Monday, August 28, 2017

Storm the Fort Half Triathlon - Race Report

This is my race report for the Storm the Fort triathlon. I'll try to break down my report to pre-race, including travel accommodations, where to eat, race segments; swim, bike and run, and post race. There is a brief summary afterwards.

The Storm the Fort sprint and half (approx. 70.3) iron distance triathlon races took place on Saturday, August 26th, 2017 in Kingston, Tennessee. I competed in the half with two friends, Brenda Herrington and Stephanie Critchfield. My wife Susan and Brenda's hubby Mark came with us for support. This was the first triathlon I've done in years. All three of us registered for the half as a fitness check race for the full Ironman we're doing in Panama City Beach, Florida on November. 4th.

This was the 7th year for the Storm the Fort sprint and the 4th year for the half. The inaugural year of the race being in 2011 for the sprint. The first year of the half was in 2014. Those are the first years I could find for race results anyway. Even in 2016 these were small races but, those are some of the best races. The fact that Ironman branded races cost significantly more should, in my opinion, boost the appeal of races like Storm the Fort, and create an environment for competing races to grow in participation. I registered in late June for $140. Folks that registered on the day before the race only paid $180.

Brenda and Mark arrived in Kingston on Thursday. Susan, Stephanie and I arrived on Friday to the luxurious accommodations of the Super 8 hotel in Kingston. The Super 8 hotel was clean, inexpensive, and close to the event start. Brenda was kind enough to pick up our race packets on Thursday.  Kingston is about a 4 hour drive north up I-75 for us from Atlanta's southside. That 4 hour drive north meant cooler temperatures and, on this weekend, lower humidity. They were perfect conditions for a race.

Atlanta Traffic as we headed north to Kingston, TN

Brenda, Mark, Jason (on FaceTime), Stephanie, and Susan at the Super 8 Hotel in Kingston, TN
Our group ate dinner, supper for you folks in south Georgia, at Mama Mia's Restaurant-Pizzeria before meeting up at the hotel in Kingston later that evening. We decided that we'd load our gear into packs and haul it to transition on our bikes at 6:00 a.m.. The transition area was only about a half mile down the road from our hotel.

The Kingston, TN weather forecast at 4:42 AM

The hourly forecast on race day
When I finally got out of bed after a restless night's sleep I checked the weather. It was perfect as we'd expected. The weather man got it right for once.

The forecast back home was 13-degrees hotter 
Back home in Jonesboro, Georgia the weather was significantly warmer.

A McDonald's Egg McMuffin for breakfast
For breakfast I had three small cups of Oui yogurt (it's Yoplait, but better), a banana, and an egg McMuffin.

Brenda and Stephanie at transition
Mark and Susan met us at the transition area before the start and took a few pictures.

Brenda, me, and Stephanie

Susan and Mark looking forward to a long day of schlepping around Kingston
It was hot later in the day but Susan and Mark were good troopers and cheered us on as much as they could.

My transition area
The transition area was setup with the sprint racers on the water side and the half racers near the street. The racks were not numbered so it was first come - first serve. We all racked up together on the 3rd rack from the bike-out/bike-in mat.

The transition area looking east

The transition area looking west toward the swim exit ramp
The water temperature before the race was 77 point something degrees, just barely with the wetsuit legal range. That made everyone happy.

Stephanie, me, and Brenda before the swim start
The half distance swimmers started in 3 waves; men 39 and younger, men 40 and older, and women and relay teams. The advertised start times were 7:35, 7:38 and 7:41 for the half. The sprinters started before the half. We pretty much started on-time. Both races started with a single cannon shot from a baby cannon.

The swim start dock for the 3 waves of the half
The swim segment of the race started at the Kingston United Methodist Church for the sprint race participants. Their swim was point to point. The half distance racers start at the Kingston Waterfront Park. Both event swimmers exit the water at the Kingston Waterfront Park on TN-58 just west of the city. The half distance racers swam 2 laps counter-clockwise on a rectangular-ish course in the Clinch River. The water was not as clear a I thought it would be and there was a bit of seaweed closer to the shore but, all in all, the swim course was great. It's not a pool so one should expect some plants and such. The exit ramp was slippery though, the event organizers had placed thick mats on the ramp that were weighted down with 35-lb weights but even those slipped on the slick concrete. The trick to exiting the water was to keep swimming until the water was about a foot deep before attempting to stand. At that point there were volunteers nearby to give a steady hand.

