How cold is too cold for a race? I don’t know the answer to that yet, because as soon as I start believing that I’ve reached my limit, something happens that pushes me farther.
I did get hypothermia once at the Savageman 70 race back in 2013. It was bad. I had to be pulled off the bike course. On a good note, the staff at Garrett County Hospital were very nice.
The coldest water I’ve swum in was 52 degrees (and choppy). That was White Lake Half in ???: I forget the year, but it was after the Savageman DNF.
There was a race here in Wilmington, NC a couple of years ago in mid March. The transition area had a patch of ice. (anecdotal, second hand info, but reasonable).
The most recent blog posts on this site were counting down the days to the Havasu Triathlon. In one particular post, I made “predictions” of the weather conditions for race day. I wasn’t there, so I didn’t experience the conditions myself. However, the race director sent me an email. The entire body of the message went something like this:
Swim was cancelled. Water temp was 54, air temp in the 40s with a 15 mph north wind.
First of all, I want to thank Mr. Grinder for sending that information, because being a race director on the day or two after a race must be a hectic time.
Second of all… HOLY CRAP! Those conditions are pretty rough. From a race director’s point of view, I can understand why the swim was canceled. Even though I’ve swum colder water, that combination of air temperature and wind temperature would have turned everyone blue. It also explains why the swim times were so strange in the results (see yesterday’s post).
Is It Worth It?
As an athlete, would you race in those conditions?
I’ve done an extensive literature search of the 2019 Havasu Triathlon over multiple sources and retrieved a modest amount of data. Translation:
I Googled the race and didn’t find much.
I usually bristle at the verb, to google, but it seems much more succinct than saying, “I searched the internet”, and everyone understands it.
Usually, someone posts a shaky home vid of their sister or husband slogging through the run with their tongue hanging out. Better yet, are those videos of some random guy running through T1 wearing only a thong…
Maybe it’s too early, but I haven’t seen any videos on YouTube, any race reports on Facebook, any blog entries on the interwebs or anything else that I could use to get a feel for how the race unfolded. The only thing of value that I did find were the race results.
Numbers Don’t Lie
That’s the dumbest saying, “Numbers don’t lie.” Actually, there are dumber sayings like, “if you keep doing that, you’ll go blind.” but if you are going to say that numbers don’t lie, you might as well say that numbers don’t tell the truth either. Numbers can be just as inaccurate as words. Ask any statistician.
I’m looking at the 2019 Havasu Triathlon race results for the men’s 55-59 age group.
It’s my understanding that the swim was 1500 meters which is approximately 1,640 yards. If the first place athlete in my age group swam 1,640 yards in 7 minutes and 16.9 seconds, that means his pace was 27 seconds per 100 yards. That’s 20 seconds faster than the U.S. record made by Caeleb Dressel in 2017 and that’s one of the slower times in the age group!
How could this be? What happened? Here are a few thoughts, but let’s not dwell on this too much:
The swim was closer to 450 yards
The swim times are actually in the 20 minute range (e.g. 27:16.9)
My math is way off
The timing official fell asleep and made up the numbers after the race.
My Sister the Spy
My sister who lives about four hours from Lake Havasu City was going to meet me at the race. She went out there even though I didn’t go and gave me a brief report.
The sky was clear and the air was chilly from a North wind. There were runners on the London Bridge.
I told you it was brief. She’s not a triathlete, so that’s OK.
Just a Memory Now
The 2019 Havasu Triathlon is in the books regardless of what the numbers say or how we interpret them. Athletes are making their way back home with heads filled with what went right, what went wrong and that overall feeling of accomplishment. I wish I were one of them this week.
The moment is almost here for athletes of all ages to gather at the starting line for the Havasu Triathlon in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Tomorrow, ordinary people will show their friends and families how extraordinary they are.
Triathlons are special events. Every race, from the local sprint to the USAT Nationals, carries an energy and atmosphere that is fundamentally different than running races or other events that I’ve attended. I am confident that the Havasu Triathlon is no different in that respect.
