Sunday, August 14, 2011

Race Review and Results- Summer Sizzler

Since I had incepted the Short Season, I have been motivated to work on my speed skills in all 3 disciplines. I have not, so far, disappointed myself in training. Monday I worked out hard on the bike and run. Tuesday was a had session in all 3. Wednesday was a day off (for some reason that I cannot even remember why). Thursday was a long run, hard bike and hard swim. Friday was mile repeats on the bike, half-mile repeats on the run, and 50s in the pool on a pace that I haven't hit in over a year. In a nutshell, I was tuckered.

When we originally signed up for the Summer Sizzler, gun time was a nice and cushy 8:00 am. 9:00 would have been better, but for some reason, people don't like to put on races that 'late' in the day. Due to uncontrolled circumstances, they were forced to move the start time up to 7:00 am. Whereas I am a procrastinator, the Wife is not, we were stuck leaving earlier than my sleep settings would have preferred. Since we had not yet picked up our race gear, that meant we had to leave the house by 4:45 am to get to the race at a decent hour.

I love race volunteers. They do their best with the happiest of attitudes. Sometimes, however, they don't do it quickly. We got on site at 6:20, giving us a full 25 minutes to pick up our packet, set up,  and get out before they close transition. Under normal circumstances, this would not have been an issue. However, it was obvious that, as we waited in line, getting out of transition by the allotted time was going to be next to impossible. The line had moved roughly 3 feet in 10 minutes and we had many feet to go. We actually walked into transition as they were closing it. I looked back at the line and there were still people picking up their race numbers. Well, we tried to get there early (by my standards anyway).

Notice that I have been using the second person, plural pronoun 'we'. That's right, the Wife was making here 2011 triathlon debut and return to the sport in at least 2 years! It may have been 3 since she last SBR'd and, to be honest, I was a little nervous. I love going to races with the Wife. It's like bonding time for me. Even though we rarely race at the same time, I always feel like we are racing together. I wanted this to go well for her because I like it when things go well for her. I also want her to continue doing tri's. A bad experience may be anti-motivational and she might continue to just be a runner again.

So far, it was not going well. She hates mornings and the loss of an hour on the start was not a positive move.  She was a bit cold. She doesn't enjoy the pressure of hurrying through transition. I said the only thing I could think of to try and ease her suffering. That's what husbands do, right? They see a damsel in distress and they try to be chivalrous. Boys are problem solvers especially when it's a girl having a problem. Our desire to help grows substantially when the damsel is a hot chick to whom you happen to be married. I had to do something. Think, Banter, think. How can I improve this situation? Then, I offered her the only thing I had to offer which may help out. I said, "Would you like to wear my wetsuit?" She did and I had the feeling that things were about to change for her.

The Swim
The swim is in the Niagara River. As in the Niagara Falls. I am sure all of you have heard of this amazing spectacle of mother nature. Here's some things you may not have known:

Swim here?
The Niagara River connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. The problem is that Lake Erie is more than 300 feet above Lake Ontario. So, as the water drains from one Great Lake to another, it picks up speed on its way down. The water speed can range from 25-40 mph. More than 6 million cubic feet of water flow over the Falls every minute. Imagine swimming in that. (You can read more about NF here. )

Don't fret, because most of that height drop, water volume and water speed happens at Niagara Falls proper. We were several miles upstream where the water speed and volume was moot. In fact, the water was so calm and warm, the sea weeds were ripe and ready to harvest. The weeds were a problem for racers in the past, so the RD promised that they had sent in a clipper and trimmed the race course. There should have been no weeds in the way this year.

The race was not a mass swim start. They opted, instead, to make it a 3-at-a-time-trial start. For those of you who aren't sure what this means, I'll explain. They lined us up in (nearly) race number. I believe we were on our honor system here since they couldn't see our numbers. This is because many people were in wetsuits (not me, as I gave mine away). Other people showed up to the race late and did not have the opportunity to get body marked (ok, this may have been me). A volunteer put racers side-by-side-by-side in groups of 3. Two more volunteers held out their hands blocking the path to the water. Someone yelled 'Go' (not sure who) and the 2 volunteers raised their arms dramatically. The next group of 3 stepped up. Repeat. Soon it was our turn. We took off. And by took off, I mean that I sort of jogged, the guy in the middle walked, and the guy on the other end sprinted. I caught sprinter guy very quickly as the bottom of the Niagara River was 4 inches deep in mud (fun to squish between toes) and dotted with the occasional rock. The combination of mud, stones, and thigh deep water make sprinting counter-productive.

I'm not sure what their weed harvester looks like, but it didn't cut very deep. Looking at the tops of the stalks, they had obviously been cut. Either the cutter only makes it about 18 inches below the surface or the weeds are capable of rapid growth. The ~400 yard swim was far from weed free. And, with a time trial start, the swim was far from people free. In a mass or wave start, I can surge for the first couple of minutes and pretty much have the swim open to me and one or two other blokes of similar speeds. Not this time. There were lines of people of various abilities sifting their way through the floating jungle. It provided an extra challenge but was not a bad experience (except for that weed or 3 that made it into my mouth).

I came out of water in 22nd place and roughly a minute and a half behind the leader. I'm pretty sure that I lost some time running from the beach to transition. It was uphill through sand, grass, and finally pavement. I don't normally attack this sort of thing and there were several people who gave the roughly 250 yard dash some hard effort. I had to time to make up on the bike.

The Bike
I thought I would have a fast transition. Without a wetsuit, I had nothing to struggle over my calves. But, I swam topless. USAT 'strongly recommends' that we wear shirts on the bike and run. Fine. I'll conform. Putting a tight, triathlon jersey over a wet body is not the most efficient experience. The shirt will roll and refuse to become smooth. My guess is that I lost at least 30 seconds to the shirt and the entire transition cost me about 45 seconds on the leader. Time to haul.

