Andrew Hodges


Gulf Coast Tri(Du)athlon RR

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With this race being on a Saturday, and with impending CDR for our little rocket, this was going to be a quick trip down to Panama City Beach for the 32nd annual Gulf Coast Triathlon. Although the trip would be short, I was really looking forward to finally getting to race the legendary Gulf Coast Triathlon, but admittedly I was a little worried as I knew I hadn’t been really “training”, but more just kind of “exercising”. Or, for the cyclists, living the full Fred lifestyle.

The day prior to the race was filled with its usual anxiety, but by the time the alarm went off on Saturday morning, I was ready to go. There was some concern about the weather, but as the sun began to rise while we went through the pre-race motions, it appeared any impending doom would remain at bay. Before I knew it, transition was closing, and we were all headed to the beach for an on-time start. This held right up until… the start time.

The first wave was supposed to enter the water at 6:20, while I was slotted to start with the other 30-34 y/o males at 6:45. However, 6:20 came and went with folks still standing on the beach. Then all of the sudden kayaks started heading back to shore – not what you want to see if you’re hoping to swim. A few minutes later people started herding together and we were told that for the first time in the 32(!) year history of the event, there would be no swimming. Needless to say, this was a major letdown, and I was about ready to just skip the race and play in the waves.

In place of the swim there was a TT start into a short beach run. I made the mistake of taking off my wetsuit too early and stood wet and shivering. Not ideal. Finally though I was off and up the beach, into transition, and out on my bike.

Heading out with the tailwind was great, but I was having a hard time dialing in my effort level after standing around on the beach for so long. I was hoping to get splits every 5mi with the goal of staying under 13min per. This would put me on pace for a 2:20 which, given my recent (lack of) training, I would’ve been pretty happy with. Unfortunately there were only markers every 10mi, but when the first one came just under 23min into the ride, I was feeling pretty good. Although I was happy to have put time in the bank, I knew the first 5mi included a pretty healthy tailwind which would be no fun on the return trip.

Shortly after a BRO rode up on me, and I decided it was time to start racing. If I was going to be doing this, I might as well get it over with as quickly as possible. A couple of others joined us, and we slowly made our way through the field. (I am happy to report we saw multiple officials along the way, and multiple penalties were dispensed.)

Once we made the turn back south our split from mile 30 to 40 slowed, but was still under 25min, so I was pleased. However, I was also starting to get some major tightness in my gluts and hamstrings, likely due to the combination of lack of training and recent switch to longer cranks.

The last five miles were straight into a headwind and no fun at all, but I managed to hold it together for a solid 2h17 ride. Needless to say, the new Trek SpeedConcept is pretty awesome.  

I didn’t feel great starting the run, but I’ve also certainly felt worse. My first thought was that I sure was glad I only had to do it once! (IMFL is the same course twice.) I quickly left the BROs I had been riding with and set out to catch others up the road, specifically ladies and M25-29. First mile was 5:47, and as long I was running under 6min pace, I was happy. I cruised along feeling decent and trying to enjoy the day. I also knew it was all (figuratively) all downhill once I left the park. At the turn, I only saw three guys (all 25-29) ahead of me, but had no idea whether I was virtually in the lead or not. Once I left the park I was keeping the pace in the 6:0xish range and feeling pretty good (considering), but ready to be done. 10-11 was pretty rough, but by the time I reached mile 12 it was all good, as I was pretty confident I’d get under 1h20, my rough goal for this race.

Sure enough, I finished in 1h19, and after a brief conversation with the 3 guys who crossed the line ahead of me, I was pretty confident I’d finished with the fastest time. Results confirmed this

While I was certainly bummed about the canceled swim, I was really pleased with the end result. I had been wanting to race here since 2003ish but due to scheduling conflicts had never been able to make it. So, it was really nice to be able to enjoy the day and pull out the ‘W’. And, there was free beer immediately after the race AND at the post race party that evening. What more could you want? 



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So that happened. Or not, really.

Heading into this race I felt pretty good, as I had had some solid long rides, and was looking forward to some great weather in PCB. I also had plenty of friends and family at the race, so that was an added bonus.

Without further ado, lets get to the action. The gun sounded and we were off into the Gulf. There were some swells, which made sighting difficult at times, but nothing too terribly bad. The group seemed to split pretty quickly, and soon I found myself swimming alone. I wasnt too worried, though, because I really dont think there is much of an advantage to drafting in the water with the swells as big as they were anyway. The first lap was fine, and I was pleasantly surprised to see 25:xx when I came out of the water the first time.

