I signed up for two half-ironman distance events for 2013. The first was Ironman Eagleman 70.3 which I had done last year as my first 70.3 distance race and the second was Rev3 Main Half-Rev. While Ironman is the well known brand name among long distance triathlon events, Rev3 is the up and comer and, frankly, is coming on strong.
After a slightly disappointing race at Eagleman, I buckled down in working with Coaches Craig and Erica Sheckler of Endurance Multisport to not only improve my swim but also hopefully my bike, run, and overall event performance. The hard work paid off with a strong outing at the Steelman Olympic distance race earlier in August. I was hopeful that that was a sign of good preparation and good things to come for Rev3 Maine. Maine featured a very similar bike & run course to Steelman albeit the run is a bit hillier. Still, I was hopeful despite the daunting ocean swim.
The week before the race was crazy. Dad injured is back and needed help. Work was nuts. It was one stressor after another and I was starting to question whether it was even prudent to continue to plan to race this weekend. But my brother David assured me it would be fine and Dad would be okay. I decided there are always emergencies at work whether I race or not. So I compromised and worked a half-day Friday and left for Maine after lunch. I had hoped we could make it the whole way on Friday but we hit Connecticut at rush hour and traffic came to a stop. Conveniently, we pulled into a rest stop and Connecticut allows overnight camping. We decided we didn’t need to stress out in traffic so stayed there overnight and planned for an early start on a traffic-free Saturday morning.
This turned out to be the right decision. We rolled unobstructed all the way to Maine and arrived at Paradise Park Resort campground around 10:45 or so. I was too late for the practice swim but still plenty of time to get in a bike and run and go to packet pick-up.
A couple notes on Old Orchard Beach, ME: If you make the trip to Old Orchard Beach, Paradise Park camping is fabulous. The campground is well tended, clean, friendly staff and only a ½ mile walk to the beach. They also run a shuttle down to the beach and back. This is a very friendly town especially if you are beach lover. It very much reminds you of Stone Harbor, NJ with a shopping district (mostly t-shirts, food, beach stuff, etc.), amusement rides, and of course a nice beach. The Amtrak Downeaster also makes regular stops here meaning you could be here in a heartbeat if you so decided.
After we setup in camp and had a quick lunch, I hopped on the bike for a 30 minute spin to loosen the legs up. I took the opportunity to ride down to see where transition, and packet pick-up were and was pleased with how close everything was to the campground. Parking is nutty and it is nice not to have to drive down. (As I type this I can hear the screams from the rides at the amusement park.)
When I signed up for Rev3 I was impressed that I received a call the next day welcoming me and thanking me. I also received information for who to call if something happened and I needed help with my registration. I’ve never gotten a call from Ironman and as far as I know if “something happens” Ironman will say “Sorry, better luck next time”. My impressions only got better when we went to packet pick-up. It was fast, efficient, and modern with knowledgeable, friendly volunteers. But then, everyone is friendly in Maine.
After perusing the merchandise tent and eyeing up a $95.00 Rev3 Maine cycling jersey with a big lobster on it
we headed back to camp where I got Black Betty loaded up with an extra tube, gels and the appropriate race stickers. I then rode to transition, racked Betty and made my way back.
It was interesting to see all the fit, healthy triathletes in transition and then walk back by the overweight gentleman with a tray full of corndogs who was smoking and hacking up a lung. No thanks.
Back and camp, there as time for a glass of wine to unwind after a busy day followed by my favorite RV pre-race meal. Bertolli’s Farafelle & Chicken. Perhaps not the healthiest dish under normal circumstances, but tasty, easy to make, and only one pan to clean-up. Plus some good carb & protein loading in there. With an early morning start we did not hang out to long before bed. Lights out at 8:15 for me with a 4:15 alarm.
I am a light sleeper under the best of circumstances and when I awoke at 2:30 I thought for sure that would be it. But next thing I knew the Marimba was playing and my iPhone was vibrating on the counter above my head. 4:15. Time to rock and roll. Breakfast was a bagel and cup of coffee followed by the appropriate application of chamois butter, race kit, a couple last minute items and it was off to transition. It’s an early day and I convinced Janice she did not need to be there for the swim start. A decision I would regret in a bit.