The people are not so different: maybe they are a bit more driven to push their limits, but there are all kinds of personalities in triathlons and marathons and 5k. The finish lines are similar too. Different types of events have loud music and announcers at their finish lines. What sets triathlon apart is the transition area which is the hub of all activity.
Rack Your Bike
One of the first things you do at a triathlon is rack your bike in transition. This is usually like a small scavenger hunt as you search for the rack with your race number and when you do arrive at your number, conversation with other athletes is inevitable: “Good morning”, “Are you ready?”, “Have you done this race before?”
There’s a feeling of
competition, but there’s also a feeling of camaraderie, because we are all in this sufferfest together.
Of course, not all conversations are friendly. I saw what almost became a fight at the Chicago Triahtlon. The bike racks were numbered by group, not individual numbers, so as long as your number was in the group, you could place your bike anywhere along the rack. It was a double race and everyone in my group had already picked their spots before the first race. Between races, however, someone had encroached into my friend’s area. He asked her to move her stuff and she got belligerent. It all went downhill from there. I think when she realized that Grant had a lot of friends watching the altercation, she backed off.
In a marathon, you don’t have too many pieces of equipment to worry about. You just show up and run. I suppose you might carry a few things with you like energy supplements or a sweatshirt that gets thrown away at mile 2.
In a triathlon, every athlete has a long list of items, including:
spare tire or tube
The atmosphere in the transition area is such that athletes will ask each other questions which sometimes ends up with one athlete loaning another athlete a minor piece of equipment. The most common thing I’ve lent out over the years is an extra race belt which I usually carry for just that purpose. It’s a great way to meet people too.
Another thing the transition area can do is benchmark the competition. As I enter transition after the swim, I look for my friends’ bikes to see if they’ve already beat me. I do the same thing between the bike and the run. There was one race in Miami where I never made it to the bike, because I secured my DNF during the swim and my friend Mike knew when he saw my bike and run shoes that something was wrong.
In the smaller races, friends and family can use the transition area as a gathering spot to see their athlete in action. A lot of pictures and videos are taken there.
After the Race
It’s a bit sad for me to see the transition area being dismantled and packed up. It means the race is over. It also means I’ve stayed around too long and should have left for home hours ago. The transition area holds they key to triathlon’s appeal over other endurance events. It doesn’t make the entire difference, but it does account for a big part of it. If you ever see me in the transition area, be sure to come say hi.
Good luck to all the athletes at Lake Havasu City tomorrow.
I can feel excitement building for the Havasu Triathlon. Today is Thursday and the race is on Saturday. Too bad I won’t be there.
I’ll make this quick because I explained a bit of it in yesterday’s post. To make a long story less long, Lori and I woke up yesterday morning ready to fly to California and noticed the CEO of our household wasn’t feeling well. The CEO’s name is Ivory and she’s our Cat E. O. I don’t know what the E and O mean. I just made that up. Ivory is not just any cat. She and Lori are soul mates and when one is upset, the other is upset. Therefore, upon seeing Ivory’s condition, we had to take her to the veterinarian and not just any veterinarian. We took her to a hospital full of specialists in the town of Cary: two hours driving, one way.
That reminds me of a quote from my favorite historical figure:
The best doctor in the world is the veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what is the matter-he’s got to just know.
Anyway… one thing led to another and I’m not going to the Havasu Triathlon. But that’s no reason to stop blogging about it.
It’s All In the Preparation
The first year IRONMAN managed our local Beach2Battleship race, we were hit by hurricane Matthew which destroyed the best part of the bike course. Instead of canceling the race, they just shortened the bike course which drew a mountain of criticism (mostly from people who couldn’t possibly appreciate how hard the race director and her staff worked to make it the best race possible). At the prerace dinner, Mike Reilly said something to the effect of , “… you’ve put in the work to get here…”
Even though I can’t make it to Lake Havasu City, I did put in the work to get there. I feel so much better (if you have Google Translator, you might want to set it to sarcasm to understand those last five words).
