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Bone Island Tri - Half Iron Course - Triathlon

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Key West, Florida
United States
Questor Multisport & Set Up Events
81F / 27C
Total Time = 6h 40m 46s
Overall Rank = /
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

My family, 3 little boys 8, 5 and 3 years old, and my wife traveled to Key West on 1/23/2014. We flew to Ft. Lauderdale and drove the 184 miles. Not sure I would do that drive again, but it gave me an early indicator of traffic I would experience on the bike on race day!

I am a relative newbie in this world. I did my first sprint in June 2012, plus the Luray Tri 2x (one sprint and one Olympic) for a total 3 triathlons, So I’m about 18 months into this addicting sport.

Prior to Bone Island, I trained for 13 weeks (in the cold), utilizing this plan

I felt as prepared as I could, without having any previous experience/imaginaiton of a race this distance.

Friday, January 22nd

The pre race meeting expo was small, and I got all checked in around noon Friday. The pre race meeting was a simple and a regurgitation of the race packet. We had noticed the poor road surfaces on US 1 driving in, and there were lots of questions around this. No answers. Too much hype. The word "expo" shouldn't have been used. Very small, and loud during the race meeting.

I drove down the coast to the transition area and found RaceDay Sports. They transported my bike. I met Mark, their President, and there was my bike, my Cannondale CAAD 10. I was very impressed with their service, and I would highly recommend them. My bike came home today (1/31/14).

The transition area was at a gorgeous beach called Higgs Beach, and it took over their parking lot. I noted the swim entrance to transition and the bike and run exit, racked my bike at transition, and was free to enjoy the day with my family. I agree that the entrance and exit's set up helped some and greatly hurt others.

Event warmup:

Saturday January 23rd. Race Day

I thought I would have trouble sleeping, but slept great. I was up at 4:30 and took my time getting ready. A cab zoomed me to the transition area just before 6am. I really enjoyed the energy and the banter as everyone prepared. I was pretty proud of my set up, as I have a hard time making my bed! There was about 420 ppl registered for ½ IM, and around 100 for the full IM. I really enjoyed chatting with new friends from Tampa and Virginia. Where was the music? Where was the announcer? Where was the lighting? Oh, yeah. It was there, but just not on. no announcements so around 7am we began the 1 mile walk up to the swim start. Apparently last year there were buses. The walk did not bother me as the sun was coming up and the morning couldn’t have been more gorgeous. The race start was from Smather’s beach, an absolutely stunning place to watch the sun rise, or to do really anything for that matter. The water was around 67 degrees to match the air temperature.

  • 00m
  • 2112 yards
  • / 100 yards

We arrived at Smathers beach with still 35/40 minutes until the 8am start. My wave was 8:15. In April of 2012, I could barely swim one lap across a 25 meter pool. From a complete beginner, I had been practicing and taking periodic lessons, and had worked very hard on this swim portion. Doing so, I had gained a huge amount of respect for swimmers in the process. I never dreamed that I would be excited to try a 1.2M open water swim. But I was. My goal was to average 2 minutes per 100M. Not fast, but this would have been a huge victory for this beginning swimmer. That would bring me in around 39 minutes.

The water was gorgeous, a bit choppy, and when the horn went off, I decided to enjoy it and began looking for the man of war they had warned us all about! By the time I reached the first bouy, I realized that I’d have to breath towards shore only because of the waves. I I really enjoyed the experience. I felt strong and confident. But as I sighted at what I thought should be the half way point, something felt wrong. Either I was going slower than I thought, or I was off course….. or something.

The last turn bouy headed us back to shore. This was confusing, as the finishing bouy had deflated so we all moved in general direction and I hoped the person in front of me was on target. Wet suit strippers were waiting on the dock. I never thought I’d write “wet suit strippers.” Mine was a young kid. My suit caught on my watch. It added about 90 seconds to my transition, so next time I will solo strip!

They had promised fresh water showers. A lady sprayed me in the crotch with a hose. There was also very few people directing traffic (people). This was a challenge all day.

My watch said I completed the swim in 52 minutes. It wouldn’t be until after the race that I found out the swim was marked and measured incorrectly for the half IM. It was actually 1.6 miles, instead of 1.2M. This was confirmed by dozens of athletes. Is this kind of mistake common? I swam in 1:53/per 100 yards, so I just missed my goal of 2M per 100 Meters. But I was faster than ever before in open water. Overall, very disappointed on the administration here.
Transition 1
  • 00m
  • 00m
  • 56 miles
  • 0.00 mile/hr

A good tranistion onto the bike. I took it easy and followed many experienced triathletes advice about settling in and getting nutrients. Throughout the bike I had 2 bottles of perpetuem, 2 bottles of water, 2 bananas and 2 Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a big mac. Plus a whole lot of water on my head and chest.

