Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SG Tri Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 16th Edition 
237.2 miles raced, 2900 meters swam and 77.9 miles biked in 2011
Race:SG Olympic Tri
Place: Hurricane, UT       
Miles from home: 285 miles
Weather: 60-70 degrees; sunny 


When this weekend opened up a few months ago, I thought about doing one of the 5150 series races in Memphis.  However, after sending my bike to Tampa to compete in the St. Anthony’s Tri, spending a ridiculous amount of money to do so and then subsequently not having my bike for a total of three weeks total because of the in-transit shipping, I decided that was not going to happen.  What to do? Well, I found the relatively nearby-ish triathlon in St. George, UT.

When it is still snowing in the town you live in, a 4 hour drive south into the desert gives you hope for at least palatable racing conditions.  Looking at the weather forecast backed up those hopes so I signed up rather late for this triathlon, slapped my bike on the back of my car and drove down Friday afternoon to St. George.

I had a small book signing and meet and greet with triathletes here but I was picking their brains far more than they were mine. While they were curious what I eat the night before (steak) shoes I wear (K-Swiss) and if I would wear socks (um, yes! Lin Socks baby!) I wanted to know everything they could tell me about triathlons. Even with many marathons under my belt, I still listen to advice given to me about running so you can imagine the rapt attention I was paying to these triathletes with oodles of swim, bike and run experience under them. Even with my lack of experience, I had made no secret that I was going to be gunning for a top spot, even potentially a win. So I had to know as much as possible about how to make that happen.

As I tried desperately to go to bed early (if you do not know me well enough, let me explain that I have a normal bed time of around 2 AM) I finally succeed only to be awoken by one of the loudest conversations ever held on a telephone.  Someone in the next room of my hotel was calling someone else in England at midnight here in Utah.  How did I know it was England? Well, I could hear every single word of this conversation! Every one.  I finally called his room and asked him to keep it down.  He did but he might as well have been sitting in my room with me.  I put some ear plugs in, placed my cell phone next to my head and slept fitfully thinking I would not hear its alarm in the morning.  Fortunately, I did, got p and was on my way to the race. Weary but at least on time.

Race Day:

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a race.  I do not know what works best for me weather-wise in a triathlon just yet but I do know it is nice if it is a little warmer than the temperature I would want for a run alone.  Then again, if it is warmer in the morning for the swim and bike, it means it will be way too warm for the run.  But you can’t have it all, I guess.  If nothing else, it was perfect triathlon watching conditions and a dry road means I do not have to freak out any more than I already do upon my bicycle.

There was not much waiting around between my arrival and the beginning of the race which suits me just fine.  I laid out all my gear and racked my bike just in time o have an official tell me I had to move it as it was reserved for someone else.  Not wanting to offend officials and get socked with a penalty (triathlon is such a touchy sport), I moved all my gear over, recalibrated it all and then got ready to go get in the water.  As I was leaving a late comer showed up and the same official said “apparently, this person who reserved this is not showing up.  Here, rack your bike here.”  “Here” being exactly where I had my bike previously. I gave him an oft-used and should be patented “Seriously?” look and headed toward the Sand Hollow Reservoir.

Swim: 23:39 (Including time running to T1)

Unlike my only other Olympic Distance tri ever, this would be the full 1500 meter swim, which played into my strengths.  While I have done fewer open water swims than I have fingers on one of my hands, at least it was not going to be a swim so short that we barely got wet. Why swimming in triathlons plays such a small percentage of the overall distance is beyond me.  If it is harder for most triathletes then I guess my feeling is perhaps they should just get better at it.  Even before I began thinking about doing tris, I thought about how it seemed lit they are almost duathlons with a little bit of mucking around in the water to cool people off.  But I digress.

This would be my first triathlon where the swim would be a mass start.  I looked forward to that because I would then know what my competition was going to be for the day.  Granted females would star in another wave, as would 40 year olds and over, but at least I was pretty sure whom was my competition.

