Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Race Report: Leadman Marquee 125

So Leadman was my first "big" race of the year and one that I put a ton of time and effort into preparing for. This is the "other Leadman" compared to the one I did in Bend, OR and I was very interested on the new challenge.  To top it off, it's only about 5 1/2 hours of a drive from where I live - which makes it a perfect "long weekend" type race.  I was really excited to do this race and signed up as soon as registration opened for it.

The swim course of the Tri Marquee.

The goal of the race was simple:  Finish within the 5:15 time slot to qualify for a belt buckle.  Since I finished the Leadman in Bend, OR in 5:08 - I figured that this would be a cakewalk.  You know, since the Leadman in Bend, OR was done at sub-freezing temperatures climbing up mountains of hills, etc etc.  A mostly flat course in Arizona at temperatures similar to what I train in everyday?  EASY PEEZY.

With my belt buckle from the Bend, OR race when dropping off my bike in transition.

Or so I thought.  This turned out to be a much more challenging race for me, but we'll get more into that later.

With that said - on to the race report!


Our trip started the Friday before the race.  We rented a Ford Flex (which is a great vehicle, and is on our "short list" (along with the Explorer and Chevy Traverse) for our next car purchase in August) and packed in the three of us (my wife, our son, and I), my in laws, and all of our stuff with plenty of room to spare.  My wife was gracious enough to drive the whole way so I got to sit comfortably in the car the whole trip while we cruised across the eastern California landscape.

In the car.  I was apparently very confused while taking this selfie.
The trip wasn't too bad and we made it without any major events.  We arrived at the house we were renting and met with my brother in law (who was also doing the race) and the rest of the family who were staying in the house.  Our Saturday agenda was basically spend the morning going to a Botanical Gardens and then dropping the family off at the wave pool / water park while my brother in law and I went to pick up our packets, drop off our bikes and get ready for transition.

Brucie at the Botanical Gardens the day before the race.
The whole packet pick up process for the race was about as seamless as it could be.  Arrive to the site, pick up your packet, attend a course meeting, get your bike checked in, and you're good to go!  One great thing about the bike check in was that they "tagged" your bike so that no one would "accidentally" leave with the wrong bike out of transition.  Pretty good security measure in my opinion.

The transition area was pretty big, but really secure and extremely well done.

Transition craziness.

All racked up in transition.

 After we dropped off the bikes and walked through the vendor tents, etc - we headed out to pick up the family and grab some dinner (pizza from the Magic Mushroom and Rita's for dessert).  

We got to the race the morning of with no real problems or issues and got everything unpacked for the triathlon.  The one small (and it's a very minor one) complaint that I had was that the transition area, while large, was packed pretty tight.  Nowhere near as tight as some triathlons, but people were stacking bags on top of one another "off to the side" after everything was unloaded.  Not a huge deal, but having the racks spaced out just a few feet more would have made things a lot easier imo.

With that said, I got everything ready - got my wetsuit on - and was ready to go.

Me and my brother in law at the transition area before the swim.

Now, it goes without saying that my swim is BY FAR my weakest leg in triathlon.  It's still a work in progress and I've made some decent strides with it - but I still have a long ways to go.  With that said, I was aiming for a sub 50 minute performance for this swim (basically anything under a 2:00/100m pace and I would have been thrilled).  Due to the length of the swim, I was competing solely against the clock and myself - not against anyone else.

Map of the swim course.

The swim is a 2500 meter swim that goes under two overpasses in Tempe Town Lake.  It's a pretty scenic course and is easily viewable for people who are there to cheer the athletes on.  The course was extremely well manned (it seemed like there was a kayak there every time I sighted) and the Tri Marquee staff did a great job in keeping it from becoming too crowded at any point.

The swim start was somewhat awkward, as you passed through a timing mat, jumped in the water, and waded out to the first buoy.  Then they hit the horn and off you went.

Hopping into the drink to begin the swim.
I stayed off to the side of the mass start on the swim - my intentions were to fully avoid the pack and "swim my swim" - fully knowing that I wouldn't be competing with anyone else.

The swim felt good for the most part, and I felt like I kept the pace I was trying to keep.  I did make a mistake on the swim and take a right hand turn (I drifted on the inside of the buoy and just made a stupid mistake).  A guy on a kayak caught me to tell me that I went the wrong way and I turned around and got back on course.

No idea where this was on the course, but I'm trudging right along.
As I turned the last buoy I was feeling decent, not great, and hopped out of the water.   I was passed by several people in waves that went out after mine, and knew I had a ton of catching up to do.  But that was expected.

