I left my house at 9:00am on Friday morning for the 4-hour drive to Noblesville, Indiana to meet up with my good friend, Kevin Petty. It was a non-eventful drive. My wife packed a lunch and some snacks to eat in the car on the way there. I don’t like to stop when driving, so my wife is great about making sure I have the right foods in a cooler for a non-stop drive.
I got to Morse Lake Beach at about 1:00 pm and met up with Kevin to do a route recon of the bike course, before going to the hotel. Kevin drove the course while I navigated the easy to follow course. The cue sheet was very detailed and the course was well marked with red arrows. The course recon showed what I thought it would, a very flat and straight course on the main loops. There was a three mile stretch up to the loop, which we would go around twice before heading back on the three-mile stretch that led back to the lake. After driving the course, we headed to the hotel.
Packet pickup was at Endurance House, which is a bike shop in Fishers, Indiana. We chatted with some of the other racers and picked up our timing chip and race bag, which included a shirt, bib number, sun visor and a few other goods. You have to love the free swag and goodies from race organizers and sponsors. After packet pickup we went to get some dinner. We got fast food at Hardees, which is not what I would normally choose to eat the night before a race, but it was good. We called it a night pretty early to prepare for race day.
When I woke up at 4:30am, I looked out the window to find that the forecasters were correct, and it was indeed raining. I made some coffee and walked down to the hotel lobby to check the forecast on the internet. It hadn’t changed from the night before, and still called for the rain to stop around 6:30am. That was good news, but the bad news was that the wind forecast hadn’t changed either, and it looked like 12 mph from the North Northeast at 9:00am getting up to 14 mph by 1:00pm. I headed back to the room to get ready for the day. I ate two Cliff bars, 2 medium bananas and drank a lot of coffee. I followed Kevin over to transition and we were among the first ones there. That meant a good parking spot about 25 feet from transition. It was still dark and raining.
I sat in Kevin’s vehicle from 6-6:30 and waited for daylight and for the rain to stop, or at least slow down. Thankfully, by the time I got out of the car at 6:30, the rain had dissipated. I put my bike together and wheeled it and my gear into the transition area. I found Kevin and set up next to him since there were no markings for designated bike racking. I am a minimalist when setting up for transition. I don’t take anything extra in. I put my bike helmet, running shoes, cycling shoes, running cap, sunglasses, drinks and some gels in transition. Kevin and I were both completely set up within about 20 minutes. I headed back to the car to grab my wetsuit and a quick snack before the athlete briefing which was located at the swim start.
I walked out into the water until it was just a little more than ankle deep, and took a look around the lake. The water was calm and clear, but man did it feel cold on my feet. I stood there looking around and knew that I needed to get in a warm up swim, but I am NOT a fan of cold water. I walked around in the water for a little bit and then headed over to the beach for the athlete briefing. The briefing was clear and it was easy to understand how the day should go. It was a time trial start for the swim and we would line up in bib number order, with athletes starting every three seconds.
The swim started at 7:20 am, and being bib number 216, I hit the water at 7:49 am. It was cold! Did I mention that I am not a fan of swimming in cold water? For the first 300 meters, I swam with my head out of the water, making sure I made it around the first turn buoy. It took me almost 800 meters to get my breathing under control. I was only managing 100 yards in 3 minutes for the first 600 meters. Once I got my breathing under control I was able to swim 100 yards in about 1 minute and 40 seconds, which is the pace I should have been swimming at. I swam a lot straighter than I had during past open water swims. My Garmin had me at 1.2 miles in exactly 41:30, which is not the swim I wanted. It wasn’t my slowest swim ever, but far from the fastest or what I know I am capable of. Here is a video of the swim.
From the lake to the transition area was .12 miles. I walked at a fast pace from the lake to my bike, where I pulled off my swim cap, goggles, and wetsuit. I ran into Kevin in transition, he had a faster swim and was there before me. I was not moving as fast as I should in transition, but slow and steady is faster than fast and unsteady. In my mind I was going over the bike course and what my plan of attack would be. I knew I would be headed into a headwind for the first half of the loop of the course. Transition 1 took me 3 minutes and 33 seconds total, 2 minutes and 32 seconds was getting to the transition area, and 1 minute and 1 second was spent changing out of the wetsuit and putting on my bike shoes.
It was a really good day to be on the bike. The course was really flat aside from two inclines worth being called hills, and even they were nothing to write home about. My Garmin had it at 653 feet of elevation over the 57.24-mile course. It was a short 3.5-mile route over to the main loop, which was a rectangle course with the long sides running north and south. This put us riding into the wind, making a right turn for a short distance with a head cross wind, with another right turn for a super nice tail wind, and another right turn to have a cross tail wind to be repeated for the second loop. I averaged a little over 20 mph when riding into the wind and had a maximum speed of 33.3 mph when I had a good tail wind. Over the length of the bike course I averaged 22.4 mph, for a time of 2 hours 32 minutes and 59 seconds. I drank one aero bottle full of Gatorade (about 24 ounces) and one bottle of water (about 18 ounces) during the ride and ate no gels or bars. I normally eat a gel about every 7 or 8 miles, but I was having some stomach bloating issues and never felt hungry. Here is a video of the bike course.
When I got to the second transition, I was feeling okay except for my stomach. I grabbed my two little water bottles and my peppermint candy. Peppermint candy helps keep my mouth from getting dry during the run. The run leg was all on a bike path except for about 100 yards, which was in the grass between paths. It was not an overly hot day like some races I have done, and there was some nice cloud cover, but also some wind. The course was weird shaped but well-marked and easy to follow. There was a water aid station at the .02-mile marker, which we would pass at total of four times (once at the start of each lap and once on the return of each lap). The next aid station was about 1.5 miles in and we would pass this station four times, as well. The last aid station was at about the 2.5-mile point and would be crossed six times because of the odd shaped course. My hamstrings were tight and sore, so I ran/walked the entire course. The run course was 13.1 miles long with 515 feet of elevation, so not a hard course, but it happened that on race day the wind was at our backs going down the only real incline and in your face when we were running up the incline. I ran one of my slowest run legs for the half distance during this race with a time of 2:26 minutes. This gave me a time of 5 hours and 47 minutes.
This was the 13th half distance that I finished in less than five years. I pushed the bike because at this point it is about working on tweaking parts of my race. I will be doing some more bike time trials this summer and some Olympic distance triathlons to polish and tweak things before Toughman New York, in September. That will be my only other half distance race this year.
Toughman Indiana is a good location with a nice course. It was not far from hotels, restaurants, and things for families to do before and after the race.