A few minutes after 7a, courtesy of Beth N

Across the beach to start lap #2 and all was still well. Coming back on the second lap, though, things got a little dicey, as it was about this time I started swimming through quite a few AGers. The concentration only increased, and pretty soon it was Normandy out there. As I came out of the water, I saw a 53:xx (swim split was 53:30) and feeling great; definitely ready to attack the bike.

Ahh, the bike. I set out with a pretty simple goal: stay consistent, get in the calories, and break 5h. If I did that, I figured the racing would come later. First split was 25:00. (D@mn this QR is fast!) Then, the pack came. All the usual suspects were there in a group of 12-15, but I wasn’t worried. I knew there was nothing I could do, and trying to go with them would’ve only meant trouble later. So, I rode my race. Following splits were 24:35, 25:48, 24:53, 26:11, 26:43, 26:33, 26:10, 24:59, 26:22, and 31:00 (12 miles). Needless to say, they were pretty consistent. I was especially pleased with how strong I felt at the end of the ride. Finally I made it back to T2, and was elated to see 4:4x on my TIMEX for my bike split.

Starting the run, I was 5h50 into the race, which was right on target. I started off with the typical IM shuffle, and soon settled into 6’30” miles, which I felt was pretty conservative. The first 6 miles were 6:36, 6:32, 7:30 (w/ bathroom break), 6:28, 6:37, and 6:31. I certainly wasnt pushing the pace, but rather just going with it. Then, though, things started deteriorating. From there, the splits went 6:58, 6:47, 6:43, 6:55, 7:04, 7:12, 7:25, 7:32, 7:30, 8:08, 7:53, and 8:18.

Mile 6ish, courtesy of Beth B

During this time, my form started falling apart, and it was everything I could do to keep running the pace I was. Then going into the park, there was a little section of plywood which I caught the edge of, tripped, and felt a little something in my Achilles  This forced me to stop and walk, and it was a slow walk at that. I tried to run again, but no dice. So, rather than limping another 2h to the finish, I got a ride to the med tent for an IV and some desperately needed calories.

Obviously the whole thing was pretty frustrating. Well, not the whole thing. The swim and bike went well, and I was shuffling along just fine on the run through about 10 miles. But none of that really mattered when I  blew up like a CHAMPION. Looking back, I probably should’ve targeted more calories on the bike and the run. I took all that I had planned, but clearly that just wasn’t enough. I also need to practice taking calories on the run more, and getting used to running with a flask. I’m bad at drinking out of cups while running, so I think bringing a little bottle along could go a long way.

I’ll do another post to wrap up of the season, but going forward, clearly I’m going to need to do at least one more of these crazy races. I think its safe to say that I’ve been humbled a bit my the distance, as bonking hard core is not fun. So, if I’m going to want to actually do well, I’m going to have to take more calories throughout the race. If nothing else, my experience last weekend should do a pretty good job scaring me into that!


IM Lulvull Redux

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It was a long day, and I have some time in the plane home (from work, not the race…), so that means its time for a little synopsis of my attempt at racing IM Louisville! So what had happened was……

Swim: The morning of the race I felt nervous but relaxed and ready to race. We got in the water, I warmed up the best I could in 5min, and we were off. I was on someone’s feet for a couple of minutes, but then was feeling good and moved out, and all of the sudden was out front. I didn’t really accelerate or anything, but started pulling away. From there I pretty much just swam the rest of the way at what I thought was a fast but controlled effort. Honestly, I was surprised to be out front, but hey, its a race! It certainly wasnt a goal, but it was definitely cool coming out of the water first! I just swam at what I thought was race pace, and thats what happened. It turns out I had about 40s on the next guy, after swimming 53:12.

Bike: Out on the ride, I quickly settled into a rhythm and started downing the calories. Finally, Evoe, McDonald, and Gerlach caught and passed me around mile 30, and I let them go. I came through 50 in 2:12, which after doing some rough calculations made me think I was on pace for just under 5h, which is right what I was shooting for.