I LOVE the hustle and bustle and excitement of pre-race. It is sort of fun to take a few minutes and watch people in transition. Everyone has their own little ritual and methods for setting up transition. A few of them look a lot like superstitions. But in short order I was focused on my own setup checking and double-checking to make sure I didn’t forget anything. Satisfied, I set out for the swim start which is about a 20 minute walk. I walked and chatted with a young couple. The young man was doing his first half today. I wished him luck. He seemed ready.
I have to admit it is intimidating to stare out at the ocean and realize you are going to swim farther off shore than you ever have in your life. Fortunately, the sea was dead calm. In fact, if you got a call from the weather gods and they told you get one day where you can have whatever you want and it’s all yours you could not have asked for anything better for race day. At 5:30 am the air temperature was around 55, there was no wind, and we had a beautiful sunrise. But the water temperature was 60. This is about as good as it gets for Maine. The Old Orchard Beach website lists the water at 65. But I wouldn’t tell tourists how cold it really is either. (Because 65 is so much more appealing than 60).
With the 60 degree figure in mind, I got into my wetsuit, donned my swim cap and goggles and plunged in. Ohhhhh mmmyyyyyyyy. Boy does that hurt the face! It took 10-15 minutes before I could swim steadily than it wasn’t so bad. I suddenly realized I still had my wedding ring on. Janice was back at camp and my bag was a 15 minute walk back to transition. Oh well. Hopefully it would stay on.
My wave was set to go off at 6:28 so I got out and headed for the start but discovered it was delayed 10 minutes due to a train coming through. They didn’t want the fast swimmers to be held up by the train since it was necessary to cross the tracks to get back to transition. They did however, start the only disabled athlete to much applause from the crowd. As they carried him to the water, the announcer said those that say “I can’t do that” don’t have much of an excuse.
With the 10 minute delay, I got back in the water to keep my face “numb”. I didn’t want to warm up too much and get shocked upon going back in to the water. But I looked and the green blue caps of wave 1 were in the chute so I got close to the start since my wave, wave 3 would be headed out only 8 minutes after them.
Shortly I found myself in the chute and heard the air horn and 43 orange swim cap clad old men charged into the water. My swim anxiety and stupidity has been well documented in past race reports and I won’t bore you with it again. But I got to the first buoy and the previously silent evil inner voice suddenly stopped me in my tracks with a rather insistent “STOP! YOU CAN’T DO THIS”! And I listened. I lingered by that buoy looking back at the beach and even turned and swam back toward it. Suddenly, it occurred to me how embarrassing it would be to walk back up that beach and turn in my chip. I had trained all summer, and spent a lot of money to get here. Now turn East and swim goddammit! So I did. And that was the last of the panic.
Despite the cold water, the swim rocked. The water was quite clear and it was easy to see swimmers all around you. Still, I am not used to catching up to people in the water and several times swam up the backs of people. Others seems to be a bit directionally challenged and swam zig zags across the course probably swimming 1.5 miles instead of the required 1.2. I am fortunate to have always tracked pretty straight and had no problems seeking out the next buoy. On the final turn you can sight off the Ferris wheel which makes life really simple. I swam until I grabbed sand and than stood and made my way out of the water. Swim time: 40:34. Not my fastest but it would have been if I hadn’t dawdled around for 30 seconds by the first buoy.
One interesting thing, if you want to call it that, about the Rev3 Maine course (both Half and Olympic) is the .3 mile run from swim out to transition. It seems to go on forever starting out in soft sand as you plough up the beach, then on to smooth (and well swept) pavement.
There is an option to use shoes and they offer a bag you can mark with your number and rack by the beach but quite honestly your feet are so covered with sand you are better off going barefoot. I ran up the beach and then seemingly almost back to the campground before getting to transition. Then it is necessary to run to the opposite end to Swim In because they sensibly don’t want collisions with bike out. So if my 5:28 for T1 seems long, remember that 3 minutes of it is running up from the water.
