Thursday, August 23, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Timberman 1/2 Ironman!

The Day Before the Day Before

Webb: We both took Friday off from work so we could drive up the day before the day before. That would allow us to drive up early and maybe beat the traffic, then have all of Saturday to fix or buy our way out of situations and to shake out traffic weary legs. We collected our things, prepped the bikes, including my ERC race wheels, packed the car and headed to The Gateway to Maine.

Elle: Either we left late or there is never a good time to beat the mad traffic on the way up to Gilford, New Hampster. Luckily we happened upon a radio station that was playing Moving Pictures, that’s right, back-to-back-to-back Rush.

Webb: It was like the radio waves knew we were headed toward Canada. I kind of expected to hear blocks of Bare Naked Ladies, The Tragically Hip and Triumph too. And yes, Red Barchetta rocks, even when you are in crawling traffic.

Elle: We checked into the Lighthouse Inn B&B, which also has some nice cabins right by the water closer to the race site. The cabins have little kitchen areas with a small fridge, microwave and toaster, so we could eat our normal pre-race meals. After we unpacked the car, we went out to Gunstock and registered – I got a nice number, 600. Not so lucky, the guy behind me in line had race number 666. We walked around the ‘athletes village’ for a bit and looked at stuff to buy. I ended up grabbing a bag of Gu Chomps, plus some 'Hoo Ha Glide', which I've been meaning to get for awhile. I'd heard good things about it, and, I KNOW you're not supposed to do anything new on race day, but I just had to try it.

Webb: My bib number was #654. With a number like that, one might see it as a reminder to negative split each discipline. Or one might not. Anyway, viewing the multitude of items WTC dreamed up to stamp with its trademark worked up our appetites. We found a place to have dinner right on the lake. The food was ... um ... the view was great!  Then it was back to the cabin for some precious sleep. Sleep the night-before-the-night-before is critical to race success. I don't know why. Maybe it is because a lot of people are unable to sleep the night before a race?

The Day Before

Webb: Ahhhhh sleeping in is the best. Elle knows I love diners so she found the Union Diner, a 50’s-style diner. We sat at the bar and I enjoyed my typical fare of pancakes. I was disappointed they did not have real maple syrup. It still kind of hurts me a little to be that near Vermont and Canada and not have the real thing. The pancakes were good otherwise and met their purpose as a carb-rich meal 24-36 hours before the race.

Elle: After breakfast it was back to the cabin for our “shake out” bike and run brick and a cool dip in the pool. Then it was time to head to Ellacoya State Park - location of the Timberman race - to rack our bikes in transition area for the mandatory bike check-in. While we were there we ran into some of our St. Croix friends, Sam & Hana. (Hana would end up qualifying for the 70.3 Championship in Las Vegas!) It's always so fun to be around all of the other athletes at races, checking out all the bikes, looking out for people you know, meeting new people, there's lots of energy in the air, it's really exciting.

Racking the Bike the Day Before
Webb: Checking in your bike the night before is weird. I racked my bike in the spot labeled #654. Looked at it for a few seconds and thought, "Well, I guess that's that." Normally I spend the next 30 minutes getting ready. On this night, I just racked my bike and went on my way. Of course, Elle was over in the next row talking to about 100 people.

Elle: We went back to the ‘athletes village’ at Gunstock to buy some gear, and ran into Nate & family. (Nate would go onto to be the top amateur and 8th overall. Whoa, we have some fast friends.) Afterwards we had a very early dinner at local watering hole, Patrick’s Pub – yum. But I could have done without the 1987 music soundtrack.

We headed back to the cabin to pack up everything we could – race bag, morning bag, everything we didn’t need that night or in the morning was packed up and put in the car in anticipation of our 3am wake-up and 4am departure.

Race Day!