It’s All in the Finish
Mike Reilly’s words keep coming back to me even though he was talking to athletes who were about to toe the starting line. This athlete is about to help feed an ailing cat.
If I don’t feel good, it’s because there’s no outlet for my preparation… or is there?
What I’m getting at is something I vlogged about last year from Arizona.
Races are nothing more than a facade of the real triathlon. The race company comes in to town, sets up their tents and finish chutes. Then after the race, everything gets packed up and hauled off to the next race. What happens in between is just the show. The real endurance event has been going on since that first training session when you realized that you were not as fit as you thought you were. The idea of the race gives you the motivation to keep training and the real race gives you a finish line to cross. I have to admit that that finish line counts for a lot.
What if there were no race?
A World Without Races
I’ve often wondered if I would still train like a triathlete if there were no races to train for. Probably not. That race may be a facade, but it performs a very important function. It provides a focal point for multiple, sometimes thousands, of athletes. It brings people together and it sets them apart.
How can I possibly test my training if I don’t go to the race? The answer may not satisfy you, but I think it will accomplish what I want. I can swim, bike, and run any time I choose. I’m talking about a triathlon of one. I alone will test my skills in a field of my own choosing and at a time that suits me. I will miss the fellow athletes and I will miss that finish line feeling, but I will do this. I will put on my own triathlon and I will be the only one registered.
The real endurance event we are training for is life. The starting gun rang out years ago so let’s get moving.
The word, suppose, is a strange one. It is similar to the word, expect, but tries to put the blame elsewhere. For example, if I said, “Today I expected to travel”, you would think that Im not traveling and that my expectations were wrong. Instead, I said, “Today was supposed to…” which suggests my planning was perfect and the problem lies outside my control.
Either way I’m not traveling today and Im blaming the cat. I did not expect that our cat would get sick just hours before boarding the plane and now I am frustrated because I may miss the race this weekend.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Ivory the cat so I’m not angry and postponing the trip was the right decision. If she gets worse I may cancel the trip and consider my entry fee one big donation.
I have three choices:
Leave Ivory at home and go to Lake Havasu City to be a part of the Havasu Triathlon.
Take Ivory with me
Cancel the trip
If i were a professional athlete, the decision would be easier. As an age grouper I have to consider that this is not my job. It’s a hobby. Im passionate about triathlon, but it’s a hobby.
On one hand, Ivory means a lot to our family. On the other hand, the race registration fee is not refundable. What would you do?
As I write this, i am sitting in the veterinary clinic waiting for the vet. Ivory looks good and seems to be much better. So maybe tomorrow will be the travel day. I guess we just wait and see what the vet says.
In the context of my life, the prospect of missing this race is just a slight upset. It’s not a defining moment. I think about all those cold, dark mornings of running with Marty and John; all that time spent worrying if my bike training was good enough.
Was my training wasted?
No. Not at all. I can build on it for NYC Triathlon later this year, but that’s only part of the reason. Every upset in life is a training opportunity to hone the mental capacity to focus on what’s important. As much as I want to race in Lake Havasu City, my family needs me. If that means missing a race then that’s what needs to happen.
Who knows? Maybe tomorrow will be travel day. Whatever I do tomorrow, please pray for Ivory.
After 50 minutes of pulling, yanking, sliding and lubricating, I finally got my bike packed for the trip.
Usually, TriRiot would come to you on YouTube, but this countdown for the Havasu Triathlon requires a certain level of sophistication that can only be conveyed through the written/typed word. So, read on and see if you can find the sophistication.
The Shortest Distance
The distance between Rocky Point, North Carolina and Lake Havasu City, Arizona is not a straight line. This is because a straight line is not the shortest distance between the two cities due to topography, the earth’s curvature and airline logistics. To get to my destination I will
Drive to Wilmington
Fly to Philadelphia
Fly to Phoenix
Fly to Ontario
Spend the night at mom’s house
Have breakfast with mom, talk about national politics and get kicked out of mom’s house
Drive to Lake Havasu City
All good, right? No.
