2015 Half Ironman Triathlon, May 9th, Lake Anna, VA

The Cycling Story of Team Die Tri-ing

“Let’s team and do a triathlon in May!” Steve states confidently on a dark winter’s night in January 2015.

“How far is the bike course?” I ask,  thinking he will say 25 miles or so

“56 miles, I think, because it is a half iron man distance” he responds quietly, almost intelligible

“Hmmmm” That distance gives me pause for thought as that is a long way to give max solo effort on the road.

“Ok, I’ll do it” still harboring doubts as to whether it would actually evolve 5 months later…

Fast forward to May 9th, I am standing in the triathlon transition area as Steve completes his (our) 1.2 mile swim. A friend of Steve’s, Matt, will then run 13.1 miles when I return to complete our triathlon.

Waiting for my teammate…

I am ready to ride and the bikes soon disappear, one by one, as athletes take off on their cycling leg. Steve’s wave entered the water last and there are only about 30-40 bikes out of 500+ left when I see Steve approach the transition area. He is spent, putting in a good time in the water and jogs through the transition area, plopping down on the grass at my feet.

He is my best tri buddy and I love to see him exhausted at these events because he gives it his all and he makes me proud of his zest for life. Today he makes me laugh as I see his collapse on the ground in his black wetsuit. (Swim time 51:21)

Then I remember there is a reason why we met in the transition area…I need the timing chip from his ankle bracelet to ride! I bend over and rip the ankle bracelet off and affix it to my ankle and turn to get my bike, but I am still laughing as I start to run toward the exit.

Give me the damn timing bracelet!

My turn now, the team is relying on me and I need to deliver a strong time to get us into contention for a ranked placing. I run the bike to start line, climb on board and start up the steep hill.

I feel confident as I start the ride because the last 5 months have gone reasonably well and I have specifically trained for this event and distance. Although we had some bad weather in late Feb and early March, the rest of the days have been ok and I arrive at this event with over 1000+ miles already in my legs for 2015.

I also have not jumped any bonfires in 2015… 🙂

On March 30th, I took a day off and asked John and Al, two FCC cycling friends, to ride the route and they graciously accepted. We set off on a casual pace and with one wrong turn, we rode 62 miles in about 3 hours and 53 minutes. At the 56-mile point we were at 3 hours 23 minutes if I recall. It was also a windy and cool day…again I appreciate their willingness to help reconnoiter the route.

Although I planned to ride it each month before the race I did not get out there in April. On May 5th, 4 days before the race, I took another morning off work and rode it solo at about 90-95% effort. I completed the course in 2 hours 56 minutes on a sunny and breezy day. I worked on eating what I would need to maintain a high-energy output and here was the breakfast of champions menu:

  • Egg, cheese, bacon frozen biscuit at home (0430)
  • Egg, Cheese, bacon biscuit from McDonalds eaten driving to race site (0530)
  • Two bananas, 5-8 fig newtons, two GU packages, and two large water bottles

So now I had my first target time under 3 hours. I was pleased and knew if I could repeat this time I would offer an competitive time for the team. I rested the legs for the next three days, riding lightly with Graham at work who graciously rode slow with me an offered me encouragement.

With that build up over the last few months, I climbed comfortably and confidently from the lake to the park entrance. I passed about 20 riders before we even got to the park exit that was cleared by the police for the riders and then turned out on the course. The air was cool, no wind, and there was a heavy mist (not really rain) for the entire day… nice conditions.

Climbing from the start

Within the first 5 miles I down my first banana to keep any nerves from sapping my energy and I continue to pass riders, both singular and in small pockets of 2-3. Descending down to the first crossing of Lake Anna I pass 5 riders in their tuck position out on their Tri bars. I watch with interest as the triathletes try to stay in that tuck position as they climb out of the lake while I am first climbing with my hands on the handlebar center and then later, on the hoods, as I stand to maintain my climbing rhythm. I never saw the elite athletes as they started 20 – 40 minutes ahead of me but I noted with the hundreds of riders I saw, every time the road went upwards, they went backwards, and looked uncomfortable climbing on the bike.

I maintained my food and fluid intake and kept my pace elevated and steady, continuing to pass riders through the 30 mile point on a downhill section that stretched about 5 miles. Then a petite blonde female rider in the tuck position goes by me on the left. This is note worthy as weight helps on a downhill and I am double her size!

I don’t panic (lol) and reason to myself, ok, this must be the point in the ride where the really good athletes start passing me. I keep her about 50 feet ahead of me (no drafting allowed in this race) and then a younger, big guy also passes me. Again, I do not panic as I know what is ahead after this downward run; an impressive climb. They hit it about 100’ in front of me and within seconds they are behind me as I steadily climb the hill. While I never saw the guy again, the blonde did pass me about 5 miles later and we stayed within sight of each other for about 10 miles further until she drifted out of sight.

While I was disappointed that there would be one rider who actually passed me, I was still continuing to pick off riders or groups of riders up to the 45 mile point where it started to get harder as the athletes I was chasing were stronger and faster. In the last 10 miles, I was starting to cramp a little as I continued to motor along at 22 mph. I inhaled two GU packets and kept my head down. I came down a hill and ran into the blonde who had passed me earlier, going slower than normal. I asked her if she was all right and she replied yes, she had just hit the “wall”. I encouraged her to stay with me to the finish but she could not hold my wheel and drifted off the back. I would later see her finish and then run a half marathon, looking strong. And except for the 20 or so teams in the race, most of these athletes had swam 1.2 miles before the ride, and still had a half marathon to run so that is the perspective you need when I say I passed over one hundred riders…I WAS impressed with this tri sport competition and the people who do it!

The final turn into the park had sand on it- as I had almost lost it on my Tuesday practice run, so I slowed as I dove into the apex. A fellow rider and friend would later crash at this turn, but get up, bloodied, to complete the run.

Descending to the finish

I pass the last two riders on the run in down to the lake, descending to the finish at 37 mph as the dismount lines looms large. I jump off the bike, run into the transition area and tag Matt, giving him my timing chip off my ankle. My race is done, now it’s time for Matt to run a tough course in warmer temps.

Running to the transition area…

I catch my breath and realize I had put in a good time. Strava on my iPhone said 2 hours and 50 minutes. The official time was recorded as 2 hours, 49 minutes and 7 seconds (2:49:07), the 3rd fastest time out of 16 teams.

Pretty toasty after that ride…

Matt faces a tough course and gathering heat and while we await his finish, Steve opens the tailgate party as he hauls a full size BBQ from the back of his truck and Tammie had prepared a great lunch for all; how nice of the Paulino’s! Steve knows how to race and party.

Steve knows how to tail gate

Truth be told, I asked him to pose for this picture…a classic…

Two good friends…

Matt finishes up the grueling run (2:19:08) and we all get our finisher medals, which for the life of me, are of a design that is unclear to me. Our total time was 6:02:44, only seven minutes out of 3rd place in our category and 8th out of 16 teams, a solid race.

It was fun, competitive, and gave me a focus for 5 months for a goal to train for…all good. I love doing things with Steve as it is always fun and lighthearted, a barrel of laughs. Thanks Steve for inviting me to be part of TEAM DIE TRI-ING!

Bob, Steve and Matt!


Bike course:

Pictures by Tammie Paulino and Bob Broeking