Webb: We had been warned that while the parking lot would open at 4:00AM, it would surely be full by 5:00AM, if not much sooner. We chose to go for the parking rather than sleep another hour. We planned to be on the road by 4:00AM for the 15 minute drive. Not surprisingly I did not sleep well. I wasn't anxious. I just don't do 9:00PM bedtimes. I was committed to resting even if I could not sleep. Eventually the 3:00AM alarm went off. I felt fairly well rested. I made my breakfast and pulled together my last minute things.

(Not pictured: Wetsuit)
Elle: It was tough getting up at 3am, no lie. But I knew we had to get up and get going if we wanted to get a parking spot at the park. So the alarm went off and we got up. And to my real amazement, we actually had breakfast, packed up our final things, and were on the road by 4am, just like we planned! That never happens! We got to the park, and there wasn't the line that we'd been told about. Apparently we got there just before things started to back up. Another plus! Things were going well so far! We parked and then reclined the seats to sleep for a bit before heading to transition area.

Webb: Isn't it cute how she implies "we" slept for a bit? I closed my eyes and rested for 45:00 while Sleepy McSleeperson drifted off into a cozy dreamland. At 5:10 I had enough "sleeping" and woke Elle to go set up our transition areas.

Elle: I kept waiting for the pre-race jitters to set in. I usually start getting nervous in transition while I'm setting everything up, but I just didn't. Which was weird. But I figured, it will come. But it didn't. I felt oddly calm. Ok then. On to the swim start!

Lake Winnipesaukee at Dawn
1.2 miles (2km) in Lake Winnipesaukee
Elle's Wave: 7:20AM
Webb's Wave: 7:25AM

Webb: The swim course was a simple rectangle. Swim straight out, turn east (right) at the big red buoy, swim straight to the next big red buoy, turn right again and swim to shore. Nothing to it as long as you keep the buoys on your right.

Elle: I knew the lake was shallow, but I didn't really know what to do about it. As we all watched the pros head out, they honestly looked like a school of dolphins, and I remembered watching a video online some time ago about shallow swim starts. I couldn't believe I remembered, but when I got out there, inspired by the pros, I dug my feet in the sand and dolphin dived my way to water deep enough to swim in.
Exiting the swim!
And it worked! But that's when the swim business went down. Bodies swimming over bodies, mass chaos, I got punched in the mouth, total insanity. I tried to remain calm, but I had to keep stopping because there were so many people, I couldn't even get a full swim stroke in. At one point the guys in the next wave were catching up. And I swore Webb swam right by me, but I can't be positive. Anyway, I did my best to just get through the swim, and before I knew it, I was out of the water.

Webb: My wave departed at 7:25AM, or 25:00 after the pro men began the race. (By the way, firing a cannon to start the pro fields is unnerving.) My wave was split in half alphabetically. I don't know if any other division had quite as many competitors. I noticed from watching the other waves that the shallow start would add about a minute of walking. It was useless to even attempt dolphin diving. It would have been more like: 1- Dolphin dive. 2- Stand up. 3- Wait. 4- Repeat steps 1-3. I'm simply not that a good a swimmer to push up front and do that. So I walked while guys splashed all around me.

Lookin' good!
Once the pack thinned out enough, I dove in and started slipping behind one swimmer after another methodically moving my way through the field. With six waves ahead of our group, the water was getting a little rough and it was difficult to sight the buoys. I just kept moving with the pack until I became a little frustrated. I saw a gap, shot into it and swam in clean water for several strokes. I sighted a few times and still couldn't see the buoy. This wasn't unusual so I kept swimming. I had a gnawing feeling things weren't right. I stopped and looked around - all the way around. Over my left shoulder I found the buoy with all the rest of the swimmers. D'oh! I had swum due east towards the middle of the rectangle. I did a 18o and swam my way back into the mass of flailing arms and legs. Later on the homestretch of the swim I found myself drifting eastward again. What is wrong with me? I don't like the sun that much. I do not want to go to there.

