Monday, June 21, 2010

Race Report: Minuteman Sprint Triathlon

Before I get into what happened, here's a review of the goals I set
Swim: 10 minutes
Bike: 1 hour (50 minutes for a flat course)
Run: 50 minutes

In short, I was looking for a sub two hour race.

Friday, I left work early to get home and pick up Rachelle. Come weekend during the summer, Boston evacuates for Cape Cod like the city is about to be hit by a tidal wave. We don't always notice it living right by Fenway Park and the stream of visitor traffic in Kenmore Square. But you definitely notice it any time you try to head south on a gorgeous Friday in June; the traffic headed to the Cape is bumper to bumper.

Because the race was held about 45 minutes west of the Cape, once we got past the exit that splits traffic to the coast we started moving in a hurry. It still took 2 hours to go about 65 miles if that says anything. We got to the race site, picked up our packets, and drove the bike course.

I don't know why, but I always pictured Massachusetts as a flat state. It's probably because I lived in a flat state growing up, and never really put much thought into the topography of the east coast. Let me assure you that Massachusetts is NOT flat. Driving the bike course made me think that I probably would need to push out my goal time. It didn't have quite as many short climbs as the Season Opener, but 4 bigger climbs followed by really big climb right near the end of the course.

We went back and checked into our hotel about 20 minutes from the race. Another race, another Quality Inn stay. I'm always looking for a nice place on a budget, and chains are safer bets than mom and pop places. After a relaxing game of mini-golf at the amusement center across the street, it was time for final prep and an early bed. Waking up at 5 AM is a lot easier when you've had enough sleep.

Race day morning the weather was gorgeous. 60 degrees at 6 AM, with just the right amount of sunshine to start the day. A quick breakfast of Gatorade and a blueberry Clif Bar, and we were off to the site. Unlike some races I've done, Cathedral Camp has plenty of parking on site, so getting there and getting settled in was a piece of cake.

We set up in transition and Rach got into her wetsuit before we headed over to the swim start. Based on the announced water temperature (74 degrees) and the heat we would be facing later in the race; I decided to do without my wetsuit. After a barely audible national anthem over the loudspeakers and a too loud musket salute, the race started.

My wave was the second into the water. The swim course was 1/4 mile rectangular counterclockwise swim. My wave was pretty big, with the Clydesdale's and all of the age group men released together. One interesting thing I noticed was a height-challenged person (whom I will refer to affectionately as "The Little Guy" going forward) standing among the rest of us guys waiting to hit the water. I found a spot to the right of the main bunch and took off at the gun. I mostly managed to avoid the scrum of the start and with the faster women coming behind me, I wanted to make sure to make the first buoy and turn before I started getting swam over. I made the turn wide to avoid the hard charging women, which cost me a little time. But it was worth it to avoid most of the traffic as the women in Rach's group were coming up on us pretty quick.

The next 200 yards ran parallel to the shore and went pretty well, except for the guy who swam a fairly quick backstroke, in nothing resembling a straight line. He kept crossing in front of me, and I kept having to avoid getting kicked in the face. Eventually, I just put my head down and passed him and a couple of others before the 2nd buoy.

I made second and final turn feeling strong as I headed towards shore. I passed a couple more folks and I turned to look back as I got out of the water and I saw a mix of yellow and green caps behind me so I knew wasn't last out for my wave. There was no clock at the swim exit, so I just prayed what felt like a good swim was a good swim.  Rach's bike was still there, so I knew she hadn't passed me and I just hoped she was doing ok after last race's swim. My swim to bike transitions have been a bit longer since I got the cycling shoes but it's still worth it. I didn't have my smoothest overall changeover, and running in the cycling shoes doesn't work very well. I can cut a couple minutes off my transition by learning how to get into the shoes while they're attached to the bike.

I had a little dread as I hopped on the bike and took off. I knew there would a bunch of hills and I was remembering what I went through last race. So I figured the best way to confront those fears was head on. The minute I got off the driveway where the course started and onto the main road, I started hammering as hard as I could. I wasn't in the big ring, but I took a strong rear gear in the middle ring, and went for it.

I could feel a difference almost immediately between this race and the Season Opener. While I had expended less energy to get through the swim, I also was feeling a lot stronger on the climbs, so much stronger that I didn't have to stop, or even use my easiest rear gear except on the final really long climb. I managed to pass several people on the bike, but the last couple hills took a good bunch out of me and a few people came back to pass me including "The Little Guy". We went back and forth for a few minutes before he finally pulled ahead as I climbed the last hill.

Being beat by a dwarf on a children's mountain bike (admittedly one I later learned was enhanced with more than $1000 worth of enhancements including racing wheels) probably would bother a lot of people. But I have experience at losing to the differently able. My father and I once got beat at golf by a one armed man in his 60's. He beat us by more than a few strokes, for that matter. This happened about 5 or 6 years ago back in Columbus, and it was the day in my life where I truly learned it isn't the size (or number of arms) of the person in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the person.

