Posted by: bradhammond | June 9, 2018

Oliver Half Iron and Aquabike

I haven’t been able to run this year due to arthritis, but I still wanted to race.  I searched for aquabike races to do, and I didn’t find any in Washington state, but I found there were a couple in Canada.  Oliver is a small town in the Okanagan valley in British Columbia.  It is south of Penticton (former site of Ironman Canada races) and about a 5 and a half hour drive from where I live in Bellevue, Washington.  It was described as a fast course, and fairly flat, which really appealed to me.  From past races, I know that compared to other riders who are at about the same overall level as me, my strength is going faster on the flats and that I do worse on the hard climbs.


I wanted to have at least 8 weeks of riding 10 or more hours per week, and I managed to do that.  I was curious whether I could handle significantly more than that – when I was training for Ironman’s, I could just barely manage peak weeks of 10 hours riding, 7 hours running, and 3 of swimming.  Biking is a lot easier than running, so I figured I could do more than 10 hours, but at 62 I don’t have as much energy as I did 6 or more years ago.  As it worked out, my longest training week was about 14 hours of biking and 2 hours of swimming.  I was not super ambitious in my swimming, but I swam in the pool several days per week, and did a little open water swimming in Lake Sammamish.


In some ways I’m a very smart person, but sometimes I do things that make me feel like a total idiot.  During the week before the race I got an email about the race with a subject line saying something about “Athlete Guide and Course Update”.  I didn’t get around to opening it until Friday morning shortly before I drove up.  I had already printed a copy of the bike map, and used the back of my printout to jot down the times for packet pick-up, bike check-in, athlete meeting, etc.  I noticed that it said they wouldn’t have printed maps of the bike course there, so athletes should print and bring their own copies.  Somehow I totally missed reading the part where they had changed the bike course!

Saturday morning I did a short bike ride to make sure that everything was working right on my bike, and a bit later I drove the bike course that I had a map for.  There was one fairly significant climb on the two-loop course, and otherwise it was pretty flat.  I noticed one little street downtown that was all torn up, but it was only about a quarter mile of the course and I figured they’d have a small detour around that.  I picked up my packet, and checked in my bike, and worried a bit about the fact that I couldn’t even see the lake from the transition area.  The swim area is actually 700 meters away from transition, which meant I’d have to run almost half a mile on bare feet.

Saturday night I went to the athlete meeting, and the race director was talking about the new bike course.  As soon as he put up a slide with the new map, I thought “Oh my, this is really different!”. It was now an out and back course, heading down the east side of the river, coming back up the west side, and then climbing up the mountains to the west until a turn-around point.  Actually there were some rolling hills between climbs, but it was a much tougher course than I had planned on.

Race Morning

Transition opened at 5:30, so I had set an alarm for 5:00.  I kept waking up all night, so finally at 4:45 I just got up and got ready to go. I had a small breakfast and took some caffeine.  I didn’t want to be stuck in line for a port-a-potty, so I tried to get everything out of my system before I left the motel.  I got to the race start a little after 5:30, and went to put stuff on my bike.  When I went to fill up my water bottle, I felt a little spasm in my lower back, which got me feeling very nervous, but I guess it was a false alarm.  After my transition area was set up, I put on my neoprene swim pants and walked over to the swim area.  I spent a lot of time lying down and trying to stretch out my back a little, and finally did a short warm-up swim.  The water was warm enough, but I did get a bit chilly waiting around.


The swim was 1.2 miles on a two-loop triangular course.  At the athletes meeting I heard something about 400 people racing, and there were 2 waves, but I’m not sure how many people were in wave 1 with me.  In my only triathlon last year I was a bit disappointed in my swim split – I think I got significantly off course because I had trouble seeing.  (My goggle strap smapped pre-race and I borrowed goggles that leaked a bit.)  I was up near the front when we started, and the first 100 yards or so was very crowded.  It thinned out a bit, and then at our first turn we all funneled together and it was very crowded for a bit more. I kept to a consistent rhythm of breathing every 3rd stroke.  After I breathed on my left side, I would briefly pop my eyes up during the next stroke to see if I was on course.  I guess I did an okay job of staying on course.  I finished the swim in 40:38 – quite a bit slower than I used to go in races, but about a minute faster than I do it in the pool during training.


After the swim I pulled off my goggles and swim cap, and let one of the wet-suit strippers pull the swim pants off me. The swim pants are new for me this year – I was tired of getting my neck chafed and bloodied from the neck of my wetsuit, so I bought the pants only version. No chafing!  Then I ran back to the transition area – my longest run all year.  One man passed me on the run, and I passed two people, so I felt like I was doing all right.  My time for running 700  meters and doing my transition stuff was 4:11.  My feet and calves were sore for a few days, but I am quite happy with my performance in this part of the race.


We were pretty well spread out by the time I started my bike ride.  A couple of miles in, we did the hill that was the biggest climb on the original course.  Someone passed me as we reached the top and said something like “That’s one down!”  I felt pretty good. The next big climb was probably 15 miles or more away, so I was willing to push my pace pretty hard for a while.  My strategy was to try and save some energy for the hill climbs, and not really worry about catching and passing people until after I had gotten past the turn-around point and had a better idea of how much I had left to do.  Eventually we went over a bridge and came back up the west side of the river.  It was a very busy road, and I didn’t do much passing.  We left the busy road and started climbing.  It was pretty hard, but I got to pass some of the people who are faster swimmers and slower at biking than me.

There were 3 aid stations with water and refreshments.  Actually the first and third were sort of the same aid station, they just moved stuff across the street, so I guessed that maybe that was about 1/2 way to the turn-around.  We had finished a big climb, and the aid station was on a flat stretch.  I slowed down just a little bit so that I could take some water.  We had some nice rolling hills, but eventually we were into switchbacks and another tough climb.  I wondered how much further I would get before seeing the race leaders coming back.  I was on a slight downhill when the race leader came past – looked like he was going significantly faster uphill!  He had a big lead – probably a couple of minutes at that point.  In all, about 15 riders came past before I got to the second aid station. After that it was not long until the turn-around point, and a lot of long downhill sections.

About the only times I got passed on the second half of the course was when I was on a descent and I decided to brake some, and a few of the riders with higher risk tolerance would go flying by.  I’m willing to go really fast downhill when it is straight, and I can see that I don’t have to turn at all for a while, but coming down the switchback sections is totally different.  I have seen enough accidents on televised races like the Olympics and Tour de France that I don’t want to overestimate my bike handling skills.  There were 4 riders who passed me on the last descent before aid station 3, but I re-passed one while he was getting water, and made up most of the gap on 2 others.

We recrossed the river in a slightly different place for traffic control reasons, and there was one last hard climb on the east side of the river.  It was not terribly long, but very steep.  I passed several people on that climb, but one of them passed me back right at the top.  I was standing up in my granny gear, and pushing really hard when it made a cracking sound and seemed to skip for a second. My bike was okay, and I spent the rest of the race trying to catch that guy, but I couldn’t get him.  My final bike split was 2:59:09, so I averaged a few ticks less that 19mph.  Considering the course, I was content with that time.  I finished 17th out of 50 in the aquabike, and was 3rd in my age group.

Post Race

For Aquabike competitors the clock stopped when you walked your bike into the transition area, but the actual finish area was back at the park where we did the swim.  I walked back there, and they had me walk across the run finish line to give back the timing chip and get my finisher medal.  Eventually there were a few people in the beer garden, so I went in to get a beer.  I was talking to the nice lady who was pouring beer, and she offered to top up my beer in a few minutes as the top few inches were mostly foam, as they had just tapped the keg.  By the time I was ready for that, there were a few people getting lunch on the other side of the fence – I asked if you had to finish the beer in there, and she suggested that I leave it on her pouring table and go get my food and bring it in.  I went ahead and did that, and when I got back I had my hands fairly full, so she said “Where would you like to sit?  I’ll carry your beer and plate over for you!”  I said that I didn’t actually know anyone else here, but I was going to ask those people if I could join them, indicating a man in a Team Canada tri-suit and a woman who I remember passing on the bike course.  She walked over with my food and beer, and said “Do you mind if my son joins you?”  I had a nice lunch with them and we watched people finish the triathlon for a while.

Looking Forward

There is one more aquabike race in Canada that I am considering doing this year – it is also half-iron distance, and is in Chilliwack  (slightly shorter drive, I think) in September.  I haven’t registered yet – I was waiting to see how this race went.  There are many parts of the training that I like – when the weather cooperates, a 3 or 4 hour bike ride is fun and gives me a feeling of accomplishment.  I’m sure that without a race to train for I would be too lazy to get into really good shape.  I was impressed by the number of aquabike racers.  The mens and womens winners were both in their 30’s, so it’s not just old injured people in it.  That hurts my chances of winning, but it improves my chances of finding races to do – I’m fine with it!