It’s not just me and a Samsonite carry-on. I have to figure out how to get my bike from point A to point B. In case you’re having trouble following my random thoughts, point A is Rocky Point, NC and point B is Lake Havasu City, AZ.
What About Bike?
Remember the movie, “What About Bob?” with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfus? Me too. I loved that movie, but we’re talking about a bike not Bob. How the heck am I going to get my bike to the race?
This is such a common question for cyclists and triathletes who travel. You’d think that after 12 years of doing this I would have a clear cut answer. Here is a list of the options I’ve experienced:
PRO: Delivers to specific addresses and has many dropoff locations (they use FedEx)
CON: You are responsible for dismantling and assembling your bike.
CON: You have to provide a shipping container (box).
Drive yourself to the race and take the bike with you
I think you know the pros and cons of this option. However, you have to be careful about traveling with “friends” who will remove your bike pedals while stopped at a rest stop and you don’t find out until two days later when you are ready to go on a warm up ride and they try to convince you that the pedals were stolen.
PRO: The bike travels with you
PRO: Could be very affordable ( more on this later)
CON: Could be extremely expensive (more on this later)
CON: You are responsible for dismantling and assembling your bike.
It’s All About the Case… No Trouble🎶
For this trip, I’m doing the same thing I did when I went to USAT Nationals in Omaha, NE. I’m going to use the Rüster Hen House and choose option 4 from above.
I once used a regular, rectangular bike box and tried to check it on the plane as luggage. The airline charged me so much that I swore I’d never do that again. Two years ago, my friend Charlie loaned me his Rüster Hen House bike case and the airline didn’t question it. I paid the standard baggage fee and life was good. This year, I ordered my own case. Honestly, even the standard baggage fee sucks, but what can you do?
This option is not for everyone. The case costs about $360USD. Because that’s a one time charge, the more you use the case, the lower your per trip costs will be. Then you have to figure out how you are going to get a bike like this on the left
into a shape like this on the right.
Either you do it yourself or you pay someone to do it for you. I like this option, because the bike goes with me and there is so much extra room in the bike case that I can pack my clothes in there.
I keep saying case (singluar). It’s actually two cases: one for the frame and one for the wheels.
I do like the convenience of TriBike Transport, but the cons outweigh the pros for this and several other trips. If it sounds like I’m endorsing one product over another, let me know and I’ll ask for money from whichever company you think I’m pushing the most.
So, did you find that heightened level of sophistication that I mentioned at the beginning?
My intention for this post was to discuss traveling with a bike. I’m dead tired this morning and my brain is not firing on all eight cylinders. In fact, my brain doesn’t have eight cylinders. To tell the truth, it doesn’t have any cylinders, because it’s a brain not an engine.
I’ll just start typing and see what comes out. Bikes and traveling might not make it out.
I’m so tired this morning because I sat on my mountain bike for six and a half hours on Saturday. Today is Monday. The Wrightsville Beach Marathon was on Saturday and I swept the race. If you’re not familiar with the term “swept”, let me explain. The race sweeper is the person who follows that last person in the race. In the case of a Marathon, the sweeper is usually riding a bike.
I love doing that job. The end of the race is where you get to meet interesting people. Actually, all people at the race are interesting, but the vast majority are running too fast to talk to you. Bringing in the last runner across the finish line is also a rewarding experience. They are always so grateful to have you there helping them achieve their goals.
At this particular race on Saturday, I rode the last eight miles along side of a runner named Will from Chapel Hill, NC. It was his first marathon. Sometimes we moved down the road in silence. Other times we talked about his life in Chapel Hill, his training, his history. I found out that at one time he weighed 360 pounds (for my readers in Scotland, that’s almost 26 stone!) and that he had been in a near fatal car accident. Everything he had to overcome just to start this race seemed daunting.
