Nation’s Triathlon 2009 Race Report

As with most any race – the first order of business is packet pickup and usually some form of race briefing.  Now, the Nation’s Triathlon also offers a swim practice on Saturday afternoon as well.  So, we decided to knock out packet pickup on Friday night – to get it out of the way and allow for a more relaxing day on Saturday for the swim practice (and associated brick workout).


Despite all the changes for the better this year at the race (and there were a ton of them!), with respect to logistics – I really do wish they’d consider moving the packet pickup to the transition/start/finish area (instead of the hotel all the way across downtown).  They setup enormous wedding-style tents there anyway for the finish festival – why not just rent them an extra day for packet pickup?  Making everything in one convenient place (and probably cheaper than the hotel).  Anyway…


Now, the packet pickup did have a fairly descent bag of stuff, including a scratch lotto ticket.  Which…I won $4!  Plus, the t-shirt is pretty nice – they clearly spent some money on them given it was specially wrapped in a plastic bag, with little paper protector things over all the logos.  I found the warnings on the swim cap pretty funny – so much detail for something so simple:


Saturday afternoon brought a brick at the race site.  We jumped into the water and I got in a nice 20 minute swim, followed by a fast paced 15 minute bike and then an equally fasted paced 15 minute run.  All things were looking quite nice for Sunday.


I kept bumping into people all over the place that read the blog (two of which are actually in this photo on the swim dock).  Pretty astounding.  Ran into folks at packet pickup, then coming out of the water on Saturday (even got a request for a picture, hello!), and then all day long on race day.  Though, I think Jeanne was stalking me – as I saw her at pickup, swim practice, race morning pre-race and then finally during the race.  Perhaps she just wanted a cupcake.  It’s alright though, Jeanne’s one of the cool kids.


Ok, onto race morning…

I arrived early, though probably not quite as early as I should have when you factor in 5-6,000 people trying to spend a holy moment in the porta-potties.  But soon enough I had racked and stacked (right both across from a reader, and right down five bikes from another reader) and was ready to roll.


From there I walked to pickup a chip and get body marked (I bit backwards, I know, but that’s just how I roll) and then find my place in what would be a 35 minute long line for the little plastic house of worship.  With 11 minute before my wave, I exited the house and ran across the field to join the rest of my wave in the swim chute getting ready to roll.


The Swim:

So then, it was time to go kerplunk into the Potomac:


You can see from the above picture, that I’m wearing a Garmin in my swim cap.  Given I wasn’t worried about being super-competitive in this race, I figured for fun I’d take the Garmin 310XT along for the ride, in preparation for the review I’ll be publishing on Wednesday.

I made my way across the field to the far side of the wave.  My age group (M25-29) was actually split into three waves – each about 130 people.  The far side of the wave was the side closest to the first turn buoy (some 600-700m upstream).  So naturally it was pretty much the shortest line.  You can see me below in both pictures, trying to scope out where on earth I’m supposed to be going.



Within about 2-3 minutes the horn went buzzed, and off we went.  And for once, I didn’t get pummeled.  Now, true, I swam my ass off this time.  You can see me in the lead group for quite a while.  I’m the second person with a full arm wetsuit, with the silver watch.


And I started to make ground pretty quickly even on that small group, with me being the 3rd place swimmer here:


And off in a big ole’ circle I went.  For the record, I swam a damn straight sweet line.  I’ve NEVER had a Garmin swim look so perfect before.  The two blips you see are going below the massively thick stone bridge, where the signal dropped.  That’s also where I had to navigate around the equally as large bridge support columns, hence the slight arch in my otherwise straight line.  If you’re interested, here’s the interactive version of my swim, from Garmin Connect.


I pretty much stayed in the same lead group all the way around.  Though it appears my wave’s lead group was a bit slower than some of the other M25-29 swimmers.  Either that or somebody snuck out of view of me.  I say that because my swim time, at 25:32, wasn’t terribly fast compared to others in my overall AG, though, a few minutes was shaved off of last year – but slower than my ITU US Dextro time on the same swim course.  With that said, I exited the water and got ready to roll on the bike.


Swim Time: 25:32
Swim AG Place: 32/392

Oh, T1 wasn’t too bad, but not great either.  I had a minor order of operations fail where I forgot to put on my socks until after I had un-racked my bike – making for a bit of a complex sock entry/balancing thing.  I retrospect at that point I should have just gone sock-less for the bike and done them in T2, but…that didn’t happen.

T1 Time: 2:05
T1 AG Place: 37/392

The Bike:

Attempting a semi-flying mount in a very crowded bike zone is a bit tricky.  But I was fairly successful actually.  I was lucky to find a brief opening in the crowd off to the right side of the mount line and thus able to get on the bike and get cruising without impacting the pavement in undesirable ways.  Once I was a few hundred meters down the road, I got the shoes on.  I know the area well enough to know that the road gets rough for a bit shortly after that, so I wanted to get the hatches battened down and the shoes on before that point.  The rough part on the map below is in purple.