Posted by: bradhammond | June 30, 2013

Race Report – 5 Mile Lake Triathlon

On Saturday, June 29 I raced the 5 Mile Lake Sprint Triathlon.  It consists of a 1/4 mile swim, a 14 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run.  I also did this race in 2010 and 2012, so I was curious to see how much faster or slower I would be this time around.  (From 2010 to 2012, I had slowed down by almost a minute in total time, from 1:10:30.3 to 1:11:28.8, so just being more familiar with the race course is no guarantee of going faster.)  I wanted to do pretty well in the race, so I did another fairly light week of training – starting next week I plan to get back to 10 or more hours of biking.  I had some problems with my shoulder on Thursday – sometimes things seem to “pop out of place” where the collar bone attaches to the top of the shoulder.  It was ok during my 1 hour swim workout, but I afterwards I was running on a treadmill and things popped out of place.  After rolling around on the floor for a while, it seemed to be back in place so I did another mile and called it good enough.  I decided to take Friday off completely, so I was very well rested.

The race as scheduled to start at 8, and I got to the start area about 7:15.  As I was entering the transition area, Steve Lutz saw me and started talking to me.  He is in my age group, and we met at a race a few years ago.  I think I have beaten him once or twice, but he usually beats me.  My number was 369, and I noticed that he was 370 – we would have been at the same bike rack in transition, but I found out that there a couple of extra racks that were completely empty, so rather than crowding in, I used an extra rack.  After I set up all my stuff, I made one last pit stop and then headed down to the beach for a practice swim.  I had nice long practice swim, then came out and listened to our final instructions.


One of the swim buoys was set up in the wrong spot, so we waited a couple of minutes while a kayak moved it.  At one point the race director (standing on a dock) said “That’s good, drop it there!”, which helps confirm my suspicion that the swim courses are not marked with the utmost precision.  There were two mens waves – all men under 40 started 3 minutes before my wave.  I assume that the women’s waves were started 3 and 6 minutes after us.  I waded out waist deep and was in the middle of the front row when we started.

I bumped arms once, and had people swimming across my legs a few times, but there was fairly little contact.  I concentrated on my form and keeping on course.  Like last week, I was trying to keep my stroke rate at a comfortable rhythm rather going into an all out sprint.  As I did the final stretch into shore, I could see a lot of people getting out of the water ahead of me.  I came out of the water feeling pretty good, but maybe I should have tried to go a little faster.  Time: 6:22.6  This is pretty comparable to my swim times of 6:11.7 in 2010 and 6:23.1 last year.  I ranked 60 out of 194, so I had a pretty good swim.


I had my swim cap and goggles off, and my wet suit peeled down as far as my waist by the time I got into the transition area.  The rest of my bike was empty so I had plenty of room to flop on the ground and finish pulling off my wet suit, and I didn’t have to be real careful about where I dumped my swim stuff.  I stood up, buckled on my helmet, and ran out with my bike.  Time: 48.0  That’s fast!  For comparison, my times were 57.3 in 2010 and 53.3 in 2012.


I had my bike shoes attached to the pedals, so after I crossed the mount line I slid my left foot in and started pedaling with my left foot loosely in the shoe and the right foot on top of my shoe.  The bike right in front of me stopped after about 50 yards, with the rider getting off.  I noticed the number 370 on the bike, so I thought “Well, I’m ahead of Steve for the moment.  I just hope I can stay ahead!”  A minute or so later, I felt like I was going fast enough to coast a bit while I tried to get my right foot into the shoe.  It was kind of squashed down, so it was tricky getting my foot in, and I got passed by another rider in a red and black tri-suit while I was messing with it.  After turning a corner, I could see several riders ahead of me as we entered a downhill section of the course that had several 90 degree turns.  I passed back the guy who had passed me, then a couple more.

The weather was very nice – sunny and dry – and I was able to take the corners a lot faster than last year when it was cool and rainy.  The guy in the red and black tri-suit passed me back again, and was soon 30 or 40 yards ahead of me.  We had a long straight section, and I was slowly getting further behind, but I kept trying to catch and pass everyone that he passed.  At one point, I thought I had caught up to him, but it was actually someone in a white and black tri-suit with a bit of red trim who was only in his 30’s.

The bike course has 2 loops, and about 3/4 of the way through loop 1 we hit a long stretch of uphill riding.  I got passed by 2 or 3 riders on the uphill.  As we neared the top, I tried to shift back onto my big ring in front, but even though I pushed the shift lever as far as it would go, I couldn’t get back in the big ring.  I worried a bit  that I might have to do the rest of the ride in my little gear in front, but eventually I got it to go.  The second loop of bike course was relatively uneventful.  I kept sipping water, and managed to empty my bottle by the end of the ride.  I was worried about getting back into my big ring if I shifted out of it, so I just kept shifting the rear gears and standing up some during the climbs.  About halfway through the second loop I started passing women who were on their first loop, so I saw a lot more riders.  Finally I completed the second loop and turned off into the park.  I had loosened my shoes on the last downhill, and rode the last part in the park with my feet on top of the shoes. Time: 38:36.9 (21.8 mph) My fastest yet! (39:36 in 2010, 39:56.7 in 2012, so a full minute faster than my previous best.)


I knew right where to go as I approached the dismount line, so I managed to dismount with a bit of speed and run on the right path to transition.  Last week I had a bit of trouble getting my feet to slide into my running shoes quickly, so last night I was dumping baby powder in the shoes and taking them on and off until they were sliding on easily.  I quickly racked my bike and took off my helmet, then slid my shoes on and ran out.  Time 33.4 !  (Previous times were 56.9 in 2010, and 44.1 in 2012.)  One of the relays took 33.2, so I’m pretty proud of my T2 time this week.


I felt pretty good to start the run.  I was sort of expecting Steve to catch up and pass me early in the run, but the first person to pass me a 14 year old boy in a blue tri-suit.  It seemed like there were lots of runners not that far ahead of me, but the boy in blue was passing them and I seemed to be getting further behind.  Eventually I saw one guy that I was definitely gaining on – for a few minutes I thought about predators; they tend to prey on the slow and the weak, because they’re easier to catch.  The guy I was gaining on stopped to tie his shoe, and that got me to within a few strides of him, then a few seconds later I passed him.  He said “Good job” or something like that, and I reciprocated.

I was getting passed by a steady trickle of younger guys, and most of them commented about trying to chase me down.  We passed a water stop at about 1.5 miles, and I didn’t get any water but I could hear guys behind me saying “Thank you” and dropping cups on the road.  With a mile or less to go, I got passed by the first woman.  There were actually 4 women who ended up beating me, but due to the wave starts there was only one who actually beat me across the finish line.  Soon after she passed me, we got back to the park and did a short loop to the finish. I got passed by 2 more guys inside the park, and took a glance at the clock as I got to the finish.  The clock showed 1:12 and some seconds, so I figured that my total time was between 1:09 and 1:10. Time: 23:03.4 7:26 pace.  Past times were 22:48 (7:21 pace) in 2010 and 23:31.6 (7:35 pace) in 2012.  I had been hoping to do a 7:30 pace, and using that as my goal when I was deciding how fast to do my interval workouts, so I am very happy with the 7:26 pace!

Post Race

After a quick dip to cool off and rinse the sweat off my body I went back some stuff to eat and drink.  After I got some food, I saw Steve sitting on a bench, so I went over to talk.  I asked about his bike, and he said the chain had dropped a couple times; the first time was right at the start, and he had seen me go past.  I asked about his time, and he said about 1:06, and mentioned that he had chased down someone else in our age group fairly late in the run.  At this point I took a closer look at his red and black tri-suit, and figured out that he had passed me back fairly quickly on the bike, and I had been chasing him for much of that first bike loop.  I told him what the clock was when I finished, and he figured (correctly) that I had placed 3rd in our age group.  We congratulated each other, and talked a bit more about this year’s race, last year’s race, etc.

My final time was 1:09:24.3, good for 3rd in my age group and 37th out of 194 overall.  Clearly better than last year or 2010!  The weather certainly made it easier to take the corners fast this year, but I don’t think that would be a whole minute of difference.  The only part of the race where I feel like I probably could have gone faster is the swim, and given the problems I’ve had with my shoulder I think it’s sensible to be a bit cautious in that.

Posted by: bradhammond | June 23, 2013

Tri-Monroe Race Report

I raced in the Tri-Monroe Sprint Triathlon today (6/22/2013) in Monroe, Washington.  To be more precise, I raced in the non-drafting amateur sprint race.  There were actually 6 other races on the same course today: Elite Youth Females (13 – 15), Elite Youth Males (13 – 15), Junior Elite Females (16 – 19), Junior Elite Males (16 – 19), Under 25 Female Elite Developmental, and Under 25 Male Elite Developmental.  All of the other races were draft legal, and limited to people less than half my age – I watched the first two, and some of those 13 – 15 year olds go really fast! The race distances varied, but for my race the advertised distances were: Swim 375 meters, Bike 18.5 Km, Run 5 Km.  I did this race last year, and I was a little disappointed in my run split but pretty happy with my overall race; my goal for this year was to come  close to last year’s time and try to win my age group again.

My race was the first of the day, starting at 7:00 am, so I got up before 4:30 to start getting ready.  They closed the road into the parking area at 6, and I got there about 10 minutes before that.  I picked up my packet, set up my stuff in the transition area, and made one last bathroom visit before I put on my wetsuit and did a short warmup swim.  The water was warm, but there was so much fog that it was almost impossible to see the course.  When I got out of the water, they were giving pre-race instructions in the transition area, so I listened to the end of that, and headed over to the start with everyone else.


