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Race Result

Racer: Kevin Kunkel
Race: ChesapeakeMan
Date: Saturday, September 27, 2008
Location: Cambridge, MD
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Male 35 - 39
Time: 10:08:44
Overall Place: 2 / 136
Comment: ChesapeakeMan ďChessyManĒ 2008 Race Report

Race Report:

ChesapeakeMan ďChessyManĒ 2008 Race Report

The ďKunkelian QuestĒ and Pre-race

By now most of you have heard about the craziness that is the Kunkelian Quest. For those whop donít know it was essentially 7 weeks in a row of racing consisting of 5 intíl distance triathlons with a couple Ironmans thrown in for good measure. Was it the smartest thing to do? Probably not. Would it possibly reveal something substantive both mentally and physically to me as an endurance athlete? Most likely. Having just completed the ďquest,Ē I managed to PR at most of these races. Thatís not what youíd expect going into races where youíre either tired and/or not tapered. I think this is more a result of diligent and dedicated training over the last 6-9 months where I was incorporating prudent well-structured workouts, not the craziness of racing every week.

Unlike last season where everything came up roses and exceeded my greatest expectations, this season has been kind of like the stock market of late: lots of peaks and valleys and as volatile as nitro glycerin.

Race Day

Race morning was pretty eventful. As my friend and fellow racer Eric Dempster like to call me ďDrama.Ē I was certainly living up to the name today. With the new swim course we had to take our run bags over to T2 at the high school in the morning. I thought perfect, now Kevin Shaw can help me put the RATS tent up in the morning. Little did I know then that the tent would serve as a warming for all racers to make their turn and serve as the official aid station at the turnaround. The tent went up quick and we were off to Great Marsh Park. There were a lot of people simply being dropped off there which caused a little bit of traffic. As I walked toward my bike in transition I realized that I left one of my water bottles (the most important one with concentrated Hammer Sustained Energy) at the hotel. The wife headed back as I got everything else ready. As I was about to put on my wetsuit I stopped by to say some encouraging words to Kevin Shaw when he informed me that his bike bag was missing. He was rightfully panicking a bit. In the interest of keeping participants bike bags dry overnight they took them off the rack. Problem, they never put them back. As we headed into the water the wife showed up with the bottle and they found Kevinís bike bag. Tension eased right before we start, right? Wrong. At that moment the skies opened up and poured. What else can go wrong? Iím sorry, that was the pessimist talking, what other challenges can be thrown my way today? ;-)

Swim (1:13:22, 33rd of 136)

The moment I entered the water the heavens opened up and poured. Due to the rain and the limited light at 6:55AM in late September left a very fuzzy line of gray between the water and sky horizon. It was in water, two-loop triangle course. Essentially it was a two-loop Eagleman course but this time in Hannock Bay which is the other side of the Great Marsh Park peninsula. Apparently this is where they held Eagleman prior to Vigoís directing of the race. The feeling was that the bay is rather shallow and protected from the chop and current of the river. This is rather unfortunate this year because the usual point to point course this year would have been with the current. This happened the first year of the race with swim times in the low 40s and most going under an hour. I could have used that early break. The feeling was that this would be the fairest and safest alternative: possibly? The two loops were done clockwise; which meant that when coming back to the start finish youíd be swimming 700-800 meters each loop against the current nearer the middle of the river. This is where is made a good race time difficult. With the rain, wind, and current there was a good couple feet of chop. It seemed to take me twice as long on this stretch as it did going out. This only got worse on the second loop. Even still at the end of the first loop I managed to glance at my watch and I was at 32. I thought great, Iíll have a sub 1:05 swim and with a wetsuit I felt thatís about where I should swim. Remember, of the 5 Ironmans Iíve competed, this was only my second that was wetsuit legal. The other being this vary race two years ago which was my first Ironman.

As I mentioned earlier the second loop was even choppier. I didnít feel like I was fatiguing but I was suffering a little getting thrown around a lot. In conclusion, if the swim had been done counter clockwise I think I definitely would have gone 5-8 minutes faster. Regardless, an ironman isnít supposed to be easy. Itís supposed to challenge you and this swim certainly lived up to that billing. A look at other swimmers times bears out that this was a rather tough swim. The fastest swimmer was also the youngest competitor who happens to be a top swimmer at Georgetown Prep. He only went 56 which tells you this was a rather slow swim course. I finished in the top ľ of swimmers which is OK. I had been finishing in the top 1/6 at other races during the season which means I still have more work to do.

T1 (2:54, 13th of 136)

Now that the race is in its 5th year, and the Aquavelo has more competitors than the full ChessyMan, Vigo needs to give some serious consideration at making the changing tent larger. Granted coming in at 1:13 means itís going to be crowded, but not only could I not get a chair, I couldnít even find a place on the floor to peel my wetsuit and get into my bike clothes. I ended up going over by the door to get changed.

Usually I leave my shoes and helmet and such on the bike to save time but since it was pouring rain I left all this in the bag. It probably added a good :30-:45 seconds to my time. Oh well.

