Friday, August 26, 2011

Race Report - Rattlesnake Olympic Triathlon

The plan for the summer was to enter a few races for fun and milk my IMTX training for all it was worth.  Why I decided to do yet ANOTHER Olympic race, I have no idea... especially considering there was a Sprint the next day.  But the Oly was my club's race and the price was right.  I was actually close to signing up for the back-to-back (oly and sprint), but somehow I was smart and decided that the oly would be plenty.  Coming into this race, my swimming has been eh (not liking my new team at all), cycling has been non-existant (3 rides in 6 weeks, all crammed into the last 10 days before the race!).  Running has been ok, doing 6 mile runs regularly.  Not enough for my upcoming half mary, but plenty for an oly.

This race was set up very strangely.... the swim was a 2 loop swim, where you pop up at the end of the first loop and run on the beach for ~100 feet and head back into the water.  I did that in a race last year and hated it.  The swim start was also very funky - time trial (meaning you start 5 seconds apart), and the start order was women first, oldest to youngest.  Blech.  And it was a "run from the beach" sorta start, which meant you run in and (if you're smart) dolphin dive to get rolling. 


Really weird bike racking in transition
Getting to the venue was ridiculously easy.  Took me maybe 20 minutes to drive, and that was taking the long, non-toll road way.  Got to the parking lot (right next to transition!) at 6 AM.  Transition was really funky.  Instead of having rows of racks, they had these weird little bike stand thingies that you see in front of stores that hold ~4 bikes.  The stands were scattered about and space was pretty tight in between the "rows".  Since I got there early, I snagged an aisle spot.  This was good because I could use the aisle for transition and I didn't have to worry about the tight rows.  They forgot to turn off the sprinklers that morning, which meant transition was full of puddles.  Quite a few people were complaining, but its not like you come out of the lake dripping wet anyways. 

They offered body marking inside transition, which must be a Colorado thing (Boulder Peak had that too).  I really like this because you don't get the bottleneck into transition. 

puddles and awkward transition area - but look at all the
room I have
I got everything set up and chatted with some friends from my tri club.  Said hi to my other Team Sony teammate who was racing.  Then it was time to make the big "wetsuit or no wetsuit decision".  I headed to the water and waded in about mid-thigh.  Everyone was wearing wetsuits.  They claimed the water temp was 71 - it felt more like 75.  I decided (again) to not wear the wetsuit and wear my Torque.  (Bear in mind, I bought a sleeveless wetsuit in July to wear this summer, and I've never even tried it on yet.....).  I ran back up to transition to grab my Torque and to stow the rest of my stuff at the club tent.  Then it was time to cram into the Toque and get into line, where I was one of maybe 10 people not wearing a wetsuit.  I was the only one in a speedsuit, everyone else simply didn't own or rent a wetsuit.  Hmmm, not too sure about my decision now....

swim start - rawr!
The swim start was awkward.  You had to line up by number.  I was 196 out of ~400 people, and 5 seconds apart meant I was standing around for 16 minutes.  I think I prefer wave starts, as you know when you start and there's not so much mulling around.  So, once I FINALLY made my way to the start chute, you stand single file on the beach.  The woman in front of me left, and then I had a guy with a stopwatch count me down.  I heard "GO" and took off.  I've only done one beach start before, and that was as a relay and I was combined with all the 20-25 year old men.... so I let them go ahead and I held back so I wouldn't die.  This time I wanted to be aggressive.  I took ~4 running steps with high knees once the water was to my knees I dove in.  I think I executed this pretty well - I felt fast and my goggles stayed on.  The swim was a really weird out and back, with a u-turn.  The buoys were connected with a yellow floating rope.  So, my goal was to just stay on the rope the whole time.  This worked pretty well.  I hit the buoy and turned 180 degrees and was met by 2 women who were treading water or doing breastroke RIGHT AFTER THE TURN.  WTF?!?!  I had to swim between them, but as I did, I yelled (I think) "not a good place for social hour ladies".  That pissed me off.  Ugh.  I had a harder time navigating the rope on the way back and I had some chicky in a pink wetsuit decide to swim RIGHT next to me.  Fine.  I survived IMTX with no wetsuit - game on chicky.  That continued on for basically the whole back end of the first loop.... at the end, I swam until I could touch sand with my hands, jumped out, ran my ~100 feet in the sand, (made a comment to the photographer about that moment being cute/horrible), then ran and dolphined in for the second loop.

running into the water to start the
second loop
For some reason, my navigation wasn't great for the second loop.  I think I got a bit lazy, knowing the yellow rope was there.  Only the course was more congested, so I had to swim wide at times, which meant I should have been sighting but wasn't doing so as much as I should have.  I had the same pink wetsuit chicky bouncing off of me - I actually converted this into drafting.  If she was going to swim close to me, I was going to benefit from it!  I hit the turn and hugged the yellow rope for a while, which turned out to be an error.  The race finish was actually quite a ways to the left of the swim start, only it wasn't marked with buoys!  Finally I realized that hey, I should look for the red finish flags", and found them. Then it was a weird open expanse of a swim, with only the red flags on the beach to guide me.  (different colored buoys would have been helpful here....)  Things finally got a bit congested towards the end - once again, I swam until I could touch sand with my hands, then I popped up and ran up the hill to transition.

