Two Half Ironman triathlons. Four tough athletes. One man giving a triumphant thumbs-up from the winners’ podium. In math class, those numbers add up to seven. But in racing, they add up to Zone 5.
After launching the 2016 triathlon season with a strong showing in May’s Olympic-length St. Anthony’s Triathlon, the Zone 5 racing team kicked its goals up a notch in June, fielding athletes in longer middle-distance races two weeks in a row.
Week 1 was the Raleigh 70.3 race on Sunday, June 5, in North Carolina. On the upside, Coach Andrew Hanlon notes, “The bike course was awesome — smooth roads and lots of good, steady climbs.” On the not-so-pleasant side, there were the challenges facing Zone 5 racers Hanlon, Andy Kay, and Matt Kraynak — including absolutely brutal heat that crept upward every hour until it was pushing 90 degrees with 97 percent humidity.
At 80 degrees, even the water temp was hot, which meant swimmers had to dig in tough and tackle large rollers without wetsuits. “It was a hard day for everyone,” Hanlon says. “We were just happy to get to the after-party at our spot, Jimmy V’s.”
The following Sunday, June 12, Zone 5 headed to Cambridge, Maryland, where team member Michael “Purple” Mays was determined to conquer the Eagleman 70.3. Coach Hanlon was keeping a wary eye on the temperature after Raleigh: “Eagleman is always super hot. No matter what the weather’s been like leading up to it, it will be hot on race day. That makes getting in the proper nutrition and hydration critical.”
He was right — it turned out to be another 89-degree weekend. But Mays was on point. A 33-minute swim started him out in seventh place. A strong, steady bike ride moved him up to within five minutes of his division leader. And as the heat threatened to get the best of everyone, Mays battled on through to take fifth place in his division, winning a spot on the podium.
“To be able to keep it together in those super-rough conditions and bring it home just really embodies the spirit of all the Zone 5 athletes,” Coach Hanlon says. “We are incredibly excited for Mike — and can’t wait for his next performance.”