Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rev3 Cedar Point Aquabike Nationals Race Report.


Luck is a funny word. We use it to explain the seemingly random, generally when it pertains to us, and often when something bad happens to us. How many times have you "just missed" something and thought or even said "bad luck." Or on the reverse sign, found some money laying on the ground... "hey it's my lucky day!"

When I played Magic: The Gathering (relatively) competitively, luck was always an element of the game. Sometimes the key card you needed just wasn't in the top x amount of cards and you lost. Many player's could be heard throwing fits and blaming their bad luck or their opponent's good luck. However, as you developed as a player you realized that luck, while sometimes truly random, can often be manipulated, "the deck" can be stacked in your favor if you play towards it well enough.

Why am I going on about luck and a card game on a triathlon blog?

Because I got lucky Sunday. How Lucky?

Stunned big dumb grin. That's me.

I'm ok with the fact that I got lucky. I knew it was something inside the realm of possibility to happen, but I also knew that this season had not turned out the way I had wanted/hoped/expected... I knew it would depend on who showed up and how/whether everything worked out perfectly (spoiler: it didn't) for me. As I was riding home Monday one I was on the phone with one of my best friends when I told them "D@mn dude I got lucky." His reply "Yeah, every time you ride you get lucky... lucky not to flat, lucky not to wreck, lucky you weren't sick, lucky you didn't drown, SO WHAT."

Hell yeah.

Anyways, enough theory. Let's move on to the Race Report!

-Pre Game-

We (myself, Jenny, Mom, Nana and Papaw) left Knoxville early Friday morning. I had my last "unscheduled" meal on the way down at Cracker Barrel. (Granola and Yogurt) and besides that and gas it was a straight shot. We arrived at the Hotel Breakers around 4 and after unloading the truck we made a short trip down to transition to pick up my packet, then afterwards hit up the grocery store for some necessities I had forgot. (Coffee, Milk, Sour Gummy Worms and Watermelon)

The Ferris wheel!

One of my favorite rides at Cedar Point, the Wicked Twister. Sadly no rides for me :(

Halloweekends was about to start. Neato pumpkins.

Snoopy, Woodstock & crew.

Charlie Brown!

That night I got caught up on "Too Cute" (sharing a room with two women...sigh) and eventually fell asleep on the worlds worst bed. Seriously... while the Breakers is the PERFECT place to stay for the race (I mean, you walk out the back door and onto the beach where the swim starts) it had some rough bedding. I say that because upon waking the first thing everyone in my family said to me was "that's the worst bed I've ever slept on."

I've been whining about my wetsuit the last few posts. After trying to make my backup full sleeve work (it didn't feel any better than my DeSoto) I tried on my Xterra sleeveless. What a relief on my bad shoulder! After swimming a few hundred in the lake I was 100% locked in to wearing the Xterra.

No context I wouldn't guess I was at a lake!

Chance to wear my 2010 Rev3 CP shirt.

Then it was off to drive the course. I remembered from 2010 that the first 5-6 miles out of transition were both the windiest and the roughest pavement on the course, so I wasn't surprised to be bounced around in the truck. 4 Years had certainly not improved the condition of the road.  After I was sufficiently satisfied with scoping the course (and a quick trip to Target to buy pillows) it was back to the hotel to get my ride in. I made sure to ride that first 5-6 mile bit, and by the end of it was 50/50 as to whether I was willing to risk riding in aero on it. There were certainly some game ender potholes if you missed one and hit it wrong. I figured I'd know on Sunday what the right move was. After that it was bike check in, dinner  (Banana, 2 Boiled Eggs, some gummy worms and watermelon) and "Walking Tall" (the Rock!) on TV until bed time.

Race morning. Jenny and Nana giving me some last minute advice, like "don't drown."

Thankfully I slept much better with my Target pillow. I was up fairly late for me (around 5a.m.) for a race day, primarily because it was so convenient to transition and swim start, and since the Aquabikers didn't go off until 8:20.  It was walking down to transition that I got the first look at the "lake." In 2010 race day in Eerie had been dead calm water, but the two days I had practiced in it before had been full of some impressive waves... so I knew the possibility existed that it would be rough. It did not disappoint on race day 2014. I was actually fairly surprised they didn't move the swim to the backup location after hearing they had done so in 2013. As soon as I saw the water Sunday morning I gave a small fist pump. I KNEW I could swim in it, whereas a lot of guys were almost certainly freaking out.

I give the bike one last check, head back to the room and get into my wetsuit. They give us a little time to warm up and then it's finally time to head to the corral for the start! Kisses to the family and off to the herd.

Picking my nose? Thumbs up? Not sure what I'm doing.

