Monday, November 8, 2010

IronStar 70.3 Race Report

Swim Start 

Little did I know that on the same day I was scheduled to compete in the IronStar Half Ironman Triathlon that myself and 600 other athletes had also signed up to take The Polar Bear Plunge!


As you can probably gather from the intro the theme for the race can be summed up in one word:  BURRRRR!  

Wake up was at 3:30am.  I staggered out of bed and started the coffee and grabbed a bagel and headed to the computer to check Accuweather for the current temperature in Montgomery, TX:  33 Degrees.  OMG! 

Now I live in South East Texas and surely this could not be accurate so I decided to check the temperature the Old School way and walk out the back door!  This little bit of sleuthing confirmed, that in fact, it was freaking cold outside.  At this point all I really wanted to do was jump in a lake and swim 1.2 miles (not really).

My parents, sister, and her 3-yr old Daughter were in town visiting and all staying at my house.  We decided to take two cars to the race so everyone didn't have to be up at the butt-crack of dawn.  So Annie and my mother decided to take the red-eye with me and the others would come up a later.

We got to the race and I ran into my buddies Bobby and Dave.  We were all dressed like we were ready to participate in the Alaskan Iditard instead of a Triathlon.  Transition was pretty funny because none of us fair weather Texans had any idea on how to dress after the swim?  We all sort of walked around and looked at each other.  Still really undecided I just left a bunch of layers of clothes laying on the bike and decided to make the call when I hit T1.

Annie and Jeff
Swim 1.2 Miles:

The swim started on the east side of the resort.  My wave was the 2nd to take off.  Due to the large amount of fog on the lake they started the race 10-15 minutes late.  This was a good call by the race director because you could barely even see the buoys.  The bad part was that we were all standing around FREEZING in 38 degree temperatures.  The water was 30 degrees warmer than the air and was much more comfortable to be in then standing on shore.

I could be at home in my warm bed!

Great pic of the craziness of the swim start.

Once the gun sounded I decided to start off at a sprint to get ahead of the pack.  This worked well as I was up with the lead pack of about 15 or so guys and aside from a couple of kicks to the head I stayed out of the washing machine.  But this is when the swim got fun!  We hit the first turn buoy and made the 45 degree maneuver to the East.  So now we had the sun right in our eyes and the fog was extremely thick at this point.  I actually stopped for a second because I had no idea where the next buoy was and so did about five other guys.  We all sort of looked at each other and just swan forward?  About another 200 yards I noticed the next buoy but I had ventured off course a good 30 or so yards.  No big deal, just angled back and hit the next turn buoy perfectly.  

At this point we were swimming parallel with the resort and I used the shoreline to sight.  I really was feeling great at this point and actually started to catch a lot of guys from the first wave.  The water was a little cooler this far out in the lake and my face and toes were starting to sting some, but this just motivated me to get out of the water sooner.  

We made the final turn and headed for the swim exit.  I was extremely please with my swim:

1.2 Mile Swim Time:  36:14
Age Group Rank:  17/62
Pace per 100 yds:  1:43/100
Time Behind AG Leader:  3m 47s

Check out these great pics Annie got of me coming into the swim finish (green cap, center):

I was telling the teenagers to "Man up" and yank these suckers!

Transition 1:

Normally Transitions would not get a header in a race report but due to the significant amount of time I spent in my two transitions I figured some splanin' was in order.  Well, once my wetsuit came off something happened that I have never experienced in triathlon before:  I was absolutely freezing, like seriously cold!  At this point I decided that I needed some layers, lots and lots of layers.  The problem was that I was soaking wet and the clothes did not want to go over the wet body.  So I toweled and then tried to place the bike jersey over me again - no luck.  More toweling needed.  Finally I got on the jersey and next came the wool socks and the shoes and the head band and the gloves and then I did my taxes, washed the dishes, and made a sandwich.  Finally it was time to roll.

