Wednesday, September 26, 2012

OBX Sprint Triathlon Race Report

This past weekend saw the Outer Banks triathlon weekend, put on so wonderfully by Outer Banks Sporting Events (, come around again.   This event is special to me bacause it was my first ever triathlon a couple of years back ( and, of course, because of my love of the area and the local community down there.

While I should probably have signed-up for the Olympic distance race on Saturday as I prepare for Rev.3 Anderson, SC 70.3 in a few weeks, I instead decided to compete in the sprint distance on Sunday as a colleague and friend from the UK, Crawford Brown, was visiting the US on business last week and chose this event as his first ever triathlon.

Crawford taking it all in....
Having spent the week working in Salt Lake City (where we managed to get in a couple of great trail runs right out of the city center - very cool!) Crawford and I headed down to the Outer Banks on Friday afternoon to meet up with Brian Lambert, who would be racing the Half Ironman 70.3 mile event on Saturday.   Needless to say Brian wanted to get to bed early and Crawford and I were still a bit tired from the travel, so after a nice dinner at the Outer Banks Brewing Station we turned-in early.

Early Saturday saw us watching the sun rise over the Atlantic and heading over to the Old Swimming Hole in Manteo to watch the swim legs of the 70.3 and Olympic distance events and to cheer on Brian and lots of "tri buddies" from the OBX Tri Group including Nemo Branch, Rachel Johnson, Terry Donahue, Laura Cortez, Laurie Graham, Jessica Lehman and others too numerous to mention.  This was also an oppotunity to meet another TriStacey athlete, Cindy Bohlin, who I have communicated with via email dozens of times but never actually met face-to-face!

Nemo, Laura and Terry with scenic Porta Potty backdrop!
Rachel "hamming it"
Crawford was soon getting into the thick of things and starting to understand what he had let himself in for!  He was clearly enjoying the "race atmosphere" though and  was soon right at home and chatting away with the locals!

Crawford testing the water temperature and contemplating tomorrow's race.....
Soon it was 07:00 and time for the start of the 70.3 Half Ironman swim.   Brian was in the second wave and soon on his way to a strong 35 minute swim for the 1.2 miles in the choppy sound water.

The second 70.3 swim wave waiting to start.  the thing that looks a bit like a large mosquito hovering over the pilings is a cool multi-rotored remote controlled flying camera platform that was shooting video!

...and they're off!
Next up were the athletes for the Olympic distance and they too were soon underway for their 1500 M swm.

Brian leaving the water as an Olympic start wave waits in the background to start their race
Rachel - wet, but moving quickly!
I tried to get a snap of Cindy leaving the water, but that lady is too damned fast! (she won her age group - congrats Cindy!)

As the athletes headed out from their first transition for their 56 mile or 25 mile bike rides, Crawford and I headed into Manteo for a quick breakfast at Poor Richard's and a quick stroll along the waterfornt before heading back to watch Brian come in on the bike.  He seemed to be in good shape (I had lent him my race wheels and was relieved to see that he hadn't flatted!) and was soon heading out for his half marathon run.

Brian, literally "flying" into T2 with the Slut's Sister
In transition (and proving that I don't only take pictures of female rear ends!).  The Zipp 808s are looking good!
Looking pretty damned happy considering that he still has 13.1 miles to go!
Now it was time to wait and, after picking up race packets for the next day's sprint race, we enjoyed watching the Olympic athletes coming down the finishing chute - happy or hurting, smiling or grimacing, but all pleased to be finished!

Soon the winner of the 70.3 mile Half Ironman came home in an impressive time of around 04:37.   Not so very long after Brian came home to take third in his age group in 05:24, including a rocking swim of just 34.5 minutes for the 1.2 miles (and in choppy conditions!).   Congrats buddy!  Hopefully this was a great warm-up for Brian's full 140.6 Ironman in Florida in a few weeks.

Brian still looking strong as he approaches the finish line after 70.3 miles.
After a well deserved dinner that evening at Old Nags Head Cafe, we all started to fall a sleep in the chair watching college football like a bunch of pensioners!   I guess that even watching a triathlon is exhausting!   Before finally turning-in I checked the weather forecast for the race the next morning and (surprise, surprise) it had changed.....    still forecast to be sunny, but instead of 6-9 mph winds it was now calling for 17-20 mph sustained winds out of the N or NE.   When the wind is from the N the water in the Old Swimming Hole tends to be less choppy but have longer swells (could be good or bad), but more importantly, it would almost certainly play havoc with the bike leg when crossing the Umstead Bridge over the sound!   I made the decision to wait to put my race wheels on the bike until I saw what conditions were like next morning...

Sunday morning saw the alarm go off at 05:00 and we were soon tucking into breakfast of coffee, English muffins, bannanas and Ensure.   The bikes were already loaded, so we were soon on our way over to Roanoke Island, with Brian coming along to support us and Crawford, understandably, showing his first signs of apprehension!

After going to body marking to have our race numbers and advanced ages tattooed all over our bodies we picked-up our timing chips (with neoprene straps - nice touch!) and went back to prepare our transition areas and head out for a short warm-up.   It felt pretty humid, and pretty soon the wind was very obviously starting to pick-up.