I knew it was coming, and immediately was hit by a 15 mph wind head on! It wasn’t as bad as I thought, and actually felt pretty good for a while.

I’ve admitted my lack of experience, but the bike course was dangerous. US 1 has two foot shoulders on a 2 lane 2 direction highway. The course was littered with gravel. There had been some blacktop paving done recently, which would be good, except that the shoulder was occasionally fully paved and occasionally half paved. Thus the shoulder dropped from 2 feet of black top to 1 foot on and off, which a precarious 2 inches of uneven pavement where your tires were seconds before.

At the 25 mile mark I was next to a Coke truck, a 24 wheeler for about 5 minutes with no room on either side. It was like he was a refueling plane and he was trying to link up with me, we were so neck in neck. The gravel and uneven roads, made one wish for a mountain bike and kept the journey a bit too white knuckle for my liking. There was one awful accident. No word yet on the poor fella who was hit by a motorist. I was warned about the bike course from reading last year’s race report. Post race many riders communicated that they would not be back, specifically because of the bike. Lesson learned.

At the half way mark, riders had police assistance to cross over US 1, but we had to wait. Because of heavy traffic, the police would stop traffic only once in a while. My group of cyclists had to wait 5 minutes to cross (NORMAL???). Again, my first long course, but this seemed odd, as different riders had different delays at the 28 mile mark.

Coming back, I felt like I was flying, as the wind was now at my back. I was able to pass (while praying) a few dozen folks on that narrow highway. I felt strong, but probably pushed too hard the last 20 miles on the bike.

The bike course and surface was promoted as good to excellent. Crappy to OK would be more accurate. From other athletes comments and race reports, this was a precarious course. I’m not sure if Key West has a solution, unless one lane of two lane highway is closed, which is never going to happen.

I completed the bike in 3 hours 10 minutes (including the 5 minute wait to cross the highway), which was just about where I had hoped / expected.
Transition 2
  • 00m

The 2nd transition was .. well stiff. My back was bothering me and I was excited to get going. The run started onto the sand briefly and then onto Atlantic blvd. My back hurt so badly (stiffness from the bike) that I was counting increments in quarter miles praying it would loosen up. It never did loosen, and lower back flexibility is an area I know I’ll need to work on for the next race.
  • 00m
  • 13.1 miles
  •  min/mile

The run was pancake flat indeed, and stayed along the seawall. Stunning! Aqua green/blue water. Wow. We ran around the southern most point of the US, onto a pier….. which was cool… the first 2 times anyway.

But overall, the run was off on your own. No spectators.

The first loop of the run I survived. But with a stiff back, I had a hard time falling into my normal rhythm. I hadn’t experienced this during my brick training. Heat? Hydration? Nutrients? The course was 3 loops, the first two 5.5 miles, and the last, 2.1 mile. Each loop finished right around or at the finish line. This caused more than a bit of confusion, as there was a combination of runners finishing and or looping, all converging on the same small corridor. Complete chaos actually, as many families thought that their loved one had completed the triathlon at super human speed, when they were just getting started. There was no way to identify who was honest, or who wasn't. But I can't imagine training all that time and cheating.

The locals seemed to have no or little idea a triathlon was coming. Most of the run was on a gorgeous seawall in and out of vacationers coming to and from the beach. They were not impediments at all and it was no fault of their own. Just pointing out that there is not much in crowd knowledge or support, not like running through the bronx for the NYC marathon (so I’ve heard).

The last 8 miles were very difficult for me. That’s an understatement. I couldn’t will my body to move as I knew it could/should/had. Even though this was the most painful part of the tri, it was also the part where I learned the most, and became fascinated by sport psychology and preparation. The more exhausted I became, the more I knew there was a solution and wanted another shot at these 8 miles (somewhere in the future).

Even when I thought I was moving quickly, my watch kept sucking my joy by dishing out a garmin of reality. I understand now what ATC panelists and books mean when they say that nutrition is different for every person. I followed a nutrition plan to a T, but now know I will need to adjust. My run came in at 2:29:35, a good 20 minutes off my goal. I set the goal by adding 10 minutes to my only ½ marathon.

Post race
Event comments:

Post Race Tid Bits.

Only pizza and soda when I finished the race. HUH?

They really pumped up the after party, and that was the problem with this race. It was misleading advertising. Keywest was gorgeous. But little of what was promised was delivered.

I needed two full bags of IV fluid after the race. The temperature topped out at about 81°. Forecast predicted 65. The heat, after training in frigid temps, hit me hard I guess. The IV’s…. they went down like drinking water. Thank you to the great med staff in med tent!

Overall, I’m disappointed in myresults . And I’m frustrated that I’m disappointed with the results, as completing what I did Saturday would have been a small miracle 2 years ago. I finished in 6:40:46. I was hoping to come in at around 6:15 (based on nothing but needing a goal). But considering the swim was .4 miles too long, the bike had a 5 minute delay half way, that is about 15-20 minutes right there. So, I guess I was a lot closer than it looks. (On a side note: I’d love feedback on the swim course being off. This isn’t just my opinion. This has been confirmed by my not only my garmin, but dozens of other athletes and race reports. This was a USAT event. Who measures the course? USAT or the local staff?)