He finished in 5 hours and 58 minutes. Had he been just 2 minutes later, he would have received a DNF, but he made it and that made me feel good.
In the words of The Voice of IRONMAN, Mike Reilly,
Will was our final winner today.
One of the downsides of sweeping a race is that you ride along side some people who you know are not going to make it. Some of these athletes know fully well that they will be pulled off the course if they don’t reach certain mile markers within an acceptable time. After all, the race directors can not keep traffic blocked all day.
There are, however, other athletes that are totally oblivious to the fact that they have to be somewhere by a certain time (see the previous blog post). And most of these are usually quite belligerent when they are told to either quit the race or remove their race number. You can’t stop them from running if it’s not against the law, but you can remove them from the protection of the organized race simply by taking their race bib.
I think last Saturday’s race was free of any serious confrontations, but there was one gentleman who was not happy about being pulled. I get it… you’re not happy. See the previous blog entry in this series.
This is endurance sport. There is no ugly here. But that was a good movie, wasn’t it?
Another reason I’m dead tired today is that I had a brick workout yesterday and I ran with Marty this morning. If you’ve seen the TriRiot videos, you’ve probably heard me talk about Marty. You might have even seen him in a TriRiot episode. He’s my friend that was on the injured list for about 6 months back in 2008/2009 because he was hit by a deer on a training ride. Marty was not an avid deer hunter before that incident.
Maybe tomorrow we can talk about traveling with a bike.
Have you ever been running in a triathlon and wondered if you took the wrong turn somewhere? Or maybe you were disqualified for missing a cutoff time that you didn’t know about?
Today we discuss that magical document that eludes at least 5% of triathletes at any given race: THE ATHLETE GUIDE.
I could be way off on that 5% estimate. I pretty much pulled it out of thin air, but every time I work on a triathlon or marathon I deal with at least one athlete (and sometimes several) who either was pulled from the course or missed a turn or received a penalty or unknowingly violated a rule. Most of them admit not reading the athlete guide.
In the case of the Havasu Triathlon, there doesn’t seem to be a formal document called an athlete guide. However, if you read the website, pretty much everything you need to know is there: course maps, event schedule, parking, etc. There’s even a link to the most commonly violated USAT rules.
I can’t stress this enough: READ THE WEBSITE (I’m not yelling. I’m being adamant)
Nuff said ’bout that… almost.
If you’re an experienced triathlete, you’ve probably already read the race rules and you know the USAT rules by heart. But even experienced triathletes get lost on any of the swim, bike or run courses.
Pop Quiz: 1. So you're in a race and a race official pulls you from the course for missing a cutoff. What do you do?
A: Get belligerent/Throw a tantrum
C: Thank your race staff for a nice ride to the finish line and sign up for another race as soon as you get home.
And the correct answer is…
It doesn’t matter what you do. Your race results are going to be the same. However, if you want to be known as the person who got pissed off for not reading the rules, choose answer A. If you do choose answer A, I know a few people who are going to make fun of you behind your back for years to come.
Don’t be known as the person who cussed out the race volunteers and officials. RTFAG: Read The Athlete Guide. I mean that in the nicest way possible. 😉
What can you do in the middle of nowhere? Be a tourist, of course.
If you’ve been following this countdown to the Havasu Triathlon, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to say something meaningful or something of substance. While you’re waiting, read on.
The Big Picture
If you’re not from the Desert, think of the most desolate place you’ve ever been. Got it? Now open a window to Google Earth or your favorite mapping app and query up ‘Lake Havasu City’. Don’t zoom in too much. Make sure you can see all the way from Kingman in the North to Interstate 10 in the South.
Need I continue?
Don’t get me wrong, because the middle of nowhere has never looked so good IMHO. When you get down on the ground, there’s a beauty in the desert that you won’t find anywhere else. Have you ever smelled the desert after a rain? That’s something that just gets in your blood and you don’t want it out.