We lined up on the beach and strained to see the buoys that we would swim around.  There were numbered starting slots, and a guy near me announced that his birthday was on the 24th, so he was standing on the 24.  I said that since my birthday is on the 22nd, I might as start on the 22, and a bunch of other people filled in all around us.  I did some deep breathing to relax, and then they started the race.  I tried to get off to a fast start, and I didn’t get stuck behind anyone slower.  Everyone seemed to be going in the same direction, so I didn’t worry about not being able to see the buoys, and just went with the flow.  For swim form, I focused on keeping my elbows high and out to the side as I pulled through.  I tried to pull hard with each stroke, but not rush the cadence like I would in an all-out sprint.  I managed to make it around the buoys without colliding with anyone.  After rounding the second buoy, I got behind a guy in a red and black wetsuit, and tried to stay close behind his feet and just follow the bubble trail instead of trying to sight the finish.  I came charging out of the water feeling like I had a good swim.  My swim split was 8:52, vs. 6:42 last year, but I think the buoys must have been farther away this year.  Last year the top 3 finishers had swim splits of about 5 minutes (5:03, 5:01, 4:57) while this years top 3 had swim splits of (7:11, 7:51, 8:10).  Placing the buoys seems to be a fairly inexact piece of work at the local races I have done.  Although I used an additional 2:10, I actually trailed the leaders by a smaller percentage this year, so I think I swam just as well as last year.


I had already started pulling off my wetsuit before I got into the transition area.  When I got my bike I lay on my back and finished pulling my legs out.  I saw a guy in a Pro Club Tri Team uniform (Thomas Goos) and I was encouraged that I had almost caught up to him in transition. I put on my helmet and ran out with my bike.  Time: 0:53, nice improvement from 1:16 last year!


The bike course is on a 4 lane road that is closed to traffic.  Basically, it is 4 laps with U-turns at each end.  Last year there was this odd little loop going through parking lots to go around a school building, which added 6 90 degree turns to each lap (in addition to the 2 U-turns).  This year they did away with that, so bike handling skills were less of a factor, and it was easier to keep a consistent speed.  I’m not sure if they changed where the turn-around points were to keep the total distance the same, but even if they did, this year’s bike course should be faster.  Last year the fastest bike split was 30:10, but someone did it in 28:19 this year.

I ran out past the mount line and got started without any problems.  I spent a few hundred yards getting up to speed before I fastened the velcro on my bike shoes.  I started sipping water fairly early and kept taking little sips through out the ride.  I managed to catch and pass 2 guys before I got to the first U-turn.  I was breathing hard, exhaling quite forcefully, grunting like some of the women tennis pros – I wasn’t sneaking up on anybody.  Soon after I completed my first lap I passed several more people, but from that point on I could be passing people who were on the same lap as me, or people who were a lap behind, so I didn’t bother counting them.  Nobody passed me at all, and every time I came up behind someone I was able to pass them right away.  I was working very hard, but it was a fun ride! After my 4 laps, I could see the rider in front of me, so I didn’t have any trouble turning in the right spots to get through the parking lot and to the dismount line.  Time: 31:24  vs 34:07 last year.  A faster course, but I also feel that I rode better.  I compared my time to Goos, who came in 4th overall and had the 2nd fastest bike split both years, and this year I was only 1:40 slower vs. 2:14 slower last year.


I ran in as fast as I could, and I saw the guy in the blue tri-suit who finished the bike right before me.  I was hoping to pass him in transition, but I was still putting on my running shoes as he ran out.  Another guy left T2 at the same time as me – I think he finished just behind me on the bike and caught up in transition.  Time 1:05 vs 0:55 last year – I’m slower at getting my running shoes on now, darn!


Well, the guy who was right beside me leaving T2 hesitated as we approached a left turn onto our 2 loop run course, so I passed him, but I expected him to be passing me back pretty soon.  I could see the guy in blue getting further away, but I thought I might have a chance to catch up with the guy he was passing.  I managed to open up a gap on the man behind me, and took some pride that so far nobody had passed me during the run.  I managed to keep that true for the first lap, but just after I finished lap 1 a tall man with age 41 on his leg went past going a lot faster than me.  Within another 50 yards I got passed again, this time by a 15 year old girl (1st woman overall).  She was also going a lot faster than me.  I was getting really close to that guy I thought I could catch, though.  First I saw him look at his watch, and I thought “He’s hurting, I should be able to catch him.”  Then, as the 15 year old girl was passing him, he looked back when he heard the footsteps.  They were both wearing uniforms from the Snohomish Triathlon team, and they high-fived as she passed him.  I caught up to him and passed him soon after that.  He was in his early thirties – I love it when I catch up to a younger guy on the run!  I still had about 3/4 of a lap to go, and I tried to keep my pace up all the way to the finish.  Time: 24:11 vs. 24:44 last year, over 30 seconds faster!  About 7:48 pace on the run – I’ll take it.


Well, I managed to win my age group again.  I might have been the only one in it.  But I also had a faster time than the 50-54 age group winner, and finished 11th overall.  (Out of 40 starters, 38 finishers.)  I got slower at putting on my running shoes, but I really think I did better at everything else, so I am very happy with the race.  My quads are really sore from that bike ride.  I took a cooling dip after I finished, and I spent a lot of time stretching, but I am sore now and expecting feel a bit worse tomorrow.  If anyone has tips for minimizing post-race soreness, let me know.  Well, I know that going slower would work, but that’s not an option that I am interested in!

So why do I do these small races?  I’ll admit that just finishing the race is not enough to give me a feeling of accomplishment – I go longer distances than today’s race in almost every training ride, run, or swim that I do.  The feeling of accomplishment is from trying to do it as fast as I can, whatever distance I am taking on.  I can have fun whether I am racing with thousands, hundreds, or just tens.  If I have a bad race in a short one, I can shrug it off easier, as I’ll get another chance in a matter of weeks.  If something goes wrong in a big, long race, then I don’t know when I’ll get another chance to do better at that distance, so I enjoy scheduling some shorter races each year.  They give me a good chance at being happy with my racing, and the risk / cost is fairly low!

Posted by: bradhammond | April 29, 2013

My First Duathlon

I did my first duathlon on Sunday, April 28.  It was the Mt. Ranier Duathlon in Enumclaw, WA.  There was a long race and a short race, and I chose to try the short one – 1.6 mile run, 14.4 mile bike, and 3.8 mile run.  The bike course has a really long uphill section, and a really long descent, so I knew that it would take me a lot longer than a flat 14.4 mile ride.  Having never done the race before, I didn’t have a specific time goal, I just wanted to go as fast as I could.

The Wednesday before the race, I drove down to Enumclaw and biked the course.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the views of Mt. Ranier were awesome – Enumclaw is so close to the mountain that it seems to fill up much of the sky.  I think the ride took me about 55 minutes.  The climbing is on a small road that doesn’t get much traffic at all, but the descent is on Rt. 410 which is a busier road with cars and trucks going quite fast.  It is only 2 lanes, with a decent sized bike lane, but there are “rumble strips” just to the right of the white line.  These are a series of grooves in the pavement that make a lot of noise and shock the driver awake if they are starting to drift to the right.  I didn’t realize they were there until I moved left in the bike lane at about 30 mph – scared the heck out of me!  After that, I knew they were there and was careful to see and avoid them.

Race Morning – Relax?

One thing you often hear people say before a race is “Relax”.  I’m not one of those people!  I feel like I do best in short races if I am the very opposite of relaxed.  I had one of my best races when I thought I had lost my timing chip (stuck in the velcro of my bike shoe) and found it at the last minute, another good race when I got lost driving to the race, couldn’t find a parking spot in the park, and had to park in a neighborhood and jog in.  A little panic seems to help get me going, but it’s a hard thing to plan or fake.

I got to the race site about 7:15 and picked up my number.  They were starting the long race at 8:00 and the short race at 8:10.  At my car, I tried clipping my bike shoes onto my pedals, but the right one would not click in.  I could see that a tiny little bolt was sticking way out, and I borrowed a tiny Allen wrench tool from a couple of guys parked next to me.  No matter how I turned, the bolt was not actually tightening, and the pedal wasn’t going to work like that.  I tried turning my bike upside down to get a better angle, but it was no use. I thanked them, and decided to see it there was bike mechanic near the transition area who could help me.  As I turned my bike back to upright, I noticed that all of the water had drained out my aero-bottle.  Also, I needed to pee and the pre-race meeting was going to start in a few minutes.  I was getting in some high-quality panic now!  Well, there was a bike mechanic under a tent next to transition, and he got me all fixed up pretty quickly!  I had to run over to the finish area to get some water, but it was probably a good little warm-up.  After the pre-race meeting, the porta-potty line was nice and short, so by 7:55 I was all ready to race.