Coming out of the water I felt good. Even though I had no idea what my split was, I had a lot of energy running into T1. I left my sun-wandering ways behind in the water and headed for the wetsuit strippers. YES! Wetsuit strippers! There were a few athletes standing while volunteers pulled and tugged at the ankles of their wetsuits. I demonstratively singled-out a volunteer and flopped down on my back. He looked at me like I was crazy. I told him, "Trust me this will be easier." In one fluid motion he whipped the wetsuit right off me. Of that group, I was the last one in and the first one out. Screw grace and elegance, this was a race.


56 miles (90km)

On the Cervélo
Webb: We had done this course twice before on practice runs. I knew the major hills were within the first 11 or so miles. That meant the middle 34 miles is the place to find speed. I told myself to take it easy and save the legs for the return trip and, of course, that wee bit of running at the end.

Adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I wish my talent equalled my love of cycling. Even with a constant internal reminder to slow down, I was enjoying taking down the hills that gave me some fits in training. That was until the last and most serious climb around mile 11 when I dropped my chain. Arrgggghhh. I pulled over, reached down and slipped it onto the inner chainring. I then stood there on the side of the road waiting for a break to re-enter the fray. Moments later I was bombing down the descent.

Timberman 70.3 Bike Leg Profile

The descent took us to the highway and the fast middle section. It is basically flat, with some negligible rollers. I was feeling great, which you know is a trap. I would back off a little and then look down to see my HR elevating again. I'm convinced the hardest part of long course racing is restraint.  I think the key is to make your slow speed faster than your peers.

After the turnaround, the adrenaline had totally dissipated. I still felt good. My pace had calmed down and I was just cruising along, with a bunch of riders. It was like they were having a draft fest. I kept trying to pass people so I wouldn't be drafting, only to have them pass me back. For the first time I understood what the pros meant about setting a pace and taking turns working up front. Up to that point, such draft-legal cycling talk was incomprehensible to me. We're triathletes; we don't work together on the bike. It is true though, you can pace each other in those situations without actually drafting. During one of these moments we were getting bunched up, so I shifted with the idea to pass some people and get into the gap up the road. All of sudden SRAM! Dropped chain #2.

Once again I stood on the side of the road with grease-covered fingers watching an endless pace line fly by me. I'm not going to lie. There was a time or two I thought about inserting myself into the road to watch them all fall like dominoes as the first rider hit the brakes. C'mon people! I know it is crowded out there. At least make an effort not to draft blatantly.

Back on the road, I found some space and pedaled smoothly preparing myself mentally and physically for the last 11 miles of hills. That Yukan Half-Marathon was still ever-present in my thoughts. Soon enough I was climbing the first big hill and a pattern was set into a motion. I would pace easily up a hill and 10 or so people would pass me. On the descents, I would tuck my ears back and fly by them. A quick side note to the trepidatious triathletes: I understand that descending can get a little frightening; however, there comes a point when your fear becomes dangerous to you and everyone else around you. Ride with confidence, even if you have to fake it. It will be safer for everyone.

Finally, I was on the last climb about 1.5 miles from the transition area. I shifted to an easier gear to try to keep my cadence high when, you guessed it, Dropped Chain #3. I cursed. Loudly. That's a penalty if a race marshall hears you. Anyway, once again, I have the chain back on in about five seconds and wait another 20 to 30 seconds for a break in the action. Maybe it wasn't that long. It sure felt that way. I finally get back in the game and I hear someone shout, "On your left ... wait ... nevermind," as she trailed behind me. I was biking angry at this point. And that's when it happened. Heading into the final descent to the transition area, I shifted the chain right off the big chainring for my 4th and final Dropped Chain. I was maybe a mile away. <heavy sigh>

Pacing, pacing....
Elle: While Webb was having an exciting bike leg, I was actually doing a pretty good job of pacing, not getting too excited and going out too hard, as I've been warned not to do. It was tough to watch all of those bikes pass me, but every time, I just thought, "Yeah, I'll see you on the run after you've blown up from going too hard on the bike!"I don't know if I actually did pass those people on the run, but it made me feel better to think that I would.

