Powerman Florida & Powerman Panama Race Report

Powerman Florida (2nd Place)

Leading up to Powerman Florida, I felt pretty confident that I could do well. I had just finished the Berkeley Half Marathon in 8th overall in the elite field with an official time of 1:12:58. The Berkeley Half Marathon course was quite challenging with two climbs averaging about a 5% grade. Although, the conditions with perfect for running. With an average temperature around 14C (57F). Here are some photos from that race:

 

Now, Powerman Florida was also a challenging race. It was the Powerman North American Regional Championships and unlike the typically Middle Distance, the Powerman format is 10km run, 60km bike, 10km run. The actual race course was 4 laps of 2.7km and 3 laps of 21.4km bike, making the total distance 10.8km run, 64.2 km bike, 10.8km run, (6.7 mile run, 39.9mile bike, 6.7 mile run). The race started at 7am and it was cold! The temperature at the start was 12C (53F). You would think Florida would be warm, but not this day! I wore a skin-suit bike jersey over my tri-suit during the run just to keep warm and decided to use that skin-suit bike jersey on the bike to be more aero.

Race Morning:

The run course was flat, but nonetheless hard to run at a steady pace. It switched from running in uneven grass to loose gravel dirt to pavement to boardwalk. The course had a lot of tight turns that made it hard to keep your speed and run a steady pace.

My main competitors were the former two-time (2014-2015) world duathlon champion, Gael Le Bellec from France and Darren Brown, a former elite middle distance runner. About half-way through the 1st run leg it was obvious these two would be tough competition. The other elites dropped back from the very start and never figured after that.

Darren and Gael took the 1st half of the run out quick and opened a pretty big gap on me. I decided to keep calm and hope that they would fade a little in the end. By the end of the first run leg I was a bit disappointed however as I lost about 2 minutes to Darren, and more than a 1 min to Gael in 2nd. I kept telling myself it is a long race and anything might happen. I hopped on my bike and hoped I could make some time up on the leaders.

The bike course was relatively flat with just one small climb (about 400m long) each lap. I was wearing a heart rate monitor and just went off my bpm (beats per minute) as to what pace I would ride at. At the end of the 2nd lap, I caught Darren. With just one lap to go on the bike, I felt I needed to get a good lead on him for the 2nd run leg, since he ran 2 minutes into me on the first leg. So, I pushed a bit harder, ignoring my heart rate monitor for the time being. In doing so I opened a big lead on him, finishing the bike in 2nd place. At times I could see Le Bellec and I tried to bridge the gap to him, but he was too strong. I still ended up having the fastest bike split of the day, though. But it was only rode 22 seconds faster than Gael, who was still about a minute ahead of me.

Going into the final run leg (2nd run), I was about 55 seconds down from Gael (the leader) and about 1.5 minutes ahead of Darren. For the first half of the run I was staying about even with Gael, but Darren was quickly gaining on us and near the end of lap 2 he was only 10 seconds behind. Again, I tried to stay calm and decided to save some energy for the end. Near the start of the 3rd lap, Darren slowed and for a while he stayed even with me. I knew he was hurting and had gone out too fast on the first run leg and now he was paying for it.

Now I gave it every last bit of energy I had and opened a gap on Darren and gained a bit of time of Gael who was still leading at this point. I didn’t have enough to get to Gael who was also slowing so I finished 2nd just 25 seconds behind him. I finished almost a minute ahead of Darren in 3rd. Overall, I was happy with that result. To be only a few seconds back from a Duathlon world champion was not bad for a first race. Since I was the first American across the line, I became the Powerman North American Regional Champion.

After the race:

Powerman Panama (1st place)

After running on uneven grass and loose gravel in Powerman Florida race, my foot was hurting and so I took a week off: No running, biking, or swimming. Nothing. Which was the right decision, looking back at it. During that time period, I thought about doing more Powerman Events. The next race on the Powerman calendar was Panama City at the end of January. In terms of traveling it was not too far away and the time change was only 3-hours, (from the west coast time zone here in California, USA) similar to Florida. So I decided to do it.

Over the holidays we went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. There I was able to do some good heat training on the bike. I went on two long rides with the folks at Bici Bucerias and I ran a few times on the local track. All in all, it went very well and showed that I had kept my fitness.