this doesn't look as awkard as
it felt.....
From the water, you have to run up the beach, up the grass, to the wetsuit strippers, then up more to a sidewalk, then UP MORE to transition.  They had strippers for this race (yay!), so I was trying to jog a steady pace while wrestling out of my Torque.  I needed to get it down past my hips before the strippers so they could pull it off w/out damaging it.  I got the top part down pretty easy, but when I grabbed on to pull it past my hips, I caught my tri shorts and almost pulled them down too.  Oops! 

Near-clothing malfunction aside, I finally got the thing past my hips and ran up to the strippers who were all "WTF?" when they saw my Torque.  I told them it was mostly like a wetsuit and all they had to do was grab and pull.  They did and I was off for MORE running up the dang hill.  I finally made it into transition where it was super easy to spot my bright yellow bike.  A quick socks on, shoes on, helmet on, glasses on, racebelt on, and I grabbed the bike and was out to start the bike.  Also: my club was volunteering in transition and it was SO NICE to hear people cheering for me. 

So I rode the course the week prior (after not riding my bike for 6 weeks) and it was hilly.  Not ridiculously so, but it wasn't going to be easy.  Fortunately, it was not windy, so I had that in my favor. 

brown grass and power lines
not very scenic
For the first few miles, you wind around the reservoir park.  Not really sure why they just didn't extend the course on the main road by another ~2 miles, but for whatever reason, we got to ride on really crappy chip seal with decent hills.  Fun after swimming!  Once out of the park, I focused on getting my HR down to something in the 150's and getting my cadence comfortable. Bike was mostly uneventful... I passed some people, mostly going downhill.  I always push the downhill so that momentum will help me up the hill on the other side.  So, that resulted in a game of leapfrog - I'd pass people going down and they'd pass me going up.  Definitely need to work on going up hills if I'm going to be any good racing here.

The bike course is a simple out and back on varied road surfaces. Concrete, asphalt, bumps over bridges, and chip seal.  I hate chip seal.

A compliating personal feature for my ride was my full bladder.  It felt full during the swim (which I ignored) and now it felt full on the bike at ~mile 10.  There wasn't anywhere to stop and I didn't think the remainder of the ride would be fun with a full bladder, so I pee'd on the bike.  And I was proud of this!  I made sure I didn't have anyone near me (no witnesses!), and propped myself way back on the seat and let things go.  It was a bit icky (and I felt bad for my bike), but I knew there would be water at the turn around that I could use to rinse myself with.  I felt badass and much better.

The final hill is this up, flat, up, flat, up push to the turnaround.  It just goes on foreverl  On the second to last hill before the turn around, I dropped my chain.  I guess this was Buzz's way of paying me back for peeing on him.  Unfortunately, due to going uphill, I didn't have momentum to fix it on the fly (although I tried), so I had to stop, dismount, and fix it.  My Garmin was on auto-stop (I really need to turn that off for races!) so I don't know how much time I lost... but if I had to guess it was 30 seconds.  I hopped off, did what I needed to do and hopped back on.  Hardly got any bike grease on me either.  Then I had to start the climb from a dead stop.  Boo.

Turn around was uneventful.  I got water to rinse the ickyness off me and got back to work.  Since I dropped my chain, it was tempting to push hard to regain my position.  However, I still had 10+ hilly miles AND a 10k run to get through.  As much as I wanted to push, I knew a steady pace would be much better.  And in the end, I ended up catching back up to some of the people who passed me.

As I approached transition, you have to go on those lovely chip seal roads UPHILL back to transition, which sucks.  I was having a hard time, and I figured that after 23 miles (and little training) that I was losing my legs.  It just got tough and for no reason.  (the next morning, my back tire was dead flat.... not sure if it was going flat on the bike though).  While I was riding, I was determined to have a quick transition.  I was tired of getting to my rack and blankly starring at things, only to finally realize I was in a race and get moving... and have a crappy T2 time.  So while I was riding back, I actually thought about transition, what I needed to do and the order.