Transiton 1 Time:  7m 17s
Age Group Rank:  49/62
Man points lost for shivering like a wet dog:  MANY

56 Mile Bike:

I have been on this course about a half dozen times over the last few months and have become very familiar with it.  The first 23 miles are though the state forest and not a glint of sunshine will be present at this time of morning.  It is extremely cold on this section and on a cold day it is even worse - today was no exception because it was bad.  Most cyclists were bundled up pretty good but I felt sorry for the ones who were not - you could see the pain in their faces.  I tried to give them some encouragement because it had to be miserable.

I was about 30 minutes in and reached back into my jersey to take the first swig of my EFS Liquid Shots  AND it was not in my jersey pocket?  Seriously, I took a vacation in transition and forgot to grab my gel?  This was going to be fun!  At least I had my Infinit so it really wasn't that bad.

Overall my first 30 miles were uneventful  My plan was to hold a pace around 20.5mph until I got to the 5 mile out and back section.  In all my training rides this section always had wind, never blowing in the same direction.  Today it was a cross wind coming up from the south east.  With my bike big pimping in the rented Zipp 808's I did get blown around some.  A couple of the bigger gusts moved me a little but I got used to it real quick.

After I got back to the main road after the turn around the route begins to head back towards the south east.  Yep, you guessed it - headwind, and a pretty stout one at that!  The last 15 or so miles back were really rough!  It is mostly up hill on the way back and that combined with the wind made it fun.

My average speed with 15 miles to go was 20.5mph.  My finishing average speed was 19.2mph. Glad I pushed the pace early.  Only 8 guys in my AG finished averaging over 20 MPH - the wind and cold beat us all! I was moderately happy during the race with my time but after seeing my AG Ranking I was very pleased.

56 Mile Bike Time: 2:54:44
AG Bike Rank:  13/62
Average Speed:  19.2 MPH

Transition 2:  3:00:06
AG T2 Rank:  32/62

Ok, T2 does not deserve a header.  It was still about 2minutes too long but it did take a little time to get the layers off to go run.  Oh, and my EFS Liquid Shots were laying in the grass in front of my station.  It must have fallen out when I was struggling to get the jersey on over my wet body.

13.1 Mile Run:

Hi, Thanks for your Cheers!

I drifted into transition, racked the bike and started to go.  At this point my legs had a lot of life in them and my plan was to try and hold a 7:30/mi pace for as long as I could.  This plan held for about a 1/2 mile and both of my quads cramped to the point that I could not walk.  I sat down on the curb and rubbed the heck out of both of the quads.  I finally stood up and made it about 200 yards and they locked up again - this was not good.

I finally made it to the 1 mile rest stop and a lovely volunteer helped me pour ice water on my quads.  This really helped and I was able to stumble through the next mile and the quads were starting to loosed.  My Garmin vibrated at the 2 mile point and I looked down to see that I had covered 2 miles in a painfully slow 26 minutes.  At this point the quads were still sore but not to painful to run.  I kept moving forward and was able to keep between an 8-8:30/mi pace for the rest of the run.  

The run itself was a 3-loop course navigating through the resort.  When I say, "navigating" that is to be taken literally.  Seriously, this run course looked like a NYC Subway Map - utter chaos.  We ran through 2 different little neighborhoods, across the deck of the hotel pool, across a gravel parking lot, out and back on the rough surrounding a golf course, and then through a waterfall and up a cliff - ok, I may have made up some of that.  

The "grass" parts of the course were uneven and I saw two different people trip and fall.  I should have worn my trail running shoes instead of my racing flats - but I was moving so damn slow that it didn't really matter.  My ankles and sides of my knees are really sore today because of the trail run portion of the run.

13.1 Mile Run Time:  2:01:48
AG Run Rank :  23/62
Average Pace per mile:  9:18
Time Behind AG Leader:  :48 minutes

Overall Results:

70.3 Finishing Time:  5:43:05
Overall AG Rank:  17/62

 My cheering squad: Front - Erika, Bonnie, Me, Carol (Mom), Ava (legs up), Liz, Elizabeth, and Baby Walt
Back - Rick, Bruce (Dad), Jim

My niece Ava!


This was a real fun and extremely well organized race.  The course lived up to it's billing as one of the more difficult Half Iron Distance courses in Texas and I would highly recommend this race to anyone.  It was also very cool to have my family and friends come out and support me. It is amazing how much some positive words of encouragement can give you that extra boost to keep moving.   And a big thank you to all of the blog readers who were out there cheering - it was very cool to hear, "Go Carrot!" a few times!  Thanks everyone!

