Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sand Hollow Aquatic Center Spring Triathlon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 10th Edition 
173.1 miles raced, 400 yards swam and 10 miles biked in 2011
Race: Sand Hollow Aquatic Center Spring Triathlon
Place: St. George, UT       
Miles from home: 300 miles
Weather: 60 degrees; Dry

This race was added very last minute when plans for another race fell through unexpectedly. With the highly competitive St. Anthony's Tri coming up on May 1st and then the Ironman 70.3 in Boise on June 11th, I knew I needed to see where I stood in the tri world. Not only did I need to check out my fitness and get a grasp of where that all was hashing out, I had to essentially do my first tri ever with real transitions. Unfortunately, I did not get everything I was hoping for.

Signing in on the night prior to the race, I found out that there was little rhyme or reason to how swimmers would enter the pool to swim two abreast before exiting to do the other two legs. More accurately, there was a reason - it was just odd. Swimmers would not line up by projected time but rather alphabetically. This meant that I would be swimming near those have their names spelled close to mine, not those whose projected speed was the same as mine. This made me realize that unless I just so happened to be swimming next to fast people named Raines and Ravi, I would have no idea whom I was actually competing against in the other two legs.

Learning this info bummed me out a little as I have zero idea what a race pace for a sprint tri feels like. If I was at least around others with like speed I could gauge myself.  I then realized this would simply be a time trial and I would be on my own. Go as hard as I can and hopefully I will be rewarded and not nipped in the bud at the finish.

Race Morning:

Too early once again for exercising.
We were told we would be able to enter the bike transition area starting at 6:15 AM. I arrived at 6:18 AM and virtually every spot was already filled on the bike racks. So much for following orders. I guess, like telling runners packet pickup starts at 10 AM and they show up at 8:30 AM demanding a packet, that triathletes do whatever the hell they want to as well. After finding a spot, I simply stood in place, bidding my time until the start.  When a woman next to me began asking questions because "you look like you know what you are doing" I simply smiled and answered them the best I could.  Then I also threw in some one-liners to lighten the mood for this, her first tri as well. "Did you get a timing chip for your bike too?  These aren't water-proof, you know?" I only let her dangle for a few seconds before telling her I was kidding.

Soon it was time to line up and wait for an open lane to share with another swimmer.

Swim (400 yards): 6:02

The swim was unique (to me at least) in that the timing mat was in the corner of the pool and your swim "time" would start the moment you crossed it, no matter how long it took you to actually get to an open lane and begin swimming. then you needed to exit the pool, run around the bike area and suit up.  And here I thought the exercise portions would be the hardest! When it was finally my turn, after standing in line for over an hour as swimmers snaked around the pool, I was eager to hit the water. My goal for this swim was around 5:00.  Given I once swam a 5:15 for 500 yards in high school, I was thinking that was reasonable. According to my watch, I finished the swim in just around 5:15. However it was all the before and after rigamarole that added the addition 45 seconds.

This used to be easy.
In the pool, I felt solid. I could tell, however, I was hardly in true swimming shape, having not been in the pool more than once in the past three weeks because of traveling.  Yet, I was in much better shape than I had been just a few months ago. I had no idea, however, if what I was doing was pushing too hard or going too slow.  I simply do not have that clock in my head yet to measure what hard effort in a pool feel like.  In fact, it all felt hard. So, when I touched the wall and saw my time I was rather pleased.

Transition: 1:32

The transition was actually much longer in my head than the official transition time as I started my watch for Transition One as I left the water. I got to my bike quickly, had my socks on and was rocking.  I had decided to clip in my shoes prior to the start of the race so that I could push the bike out onto the curse, slide my feet in and be gone.  I tried slipping my tri top over my wet body but it would not budge.  The bib number pinned to it made it even more difficult as I could not just force it down without ripping the bib number as well.  As I struggled, the clock ticked away.  One girl next to me asked if I needed help.  I must have looked quite frustrated.  She reached behind me and unrolled the top and pulled it down.  I thank her profusely, clipped my helmet on and pushed my bike away.

Get in, damn foot!
Getting to where I could officially start biking, I tried to slip my feet quickly into my shoes but they were having none of that. Flopping around and flipping under, I could not get the shoes on my feet.  Finally, I had to lean against a fence and put each foot in individually before getting under way.  I was more than a little frustrated at this point but definitely ready to go.

