By Ian Williams
On Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 I did the Philadelphia Tri Rock Triathlon. I
haven’t been doing Tri’s for a long time; as a matter of fact this was my
second Tri ever with 2012 Nations Triathlon being my first. After not doing
as well as I’d hoped at Nations Tri last year and not wanting some of the
scary moments during the swim portion, I signed up for some solid training
with Lloyd Henry at OnPoint Fitness. I can’t say enough great things about
Lloyd and his gift for coaching. However, this proved to be very valuable and
shows how investing the time and preparation can return dividends.
Due to the Sprint Tri on Saturday morning those of us competing in Sunday’s
Olympic Tri had to rack our bikes Sunday morning starting at 4:30am. I
walked my bike into Transition just before 5:00am and tried to find my rack in
a dark sea of metal aisles. After figuring out the numbering scheme and
finding my little area, I began to setup exactly as my coach instructed by
laying out my towel and organizing my biking and running paraphernalia in a
systematic way. I chatted for a bit with some friends and then started my walk
to board the bus that would take us to the swim start.
I was given a White swim cap that indicated Wave #9, so I figured “I got some
time to chill because the pros go first, then Waves 1 through 8”, little did I
know how quickly they were getting folks in the water. Before I knew it, there
was a sign for Wave 9 to start lining up. I was a bit nervous because of all
three sports, I believe the swimming to be my weakest but I was determined
to take it on with some serious confidence.
As I walked through the gate we were instructed to get in a single file down
the ramp. At the bottom of the ramp, there was a timing mat to signal the
swim start. Even though I was a bit nervous about the swim, I was
suddenly annoyed that they started our time while we’re still standing and
waiting in this line. All I kept thinking is, this swim is going to be embarrassing
enough by taking me an hour (basing that on my Nations time of 1:00:16 !!),
now they’re robbing me. Anyway, from the single line we were instructed
to form two rows of 10 swimmers. I was in the second row and we stood
directly behind the first row. At this point we were given instructions that
we’ll enter the water ten at a time and twenty seconds behind the first group
of ten. After about 40 seconds, it was my row’s turn to get ready so I sat on
the dock and hit start on my watch. Before I knew it, the whistle went off and
I just jumped in and started to do what I was taught. I decided if I were going
to make it to the other end, I’d have to do everything to maintain form and
balance. My spirit sunk after several minutes because I thought with all the
effort I’m putting out, I’m going so slow and my heart is already racing.
At about 400m in, I saw people holding on to buoys and I remember thinking,
what are you guys doing? Not thinking at the time that maybe some needed to
rest, adjust equipment or whatever. Anyway, the real surprise came at about
500m, I began seeing swim caps from the previous wave. As embarrassing as
this is, I was wondering if I made some turn I shouldn’t have and will be DQ’d
for not doing the full swim course. When it rang through that I had actually
caught up to the Wave 8 swimmers, I became so filled with drive that I must
be doing better than I thought. I went into a serious zone and became focused
on buoy after buoy. I forgot all about the other swimmers in the water and was
determined to close the gap between each buoy as fast as possible. This was
the true definition of what Andy Potts meant when he said to me “These
races, including Ironman is 90% in your head. The heat, weather conditions,
etc. are all there, but it is all mental.”
Close to the 1,400m buoy, the mile marker audio indicator on my watch went
off. I started thinking; I thought this race is 1,500m. Why is my watch saying
I’ve already swam a mile? But oh well. I darted for the swim exit and was
being really aggressive about it; creating a box around me with my stroke and
maintained a strong controlled kick to keep people away from my space. I got
to the exit ramp and hit the lap button on my watch, it said 27 mins!!! I initially
thought, oh man I must have hit the stop button accidentally again, like I do
sometimes during my runs. When it dawned on me that it was right and I had
cut my previous Nations swim time in less than half, I had a rush to just keep
pushing through T1 and get right on the bike.
(TriRock Swim time: 29:27(includes the 2 mins of waiting in line)).
I began running out of Transition with my bike when I realized I left my bib so
I quickly turned around got it and started my ride. I remember feeling, oh this
shouldn’t be so bad, I’ve been training for months now with double this
distance. Little did I know the race organizers and directors or whomever
would find every hill in Philadelphia and place it on this course. It was
insanity! I started talking out loud to myself in annoyance and anger when
hills were coming back to back. Then the course was a loop so we were
punished over and over and over again with these hills. There were people
pushing their bikes up the hills, I heard one guy asked one of the volunteers
the shortest way back to Transition because he thought it was just too much;
he literally started to walk his bike back.
Again thankful to coach Lloyd who during our long rides explained how to
properly and efficiently use my gears, I began downshifting and upshifting as
needed to manage these mini-mountains.
As with all races you have your overachievers who are trying to hit 100mph on
a crowded course and in some cases being reckless. There was one near
miss where there was a Team-In-Training guy, not being very cognizant close
to the bottom of the hill and zigzagging, just really enjoying his moment. Then
all of a sudden there was a swoosh that went by me at lightning speed; it was
a rider in his aero position with his spaceship helmet. This guy had to be doing
somewhere close to 30+mph, I could barely watch but it was an extremely
near miss, that rider at the bottom would have been destroyed. I just
remembered thinking, is it that deep?
Like I said, the bike portion was pretty uneventful other that the strong need
to cuss at the hills and the race organizers for planning and allowing it.
(TriRock Bike time:1:29 . Avg. spd. - 16.5mph)
Yes, yes the run! Well honestly I was excited to get to the run because of a
few reasons. Not only because it’s the final event of the Tri but also because
I would consider running to be my strongest of all three. I’ve been running
marathons for many years and just have a real passion and love for running
BUT who would have known that this course was set to run through the
hallways and walkways of hell. Rebecca put it best when she said, “Lucifer
came and dragged us to Hades on that run!!!”
It was insanely hot and with the engine inside already running hot from the
swim and climbing every hill in Philadelphia, the extreme heat on the run
made my core even hotter. Still I refused to walk at all because after all this
is a 10K, come on, I’ve been killing 26.2’s for years how can I walk on a 10K?
So I pushed on to not hurt my ego.
The mile markers were either screwed up or I was suffering from heat
exhaustion because when I thought I was at the end and heading to the finish
line, I heard a volunteer yell “You’re half way, keep going strong whoooo!!!
Hoooo!!!!” I remember saying to them, “you got to be kidding me!” At this
point something came over me and I dug deep and really started pushing
knowing it’s about 3 miles remaining. When I looked at my watch, my pace
was 7:15, I was determined to put an end to this torture. As bad as this
sounds, the more I was passing people on the course walking and jogging,
the faster I went. I knew the end could not possibly be far. This is a 10K!
6.2 miles! Come on! The extreme heat just made it feel like more like a
Soon I started to hear the cheering and volunteers pointed us in the direction
of the finish line then I just gave it all I had left for that last .2 of the distance.
It was over! I was once again a Triathlete!
(TriRock Run time: 49:57. Pace – 8:03 min/mile)