As I darted to transition, the wetsuit strippers seemed busy with other people, so I didn't bother and decided just to skip them and undo it myself as I ran to transition.

Skipping the strippers because I knew I was strapped for time.
Ended up with a 57:00 swim - which is a pretty disappointing time.  I haven't had a chance to review the swim file yet - so I don't know if my wrong turn is to blame for the additional 7 minutes over my goal time or if I just wasn't swimming straight.  Probably a combination of them both.

I got through transition pretty easily and felt pretty decent once I got on the bike.


Getting onto the bike, I was a bit behind on my pace - but figured I would be ok to finish in time for a belt buckle if I kept up with my original plan - which was to push about 21.5 mph for all four laps.

The bike course is one of the only complaints I had about this race.  One of the best things about the Leadman in Bend, OR was that the bike course was something truly epic - it looked like you were riding through the set of Lord of the Rings at times.  

The bike course at the Tri Marquee was a multi-lap course with a convoluted mix of twists and turns.  This wasn't completely bad - as those twists and turns made it a very technical course at times and that presents a unique challenge.  The bigger problem was that the course was shared with people competing in three different events (Leadman, the Olympic distance race, and the Sprint distance race).  This meant the course got clogged up a bunch with people blocking other people from passing or just getting in the way in general (i.e. a sprint athlete doing their first triathlon riding at a 12 mph pace zig-zagging through the middle of the road).  The course was closed to traffic - and wide enough in most areas where this didn't present too many safety issues - but it was somewhat of a nightmare for the people who were actually racing.

You can get an idea of how convoluted things could get on this course.

I found that while I was able to push my speed and power pretty good in the straight-away parts of the ride, I was failing to keep my required speed.  This was mainly because I would slow down quite a bit on the turns and the paths leading up to them (mostly due to congestion from other riders), so I found myself with a lap average of less than 21 mph for the first three laps.

Doesn't do a great job, but you get the idea of how people were basically ignoring the "blocking" rule.

The fourth lap is when I did some basic math and figured that any chance at all I would have to qualify for the belt buckle would come either from absolutely destroying the run or buying myself as much time as I could on the final lap and still running very well.  I decided on the latter, and started burning matches on the 4th lap (which was now mostly clear of people from the other races since their bike length was shorter).

On the bike with my Big Sexy Racing Champion Systems Apex suit.  This was the 4th lap, and I was in a bit of pain trying to play catch up (hence the facial expression).

I hit it hard once the fourth lap started and really didn't let up until I came back around.  My legs were hurting and I was really feeling it - almost akin to how a time trial would feel for me.  I was passing a multitude of people (most of whom were probably starting to fade on their bike a bit - as it was kind of mind numbing to be doing laps the way we were).  In any case, I finished the 4th lap just over 25 mph - which included the delays at the turns.

T2 went well although I couldn't get my foot out of my left shoe, so I had to unclip.  It didn't slow me down too much and I got my bike racked and threw on my run shoes and off I went.


The run for Leadman is an 8 mile loop run that goes on roads for two miles, across a bridge, and then up into the Papago, alongside the canal, and then back into town.  It's a challenging run with a variety of terrain and some truly epic views.  It truly embodies what the spirit of Leadman is meant to be in my mind.

The Papago right as you start up the hill.
The run course - which was a truly great course and something that makes me want to do this race again.

As I was heading out of transition, I hit the lap button on my watch and saw that I had 1:09:00 to finish.  8 miles in an hour and nine minutes?  No problem WHATSOEVER.  That's basically my "easy jog" pace, right?  Right?

Well.  Wrong.

I need to preface what I'm about to say by explaining that I've never bonked in a race or blown up.  Not once.  I've had times where I was tired, where my legs felt weird, and when I felt I didn't have much left - but I've never flat out hit a wall.

Well, that happened here.  Nothing that had to do with nutrition or anything like that, but my legs just stopped working about 2 miles into the race (right when the trail running started).  My first two miles I took it easy (thinking I had a ton of time) and ran hard but not all out at a 7:00 minute per mile pace.  However, almost as soon as I crossed the bridge and passed the first aid station, my legs just stopped working.  Even before I got to the first hill, I was reduced to a painful walk.

So this is what it feels like to overcook on the bike and blow up on the run.  It was a weird feeling, and - like I said - something I've never felt before.  I figured I would give it two minutes of walking and see how I felt.  Staring at my watch the entire time, as soon as it hit 1:50 I decided to take off into a light jog.

No go.  Wasn't happening.  It was at that point that I made the choice to just push through the pain in my legs and do a weird hobble/limp type jog.  I did this through the trails and right at the beginning of the canal, and my pace was around 10:30 minutes per mile.

