Saturday morning before the race, my wife made a very nice breakfast for me, Kevin Petty, and my son. Kevin and I would be leaving to go to Cedar Point to get our packets and Logan had cross country meet later that day. After we ate breakfast started getting everything ready to go. We had planned on leaving around 11 o’clock, but neither Kevin nor I are good about waiting to leave. We left about 930 am. The drive up to the lake was pretty non-eventful, we did notice all the clouds in the sky and all the wind blowing things around.
We received several updates from the Race Director via email and Facebook Saturday morning because of the winds had done a considerable amount of damage to the Challenge Family equipment, stands, and transition area during the night. The Race Director also sent out updates cancelling the swim portion of the youth races and sprint for Saturday, by breakfast time they cancelled the bike leg and changed it to a fun run because of the weather. When we arrived at the expo we could see that the wind damage was extensive.
Shortly after we arrived at the expo, I checked in and got my race packet. Kevin had to wait to check-in due to the fact that he was doing the relay and the rest of his team was not at the expo yet. We walked down to the lake and Lake Erie looked rough. The water was rolling with lots of white caps, looking much rougher than it did the year before. After we exchanged comments on the water, we decided to walk by the athlete briefing to see if there had been any updates.
The race crew said that there would be no bike check-in on Saturday because of the weather, and to stay tuned for more updates. I went to lunch with Kevin and some of his friends from the Black Triathlete Association (BTA). We watched college football and ate lunch as we waited for time to pass and see if there would be anymore updates. By the time lunch was over, the race crew sent out an update that the swim would be in the marina not the lake. This meant a few changes in plans, but not a lot of changes.
The morning of the race, we got out of bed at 4 am. The best part of doing endurance races is getting up way before daylight! I got dressed in a two piece tri kit during the full distance, and since it was a wetsuit legal race, I put on the calf sleeves. I put together my drinks for the bike and run together and then put my three bags in the truck and off we went at about 445 am. Standing outside of the hotel the weather seemed ok not as bad as the forecast said it would be. Of course, it would have been smart to get away from the protection of the building to realize it was windy and probably more so than was forecasted.
When we got back to the race site it was windy. The huge flag at the entrance of Cedar Point was stretched out straight. The temperature was not bad at 59 degrees. After the bike setup, I went back to the truck and got warm. At about 630 am I put the old wetsuit on and rolled on down to the swim start. The swim start would be a self-seeded rolling start, with two athletes starting every three seconds. I managed to be at the end of the start and was second to last to get into the water. This was a mistake that I would regret by the end of the swim. The swim was along the breaker wall inside the marina until we turned left to swim on the outside of the breaker wall. The first 1000 yards inside the marina was smooth water and not a bad temperature. As soon as I made the left turn into the bay, the waves started. The farther i swam along the wall, the bigger the waves got. I started 100 feet from the wall and after a few hundred yards of swimming I was almost on top of the wall. The second lap would be the same, flat smooth water in the marina, but this time when I got to the bay the waves were rolling and now I was wishing I had pushed toward the front of the swim start line. The waves got so big and so many that the Race Director changed the Half Distance Triathlon swim to stay in the marina. I finished the swim in one hour and twenty-seven minutes. This would be twenty minutes faster than last year but, this water was still a lot smoother than last year. I got out of the water in 80th spot out of 169 Full Distance Triathletes. My Garmin file: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/898022285/1
Once out of the water, the run to transition area started. Everyone knew that the change in the swim leg meant that we would be farther away from the transition area. The race crew put out that it was roughly a half a mile between the swim finish and transition area. With my wetsuit thrown over my back off I went running across the parking lot. Barefoot and wet in my tri kit, there were a lot of people cheering and clapping for us as we ran. The distance seem longer than the half a mile, and I checked my Garmin later that day and it said just over .6 of a mile. This made for an eight and half minute transition, which normally is a long time for a transition. This is the reason I want to explain the transition, so people understand why I had such a long transition time. My Garmin file: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/898022285/2
Once I was on the bike, I felt good. I had my aero bottle, one bottle on the frame, eight GU gels taped to the frame, and a cliff bar in my tri kit side pocket. I had been training all summer on rides and half distance races with the same fuel and hydration. I was cold from being wet. The temperature was a little warmer but the wind was chilly. The first few miles I knew I had to watch my speed and power output. The course going out of Cedar Point is rough on the road along the lake. State Route 6 had just been repaved and felt smooth and fast. I personally love new paved roads, when they are dry. I also knew I would have to watch my speed once off of State Route 6 due to the switch backs around the school. Once I got out of town the roads felt alright. For some reasons, and it is not the race director fault or doing, the roads seem to get a new coat of chip and seal in August and I am not a huge fan of riding on the roads after being chip and sealed. The roads that had been chip and sealed were really smooth compared to other chip and seal roads I have ridden on, but chip and seal is chip and seal. After a few miles in the aero position you feel it in your forearms and shoulders. I was feeling good so I started to push harder and pushing the leg turnover faster. I had to fight a lot with the wind on the bike. Kevin had loaned me a set of Zipp 808s and they were fast but there was a lot of cross winds. The forecast had called for 10-14 mph winds out of the northwest for most of the day. Later I found out the winds were 17-19 mph with 25 mph wind gusts and the wind changed direction throughout the day. That is the nature of the beast near Lake Erie.
