2004 Duke Half Ironman
Warming up For Fall Ironman in Raleigh NC
by Devashish Paul
The Duke Liver Centre Half Ironman is held every year in mid September at Lake Jordan just outside Raleigh North Carolina. Over the past few years, the race has raised over $250,000 for the Duke Liver Centre. It is one of the major events in the North Carolina Triathlon Series organized by Set-Up Inc (www.set-upinc.com). The NCTS is the largest triathlon race series in the USA. Set Up Inc are the same folks that bring you the Duke Blue Devil full Ironman distance race in October also in Raleigh, a race that race director Bill Scott claims is 10x the effort of the Duke Half Ironman!
As usual, this year’s race held on Sep 12th was a sellout and featured a strong field of amateur athletes from around the Atlantic region. This was the 8th year that the race has been held – all at that venue. The State Park rangers had held the event to a race cap of 600 but aside from parking it appeared that the course might accommodate several hundred more participants! This was a great late season event for many athletes, and for a number of others a great way to check out the gears to see how all the systems were progressing leading up to fall Ironmans such as the Blue Devil in Raleigh, the Great Floridian, Ironman Hawaii or Ironman Florida.
The swim in Lake Jordan featured a lake swim with choppy water and on race morning it was announced that the water was above 80 degrees so no wetsuits. The course seemed suspiciously long with only one swimmer sub 30 min and only 36 swimmers going sub 40 min. Most felt it was 5-6 minutes longer than a standard half ironman swim. With the warm water temps the USAT officials made the right decision in going with no wetsuits. Otherwise athletes would have cooked in all that rubber and there would have likely been some dehydration induced spectacular bonks on the bike and run.
The bike featured a 56.8 mile loop on rolling terrain surrounded by forest and farms, largely sheltered from strong headwinds. This was a course where your mid weight grinder could excel. The hills are not very large, and the downhills are not steep enough to coast, but were ideally suited to hammering at 50 + kph in the 12 tooth cog. Most of the course could be done in the aero position and in fact if athletes were not careful, spending large amounts of time in that position would make the run off the bike difficult.
Finally, the run consisted of two off road loops on a gravel road and grassy trails with a quad grinding mile long climb pretty well right out of T2. On race day the heat that can envelope the Carolinas in September held off thanks to the remains of hurricane Frances having flown through earlier in the week and cooled things. The temperatures rose into the 80′s which one might consider as relatively benign given the meltdown days that were featured on race day in previous years.
The Women’s Event
The transition zone was pretty well pitch dark until well past 6:30 am, so athletes set up under some mobile flood lights. The top ladies were all racked in the first rack of elite competitors. Local athletes Stacey Ricahrdson and Alicia Parr were expected to go head to head. The sun rose just before 7 am and the elite men and women along with the elite masters men and women headed out. Stacey pulled ahead of Alicia emerging from the water with a two minute lead. Regardless two were duking it out with the top men. Onto the bike, Alicia closed the gap on Stacey surging ahead. But back in the age group field a couple of fast ladies were posting some serious bike splits that would have put them in the top 25 men. Both Kristina Noordstar and Katherine Clewey were making up serious ground after giving away over 15 minutes to the top ladies on the swim. They were closing in the “virtual race” that was spread apart between the wave starts. Back to the “head to head race” Stacey and Alicia were now fighting a royal battle on the run. After 1.2 miles of swimming, 56.8 miles on the bike and 13 miles of running it came down to the final 200 m or so.
Post race, Alicia said that the last thing she wanted to have to do was to run really hard at that point. “But, when I somehow ended up so close behind Stacey in the closing miles, I knew I owed it to the spectators & 20 or so people out on the run course that updated me on her position and encouraged me to close in. I finally had Stacey in sight with just under a couple miles to go. I just hung in on the gravel road downhill section, hoping I could close in further, but I don’t know that I did much of that. The plan was to hit the pavement and accelerate. The crowd went CRAZY. I wasn’t able to get by Stacey before she realized what was going on and responded, and maybe I could have pulled off one more small surge if there hadn’t been a 90 degree turn into the narrow finish chute”. Stacey Richardson held off Alicia Parr for what seemed to be the overall win.
But hang on, back in the age group field, Christina Noordstar and Kathryn Clewey were putting together runs that would put them in the top 15 men’s splits. In doing so, they vaulted themselves into the first two spots in the ladies race. The top four women finished within a minute of one another, coming in between 5:04 and 5:05. Clearly it was an incredible race. One might debate the format. With no real professionals in the field, the elite field was essentially open for top age groupers. Perhaps that group needs to include all the top age group podium potential athletes so that they can all race head to head in wave of perhaps 100 athletes. The format was excellent, but one wonders if the outcome would be with all the top amateurs racing together.
The Men’s race
While the women’s race provided a high dosage of drama, the men’s race did not quite provide the same excitement. Marty Gaal, a Florida based coach (www.martygaal.com), managed to come out of the water in second place in 30:32, and quickly set to work on the bike. He quickly took the lead on the bike logging the second fastest bike split of the day at 2:27.06. Marty said that he felt OK after the swim but his legs weren’t turning over like he had hoped. Finally by mile 20 his legs were loose. He moved on in a low to mid zone 3.
Further back Cid Cordusa, owner of InsideOut sports (a top local and national triathlon specialty retailer) was trying to make up ground having given away a full 7 minutes in the swim. Like many triathletes juggling work and family, Cid stated that his swim training had been almost non existent since their third child had come along, but once onto the bike, he was ready to gain back time. While he gained little time on Marty (actually giving away another 40 seconds), he did pull away from the rest of the men’s field.
The only rival was Leroy Thomas, who had a weak 42 minute swim, but once on the bike and run was ready to “make back time”, posting the faster bike split of the day despite holding back on the bike. It was Leroy’s first crack at the half Ironman distance so he was really up against some veterans in Marty and Cid and was surprised to get off the bike in 4th place. Onto the run, Marty posted the second fastest run of the day, coming in just over 1:30, and Cid did manage to hold off Leroy who was closing until 9 miles in when in his words, “I was just hanging on by the skin of my teeth”;
The difficulty of the run course is demonstrated in these splits with only one athlete going sub 1:30. Marty was the only athlete sub 4:30, coming in at 4:29.40, while Cid Cardoso crossed the line in 4:38 and Leroy Thomas rounded off the podium at 4:41. Overall, these times were not particularly fast but the course was approximately 15 minutes slower than a typical “fast and flat course”.
About the Author
Devashish Paul is a 38 year old age grouper from Ottawa Canada. He raced in the elite field at the Duke Half Ironman, and was promptly spit out during the swim, recording the 86th overall swim split. From there, here logged top 10 bike and run splits to move into 8th overall, with a 4:52 which was his slowest half Ironman since the first one he did, way back at the 1986 Green Mountain Steelman in Brattleboro Veromot. He’s been racing a number of half Ironman races in eastern North America this year, including the Tupper Lake Half Ironman, Peterborough Half Ironman and the Canadian “half”; in his hometown in Ottawa. You can read some of the stories on these races in the xtri archive.
Link to article: http://www.xtri.com/a…..p;offset=1