Thursday, November 19, 2009
I set up this blog months ago during the peak of my summer training, but I never took the time to post any post-race information. Now I seem to have all the time in the world and I'm getting bored of being bored in the evenings, so I figured it'd be a smart time to start blogging about my races. My racing season started in April 25 in Richmond, VA at the USAT National Duathlon Championships. That race went terribly, but I learned that I was extremely weak on the bike. Learning is good. I did the Blossom Time Run in Chagrin Falls and was pleasantly surprised with my time and how I felt. The pace felt like a fast but steady conversation pace. I hadn't done much speedwork so I didn't feel particulary quick, but I felt strong. I did the 5.25 course in 29:17, or 5:35 pace.
I raced 4 Olympic Distance events this season. The Dam Tri was a learning experience and my first elite race. Not pretty. I didn't have a wetsuit yet and I got smoked from the start of the swim. My weakness on the bike was really apparent on this hilly course, but I had a pretty decent run. The MiltonMan Triathlon was the first race in which I felt I raced to my potential. I finished 3rd overall. This is the first race in which I had a wetsuit, and I think this helped put me in the mix from the start. I really pushed the bike on this course, too, although I still got smoked by a lot of the guys out there. My run felt strong and I picked people off the entire race. It was hot but I was feeling pretty good. The next Olympic Distance of the season was the Vermilion Triathlon, which I wasn't particuarly happy with. The bike course was fairly technical, which I wasn't prepared for, and I blew up on the run because of 90 degree temperatures. Not very happy with this one. The final race was the Chicago Triathlon, another break-through race for me. I borrowed my roommate's Flashpoint 40 wheels, and these seemed to help take my bike to the next level. I was in one of the last waves of the day and I think all of the slow swimmers were in this wave because I was out front from the gun. I passed a lot of people from other waves during the swim and came out feeling strong. After a half mile trek through the crowded transition area, I was able to hammer pretty hard on the bike. Again, the bike was pretty congested along Lake Shore and I had a few near crashes, including when I locked handle bars with some guy who thought he could sneak over without checking. The wind was howling from the north, so the trip back into the transition area was FAST. I felt great on the run and was able to catch quite a few people despite the congestion and barriers on the sides of the run course. I finished 2nd in my age group and felt like I could have gone faster.
The day of the registration deadline for Augusta, 70.3, I caved to my curiosity of the 70.3 event and signed up. Not knowing if I had the base for this distance, I tried to sneak in some longer training sessions in 6 weeks before the event. My only real test was a 40 mile bike/8 mile run brick in which I averaged 22 mph on the bike and 6:20 on the run 3 weeks before the event. This gave me some confidence in my endurance, but I knew the extra 16 miles on the bike would be a test. Going into the race I had a goal of sub-4:45 in the back of my mind, but I didn't put too much pressure on myself. Times are always dictated by the course, and fortunately the Augusta course catered to my strengths. The swim was down-river and raced more like an Olympic distance event than a half. The bike included mostly rolling hills with 2 or 3 steeps. Since many of the competitors were from down south, I was able to pass some folks back on the uphills that were passing me on the flats. Coming off the bike I felt scary good. I was trying to keep it conservative at 6:40 pace, but mile 1 was 6:18 and I felt like I was crawling. The next few miles were so smooth and comfortable that I thought my Garmin was off. I checked the mile markers and they agreed with the Garmin. I felt like my heartrate was at about 90 beats/min. About mile 6, things changed and my quads started cramping. My lungs felt fine, but my legs started cramping. I had to stop and work out a hamstring cramp at mile 9 that almost put me on the ground. After that, I started jogging at 7:30 pace and SLOWLY dropped the pace until I got back to around 6:45. This seemed like my legs' limits so I kept it here for the remainder of the run. After finishing, I got some updates on my phone that I was in contention for a Clearwater spot. Sure enough, I finished 5th in my age group and picked up the 3rd of 3 Clearwater spots at the awards ceremony.