A few minutes later I found myself cruising out towards Rock Creek Parkway, which is the first out and back section (highlighted above in red).  They did a really nice job this year of changing the bike course to make it much smoother from a turn standpoint.  They removed some of the meandering around the Washington Mall (in front of the monuments), which had quite a few bunching spots the last few years.  Though this change was probably more out of necessity with 6,000 entrants.

By mid-way through Rock Creek my heart rate had finally settled back down into the zone I was looking for, and I was ready to keep a nice steady effort for the next half of the bike course.


Until the turnaround point this was keeping the HR between 157 and 162 – or Z4A for me.  And thankfully, this wasn’t terribly difficult.  I was also keeping tabs on what wattage numbers were looking like, more just for fun at this point.  I’m still in data gathering mode with the power meter and using it on a day-to-day basis, but this was also about collecting good race data.  For the first half I was at 242w, roughly in the range I was expecting.

One of the concerns I (along with many other folks) had on the bike course was how busy it would be and how difficult it would be to stay out of the draft zone.  I’m happy to report that for my slightly earlier wave (Wave 11) it wasn’t too bad really.  Now, the fact that I was passing everyone probably made it easier.  Nobody passed me on the bike…woot!  That said, later waves (like the one the Girl was in), were a complete and total mess for faster racers and riders riding 4-5+ abreast statically.

Soon I found the turnaround and was able to kick up the HR’s a bit into the next zone (163-166).  This in turn resulted in some higher wattage numbers – 262w for the second half on the bike.  But more important than anything was the fact that I was feeling GOOD.  This was ideal for two reasons – #1 – is that during the Oly back in June, I felt like crap just 30 minutes into the bike (due to massive burger consumption).  And #2 – this was just two weeks post-Ironman.  I had no idea how ‘long’ I could go before my body what kaput.

With things all going well, before I knew it I was back in the region of the finish area.  All in all I had a blast on the bike – I haven’t had that much fun on the bike in a long time.


A few seconds after this photo, I was performing a quick semi-flying dismount and into transition I went.  Even saw referee Adam there at the entrance to transition, where he gave me a quick shout-out (who, btw, had just finished a half-iron the day prior!).

Bike Time: 1:03:42 (23.4MPH)
Bike AG Place: 13/392

T2 was fairly uneventful and pretty quick.  I had a little snag trying to get the Garmin 310XT out of the quick release clip on the bike, but otherwise pretty painless.

T2 Time: 1:34
T2 AG Place: 10/392

The Run:

Ok, with two sports down – it’s time to get this race over with.  Of course, that thought was cemented into my brain as the finishing chute was right next to the start of the run.  For the first third of a mile you run one way, while they run the towards the finish.  The first wave folks were just finishing as I was starting (since they started 30 minutes ahead of me).  At this point I thought to myself “If I had started in the open/semi-elite wave I would be almost done by now”…

My plan for the run involved pretty much just one HR zone (170-173) until the last mile, when I’d push it a bit harder.  So I quickly settled into that and started ticking off the miles.

Mile 1: 6:02
Mile 2: 6:07

Now, really, my only goal in this race – if I had any goals at all – was to go sub-40 minutes on the 10K.  While I’ve done that on straight road races, I hadn’t quite done it in a triathlon yet.  I don’t train for this short of a race, so the speed work required to easily do that isn’t in my training plan (…yet).  Everything’s been geared for an Ironman, not a Oly or Sprint.

The 3 mile mark came around pretty darn quick at 18:35, putting me on target for a very solid sub-40 time.  But, that also means I was slowing a bit since the first two miles, as you can see below:

Mile 3: 6:25
Mile 4: 6:29
Mile 5: 6:45

It’d be about this point that Ironman Canada was starting to catch up with me.  But, I was still nailing the HR’s as per the plan – a very very steady effort from a HR perspective.  But speed was slowly sliding (blue line):

imageThe final mile came about, which allowed me to push the HR’s a bit and in turn stop some of the pace from sliding further:

Mile 6: 6:43

At this point I should mention how awesome the volunteers were, especially this guy at about mile 5.9ish, who cheered on and high-fived every single person that came through:


Now, once you see the finish line, you can find a way to pick it up a bit. 


Up until this point the race, nobody had passed me since I had gotten out of the water.  But, by the same token – I hadn’t really seen anybody on the run in my AG.  So while I was picking off people every few seconds, they weren’t the right people.  That said, even in the final stretch I passed anybody and everyone I could.

Mile .2: 1:02 (5:48/mile)

So with that…I finally found the finish line – in 39:44.  Woohoo!



It was great having the finish area this year at the same location as the start/transition.  A million times better than previous years.  I’m super-glad they listened to athlete feedback on that one.  It made it soooo much easier for spectators and racers alike to start/end in the same place.  Plus, the course was more enjoyable on the run that way.

