Friday, June 10, 2011

Race Review and Results- Keuka Lake Triathlon

On the Swim
We waited around for what seemed like eternity for the swim to get started. I was lumped into the second wave, which was completely unrelated to the delay. There were some personnel that had not yet arrived on the bike course and we were kindly waiting for the officer to get stationed. Those guys do us a great service so the wait was only slightly annoying. With all the people at their posts, the race was underway.

As the first wave of swimmers went off, I took a glance back and noticed the large number of people waiting in line behind me. That observation only fueled my belief that swim starts are too deeply waved. I would have preferred to swim with more people and have more competitors grouped together throughout the whole course. But, my time to contemplate such was limited with only a 3 minute wave gap.

As we entered the water, I was immensely shocked at the temperature of the drink. Having been acclimated to the YMCA's 84º pool, 64º seemed downright frigid. Luckily, I was more bundled up than I have ever been in the water. This was my first attempt at an open water swim in my sleeved wet suit. In the past, I went sleeveless. The lack of sleeves was designed to free up my shoulders while giving me the ability to intimidate my rivals with my massive biceps. The intimidation factor was covered by 4 mm of rubber and I had to rely solely on my swimming skills.

The first buoy was roughly about 200 yards away. I sat on the feet of some dude for roughly 100 meters. I took an opportunity to spot making sure we were on the right path. We were. Thank you dude! However, there were 2 other dudes not far in front of me. I was feeling good as it was early and I was hanging out in the draft zone. Strange things play in your mind at this stage of the game. My brain waves were screaming at me to ditch the dude and catch the other 2. Like an idiot, I listened to the inner chatter and went for it. Mind you, there were still roughly 1300 yards left to swim. I never caught them and was hung out in no-mans-land.

Stroking in the middle of a lake, all alone, my triathlon swimming instinct immediately took over. This includes focusing on keeping my stroke long and smooth. Keep my head down. Spot every 10 strokes or so. Monitor the feelings in my arms and lungs for signs of over-doing it. I was still feeling good and by all calculations (not that this is easy in an open-water environment) sitting in 3rd place for the wave. At around the 900 yard mark, I got caught. Two different dudes than the ones I was pursuing hung on my feet for roughly 50 yards. I spotted and saw an off colored buoy. I relaxed a bit as this color indicated a turn on the course. The first guy passed me just before the buoy while the other hung in my jet wash. I didn't mind. I was able to sit on his feet for a while and I knew we had a big left hand turn.

Buoy arrived and that idiot kept going like he completely missed it. Ha! But, the other bloke behind me also kept straight. Alarms were sounding in my head at a deafening tone. I quickly spotted in 2 directions. The first was the one I wanted to swim. The other was following the line of sight I had just exited. There were roughly 5 more bright orange buoys and one neon green bobbing in my now-former path. I had errantly turned at the sprint buoy. Luckily I had caught it only a yard or two in. I was able to re-set my sail for the right course without losing too much ground. It pays to know the course in advance and I didn't get paid.

By now, my arms were screaming. I was really pushing it trying to catch my former swimmates and failing miserably. I held on to my form but my speed was slowing. By now, I was also in the thick of the middle to back of the pack of the first wave of swimmers. Now, I had to meander through bodies while frantically searching for some feet to draft. It wasn't easy to depict between the speed I wanted even with the different colored swim caps. I hit the real turn buoy for my race and hung the left hand turn, headed for home. With no luck finding a pacer, it was all up to me.

KLT Swim Exit
I exited the water in about 10th place for my wave. Not too bad. The problem was that I was in 7th in my age group. I don't expect to win the swim, not at this time of the season (or ever for that matter). But, for some reason, I feel wholly unsatisfied with a 7th place AG, 24th boy, and 29th overall. I'll have to check some results from previous years as I remember consistently being higher in the swim rankings. Plus, I think my age group is getting tremendously competitive. I am going to have to step up my game if I want satisfaction.

In Transition 1
The swim exited onto a short beach with stairs that led us up to the rest of campus and transition. The race organizers didn't want us to de-robe near the water for fear of a back log of people between the water and stairs. I also suspect that they didn't want us to create any wet suit tripping hazards along the way. This is most unfortunate as the best place to strip is in or near the swim exit. The water acts as a lubricant to peel off your glove smoothly. Alas, after a short jog up a flight of stairs, the water has a chance to vacate the gaps making peeling all the more arduous.

I struggled getting the suit off in transition. Conventional wisdom dictates that you should pull the suit down as far as you can, lift up one foot and stomp on your suit while pulling the other foot free. The neoprene refused to release its grip on that chunk of meat known as my calves regardless of how many times I had to stomp. I was forced to sit and yank, costing me valuable seconds. I watched as fellow athletes made it out of transition. I took almost a full 90 seconds to get in and out. This was a full 30 seconds longer than expected and frustrating.