Photo courtesy of Ali Engin

I missed mile 70, but a bit after that another guy passed me but not very fast, so I kept him in sight. Of course at this time the legs were starting to hurt and it was starting to warm up. I don’t recall my split at 80mi, but I remember thinking I was still on pace. Soon after that, though, I heard a recurring thump in my rear wheel. I stopped and sure enough, there was a tack. I didnt worry about it because I wasnt far out of 4th and confident I could still catch the guy on the run that had just passed me. It took me about 6min to make the change. I was back on the road, but 5min or so later I could tell I was losing air. So, I stopped and got a CO2 and added some more air. I started back and soon after heard an explosion. My tire had torn and the strands that make up the lip were exposed. I wish I had a pic. So, without an extra tire, I had to wait for neutral support. Who carries an extra clincher tire?? I probably waited 30-35min. I finally got back into it, but the last 20miles were pretty brutal. I finally finished, and knew that although it would suck, I’d have to do the run.

Photo courtesy of Ali Engin

Run: Coming into T2, I still thought I could have a decent run. Why not? When I started running, though, it was a different story, as my stomach was cramping like a champ. It was so tight that I was having a hard time breathing, let alone getting any fluids down. I made it through the first couple miles around 7min pace, but it was a struggle. I kept expecting to feel better, but nothing was happening. So, I started walking through the aid stations hoping I could get some calories and fluid. Nothing seemed to help. I felt like I wanted to vomit, and I dry heaved a couple of times, but nothing came out. Finally with about 4 miles to go I decided I was going run the rest of the way, which I did.

Photo courtesy of Ali Engin

The last two miles were brutal, and I scored a trip to the med tent at the finish after almost falling on my face. I was dehydrated, but also bonking pretty bad, I think. I got a liter of fluid and drank ~8oz of chicken broth out of a straw, and my stomach finally started settling down.

Obviously it was a pretty disappointing day, but that happens. What it means, though, is that I need some redemption! I’m not sure where or when it will come, but I’ll figure that out in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, its time for a little vacation weekend hiking with friends in the Smoky Mountains, which will be a nice mental and physical break, and should help me get over the disappointment of the race.


Ride, Run, Swim, and Pull

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Who says you cant have any fun while training for an IM? Saturday some friends were planning on going out to the river for some fun, so I certainly wanted to join. The only problem, of course, is that I have this little race coming up in about a month, so I needed to spend some time on my bicycle. So clearly the solution was to simply ride to the river. But, because the destination was only about 40 miles away, and I kind of needed a detour via Tennessee:

Map Courtesy of the Timex Run Trainer

I was pleasantly surprised with the route, especially Route 273 and 274 up in TN. The trek from Ardmore, AL to Athens on Al 251, on the other hand, was not so much fun. Then the last 8mi on Nuclear Plant Road, was just awful. Rough pavement and huge bumps just arent the way you want to finish 5h+ in the saddle!

Regardless, 5h 21min and 112miles later, I was finally there. Just a quick 20min run and I was ready for a great afternoon on the river.

At that point the fun was just starting, as the next destination was Tanner High School for a tractor pull!

Yes, those are thousands of people in the stands who paid $15 to watch modified tractors pull trailers loaded down with weight. Cant beat it!


Southern Festival, Part Two

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After the fun that was had at the National Cornbread Festival 5k, a group of us decided we should head up to Bell Buckle, TN for the RC Cola and MoonPie Festival. And yes, this is a real thing. Welcome to the South.

There were, however, a couple of factors we forgot to consider. First, the NCF was April 28th, while the MoonPie Festival was June 16th. In April it is still cool in the morning; in June, not so much. Next, the race associated with NCF was a 5k, while Moonpie was a 10 miler. I didn’t major in math, but 10 miles is a lot longer than 3.1. And really… who puts on a 10 mile race in the middle of the summer in the South?? So with this in mind, some of us were having second thoughts… 
What are we doing here again?

So ready to be done.
The race was… a race. The first few miles were pretty hilly, the next few were flat, and then we got to finish with a nice juicy uphill just after the 9 mile mark. I ended up 5th in 56:45, which is nothing to write home about, but certainly was a pretty decent workout.  
Now, enough about racing. The highlight, of course, was the festival! FWIW, I’ll give a nod to the Cornbread Festival on food (selection, quality, and quantity), crafts, and overall size. But Moonpie definitely had the better race. Sure, the middle of June isnt the optimal time for a 10 miler, but you dont see the 10 mile distance all that often, so it gets points for that. And this race had close to 850 finishers, which is not too shabby for a race in the Middleofnowhere, TN. Finally, the post race food included fresh buscuits (sausage, chicken, or plain), bananas, muffins, and of course RC Cola and MoonPies.   
The Crew

Yep, they love their MoonPies here. 



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