-Swim- 39:13 (3/7 AG 45/141 OA)

We are told to walk out a few 100 yards to the red buoy and start from there. The course itself is fairly straightforward... out, over, in. It's the conditions that were going to be the hard part. I am trying to figure out what the start sign is, and end up seeding myself right in the front on the inside. "The Melee" as it were.

I suppose a gun was fired, the horn was blared...or maybe the guys beside me just decided it was time to go... but all of a sudden the battle begins.

March of he Aquabikers

I don't think this was the most physical swim I've ever been in. It actually wasn't near as bad as AG Nationals. It was however the most violent swim I've ever been in. It's hard to describe if you've never been in a swim like it before...but I'll try. The first thing you worry about at the start is getting some breathing room. (literally) Usually this just means getting out of the kick/punch zone, but at Cedar Point it also meant you had to get lucky when you lifted your head. Wrong time and all you got was a wave full of water. Sighting was comical heading out... I would "alligator" my head up and see nothing but blackness from the swell in front of me. Then I'd go flying through the air as I crested a wave, then it was back to trying to swim. For some reason each buoy seemed to be the most violent, as if the lake itself knew you were trying to sight / turn.

Potomuchto on Slowtwitch described the swim like this (and I quote)
Imagine you have trained for the marathon. But when you start, it appears that the running is actually hurdling for the same marathon distance. This is how I felt about the swim at Cedar Point.
Funny and accurate. A winning combination.

As soon as you make the first turn things change. Instead of getting pummeled in the face you are getting tipped over from your left side every few seconds. Breathing on your right side becomes near impossible, but otherwise this was the most pleasant time I had in the water. At this point some of the faster swimming women start catching me. I hook onto one of the ladies feet (finally) and we punch through some of the struggling Full distance athletes and make the final turn. From there you just aim for the big blue arches and try to half swim / half body surf in.

Grim but happy to be out of the dishwasher.
I came out of the water and saw 39'ish minutes on the watch. FAR behind schedule (even for the rocky swim I had planned) but I figured it very likely hurt others who were "better" swimmers more than it hurt me. Looking at the results, seems to be the case. Anyways, finally out of the water with a grim grin on my face.

-T1- 1:42

I skip the wetsuit strippers, hop in the kiddie pool to wash the sand off my feet and make a shot to the bike. The Xterra came off easy, then it was helmet, glasses and go time. I hop on the bike and get into my shoes before exiting the parking lot.

The P3, waiting patiently in transition (actually a picture from bike check in)

-Bike- 2:22:48 (1/7 AG 12/141 OA)

Time to do work. I came to time trial, and now's my chance.

Ride on!

The first few miles I had scheduled to get my land legs back under me. I get into aero and start picking my way down the "mine field." I had decided last second to run my Jet9 instead of my H3 for this race since it uses a slightly more robust tire (22mm instead of 19mm) and was glad of it at that moment. The pavement was rough, but I managed to dodge most everything that was a real problem and ride over the rest. Once we were out of town I started really putting in the work. My goal watts were 220 avg, with my normalized power not far off. At about 12 miles in I was at 219 and feeling good, so I was excited. At 23.8 miles Rev3 clocked me at 25.5mph average. Still within my power range, actually had dropped just a tad to 217. Passing through the small town (second aid station) I was on fire. My nutrition was spot on and I was feeling good.

Then, at mile 30 or so, my "bad" luck started. I went to get a drink of water... "slllluuurrrrppp." Oh sh*t. I had guesstimated that my Torhans 20oz bottle would be enough between aid stations. I guessed wrong. The next aid station was back at the school (the first aid station on the way out) and many, many miles away from me. I didn't panic at the time, just worries, it's almost over. (as if 20 something miles is "almost" anything in a triathlon.)

A short while later I have a drink of my "nutrition" mix... too sweet, too strong. I need water to wash it down. That's my last drink out of my nutrition bottle.

Mile 40... 16 to go. My neck hurts. My head hurts. My stomach doesn't feel that great. I start getting "tunnel vision" and I can tell I'm getting very irritable. Small things like my hair falling down on my sunglasses really pisses me off, which is a big warning sign. The WALL is in sight and I'm barreling towards it. I try to pep talk myself, but it doesn't really work. I sit up. At least I can rest my neck and head for a moment. A moment becomes a minute, which becomes a mile, which becomes most of the rest of the ride. I'm pedaling squares... but I keep telling myself "turn the D@%n crank any direction you can move it." Finally the aid station comes into view and I snag a bottle of water, downing most of it before I even squirt some in my Torhans. At this point I know I'm being hunted... but I'm like a bird with a broken wing... all I can do is limp along and hope there is enough distance between me and the predators to cushion my desperate cause.