First Run

There about 90 people doing the short race, and I lined up in the second row.  I was next to Teresa Nelson, and I ran pretty close to her most of the way.  There was mix of paved road, dirt road, and path but it was all very flat.  The rain got harder, and by the time I finished the dirt and grass in the transition were very wet.  Time: 11:40 (7:18 pace)


I was one of last people to rack my bike before the race, so I didn’t exactly get a prime spot.  Some guy was taking his time between my bike and the way out, so I had to go out of my way to get around him to get my bike and then again to run out with it.  My socks got totally soaked on the run out – maybe I should have gone barefoot.  I think I passed a couple of people in transition, and that always feels good.  Time: 1:00


Soon after I started the bike I caught up to someone in a Pro Club race suit and passed them.  It was quite a ways up to the next rider, but I felt like I was gaining on them.  I got passed by a woman in a BMB uniform, and she talked to the rider in front of me, who also had on a BMB uniform.  When I caught up to him, he started going faster – there were a couple of moments when I thought “Damn it, I think I got my wheel in front of yours, so you should back off!”  Later I figured out that he was only 14, and that the woman who passed us both was his mom.  The next rider I caught up to was a man wearing long black tights and a black or gray jacket.  I’m sure he didn’t drop back after I passed, as he passed me back about 10 seconds later.  A mile or so later, I caught up and passed him again, and managed to open up a gap.

Finally we started the climb.  At least 5 or 6 people passed me during the climb.  I have tried to work on it, but climbing is still one of the weaker parts of my biking.  By the time I got to the fairly flat part at the top, all of the people who had passed me looked they were so far ahead that I would never catch them.  I figured they were all fitter and faster, so I decided that just trying to close the gap a bit was enough to aim for.  As I approached 410 the officer doing traffic control let several cars through, and I slowed a bit to make sure that the cars were really stopping when he waved me through.  I could see two cars waiting to go in my direction – I stayed pretty far right so they could pass me easily.  Later, when I saw their brake lights and was gaining on them, I figured that meant I was gaining on some bikers that I couldn’t see.  My strategy for going down hills seemed to be working – basically once I am in my biggest gear I pedal hard until I am up over 110 rpm, then I just try to get into an aerodynamic position and coast.  After things flattened out a bit, I passed a couple of riders and was very close to several more.  I slipped my feet out of my shoes and pedaled a little ways with my feet on top of the shoes so that I could dismount without completely stopping and not have to run in bike shoes.  This worked well as I passed a couple more guys who were stopping at the dismount line and hobbling in their bike shoes.  Time 47:33  (18.2 mph)


I racked my bike, put on the running shoes and took off my helmet.  The man in front of me dropped something, so I passed him in the middle of the transition area. Time 1:02

Run 2

I was fairly close behind another runner as we left transition.  The course was a little confusing at first, but I could hear the directions that he got, and that helped me figure out which way I was going to be turning.  After about half a mile of winding around on paths and gravel roads, we came back out to the street.  At this point Josh Fitchett passed going the opposite way, about half a mile from finishing.  I figured I must be at least 20 minutes behind at that point.  In another few hundred yards, I started getting passed by bikers doing the long race who were starting their second bike lap.  I assume they were the leaders, but I’m not quite sure.  At about the 1 mile mark I got passed by the 14 year old in the BMB uniform.  Another guy came up beside me, and said “Now the sun comes out!”  I’m not overly chatty when I’m trying to run, but I admitted that the rain drops in my eyeballs made the bike descent unpleasant.  He dropped back and followed me for a while, then came up and talked some more.  He said he just wanted to finish and asked if I wanted him to pace me.  I wasn’t sure how to handle that, so I just sort of declined and let him pull away over the second half of the run.  The next guy to pass me had a shaved head, and he didn’t look like he was running fast, but he looked comfortable and he was faster than me.  I noticed that my quads were hurting, but otherwise I couldn’t think of any reason why I couldn’t run faster.  Eventually, during the last half mile on the paths and gravel roads, I heard some footsteps and someone breathing, and I got passed one more time by a woman with blonde hair.  I finished a few seconds behind her.  Time 31:43 (8:21 pace)

Post Race

I put on some warmer clothes, grabbed a snack, and watched people finish for a while.  I saw several people that I know from swim class.  Eventually they posted results, and I had to see where I finished.  I was 2nd in my age group and 18th overall!  The guy who offered to pace me was first in my age group.  While I was checking results, I saw Amy from swim class, and she got 2nd in her age group as well, so she said “I guess we have to stay for the awards now.”  So we did.  When they announced the men 50-54, I noticed that I would have won that age group, so that made me less disappointed about being 2nd in the 55-59, and overall pretty happy with my race.  I was a bit disappointed to be over a minute per mile slower in the second run, but I don’t think it’s a pacing problem so much as “legs tired out from biking” problem.

Posted by: bradhammond | August 28, 2012

Ironman Canada

Great Expectations

Well, actually not all that great – I wanted to improve on my time from last year when I did Ironman Coeur d’Alene, but I figured that my chances of doing that were 50-50 at best.  On one hand, I felt that I could do a better job of handling my pacing and nutrition this year, but on the other hand I had not been able to train quite as long, hard, and fast this year.  Last year I had made some significant changes that helped me recover better and run more – mostly standing in the cold lake after each run; this year I came up with the hip boots that I fill with ice and water after the lake has warmed up, but that wasn’t a significant enough change to offset my assorted injury / aging related declines.  Last year my longest training run was 22 miles, vs. 16 this year, and my biggest training week had 21 hours of Swim/Bike/Run vs. 19.5 hours this year.  I wanted to do more, but I felt like my body wasn’t recovering well enough to make that a good idea.

Laura, Kelsey, and Tyler were here to watch me, and we stayed in a condo near the run turnaround point in Okanagan Falls.  (Kayla stayed home with Moose, as we didn’t get his vet paperwork in time to bring him across the border with us.)  I wrote out rough schedule of when I expected to be at various checkpoints so they could show up in time.  My schedule went like this:

  • Swim start: 7:00
  • Finish swim: 8:15 to 8:25
  • Bike start 8:25 to 8:35
  • Bike through Okanagan Falls, corner of 10th and Main 9:00 to 9:20
  • Bike finish 2:40 to 3:30
  • Run turnaround in Okanagan Falls  5:10 to 6:15
  • Finish race 8:00 to 9:30


I checked in my bike and gear bags on Saturday, then I made a little pile of everything that I thought I wanted to bring or wear the next morning.  I went to bed early, and slept very soundly until midnight.  After that I was waking up once or more every hour until I finally got up at 4:30.  I ate breakfast, filled some bottles with ice and water, did some back exercises, and taped up my toes.  I think it is arthritis in the big toe joint that causes the pain and loss of range-of-motion, and taping it up has seemed effective in some of my training runs.  The weather forecast was 88 and sunny, so I put on sunscreen and hoped it would soak in and still be protecting me after the swim.  Laura drove me in, and dropped me off near transition at about 6:00.

I went to my run bag and stuck in the sun glasses, and headed to my bike.  On the way I saw a couple friends and we wished each other good luck.  There was a volunteer with a pump helping another racer near me, and then he let me use it to get my tires nice and firm.  I had put my water and nutrition on the bike, so I was ready to hit the bathroom, put on my wetsuit, and warm up for the swim.  When I first got in the line, the announcer was saying that there was over 30 minutes before the Pro start, so it was a little before 6:15.  I had a minor panic when I realized I had forgotten to bring the swim cap, but the guy behind me saved my spot while I went and got a spare.  The line took forever – I was still in line when the Pro’s started and had just gotten inside a porta-potty when they announced our start was in 10 minutes.  I took care of business, dropped off my dry clothes bag, zipped up my wetsuit, and shuffled out to the swim start.  My warm up consisted of submerging and blowing bubbles for a minute, and then we got started!


The water was very nice – about 71, and quite clear.  It stays shallow for a long way – I could see the bottom for much of the first leg.  It did not seem quite as rough and crowded as CDA last year – I had people’s arms coming down on legs a bit, but I had lots of stretches with little contact.  My attitude towards the swim is I’m very confident about finishing, and I want to keep relaxed like it’s a very long drafting drill in swim class.  If I managed to go 5 or 10 minutes faster by going all out, it might not help my overall race.  I spent most of the first leg drafting off some guy in a Zoot wetsuit with a red timing chip holder.  I got forced off him by someone swimming at angle to me, but then I ended up behind him again about 50 yards later.

On the third leg I was swimming very close to the red buoys, and I could read the numbers on them.  Between 21 and 22 I caught a glimpse of someone wearing some short “Zoomer” style fins!  I was very surprised, so I took a second look and verified that I really saw them.  The rest of the swim was not too interesting.  Well, I felt the tape coming off my toes, so that plan had not worked.  Eventually we got close to the finish and all of the swimmers funneled together – it felt very crowded, like I’d imagine it feels for a fish in the midde of a salmon run.  I tried to stand up a little early – it looked shallower, but turned out to be neck deep, so I kept swimming until I was next to people who were wading.  I pulled off my goggles and swim cap, and unzipped my wet suit – saw the clock saying 1:17 and change as I entered transition.  Time 1:17:20 – very happy with that swim, as I stayed relaxed, felt good, and finished right in the time range I expected!


