Monday, June 25, 2012

RACE REPORT: Litchfield Hills Olympic Triathlon

...a surprisingly good race.

Have you ever had a race where you thought "ok, there goes this race!" and then turned around to be surprised that you did well?  that was my experience yesterday.  Bad cramp on the swim, biking legs that wouldn't fire, and a completely vacant running course.  And despite all that, I managed to finish within 30 seconds of my goal.

I was up at 4:20 AM.  I had my bowl of oatmeal mixed with peanut butter, three eggs over-easy, a banana with peanut butter, and a bit of OJ.  I got packed and was out the door by 5:15.  I arrived on site at 5:55 for a 6:00am transition open and was the second bike into transition!  Based on your number, you were positioned on a specific rack, but your position was first come first serve.  I, of course, got the very outside!  Same position I got in 2010.

I set up my gear, walked down to check the water temp (74-75), and hung out with some tri club friends 'till race time.  Given how warm the Friday swim was, I went without the wetsuit.  As much as I do like the buoyancy for longer swims, I didn't want to overheat.  And I'm glad I did go without as I heard a couple guys talking post-race about how they wanted to take the suit off mid-swim.

With three hundred athletes (including the triathlon, duathlon, aqua-bike, and relays), they had three waves.  Men were wave no.1, so we walked into the water.  I started chatting with a friend who borrowed a pair of goggles and mid conversation we hear some mumbling on the loud speaker.  It must have been "3... 2.. 1... Go" because before we could react, the mob swam off.

Overall, the swim wasn't great.  I swam strong to the first of two turn buoys, but half way to the second buoy I got a horrible side stitch.  I swam through it the best I could but it definitely hindered my time.  It was mostly gone by the time I hit the beach.  As per usual, I veered left of the group the entire swim.  I officially prefer counter-clockwise swims.  And I had my requisite "why in hell do I do this?" thought half way through.  Aside from that, the swim was quite uneventful.

SWIM - 24:33
Rank: 32nd

This was the exact same pace I hit at Rev3 (1:33/100yd), so if I could have avoided the cramp, I would have beat my pace.  Always good to have those hind sight notes. 

This tri is unique in that it has a 0.25 mile uphill run to transition.  Most athletes bring an extra pair of shoes down to the waterfront to wear running up the hill since it's a rock/gravel road.  In 2010, I used an extra pair of shoes.  This year I was smart and brought my cycling shoes which in reality are an old pair of running shoes.  I spotted my shoes after getting off the beach, slipped my tri jersey up to my hips, slipped on my shoes, and ran up the road.  On the run, I managed to get my arms in the jersey and zip it up.  Once I got to transition, it was a quick change and off we go!

T1 - 2:53
Rank: 3rd

On my way the mounting line, I looked down and thought "Wait, something's not right."  My aero bottle was backwards - the straw was out at the end away from me.  I wasn't about to stop and spend a minute fixing it, so I just chuckled and mounted up.  I will also point out that the Minoura rear hydration bottle cage holder makes my flying mounts more difficult in it's upside down position.  I attempted two mounts before I realized it was the bottle I kept hitting.  Live and Learn.

I knew Billy - a friend from my tri club - was just ahead of me.  We both wear the pink LBS jersey and it's quite easy to pick out.  I had been riding better than him at the sprints, so I was excited to catch him early.  Sadly, that never happened.  He had an awesome race.  The first 4 miles of the bike course are rollers where I managed to hit 49.98 mph and then it's 10 miles of flat/downhill.  As much as I tried to pick up the pace, my legs felt dead.  They just wouldn't fire.

And within that same stretch, my aero bottle fell off.  I've known the unit doesn't fit the bike well for awhile, but this was the first launch I'd had.  In the end, it was good.  There's no way reaching that far ahead to drink would have been safe.

For 12 miles, I tried my best to pick up the speed and catch up to the group I knew was up ahead.  My legs could never manage it.  I resigned to knowing I wasn't going to have the bike split I wanted today.  At the turn onto Rt. 202, the incline started.  My mantra for the hills was "steady."  The hills killed my run in 2010 and I wasn't about to let that happen again.  Again, I tried pushing the pace on every flat/downhill, but the legs wouldn't have it.

Ever have a cow crossing in a race?

With roughly 5-6 miles to go, there was a volunteer in the middle of a long road.  As I approached I thought "there's no turn here, why are they here?"  As I came up to her, she yelled "Cow crossing ahead.  Be careful."  And wouldn't you know, just around the next bend, there was a cow on the side of the road munching on some grass and taking a sh*#.  Haha.  Good old farm country!  That was a race first for sure.

I managed the bad road conditions up through the turn onto Bruning Rd.  There were a couple volunteers directing us to turn and as I came through I yelled "Yay, hills!"  They had a good laugh at that.  This two mile stretch had four to five hills on it.  I spent the hills in my two lowest gears and did my best to pick up some speed on the flats.  My main goal was to make it to the top with legs that would still fire for the run.  And given how my legs felt already, I wasn't sure how the run was going to go anyways.

I got passed by a few people, but nothing that I didn't expect.  The spectators were great along this stretch and I thanked every single one of them for cheering!  In 2010, it was so desolate that I really just wanted to get off the bike and quit.  Without incident, I made it to the top and my legs felt ok.  I also glanced at my watch - 1:11:xx (my goal was 1:11:26)  So wait, my legs felt dead the entire bike, but I still managed to be 0.5 miles from T2 and be at goal?!  I guess it wasn't such a horrible ride after all.  Oh, PS. I did the bike blind (no computer). 

But I had one more surprise coming...  