I start counting "AB" (aquabike) tattoo's go by me. After the fifth one goes by me I stop looking. I don't want to know any more... all I want is to be done.

Back on the coastal death trap road to the park (actually the back way into Cedar Point) traffic has SERIOUSLY picked up. Dodging potholes is a tightrope walk that needs to be balanced with not swerving into a car flying by at 50mph... It seemed the race had indeed decided for me whether I would be riding in aero or not. At this point my #1 goal was to reach that line without laying down on the side of the road. I have never been so thankful for the grip tape I installed on my Ventus base bar as I was Sunday. Even then, I hit a few bumps I thought would shake me off. I saw one guy on the side of the road with less than 2 miles to go... not sure if he had flatted, wrecked or what... looking back I feel bad for him, but at the time all I could think is "I'm glad that isn't me... I hope that isn't me... I just want to get off this bike." Finally I turn into the park and bust tail to the dismount line. I hop off the bike and nearly cried. This was supposed to be a "fun" day... and it turned into a torture session.

Finished! Thankfully.
As I shakily get my bike back into it's cubby (forgot to take my name tag! Doh!) I'm ushered towards to finish chute. Mom, papaw and Jenny head to the line, while nana comes to get another picture of me. As I start down the chute I have a moment of clarity through my haze... Rev3 let's family come with you to the line. I explain to Nana and she make the celebratory lap with me. As we get to the line I tell the announcer that Monday is her birthday. He gives her a big happy birthday over the system and we have a good moment. She's been one of my biggest supporters since I started this, and her battle with cancer is the most serious example of an endurance event I've ever witnessed. (She's a bad@ss is what I'm saying.) Getting to cross the line with her on Grandparents day, the day before her birthday was a moment I'll never forget. That's the cake.

All smiles!

Smile like an idiot! Done!

After that it was much celebrating (Coke Floats!!! Woohoo!) and resting. I came back around 8 that night and watched the finishers coming across for about an hour. I wanted to stay until the last finisher came through, but I was so tired (and must have looked so worn out) that Jenny had to make an executive decision and forced me back to the hotel and to sleep.

Cedar Point in the evening. Last stretch of the run.

Mom checking out the finish line in the dark. 

There is no rest for the wicked however. Already I'm back to training, as my last race in the Fleet Feet Sprint series is next weekend. I'm still loosely holding on to first place overall, but I need a good finish to solidify myself. So it's back to the grindstone.

I plan to head out to Ironman Chattanooga at the end of the month to support some friends (and take a little R&R) and see the venue, and then next month I'm considering doing one of the races at Anderson Rev3. Then it will finally be time to put the bike on the back burner and put in a big run block. Next year I plan to move back to 70.3 racing, but I need to strengthen my run before I tackle that bear again.

I'll end this with the ooey gooey thanks section. (Come on... let me milk this...) It truly takes a village to raise an endurance athlete, and I'm lucky! to have an amazing village. So shoutouts!

Jenny for being herself.
My Mom for being the greatest supporter who has ever lived.
My Nana for being an inspiration.
My Dad and Papaw, for believing in me.
The rest of my crazy family, for all the support.
David, for pushing me, listening to me whine, being a hardass when needed and a friend the rest of the time.
Wes, my best friend and mechanic.
Jimmy, Sharon, Mike, Emil and all of my crazy friends who push the limit on what "crazy" means.
Eddie Sloan, who is the fit master.
My local bike shops... Cycology and Bearden Bike & Trail specifically... they've tirelessly answered numerous questions and scoured for small parts I've needed.
My competitors, for pushing me to seek improvements.
Everyone on Beginnertriathlete and Slowtwitch.
All of you guys who read the blog!

An extra special thank you to the Cobb Mobb and Cobb Cycling. Bar none, the greatest team in the sport to be a part of. Thanks to all of my teammates (who are all studs) for the inspiration and well wishes! My nether region would like to especially thank the SHC saddle, for giving me the option to race and still have kids one day.

-Christopher Morelock


  1. Congrats! National Champ has a sweet sound to it! proud for you brother!!!

    1. Thank you James, we just keep plugging away :)

  2. Yowzers, nice work! I can't say that I even knew what what an aquabike was a month ago, but now I can say I have met the current national champion in my AG.

    Too bad I wasn't able to make it out there and join you. The ST description of the swim is ridiculous.

    BTW, love the custom aero extensions.

  3. That is impressive to say the least, Awesome race report. I've enjoyed watching you on your journey, a true inspiration.

  4. That is impressive to say the least, Awesome race report. I've enjoyed watching you on your journey, a true inspiration.