Monday, July 18, 2011

Race Review and Results- Mini-Musselman

This is sort of a bitter/ sweet post. Bitter due to my performance. Sweet due to the awesomeness of the event. Some of the performance issues need to be taken into context. My context, the 2010 race versus the 2011 race.

Recap of the Events
The race went off without a hitch. The mini-Musselman title is a little misleading. It's given the name 'mini' because there is a half-iron distance event associated with the race. I guess they both can't be called the 'Musselman." RD Jeff Henderson gives the well deserved respect to the distance peeps and slaps on a 'mini' for a prototypical sprint distance race. He also had a micro-Mussel and a goofy-Mussel (not an official title, but what else can you call a triathlon that incorporates tricycles and unicycles).

With a 9:00 start time, the race allows ample opportunity to get out of bed and to the race site. In my race preview, I had suggested that I would be doing the swim portion without a wetsuit. Roughly 10 minutes before the start, I changed my mind. My philosophy: I didn't actually need a wetsuit but since my big race will be in a wetsuit, therefore, I should practice racing in said outfit. So I strapped myself in and appreciated the extra buoyancy while waiting for the cowbell to go off.

Me on the left (not pictured- 1st place guy)
I was in the first group of racers. One day, I'll fully appreciate the logic behind the swim race waves. Currently, that logic is completely lost on me. The male 35-39 were scheduled to start with the female 40-45 racers. I talked with no less than 3 ladies in my wave that were not so comfortably with this set-up. Only 2 of the men in my AG finished in the top 10 along with 4 dudes in the 25-29 group. Whereas I agree that the venue would not allow for all 750+ athletes to start together, there may be an elusive, yet more efficient means to the wave. Well, maybe one day I'll understand. Since I was in the first wave, I came out of the water in 2nd place.

I had a relatively slow transition. It may be because transition skills have been underpracticed. It may be that I'm a nice guy. See, before the race, I helped a newbie set up his helmet and glasses (along with a few other tips). Since I was second into transition, there were not many distractions, except for that helmet and sunglasses. They were on the ground in front of my bike (not exactly where I had advised). After peeling off the wetsuit, in record Banter time mind you, I took the liberty of fixing the guy's gear. I felt responsible for their new and sucky position. I needed to right the wrong. I left transition in 5th place.

Get. Foot. Into. Shoe.
I hit the bike hard with my heart rate riding the border between zone 4 and 5, right where it should be for a short distance tri. The first half of the race was a double insult. Uphill and against the wind. This was a nice workout from a quad burning perspective. And, with the heat slowly rising into the mid-80s (eventually hitting around 90), I was also burning through my water stores. By the time we looped around, I was running low on fluid. But, the wind was at my back and I was pointed down. Less water was needed. During the ride, I was passed by 3 riders but took one back. I finished the bike in 7th place.

Transition 2 was a bit better. Due to the number of waves and the 6 minute time differential, I had actually finished the bike before some people finished the swim. More evidence, in my world, for larger waves. Sharing the transition area with the swimmers did not pose a problem. I racked my ride, added socks and shoes to my feet, and took off.

Can't get a better view (of the lake, not me)
It's a weird feeling, being out near the front. Because of the amount of time that people are on the bikes, the spectators are completely caught off guard that the run portion of the race had started. I had to dodge several people crossing the path and 2 nice, older ladies on their bikes out for a pleasure cruise. I got passed by just one man on the run, which happened so early and quickly that I was alone for most of the entire time. See photo on left for this guy. Had the Wife waited just 5 more seconds before taking the shot, he'd be in front. At the end of the run, I was the 8th person to cross the line.

 The Bitter
This is completely self-centered at this point, but when I look at my times from a year ago and compare to 2011, I am a significantly slower person. My swim was slower, my bike was slower, my run was slower. The only place I showed improvement was in the second transition, which I had a whopping 4 second improvement. Last year, I was 15th. This year 36th overall (28 people in later waves posted better times). This is sort of a testament to my training and I don't like what it's preaching.

I tried to justify the change in time by some creative statistics. For example, the guy who won the overall prize was the same in both years. If I use him as a control, he finished about 1 minute slower this year. So, maybe the course was a bit long (Garmin supports this hypothesis). But, when I look at other competitors who did both years (yes, I look at other people's results), the finish times were varied, just like you'd expect. Some people were faster, others were slower.  I hate that I'm in that latter category.

More creative reasoning is thus: remember the guy whose helmet and glasses I fixed? I guess that detour cost me about 10 seconds in transition. If I take those 10 seconds back, I jump from 36th overall to 34th overall.

Don't worry. I'm not naive enough to believe the creativity. I see it for what it is... Excuses for under/ bad training. Same goes for the cold, wet spring. The snow in winter. The knee injury (ok, that last one is valid). The reality is that I am 2 pounds heavier and slower in 2011 compared with 2010. Maybe it's just that I'm getting old. (See, more excuses. I can't give up). Keep in mind that this bitterness amounts for only 10% of my emotion towards my racing. I am having the time on my life. Triathlon and racing are fun and I'm not about to let 21 places in a race that I didn't win anyway ruin it for me.

The Sweet
Seriously. This was not a race. It was an event. The Musselman is a weekend. There's a reason that this race is annually voted the most Family Friendly triathlon in the country by Triathlon Magazine. Strike that. There are several reasons. Such as:

Live music on site
Water park for the kids


Petting zoo
 Then, they do some other great things as well. Such as:
Food for all- not just racers

Cooling pool after finish

There was lots of swag. At the finish, they handed you a wet towel, which was just shy of heaven on a hot day. The race encouraged recycling and composting in lieu of just plain trash cans. They even had a beer truck. Again, fun for the entire family. This race will probably remain on my schedule for a long time coming. It sets the bar for how a triathlon event should be run.

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