Meanwhile, after about 15 miles I realized I had to use the bathroom. Ugh. I really didn't want to stop, so I tried what the pros do, which is... they pee on the bike. Whatever, I was already going to be sweaty and gross, might as well give it a try. So I tried. And tried. I just couldn't make it happen! After the turn around I realized that I wasn't going to be able to have a strong finish up the final hills like this. So I decided to bite the bullet, and stop at an aid station. My tri suit isn't the easiest thing to pull off and on, so I lost some precious time there. I decided to fill up my aero water bottle, and ended up somehow dislodging the top, which caused a loud rattling for the remainder of the bike course. It was so loud, that as I approached other triathletes, they turned and gave me a funny look. So I had to keep yelling, "Water bottle malfunction!"

13.1 miles (21km)

Putting another 70.3 in the books
Webb: My goal was to run the 13.1 in under two hours, like, 1:59:59. I've already said enough about how the Yukan Half kicked my arse. More importantly, memories of my 13.1 in St Croix lingered uneasily in mind. On that day, I ran-walked a 2:25. Generally speaking, I was optimistic I could do this whole race in about 6 hours. On paper I should be able to finish a fairly challenging 70.3 in under 5:45. The last five weeks were torture though as I spent a lot of time at work and missed some key peak-period workouts. Plus, I may have written our training plan one month too long. I decided to take the pressure off and just enjoy my time out there.

With no real goal times, I took my sweet time in T2. I put on some socks, which was new for me. Normally I don't wear socks because it just takes too long. Lately though, I have developed blood blisters on the ends of my toes after long runs. I also took extra time to stretch my hamstrings, have a gel and some water. I then jogged to the Run Out arch.

Passing under the arch I saw the official clock up ahead. It read 4:09. Not bad was my initial thought. If I run this in two hours I'll have a 6:09 finish. Then I started talking and gesticulating to myself as I ran down the chute to the road: Wait. That is the official clock, which must be based on the men's pro start. That means I can deduct 20 minutes. I am 11 minutes ahead of schedule. Is that right? Why is math so hard sometimes? Ok ok ok ok ok I can now run this thing in 2:10 and still break six hours. (Some of you are thinking, "Wait. What?" Yeah, I know. Hold that thought.) That initial high gave me a surge of energy that pushed my pace to 8:00/mile. Tooooo fast. Right away I was into my two-hour shuffle.

One of my regrets from the steamy, miserable run in STX was my under-utilization of the cold sponges. This time around I made a point to wear my running hat for the sole purpose of putting ice-cold sponges under it. That made a huge difference. Even though it was not as hot as STX it was still pretty damn warm and those sponges brought serious relief. I also did a better job of on-the-run nutrition. I drank often and had a couple of gels. The real treat was around mile two and eight. There was a huge pile of snow! O the wonders of New Hampshire in August. A high school volunteer handed me a snowball on my first pass. I ran with it for about a mile switching it between hands and holding it to my wrists.

As I was finishing the first loop, I allowed myself to look at my watch. I came in under an hour. Excellent. I could now run the second loop in 1:10 and still finish under 6 hours. I was feeling confident as I came around the loop to the next aid station. It appeared to be manned by mostly pre-teens. I yelled out: "Can someone just throw water at me?" Within two seconds about six of those kids simultaneously threw cups of water on me, hitting me from waist to eye-level. They couldn't have done a better job if they had practiced.

70.3 is fun!
Elle: That. is. awesome.

Webb: Coming up to mile seven a thought occurred to me: Elle started at 7:20, not me; I started at 7:25. Wait a minute, that means I am on pace to finish in 5:45. That apparently mattered to me. Now I cared. And that is when Mother Nature said, "Sloooooooow down." My legs felt so heavy as I trudged up one of the smaller hills. Now I had something to run for and I was not going to buckle. I convinced myself to maintain a steady pace and then give the last 5k everything I had. Each successive hill in the warm sun felt like it was dealing a blow. I made the final turnaround and braced myself for the stretch.