I followed "The Little Guy" into transition, and I didn't see Rach's bike when I came in, so I knew she'd made it out of the water and onto the bike course. She hadn't passed me, which means I had managed to hold her off a little longer this race. Just enough to finish the bike it seemed, as she came into transition less than a minute behind me. I was glad to see her race going well, and as I didn't get a chance to activate my GPS, I had no idea how fast I'd done the bike, but she'd clearly done it at least a little faster than I did.

Of course, a little faster on the bike would turn into a lot faster on the run as Rach significantly out classes me in the third discipline. I caught up with "The Little Guy" on the way out of the transition, and told him I did everything I could to catch him on the bike but couldn't get it done. I told him we'd probably be seeing a lot of each other on the run, to which he replied "We'll see, but I'm a walker so maybe not". Remembering not that long ago when I too could only walk the 5k, I wished him luck and started jogging.

There's a triathlon training process I've talked about a couple times called a "brick". Bricks where you  bike for a while at a high level of effort, and then get off the bike and immediately start running. This drill prepares you for the very uncomfortable feeling of going from a hard bike to a run (the b in brick stands for bike, the r stands for run, the ick stands for the feeling you get when you do it). Clearly, I haven't done enough of these as it took me a good couple minutes to get moving beyond a decent walk.

The run started on a grass trail which I'm not used to, but it soon moved back out to the road. A disinterested course marshal led several of the race leaders to miss a turn on the course. I didn't learn this til later, but I did see her texting away while seated in her car at a mostly unmarked intersection. Thankfully, I was following someone who seemed to know where they were going and had seen the couple of arrows drawn on the road.

The run course was hillier than I expected, and that hit my time a little bit, but frankly I gave close to my all on the bike, so the fact that I was a little slower than I had hoped on the run was to be expected. Further, there was no aid station at mile 2 (as had been planned for) which coincided with the breeze dying and the temperature rising. In addition, the big hill on the bike was present at the end of the run as well.

By the time the run came around, I had grabbed my phone and set up the GPS so I knew my run was going to be about 2 mins/mile over my goal. I wound up finishing the run at 58:50, which means I missed my goal by almost 9 minutes for that stage. Plus, when I crossed the finish line, it read 2:14:59. With the 3 minutes delay before my wave hit, my final time was 2:11:59. That means I miss my goal by 12 minutes.

That is one good lookin' dude.
Rach hates to see me love, but she loves to watch me go

So what could I have improved on to meet my goals? Let's look at the splits.

To start, I had almost 8 total minutes in transition. Most of that is due to getting in and out of the bike shoes. Prior to adding the bike shoes to the mix, my transitions were much quicker. So, my goal before Timberman (where transitions can make a huge difference) will be to get into the bike shoes while they're attached to the bike. I can also save a few seconds by adding special speed laces (that I already own) to my running shoes that you just tighten and go as opposed to tying.

Swim: 11:53
I was mostly happy with my swim. This wasn't a record setting effort for me, but it was my best race swim yet. With us regularly swimming at distance, if I can average this speed for the full distance at Timberman, I'll make the cutoff. So now, the effort is on becoming more endurant (a new word I invented), and increasing my speed through training.

Bike: 53:35
On the bike, I have to admit I was absolutely thrilled with this ride as it was going on. And when I found out I missed my goal by only 3:35 even with the hillier ride, I was really excited to find that out afterwards. I didn't once stop to walk up a hill or even to rest. I recuperated on downhills, I used the appropriate gears on hills, and while I know I had slowed some by the end, I was significantly improved in my climbing and my cardio. To improve, I just need to keep getting hill training and keep adding miles. Our training rides could have been a bit longer to prepare for this distance. Our upcoming scheduled rides already account for increased distances.

Run: 58:50
This continues to be my weakness. i was better prepared this race, and it shows that I still had enough gas to average a sub-15 minute mile even after a longer, more difficult race. This is the area I can improve the most through training, so I'm really going to continue to focus.

In all, I'm actually pretty happy with this race. 2 of the 3 disciplines I missed my goal by a combined 5 minutes. As for the running... well I still suck at that, but I'm getting better. Plus I now have a nice view in my cube today.

Yes, that is quite a lot of bling.


- Tomorrow I'm going to step off the beaten path and talk about what we do on race weekend when we're not racing.

- I had a couple of packages waiting for me in the mail on Saturday, and I'll talk about that later this week as well.

- No rest for the wicked; the Chase Corporate Challenge is Thursday evening. 3.5 miles in downtown Boston. Back to training today and tomorrow before a little light swimming Wednesday so I can get at least a little rest prior to the run.

- Finally, even though Father's Day 2010 (in the US) wasn't until today, I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about my dad, both during and after the race. Hard work, dedication, sacrifice; all the things it takes to be successful at triathlon (and weight loss) are values my father has represented his whole life. He spent long days working an assembly line so I could have the tennis shoes I wanted, or a new trombone. Later he paid for a year of college I squandered and gave me a car I let the engine give out on. I didn't realize how he could enjoy the manual labor at the plant until I started working on bicycles. I have always loved and appreciated my father, but I haven't always appreciated exactly what it took from him to get me where I am today. I am truly lucky and blessed to have such an amazing dad, and it was for him I ran on Saturday.

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