Flat as a Pancake Race Report

Saturday was the Staten Island Flat as a Pancake triathlon and duathlon. I’ve done the race twice before. In fact, it was my first triathlon ever, and my first “win” – I won first place in the first timers division. That was it – I was hooked after that race, and here we are five years later.

Before I get into my race report, I have to take a minute to highlight how great this race is. Quickly:
– Local. It’s easy to get to and free for me to travel to.
– Beginner friendly. There are no attitudes, everyone is helpful, and it’s a low stress chance to try racing.
– Flat and fast. It’s called “flat as a pancake” for a reason. There are two brief inclines and the rest is flat, flat, flat.
– Family friendly. There are people of all ages, and spectators can see athletes multiple times in all disciplines.
– Fun. After the race there is a pushup contest, a burpee contest, something with hoola hooping, lots of giveaways, and a DJ.
– PANCAKES. All you can eat pancakes after racing.

I highly recommend the race for both triathlon and duathlon, as now I’ve done both.

Okay, the race report:

In the week leading up the race, I kept imagining myself winning. I know the course from racing on it previously, and pictured myself keeping up on the final run and passing the leader in the final stretch to take the win.

I should expand on this separately, but I am a big believer of mental training in sport, and use visualization as a key part of my training and race preparation. I’ve had great experiences with it, and I try to get my athletes to do it as well (although I can’t say all of them are into it). So we’ll file this under things to post about later, but the point is I was thinking about winning.

I admit, this was a lofty vision, given the status of my leg and calf in the last two months. While I was cleared to run two weeks before race day, I had picked up the mileage in week two leading up to the race – not for training but because it just sort of ended up that way: Tuesday team run, Wednesday November Project, Thursday speed work, first summer Friday (no way was I missing that)… suddenly I had run four days in a row before race day.

This was not the only pre-race fail I had before this race. Up until Friday night, I still had not assembled my tri bike… from my race in January. I had talked about putting it together all week and didn’t make the time to do it. So about 8 hours before I was to leave for the race, I was putting on the derailleur and steering, checking brakes, inflating tires, and so on. I was going to ride my road bike if I didn’t put it together in a way I felt confident about; I was nervous to do it because I obviously do not want to fly over the handlebars (again). I took it for a spin around the block to make sure it was shifting okay, and then called it good.

Friday night, I set out my gear and was in bed around 11:30 or 12.

The alarm went off at 4:35 am. I was up and in my kit in a minute, put on sunscreen, filled my water bottles (one with water and one with First Endurance EFS and pre-race), and was out of the house by 4:45. My trip to the race required getting on the 5:30 am Staten Island Ferry, which runs only once an hour at that time in the morning. I rode my bike from home to the Ferry, grabbed a bagel and coffee (and brought my own peanut butter), and then ate on the Ferry. I rode from the Ferry station in Staten Island to the race start a few miles away. It was about 12 miles of riding to get to the race.

I checked in and set up transition, and then had some time to stretch, use the restroom a number of times, and walk around. I ate a Honey Stinger Waffle and had some water. Transition closed at 7:20 am. Then pre-race announcements for the triathlon and duathlon, the National Anthem, and then to the start.

The first run was an out and back, 3/4 of a mile each way. I was sure to line up at the front to start the race, as a few of my recent efforts have entailed running around people for the first part, and this was too short of a race to waste effort dodging people and trying to figure out my own pace.

The race started and four of us darted off. Within a quarter mile, we settled into our places: the leader was about three seconds ahead of me, and the second place person was about 3 feet in front of me. I stayed on his heels and decided there was no need to push my pace any faster at this point.

Time: 9:02, pace: 6:04/mile
Place: 3

Quick run into transition and a long run with my bike to the exit. I took a quick drink because I didn’t install a water bottle cage on my bike (another fail), and knew I’d be thirsty. The second place guy was on my rack as well, and I beat him out of transition, about 15 seconds behind the leader.

Time: 1:11
Place exiting: 2

The bike is a flat, fast, out and back course, 2 miles in each direction, completed in three full loops to equal 12 miles. There is a 180 degree turn at each end, which requires slowing down significantly, but the benefit of this is the ability to see people coming at you. At mile 4 turn around, I started counting seconds to see how far I was back. At mile four, it was 12 seconds, and I had a 15 second lead on the person behind me. At mile 8 and mile 10, I was 10 seconds back. By mile 10, I had increased my lead on the number 3 guy to over 20 seconds.

Because the duathlon started 15 minutes before the triathlon, I didn’t see any other cyclists until the third lap. I passed all of them on the first stretch where they enter, so I chalked that up to them just getting out on the course. But I continued to pass others on the final 2 miles back, so I knew I must have been cruising.

As we approached transition, the leader slowed to take his feet out of his shoes. I chose not to, because I would have had to run on wet grass in my socks for the long stretch to my rack. Instead, I spun out my legs in an easy gear and rode right up behind him. We entered the transition area together, him first and me a bike length behind. It was definitely my fastest bike split in a race ever.

12 mile bike
Time: 30:42, pace: 23.5 mph
Place: 2

I took another quick two drinks while changing shoes, grabbed my hat, and was off. I exited right behind the leader.

The leader set the pace coming out of T2, but it felt slightly slower than our first run. This was a 5k run, so I knew we needed to pace it right. I was in that very annoying spot right behind him, so close that I could reach out and touch his shoulder. I matched his pace for the first half mile, but felt him ease up. I decided to pass him at that point, just before the turnaround point for the first run. I heard him behind me for another half mile, and then heard him fall back a bit. At the 1.5 mile turnaround point, I could see that he was about 10-15 seconds back. I took a quick drink of water and then took off. I pushed my own pace for a bit of the straight stretch leading to the second incline to the boardwalk. I didn’t see him behind me at the incline, so I knew I grew my lead a bit. I pushed to breathless on the straight stretch until I could see the finish line about a quarter mile up. This is what I wanted. I looked back and didn’t see the number 2 runner, so I eased up on my pace significantly. I still didn’t see him in the final stretch so I cruised in. Hat on, hands above head. My first win.

Run 2, 3.1 miles
Time: 19:18, pace: 6:14/mile
Place: 1

By the numbers
Times I’ve done this race: 3
Times I had done the duathlon there: 0
Temperature: too chilly for me to want to do the tri
Actual temperature: mid-60s
Number of bikes with baskets in transition: two, no kidding
Number of fixed gear bikes: two that I saw
Inclines on first run: none
Bike elevation: none
Inclines on second run: two, plus six stairs
Sips of water taken during the race: 4
Sips of water taken in transition: 3
Miles rode to and from ferry: 12 each way
Unmarked potholes on bike course: many, but three major ones
Times I thought about reaching out and touching the runner in front of me: 6
Times I actually touched him: 0
Loud belches heard: 1
Loud belches belched: 1
Number of times I thought I was going to fall on the boardwalk: 1
Gels consumed: 0
Pancakes consumed after: 6
Times I looked at the results on the paper before I left: 5
Number of people I beat: all
Number of athletes I cheered for after I finished: all
Races I’ve finished better in: 0
Rank of bike split in all races I’ve ever done: best ever
Finish time: 1:01:28
Place: 1
Color of tech shirt: red
Design of trophy: flames
Size of smile: huge
Days it lasted: still smiling


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