I came screaming in on my bike and ran into T2.  Again, I was happy for my aisle spot, as it was super easy to park my bike.  I fiddled with my garmin, and while I did that, I said "HEY - multitask!" to myself, so I unclipped my helmet at the same time.  Got all that done, swapped shoes, and then grabbed the rest of my run stuff (hat, water, garmin) so I could put that on during the run.  My transition was focused and FAST.  Go me!

this is the happiest I've felt
running in a race in a long time
I made a race-day decision on my footwear.  I normally run in Brooks Adrenaline 11's but I also own some Newton Motion shoes and love them.  I just don't run in them all that often.  The one time I raced in them I ended up PR'ing on the run and placing 5th overall in my age group.  My feet fly in these shoes.  But if the run is on an uneven surface (trails) Newtons are a bad choice, as its easy to turn an ankle.  I brought both shoes, but once I heard the run was 100% concrete, I knew it would be a Newton sort of day.

Also, during the run for both IMTX and Boulder Peak, I had really bad stomach issues.  I was a bit gun-shy for this race and was very conservative with my nutrition.  I probably under-drank on the bike (on purpose).  And for the run, I carried only water and had a gel in case I needed it. 

I got out of transition and my feet were flying.  I kept looking at my watch and seeing a ~9:30 pace.  I told myself to slow down and it just didn't happen.  Finally after the first mile, I knew the heat would eventually get me, so I gave my feet permission to fly along as long as I could handle the heat.  The first 3 miles were SO MUCH FUN. 

this is my "I'm hurting but will try to
smile" face
gooo Team Sony!
Effortless running.  It was amazing.  And better yet, my stomach was cooperating!  Then at the turn around (3 miles) the heat hit me.  I ran to the 4th mile aid station and then I just got hot.  My heart rate hit 180, and that's my personal HR limit, especially when you have 2 miles left to run.  So I did some run/walk business to get my HR under control.  I was also getting a bit dizzy (under nutrition) so I had a tiny bit of gel to get that taken care of. There was one girl in my age group, who I was just behind on the bike before I dropped my chain.  She was having trouble, so I made it my goal to ease up, but not so much that she'd beat me.  This proved to be decent motivation and by the 5th mile, I couldn't even see her behind me anymore.  The final mile was a bit ugly, mostly because of the heat and these lame little hills.  More walking.  Then I finally sucked it up and ran the last half mile, as fast as I could.  I don't remember the pace at the end, but it probably wasn't as fast as I'd like.  I was trying to push and it just wasn't there.  Hit the chute and raised my arms - wanted to get a good pic in my Sony kit :)

I had to pick my mom up from the hospital at a yet-to-be-determined time that day, so I headed up to the club tent to check my phone for messages.  No messages - good!  I can partake of post-race activities!  They had bagel sammiches (so much better than pizza), cookies, fruit, pop, and beer.  I sat at a table with my club-friends (I can't tell you how happy I am to have friends at races again!).  I ate my stuff, figured I'd hung around long enough, and headed up to transition to grab my stuff.  My club had beer at the tent, so I stuck around to drink half a beer (it wasn't that good), then I grabbed my stuff and drove home.

Goal for today was to avoid stomach issues.  I modified my pre-race food.  Normally I have a Honey Stinger protein bar and coke zero about 2 hrs before the race.  I think the protein bar messed with me during Boulder Peak, so I swapped that for a Powerbar.  Stomach was ok during the swim and great on the bike.  I mixed up a 2 hr drink in my 40z oz bike reservoir and was careful to not chug it.  I also normally have a gel on the bike for the oly-distance, but today I was being cautious and stuck to drink only.  That seemed to work as my stomach felt great during the first part of the run.  For the run, I carried water and had a gel for emergencies.  I took a swig of gatorade at mile 1 or 2 (I can't remember), which ended up hurting a tiny bit so I quit that altogether.  Then after mile 3 I started getting a bit dizzy.  I ripped open a gel and took in maybe 1/4 of it.  Just enough to get some sugar in but not enough to mess with my stomach.  This seemed to work as the dizziness went away but my stomach was ok.  Maybe next time I'll go a bit heavier on the bike with calories. 

Swim - 29:04 (2 minutes faster than last year's 2 loop with run oly distance swim).  Age Group - 10/33 Overall - 160 / 397.  Was expecting to be a bit higher up with that time.  Also, people were commenting that the swim was short, which I believe.  My swim time included not only my swim, but also my long run uphill AND the strippers.

T1 - 1:29 (fastest T1 to date, probably because the chip mats were right at the transition entrance)

Bike - 1:28:37 / 16.83 mph.  Age Group - 19/33 Overall - 297 / 397.  For reference, last year's Oly (which was FLAT) was in 1:25 with no mechanical issues or hills.  So I'd call this a success.  Especially with my lack of training.

T2 - 0:20.  Yes, 20 SECONDS. I was hoping for under a minute.  I have no idea how I did this.  I'm pretty sure that I can't even change shoes while standing up in 20 seconds.

Run - 1:06:40 / 10:45 min/mile pace.  PR by 4 minutes.  Age Group - 23 / 33 Overall 303 / 397

Overall Time: 3:06:10  PR by 23 minutes (Boulder Peak) and by 28 minutes (Houston Tri, Sept 2010).  GO ME.

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