Monday, August 13, 2012

Mountain Man Half Iron

Executive Summary

Number of missing front deraillers: 1
Number of flat tires during bike: 1
Number of times chain came off during race: 3
Number of miles pedaled exclusively in the big chain ring: 57 (all of them)
Number of vertical feet of elevation gain during the race: 3000+
Number of calories burned: 6900
Number of calories eaten during the race: 2500
Number of salt tablets consumed: Lost count at 15.
Number of rolling calf cramps on the run: 20

The course was measured long on all three disciplines. Yesterday's Mountain Man was actually a 72.3.

Total Time: 5:50:38 (51 minutes above target time).

52nd out of 123 starters.

5th place in the male 35-39 age group.

Swim: 46 minutes - 1.4 miles
T1:2min 20 sec
Bike: 2hr 44 minutes - 57 miles (almost 21mph - even with all the mechanical stuff).
T2:1min 38 sec
Run: 2hr 15minutes

Yes it was still fun. Yes I learned some more things about life. Yes this was the hardest race I have done. Yes I underestimated the course and overestimated my target times.

I have two 70.3 finishes in as many starts and I can say both of them are sub 6 hour finishes. I am thrilled with that.


Race Report

I've had front derailler issues since my bike blew off the rack at Ironman St. George. I have been trying to avoid anymore outflow on cycling gear. It was a noble effort, but in the end it is clear I should have replaced the derailler.

On the way up to Flagstaff I stopped in at the bike shop and had them take one more look at my shifting. It was dropping the chain off the small chain ring on downshifts. We spent 15 or 20 minutes trying to get the shifting to respond and finally we arrived at I could get it to shift correctly if I were on the smallest cog on the rear cassette. I could make it work if I focused on smooth and calm shifting.

While climbing the 6000 or so feet up to Flagstaff from Phoenix the tube in my rear tire exploded on the bike. I had let some air out on purpose. I think the bike guy put some back in while he was test riding it. Either way, I am glad I decided to test ride the bike again that evening. The front derailler was completely jacked. It would either drop the chain or not respond at all to the shifter. I took it off and cleaned and greased the spring. I tightened the cable. I adjusted the height. I aligned it perfectly with the drive train. I did everything that my remedial bike skills would allow. On the final test ride I thought I had it. Suddenly the spring released during a shift and the derailler got mangled by the big chain ring. Now it was all bent and wavy from the "toothy" impact of the chain ring. Executive decision time: I am taking it off completely. It is a liability. I can ride the bike course in the big chain ring. I will just have to back off my target time by a few minutes. No big deal. I will make it up on the run.

After replacing the tube on the rear and re-packing my race bag I hit the bed. I did a good job of hydrating for this race. Further, I actually got some decent rest prior. I hardly ever sleep before a race.

I woke at around 3:30 am on race day. I hammered down two large yams and a small cup of coffee. I loaded my bags and my newly modified Kestrel "10 speed" onto the bike rack. Here goes nothing!

What a tremendous race venue. So campy! So original. This is the 28th year for this race. I am proud to be part of the history.

The race started early. After getting everything set up and chatting a bit with some pals (Folts x 2, Rink, Leckey, Eaker, Tait, "Colin") there was barely enough time to get to the start line.

Mountain Man 70.3 Elevation Chart

The swim was long, but I was relaxed throughout and sort of stayed on course. I sighted fairly frequently. I even caught myself having a few moments of good swimming. I stopped once to clear the fog out of my goggles. The only trouble I ran into was coming in to the finish where I had to swim out wide to avoid the giant and unpredictable rocks leading up to the dock. Since I have very tender feet I have to really be cautious. In my other half ironman swim, I swam almost 51 minutes. I came out of the water at 46:08. The other swim was in Tempe at 1000 feet of altitude. The mountain man swim is at 7000 feet. I will take it. I wanted a 42 minute swim, so I was close. I think if I had swam just a little more aggressively I could have gotten the 42.

The bike route is fun. We rode most of this course with the Freeloader crew last summer. Seeing Barry and Colin throughout the ride helped me find comedy in my bike's mechanical issues. Barry wondered why I did not blow past him on the downhill coming back into T2 ... He did not know that I had flatted at mile 50 and rode it on a flat the rest of the way in. It was a good thing that I had gotten a new tire. An older tire would not have allowed me to ride 7 miles with very little air. To have a 20+ mph average on this course is a good ride. I held back on purpose to save some for the run.

This is a runner's course. I fancy myself as a decent runner nowadays. I have a disadvantage. I have sensitive calves and I weight 186 pounds. The runners that were sub 2 hours on this 13.4 mile course (not a typo) were the smaller guys. I ran a 2:15. I was about 30 minutes slower than I had trained toward. I can't imagine how hard this run would have been if I had not conserved / had issues on the bike.

My calf cramps began at mile 8. I still kept pace with what I was running BEFORE the cramps started. I seriously had very little power for the run all day and when the "rolling" cramps began it really became a challenge to keep running. I locked up two times where my legs just stopped working. These calf cramps are strange. They start behind my knee and roll all the way down to my achilles and then back up to the knee. It feels like my legs are being shocked with a cattle prod or an electric fence. Other than the two major lock ups - I "ran" the whole thing.

What did I learn at this race?

1) Mountain Man 70.3 is a difficult and fun challenge.
2) Elapsed time is becoming much less important to me as the race history piles up.
3) Having this level of fitness and knowledge about my performance is fun.
4) 70.3 and up distance races are almost different sports when compared to the shorter races.

This was physically tougher than the day at St. George because my intensity level was up near my "race pace". I was not sore after St. George. I am sore after the Mountain Man 70.3.


  1. congrats on another 70.3!! way to go...great swim, and still a solid run even tho you dont consider yourself with the smaller runners. great experience!
    was it electrolyte's or sodium cramping? lots of salt tabs it seems like...maybe those dont do the trick for you? I started using the EFS liquid shots before IM last year and have been on them ever since...excellent source of cals and sodium mg.(400mg per flask in 350ish cals) my body loves it. Just a thought. Break out the stick and foam roller!! also I shut off my blog for now due to job change but hope to follow a few through fall and winter....IM ahead for you! keep at it - D

  2. D -

    Glad you posted a comment - thanks for letting me know about your blog being shut down for now.

    Definitely thought the salt tabs had fixed this issue - because I didn't have it at St George. The difference was the pacing. I was more in race mode on Sunday. Yep - time to try something different. EFS. Got it.

  3. Great report Bry - way to hang in there mate. It was a tough, tough race. The one thing that I think you failed to mention was the heat. When you add heat with altitude you get crazy results. The heat for me was a big factor on the run... I don't think I've ever seen so many people walking. Like I told you at the end - IMAZ won't be as challenging as that. You can take a lot of positives away from this race. See you soon.

  4. Oh yeah - I think I was still a bit dazed from the heat to remember to mention the heat. It was 93 on my watch during one portion of the run.

    Barry - you are the man! Every time we do the same race I end up seeing you on the run - in front of me. I am at peace with it.