Transition is really different at these big races!  They have a bunch of volunteers that help people take off their wetsuits, tents to change clothes in, volunteers that tell you which way to go, etc.  I pulled the wetsuit down to my waist and ran to a couple of wetsuit strippers who weren’t busy.  I lay on my back and tried to cooperate while a stripper pulled it off my legs, then I was off to find my “Swim to Bike” bag.  I was already wearing the shorts I was going to ride in, so I didn’t bother with the changing tent.  I pulled out my bike stuff, crammed in my wetsuit, goggles, swim cap and handed the bag to a volunteer.  I ran over to the porta-potties behind the changing tent and peed for a good minute and half – I didn’t think I’d had that much to drink!  I turned on my Garmin so that I could watch my heart rate during the run and bike, and put on my shirt, shoes, and helmet.  I found my way to my bike and followed the other racers out to the bike course.  I saw a clock saying 1:37 and change as I was leaving – I knew I hadn’t spent 20 minutes in transition, so I assumed it was showing the time for the Pro race, and had spent about 5 minutes. Time: 5:23, a little quicker than I expected.


I trotted across the “Mount” line, hit the start button on my watch, got on my bike and headed out.  The first couple miles down Main Street were very crowded – tons of spectators, and lots of bikes.  After about five minutes I looked at my watch to check my heart rate, and discovered that my wrist unit was not picking up the HR monitor signal.  This was pretty annoying!  I had tested it earlier in the morning while waiting in line, and it had worked then, so I had turned it off to save the battery.  I started drinking and taking in calories very early in the ride – my stomach felt fine, and I wanted to have a steady flow of fluids and calories so that I wouldn’t bonk or get dehydrated.  Some time after the 10 mile mark we started the first small climb (McClean Creek Road).  I spotted James T. who I sort of know from, and I said hi as I passed him going up the hill.  He passed me back on the descent, as I was being a bit cautious on the downhills.  I finished the food I was chewing and took a sip of water as we came down into Okanagan Falls so that I could yell hi to Kelsey and Tyler.  I went through at 9:05, which was right when I had predicted, and Kelsey and Tyler saw me looking around, but they were in the second row and I missed seeing them.

The first 40 miles of the bike ride seemed very easy.  I have no HR data to prove I was taking it easy, but it took only 1:57, which is about 20.5 mph, and I was feeling very relaxed and not pushing hard at all.  After that we started climbing up Richter Pass, which is about 6 miles of riding uphill.  I knew that it would drop my average speed by quite a bit, but I stuck to my plan of taking easy on the climbs, especially the earlier ones.  I had been very comfortable to that point, but my head got rather hot during the long climb.  My aero helmet doesn’t give my head any airflow, so I was sweating a bit.  I had brought a couple handkerchiefs in my bike shirt pockets so that I could wipe sweat away from my forehead and eye area – I had ridden the course a month before during a training camp, and had wished I could wipe away the sweat / sunblock mixture that kept stinging my eyes.  This time I was better prepared and able to keep my eyes clear and comfortable the whole time.  Also, since the aero helmet covers my ears, it is usually quieter, but occasionally pebbles or flying bugs would bounce off the helmet and it would sound really loud inside the helmet.

I was descending from Richter Pass when James passed me again – not sure how  or when I had gotten in front of him again – and then he squeezed his brakes as a coyote ran across the road in front of us.  I did a lot of coasting on the downhills, riding in a non-aero position so that I’d get more cooling breeze and keep my speed at a level where I felt almost safe.  I did my fastest riding as I was approaching the bottom of each hill, so that I could have lots of momentum heading into the next climb.  It was fun and I was making pretty good time – I think I went through the halfway point somewhere near 3:10.  A bit later there were two guys riding side-by-side and chatting about 20 yards in front of me – a course marshall on a motor cycle slowed down beside them and said something, and they split up right away.  I soon passed the one who had dropped back, but the other guy steadily pulled away.

Eventually I came to the “out and back” section of the bike course.  This is where I started feeling a blister on the bottom of my foot.  During the training camp I got blisters on the bike ride and started feeling them in the same section.  I had worn socks that day, and it was very hot, so I decided that I had a better chance of not blistering by going sockless.  I do lots of training rides that way, and my feet were very comfortable for over 60 miles, but by mile 75 or so I could feel the blisters starting.  Over the rest of my ride I worried a bit about how much the blisters would affect my running.  Soon after the out and back section comes the climb up to Yellow Lake.  There were quite a few spectators cheering us on, and a bit of breeze in my face, so in spite of being a bit tired I was more comfortable than going up Richter Pass.  From Yellow Lake to the finish is less than 20 miles, and it was almost all downhill.  I had to use my brakes in a few spots, and was still going quite fast.  When we hit highway 97 there were miles of cars backed up, as the cops were stopping traffic whenever bikes were coming through.  Another rider passed me and said something about how pissed off the cars must be.  Little did I know that my family was stuck in line for 40 minutes trying to get to the Start/Finish area.

They actually beat me to bike finish by a few minutes, but I didn’t see them.  Kelsey saw me finish the bike ride, but Laura and Tyler missed it.  I dismounted and handed off my bike to a volunteer after I crossed the timing mats.  Time 6:27:33 – this was closer to the slow end of my expectations for the bike ride, but I had stuck to my plan of riding slower to see if it would help me in the run.


The blisters made it very painful to walk around in the transition area.  I took off the bike shoes before going to the changing tent, but even barefoot was uncomfortable.  I got my bag and went into the changing tent – a volunteer accompanied me to a chair and emptied my bag while I took off my helmet and bike shirt.  He loaded my helmet, shoes, and bike shirt into the bag while I put on my socks, running shoes, clean shirt and number belt.  I left the tent, found an empty porta-potty and peed for a couple minutes.  I hadn’t peed since T1 and I can’t remember how many drink bottles I went through – but it was a lot.  Finally I was ready to leave and start the run.  Time: 6:51, right in line with expectations.


I restarted my watch as I started the run, and after about a half mile my feet stopped bothering me.  My family was watching me start the run, but I didn’t know where they were standing and didn’t see them. After about a mile I did a U-turn over a timing mat and came to the first water stop / aid station.  I had a quick drink and dumped some ice into my T-shirt.  The number belt around the outside keeps the ice in place, and having ice cubes against my chest and under each arm helps me stay cool enough.  Just after that I heard someone at the side of the road yelling for me, and I recognized Micheal Covey, my swim coach.  I said hi, and high fived him as I ran past.

The next aid station was at about 2.5 miles, and I couldn’t believe it, but I felt like peeing again already, so I stopped there for a minute.  At about 3.5 there was another aid station, and I got more ice and more to drink.  By that time I had figured out that I hadn’t actually reset my watch between the run and bike, just stopped and restarted it.  I decided to reset it and start it again when I reached the 4 mile mark so that I could keep track of my pace and be in sync with the mile marks.  I think I was only walking at aid stations at that point, and I kept snacking on the food I’d brought and taking the occasional salt tablet.  At about 5 miles I saw Colleen and Bryan who organized the training camp I had done, and they cheered me on.  I also went past a TN Multisports tent, and someone there recognized and cheered for me – I think it might have been Bridget.

At about mile 6 I wanted to pee again, but the porta-potties on my side of the road were both in use.  The aid station for the opposite direction was much less busy and only about 25 yards further, so I crossed the street and used a porta-potty for the less busy direction.  As I was coming out, I heard someone say “Brad Hammond!” and I saw Rusty Pruden on a bike, watching the race.  I don’t know how many athletes he was coaching for this race, but I saw a woman named Jenn zoom past in an RPE kit as I approached the Yellow Lake climb. Aynway, that helped me get back into running mode a bit – I was walking through aid stations and up hills, but you don’t want to walk if someone is watching.  Soon after that I got passed by Paul Linnerud, who I know from swim classes at the Pro Club.  He did Ironman St. George, which has a super tough course, and I think he’s a better runner than me, so I didn’t expect to be catching up to him later.

At this point I was averaging between 14 and 15 minutes per mile, or just a little over 15 if I stopped to pee.  I wasn’t really thrilled about running at that pace, and there seemed like an endless stream of people passing me – some going just slightly faster, and some going a lot faster, but I felt like trying to run faster would lead to me keeling over with cramps and walking it in really slowly.  Eventually I hit some little hills beside the lake.  I had lots of company walking up them, and I always ran down, even though it made my feet and ankles hurt.  With my watch problems, I knew how long I had been running since mile 4, but I didn’t know the time of day or my total time since race started very accurately.  I started recognizing some of the other people who walked for parts and were averaging about my pace – I would keep trying to catch up and pass them.  A little before the turnaround I saw Laura, Kelsey, and Tyler and I yelled hi.  I stopped to pee, and went past them again on my way back.  I asked Laura what time it was, and she said 6:02, so I told her I’d probably seem them again at about 9.

Once I made it past the turnaround, I pretty much knew that I would finish.  I probably walked a little longer than I had to sometimes, but I managed to stick pretty close to 15 minute miles.  I became pretty sensitive to where the aid stations were – when they went from about .2 miles after the mile mark to .4 after the mile mark I had some anxious moments as I thought “Where is it?  It should be here!”  Maybe the terrain and occasional lack of shoulder space is why the distance varies a  bit.  I really wished I had brought my small water bottle with me – I wanted to take sips more often than once a mile, so I was probably gulping down a bit more than I needed once I got to each aid station.

