Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Race Review and Results- Rochester Triathlon

Saturday marked the First Annual Rochester Triathlon. I had mixed feelings about this event. Translation: I thought there were some goods and some bads. So, let's get on with it.

The Venue
The race was a sprint distance triathlon at Durand Eastman Park Beach on Lake Ontario. I'm pretty sure the RD of this race polled the locations in the area and asked them, "Who wants to hold a triathlon?" Durand Eastman jumped up and down waving its hands in the air yelling "Ooh, ooh, pick me pick me." That park is a hard one to turn away. It's right on the lake. It's got some nice running paths, biking paths, picnic areas, parking areas, sand, and sun. It's got it all.  The good people at Score-This provided the timing. Boom, a race was born.

Plus, this race is within easy biking distance from my house. The Wife and I set out at a time later than normal for any other race. It was also a sneaky way to get me to do a warm-up, which as you know is not something that I do on a regular basis.

The Race
Transition closed at 6:45. Naturally, I did not leave until about 6:52. I was not the last person out, just in case you wanted to know. In fact, there were no less than 2 people running into transition as I was walking towards the beach. They weren't procrastinators, just forgetful. I didn't stick around to see what they were missing. 

The Sprint Distance race featured a swim at the upper limit of the distance with an 800 yard (1/2 mile) triangle shaped lap. Lake Ontario could not have cooperated more. I have never seen the Great Lake with enough vengeance that would inspire a Gordon Lightfoot song but I have practiced at this exact location with 4 foot swells and crushing white caps. It can get mean at times. Not during this race. The waterfront was nearly glass with some smallish ripples. It may have the calmest water conditions for a race this year. I elected to do this race without a wetsuit, once again handing my suit over to the Wife (who tells me that she likes swimming in the neoprene protective force field).

There were 2 waves: boys then girls separated by 6 minutes. We left the beach and headed east by northeast. It wasn't hard to navigate. With a 7:00 am start time coupled with a 6:30 sunrise, all we had to do was spot the nice, flaming ball of hydrogen/ helium and swim just a tad bit to the left. If you were blinded, you were too far right. If you could see clearly, you were too far left. You needed to find just the perfect combination of eye-sting and comfort in order to stay on course. Once you hit the first turn buoy, the sun was at your back and your vision was completely restored. I exited the water in 25th place overall.

Upon finishing the swim, there was a short climb from the beach to the transition area. Despite the uphill run, there were a couple of aspects on this jaunt which proved awesome. First, the normally wood-chipped mulch path was covered by 'welcome-mat' style runners. Much better to run on. Second, halfway up the path, they set-up a small, inflatable kiddie pool for racers to wash sand off their feet. With just a quick step into and out of the pool, you could wash the grime and sand off the soles without breaking your stride and wasting valuable seconds toweling off your toes.

Once in transition, I opted to go topless. If you recall my last race, I struggled getting my tri-top on over a wet torso. I decided that a shirt was mostly unnecessary and did the whole race mostly naked. This cut my transition time down to reasonable levels. My transition time was less than a minute and good enough for 8th overall.

The bike course was the most unique of the races thus far in my tri career. Imagine a capitol letter 'P'. The bike course started at the bottom of the 'P', turned right at the first intersection, went around the loop, and returned to the point. So far, this is not out of the ordinary, until you realize that this entire loop was a bit over 3 miles. A sprint distance is scheduled to be around 13 miles on the bike. The course had us do a hairpin turn at the base of the 'P' and do the entire thing over again. For a total of 4 times.

Lap 1 was a bit uneventful. The loop portion of the P started uphill and finished downhill.The hills were short and I was aggressive.  I was able to pick up several places on the guys in front of me. After the first lap, I hairpinned to start the next and had to merge with oncoming traffic as some of the slower swimmers and ladies in the second wave were starting their first lap. As the bike continued, there was more of the same, only now the path was getting more crowded with bikers. We had more than 200 people vying for a 3 mile path.

USAT rules were tossed out the window. Illegal passing on the right? Happened. Drafting? Happened. Blocking by riding consistently on the left? Happened. Littering by dropping gear on the course? Happened. (Aside: The course was not the best paved of park roads. Plus, at one end of the course, a park road merged with a main road. There was a nice bump at the intersection. I lost my backup innertube, my levers, and my CO2 dispenser at some point on the course. The velcro strap that attached them to my bike was also completely missing. The course was jarring. After the race, I did bike the course looking for my lost gear but it seemed like someone had cleaned up. Rats. Now I must go buy anew. End Aside.) Using a recombinant bike? Ok, I won't stoop that far. Despite the slalom through the other riders, I was able to put forth a rather decent bike time. I had the 10th fastest bike ride on the day and hit transition in 7th place overall.