Bike (5:04:06, 2nd of 136)

Now on to my specialty, the bike, I was very much looking forward to this ride. I like to put out a consistent effort. A flat course lends itself to this perfectly. There can often be wind which can act as surrogate hills. Iíve raced Eagleman now 4 times and Chessyman for the second time so I know the course well. The plan is to try and stay aero as long as possible and put out consistent power. In the first 20 miles things felt every easy and relaxed. I was averaging over 24 mph when I wanted to average 22.5 mph for the race. Things were going perfectly. I managed to see how many people were in front of me and by how much. I saw that Glover had about 10 minutes on me which was pretty much expected. It was hard to tell exactly who I was racing against because even though there were more than 400 people registered, only about 150 were doing the full ChessyMan with the rest participating in the Aquavelo. Once we turned around at the out and back it began to rain which it did for probably half the race. Once we made that out and back turn my speed dropped to 20-21 mph so I knew there was some wind involved. Not much but enough to alter speed a little. Also when it rained it seemed that with the exact same effort a minute earlier I was suddenly going a whole 1 mph slower once it started raining. Iíd like to see the low speed wind tunnels test the effect of rain on aerodynamics. Iím guessing that the air is heavier and denser during rain which makes the air more resistant and causes more drag. Itís unscientific I know but these squalls would come and go all day. It would go from no rain at all to pouring. Each time my speed would fall off by 1-2 mph each time. This began to get quite frustrating but I figured everyone has to deal with it. Near the end of the first loop (10-15 miles to go) you come to the most beautiful part of the Blackwater Nature Preserve. It is here where I found the 1+ miles of water on the road. On the first loop it was more an annoyance than anything. I would speed up to 22-25 only to coast through 40-50 meter puddles that were 4-6Ē inches deep which would slow me to about 13-15 mph. Your speed would fall off and the entire bike would be soaked but you just took it in stride and enjoyed one of your few opportunities to get out of the aero position and stretch. It was somewhat frustrating because it was this portion of the course two years ago where I put on my best time due to being a good solid tail wind. Once out of the puddles I managed to get into a good rhythm back to the high school at mile 65 and blasted through not even slowing for special needs.

On the second lap we had more of the same but some longer stretches of sustained raining. I was already beginning to think of the puddle crossings being worse. One of the guys I was leapfrogging with on the bike from Brazil got a flat. I fly by him knowing that I really couldnít offer any assistance since he was racing on tubulars and I was on clinchers. I really had no idea where I stood in the race but by now I figured I must be in the top 5 of those doing the full ChessyMan. The rain stopped before I got to the submerged road. Good thing for me because there was much more water to account for. This time instead of being able to coast through the flooded areas there was more than a mile that was completely submerged. Now the water was between 6-12Ē, I couldnít simply coast through any longer. I had to pedal through. This time each time on the down stroke of the pedal my foot would be completely submerged. The water came up to the BB and the axels of my wheels. I was something like Iíve never seen before. Iím not a mountain biker was I was starting to feel like one. Here I could only manage to average about 10-12 mph which really hurt because two years ago I was going at 25+ mph here. I would say that the water single handedly cost me my sub 5 hour bike. Oh well.

With about 2-3 miles to go I finally came up on Dave Glover. I couldnít believe it. Never did I think Iíd ever pass Dave Gloveróthe legend. He was having a pretty bad day with a flat and a crash. He also hasnít been training much so it only goes to prove that even the best need to put their time in. The whole day on the bike I never really looked down at my watch but I could see that the 5 hour window had passed. I felt just like I did on exiting the swimóa little disappointed. Iím usually able to hit my goal times.

As for my nutrition, lots of people ask me about my nutrition strategy, especially when on the bike. Iím an all fluids kind of guy. I do not have a cast iron stomach so I have to be careful what I put in it during times of great or lengthy exertion. I managed to start with about 700 calories (6 scoops) of concentrated Hammer Sustained Energy and two 6 serving Hammer Gel flasks, that totals about 1780 calories consumed very 15 minutes over 5 hours = 356 cal/per hour. I only took water from aid stations to wash down the SE and gels. Unlike at IM Louisville I was feeling much better on the GI front. I wouldnít say I was excellent but I certainly wasnít feeling bloated and nauseous.

T2 (2:42, 16th of 136)

I had a little bit of trouble getting my wet feet out of my soaked shoes so I couldnít perform my normal flying dismount. I took a real safe and casual approach knowing full well that Glover was right on my heels. My only other complaint about the race comes again at the transitions. This time at T2 there was plenty of room in the tentóas there should be considering Dave and I were the only ones in there since we were in 3rd and 4th position, but the asphalt in the parking lot is like jagged rocks. Maybe itís because my feet were so pruned from being submerged in water but it was excruciatingly painful to jog the 30-40 ft. into transition. I hope Vigo puts a rug there in the future. That would help a ton. Lastly, I sat down a good 15-20 seconds before Glover entered the tent but he had his shoes and socks on before I could blink. I guess 25 Ironmans and countless other triathlons prepare you for lightening fast transitions.