On the Bike
The first mile or two were bumpy. There were expansion cracks, holes, bumps, grooves, etc. You name it, this road had it. I had to navigate the mine pit while finding my personal groove. Since I have not practiced the Swim-to-Bike brick, my heart rate was going for a personal record on a bike ride. I ignored it. I knew it would come down after the initial excitement of biking passed over. After a couple of miles, we turned off the whoopty-doos and turned onto Rt 54a.

If you read my race preview for the KLT, you'd know that this road was a potential deal breaker. In years past, this was the single suckiest stretch of land I had ever biked on and it still gives me nightmares. No longer. Nightmare has magically transformed into biking bliss. Freshly paved and clean asphalt replaced the once back-breaking, shock damaging lane of road. I wish we could have done laps on that section of biking heaven.

Alas, it was not meant to be as the intermediate course turned us off of 54a and headed us back towards the lake. This nearly 3 mile stretch was a different kind of hell, the kind that eats into your soul while sucking your average mph to disgusting levels. Remember that my HR was previously high. Well, this section did nothing to fix it. The climb kept going and going. I am pleased to report that I did not change positions on the course too much. I passed just as many people as passed me. Near the end of the climb, we hung a right hand turn towards an out-and-back that extended the course to give us the required mileage. Being an out-and-back, I was able to count my position and I was sitting in 30th place overall. I rationalized that since some of these people started in the first wave to my second, my actual ranking was higher. Further rationalizing led me to the conclusion that there were people in waves behind me that were faster, therefore my placement was probably rather close to true. Even more rationalizing told me to shut up and bike.

When we hit the second and final turn-around point, the speed returned. All that potential energy being stored in the slope of the land while we climbed came flowing back into the system as it converted itself to kinetic energy AKA yee-haw. I was actually able to move up in the ranks a bit on this last stretch while simultaneously watching my HR finally come down. This is when the bike ride gets fun.

I averaged 21 mph over the course which placed me at 11th in my age group, 38th amongst the boys and 39th overall. See how my average place compared to the whole is going down.

In Transition 2
I have practiced the flying dismount. I can take me feet out of my shoes while pedaling. The bike route ended with a short but sharp downhill making pedaling moot. Braking was the necessary skill now. I was able to slow, pop of the bike and hit the pavement running exactly as I planned.

I found my bike slot. This was not hard as the race organizers want to develop a sense of closeness and make sure that one bike is not too far from its neighbor. I posted the wheel, off with the helmet and glasses. Unclip my Garmin and click it onto my wrist. Next come the shoes. I had practiced this before and had every intention of running without socks. I knew I would probably get a small blister or two but I was willing to cope.

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." Many people think Einstein said this. It may be true, but it has not been proven. Regardless of the author, the words speak true. In my first attempt at sliding on my racing runners, the insole slid and bunched in the toe box. Pull out my foot, reset the insole and try again, with the same results. I was going crazy. I finally got the left shoe on and went for the right. More crazy, three times over.

The person with the fastest T2 time was right around 30 seconds. Me- 75 seconds putting me in 110th place for T2. Horrible. I am now considering supergluing my insoles to the shoe to prevent this from happening in the future.

On the Run

The run for this course is about the most uneventful run you can imagine. For a 10k, you run out for 3.1 miles, turn around and come back. There were no turns or hills. There was plenty of scenery and lots of shade, both big positives. The course also gives you an opportunity to see all of your competition. I was on the way out as the race leader was on his way back. What's one to do in this situation? Start counting. I hit the turn around in 32nd place.

I've had a good winter in terms of running. My base is good and my speed is improved. About a week or so ago, I started to get knee pain in my right knee. According to google, my issues may result from a medial meniscus problem. Have I gone to the doctor yet? Nope. Lousy male-ego gene. I took the week off of running before the race to give it a chance to heal itself. It was quite apparent at the 3.5 mile mark that the knee was going to win the argument. I was at a 6:55 average pace and coping with the throb. But the issue was building and forcing me to slow. Still, I was able to hang on and finish the race with a 7:05 overall pace, which is better than any previous triathlon pace. This effort afforded me 10th in my AG for the run, 37th boy and 38th overall. If I was happy, the knee was not. I haven't run since.

I had a good race. I finished in 26th place overall and 7th in my age group. There was no chicking in this race for the overall place. Yet, I still feel a bit empty inside. I can't help but feel like I should have done better. I had a swim snafu, 2 transition problems and a good (but not great) bike split. Then, I think about the soreness that developed in my shoulders and triceps from a new wetsuit on the swim. I also think I am grumpy about the pain in my knee. I am attempting my own rehab before I involve the pros. I feel my ironman dreams for 2011 slipping away. I still plan on making the most of my season. I have every intention of putting the KLT on my calendar next year. It's a good race. And, with the freshly paced roads, there's really no excuse to avoid it.

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