HITS Naples

by rchackman

Really happy to have finished my first IRON-DISTANCE triathlon and it was quite an experience !! I managed a great race and couldn’t be happier with the results.

Sunday was a day of firsts; my first Iron-distance triathlon, first marathon, first 112 mile bike, first 2.4 mile swim…

and first time I pissed all over myself since I was in diapers.

Saturday’s check-in and bike drop off was no problem since not many people were racing the half-iron and iron-distance races. However, I met a few people after the athlete’s meeting on Saturday and we had dinner together at Naples Tomato, which I highly recommend. It was nice to meet some of the other triathletes and was one of the main reasons I started this blog. Connecting with good people made the race a better experience for me and it was nice to see them out on the course. All in all, there were only about 20 people racing the iron-distance.

Left to Right: myself, Damone Weaver, James Lawrence, and Rameek Mcnair

SWIM: HITS changed the swim course from an out and back to an L shape course so we swam closer to the shore. The day started off a little chilly…I was one of only two triathletes out of all the half and full distance athletes without a wetsuit. Let me explain…Since I live and race, almost entirely in South Florida, I do not actually own a wetsuit. Funny thing, I had not planned much for cold weather on race day. It wasn’t very cold past 9 AM but the Gulf of Mexico at 7 AM is a different story. Earlier in the week, I asked my dad if he thought I should get a wetsuit for the race. He said NO….thanks Dad! I agreed with him so I only have myself to blame there.

Only 1 more loop !!

If the water in the Gulf of Mexico was any colder, my day might have ended after the swim. I could not actually cup my right hand for the second loop of the swim and I didn’t warm up until 20 mins into the bike ! My lips were chattering for minutes without my control. I learned a great lesson here… However, my swim split was 1:29:11, which included the walk from the water to T1. This was right around my expected time and the exit out of the water between Loop 1 and 2 slowed me down a bit. I might have gone slightly faster if I was a little bit more warm but I am still happy with the swim, my weakest discipline.

I walked with my girlfriend, Helena, to transition…. Freeeezing. I spent almost 4 minutes in T1 just trying to warm up and get my bike shoes on. I walked the transition to pace myself for the day as I had no idea what to expect in my first race of this distance.

BIKE: Once I finally warmed up on the bike, I felt good heading out of Naples. I planned to stay conservative on the bike at least until the turnaround point at Mile 56 and executed this strategy well. I rode through some swampland from about mile 20 until I got to Immokalee, FL at about mile 35.

I actually was on the fence whether to pee on my bike but was just feeling good and decided to go for it. This was another first time experience that day. The funny part about this was that I decided to pee at about the only time we actually passed people, which was in Immokalee. I don’t think anyone noticed. So I continued out of Immokalee and had to pee again at around mile 45. I figured the damage had been done so I went for it again. I would have refrained from including my multiple pees on the bike if this actually had not proved crucial in my finishing time. Since it has some consequence, I am not holding back in this post. Please forgive me if you find this disgusting but for some reason, it gave me some odd enjoyment to pee myself. I cannot really explain it. All in all, I went for it three times with the third at mile 95. I just poured some water on myself after each piss. However my left sock and bike shoe were pretty wet. I made it to the turnaround point, 56 miles, in about 3:10:00.

I did not initially plan to take any salt pills but James told me I should go ahead and take salt. He said it was not something you really needed to practice in training either. I  hoped to get them from the bike aid stations, however HITS was not handing out Endurolytes or any other salt pill on the bike course. Luckily, I ran into Rameek and Damone after the turnaround point. I pulled over to the side of the road where they had stopped to exchange salt tabs! Rameek gave me enough tabs to get me to T2. I have to credit James and Rameek for potentially making my race. James let me know I better take salt tabs if I wanted to perform well and Rameek came at just the right moment to share some with me. So I started taking salt tabs around the 4.5 hour mark of the race and then took a salt pill every half hour from that point forward until the end.

