Monday, September 12, 2011

Race Report - Fall Frenzy Sprint Triathlon

This was my first (and only) sprint of 2011 - weird!

I signed up for this one mainly because it was 4 miles from my house.  Meaning: there was no excuse not to do it, since I could ride my bike to and from the race.  When I signed up, some weird flags went off in my head about the race organization, but I signed up anyways.  The swim was a 500 yard pool swim, so they asked that you provide your estimated time.  I wasn't sure how this was going to go, so I was fairly honest (but agressive) and I put down 8:10.  Turns out, they group you in heats by your (self) seeded number and you swim together as a group.  Soooo, if people weren't honest, it would lead to a bunch of frustration (on my part).  Also, they (for whatever reason - I guess so everyone finishes together?) have the slow swimmers go first, which means that I started towards the end of the race.   They did have a fast lane option, which was dedicated for the whole event, but you had to be able to swim 7:30 or faster.  In all honesty, even when I'm on my swim game, I don't think I could swim a 7:30, so I was just hoping I'd get a decent group.

I went to the pre-race meeting (actually I accidentally timed my packet pick-up at the start of the meeting, and we parked poorly, as in we parked right in the middle of the meeting and felt bad leaving when the meeting was going).  Soo, the race details got even more icky.  Apparently they take ~25 people around your proposed swim time and put you into a wave.  And then it was up to YOU while you're standing around waiting for your wave to find 4 other like-minded swimmers to swim with.  The race started at 7 AM - my wave was at 9:25.  UGH.  Apparently there were a ton of people seeded to swim the 500 yards in 23-25 minutes.  I can't even imagine how you could take so long swimming that.  I mean, that's almost 1 minute PER 25.  I think you would water-walk it faster than that.

So, I guess in an effort to make things nice for the later racers, transition never closed.  Typically in a race, transition closes ~30 min before the race starts.  That way, you don't have people mulling around haphazardly while people are running to and from their bikes.  An open transition meant that people could come and go as they please.  So, as I am leisurely setting up my bike, racers are running to and fro.  This did NOT sounds like a good idea to me.  Honestly, if I hadn't paid money, I may have decided on Saturday not to race.  Instead, I decided to suck it up and to try and go FAST.  I was secretly hoping for a podium spot, since I knew a bunch of speedy people were racing long at other races that day.  Based on past recent races, I should have some speed and I should be able to post a pretty decent time.

I set my alarm for 7 AM, woke up at 6:45.  I haven't slept in that late for a race since Boise 2010, which had a 2 PM start.  I leisurely dinked around the house for an hour then hopped on my bike and rode 4 miles to the race start.  I forgot my jacket in the garage and it was COLD.  That was the one good thing about starting later in the morning - riding my bike soaking wet out of the swim in 50 degree temperatures would be CHILLY.

I showed up to transition and it was really weird.  Most people had their areas set up and there were a few empty spots left.  You had to be very careful with where you racked you bike because in some cases, it was very hard to tell if the place was already taken.  A lot of the slower people were newbies and don't use cycling shoes.  Sometimes all you'd see in an "open" rack was a hat or maybe a bag - no running shoes, since they were using their running shoes on the bike.  Really weird.  I ended up finding a decent spot with a good amount of room and then marked my rack with hot pink duct tape, since I knew everything would look alike when I came into T2.

I then went and got my bike number (because they weren't in yet during packet pick-up!), got body marked (numbers were placed on my arms like normal, but also down the front of my shins :/ ), then I headed to the pool to see what the deal was.  It was around 8:30 and I had almost an hour to go.  I was very aware that things were going to get warmer the longer I waited so I scoped out the fast lane. 
Fast Lane: We will have a fast lane once again this year. In order to swim in this lane, you must have a swim time of 7:30 or faster AND be able to do flip turns. If you do not meet these qualifications and swim in the fast lane, you will be assessed a 5 minute penalty. Once we have moved through all the fast swimmers, we will open it up to the current heat the rest of the pool is on to speed things up. The fast lane will run from 8:00-9:30a.m.

