Being born and raised in New Jersey I have an affinity for the one state that has not always received the best reviews from just about everyone else. You know the stereotype - loud and obnoxious, curse a lot, say "yo" every other sentence, say "Joisey" and don't know how to pump my own gas.
As for the state itself, there's this perception that "Joisey" is dirty, loud and congested. And if your only view of the state comes from your car while driving on the NJ Turnpike north of exit 7a, than I can almost understand. But if you open your eyes just a bit you come to realize that New Jersey is a pretty kick-ass state with great expansive suburbs, lots of farmland (it is called the "Garden State" after all), and quick access to both Philadelphia and New York City.
The site for the NJ State Triathlon, not far from both Princeton and Trenton, is a perfect example of what is right about NJ as well as a wonderful setting for a race. The swim and run are both inside Mercer County Park with the bike portion on the surrounding roads.The park itself is massive, with just about everything you could ever want inside a park, including a concert venue. Traffic and parking for the race were as easy as can be expected.
And the lake ... ah yes, that beautiful, clean lake. I have raced a lot of places along the East Coast and this is, by far, my favorite swim venue. The water is clear, the course is spacious enough to deal with an Ironman-sized mass start, and sighting is a breeze.
On Saturday I drove down to packet pickup, making sure I arrived in time to hear the pre-race meeting. At races I have done multiple times I will often skip this meeting as there is nothing new to hear. For 2015 the bike course had been changed so I wanted to hear what the race director had to say about road conditions, aid stations, etc. as well as wetsuit status for the swim.
Good thing, too, because the water temperature was a balmy 83 degress (no wetsuit) and there would be no aide stations available on the bike course. According to the race director, the only logical/obvious place for an aide station was 2 miles from the end of the ride, which is basically useless from a practical perspective. Instead of carrying just a bottle of EFS I added a bottle of water.
That evening I stated with my parents who live 30 minutes from the race. We hit an Italian restaurant for dinner, where I had a usual pre-race meal of pizza and a salad.
Race MorningAround 5:15 am my alarm went off and I started my usual pre-race routine of some dynamic stretching, a carb-rich meal and clearing out the pipes. With everything all packed the night before I hit the road around 5:50 am. The biggest issue of the morning had nothing to do with me, but everything to do with the weather. Driving to the race felt more like driving through the clouds as the 72 degree temperature was nearly matched by the dew point at 71. Eventually I knew the fog would burn off, leaving us with a very hot, very humid, sunny day to race.
Parking was quick and uneventful, save one interesting side note. A few minutes after parking a young guy walking through the parking area was asking to everyone in general if they had an extra helmet as he forgot to bring his with him. He seemed to be freaking out a bit. No helmet, no race, so his concern was understandable. That desperate look on his face changed when I uttered two words: "I do."
Much to everyone's surprise I did actually have an extra helmet with me (an extra pair of bike shoes as well). Seemed like a nice guy so I let him borrow it. Years ago I raced the Lighter than Air Duathlon at the Lakehurst Naval Air Force Base in a pair of running shoes. Seems I made the mistake of leaving my bike shoes in Bethlehem. Fortunately for me the bike course that day was completely flat so I could manage without clipping in. The lesson I learned was to throw an extra helmet and shoes in the car a few days before a race, just in case.
Other that that there would be no more drama. I set my transition area up, used the port-o-johns, and hung out at the race start until my wave (10th out of 12) went off at 8:15 am.
Swim 1500M 24:24
|What a great swim venue|
Which is exactly what happened. I hit it hard from the start. Well before the first turn at 250 yards I had my draft all set up, finding a fellow age grouper who is just a bit faster than me. For the next 1,000 yards or so he guided me through the back end of the swim waves in front of us, before I lost him at the jam up at the third turn. While not my ideal, getting a draft for two thirds of a crowded swim worked just fine. Expecting to be around 25 minutes I was pleasantly surprised by the 24:xx my Garmin showed.
The online race results show my swim rank as 93rd overall, placing me in the top 10%, which is always my goal for the swim. I was 5th out of the water for my age group.
T1: no official time reportedNothing special here, other than the longish run from the bike racks out to the mount line out at the road.
