Saturday, June 24, 2017

Race Recap: The Carolina Beach Double Sprint two bonus beach runs!

The Carolina Beach Double Sprint Triathlon is supposed to be a unique event, with a 375-meter swim, followed by a 1.5-mile run and 12-mile ride. Then you run back 1.5 miles to the beach and do the same swim one more time! But when we arrived at the beach last night, the winds were howling and the surf was up. This morning the winds were blowing even harder. The waves weren't any bigger but there was a strong cross current, and everyone figured the swim would be cancelled.

Sure enough, it was.

But in the "unique" spirit of the event, the organizers added a twist. Instead of just running the regular course as a duathlon, they added a half-mile beach run to the start of the first run and the finish of the second run, replacing each swim with a challenging beach run. My buddies Joey, Nicole, and Randy all decided that they weren't going to attempt the race without the swim, mostly for injury-related reasons, so I was the sole representative of the tri division of Davidson Area Running Team (Tri-DART) in the race.

The best of intentions pre-race with Nicole and Randy

After a mile warm-up, I went to the starting area to ask how the start was going to be done. It was a time-trial-style start, with runners starting every few seconds. I tried to line up fairly close to the front, and ended up starting about 40th. The first part of the run was on soft sand, but most of us quickly made our way to the packed sand near the surf. The beach run was an out-and-back to a truck parked a quarter-mile up the beach. I passed 7 or 8 runners on the way to the truck, then stumbled through the deep sand to make my way around it and head back towards town. If the run had been solely on the roads, my plan had been about a 6:30 pace. But now the run was longer, and the sand slowed us a bit, so I tried to hit about a 6:45 effort. Coming off of the beach I glanced at my watch and saw I had run about a 7:50 pace for the first half-mile. Joey snapped this picture as I ran by:

Me, hating the deep sand coming off the beach

Now, on the roads, I struggled to pick up the pace. I had forgotten my "magic" inflatable recovery pants, which I had planned to use last night to loosen up my calves and hamstrings. Despite my warm-up run and the warm, 80-degree morning, they were still tight. Slowly the pace on my watch picked up, and by Mile 1 I had managed to bump the pace up to 7:20. One mile to go! Mile 2, on the roads, was more my style, and I completed it in 6:47.

Soon I was in the transition area headed for my bike. The plan on the bike had been to change my clip-in pedals out for flat ones and just ride with my running shoes. But I had put off changing out the pedals until last night, and when I tried to remove the flat pedals from my commuter bike, they wouldn't budge! Oh well, I figured, I could just ride in my bike shoes like everyone else. Until I realized that I hadn't brought my bike shoes! Oops.

Plan B was to just use the clip-ins with my running shoes, and actually it worked pretty well. The pedals bit into the shoes and offered me a responsive platform to ride on. My shoes flexed a bit but not so much that I felt like it was slowing me down. I passed several riders as we rode out of the starting area and then tried to get up to racing speed. Soon I was on the main part of the course, a nice, smooth highway, completely closed to traffic and about 3 miles long. We would double back on it twice for a total of 12 miles on the ride. Each time I arrived at a turnaround there was a bit of congestion, but nothing that slowed me terribly. On the second lap I was passing riders who were still on their first lap, so I felt like I was moving quite well.

The wind was from the southwest, so the first part of each lap, headed south, was the worst. I managed around 21 mph on this road, and my speed declined to as low as 18 in gusts or when there was a slight incline on the basically-flat course. After the turnaround, this became a tailwind, and my average crept up to around 25 mph, even hitting 30 on some sections where the tailwind was especially strong.

Before I knew it, I was headed into the finish, where I slowed a bit behind a couple of riders who were taking their feet out of their shoes in preparation for transition. I didn't have to do this since I already had my running flats on, but I didn't take advantage of the moment to pass these guys. As it turned out, I'd end up regretting this decision.

I rolled into the transition area with an easy pace and dismounted and headed out to the run. Total time for the bike leg: 33:05, fastest in my age group. Average speed: 21.7 mph, definitely slower than I had been hoping for. I guess the wind took its toll on all of us.

I heard a couple people yelling "Dave" but I didn't expect to see anyone I knew. It wasn't until Greta yelled "Munger" that I saw my wife cheering me on. I did my best to smile and wave as I raced out of the transition area, but I was hurting. My legs were still tight and I didn't feel like I could run my best. I looked down at my watch and saw I was running an 8:30 pace. Really? That's all you got, Munger? I tried to increase the pace, and managed to improve to 7:28 by the end of Mile 1. I grabbed water at every aid station and dumped it over my head. The 80-degree heat with 73-degree dew point was also starting to get to me. Joey caught this photo of me as I headed into an aid station:

Drenched with sweat? No problem, just add more water!

With a half-mile left on the roads, I really began to regret the fact that we wouldn't get to swim today. I would have given anything to jump in the water instead of run up and down that beach again! But beach running was what was in store for me, and my 7:28 pace soon declined to 7:58. I wasn't gaining any ground on the runner ahead of me, but no one was catching me either. I ran through the soft sand at the turnaround and noticed that one runner had just turned around on the hardpack near the surf. Not cool; now he was ahead of me. I passed him back in short order but still couldn't catch the guy ahead of me. With only 100 yards to go, a runner did pass me, but I saw that he had a "27" on his calf -- safely out of my age group, so I let him go. This was also a mistake.

I crossed the finish line in exhaustion with an official time of 16:09 for run 2, an 8:05 pace. Joey snapped a photo of me as I crossed:

Celebrating too soon?

I put my arms up because I was simply relieved to be finished; since we had done a time trial start I had no idea how my time compared to anyone in my age group. I hadn't seen anyone in my group during the race. Joey, Morgan, and Greta greeted me at the finish, and I finally got my chance to take a dip in the ocean. I quickly saw why the swim had been cancelled -- I was swept 30 yards down the beach in the time it took me to dunk my head underwater to cool off.

Greta and I grabbed an iced coffee and headed back to the bike transition area for the awards -- only to find that the awards were being held at the beach! Oh well, we decided, we'll just check the results online later. A few hours later, over a beer at lunch, the results were finally posted. Here's what I saw:

Second in age group -- not bad!

Yay! I was in second place! But then I scrolled to the right and saw my finishing time. I completed the race in 1:05:29, and Tim Hahn finished in 1:05:28. ONE. SECOND. FASTER. One second. If only I had passed those guys at the end of the ride. If only I had not let that 27-year-old pass me on the beach. If only I had managed to slide my helmet on a touch faster in T1. If only I had done one of a million things one second faster, I could have captured first in my age group. Argh!

I was curious about one thing: If we had done the swim, could Hahn have still beaten me? So I looked up the results from last year, and Hahn finished fourth in his age group. His swims looked to be middle-of-the-pack, just like mine typically are. It probably would have been a similar battle even with the swim. One other thing I noticed is that Hahn finished the ride in 30:41 last year, compared to 34:24 this year. This year's ride was nearly 4 minutes slower, which suggests I might have been able to really crush that ride if there hadn't been a wind. Oh well, we can only race in the conditions we're given, and I gave it everything I had given the conditions. If I'd done one of a million things differently, I might have won. On the other hand, Hahn might have done two things differently and still beaten me! All I can do is try to be faster next time. And maybe, just maybe, change out my pedals more than 12 hours before the race starts!

Official results

Details of my race are below:

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