In six days, I’m going to be in Lake Havasu City and I’m wondering what else can I do besides swim, bike, run and vomit? (The vomiting is not part of the race: it’s a consequence of the race). There are a few good websites and Facebook pages that can tell you what you want to know about things to do in Lake Havasu City (try this one here), but I already have a To Do list.
If water in the desert is a luxury, Lake Havasu is a luxurious playground. I’m no spokesperson for the area, but I plan on doing one or more of the following:
Rent one of those little motorcycles of the boat world: Jet Ski
Take selfies on the London Bridge
Take selfies next to the London Bridge
Take selfies under the London Bridge
Photo bomb people taking selfies near the London Bridge
Ride one of those water canon jet things that shoot you way up (if they have it there). Should I do this before or after the race? Probably after. There’s likely to be more vomiting involved.
Watch a desert sunset. Just like the smell after a rain, you will never forget one of those spectacular desert sunsets.
If I Had More Time
There are a couple of day trips that I would love to take if only I were staying a bit longer.
Drive North to Kingman, visit the Route 66 museum, and visit the railroad museum.
Drive South to the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge. I’d love to explore that rugged, harsh landscape with a camera.
Drive a litter farther South and East to the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant. I don’t know if they give tours, but it would be worth the phone call to find out.
Whatever I actually end up doing, I know I’m going to enjoy it.
I grew up in Tucson, spent a summer in Yuma, a few summers in Mesa and Gilbert, traveled all over the state and I have yet to find one area of the state that is so hot that I would take that joke seriously. In fact, Flagstaff can be damn cold in the Winter. For today’s countdown, I’m going to talk about what I expect the weather to be like on race day in Lake Havasu City.
Why should you listen to me talk about the weather? My credentials are pretty darn thin and I’ve never lived in Lake Havasu City (but I have been there). I’m going to tell you anyway, because I have DATA: not a lot of data, but enough to get an idea of what to expect. If you are a resident of Lake Havasu City (can I just say LHC?), you might find this blog post completely useless. In fact, no matter where you call home you might draw the same conclusion, but on we go with my predictions.
A little note about the data… I downloaded historical data for the area from the years 2000 through 2018. Data from 2005 is missing for some reason (Maybe there was no weather that year). So, I have 18 data points, one for 9am March 16 of each year. I told you it wasn’t much data.
Have a look at the following plot.
The March 16, 9am temperatures in Lake Havasu City range from 50F to 78.1F. There are only six years where the temperature was above 70F and if humidity is low, 70F can feel pretty good. We’ll get to humidity later. Also, I’m not going to predict an actual temperature. Instead, I’m going to prepare for a cool morning swim and a chilly ride on the first part of the bike. I don’t think I’ll wear arm warmers. The run will be comfortable to hot.
The plot above shows both wind speed and wind direction. The text of the wind direction label is sized according to the wind speed. For example, in the year 2000, the wind came from the North at a speed over 20mph so the word North is much bigger than a wind that moved at a slower speed. I can’t read the wind directions when the wind speed was 0, but that’s ok. IT DOESN’T MATTER ANYWAY (yes, I’m yelling). A quick visual summary of the plot tells me to prepare for a mild wind from the North which means we could have a head wind on the first half of the bike.
Normally, I wouldn’t care about humidity for a sprint or Olympic distance race, but the data was there so…
What the plot tells me is that we are likely to have clear skies which means I will bring a brand new bottle of SPF50 sunscreen with me. Humidity will be quite low, so I’ll plan on taking more water than I usually would and take electrolytes too.
I’ll tell you right now that I don’t plan on beating anyone other than my own ghosts. However, I do feel pretty good right now about the weather conditions that we may have on race day. My statistics training does force me to consider the possibility of 50 degrees with a 20mph headwind in heavy rain. And being trained in statistics, I will give that scenario a very small probability.