Somewhere around mile 19 or 20 I caught up to Paul Linnerud, who was walking at that point, I talked with him a few seconds, then went back to running as we reached the crest of the hill.  I don’t think either one of us was having exactly the race we’d wished for at that point, but if trying to beat him could motivate me to walk a bit less, then I figured I might as well give it a try.  It was also  about this point that I got passed by a 62 year old woman.  She was in great shape, but not really going much faster than me, just walking a bit less.  I managed to catch up to her when she was walking away from an aid station, and we took turns passing each other the rest of the way.  Usually she went just a little faster between aid stations, and I was a little quicker going through the station.  There were between 2 and 3 miles left when I saw a clock on a building that said 8:40 – my brain was tired, but I quickly realized that finishing at 9 (14 hours) was not going to happen for me.  I got past the 25 mile mark, and passed very close to the finish line – Laura, Kelsey, and Tyler were waiting across the street from the big peach, and they cheered for me as I went off on the out-and-back section on Lakeshore Drive.  It was about 8:59, and I could hear the announcer counting down the final minute for people who were trying to break 14 hours.  I still had almost a mile to go, and I didn’t want to walk any of it.  I saw Micheal Covey again, and then Celia Bostick who I know from swim class.  Then after the turn around I saw Kim and Rusty.  At this point I got passed by a woman who had done the same training camp as me – I wanted to keep up with her, I couldn’t manage that pace.  I managed to stay couple steps ahead of the 62 year old woman –  she won her age group – and the announcer said our names and congratulated her on her podium finish.  I would have felt weird about going into some crazy sprint to come from behind and beat her to the line, but as I was leading for a couple of miles I felt just fine with keeping up the pace to stay ahead of her.  I hope I didn’t mess up her finish line photo.  Time: 6:18:23


My total time was 14:15:30.  I’ve now done three races at this distance, and run slower each time and finished slower each time.  Oh well, some people slow down as they age, and I seem to be one of them.  I had hoped that slowing down on the bike would allow me to go faster on the run, but it didn’t seem to work.  While not that excited with the result, I am satisfied with the effort, both in training and on race day.  I don’t have any definite plans as far as racing this distance again – maybe I won’t and maybe I will, but probably not next year.  I certainly plan to race again at shorter distances, and I expect to put lots of time and effort into training. but the Ironman distance is not my best distance and really cuts down my chances to race at other distances where I can do better.

Posted by: bradhammond | July 7, 2012

5 Mile Lake Race Report

On June 30 I did the 5 Mile Lake Sprint Triathlon.  It consists of a 1/4 mile swim, a 14 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run.  I also did this race in 2010, so I figured that I would get some idea of how much I was improving or slowing down over the past 2 years.  Based on my times in training, I expected that I would probably swim a little bit slower and run significantly slower, but I thought I had a chance of being faster in the bike ride.  The night before the race my calves were feeling quite sore, so I put on the new compression sleeves that I bought this spring.  After I slept in them I was feeling less sore, but I decided to wear them in the race.  I’ve never worn things like that in a race before, but I have seen other people do it, and this seemed like a good day to give it a try.


I saw my friend Penelope, who was racing in the 60-64 age group, and I hung out talking with her for quite a while.  I was the first one into the water for a warm up swim – water was mid 60’s and quite comfortable.  It was raining lightly, so I turned my running shoes upside down in the transition area – I didn’t want them to fill up with water as I was doing the swim and bike.  During the prerace talk, the race director warned people about a downhill left turn where someone had wiped out last year, and recommended being cautious there.


I was in the second swim wave, so we started 3 minutes after the young men in green swim caps.  I tried to start fast, but I’m not really sure if I did.  I kept colliding with the man on my right – it was hard to tell if either of us was going  in a slightly wrong direction or whether we had just started a bit too close and were getting closer as we converged on the first buoy.  At the first buoy everyone funneled together, and I got my goggles knocked out of place.  I paused very briefly after the turn to dump out water and re-position the goggles.  I never really got into a drafting position right behind another swimmer; I was usually following a cluster who were several body lengths in front of me.  By the second buoy I caught up with a green capped swimmer from the first wave, and in the stretch between the second buoy and the beach I passed several other swimmers from the first wave.  Time 6:23 – 12 seconds slower than in 2010, but pretty close!


As usual, I had my swim cap and goggles off and the wet suit down to my waist by the time I got to my spot in the transition area.  I flopped on my back to kick and wrestle the wet suit off my legs – I had the compression sleeves on under it, and it seemed to take just a little more effort to get it off over my ankles.  I had the bike shoes attached to my bike, so as soon as I finished with the wet suit I snapped on my bike helmet, lifted my bike off the rack and started running out to the bike start.  Time 53 seconds, 4 seconds faster than last time!


It was a flat start for the bike course.  I slid my left foot into the shoe and pedaled with my right foot on top of the shoe until I got my speed up.  This time it seemed pretty easy to wriggle my right foot into the shoe while I coasted, then I fastened the Velcro straps  and tried to catch up with more people.  I had passed a couple guys and I caught up to 2 more just as we came to the downhill left turn that we had been warned about.  I decided I would wait until after the turn to pass them, so while I was waiting some other guy sped past all 3 of us.  Naturally I had to try and chase him down after I got through the turn.

I caught and passed him, but within a mile he had passed me back and I was just hoping to stay sort of close to him.  Then he ran over a piece of glass or something and I could hear his tire pop and all the air coming out.  I felt sorry for him, but I couldn’t help, so he pulled over and stopped while I kept on going.  It was a 2 lap bike course, and the rest of lap 1 was very uneventful.  On the second lap I saw a couple of guys with flats – not sure if one was the one I had witnessed.

Somehow the second lap seemed like it had a lot more uphill, and I used my small chain ring a lot more than I had in the first lap.  I was about half way through the second lap, and thinking to myself that no one had passed me since about halfway through the first lap, when 3 or 4 guys all passed me at about the same time.  One of them looked like he had the number 64 on his leg (actually he was 61, but I didn’t figure that out until later), so I felt a bit discouraged to get passed by someone a lot older than me.  They managed to pull away from me quite a bit before we got back to the park.  There were a couple riders less than 100 yards in front of me as we approached the dismount line.  I already had my feet out of my shoes, and I passed both of them on the run between the dismount line and transition entrance.  Time 39:56 (21 mph), 20 seconds slower than last time.


I quickly racked my bike and took off my helmet.  I sat down to pull on my running shoes, and was soon running out to start the run course.  I made up quite a bit of time here.  Time 44 seconds, 13 seconds faster than last time!


As soon as we got out of the park and turned onto the road I could see that the person in front of me was the 61 year old.  I passed him within the first quarter mile, and set my sights on the next runner who was only about 40 yards ahead.  As we approached the 1 mile mark I had made up most of the distance.  I noticed that he had tattoos running down both arms, and 37 on his leg, so he was one of those younger guys who started 3 minutes before me.  It seemed like he was faster than me on the downhills, but I was faster on the uphills.  Soon after the 1 mile mark I passed him on an uphill stretch and I tried to get further ahead before we started going back down again.

We came to a table with cups of water, and a woman and little girl were there asking if anyone wanted some water.  I didn’t, but I smiled and waved.  The guy I had just passed stopped for water, and I managed to increase the gap to 20 or 30 yards while he got a drink.  The next runner in front of me seemed a very long way off, but I told myself to try and close the gap a bit.  It didn’t work – soon the 37 year old had caught me, and he seemed to be going a lot faster as he passed me going uphill.  Before we got to the 2 mile mark I could hear foot steps and breathing behind me again, and a young guys in his 20’s went past me.  I had just barely finished thinking that at least it wasn’t the old guy, when we hit the 2 mile mark and the old guy passed me, too.  As we took the road back towards the park I could see all three of those guys stretched out over the 100 yards in front of me, but I couldn’t seem to keep up, let alone pass them back.  As we did a small loop inside the park, another guy in his 30’s passed me and beat me to the line by .4 seconds. Time: 23:31 (7:35 pace) 43 seconds slower than last time.

Post Race:

The young guy who nipped me at the wire and the old guy who was a few seconds in front of us both all exchanged “Nice race!” comments, and then I hurried to take off my shoes.  I had blistered on my arch again, and couldn’t wait to get barefoot.  As I sat down, I felt a lot of pain near my kidneys, which I concluded was from pushing really hard.  With my history of passing a kidney stone  a few months before each of my previous Ironman races, I got a bit nervous, but it eventually went away.  I saw Penelope after the race – she had ridden half a lap or so on a flat tire, which slowed her down quite a bit, but she still got second in her age group.  I ended up third in my age group.  I was 58 seconds slower than 2 years ago, and I got beat by someone 5 years older, but I am satisfied that I trained hard and made a really hard effort in the race.

Posted by: bradhammond | June 20, 2012

TriMonroe – Race Report

I did another race this past Saturday, the TriMonroe Sprint triathlon.  The race consisted of a 1/4 mile swim, 20 km (about 12.4 mile) bike ride, and a 5 km (3.1 mile) run.  The same race course was being used for quite a few races that day – there were USAT Junior Elite Cup races and Youth Elite Cup races that drew top Junior Elite (16 – 19) and Youth Elite (13 – 15) triathletes from around the country.  Those races were all draft-legal, but they also had a non-drafting age group race for the older, slower triathletes like me!  Anyway, the race was on a closed course sort of like an ITU race – bike ride was 4 loops on a 5km course that had a U-turn at each end and a sequence of 6 right angle turns as the course went off the road and around a school.  The run course was 2 loops around the little lake that we swam in, so we went past the start/finish area quite often.


