2009 Chesapeake Man Aqua-Velo Race Report

The Chesapeake Man Ultra Triathlon is essentially a Ironman Distance Triathlon, but because World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) owns the naming rights to “Ironman”, these non-M-Dot races (referring to the logo of the M with a dot) are usually called something other than “Ironman”.  However, in addition to the main event of an iron distance race, this one also had a number of other categories: Swim only, Swim + Bike, and relay.  I signed up for the Aqua-Velo race (Swim+Bike) a few days after Ironman Canada, as a good way to judge how I might perform on a flatter course than the rather mountainous Ironman Canada course.  However, I didn’t have any taper for this race, in fact – looking over the last 7 days, I had the ultimate non-taper:

Saturday: 120 mile ride + 4 mile run
Sunday: 4200y swim with 1,000 yard TT sets
Monday: 20 mile run
Tuesday: 1Hour+ trainer ride, 3300y swim
Wednesday: High intensity trainer ride and 10K tempo run as part of brick
Thursday: 3,400y swim and then bricked rather painful trainer ride
Friday: Work, drive multiple hours
Saturday: Race Day.

So, with that background…let’s get onto the race.

IMGP6433 (Yes, funny I know, with all the GPS’s I have for sports, I use a simple AAA map for driving)

I drove out Friday evening to the race site, which is way out in the middle of nowhere – about 2 hours from DC.  Here’s nowhere:

imageI was able to quickly and efficiently swing through packet pickup – took only a minute or two, and I even got two shirts – a long sleeve and a t-shirt.  Plus a nice swim bag.  And socks.  And a water bottle.  Not too bad at all!

IMGP6435 From there I added the bag to my pile of existing bags and then headed across town to rack my bike (had to be done the night before):

IMGP6436 IMGP6438So with that, I was off to a friends house for the evening, but I’d soon be back at the race site, as the gun was scheduled to go off at 7AM on Saturday morning.  I put a plastic bag over my power meter just to protect it a bit from rusting if it rained overnight.


It’s way too early in the morning, but I’m headed towards the race site, and oddly enough listening to the Chicken Dance song from Steve’s mix.  Strange.

I arrive first at the high school, which is where T2 is, and where the bike and run courses end and loop through.  Now, I was a bit casual about this race, as normally I would have laid everything out the night before and got it all labeled.  This race…I did it in my car in the parking lot at 5:30AM.  Stuff strewn about everywhere.

IMGP6443Then I headed out with a slew of bags in tow, to board the little trolley bus over to the start.

IMGP6444 Once I arrived at the race start I set about trying to figure out where on earth I was going to put all my nutrition.  This would also fall in the category of ‘hmm, perhaps a bit too lax’.  See, for this weekend Coach Alan and I decided to switch things up a bit and go with EFS gel (instead of Infinit I’ve been using).  The only challenge is figuring out where to stick it all.  So…a lot of electrical tape was leveraged.

IMGP6446 With that, it was basically time to swim.


The Swim:

Now, because I was there all by my self, I don’t have any pictures before/during or after the swim.  But that’s alright, because there isn’t a lot of good things to talk about in the swim.

image They did have a pretty cool helicopter up in the sky at the swim start, though I’m not sure if they’ll publish the pictures. But it was swirling around super-duper-low for a bit.  Just like Ironman race starts.

The nice thing about a smaller field (perhaps a 250-350 or so) compared to a full M-Dot Ironman race is that there aren’t 2,000+ other people trying to swim over you.  So the swim itself was very tame with virtually no contact.  There was one dude somewhere after the second buoy who insisted on physically grabbing (with his hand) and then pulling back my leg so he could try and swim around me.  Not once.  Not twice.  But thrice.  He clearly does not read my blog.  If he had, he would know that I have a very clear policy on such acts.  This policy (documented in my 2008 Ironman Canada race report) states that on the third attempt to grab my leg and pull me back, you will find the full force of my leg in whatever part of your body is closest to my foot…generally in your face.  Like IMC 2008, my policy went into effect on the third pull, and like IMC, further violations on the offenders part immediately ceased.