In transition 2, I was a little bit slower than expected. I took the time to put on socks. That means I was able to dismount, run to my bike area, rack my bike, don socks and shoes, and finally run out of transition. I did all of that in a slow poke time of 42 seconds, which was good enough for 51st out of the group. What was interesting was that I was faster than the other guy in transition and managed to move up a notch. I left T2 in 6th.

His shiny 2nd place award
The final leg was as simple as you can get. There is a running path along the lake shore. Run for 1.55 miles. There was an arrow on the ground with a volunteer (conveniently chatting on his cell phone). Find that spot, turn around and head back. I had hoped for a sub-7:00 pace. I had recently been working hard on my short season and I wanted to get some 'speed' back in my legs. I ran my first mile at a 6:30 pace and still got passed by one dude (my guess is he was the bloke that I beat in transition). My second mile was slower as it included the uphill of the run. And, I got passed by another bloke. On the third mile, I felt strong but tapped out of speed. I had enough juice in the tank but the rpm's seemed to be maxed out. I got passed by bloke #3 with roughly a quarter mile left. I finished the run with the 16th fastest run on the day. I was 9th place overall and second in my age group. In case you were wondering, the run data from the 3 guys that beat me went as follows: Bloke 1 was the 5th fastest runner, Bloke 2 was the 3rd fastest runner, and Bloke 3 was the 11th fastest runner on the day. They were really good runners as my pace was a 6:48 per mile. Bloke 2 was in the upper  5 minute per mile range.

Her shiny 2nd place award
The Wife had success in her version of the race. She won her age group in the swim. She took her time in transition (which was her game plan the entire time, regardless of the wetsuit). She was second in her age group on the bike. She, again, took her time in transition (only this time, she was a bit faster compared to the rest of the clan). She did yell at me during the race twice. The first was when she was cheering for me. I had just started the run while she was starting her 4th lap of the bike. The second time was when I was about a quarter mile from the finish (bloke 3 just passed me) and she exclaimed, "This just isn't right." She was referring to the fact that I was done and she still had 3 miles left. Then, she rocked the run with a second place finish in her age group. She finished in 93rd place, was the 13th lady, and was second in her age group. That means the Banter household was 2 for 2 in second place age group finishes. Go us!

Thoughts About the Race
The swim was good, except for the swimming directly into the sun part. In the future, I would hope the race director would find a better way to control the sun. Or, at the very least, invest in a cloud making machine to block out the sun. The current technology on cloud making machines is weak, at best. But, clouds were only needed for about 15-20 minutes of the race, rendering this technology useful for race purposes.

I hope that the race directors change the bike course for the 2nd Annual. The bike course would actually be a deal breaker for me, which is a shame as I really like not driving to a race. However, 4 loops of a bumpy, crowded course was less than ideal. I felt like I got beat up and I definitely got bored of the course by the 3rd time around. To prove how brutal the race was, here are some pictures of my bike post-race.

The picture on the left shows how far the elbow pad on my aerobars shifted. The pad is normally parallel to the bar underneath. The picture on the right shows how much the aerobars themselves shifted. Normally, the levers are about 2 inches apart and level with each other. The lever on the left (right side in the picture) dropped down roughly 4 inches from its norm. The right lever (left side of the pic) dropped even further and warped itself past the center point. I was lucky to be able to shift gears by the end of the race. Using the appropriate tools (an allen wrench) I attempted to return the aerobars back to their normal position, which this far has been quite unsuccessful.

Now, in defense of the bike course, I believe that the race director did plan on a different course. The other course left the city of Rochester for a brief ride into the town of Irondequoit (which also happens to be the suburb in which I live). Irondequoit is pretty much flat broke. Yet, they still refused to issue the permits to allow people to race on its roads. I bet there is more to the story but I think I got the gist of it. Regardless of their reasons, I will select a different race next year if the bike course remains the same.

The run was as perfect as you could imagine. A few rolling hills. A beautiful lake to glisten the view. An out-and-back course which allows you to see your fellow competitors. No less than 3 people told me of my position in the race as I was finishing. Not that they needed to, I counted for myself but it was good to have validation.

The race was small in terms of participants. Less than 200 people registered for the race. I am in no way trying to dismiss the hard work and efforts of the RATS, the Race Director, nor the volunteers in this event. You guys and gals did a wonderful job hosting an outstanding event. When I originally set my race calendar for the 2011 triathlon year back in January, I had no idea that this race existed. I did scour the usual suspects for leads in races. It wasn't there (to the best of my knowledge which is sketchy under most circumstances). I only found the race by random chance (a flyer at the front desk of my YMCA). Granted, I know a little less than nothing about hosting and advertising for an event but I do wish that this race did a more efficient job at marketing. This was a good race for everyone (except for losers who don't like their aerobars to get discombobulated). Next year, there's bound to be a better showing.