn't got more separation on the last hour of the ride. For the rest of the first lap, I settled into running comfortably, expecting to be caught at some point.  The aid stations were stocked well, and I was able to get a gel, cold sponge, and water at every second aid station.  I was excited to see how much better I performed actually getting calories in on the run. 

The Zoots are awesome to run in, honestly.  The sock-like upper is comfy for naked piggies, the elastic laces and giant finger loops make for quick T2s, and the drain holes mean you aren't running in

fluids. ;)

There was a small bland section in town of
administrative mileage to make the 13.1 distance. 
Coming back into town on my second loop, I found 2nd place waiting on me.  He said he realized he had missed a turn at the beginning of the run course, and he had already dropped and turned in his timing chip.  I was honestly disappointed since I'd envisioned an epic run battle that wasn't to be. 

The course mercilessly presents 4 temptations to jump from this bridge.

From there, I had another ~5 miles to wrap up so I just decided to see if I could get a nice negative split.  I soaked up all the river view, I ran through a gaggle of hissing geese that I was certain were going to flog me, and I caught two runners simultaneously deciding to take a #1 in the woods on the back side of the fort.

On the gas coming down
Along the backside of the Fort
 I gave them a quick heckle and discouraged any potential sword fighting.  There was some nice, colorful joking as we started climbing back up to the Fort Southwest Point for the final time.  Heading back into town was a blast.  There was solid crowd support, and the cheers pushed me to a strong final 5k. 
Much of the run course is along the water front and a river walk path.  It's especially cool as you can see the finish line from the descent of the Fort all the way around the river bend.
Best part of being the first one back is all the Oreos you can eat!
Official Results

The run course is gently rolling aside from the two bike climbs up to the Fort.  You can see quite a few places where I slowed way, way down to manage the elevation changes. 
Strava Data Link
After a little homework, looks like my buddy that went off course and dropped in 2nd place was a solid runner.  I have no doubt he could have closed in that 3 minute lead I had off the bike.  I know he was frustrated about the situation; I've been there too.  I keep looking for that good, honest run effort but seem to always be weighing options out there. There is something alluring with a simple dichotomy, suffer or lose.
Last weekend for Goldilocks. 
I finally had 10" to donate and started over!

Its a big big bonus that the race was awesome, because Kingston is kind of a dumpy little town.  Its definitely the kind of place I'd like to live and train in, just not where I want to go on holiday.  The good news is its a quick little squirt to Knoxville, and it's pretty happening over there. 

If you do stay in Kingston, the Super-8 seems to be a popular choice.  There is a mini-fridge in the room and they've got some good coffee and free grub at 6am.  The rooms aren't spectacular, but they aren't terrible either.  The big guy behind the counter doesn't have much of a personality, but he was helpful.  The best advice he gave us was to make the trip to Knoxville.

As I wrote, the course was pretty dang cool, especially the run.  The race director was all over the scene answering questions and doing his best to keep the wheels greased.  The aid was plenty and the volunteers were everywhere.  I cant imagine anyone not getting enough support from this race.  I know the ascents look imposing on the elevation profile, but they were welcome breaks in the rolling monotony of both the bike and run courses.    There are a few gremlins to squash for their first go at the half iron distance, but I have no doubt it'll be finely tuned next year.  I cant wait to see the improvements and start collecting cannonballs!


Packet pick up is at the Fort Friday afternoon or in transition race morning.

Remarkably loud bell despite my efforts to be ginger with it. 
There is at least a bit of exploring to do at the Fort.

Carbo-loading with some good luck sugars! 
Worth every calorie!


  1. This was awesome!!! I was with the group on the paddleboards! Totally amazed by your athleticism and storytelling ability!! Congratulations! And Kingston is a GREAT place to live!

  2. Well done sir, excellent execution of the race and sick bike ;)

  3. Hello Chris,

    Very nice race report! You flew past me as I was finishing up my first lap of the run on your way to the finish, so congrats and job well done.

    I wanted to get your thoughts on your bike (comfort, build, etc.) as I am looking at getting a new bike maybe next year and have been following the "resurgence" of the beam bikes.

    Thanks, and RTR
    Charles Payne

    1. Thanks man! I absolutely love the bike. Before TJ created the Dimond, I'd already been scouring for a Zipp frame. Of course, the original Dimond presented a great chance to get an updated version of a beam. When they contacted me about joining the team, I was all over it. Originally, they had a lot of issues trying to keep up quality control and build a legit, made in the USA frame. Ultimately, they had to bring all the manufacturing in house to get the product they wanted. In the process, Dave Morse from Zipp joined the staff and created an entirely new frame.

      There's a lot of reports about beam bikes limiting muscle trauma on the bike producing better run splits. There's evidence that beams have lower rolling resistance since there is less energy used to raise the rider over every little crack and bump in the road. You can check out the wind tunnel data on comparing the frame to the other super bikes. All that stuff is important a handful or times a year. It's important, for sure; if you're going to have a frame, it may as well be the fastest one. But, I spend a lot of time on the bike that isn't racing.

      Most of my miles on the Dimond are noodling around on less than awesome roads. The beam really makes my tush happy. I love the bike. Love, love, love it.

    2. Chris,

      Thanks for the information. I contacted Dimond and have e-mailed with Chris Blick, so we'll see as I am definitely interested in a new bike next spring.

      Did you build your bike as I know they have two different builds, and I don't need the Zipp wheels as I have a set of Flo's that I really like?

      Thanks again for thoughts on your bike.


    3. They basically let me get whatever components I wanted. I actually elected for Red 10s Mechanical to their dismay. I figure I'll upgrade to Di5 in a few years. They can get you virtually anything you want, or I am sure they will sell you just the frame. Let me know if I can help in anyway. you can email me here: cdb AT uab DOT edu. You will love riding the Dimond!