Run (3:45:43, 5th of 136)

I exited with Glover and felt great, probably the best Iíve ever felt starting a run. Glover and I started to have a conversation as if we were out on a training run. We talked about races and relationshipsójust about anything to pass the time. I thought this would be a good strategy for a couple reasons. First, it would keep me relaxed and loose and help keep any anxiety at bay. And second, it would keep me from going out too fast since I was feeling so good. We managed to take splits just about the whole first lap and they were all sub-8. I was worried that I might be going too fast but heck I was conversational the whole time. On the second and third loops I still felt good. Yes I was getting a little tired as the miles went by but the excellent volunteers at the aid stations and seeing my son and family hand me fluids at every turnaround buoyed my spirits. At the end of the first loop Dave fell off the pace and was just going to take it easy. It was only here did I start to realize Iím still in 2nd place and the guy in 3rd is only ever so slowing catching me. I thought Iíd be able to hold him off but he managed to catch me at about 22 miles. That was rough but I was confident with my pace. And as for that, I was starting to get a little confused. Vigo changed the course slightly so there were two sets of mile markers out on the course and it was tough to know which were the right ones. I really didnít know my pace but I certainly felt like I was running faster than any previous Ironman run. Only after the finish when I saw my results did I realize that I must have really slowed down or the course was long. I never walked. I felt like I ran consistently the whole time. I never had any excruciating leg or GI issues. I felt like I was on cruise control the whole time.

With about 5 miles to go Craig Ellis was out on the course trying to cheer me up and push me forward. He said you can still go sub 10. This was the first time I started doing mental calculations. I noticed for me to go sub 10 I would have to run 5 miles a little under 8. I doubted I could do this but I thought at least Iíll be close. It was about this same time I got passed. Speaking of Craig, he and Todd Stuckey were all over the course that day. They were driving all over the place. Not to mention all the other competitors I knew doing the race. You had both Brent Miller and Kevin Shaw doing their first Ironmnas. It was awesome getting to see them a bunch of times on the out and backs. A lot of people are turned off by this race because of the 3 loop course. I have to tell you itís one of the races greatest strengths. Everybody know the run is the toughest part of the race where you need all the morale support you can get. It was great to sound off with all these folks and not to mention how good it is for all your friends and families who can follow along with your day. You think your day is long; itís really long for them.

Back to the end of the race, with about a little over a mile to go I knew I wasnít going to break 10 so I grabbed a cup of chicken broth at the last aid station which I did 2 years ago at my first Ironman. I looked for the lights of the stadium which was easy to see in the somber gray sky. I managed to see the family one last time; they took a short cut so they could see me finish. Kurtis tried to run with me. After about 100 meters he told me I was running too fast.

I really picked up the pace once on the track and sprinted for the finish. Even though I didnít break 10 hours which was the goal, I had a 10 minute PR on a day with very tough conditions and I managed to podium. Not too bad. It leaves a much better taste in my mouth than did Louisville. The guy who passed me finished in 10:05 with a 3:32 marathon. Thatís about the pace I hoped to run. Had I done that I would have been second and sub-10. Last year at IM-Loo I ran a 3:35 is much tougher and hotter conditions. This is another area Iím going to work extra in the off-season. Dave Cascio has got me inspired to really work on my run again.

Finish (10:08:44, 2nd Overall of 136)

After the race I hung out under the RATS tent and saw a lot of my friends finish. At about the 11 hour mark I finally made it over to the high school to take a shower and a nice 30 minutes massage. You wonít get that at an ďMĒ dot Ironman! I felt much better after this race than just about any before. I hung around to see Kevin Shaw finish. He seemed pretty happy with his maiden journey into Ironman. Heís already signed up to do IM Louisville with me next year. That a boy! Brent Miller finished right along with Dave Glover just under 11 hours. He had to get back home so I picked up his AG award the best day, wouldnít you know it, 2nd in the 35-39AG, thatís the exact same award I got two years ago! We capped off the night with dinner at the Portside restaurant where the wife and I managed to put down a pitcher. Ahhh the life.

Conclusion & Commentary

In analyzing this race, my expectations were completely thrown out the window. The bike which I felt was pretty weak during the time I was racing was probably one of my best of the three disciplines. While the run I thought went spectacularly well was actually my second slowest ever, and probably my weakest leg of the dayófor me that is ;-). It was like the results were not the proper feedback from how I felt I did. This was a very peculiar race in that sense.

Iíd like to thank Vigo for another great race. I would have liked to swim the original course but you canít get everything you want. I feel pretty confident that if I had I would have broken 10 hours by swimming around 10 minutes faster than my 1:13. I still have some mixed feeling about my performance but as the days go on it gives me more fire to come back and break that elusive 10 hour barrier next year. Iíll take all the self-induced motivation I can get. I also want to thank Dave Cascio and Kevin Shaw for training with me. Lastly, I want to thank my wife and family for standing by me all those long training sessions when I wasnít around. Without you guys thereís no way I could have raced as well as I did. A heartfelt I love you to you all.