People's race numbers were in reverse order of swim time (slower people had lower numbers).  I was watching the fast lane and there wasn't a line of swimmers waiting to swim, and they weren't getting 5 swimmers at once to swim.  Also, by around 8:45, the swimmers didn't appear to be all that fast.  It didn't seem to me that they weren't really enforcing the 7:30 pace rule, which meant I might be able to sneak into the fast lane. I began polling people with numbers similar to mine: "do you do flip turns?" EVERY single person said no.  So, my hope of finding a group of people around my pace to sneak into the fast lane was dashed.  No flip turns is a SURE sign that you don't belong.  (I still don't understand WHY you wouldn't do flip turns!?!?).  The current group of fast lane swimmers was nearing the end and I noticed that there were only 2 guys waiting around.  I went over there and talked to them.  Turns out they needed a 3rd swimmer so they could start the swim.  They were faster than I was (one guy was about 7:15, the other guy had no idea), so we arranged a swim order and I snuck in.  Success!

They had the 3 of us get in the water together, and they started us ~10 seconds apart.  For whatever reason, we decided I should go second in our group of 3.  This was my first non-tech-assisted swim of the year (meaning no wetsuit or speedsuit).  It was also my first time swimming in my Team SONY kit.  I did my first flip turn and *poof*. It turns out, my SONY tri shorts turn into a parachute during flip turns.  Lovely....   My swimming hasn't been great lately - my current team doesn't believe in swimming longer than 125 meters.  The longest I've swam since May is 200 meters, which is my cool down.  I haven't swam 500 yards straight since May and it showed!  The guy behind me passed me maybe halfway through.  He tapped my foot and I paused on the wall to let him by.  Then at maybe 350 yards, the first guy lapped me, but again, he was nice about it, tapped me, and I paused at the wall to let him by.  All this pausing killed my swim time though.  Blech.  Still, it was better than me trying to pass people, knowing that most male triathlete guys have huge egos and don't let people pass easily.  Normally, I like to descend my swim races, but I could tell I was fading.  I tried to keep my kick strong, but my arms and my breathing were no where near as strong as I like them to be.  Still, I finished ok and the guy who started behind me (who passed me) was still in the water when I touched the wall, so I couldn't have been too far behind.

The other lame thing about this swim is that they have you start at the far end of the pool, so once you're done, you hop out and run all the way around the pool (no running on the pool deck!) to get to the swim exit.  And THEN you hit the mat.  So who really knows what my swim time was.

"Swim" time : 8:55 (seeded for 8:10)

Age Group: 4/38
Overall: 54/333

They had you exit the indoor pool, run across a lawn to a parking lot, then you ran down the road adjacent to the parking lot and THEN you got up to transition.  It was maybe 200 meters or so of jogging?  Watching people (newbies mostly) made for some good entertainment.  Many people stashed clothes at the pool exit on the lawn and they were putting on shoes and clothes there instead of actually in transition.

I hit the door and kept my pace a nice fast jog.  As I was on the grass I heard a "Go Erin!" but I have no idea who was yelling it.  Still, it was nice to hear my name :) 

The rest of transition wasn't too exciting, just lots of quick jogging and grabbing my stuff.  Transition was in a soccer field which is always interesting.  Grass on your feet and in your socks.  And grass/mud in your cycling shoe cleats. 

T1: 2:40.4
Age Group 7/38

When clipping in, I start with my right, pedal some, then clip in my left.  Right foot was no problem, as I was smart and arranged the pedal properly for a quick clip-in.  I somehow missed my left pedal twice.  Each time, my foot slipped and the pedal smacked against my ankle and shin, making some pretty sweet bruises!  No idea if I had mud/grass in my cleat, if I was just rushing too much, or if I was just being a dumbass.  Finally, third time was a charm and I got into left pedal.

The start of the bike was a bit strange.  Instead of being on roads, we were on the paved hike/bike trail, which had lots of sharp corners and turns.  Its also quite bumpy (due to concrete seams every 5 feet) so its hard to get into a rhythm.  Finally after maybe a mile (?) we were able to ride on open road.  For some dumb reason, I thought the course was flat.  DUMB DUMB DUMB.  It wasn't ridiculously hilly, but there were some good hills.  My mission was to GO FAST on the bike, but the hills made it interesting.  And hard.

The RDs made a comment in the pre-race meeting that we should know the course, specifically where to turn.  Apparently intersections which required a police officer did not allow volunteers to be present for safety reasons.  Police officers are not always the best at telling you where the course goes (say, if you need to turn) and you could miss your turn.  I was very pleased to see that the RDs marked the bike course with spray paint arrows, so there was never any question of where you should go.  VERY nice.