As I approached the dismount line, I heard "Behind you."  Before I registered that I needed to avoid braking too fast, I knew it was Scruffy, another friend from the tri club.  His goal was to catch me on the bike and he JUST did.  I found out later that my pink jersey made for a great target on the final hills.  haha  There's no being secretive when you look like a pink highlighter!

BIKE - 1:11:50
Rank: 49th

Apparently my "dead legs" were just being pushed harder than I thought.  Given the noted 24.8 mile course, I averaged 20.7 mph.  And again, in hindsight, if I could find a way to avoid the dead legs, I could have pushed faster. 

I made it into transition ahead of Scruffy and knew I had to get out on the run course and put some distance between us.  Thankfully, I had less to switch and was on the run first.  However, given that the lateral arch of my right foot has been bothering me the last few days, I wasn't sure how well I was going to manage this run.  I'm pretty sure it's just bruised and needs a few days to heal up, but I didn't have the time mid-race.

T2 - 0:34

As soon as I crossed the timing mat, I could feel my foot; it wasn't a horrible pain but it was enough to cause me to wince at times.  And the worst part was that the first half mile was through trail and back up the very same gravel road we ran earlier to T1.  Every nook and cranny that put pressure on that part of my foot was painful.  I pushed through it hoping that I could simply ignore the pain and it wouldn't get worse.  When we hit the pavement, I was thrilled.  The pavement made it much easier to land more medial on my foot.  Thank God!

As I hit the turn onto the road, I yelled to the spectators "Did you see a pink jersey go by?"  They told me he was about 1:00 to 2:00 ahead.  Since running is now my strength, I screamed "Yeah!" and took off.  Despite never seeing him, Billy was my target the entire run. 

About 0.75 miles in, I checked in internally.  My foot was feeling better, my breathing was ok, and my legs felt great.  I didn't have anyone around me to push me, but it felt like I was running sub-7 already.  Awesome!!

Around mile 1 I passed Ken - super swimmer from our tri club (he had the 2nd best swim split) - and hit the start of the downhills.  My watch said 6:22 at mile 1 but I knew I had hit the lap late after T2.  I assumed it was an extra 30 seconds and justified a 6:50 mile 1.  Good.  I hit mile 2 at 6:30Mile 3 was around 6:45.  After that I didn't check, but those fast early miles had me feeling good.

One problem with the race today was that I felt isolated out on the run course.  There was a white jersey a few hundred yards behind me most of the run, I got passed by one guy around mile 4 and I passed maybe 5 people.  Aside from that, I spent 98% of the run trying to mentally push myself without a target to chase down.

The other "problem" was that the water stations were a bit spread out.  We had three stations and I felt supercharged after each of them having grabbed a cold water.  However, about a mile later I felt drained again.  Oh-well.  Everyone had to deal with it.

As I rounded the final turn, I had a couple guys come up on me.  One of them was a guy I swim with every Friday who is a phenomenal runner.  The other was someone else I could tell he was competing with.  We had 0.1 miles left and as they passed, I cheered them on and maintained pace.  Then I thought "I've been waiting this entire time for someone to push me.  Why am I letting this go?"  So I kicked it up the final hill and down the finisher's chute passing both of them.  They still managed a better run time, but we enjoyed the little competition.  I found out later that the "other guy" had run the fastest run split.  At least I can say I out kicked him.  haha

RUN - 43:42
Rank: 17th

Despite being 18 seconds behind my run goal, I'm psyched with this run.  And apparently I've become a much better runner compared to everything else.  Now it's time to focus on the bike!

FINISH - 2:23:30
Rank: 15th
2nd (of 9) in AG (M25-29)

We had a good HEAT turnout at the race, so I got to hang out with a number of the members.  After packing the car back up, I got some food.  They had a Peachberry Pie that was beyond delicious!!  And in a second attempt to avoid the post-race GI issues, I had three pieces of pie in order to get more calories.  With that and the brownie fudge explosion something ice cream and pizza I've eaten since being home, I've done well; no GI issues to speak of.  

Lastly, I managed to come away with 2nd place in my age group.  As awards, we got a beach ball and a Yanks Nutrition Box.  It's attached by velcro so I'm not so sure about it's sturdiness, but I will certainly be giving it a try. 

Overall, I had my bad moments during each section of the race, but still managed to come within striking distance of my goal time, so I'm happy.  It feels good to have a good race, but still have plenty of points to improve upon for later.


1.  Did you race this weekend?  If so, where, what, and how'd it go?

2.  What do you eat post-race?  Do you binge on whatever is in sight or are you picky?

3.  What's the one minor problem you hope against all odds won't happen to you on race day?
A wardrobe malfunction would be bad, but cramps still top my list.  I've learned to deal with them, but they hinder my performance as well as my mental game.

Swim fast.  Bike smart.  Run hard. 


Quix said...

Nice race, congrats on 2nd! Answers... no race this weekend (but one coming up soon!), I'm usually picky post race, I'll have a bite of what's offered at the race, but if I don't really love it, I'll wait and get what I really want on the way home, and I'm dreading the day I have a bike malfunction in a tri!!! Body issues I can get over, but I'm not much of a mechanic!

Suz and Allan said...

Congrats on getting 2nd in your AG!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on a great race despite not really "feeling" it!!

SupermomE13 said...

Congrats on an awesome race!! :)

Coy Martinez said...

Sounds like you had a pretty good race, cow and all! :) 2nd in that age group is huge! A competitive group you're in!

Bron said...

No racing at the moment as we're off season here. First race is in Sept.

I feel like eating everything in sight but generally I settle for some electrolyte drink, a muesli bar and a banana. Dinner that night is always big.

I think my worst fear is a GI "accident" which I've managed to avoid so far. I have had a bike malfunction though which resulted in a DNF which was heart breaking....