My overall performance was about what I expected.  I spent close to 11 minutes in transitions and this was because of the cold - nothing that could be done about that except add it to my overall time (or only race in the summer from now on)!  

I am kind of at a loss as to why my quads cramped like they did?  I have done much longer swims and rides in training and never had quad cramps.  I left my EFS Shots in transition but grabbed extra Gatorade at the handups on the bike to get in extra calories and my intake was right were I had been practicing.  And physically, my body felt great during the run, except for my quads.  I could of held a much faster pace if my quads would have been right.  The only thing that I had never done before was race and/or train in these cold temperatures.  And I saw a large number of other guys on the run course having quad issues as well.  Now this could be normal because this is only my second half ironman, but everyone else seemed to be attributing it to the cold too?  Weird.  I just wish I could pinpoint the problem so it does not happen in the future.

But the part that gets me is that between the quads and lengthy transitions I easily left 20-25 minutes on the course.  My time was good but could have been much better.  Guess I have my motivation for the next race!

Thanks for Reading,



  1. Way to go! Seeing the steam come off swimmers in those pictures made me shiver. Nice race report. The more I read these 70.3 recaps, the more I want to do one myself. Very motivating. :)

  2. Congrats on an amazing and tough race!! Love that you were doing your taxes in T1 - that's really thinking ahead! :-)
    Excellent finish time (especially in such cold weather - yikes), you should definitely be proud of all your hard work!

  3. Stoked for you, Jeff. Well done and you worked your butt off for this one. Looking forward to following you on the next one...

  4. Way to go!!

    I know I give you shit about complaining about the "cold" in Texas, but after reading this post, I apologize! 33*F - that is ridiculous!!! No way in hell would I have gotten in that water.

    It looks like Annie has learned how to use the new camera already. She got some awesome shots. My favorite is the swim start one, but they are all great.

    PS: Man points GAINED for kicking ass during a tough race: MANY MORE

  5. Great race Jeff! Of all the days to have the event, my lord it was cold everywhere down this a-ways. But you did it and pushed through and ended up with a really respectable race! I can't wait to hear the next installment!

  6. Congrats on an awesome race - great race report!! All of that hard work really paid off!

    Holy crap, it does get cold in Texas!!! I am willing to bet the cold had something to do with your quads, but I don't know. Regardless, way to fight through that and come out with a smashing PR.

  7. Great race report, Jeff! Been an experience following you follow that crazy plan and follow through with it. Is Ironman training going to be enough for ya next year? ;)

    Talk about a race in EPIC conditions! 33 in the am? Damn that is too cold! Way to stick it out be prepared for the bike.

    Now take a well deserved rest before 201Ironman rolls around in a few weeks!

  8. Outstanding race, even with the transition and quad problems, Jeff! Love those misty swim photos.

  9. The pictures tell the story...very nice RR. Thanks for sharing. You worked hard for this race. You may face another extreme in May when it's 90 and humid. Gotta love Tejas weather.

  10. Great job on a cold course! I would say the cramping was because of the cold. I have had the problem here in Colorado early in the winter. You get used to it eventually.

    You are definitely getting ready for IM Texas!

    Keep up the awesome work!

  11. Way to go! My quads cramp really bad when its cold.

    By the way-for some reason I pictured you with red hair and freckles.

  12. Congrats... sounds like a tough day with the cold weather (there's nothing worse), a tough course and the quads. Oh, and man points don't count in cold weather... :)

  13. I just love your race reports.... so funny :) (not to mention I always learn something too!)

    The weather sounds like it sucked bad........but glad you got through it and can smile now!!


  14. Congrats Jeff! I was smiling the whole time I read this, other than the cold parts...hope the quads are feeling better! : )

  15. Jeff - freaking awesome. A little bummed I couldn't see Annie's shoes though. ;)

    Not sure how you handled that weather. YOU ROCK!