Start time for the first wave was 07:30 am.  We were in the fourth wave (orange caps) and so had time for a swim warm-up.  The water temp. was somewhere around 73 F, so wetsuits were legal, but not really needed.  I decided to wear mine as practice for my upcoming 70.3 race in October.

Dr. Brown and Dr. Lias discussing swim tactics after their warm-up!  
Before we knew it we were on the beach waiting to be called-up for our start.....

We're in there somewhere....
OK, so before I go on to my personal race report, I need to give a big shout out to Crawford, who finished his first triathlon with a huge smile on his face in a creditable 01:47:25 in difficult conditions and riding an unfamiliar bike (my Cannondale CAAD9-5 roadie).   I obviously couldn't see him leave the water, but Brian said that he was by far the happiest racer!  Judging by his post-race comments and general enthusiasm for the whole weekend, I think he has caught the bug!    We discussed doing a race somewhere in Europe next year to coincide with one of my frequent trans-Atlantic work trips - I hope we can make that happen!

Crawford "bringing it home" in front of his legions of adoring fans!

.....and crossing the line.  He can fly!
I also need to give a shout out to Angie Wilson, wife of my friend Mark, who also completed her first triathlon last Sunday and was all smiles afterwards - well done Angie!

Angie's a triathlete!
OK, so now on to my race report:

Swim (750M):   00:15:27.   Hmmm....   This short swim in the sound has to go down as one of the strangest I have ever done and, frankly, I was surprised to see that I had finished in 15 minutes!   The first leg of the triangular course is very shallow, so it is possible to stand-up all the way to the first turn buoy.   Much to my surprise, many people did and essentially walked/ran all the way to the turn!   I had positioned myself to the right of the relatively large wave start based on the fact that there was a clear southerly drift in the earlier waves.   It was a relatively chaotic start (which I don't particularly enjoy - see White Lake Sprint report from 2011) but what really threw me was swimming and being able to see people walking right next to me when I breathed both to my left and to my right - weird!   Somehow it just threw me off my stroke and rhythm.   The first turn was chaotic (again with people standing up!) but thankfully things got deeper right after the turn and people were forced to actually swim!   At this point, to add insult to injury, I had my goggles kicked off my face and took a nice mouthful of sound water - it wasn't a huge deal and I was soon underway again, but for a while I felt that now familiar "constricted feeling" in my wetsuit and side stroked for a while as the waves were directly in our faces on the second leg until I got things back under control.   Thankfully the waves were somewhat behind us on the third leg and I managed a half-decent freestyle to the beach.    Overall not particularly pleased with this one.   I need more open water wet suit practice before Rev.3 SC 70.3!

Leaving the water and not feeling too happy!
My best Hulk impression
Transition 1:    00:02:33.   This race features a relatively long run to the transition area, which I like as it gives the opportunity to start peeling off the wetsuit and to get the legs going ready for the bike leg.  No issues here.  Wetsuit off easily.  Had a good rack position close to the bike exit.  Shoes on pedals and a clean exit.

Bike:   The official results list my bike time as twenty one hours and one minute and I'm pretty sure that I wasn't that slow!    :-)   My Garmin shows around 45 minutes.  Overall I was happy with the bike.   The out and back course goes over the long Umstead Bridge connecting the north end of Roanoke Island to Manns Harbor on the main land.  I have experienced strong winds on this bridge many times (see my "Wrestling with theSlut" post) and knew that today would not be easy on the return leg.  I had wisely decided no to use race wheels which can act as a sail!  After hitting a pot hole and almost biting the dust as I turned onto Rt. 64 from Airport Road, sure enough I flew over the bridge with a strong tail wind on the way out.   Of course this equates to a strong head wind on the way back and, sure enough, after the turn at Mashoes Road, things got much tougher.    Nothing to do but to keep it in aero and use the gears effectively.  At times I was struggling to hold 13 mph but I was still managing to overtake a large number of folks from earlier waves and enjoyed the ride.   As always a few speed demons flew past me too, but overall I was satisfied.  Annoyingly one of these guys was blatantly drafting me for about 5 minutes coming back over the bridge and I couldn't shake him until he exploded past me once we reached the cover of the trees back on the island.  Where's a referree when you need one?   At least he wasn't in my age group!

Transition 2:   00:00:49  Completely uneventful.  Took a quick drink; put on my race belt exiting and was on my way.

Run:   5K   00:26:49   Windy through the part trail and part paved run.   I actually felt pretty good.  Not super fast, but I'm OK with this at the back end of a race.

Overall:    01:30:34    7th in age group (and, as usual, there were some fast guys - one guy finished top ten overall in 01:17:48) and 56th of 304 overall age group finishers.   Not a fast time, but the conditions were clearly not conducive to fast times.  [I think this makes my official bike time 00:45:04]

Overall I was happy and I certainly very much enjoyed the weekend!  Highlights for me of course were seeing Crawford (and Angie) complete their first races with big smiles on their faces and seeing Brian rock a comfortably sub 05:30 Half Ironman.  And I also finally met the very famous Cindy Bohlin!  :-)

Time for a beer!
 Finally a big shout out to Jim Snyder and the guys at Outer Banks Sporting Events and all of the volunteers.   This is a really well organized event and is fast becoming a "must race" on the NC race calendar.   Thanks guys!

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