One cop pulled a near-IMTX, letting traffic through, which made me slow down on a downhill leading into an uphill.  I had to hit my brakes but I didn't stop, and he felt bad and apologized.  Several other cops were "directing" traffic from inside their cars.  I'd approach and they'd decide to get out of their car and see if traffic needed to be stopped for me to proceed.  Fortunately, Sunday morning isn't high traffic and I never had a near collision.  Still, you're getting paid to do an EASY job.  Get out of your car and keep us safe, mkay?

Bike course wasn't too exciting.  There was one nasty downhill into a u-turn, which meant you got to climb back up that hill from a near full stop.  That wasn't very nice.  The course going out was mostly uphills and you circled back and had 1 nasty uphill and one medium hill that just went on a bit too long.  I could tell I'm not used to going hard on the bike and I think I started to fade a bit.  Or maybe the wind was working against me.  All I know is I saw 20+ mph going out and was working to keep it at 18 mph going back.  Still, for 12 miles, I pushed.  Since I started the swim early, it was impossible to see where I was in relation to my competition.  I as passing a ton of people, including some dude on a mountain bike with a kid-carrier, which had a stuffed animal (dog?) belted inside the carrier.  (I wish I had my camera, it was amusing).  Only one person passed me, and she was in my age group.  I passed her on the flad and downhill, only to have her destroy me on the next hill. Must work on hills this winter. 

A quick 12 miles later I was done with the bike.  Always trying to work on my T2 time, I undid my Garmin while I was still riding (I'm sure I looked cute, riding and holding my Garmin in my teeth) so I wouldn't have to mess with it later on.

00:41:13 17.47 mile/hr
Age Group: 10/38
Overall: 108/333

Ok, maybe I'm being hard on myself with the bike split... my fastest bike split was 18.7 mph and I've got a bunch of 17.6-17.9 mph splits on FLAT courses.  Given the hills (and my lack of bike training lately), maybe that's not too bad?  Plus, I my pace was right in the middle of the top 10 finishers in the AG.  Still, hill strength will be a good off-season goal.

Nothing remarkable here - just tried to keep it fast.  Swapped out my shoes and grabbed the rest of my junk to put on while I ran.

1:02.6 (my fastest T2 except for the questionable 20 second T2 at Rattlesnake).

Since I had crushed the 10 miler on Monday, I had HIGH expectations for my run.  It was only 3 miles and I wanted to run FAST. My calves, however, had different ideas.  As did a wicked side stitch.  I was trying to push the pace and the best my legs would allow was somewhere around a 10:00-10:30.  The side stitch was irritating but not awful.  But my calves were so tight they just couldn't move any faster.  I walked the first aid station, which eliminated the side stitch.  Leg were still tight until the turn-around.  I knew there was a big hill at the finish, but most everything from 1.5 miles to the finish was downhill, so I tried to push it.  I did a decent job pushing (but walked the aid station, probably only 10 seconds though).  My legs loosened up a bit at the turnaround but I didn't ever get my awesome flying while running feeling.  I tried to do some speed pick-ups as an attempt to trick my legs, only my legs didn't fall for it.  Ugh.  Not a bad running performance (my 3rd fastest 3 mile pace for a sprint) but it wasn't what I knew I was capable of.  My energy and spirit were willing - this time my legs were just not wanting to play along.  Probably because I crushed the 10 mile race 6 days before.  *sigh*

Run time: 30:29.9. 10m 10s min/mile
Age Group: 19/38
Overall: 185/333

Overall time: 1:24:21 (right at my predicted time)
Overall Rank = 111/333
Age Group Rank = 13/38
Post Race
I got my feet rubbed by a reflexologist (felt nice but wasn't long enough), had good italian grub from a local restaurant (spaghetti and meatballs!), then I stuck around for the raffle/award ceremony.  They posted overall race results, not AG results.  I was in the top 1/3 overall that there was a slight chance I'd podium.  I would have podiumed if I was 1 year younger.  Sadly, I was 5 min away from 3rd place and over 1 minute away from 10th place.  5 minutes for me, right now, is just too fast to overcome for me.  Maybe in a few years.  I did win a free massage, though.  Post-race stuff went on WAY TOO LONG, and it was 12:45 before I hopped on the bike to hit the trails home. 

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