  16. Awesome Race report and even better job actually racing it! You did great considering the transition times because of the weather. You rocked the course and 16 out 60+!!!! That is awesome!

    Congrats on a great season!!! Next up...IRONMAN!

  17. Great race! And leave it at that! We can always do better, could have changed this, could have changed that.....that is why we race more than once! WQe can't predcit what a race is going to give us and that is likely why we are out there! Based on your unexpected south texas weather you had an amazing day! Way to go! I look forward to seeing what you next race brings with another one under your belt!

  18. Congrats, Carrot! Great race report. That pic of you and your wife is great. You look like a Ken doll, all smooth "down there". :)

    Looks like I beat you by a few seconds. Hehe

  19. Congratulations! The water looked REALLY cold in that photo!

  20. Thanks Everyone!

    Yes, the race start was cold but by the run it was around 70 degrees and beautiful out -- just a great day to race!

  21. Great job Jeff. 33F is way to cold, even for an Iowan like me. Way to push through the cramps. I can only imagine how difficult that would be for 13.1 miles.

  22. Nice work! especially adapting to the MN type tri weather...that is cold for you guys!

    Brutal on the quad lock up I can relate having experienced it a month ago but with the finish line just 3 miles away....I think you got through your issues very well considering they were at the beginning of your run.

    Congrats on a great race


  23. I like that race. Sounds like they have changed the course quite a bit on the run. I'm sure the water felt great.

    Not sure how much Infinit you took on the bike, but could there be an outside chance you didn't have enough electrolytes? That seems to be my quad cramp issue and it was non existent Saturday due to plenty of sodium.

    Next are you going to become an IMTX bike course expert? I need some pointers to prep.

    Great race!

  24. When I heard it was 33, my first thought was get in the water, it was probably 35 degrees warmer then the air, which you did. I suggest for next time, get wool lined arm warmers, they are easier to get on then lycra ones and it would saved you the time of dealing with a jersey.

    Nice race, despite the issues, you did great

  25. Brrrr....I can't even imagine what it must have been like racing in those temps! When I did my first HIM, it was in the upper 40s and I was freezing. But 30s???Brrr!

    Congrats on an awesome race..cold and cramps and all! Your time was amazing considering all you had to deal with!

  26. Awesome race report and awesome pics!! I used to cramp up off the bike on longer races until I discovered Zoot Compression socks!! I also don't take enough in on the bike..Something I need to work on!! Awesome time you had!!

  27. Great race and awesome race report! Very impressive and good motivation of what consistent training can do. I signed up for my first HIM in the spring and need to learn from your consistency.

  28. My two cents. NEVER complain when majority of your blog followers are FROM THE NORTH AND HAD SNOW ON THE GROUND WHILE YOU WERE RACING!

    now that this is out. Great flippin race dude. Solid performance. I have had issues with my quads bike to run but they typically only last for a mile, my adrenaline masks the tightness.

    A trick I use is rub icy hot on my quads. Loosens them up fast. During marathons I will put it on my calves, same problem.

    Solid performance, glad you nailed it with perfect nutrition this time!

  29. Great job!! There is nothing worse than competing in the cold, especially when swimming is involved. Like you, my last tri of the season was cold and the run course was a maze of trail, sand, pavement, that looked like it had been designed by a preschooler scribbling it out with a crayon!

    When I played soccer, my quads used to cramp up all the time in the cold fall weather. I'm sure that is what happened to you.

    congrats on a race well run!

  30. Way to go Jeff! You did such an amazing job! I love all of the pictures...Annie did good:) The water looks pretty cold and you being a Texas dude..way to suck it up:) Congrats!

  31. Jeff - massive props for a great race. Sucks that it was that cold - who would have thought it got that cold in TEXAS in November?

  32. Great race report. It was defintely cold here that weekend.

    Good job of analyzing it and the feeling that you left time out there so that you have the motivation to push harder and accomplish great things.

  33. Great race report - I loved the details. It really made me feel like I was there with you. You have such a great attitude - I love how you just kind of roll with things.

    Congratulations on a great race!

  34. wow, fantastic race jeff! very well executed - although that SUCKS on the quads - i had that happen at vineman - just cant get over that damn run. congrats congrats!