Anyway, I made so-so time on the first lap, and hit the turnaround in about 32 minutes.  Not great, but not horrible.

There was a bit of moderate chop in the water, which combined with general waves and the sun made it a bit difficult at times to see the buoys…given how few of them there were.  I always find it funny that from a distance to buoy standpoint sprint races tend to have the most buoys, whereas the longer the race, the cheaper on buoys they become.  It’s not as big of a deal in lakes, but in oceans, it’s much harder to see long distances.

At any rate, I kept on chugging my way around the course.  I made pretty good time back down to the 2nd buoy again, but at that point it felt like I hit a wall.  A very slow moving wall.  We shall call that wall ‘current’…or ‘tide’.  Or something. Either way, my pace dropped like a rock.  How slow?  Umm, slowest swim ever slow.

But, I don’t feel too bad, all the race leaders had dismally slow times – even the Swimfest folks (swim only) had rather slow times compared to where they should have been.  And there only job was to swim!

So with that, I wandered out of the water in (cough)…1:11.  A cool 9 minutes slower than my Ironman Canada split.  Woot!

T1: Given the nice small transition area, I quickly knocked out T1 in 2:18.  Which was the 3rd fastest T1 of the day in my race, or 5th fastest overall (out of about 300ish finisher peeps).  Nice!

Swim: 1:11
T1: 2:19

The bike:

So…I ran out of transition, went a few feet forward to the mount line, mounted my bike and then started cruising.  Though, my cruising only lasted about 1 foot.  Maybe a touch less.  It’s a bit unclear.  What is clear is that approximately 1 foot later I went ass over teakettle and made friends with the pavement.  What’s unclear is exactly how that occurred.


Remember how the other day I commented that it would be great to do a transition-only triathlon and that I would “go to the mount line, mount my bike, and then dismount”…well, this isn’t how I envisioned it going down.  Either way, I accomplished exactly that – I mounted…and then dismounted.

After validating that everything was still in one piece (on my bike) and that everything that required spinning movement was still able to spin…off I went.  This time for good.

But that immediately surfaced one little challenge.  My bento box (holding 2 out of 5 gel bottles) had snapped in the whole bike dismount commotion, and my little stack of gel bottles was also flapping around now too.  Which meant it was now swaying in the wind whacking my knees.  Well, to shorten many miles of toying, I eventually ended up rubber-banding two gels to the aero-bottle, put one in the box and then re-taped the other two back to the top tube.

IMGP6453With all that out of the way, it was time to get down to business.

And for the first two hours, I did just that.  Averaged 22.1MPH, pretty solid.  Around then I made it out into the Blackwater National Refuge.  Which is essentially a massive…swamp.  With wind.  Lots of wind.


Now, the thing to keep in mind about a smaller iron-distance race is that you’ll see less people.  There were many cases where I simply couldn’t see anyone in front of or behind me…and I could see a long long way.

It was about this same time that I realized I really had to go.  Given I could see no humans, and this was a training race, it seemed like an ideal time to practice hydration offload scenarios.  Which, I’m happy to say I executed perfectly – and without any undesirable liquid ending up anywhere but the road.  Woot!

IMGP6456During all this flying across the marshlands I did take a quick second to take a self-portrait.  Here ya go:IMGP6454Around this point (Miles say…40-80) I was clearly reminded as why at times I dislike the Ironman distance. Umm..it hurts.  Mentally I think it hurts more than anything.  You realize that you’ve been out there a few hours, and you still have a few more hours on the bike to go.  You’re not quite over the hump yet.  I find the hump in that 80 mile marker range. 