Run Time: 39:44 (6:25/mile)
Run Place: 12/392

Overall time: 2:12:54
Overall AG: 10/292
Overall Place: 59/3,933 (interestingly, DNF’s are not included here)

All in all I’m quite happy with the day.  I can’t ever control who shows up to a race, but I can control my own race.  And I nailed my race plan in every sport, and managed a 3 minute PR in the Oly Distance, while also taking off a bit more from last years time for this race.  Lastly, I was also quite happy to see that I beat about 50% of the folks in the ‘Top Wave’, the pseudo-elite wave (not technically “Elite” per USAT rules).  I couldn’t ask for anything more just two weeks after an Ironman.


So with that, back to more training (and cupcakes)…yup – more cupcakes were made last night, post-race.


See ya and thanks for reading (or saying Hi this weekend)!  And thanks to my friend Bruce for taking quite a few of the action shots during the tri!


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  1. Tim (reader across from you in transition)

    Great report. This was the most “funnest” race I’ve done yet. I was glad to share some transition space with a local tri-celeb! And you beat that Fenty guy…

    Thanks again for snapping a picture of me with my friends:
    link to

  2. Congratulations on the PR!!! Did The Girl do the race? Tell her the cupcake looks awesome and I am drooling all over my keyboard.

  3. Great job!!! Awesome effort just 2 weeks post-IM!

    I have to find a way to race with you one of these days just for the cupcakes :)

  4. Kim

    59th out of 3933? Two weeks post IronMan? Holy smokes!!! Way to go!
    Luv the pic leaving the water with the flag behind you. And the cupcakes looked great!

  5. Amazing performance so soon after your Ironman!!

    I’ve run marathons fairly well 1-2 weeks apart but am sure I could not do a short race in such a short span of time. I think those 5Ks, 10Ks, sprints & olys take a lot more out of you ;-)

  6. Wow – what an awesome race! Congratulations on hammering so soon after an IM.

    And from one of the photos it appears that you did it old school without shaving your legs.

  7. i want that cupcake.

    that was a HUGE race field!!

    great race and PR. it sounds like you had a blast.

    did you consider racing in the elite wave? are there certain qualifications?

    i want that cupcake.

  8. good job out there you saw everybody except me jajaj just kidding great ace out there and congrats on a PR. The bike was not that bad take care man

  9. Hey Ray – it was great to finally meet you after the race on Sunday. I’ve been reading your blog for the last 3 months or so as I prepared for my first tri (Nation’s) and it has done wonders for my motivation, confidence and cookbook! Keep up the awesome job!

  10. Great report and congrats on the PR! Despite being less than 24 hours removed from my race, riding the bike course on the motorcycle made me actually consider doing the race. For a second. Because I moved my legs and remembered how sore I was. But it was a great course, besides the short patch of rough stuff in the beginning.

    Race management is really trying their best to improve every year. We spoke a bit before the race start and it sounds like they have some great ideas to improve on from this year already. Glad to know they are making leaps and bounds in improvements each year.

  11. Nicely done Ray… I was looking for ya out there but with all the people there was no luck in finding you. It’s no shocker you did so superly awesome two weeks after IM Canada! Congrats on the new PR :)

  12. well done! there were cupcakes??? why am i always the last to know.

    It sure is nice to do races where everybody knows your name!

    I thought it was all much improved from last year too, except saturday bike drop off/swim practice was still a giant clusterf***.

    Congrats on a terrific race!

  13. Top notch report, and top notch race, as usual. That’s one fantastic effort so soon after an IM.

  14. congrats on the PR! you’ve worked hard all season for it. hope recovery is going well..enjoy the cupcakes!

  15. Looks like a fun race. Awesome that you had a good time biking (I didn’t realize that was possible!).

    Great job overall!

  16. Outstanding. An Oly PR so soon after an IM is pretty impressive. Congrats!

    If that Garmin in your swim cap were pointed at the right angle, maybe you could use it like a dorsal fin. Just a thought for next time.

  17. Jennie and Jamie (picture-takers from Saturday's swim)

    Thanks for the shout-out!

    Sorry if we startled you by loudly screaming your name while you were probably trying to concentrate, but we can’t believe we actually saw you.

    Your blog (and food pictures) keep us entertained. Oh, and the tri advice is good, too :)

    Great race…keep it up!

  18. Wow, an amazing race 2 weeks after IMC? I wonder what would happen if you trained for speed instead of distance. Thos 6 min range miles are impressive, as is the sub-40 10K! Nicely done.

  19. Nice job out there, especially on the bike. I think that I logged the same split for a draft-legal 40k on Saturday!

  20. No problem Tim, glad the photo came out pretty good!

    Jennie and Jamie…

    No worries at all, I thought it was pretty funny (though slightly surprised). The girl thought it was even funnier. Btw…the Girl wants to see the pic.

  21. Great race, great report as always! This number was really impressive: 23.4MPH

  22. Congratulations! Good job on the race and nice review, thanks!