Out onto the course, it was a brief out and back. Most sprint triathlons are right around 13 miles. The advertised distance of the race was 17 km, or 10.6 miles. Because of the fact that I had just finished recovering from IMLP... Because of the fact that I had trained hard all week... Because of the fact that I did not get much sleep... Because of the fact that I have been slow on the bike all season long (as compared to a year ago)... Because of the fact that I was under caffeinated... Because of the fast that I am, for the most part, a big pansy... I was not expecting greatness.

The ride was relatively flat. And by 'relatively', I mean super. I flew. This was easily the fastest bike ride of my triathlon career. I felt amazing. Even when my heart rate was in upper zone 4 (the threshold for racing), my legs seemed to want more. I passed scores of people. This is one of the drawbacks of the time trial swim start. I had no idea how I was doing in the race. Therefore, I kept hammering. Sometimes it's good to be wrong.

I also felt a bit guilty. No, not because I was doing well in the race, but because I did not have any body markings. Everyone else had a calf marked with 'F1' meaning Formula 1 (a double triathlon in which I was not competing) or 'S' meaning Sprint (in which I was competing). I was able to pick out who I was racing (the 'S' people) and who I was not racing (the 'F1' people). The F1 people started before the S people and I passed a bunch. I regret that those same people did not knew if I was in their race.

In this race, I averaged 21.7 mph. I think that number is a bit skewed. Even though the race was supposed to be 10.6, my gps registered just over 11.3 miles and clocked me at 23 mph. Looking at the paces of some of the guys I know to be awesome cyclists (whom regularly beat me in races and I check out their efforts to see what it takes to be good), their paces were slow compared with their history. Still, my bike leg was good enough for 6th place and I had moved up in the pack.

The Run
There was a guy about 15 seconds in front of me at the end of the bike leg. I pulled my feet out of my shoes, straddled the bike, and did a flying dismount. I actually beat this guy into transition. I found my slot, slid on both socks and shoes, and grabbed my race belt. I learned that I don't need to stand there and put on my race number. I can take care of that while I am running. I took off.

To be truthful, I knew I was biking hard and fast. This can be a problem. A person has only so much in the tank. If you give it away on the bike, you have less to spend on the run. I know this. However, that concept was lost on this race. This is a short race and my gas tank was big enough to handle the load. So, I went for it.

The course was rather flat. There were no real hills to slow me down or speed me up. I decided to ignore my heart rate and just run. Hard. At the beginning of the season, I wanted to run 7:30 minutes per mile in open runs. My fastest pace in a triathlon was 7:05. That was before the knee injury. I was running hard and my legs were tired. I had no idea how much speed that would yield. So, when the watch auto-beeped at the 1-mile mark, I looked down and saw 6:37.

What? I am not that fast. Maybe there were some hills after all. Surely the second mile will be uphill and my pace would dramatically slowed. See the amazing hill, right there at mile 1.6. It climbed about 11 total feet. Ouch. (In case you missed the sarcasm, Ironman Lake Placid has over 1,100 feet of ascension on the run course alone. Eleven feet, in comparison, may not even exist.) The second mile beeped in at.. well, nothing. The run did not make it a full 2 miles. It was advertised as a 3 km, or 1.9 mile run. Plus, I didn't stop my watch when I hit the finish. Normally, I would remember to stop it several minutes later, but I think I got this one within about 10 seconds.  Even with the delay, I was at a 6:52 pace. I could not have been more surprised. Looking at the overall results, they had me at a 6:19 pace. My overall run leg was good enough for 8th place.

When I checked the results, I was in 4th. Not age group. Overall. At just over 52 minutes total, this is the highest I have ever placed in a race of any kind. So, I did what any other person in this situation would do. I start looking at the 3rd place guy, just to see... Well, he was a good 2 minutes ahead of me and I had the fastest speeds of my career. I gave it my all. So, I decided to check 5th place. Eight seconds. That's by how much I beat him. I've seen this guy around at several races and he beats me more often than not. He told me that he had the best race of his life too. Maybe the Summer Sizzler does that to people, gives them their best races.

Like a good husband (I bet you forgot about the Wife), I went back out on to the course to find her and watch her finish. There's nothing sexier than a hot chick, in lycra, finishing a race. I hung out in a shady area with about a quarter mile left. At last, the hottie arrived. I clapped, I cheered, I gave a hoot and hollar. How did she respond? She yelled at me for messing up her bike computer.  While running, she actually took the energy to yell at me, and continued running.

It's true that earlier this week, I gave her a new computer. The new one does all the stuff her old one did, except this one has a cadence sensor. Like all men handing out gifts and doing favors for their loved ones, I was trying to do good. I also thought that I would have the opportunity to bike with her and go over the basic functionality. Her work week was not that great and the tutorial never happened. Since we didn't get to the race all that efficiently, we both forgot about the new hardware mounted to her frame. She remembered it when it was 1. Not zeroed out and she couldn't figure out how to reset during mid race. 2. While trying to reset, she dislodged it from the mount. 3. She stopped biking, turned around, and spent an eternity looking in the grass for the (her words), "<Bleeping>, no good <bleeping>, device." I let her rant for a while. I deserved what I got and it's normally over once the rant is finished.

I checked her time. She was at 1:08 and in 114th place. I imagine that she lost between 3-5 minutes in her computer search. When I asked her if she enjoyed herself at the race. She lowered her eyebrows (and I, therefore, got nervous) and said, 'Yes.' (Sigh of relief). Then, in an effort to sate her further, we went shopping at the outlet mall. I called it a 'recovery walk'. It was a good day for us both.

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