I’m looking for another ½ IM to conquer those last 8 miles, but I would not go back to Bone Island for many of the reasons written above. But even if I wanted to go back, I don't think this race will survive. The location was 10 out of 10, but for my next ½ I am going to find a more established race, or possibly just look for the IM logo. From what I’ve read and heard from you all, and friends in the Tri subculture, and now experienced, there can be a vast difference in quality of events. Would love opinions here about a good ½ IM that is family friendly. Family will travel!

The best part about this experience … well was the experience. We learn by doing. And I learned the ins and outs of a ½ IM and I learned a lot about myself, and what I want to work on moving forward. The distance is no longer daunting. I’ve gone from hating open water, to being excited about the next horn going off. The bike is slowly becoming my friend, and now if I can just learn how to safely eat while riding…. . My unknown is whether I started hitting a wall on the run because of nutrition, hydration, or run training, or a combination of them. I’m leaning towards the nutrition and hydration side, as my run and brick training was strong (albeit in 60 degree colder weather).

Even though the race could have been administered much better, thanks to the awesome volunteers that did their best to make the race day more enjoyable. A thankless job, so THANK YOU!

But most thanks to my beautiful family, … both the training and the travel.

Last updated: 2014-02-12 12:00 AM
00:00:00 | 2112 yards | / 100yards
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Start type: Plus:
Water temp: 0F / 0C Current:
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting:
Waves: Navigation:
Time: 00:00
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
00:00:00 | 56 miles | 0.00 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Wind: Strong
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 00:00
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
00:00:00 | 13.1 miles |  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Organized? No
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

2014-02-12 12:54 PM

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Subject: Bone Island Tri - Half Iron Course

2014-02-12 2:22 PM
in reply to: #4948456

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, Minnesota
Gold member
Subject: RE: Bone Island Tri - Half Iron Course

I  think you did a great job and have a really good attitude about the difficult conditions.   Sounds like a pretty negative experience due to the organizational issues.  I know the bike course issues were a "known" problem, but the mis-measured swim and other missed promises is NOT normal and not ok.

I will suggest my one and only half iron as a good option for you, especially since you are ok with travel and have the younger kids.  I did the Door County Half Iron.  Door County is a popular vacation area for families in Wisconsin and the race was spectacularly managed.  It is not an Ironman brand race, so it doesn't have the same hype, but it was very well done and has been around for a while.

Good luck in whatever you do!

2014-02-14 8:05 PM
in reply to: #4948456

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Subject: RE: Bone Island Tri - Half Iron Course
Congrats on the finish! This was my first 70.3 as well. I came down with a group from Michigan and was expecting a lot more from the hype. I, too, had my wife and 2 kids (ages 4 & 2), and for a mini vacation, I am not going to complain too much about the venue; however, it could have been done much better. There were times where I did fear for my life on the bike course and pretty confident I swam a hell of a lot farther than 1.2 miles. I don't have a waterproof Garmin, so I just went by other people's posts.

With regard to the run, did you notice they ran out of water on the run course out by Smather's beach? Yeah...that kinda sucked. Overall, I am chalking Bone Island up as a good training race. I learned a ton about pacing, nutrition, sunscreen, not putting ice in your water bottles to keep your gatorade cold (pretty much watered it down to nothing), amongst other things.

Even with it being in January again in 2015, I just don't see how Setup Events can redeem themselves from such a horribly run race. I have heard great things about B2B, and would like to do it someday, but this will be the time I do Bone Island.

Congrats again!

2014-03-01 6:28 AM
in reply to: #4948456

New user

Arlington, Virginia
Subject: RE: Bone Island Tri - Half Iron Course
I would highly recommend B2B for your next race. I did my first full this last October and it was very well run and very well supported by the community. I enjoy vacationing in the Keys but have to admit that I was a little perplexed when I saw the courses for the Bone Island--due to the exact issues you point out. I've also completed the MiamiMan Half which I would also recommend as well as the Patriot Half (another Set Up event) and I would recommend that too.
You should feel absolutely awesome about your accomplishment and look forward to the next one! For reference, I've done a number of Set Up Event races through the years--both in NC and in VA. I'm going to be doing at least one in MD this year and I've never had a bad experience. I did notice that they are not advertising any more Bone Island so I guess that they realize there are just too many issues to have a good race.
2014-03-01 9:09 AM
in reply to: Susan Kay

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Coastal Carolina
Subject: RE: Bone Island Tri - Half Iron Course
FWIW setup events will not be associated with Bone Island Triathlon anymore. Congratulations on the finish!
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