All in all, I ate 5 Clif bars on the bike (half at a time), 3 banana halves, and about 6 Hammer gels. I drank a ton and stuck to the game plan. The tailwind helped on the way back in to T2 so I had negative bike splits. I did the second half in under three hours. My final bike split was 6:03:58. I am pretty happy and exceeded my own expectations. I had planned to take it easy and save my legs for the run but I felt pretty good on the bike and decided to go hard after the turnaround point.

Before I get into the run, let me talk about my caffeine intake. I was originally planning on taking a large amount (100 mg) of caffeine halfway through the marathon. I have a lot to learn about nutrition in an iron-distance triathlon and learned a lot already from talking with James. Once again, his advice very likely helped my race. He suggested I take a little caffeine throughout the day instead of a large dose at once. Taking a little caffeine at a time is easier for the body to deal with after a week long hiatus. With my new plan, I took 25 mg of caffeine right after the bike turnaround and 50 mg after the first loop of the run. I also drank some Coke on the run at the aid stations.

T2 was uneventful and a little over 6 mins. I changed my socks because they smelled of piss. However, the best part about T2 was seeing my girlfriend and family, who just happened to come check out the race at the right time ! This made me feel great and also psyched me up for the run.

RUN: The run started out strong. Remember, the run was an out and back double loop so you run the same path the entire time. I was told in T2 that Fireman Rob had just gone out a few mins prior so I took off on the run so I can catch up to him and chat for a little bit. I caught him at the 1 mile mark and had the pleasure of walking with him for a few minutes before I would really get going. It was amazing to see him walking a marathon in full fire suit after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112. After I had the chance to say hello, I started moving…..fast. I passed James, who was heading in the opposite direction, at about the 1.5 mile mark. He seemed like he was in the zone. The first loop was pretty uneventful, except for the fact I could see where everyone was. I noticed a few people were not really that far ahead of me and if I could maintain this pace, I would likely catch up and pass them. I drank a little Coke at aid stations, which helped settle my stomach. I did not really have any stomach issues at all during the day but just wanted to be safe. I also drank water and electrolytes at every other aid station. On that note, the aid stations were set up beautifully at every mile and a half on the run course, which was 6.55 miles out. My first loop (13.1 miles) took just over 2 hours.

my MOM spraying me with water before the marathon !

At the beginning of the second loop I passed a few people and was still moving strong. It was not until mile 20 that I really started to feel the day’s events catching up to me. However, I was also fighting the clock for a sub 12 hour finish. I sucked it up and just tried to keep moving at a nice jog. At mile 22, with the 12 hour finish still uncertain I decided to walk for two minutes to collect myself and see if I can hold a pace to finish in under 12 hours. The walk was good to me and I took off. By the time I hit mile 24 of the run, I knew I had locked up a sub-12 finish time. I was real happy when I knew I would make it happen. I finished the run in 4:12:27, which is an average pace of about 9:40 per mile. Not too shabby.

Rounding the corner for the finish was exhilarating. I could not have been more excited to see my family and Helena at the finish line…. Only problem was, Helena was nowhere to be found when I got there ! It turns out she had to use the bathroom. Talk about bad timing! Also, since she missed my finish, she said I have to do another one so she can really see me finish an Iron-distance tri. I felt fairly well after finishing. Just tried to walk around a little, eat some food, drink Gatorade, Coke, get out of my wet clothes and finally relax!

The HITS crew did an amazing job and were really helpful at the aid stations on the run. The day went well and I am so proud to have completed an iron-distance triathlon. I wanna thank HITS for providing a great venue and race experience in Naples. Also appreciate Naples Cyclery for providing some peace of mind on the bike course. I must have seen them drive by in the support car at least three or four times. Finally, wanna thank James Lawrence, Rameek, Mcnair, Damone Weaver, Fireman Rob, and the other athletes out there for support and inspiration. My family, friends and girlfriend, Helena, also deserve tons of recognition for putting up with my seemingly singular focus on training for the past 6 months. Thank you so much !

I also want to wish both James Lawrence and Fireman Rob Verhelst good luck as both of these guys are competing for the Guiness World Record for the number of iron-distance races completed in a year. You can check out my post on Iron Cowboy James Lawrence here. Great job guys….that’s 1 down !

The day came together well and I managed to finish the race in 11:55:35 !! I feel like my hard work in training paid off…