The Rev3 Maine bike course is purely biking pleasure. There are a few small hills but nothing dramatic and no dangerous descents. It is just really a pleasant bike ride on mostly back country roads with a few heavier traffic avenues. The course is exceptionally well-marked. You can not make a wrong turn, There were volunteers and police officers at every road crossing to hold up traffic and make sure it was safe. I thanked as many as I could.
My legs felt a bit heavy for the first few bike miles. It is a slight but steady uphill as you leave town though not difficult. That may have had something to do with it, or the long run to T1. But it took a while to get going and I wondered if I would.
It is notable that the course is pretty and very Maine-esque. Farms, birch trees, the flora loaded with fruit and showing an early autumn tinge, and 4 half-grown horses all beautiful in a field that made me smile as they ran alongside the riders. This combined with in-your-dreams perfect weather meant a pleasant, fast ride.
At mile 20 I checked my time and noticed I was at 1:04. A little slower than I hoped. Averaging 20 mph for me is tough yet but I was hoping to be a little closer. Shortly thereafter I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade (aka magic elixer) from an aid station. I had eaten a gel shortly after starting the bike and was regularly getting fluids but the Gatorade seemed to give me the caloric energy boost my body needed to start turning over my legs faster. I started feeling comfortable picking up the cadence and picking off riders. The other thing that helped was a slight stem change shortening and raising my stem a bit on Coach Craig’s advice. I stayed aero most of the day except for some of the hill climbs. There was one small Peleton that was clearly drafting (and I’m not convinced they knew the rules) that passed me several times, each time on a long flat section or downhill. But they couldn’t climb and I would pass them back at the next hill. The longer the day went, the better my legs felt. I focused on the next 10 mile chunk.
At 50 miles I realized I had something pretty special going on on the bike. This made me crank just a bit faster. A couple miles outside of town the Peleton caught me again and I found myself in the middle. Oh no. I’m not getting a drafting penalty when I HAVE NOT been drafting. I tapped the button on my Di2 shifter bore down, and left them behind me for good. We tore back into Old Orchard Beach, made the hard right on Staples Street, and headed for Bike in. Bike Time: 2:46:05.
Okay . . before I continue, did you see that bike time!? My previous best bike time at Eagleman was 3:10 something. Apparently if you are used to training and riding in hills you should race in hills. Who knew? By the way, the Rev3 timing contains a bit too much data. It took me a while to figure out for sure that this was my bike time. You did see that right? 2:46:05. Wow . . that’s fast! At least for me.
Anyway, into T2 where I re-racked Mistress Betty and put on my faithful, but dying old Zoot Advantage shoes for the last time. As I did so, it occurred to me there was still a fair amount of sand on my feet. This may hurt. Oh well. On with the shoes and lets go. T2: 2:08
My best hope for the run was to hold a 1:50 pace. But even a 2:00 pace would put me 10 minutes up on my best 70.3 run. Conditions to run were perfect. Maybe not as good as 7:00am when we were headed out on the bike but still, cool, light breeze and most of the run was shaded. I told myself to “Just run the current mile”. My plan was to use every other aid station and to walk theough them. I have found that in trying to run and drink I wind up choking and losing more time than if I just slow down and get the liquid and/or food down.
Miles 1,2, and 3 came and went with me solely focusing on the next mile and figuring out what to do at the aid stations. Miles 3-10 were partially or completely run on a local trail. Not a technically trail, but a big wide, rail-trail type of trail offering a lot of shade. One sunny section was through a salt marsh with a very Maine coast look to it. Each aid station consisted of varying combinations of water, water & Gatorade, coke & water, and a couple banana halves thrown in. By mile 8 I was thinking how good a pig or cow (or both) would taste. For once, I was actually hungry in a race. By dumb luck I chose that time to suck down my only gel of the run. This was good because, due to the salt marsh & no road access, it was a long time to the next aid station.