I pushed hard and when we got to State Route 113, which in my mind if the wind had not changed direction from the forecast would be the best chance for a tailwind. I started out of town after grabbing a Gatorade bottle from the volunteers. The bottle got stuck in my aero bottle, so, I spent half a mile fighting with it. And after I got it out I was past the litter zone, so I had no choice but to put the empty bottle down my tri top and ride. I pushed hard and just did not feel like I had any tailwind, but I never looked at my Garmin to get any data. I had made my mind up before the event started that I was going to push as hard as I could on the bike and ride my way to the front. I pushed the first 56 miles at an average of 240 watts for an average of 22.4 mph to get the first 56 miles ridden in 2hours and 30 minutes. I was feeling good, but I knew I was really putting my legs in a hard effort. On the north side of the course, there are a lot of little short, steep climbs and there was a lot of headwind to fight. By mile 60 I was starting to feel it in my lower back. I normally do not have lower back issues on the bike. I kept pushing on the second loop. When I was back on State Route 113 I still never really felt the advantage of a tailwind. By mile 80 my lower back was really hurting and I started to stand a little to try and stretch my back out. By mile 90, I was not able to get down in the aero position anymore. I was out on the cow horns still trying to push hard. I could really feel the head winds on the second loop on the north side of the course. I finished the second 56 miles on the bike with 200 watt average and 19 mph average taking 3 hours. I knew I had push hard, and only one rider I had passed on the first lap went back around me. I had passed a lot of riders doing the full and the half distance triathlons and aqua bikes. I was 3 minutes slower than last year bike, but the wind was not there last year. I pulled all of this data after the race while eating dinner with my family at a local restaurant. I had ridden myself up to 15th place and 2nd in my age group by the time I got off my bike. My Garmin file: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/898022285/3
When I got off the bike my lower back was hurting so bad, I almost could not made the walk into the changing tent. I was set that if I could run, I was going to get it done with a personal record (PR). I took in some liquids in the changing tent and changed shoes. The changing tent volunteer was awesome. He took good care of me and the other athletes in the tent. I was out of the transition area in less than 3 minutes. This is my fastest transition time for a full distance ever. My Garmin file: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/898022285/4
Once I was out of the transition area, I walked for a minute hoping my back would release. I walked for ¾ of a mile and stopped to strength my back by leaning on a guard rail. After stretching I went to stand up straight and could not. I was stuck there. A few athletes went by and asked if I was alright. I gave them the head nod and said yes. It took me five to ten minutes to stand up. I knew then that this would be my very first did not finish (DNF). I knew that if I really pushed it I could walk the 26.2 miles within the time allotted. The distance has to be completed in 17 hours and I was at 7 hours and 20 minutes at this point. But, there was no reason to do further damage to my back just for a finisher medal. I have completed 2 Ironman distance and 12 half Ironman already and there was no reason to just walk in pain for another. My Garmin file: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/898022285/5
What I learned from this event is that it is good to stop when you know to stop. This event was also a good lesson in humility. I had set a goal to be in the top of my age group when I got off the bike, and to push as hard as I could. I wanted to finish the bike in less than 5 hours and knew it was going to be hard. I am happy with my swim for now and will spend the winter and spring doing more swim work. I went for a massage and the massage therapist found a lot of tightness in my hamstrings and not a lot in my back. So, lets back up to April of this year. I was behind on my run training for my half ironman distance races, so I overreached on my run training to make up for missed training and this caused some left knee pain. So, in hindsight once again the stupid overtraining that resulted in missing a good portion of my run training from April to July came back to haunt me. The message here is if you miss training do not overreach and try to make up for missed training. There were a lot of lessons learned again this year. Some might think that if you did something for over 30 years you would know it all, but that is not the case at all. There is always more to learn.
I would tell anyone that once to do a half or full triathlon or aqua bike that Cedar Point is a great event. I have done two Challenge Family events now and loved them both. The Challenge Family does a lot of things different the World Triathlon Corp. Both are good companies just different