My race started at 7 am, and I had to pick up my number and timing chip first, so I wanted to leave the house fairly early.  I woke up around 4 am, figured it was useless trying to go back to sleep for another 20 or 30 minutes, so I got up and had breakfast.  I went through my normal routine of stretching and exercises, and had no trouble getting to the race bright and early.  I think I was the 4th person to put my stuff into the transition area.  We got to choose our spots, and a woman had already chosen the end of the bike rack next to where we would run out with our bikes, so I set up right next to her.  My back was feeling really tight, so after I set out my bike gear and running shoes I went over to a playground and did some more stretching.  At about 6:30 I put on my wetsuit and did a little warm-up swim. The water was very nice – about 65 with great visibility, so I figured I would enjoy the swim.


The swim started on the beach, so I lined up right in the middle, with one toe possibly in the water.  We started right on time, with everyone running in when the air horn sounded.  The orange floats were just the same color as the swim caps, so for most of the first half I just hoped the people in front of me were going the right way.  From the first float to the 2nd seemed really short, like about 20 yards, and then we headed back toward the beach.  I decided I had been going too slow for the first half, so I increased my stroke rate a lot and passed a few people coming back.  Time: 6:41, not too bad compared with my past races.


The timing mat for the swim was right where you come out of the water, and by the time I got to the actual transition area I had pulled off my swim cap and goggles, unzipped my wetsuit, and pulled my arms out (sleeveless wetsuit).  There was a guy who had his bike racked right next to mine who was partway through transition and he was talking to someone (maybe me?) as I flopped on my back and kicked/pulled the wetsuit off my legs.  I remember thinking “Wow, this guy sure is chatty!”  I snapped on my helmet, put on my bike shoes, and ran out while he was still working on stuff.  After my problems getting my feet into the shoes while on the bike in my last race, I decided to just put the shoes on in T1.  It was a really long run in bike shoes, so I did a bit of second guessing on that.  Time: 1:16 – would have been much quicker without putting the shoes on, but then my bike time might have suffered – seems like a coin flip.


As I was running over to the bike start, I heard the announcer saying something like “The number on his leg is his age.  He’s only 12 years old!”  Within 100 yards or so, I knew just what he was talking about, as I saw the 12 year old boy ahead of me on the bike.  I passed him right away, but I couldn’t help wondering whether the kid was a really fast swimmer for his age or whether I’d been swimming slower than I thought.  Pretty soon I came to the series of 90 degree turns as we went around the school.  I tried to set up really wide as I approached the turns, hold as much speed as I could through the turn, and then pedal hard to accelerate out of each turn.  Things were a little damp, but it didn’t actually start raining until I was finishing my third loop.  Partway through one of my early laps I saw the race leaders who appeared to be about 1/2 lap ahead of me – or 1/2 lap away from lapping me if I didn’t go fast enough.  With all of the coasting into turns and pedaling hard out of them, the bike ride was more like an interval workout than a steady effort.  I used the threat of getting lapped as a motivational factor.

About halfway through the bike I got passed by Bob, one of the few people I actually recognized.  I had managed to beat him in a race 4 years ago where we finished the bike together, and he got a huge lead in T2 because he had biked in his running shoes.  I noticed he was biking in running shoes again, so I knew I’d have to stay close on the bike and run pretty fast to have a chance of beating him.  I managed to keep him in sight, but he was about 20 seconds ahead of me going into T2.  We had to make two 90 degree turns as we left the course and headed to the transition area.  I didn’t see the sign for the second until I had gone too far, and had to almost completely stop to get back on course.  Time: 34:06 for 20km, about 21.8 mph.  I’m happy with it; I had never raced on that type of course before, and I thought it was a fun change.


The first thing I noticed was that the woman’s spot on the end was still empty, but the chatty guy on the other side had finished and gotten out on the run course already.  I was right next to the exit, and one man ran out while I was still putting on my running shoes.  There was a water stop right away, but I just ignored it.  I passed a couple guys right away, and I could see 3 more guys between me and Bob.  They didn’t look like they were going all that fast, but I didn’t seem to be able to close the gap any.  This is probably due to the fact that I run slower and slower every year – I can remember running faster, I just can’t actually do it!  There were signs for 1k, 2k, etc. so after I had gone 500 meters there was a 3k sign (which was true the 2nd time I passed it) and so on.  After I passed the 2km sign I knew I was falling further behind, rather than gaining ground, and I started worrying about getting lapped on the run course.  (It hadn’t happened on the bike course…)  I got passed by a guy in a red tri-suit just before the end of my first lap, but he had another lap to go, just like me.

On the second lap I started feeling a stitch in my side.  I decided to stay at about the same intensity/pain level until the 4 km sign, and then try to mount a finishing kick.  There was a corner near the 4 km sign, and when I rounded the corner I could see that the guy ahead of me had passed 2 other people (lapped them actually) so I tried to kick past them.  The first one I caught up to was the 12 year old.  As soon as I got close, he heard me and started running a lot faster, but after 100 yards or so he slowed down again and I went past.  Next was a woman who kept her speed more constant.  I managed to pass her a little ways before the split – bear left to do lap 2 and bear right for the finish line.  I didn’t catch the guy in red, but I tied him for getting the timing chip off and grabbing a bottle of water – oh, that’s not part of the race, too?  Time: 24:44 for 5k, a blazing 7:59 pace.  This was the only split I was really disappointed in.  Unless my memory is faulty I was able to do about a 7:30 pace in sprints last year, and between 7:10 and 7:20 a year or two before that.  I’ve been doing a lot of intervals lately, and I had high hopes, but so far I have to conclude that I am just slower right now.


They had an I-Pad kiosk near the finish area where you could type in your race number and see your results, so I was able to find out fairly quickly that my total time was 1:07:44 and that I was first in the 55 – 59 age group!  That made me pretty happy!  I was 13th place overall, and I managed to beat the first woman by over a minute.  (First triathlon in my life where I beat the first woman…)  Bob had won the 50 – 54 age group and had beaten me by over 2 minutes, so I congratulated him and headed on home.

Posted by: bradhammond | September 11, 2011

No Clothes in Sept.

That’s what the sign said on the way back from my race this morning. This was just after passing the “Cowgirl Espresso” stand which had its own suggestive signage, and I thought “Wow, the zoning laws here must be pretty darn permissive!” Since I had to wait for the traffic light anyway, I took a closer look at the building which had no visible windows. Signage on the door identified the building as a community center (sure…) and said something about clothing donations.  It is unclear to me whether they are not giving or not accepting clothes for this month, but either way not what I thought at first! Now on to the race report…


My last tri for this season was the Lake Stevens Sprint Triathlon. My back problems have kept me from doing any hard training for the last month, so my expectations were a lot lower for this race. Twice this week (Wed. and Thursday) I started to run and got less than .1 miles before the sciatic nerve pain in my glutes and hamstrings convinced me that running was not a good idea. I felt fine swimming and biking, but running totally sucked. I had a chiropractor visit Friday morning, and hoped that it would help me be able to finish the race.

I got to Lake Stevens in plenty of time, picked up my race packet and started setting up my bike in transition. I saw Larry Clarke setting up at the same bike rack and I figured my chances of winning the 55-59 age group were pretty slim – he can usually kick my ass when I’m totally healthy, never mind when I’m not running well. I don’t think he knew who I was even though we raced against each other just 2 weeks ago, but I look at lots of race results online and had identified him as someone really fast several years ago. I noticed an “Ironman World Championship 1999” race number around his top tube – if I ever did Kona I might leave the number on my bike forever – but I wondered if he’s really been using the same bike for 12 years.


The 1/4 mile swim was straight out and back, and my age group was in the second wave. I started right next to Larry and started drafting behind him after the first 50 yards. This worked really well, because when the first wave was passing us in the opposite direction I didn’t have to worry about head-on collisions. On the way back we were passing a lot of people from the first wave, but we got separated and he beat me back by a few seconds. Time 8:24, 26/209 over all.


I managed to pass Larry in T1 – he was sitting down putting on his bike shoes, and mine were clipped onto my pedals, so I snapped on my helmet and ran out before he finished. Time 55 seconds was faster than most.


I went a bit slower for the first 20 or 30 seconds as I got my feet properly into my bike shoes and the velcro straps closed. Larry passed me pretty early, but within a minute I was passing him back and trying to put some distance between us. There was a nice hill to climb, and I stood up for most of it, passing several riders. I tried to keep going really hard over the top, knowing that I could rest pretty soon. After about 10 seconds or so of descent I was going so fast there was no point in pedaling – enjoyed a nice coast while I caught my breath and kept in the aero bars.

It was an out-and-back bike course, so I started counting riders when I saw the first one coming back towards me. By my count there were only 17 riders in front of me when I got to the u-turn cone, and I passed one more soon after that. Pretty good, considering the first wave had a 3 minute head start! Climbing the hill on the way back I passed two more people to move into 15th, but  the guy with the disk wheel passed me back after the bottom of the hill. I wiggled my feet out of the shoes in the last couple hundred yards and followed the disk wheel guy into T2. Time 28:00 (12/209 overall) for a pretty hilly 10 miles, and I beat Larry by over 30 seconds, so I was really happy with my bike ride!


I couldn’t tell if I was passing people in T2 or not, but I came out right between two younger men. Time 43 seconds seems ok.