In addition to safety personnel in kayaks that you would expect, there was also a Coast Guard boat between the course and the larger part of the river. The Coast Guard boat had his blue lights on for the duration of the swim segment.

Swimmers in the water
I fumbled around with my Garmin watch which had gone into power saving mode as I waited for my wave to start. Without my glasses and looking through my swim goggles I could hardly see the small text on the screen. Eventually I pressed the correct sequence of buttons just in time for the start.

Me exiting the water going into T-1
Between Stephanie, Brenda, and I, I was the first one out of the water thanks to a 3 minute head start for my wave. Brenda was close behind me followed by Stephanie.

Brenda exiting the water

Stephanie exiting the water
I finished the swim segment with a 1:49 pace per 100 yards, per my Garmin which showed a 37:58 swim time. Brenda swam a little faster with a 1:43 pace and finishing in 37:15, per her Garmin. Stephanie finished well but I don't know what her Garmin pace was. Race timing had our swim finish times at 33:20, 35:03, and 44:44, respectively.

I had an idea that the my swim pace was so good because there might be some sort of a whirlpool or vortex caused by the river's current. The river flows east to west so swimmers closer to the main channel should swim faster with the current. Swimmers nearer the shore, swimming west to east, might get a boost for a circular eddy. It's just a thought!

Me exiting T-1 with a mouth full of Clif bar
I exited T-1 before the rest of my crew with a mouth full of Clif bar. It took me about 10 minutes to finally swallow the wag of chewy mess. Brenda passed me about 5 miles into the bike segment.

Me fumbling around trying to get on my bike
I decided to wear my road bike shoes and not my worn-out, yet comfy tri shoes. I struggled a bit getting my feet into the more snug fitting road shoes.

Brenda exiting T-1

Stephanie exiting T-1
Transition from swim to bike out for me and Brenda was 2 minutes and 59 seconds, per our Garmins. Race timing showed Brenda's T-1 at 2:32, me at 2:53 and Stephanie at 3:07.

Brenda beat me to the bike turn-around on Dry Fork Valley Road by about a minute. I saw Stephanie on Ten Mile Road on my way back. She was only a few minutes behind me. The only place where there might have been reason for caution was at the intersection of Ten Mile Road and TN-58. Volunteers were posted there but I heard later that someone was almost hit by a vehicle that didn't stop. Other than that, all major intersections were supported with police presence. Even though the bike course was not closed I never felt unsafe.

The bike course is hilly but the downhills are nothing like I experienced during the Cheaha Challenge in May. It's just a scenic ride though the country on some rollers. The pavement is smooth except for a brief section on Ten Mile Road where it's pretty rough. Potholes were virtually non-existent.

Somewhere around the 30 to 40 mile point on the bike my glutes started giving me fits. I was averaging just over 20-mph at that point. After that I saw my speed plummet.
Bike segment splits
I had been playing tag with another rider in my age-group. He'd pass me for a while and then I'd pass him. He eventually passed me for good about an hour before the end of our ride. He would come in first in our age-group.

Me entering T-2
My Garmin showed that I finished the bike segment in 2:50:14 with a 19.3-mph pace. Brenda finished in 2:36:42 with a 21-mph pace. Race timing showed Brenda, me, and Stephanie finishing the bike segment in 2:37:05, 2:50:22, and 3:18:22, respectively.

Race timing showed Brenda's T-1 at 1:30, me at 1:34 and Stephanie at 2:14.

Brenda was already well into her run when I entered T-2. I started the run with gusto, painful glutes and all. The first few miles went well for me considering the pain I was in. Fortunately, I had adjusted my bike's handlebar extensions up slightly which made my shoulders feel more relaxed than they were the last time I had my bike out on the road. I was glad to have only one part of my body, my glutes, in pain at a time.

The run course was two figure 8s, mostly along the river's edge, with the transition area in the center, the city of Kingston and Roane County High School football field on one end and Fort Southwest Point on the other. There were plenty of aid stations stocked with pickle juice, Gatorade, cold water, and some has GU, salt tablets, orange slices, and flat coke. I partook in all of them to the point that when I ran I could feel the fluid slosh around in my belly.