Bike (10 miles): 29:57

Even given the few bike workouts I had done (and I mean very few- I had been on my bike a grand total of four times) I had an idea of what I might be able to do on the bike.  I was hoping for a time around 22-23 minutes.  This time goal did not seem out of the realm of plausibility based on the rides under my belt.  The course itself was rather forgiving and consisted of two 5-mile out-and-backs with a few rises and drops in each loop.  It took me a good mile of the first loop until I caught my breath from the swim but after that I felt great. As I was passing people from all different letters of the alphabet (ha!) I had no idea whether I was going fast or not.  I don't have any sort of device on my bike to capture my speed so I simply had to go off the fact that not a single person had passed me. around the end of the first loop, I caught a fella who seemed to look like he was going rather fast.

Na Na Na Na Na Na BATMAN!!!
I slowed down to enter the parking lot of the Aquatic Center and got ready for the beginning of loop two.  After a slight climb out of the parking lot, I sensed someone was on my shoulder.  Sure enough the guy I had passed was right there. But he didn't attempt to move from my shoulder. For the next mile he just sort of sat there.  Now, I am very new to triathlons but I think that not only etiquette but rules forbid this sort of drafting.  in addition, it was making me nervous.  I really did not like having any bike around me having never raced against them.  When I passed a cyclist in the race, I made it a point to loudly declare "On your left!" just to let them know I was there. Not so much with this guy.
At least pull my hair.

Around the same place where I finally caught my breath on the first loop I began to waver on this loop. I felt like I was cycling through mud.  Mr. Draft flew by me.  I looked down at my tire fully expecting to see a flat. Given that on two of the four aforementioned rides I had gone on I ended up with a flat, this was not something unexpected.  But the tire was not flat.  I pressed on.

On every uphill I would lose a little distance on Mr. Draft but on the flats and downhills I would make up that distance and more.  As we headed home for the final 2 miles I finally put the hammer on and separated us by a little bit.  I knew it really didn't matter too much because he was obviously riding his bike before I had gotten on mine.  But it made me feel confidant that I had a strong cycle portion. (N.B. After the race, I found out I had broken a spoke on my rear wheel and the tire was rubbing against the brake pads every revolution. That explains the quicksand feeling.)

Transition: :49

With nothing really to do but dismount and change into my K-Swiss Blade Light Race shoes, this transition went much more smoothly.  The only setback was when I left the bike area and a volunteer briefly directed me toward the bike route instead of the run route.  I laughed at this in my head. Did he think I forgot my bike?

Run: 18:12

Simmer down, spectators.
There is really not much to say about the 5k.  I left the transition area and began running the .75 of a mile of a two lap out-and-back course. I was completely alone with zero competition.  By alone I mean no one who was close to running my pace was anywhere around me.  The only person who I could use to pace off of was the woman who would eventually take third overall.  Unfortunately, as I tracked her down, it ended up she was finishing her entire race when I had one more loop to go. It was a beautiful day in St. George and with the sun rising over our shoulders, I decided to just enjoy the day.

On the second loop I did get to see one runner who would eventually finish 2nd overall and another who would finish 4th.  I did not know this at the time however. I wish we had been much closer as we probably all would have picked up the pace.  Nevertheless, lots of friendly words and waves were exchanged between runners who were all seemingly grateful to be experiencing a wonderful event simultaneously. 

Hitting my stride I began to push the final .75 of a mile, passing people left and right.  I had an idea that I might be able to win the race overall but competing solo like this meant I had no clue if that is possible. So I just gave it my all and flew in with a running time of about 17:55.  Given that I have run so few 5ks in the past 5 years I can probably count them on one hand, I was more than pleased.

Not to get all watercolory on ya.
When the final results were tabulated, I did win - my age group. Unfortunately, I was only able to place 5th overall.  The most aggravating thing about this placing was that the person who finished in front of me was only 13 seconds faster. I am not counting the fact I will be more fit soon, or that my transitions were atrocious into the aggravation.  Rather, if I had been near this competitor in the real race, I am quite sure I would have been able to at least push myself a little harder to track him down.  Could I have won the race overall if we all started together? Probably not.  The overall winner beat me by too large of a margin.

Nevertheless, I was pleased with the entirety of my effort and extremely happy to get some specific racing in the tri world. I also realized I needed one more race (at least) before my next tri, so I added the Legacy Duathlon to my schedule for April 23rd. i am very interested to see how I do there.

As for this race?

Overall time: 56:33. I'll take it.

1 comment:

Thos said...

Hi Dane. I came across your blog while searching for a review of the Salt Lake Marathon and found this post. My wife and I talked to you briefly after the race (she is the woman you paced off on the run who ended up taking third overall). Good job on the race. Now that I have found your blog I will be a regular reader. Thanks!