I was starting to get dismayed because I knew making it under 5:15:00 wasn't going to happen for me.

Then, all of a sudden, it was like my legs got a second a burst of wind.  Not a full burst, mind you - I still wasn't able to run as I normally could, but I was able to push myself and get just under 7:45 minutes per mile just before the turnaround.

The problem with this was that it was playing mind games with my head.  I knew if I pushed it and possibly got some luck, I would be able to make my time across the finish line.  So that's what I did - I pushed it as best I could.

Hobbling on the run right after getting off of the path.
I did manage to pick up the pace once I got off the trails and began the journey back into town.  I felt motivated to get to the finish line, and being able to see the tents from the expo and the transition area when coming across the bridge helped with that.  Also, competitors in front of me provided motivation and pacing ("Just go faster than them!" is what I kept thinking) which helped spur me along.

The finish chute at this event was absolutely outstanding.  Very similar to an Ironman finishing line where people are cheering for you and the place is packed.  Really well done by the race organizers on that aspect.

As I came down the finish line, I had no idea what the clock said - only that I had missed the time by a over a minute according to my watch.  Regardless, I was happy to finish and knew that I gave it my best effort - so I could hang my hat on that and be pleased.

5:15:47.   47 fucking seconds.

47 fucking seconds.  I missed the belt buckle by 47 seconds.  That was heart crushing - but I left it all on the course.  Short of going back in time and working solely on my swim - there wasn't much I could do better to bring that time down.  That's not to say I'm not capable of a much faster time - I absolutely am.  But on this day, on this race, with where I was currently at, I raced as hard as I could and I could be proud of that.

What I probably shouldn't be proud of is this picture.  I have no idea why I'm growling and about to bow up at the camera guy.  

As soon as I finished, my wife and son were waiting outside the chute for me and I gave my son my medal and gave my wife a kiss.  I was super disappointed and let her know and she told me not to worry because they were giving away free teriyaki bowls to the finishers.  I can't put into words how much I love this woman.  haha

Finished and done - and in decent spirits because I was expecting free teriyaki.

Although the teriyaki was great, I was still exhausted.  I burnt all of my matches on the bike and pushed myself harder on the run than I ever have (even though it was probably one of the slowest runs I've ever done).  I was absolutely exhausted - so I took a nap in the shade while we waited for my brother in law to finish.

Just absolutely beat after the race.

Couple of notes:  My brother in law finished in 6:23:47 - which is about where he wanted to be.  This was kind of his "revenge" over what happened at Leadman, OR for him (he had a really rough time on the bike with multiple flats).  I'm super proud of him, as he put together a great race.

Also of note:  My teammate from BSR put together an awesome race - and finished 3rd in her age group with a time of just over 5 hours - which qualified her for the belt buckle.  She started in a heat or two after me and passed me on the swim, but I managed to get ahead of her on the bike and she almost caught me again on the run.  She's super fast, a great teammate, and a real inspiration!
BSR was represented well in this triathlon.

With all that said, I ended up 6th in my age group, and top 50 overall.  I was pretty happy with that, although I know I have the potential to race better in the future.  And believe me - I will.  I plan to do this race next year and expect to be quite a bit faster on swim improvements alone.

However, what made me even happier was an email I received from the folks at Lifetime about the race.  Basically, they determined that I was actually sub 5:15:00 in the race.  When they were handing out belt buckles at the award ceremony (and I was long gone by that point), they called my name but skimmed over because I wasn't there.  As it turns out, my swim split was never recorded, and because my timing chip didn't register right - it screwed up the rest of my splits on their system.  Also - they started the clock as people went into the water (clock started a hair soon) - so they estimated me to be in the 5:14:00 range.  Whatever the actual time was - I was close enough on the bubble that they gave me the benefit of the doubt and let me have the buckle.  

This turned what was a disappointing weekend into an instant success.
So I'm obviously pleased about it.  If they say I earned, I earned it - and I'll take it and wear it with pride.  I know next year I'll be back to leave no doubt on the table, and I'll be taking aim at a spot on the podium as well.

So with that, the race was a success - and I'll leave you with a picture of me with my two greatest inspirations being a little goofy at our post race dinner.

My son must think his parents are insane - although judging from that smile, he's a little goofy himself. 


  1. I am wanting soooo bad to re-enter the marathon world and would be stoked to do this in an awesome pair of FITs!! I would love, love, love them forever!! BTW- your little boy is to die for! I am expecting my first grandchild in 5 days!!

  2. I have done the steps above, and would really like to try out some new kicks. I run mostly in Earth Runners, and am trying some NB Minimus Trails right now. Great blog by the way! Keep up the good work.