After a good training day in Puerto Vallarta with the crew:

Unfortunately, when I arrived back in California, we had several severe rain storms with an average temperature around 10C (50F). Pretty unusual for January. My only option now was to ride on the trainer in a hot room. Or overdress and run outside.

We arrived in Panama on January 26. It was hot and humid. I went for an easy 12km run two days before the race and I came back to the hotel completely drenched in sweat. I remember after that run, I was so trashed I fell asleep and napped for 2 hours.

This worried me a bit since I felt really tired after an easy run and it made me wonder how I would do on race day.

On race morning it was 25C with a high forecast at 32C (77F low and 90F high). The course was 3x 3.33km run loop and 3x 20km bike loop making it the standard Powerman middle distance of 10km run, 60km bike, 10km run (6.2 mile run, 37.5-mile bike, 6.2 mile run). The run course was quite hilly with a number of short but steep (average 7-10% grade on some sections) climbs and a total elevation gain of 200m (650ft) for the 10km. The climbs were also exposed, although the rest of the course was mostly shaded.

After racing Powerman Florida with a heart monitor, I decided to use a heart monitor again to pace myself for this race.

When the race started, I held back and looked at my heart rate throughout the run leg. It started with several guys bursting out the gates and running like mad men. The first kilometer (0.62 of a mile) I ran 3:29 and was in 6th place. I moved up slowly, as many dropped back from going out too fast, and by the end of the first lap I was in 2nd place. There were three aid stations on the run loop (about 1 every kilometer) and I would go to everyone of them and take water to pour water over myself.

Heck, even before the race started I poured on a ton of water over my head and body to keep cool, because it was hot! At end of the second lap with one lap to go, I was about 30 seconds back from the leader and I was running with one guy, Eduar Villalta. I saw that my heart rate was getting super high and decided to back off a bit. I knew from Powerman Florida, where I lost 2 minutes on the first run, that I could afford a small gap. By the end of the first run leg, I only lost 10 seconds and I entered transition 40 seconds behind the leader. I took it easy and poured another bottle over my head before starting out on the bike leg.

The loop bike at Powerman Panama had a short steep climb about 400m long and one serious climb, but not very steep, that was about 1.6km (1 mile) long for a total elevation gain of 480m (1,575 feet) for the full 60km course. There was also one very technical section with a number of tight turns on very narrow roads, where you really had to keep your head up.

I caught the leader at about 3.5km (2.2 miles) into bike leg. Just like in Florida, I looked at my heart rate monitor and used that device to pace myself through bike leg. Every lap I increased my lead and by the end of the bike ride I had about 5.5-minute on the second competitor. But by now the sun had come out and it was getting really hot.

Some bike photos:

Starting the finally 10km run, I started out at a 3:45 per km pace (6 min mile pace). At the end of the first run lap I was beginning to really feel the heat and the humidity. But I also had a big lead so I decided to hold back and slow down a bit. I did not want to cramp badly or “hit the wall.” Every aid station I grabbed a ton of water to pour on my legs and head to prevent cramps and keep my core body temperature down. With just one lap to go, I knew I had the win and so I was able to jog at a comfortable speed.

Powerman Panama was my first win, truly a great feeling! It was amazing how many people wanted to take a photo with me. I’ve never been asked to be in so many photos before. I got interviewed twice by the local media and that too was a first. So far in pro triathlon/ duathlon Panama was my biggest win and my first in an international event. I raced against people from Columbia, Venezuela, Canada, Costa Rica and of course Panama. Overall, it was great success and I think it was my best performance in a hot and humid race.

Thank you to Oakland Triathlon Team for support. Particular Chris van Luen for giving me that incredible fast triathlon bike. Also, many thanks to Xterra Wetsuits, Topo Athletics, Café Velo, Probar nutrition, Bici Bucerias and Press Play Lab. Particular Jessica Greaux for hiring as coach for last year’s Press Play Lab cycling classes. Had a great time coaching other athletes and riding those Compu-trainers were an excellent training tool to improve my cycling performance.

Right now, I’m also starting my own coaching business. Working with just one athlete now. If anyone is interested in triathlon or/and duathlon coaching you can contact me at: ajeeckman@comcast.net

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