The fact that the wind was driving dead on didn’t help matters.  There were times I’d look down, and I’d be pushing 250w+ and only going 15MPH.  Seriously..wtf.  Those are the times that you get fairly demotivated.  Though, in some ways having a power meter helps there, as you can mentally say “I’m still putting out a constant effort, I haven’t changed, conditions have”.  Though, if you look at my overall ride, you can pretty clearly see where I was getting a bit tired of this whole bike riding thing (miles 50-80).  Note the pink – which is cadence. Given there were no hills (and thus no coasting), there was no reason for me to stop pedaling…ever..for 5 hours.  Obviously the lack of pedaling indicates me getting sick of pedaling.

imageBut I soon found the high school, which was good.  Mostly, cause I didn’t realize I was going to swing through the high school.  I had a different mental picture of the course in my head, which didn’t involve looping back through the school.  So seeing all the spectators there was pretty cool.  I think this was little differentiator from Ironman Canada.  At IMC it was one massive loop, and though the crowds at other portions of the course (middle of nowhere in Canada) certainly outnumbered even the biggest crowd at this race, when I looped through the HS – people were cheering for ME – not just another athlete passing by.  Just me.  That’s cause I was the only one swinging through at that time.  Little difference, but it picked me up some.

From there things got a fair bit better.  Around mile 80 I had the ‘green light’ per my race plan to kick it up a notch HR-wise.  Though, I didn’t quite feel like it yet.  I pushed a bit, but just didn’t have it in me to go to the next HR zone.

IMGP6463 (Someone I was catching up to and lapping)

Around mile 90 though I found it and starting having a bit more fun.  Some of this was probably because I was finally seeing people again.  Though, these were people I was lapping (thus 48+ miles ahead of).  But, mentally I could make little games of it and ‘track down’ people I could see off in the distance.  I did slow down, glide, and say hi to each person though.  They needed the encouragement.

Soon I found myself back out in the home stretch, where I also found some newly arrived tidal water:

IMGP6460 IMGP6461Above you can see the water off my front wheel.  A few inches deep in most cases.  Not as bad as last year apparently, where it was covering the pedal at the bottom of the stroke.

Here’s a picture of a person I was catching up to, going through a patch of water.

IMGP6462And from there on, it was cruising time.  I simply hunkered down, battened the hatches and pushed through, and knocked out some fairly solid numbers:


Avg HR

Avg Watts

1st  hour



2nd hour



3rd   hour



4th   hour



5th   hour



Last :14



So with that, I cruised through the finish line at the high school.

Bike split: 5:14, avg of 21.4 MPH

Total time on bike wasn’t too bad, about a 15 minute PR over Ironman Canada.  Still a bit slower than I wanted by about 15-20 minutes.  But given the very heavy training week, this wasn’t bad at all.

So I was handed my medal and then was led to the bike racks (photo by me, not of me):

IMGP6472The good news was then when I got there, there wasn’t many peeps there yet:

FinishRacks Hmmm…what does that mean?

Well, it means I get my ass out there and go for a run. :-/

So, off I went, for a nice little run.  Four miles in total.  But again like last week – set on pace – not HR’s.  A pace of 7:40/mile, nice and easy.  Very low Z2 heart rate, perfect for running a long ways post-long-bike.  Out of the whole day, I was actually happiest with the run.  It felt super-easy and very comfortable.  At that point at IMC I was already unhappy panda, this time I felt great.

And then…well, then I was done.

IMGP6470From there I wandered into the gym and picked up my bags and even got a shower.  They had showers for the folks to use!  Awesome.

IMGP6468 IMGP6471 And finally, about those results:

image Woot!  Now..there may have only been a smaller number of people in my age group (though enough to fill out 5-person podium), but I’ll take what I can get.  And I was 9th overall out of a hundred aqua-velo I think, so again, not too bad.

So all in all – a good training day.  And the race was well run too.  There’s some interesting differences between a non-M-Dot race, and an M-Dot race, which I’ll have to compare and contrast some day.  Given I actually ran out on the run course, I got to experience two of the aid stations (they rocked!)…so I think I can give a fairly good comparison…some day.

In the mean time…have a good week!


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  1. Great race/training recap. I am going to call it a training day because you would never give us photos on a race day. That is pretty wild about the tidal water coming up over the road like that.