As I ran my math skills got fuzzy so I focused running as hard as I could without overdoing it. At mile 10 I checked my watch. It was something like 1:25 and I realized that I could have a pretty good run. Even at 10 minute miles I’d PR big time for the run. And I felt a lot better than 10 minute miles so I kept the steam on. I didn’t believe most of the paces on my Garmin. In the tree cover of the path it was bouncing all over so I just ran on feel and kept a good, steady, solid pace. Probably 8:15 to 8:25 most of the time.
Around mile 11 I caught up to a guy named Brian who was 44. We chatted for the better part of the next mile. It sure made that mile go fast. He too was having a banner day and intended to finish strong. As we approached the mile 12 aid station I told him to have a great finish and that I was going to walk the aid station.
I quickly grabbed some coke and water, and got back to pace. I’m not going to lie. My legs were rebelling. They were on the verge of cramping but the constant supply of liquid, carbs, and potassium seemed to keep the cramps at bay and I did my best Jens Voigt and said “Shut up legs” and pressed on.
At the end of the run, you turn a corner several blocks down the road from the main street in Old Orchard Beach. In the distance I could see Lisa’s Pizza. Oh gosh . . I have well under a mile to go but that looks so far. “Okay. Stop looking that far. Run to the Motel sign. Just hold pace until then. Good. Now, go to the parking sign. Keep it up. Good. That white house. Now the yellow house. Keep going. Okay, Lisa’s Pizza. Get to that corner and let the crowd take you home”.
As I rounded the corner by Lisa’s Pizza I heard Steph Burke yell from somewhere “Go Pete Go”! She had killed it in the Olympic earlier that day with a dislocated shoulder from being hit by a car. I can’t imagine swimming with a bad shoulder. But she did it and then rocked the bike.
Down 1st street I went. I was at transition. I just needed to get to the other end, turn right and I would be at the finish chute. And then I was there. I saw Janice with the flip cam and think I managed a smirk as I went by. I then looked up and saw the race clock. 5:33:33. WHAT!?!? Holy smokes! If that is right, then I just had an enormous PR. Run time: 1:51:22. Awesome!
Total Time: 5:25:37
That’s a 42 minute PR. 42 minutes! To say I’m ecstatic is the understatement of the year. Again, I know I put the time in but I have to give special props to Coaches Craig & Erica Sheckler for the well organized training cycle and the accountability to get the workouts done.
Janice, as always, was at the finish line and Steph had made her way there too. I was surprised to see Steph with her arm in a sling. What happened? It seemed she had been hit by a car a couple weeks ago. “Oh”. That may keep some of us mere mortals from racing but somehow she gutted her way through and Olympic distance swim and managed to stay aero on the bike and hammer her way to a 3rd place finish. Awesome stuff Steph!
One neat thing about a race in Maine is that an option for post race food includes a lobster bake. I had opted for this for both Janice and I and in short order we were staring down a big pan full of lobster and associated goodies. Yum. Best post-race food ever.
Afterwards I collected stuff from transition, watched Molly, the 81 year old collect her age group award for her efforts in the Olympic event, and then stopped by the retail tent. At mile 5 of the run I decided to buy that damn jersey. It is surely expensive, but really cool!
For those that have not done a Rev3 event, I have nothing but praise. The race was well run, and made the athletes & families feel welcome. This started the day after I signed up when I received a phone call from a human being thanking me for signing up, right up through the athletes ability to transfer a bib, or defer. Race weekend was well executed with plenty of volunteers, well marked courses, and crystal clear communication. Last year the only complaint I read about were people saying if you didn’t order the lobster dinner the post-race food wasn’t so great. I checked out the offerings this year and that was obviously listened to and addressed. The food was far more appealing than any other race I’ve done. Rev3 may not be able to offer Kona slots for those that matters to but if the trend continues they will definitely be my go to race organization.
Love the race report and congrats on the big PR!! Sounds like it was a great day out there. And now I’m sad that I couldn’t make it up to Maine to race! …would have loved to be one of the other crazy people rocking the lobster jersey : )
It just keeps getting better, Pete! But how many bird species did you ID at each stage?!