Cute kids!
I started looking for a baby stroller to climb into and have someone push me around the run course but they were all ocupado. For some reason I got the Shakira song Hips Don't Lie stuck in my head. My hips were telling me Hey stupid, you should walk.

Run segment splits
Later in the day the sun came out and hammered us with a heat we hadn't expected. I ended up walking much of the run course and my mile splits showed it. I went from a solid 8:30 minute/mile pace for the first 5 miles to an 11+/- minute/mile pace through to the finish.

My Garmin showed my run time as 2:06:17 which is a 10:16 pace. Brenda's run time was 1:50:13 which is an 8:49 pace, per her Garmin. Brenda, me, and Stephanie had race timing run finish times of 1:51:05, 2:06:15, and 2:12:43, respectively.

Brenda on the run course
Brenda was still going strong on the run as I was starting to wain.

Brenda at the finish
Brenda finished in 19th place overall and was the first female to cross the finish line.

Me at the finish
I crossed the finish line about 35 minutes later in 38th place overall.

Stephanie at the finish
Stephanie was about 30 minutes behind me and looking much more cheerful and feeling better than she was when she came out of the water after the swim. She finished in 54th place overall.

Race Timing Results
Brenda Herrington       48 F (S)33:20 (T1) 2:32 (B)2:37:05 (T2)1:30 (R)1:51:05 - Finish: 5:05:30
Neil Farmer                 56 M (S)35:03 (T1)2:53 (B)2:50:22 (T2)1:34 (R)2:06:15 - Finish: 5:36:05
Stephanie Critchfield   39 F (S)44:44 (T1)3:07 (B)3:48:55 (T2)2:14  (R)2:12:43 - Finish: 6:03:52

Before the awards presentation the fort's cannon was ceremonially fired.

Brenda on the podium - 1st Female Overall

Stephanie on the podium - 2nd Place

Me on the podium - 3rd Place

1st (overall female), 2nd (F35-39), and 3rd (M55-59)
We made a clean sweep of the awards. Brenda took the overall women's title and received a shelf collapsing cannonball award. Stephanie and I received plaques with a little cannon on it and a plate designating our placement in our specific categories. Stephanie took 2nd in the women's 35 to 39 category and I took 3rd in the men's 55 to 59 category. Brenda and Stephanie should be very proud of themselves. I've posted the overall and age-group results below. The Bike Split and Swim+Bike Time split placements look wrong but, other than that, I think they're pretty accurate.

The overall results list for the half.

The age-group awards list for the half.

I used multi-sport mode on my Garmin 920XT watch for the first time. I also wore my heart-rate monitor. I never race triathlons with a HRM because I think they restrict my breathing. I did overcome that major fail when my watch went into sleep mode before the swim start. I hit all the transition changes on my watch as I was supposed to. That's a bigger trick to pull off than it sounds. My heart-rate monitor even worked on the swim. That was a real surprise. Somehow though, my Garmin time is 3 minutes slower than race timing, 5:39:03 instead of 5:36:05. Oh well!
After the race, they had pizza and more cold drinks for the participants. We had a piece of pizza but later went to the Smokehouse Bar n Grill for a bite to eat before heading back to Atlanta.

Socks, bib, etc.

Storm the Fort finisher's medal

T-shirt front artwork

T-shirt back artwork

My 3rd place award
When I got home I had a chance to inventory my race loot. I took home a pair of sock, a finisher's medal, a nice clean looking short-sleeve technical race t-shirt, and an awesomely cool and original major award.

The Storm the Fort triathlon is a fun little race. It doesn't have all the pomp and circumstance of an Ironman branded event but that's not the kind of race it is. It's a small race in a nice little city in the country. The distances for the bike and run segments might have been a little bit short too. That doesn't matter to me because everyone had to complete the same route - if it's short for me then it's short for everybody else too. The half distance race had 93 finishers. There were 124 finishers in the sprint race. I can't speak for everyone but I thought it was a great race!

As we prepared for our race and enjoyed perfect weather in Kingston the residents on Houston, Texas and the region were being hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane Harvey floods the Texas coast
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those people in the wake of such devastation.

Thanks for reading.