Right at mile 10 the road pitched up a bit as the course rejoins the highway. This is where I was to make my move. Wouldn't you know it, some volunteer was playing Gonna Fly Now. As clichéd as it was, it gave me chills as I ran up that hill. The next three miles were rotten. I would run hard, catch myself backing off, tell myself, "Everybody Hurts," then run hard again. At some point I looked at my watch and figured it was mathematically impossible for me to make it in 5:45.  I hung in there and ran the last mile as hard as I could. Final run split: 2:01:36.

Elle: Meanwhile, I was ecstatic to see the 'Bike In' arch, I was so ready to be off the bike! And into T2 I went. For sprint and Olympic distance races I speed in and out of transition in about a minute. For my first 1/2 IM, I took my time. Like Webb, I put on socks, which I don't usually do, and made sure to Body Glide up my feet and toes. I had some Gu Chomps, took a drink. Looked around, and decided it was time to go. I can't tell you how happy I was to be on the run. It meant that the swim and bike were over! It meant that I was actually going to finish this thing! I started the run leg in a great mood - I was really enjoying this race.

The run course was thick with spectators, which made things fun. People were excited and supportive. One wonderful woman was standing out in her driveway holding a hose, spraying cool water on whoever wanted it, which I did. Another house had a table out front with a big sign, "PANCAKES & BACON", and sure enough, there was a plate of bacon and a plate of pancakes! I saw one guy grab one of the pancakes, but he left the bacon.

Webb: I totally saw a guy stop and carefully select a strip of bacon.

You are a Timberwoman!
Elle: I knew Webb was on the course somewhere, so I was keeping my eyes peeled on the other side of the road - I didn't want to miss him. Finally, I saw Webb off in the distance, running towards me. It was so great to see him. As we passed each other, we went for the hand slap, but, doh! We missed! [Webb: To be fair, I missed.] I felt a little bit like an idiot. This was a 2-loop course, so that meant that we'd see each other two more times. So the next time, I made sure we didn't miss - I locked in Webb's gaze, and we did a successful hand slap. Yeah, we're dorks. The third time we passed I just said, "Hey, I thought this was supposed to be hard!" I actually think that annoyed one of the runners near me. But honestly, I was feeling really good at that point. It wasn't until mile 9 that I started to hurt a bit. From then on out it was a bit of a struggle, so I stopped occasionally at the aid stations for water and/or Gatorade. And unfortunately had to slow down a bit. But I was still having a good time. When I finally turned the corner and started down the finishing chute, I felt like a million bucks. I did it! I had just finished a 1/2 Ironman! And there was Webb, waiting for me.

Webb: Elle and I saw each three times on the run. Each time she closed on me. After I crossed the finish line, I drank a bottle of water and then stared down the finishing chute. And then there she was, beaming her smile amongst the pain and suffering that was the rest of us. It is kind of disgusting how little she shows her effort.


Swim- 46:15 (2:23/100m)
T1- 3:05
Bike- 3:16:39 (17.1 mph)
T2- 3:46
Run- 1:58:23 (9:02/mile)
Total- 6:08:08
Age Group: 39/98
Overall: 802/1699

Swim- 37:37 (1:56/100m)
T1- 2:36
Bike- 3:01:13 (18.5 mph)
T2- 3:34
Run - 2:01:36 (9:16/mile)
Total- 5:46:36
Age Group: 84/230
Overall: 548/1699


  1. you guys kind of disgust me with how awesome you both are. congrats!

  2. Just now seeing this...great race you both! Congratulations!

  3. I'm doing my first 70.3 ever at Timberman in a couple of weeks. Thoroughly enjoyed your race reports!

  4. My mom sent me this article as the Timberman will be my first 70.3 as well this August. This post makes me more excited and less nervous about it! Without this I would probably have overlooked getting Body Glide or anti chafe gel and set myself up for a bad time.

  5. Congrats to you guys for doing your first 1/2 IM! Have faith in your training, and make sure you taper. You want to be well rested on race day because you cannot cram for this test. Most importantly - make sure you enjoy the experience!
    Good luck!