It didn’t take long for the guy who followed me out of T2 to run past and leave me far behind, but I felt pretty good and even passed someone in the first half mile! Larry passed me at about the 1 mile mark, and I yelled “Go Larry!”, so I figure he’ll probably recognize and remember me when we race next year. Then some young 50 year old all in black passed me too, and I tried to stay as close as I could.

Soon there were runners coming back at me, but I didn’t bother trying to count them. When I saw Larry and the 50 year old coming towards me I knew I was almost to the turn-around. I didn’t bother to get water, just a quick u-turn and I got to see the people closing in on me. There was a young woman I didn’t recognize, a few more men, and then Stacia who had made up the wave differential and passed me in the run 3 weeks ago. I figured they might be passing me pretty soon, but I managed to hold them off until the last corner and the 50 yard sprint to the finish. I could hear people saying “First woman” as I neared the finish area, and when we turned the last corner Stacia passed me on the right and the younger woman passed me on the left. The 16 year old girl was part of a relay, and she beat me to the line by 2 seconds and Stacia beat me to the line by 1 second! The race announcer thought it was very exciting. Time: 25:33 for 5K, about 7:53 per mile and 41/207 overall (2 DNF’s) Usually I would be very bummed out about a run split like that, but I haven’t been able to run hard in training for at least 4 weeks, and it wouldn’t have surprised me at all to do much worse.


I finished 15 / 207 overall, counting the relay team that beat me by two seconds. 2 / 4 in my age group doesn’t sound too impressive, but I was less than 2 minutes behind Larry, and almost 18 minutes ahead of 3rd in our age group, so I feel pretty good about it.


I had a good chat with Larry after the race – I asked him he was still doing Iron distance races, and he said he does one every 3 or 4 years. I wish I’d asked if his bike was really that old, but forgot to. He introduced me to his wife, and we all commiserated that older age groups were pretty competitive – the people who quit the sport when they get older all seem to be the slow ones instead of the faster ones… Then I drove home and read the signboard saying “No Clothes in Sept.” A good day, a good way to end the season, and now I’ll take some time to heal up so I can train hard again.

Posted by: bradhammond | August 21, 2011

Finish Strong Triathlon

Today (Aug. 20) I raced in the Finish Strong Triathlon in Monroe, WA. I did the sprint distance of 1/4 mile swim, 14 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. I actually think the swim turned out to be a bit longer, but that’s ok.

This was the only the 2nd year that they have held this race, but I thought it was pretty well organized. They had an Olympic distance race start first and used the same basic course for both races. The course was marked pretty well, and there were a couple of water stops on the run.


My wave went off second. I warmed up very briefly, and the water temp was very comfortable. We were supposed to start on the beach and go to a buoy that was diagonal from the beach, so everyone lined up at the closest edge. I was behind 4 or 5 other guys, but I figured that was better than swimming extra distance. I knew there a few people from my wave who were beating me during the swim, but I felt like I was going pretty fast and passed a number of people from the earlier wave or the Olympic race. My time was 8:22, which would be a lot slower than I averaged in my 2.5 mile swim on Wednesday, so I think it was probably a bit long. I was 12 / 160, so I am happy with it!


Pretty uneventful, there was a guy at the next bike rack who got in just before me and I beat him out. 58 seconds was far from the fastest, but quicker than most of the people.


There was a really long run from Transition exit to the mount line, maybe 200 yards, and I passed two people before I got on my bike. The bike ride was pretty flat. It was an out and back course, and there were some gentle uphill and downhill sections, but I only used my small chain ring 2 or 3 times. I passed a lot of people, although many of them were doing the Olympic race, and no one passed me. The highlight was going by a farm that raised miniature donkeys – they were very cute, and there was a field with lots of them. The weather was beautiful, and it would have been a very pleasant ride, but I was pushing my body way past the comfort zone. My bike split was 39:26, which includes the long runs between transition and the mount/dismount lines. I had the 8th fastest bike split, and I’m quite pleased with that.



A little more eventful – when I hung my bike up by the seat it slid off, so I wasted a little more time racking it again. My T2 time of 48 seconds was slower than a lot of folks.




I passed a younger guy soon after we got out of transition, but within a half mile he was passing me back. Then I passed a 48 year old man and opened up a pretty good gap on him. For a while I was afraid that if I looked back and didn’t see anyone close I would slow down, but eventually I took a peek. I thought I was getting close to the end of the run, but there was a long out and back section left to go. I was not too thrilled when I discovered that. Soon I heard someone coming up behind me, and it was the first woman – she had made up the 3 minute wave difference and was passing me like I was walking. Soon the 48 year old passed me back as well, and he beat me to the finish by 9 seconds. My run split was 23:26 and ranked 27/160, which was kind of disappointing on such a flat course.

My total time was 1:13:00, about 8 1/2 minutes behind the winner. I was second in my age group and placed 10th overall. I stuck around for the award ceremony, and I got a pint glass with the race logo on it – I will put it to good use!

Posted by: bradhammond | July 25, 2011

Seafair 2011

I did the Seafair Sprint Triathlon today (7/24/2011).  They added an Olympic distance race this year, but I decided to do the sprint again.  The main reason is that doing the exact same course as last year lets me do direct comparisons between my performance in the two years.  Also, my last race was a full ironman distance, and I wanted to do something really short and easy for a change of pace.  The first wave of the Olympic race started at 6:30, and I was in the last age-group wave of the Sprint which didn’t start until 8:00.  (I wasn’t wearing a watch, but I assume things really started at approximately the scheduled times.)


The swim is 1/2 mile, and last year I was very happy with my time of 14:06.  I have been swimming slower in practice this year, and was a bit slower at Coeur d’Alene than in my previous ironman swims, but Thursday’s swim class gave me some hope of improving.  Hardly anyone was in class, and the coach had plenty of time to explain some problems with my stroke.  He’d probably told me before that I wasn’t going deep enough when I put my hand in the water, and I know that he’d mentioned something before about  me dropping my elbow partway through the stroke, but Thursday was when it finally sunk in a bit better.  When I made the adjustments I seemed to be able to go a bit faster, and I confirmed this with some open water practice on Friday and Saturday.

Watching some of the earlier waves, it appeared to me that the best spot to start was at the far right side of the starting line, so that is where I lined up.  I recognized one good swimmer in my wave from previous races, and I had hoped to draft off him, but he lined up at the far left side.  I immediately pulled away from the swimmers who were close to me, and I didn’t end up doing much drafting at all.  I had to sight fairly often, and I came pretty close to the volunteers who were out on surfboards.  I focused on my stroke adjustments a lot, and felt pretty comfortable.  I zigzagged quite a bit on the last stretch.  It seemed like I hadn’t been in the water all that long when I got to the finish.  My swim split was 13:35, a 31 second improvement from last year!


As soon as I got into the transition area I lay on the ground and pulled off my wetsuit, then I carried it while I ran to the place where my bike was racked.  (It was pretty crowded between the bike racks.)  I set down my wetsuit and goggles, and got my helmet on.  I had fastened my shoes to the pedals, so as soon as my helmet was on I grabbed my bike and ran for the exit.  Time 1:40, 7 seconds faster than last year!


I had a slightly slow bike start while I struggled to get my feet into the bike shoes, but pretty soon I was pedaling after people as fast as I could.  There were tons of people from earlier waves out on the bike course, and I sped past a lot of them.  Climbing up to the I-90 bridge, I could see the fast swimmer I had wanted to draft off.  I passed him early on the bridge, but by the turnaround point I still hadn’t opened up a very large gap.  I pushed really hard to catch and pass more people on the way back, hoping not to get stuck behind anyone really slow during the short “no-passing” zone.  I caught my breath and sipped some more water as I followed someone a bit slower down the “no-passing” part of the hill, then I got back into passing lots of people.  I don’t think I got passed by anyone during the ride.  There were some great views of Mt. Rainier during the ride, and the weather seemed perfect to me!  Time 34:00 for 12 miles, a 27 second improvement over last year!


I had slipped my feet out of the bike shoes during the last few hundred yards of riding, so all I had to do in transition was rack my bike, take off my helmet, and put the running shoes on.  I tried to run pretty fast as I was going through the transition area. Time 1:12, a 14 second improvement over last year!


The run is pretty flat for almost 2 miles, then there is a long hill that we run up and down, with about .3 miles of flat after the hill.  The road is pretty curvy, and I was trying to run the tangents and not do extra distance.  There was a guy ahead of me in an orange hat doing the same thing, and he seemed to be going at a pretty good pace for me to follow.  We passed lots of other runners, and I would get pretty close to him, but he kept pulling away.  I pushed hard on the uphill and caught up to him, but I didn’t actually pass him until the final downhill stretch.  A few moments later another runner (a 50 year old) went rocketing past us both.  The orange hat guy passed me back in the last .2 of a mile, but I managed to sprint past him for good in the last 50 yards.  Time 22:59 for 3.1 miles, a 51 second improvement over last year!


My final time was 1:13:26, 2:09 faster than last year!  I finished 43 out of 574 overall and 1st out of 13 in my age group!  Moving up to a new age group does make it easier to place – if I was still in the 50-54 age group I would have been 4th again, instead I won my age group by over 4 minutes.

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