    Oh, how did the EFS gel work for you? That was a mess of bottles to deal with.

  2. Hardware. Love it. When I was at a race and got my first podium award where I got to get on an actual podium I asked a complete stranger to take my pic. B/c I clearly have no shame.

    It’s so funny to hear about you falling at the bike mount b/c I think of you as so pro!!! :) hehe. nice race Ray!!!

  3. Great Job on the race….and for admitting the fall.
    I’m fairly confident that it would have taken me out of the race.

  4. Enjoyed reading that review; I was there doing only the run, so it was interesting to hear about the swim and bike legs.

  5. I would say I’m amazed but I’m not… nice job on the Aquavelo :)

  6. Nice job! Thank you for sharing a great recap!

  7. Great job, but how’s your head?!

  8. Kim

    awesome job, congratulations! hey, how do you get the gels out from under all that tape?

  9. Thanks everyone.

    Kelly – My heads fine, just a minor scratch on my nose and a few scratches on my knees. But all’s good.

    Liz – The EFS gel worked well for the most part. I need to completely rethink the storage piece of it, but I’ve got some ideas there. It was a little heavy on my stomach at times, but I had energy going throughout – which is better than previous. I normally use it just on the run, so this was kinda a hail mary of sorts with respect to bike nutrition.

    Kim – As for getting gel things out, I just sorta ripped them out, and then used the mess of tape to get them back in. I did toss one empty at an aid station as I couldn’t get it to stay right. :(

  10. Great job out there and congrats on the hardware, plus all the loot they gave out.

    Interesting that the swim was off to the left of the pier – for Eagleman it was to the right. Tides must be different. There can be some rough, choppy water out there,

    That bike course is also a tough one. I never considered a flat course to be tough, but the reality that there is no coasting sets in and, as you noticed, there is no reason to stop pedaling, but you just need a break every once and a while and do. Did you at least get to see any of the bald eagles in the wildlife refuge?

  11. congrats on the awesome finish.
    congrats on your new pee-on-the-fly talent.
    congrats on traveling and biking so prepared with tape and rubberbands.
    congrats on making your dream come true: transition, mount and dismount.

  12. Congrats on the race. Your picture of the swim-to-bike bags includes my stuff (#88). This was my 2nd time doing the race and my 5th 140.6. It will be interesting to read your thoughts comparing WTC races to non-WTC races. As the RD mentioned at the pre-race meeting ‘less hype but lots of love’.

  13. Congratulations on the AG win during a training race. Also, I found the “hydration offload” part the most enlightening!

  14. Congrats! Please tell me you had an audience for the bike fail! You are actually human! I didn’t really believe it…

  15. I tried the “nature break on a bike” thing somewhere in Oregon this summer and couldn’t quite execute. I guess I just need more practice… well done!

  16. Congrats on winning the darn thing. I love, love, love that you admitted not only to falling down (glad you didn’t get seriously hurt) but also that you sometimes just get tired of pedaling! You are officially now my very favorite speedy triathlete.

  17. Well done on your training race! I had to laugh about your mention of getting sick of pedalling constantly on flats because that’s what I’m used to and I’ve actually had to work to stop pedaling on downhills when riding a hilly course. Oh, and did you have to rub it in that you can pee on the bike and not get your shorts and does all wet too?

  18. I was going to comment on your initial gel setup on your bike and wonder about its aero-ness. Then I saw the pictures after your fall of your gels strapped to your aero bottle, so nevermind.

    You had an amazing bike split with very impressive wattage numbers.

    Congratulations on an excellent race and finish placing.

  19. Anonymous

    My friends and I were wondering if you are still a virgin. Please let us know!!

  20. Interesting question given you’re posting from NIH (National Institutes of Health) – I guess I could see why you might be interested…

  21. Anonymous

    Yes, we’re conducting studies on the correlation between positive virgin status and excessive blogging. There seems to be a tight connection in your case.