Bike: 19.4 miles 50:27Strava File
Somewhere around 7 am an announcement was made regarding the bike course. Specifically, due to a downed telephone pole they were forced to cut 3+ miles off the bike route making it 20.5 miles, according to the announcement. This course is short to begin with (officially 23 miles) but now it is really short. Even worse, according to my trusty Garmin 810, the actual distance traveled came in at 19.4 miles.
It takes less than a mile to get out of the park and out onto the open road. Most all of the course is coned off for cyclists, and flat to slightly rolling, making it a relatively safe course to ride, even with traffic still around.
The first 10 miles were great. There were few turns and I was able to get into the aero position and get into a good groove. Within the first few miles I passed a few of my fellow M45-49 as well as a fair number of those who started in earlier waves than I did.
The back half of the course was completely different. Instead of long open sections of road we hit a series of tight turns on tighter roads. As a result riders it felt like a constant slow and go for the next 6 or 7 miles. I did continue to pass people, steadily moving my way through the early starters.
Around mile 16 or 17 we reentered the park for a small loop in a parking lot, followed by a short stint on the main road, before we reentered the park toward transition. Did you get all that? Because the way that sentence is written is exactly how riding that section felt.
Shortly before the dismount line I got out of my shoes, swung my leg over the bike and headed into transition for the run.
There are no rankings for where my bike split ranked overall, but I know I was the 5th fastest split for M45-49, which is a bit slow for me. There were only 2 other M45-49 that were more than 1 minute faster than I was, with the others not much faster. There was a long run from the dismount line to the transition mat and, because of the heat, I purposely jogged it into transition. Get rid of the run to the mats and I am sure I actually rode as fast or a bit faster than the two guys in front of me. Whatever, it isn't a bike race.
T2: no official time reportedThe only thing of importance here is the fact that I moved much slower than I would have in more normal weather. At this point temperatures were above 85 degrees and the humidity in the 70% range. I am terrible in the heat (see below) and consciously slowed myself down to keep from overheating.
Run 10k 57:19Soooooo ... this is simply horrible. Coming into race week I had a plan to run aggressively, hoping to have a shot at winning my age group against what I knew would be a competitive field. Once the weather forecast shifted from hot to just effin' awful, I knew I had to scrap the original plan. This may sound like some BS excuse - and I'm sure there are people reading this who are thinking I'm full of crap or I over-biked (take a look at the watts and zone distribution on the Strava file above if you think that) - but I am just not designed to run in oppressive heat and humidity. Making it worse, I have very little opportunity to train during the heat of the day, so I can only get so acclimatized.
Anyway, my plan went from racing to try and win to jogging to survive. I came out of transition slow and steady. I ran an 8:11 first mile which, just for comparison, was only a few seconds faster than my first mile of the marathon at Ironman Florida last November. All I wanted to do was keep running.
Unfortunately, from there it only got slower. Try as I might, all the ice and wet towels I could grab did not keep me from overheating. My head seriously felt like it was going to explode. By mile 2 1/2 I was running when I could, walking when I had to.
It is what it is.
How Could I have Raced Better?I'm not really sure I could have. I swam within myself, biked conservatively, then melted on the run. Could I have taken in more fluids? Maybe. I just have always had problems with crazy hot conditions.
Overall ImpressionsThis is a race I have done before and will do again in the future. I love racing in New Jersey because, well, because it's New Jersey. I love racing here because it is a great venue with a seasoned race director who is good at what he does.
The organization is excellent. Everything ran on time, the staff dealt with a down telephone pole on the bike course with ease (and apparently a huge thunderstorm that caused havoc at the Sprint distance race on Saturday), and they go one step beyond what you would expect. The best example of this is the signs at each bike row showing which race numbers were in which row. This is extremely helpful when you are running into transition with a 160 heart rate trying to find your bike. Well done.
The one issue I have with this race is the bike course. Prior to 2015 the Olympic distance bike was two loops and a little over 25 miles (so it was a little longer than the traditional 40k). This year they replaced it with a one loop course that was 23 miles, quite short of the standard distance. Worse yet, the new course doesn't flow very well. There are a lot of turns. The section into the park and around a parking lot has an awkward, random feel to it, like they needed some extra distance so they just threw it in.
Full race results can be found here.
Up next: Steelman Triathlon on August 9th.
Thanks for reading.
Train hard. Stay focused.