Training for Clearwater proved extremely difficult after returning from Augusta. My legs didn't want to recover from the previous race, and the cold, wet weather and decreasing daylight in Ohio didn't help. I only felt like I got in two quality workouts between Augusta and Clearwater (a 2.5 hour ride followed by a 5 mile run at decent paces, and a 16-mile tempo run at 6:18 pace on the towpath), and I had trouble recovering from both of those workouts after the fact. I went into Clearwater unconfident but extremely excited to be racing. The weather was awful when we arrived, as Hurricane Ida was still dumping rain and wind on Clearwater. I didn't do much in the days before the race given the waves in the water and wind blowing me around on the bike. The day before the race I did a short ride and run and my heart was pounding like crazy. I decided that it was just the nerves and adrenaline, and decided at that point that I wasn't going to get nervous before the race. 70.3 miles is a long way to race and I didn't need to psyche myself out mentally. I just needed to relax and tell myself that I wasn't in contention to win anything and to just enjoy the experience. On race day, I was focused but feeling extremely relaxed. They opted to move the swim course from the Gulf to the Bay across from Transition. I was happy about this given my lack of experience in ocean swims. They opted for a time trial swim start, which I expected to slow the start and push back my anticipated 8:00 start time. However, they started rushing through the waves and putting 2-3 people in the water at a time. I quickly realized that I needed to get into my wave so I could start off toward the front. Given my bike weakness, I needed as big of a head start as I could get! I did a short job, threw on my wetsuit, and did a short swim to get a feel for the water. After the warmup, I got into the bullpen and slowly worked my way to the front of my wave. I kept my nerves in control and even found myself dancing to the German techno music they were playing at the swim start. I knew I needed to laugh and stay relaxed. At the swim start, I immediately felt awesome. My strokes were long and smooth and I seemed to be pulling lots of water. I've had trouble finding a person to latch on this season, and I was determined to find someone in this race. The course was mostly rectangular with a small add-on at the end of the first straightaway. As we were approaching this add-on, I noticed two packs forming, one splitting to the let and one to the right. I decided to stay on the inside of the right pack and though the left pack would have to make a sharp turn to make the add-on. Well, the left group never made the turn and as we turned for the add-on I saw them going straight. They were cutting the course. I was slightly pissed, but what could I do? At least I knew I was racing fair. Coming around the turn I decided to go out and around to the right of a small group of swimmers that seemed to be slowing down. Then, I felt someone clipping my feet. I knew this guy didn't want to have to go out and around me since I was already pretty far to the right, but I wasn't moving. Eventually, after I passed the pack I started heading in to the left to take a straight line to the buoy marking the last turn. When I went inside, the guy on my feet started passing me. I could tell he was tall and he seemed to be pulling pretty hard. I knew it'd be hard to hang on, but I told myself to pick up the pace and try to stay on his feet. We made the turn together and it was a long straightaway to the finish with approximately 750 yards to go. I picked up the pace and latched onto him and stayed right on his toes. I was quickly able to match his speed and hang in his wake. We swam together along the right side of the course passing people throughout the course. Coming out of the water, I knew I had a good swim and was excited for the bike. I ended up around 100th overall in the swim. The excitement quickly broke on the bike course when packs of 3-6 riders started passing me. I thought it was just because of early race bunching out of the water, but the packs got worse as the ride went on. At one point, I saw a peloton of at least 80 riders clipping along. I knew I was having a good ride for me doing all of the work myself, but I also knew I was no match for a peloton. I averaged 23 mph, a full mph faster than Augusta, but I had one of the 10 slowest rides in my age group. I was a bit frustrated going into the run, but I kept telling myself to run my own race. I started off just under 6:30 pace and while I didn't feel as good as Augusta, I still felt strong. As I made the turn for lap 2, I knew I'd be struggling by the end. The heat was becoming more apparent and my quads were burning. I started cramping at mile 10 and suffered through cramps the last 3 miles. I averaged just under 7:00 pace for the run. Not great, but I'll take it. Overall, I was happy with my swim and bike times. I know what I need to work on for next season, and I have to be happy with the experience of racing Clearwater, especially given my training and original plans and expectations for this season.