Another new thing would be the wearing of a wetsuit.  The only other time I had worn this in competition was the US Aquathlon championship race two years ago. To say I am going into these triarhlons with high hopes based on little logic and fact would be a semi-accurate statement. But I know he only way I am going to get some “training” in is to incorporate it into sanctioned races.

The wetsuits were definitely needed as it was a chilly dip into the water indeed.  We also floated around for quite some time as some stranglers sort of stood on the dock not getting in.  Not quite sure what they were doing but one guy shouted. “No.  It’s OK.  We are glad to wait for when you’re ready!”
I found staying in one place to be hard in the water.  Eventually one person starts to creep forward and soon the whole group is 5 yards in front of the starting line.  We were told to get back, we did, and then slowly floated forward again.  More than few people in the front of the line really looked like they should be moving back just a touch but who am I to judge.  I just wanted to swim!

With the course being two laps of a rectangular-esque shaped course, I was looking forward to having at least a semblance of a way to judge my speed. When the shout of “Go!” sent us flailing  I was more than ready to churn.

Immediately I was sandwiched between two guys who took their sighting lessons from the Stevie Wonder School of Swimming and felt like if I had a wallet on me these guys might try to mug me for it.  Fortunately I was able to get out from their Night at the Roxbury style mosh dancing and slipped ahead of most of the pack. As we made the first turn in the water, I could see just a few swimmers in front of me. Another, who would stay with me the entire way, was one of the worst directional swimmers I have ever seen.  Obviously a superior swimmer than myself, how far he actually swam is something I am quite curious about.  We would bob into the side of me and then the next thing I knew he was then yards out in the lake.

The only other person would be around me for the entire swim portion was one guy who decided to just drop anchor behind me in my slipstream and repeatedly jam his nails into my heels.  How drafting is penalizable offense in the cycling portion and not in swimming must go to the fact that it is harder to purposefully do so.  But I have no doubt this guy was just along for the ride.  If I slowed one iota, up my legs he went. So, like Dora, I just decided to just keep swimming.

Overall I was very excited about my swim.  I seem to hit every tangent and cut every corner perfectly.  Even when I would not even check where I was for 10 or more strokes I seemed to be always on the correct course.  As we neared the finish of the second lap, Mr. Erratic Swimmer was finally able to hit a straight line and bounded out of the water a few seconds before me.  The guy who needs to cut his fingernails? One second behind me.

When I later learned I was 5th out of the water, I felt pretty darn good about my swim.

Transition 1: 1:51

I definitely would have liked for this to have gone a little more smoothly as two people who came out of the water after me were on the bike course before me. However, as this is the first time I have ever removed a wetsuit for a tri, I could not be too hard on myself.

Bike: 1:02:22 (19.7mph avg)

Looking at the results from the previous year I was curious about a number of different things.  Without going into too much detail I figured out that the course was not your typical 40k but rather jus ta 33k.  I was quite happy about this turn of events as a shorter bike course again played into my favor.  My ridiculously limited cycling experience meant that this would not allow the superior cyclists to kill me too much.  I was incorrect in this assumption.

Part of the reason I was incorrect on this assumption was the level of triathletes this race brought in this year.  There were some burners.  The other part of the reason was, until race day I had not really looked at the elevation changes. This was probably a good thing as there was nothing I could do to prepare myself for the hills that existed in the time I had. At least I was ignorant to them for the first three miles.

During those first three miles I could see most of the cyclist in front of me.  Then I saw “The Hill”.  I am guessing it had a minimum grade of 11% and went as high as 18% near the top.  It completely wrecked me.  Prior to the race, my friend Chris White was kind enough to equip me with a speedometer for my bike. I had mentioned I always felt like I could go faster if I knew I was not already red-lining.  Well, this handy device showed me at one point, when I felt I was going so slow that I was going to topple, I was speeding up this hill at the blistering, gone into plaid speed of 5.5 mph. I was curious how fast this would be once I was finally able to come back and tackle this puppy on the other side of this out and back course.

For the next 5 miles I held my own and until the turn around at mile 10 and change, I was happy that only 2 riders had passed me.  But then, as I turned, I could see the onslaught was coming. Prior to getting back to The Hill we had to climb a not nearly as bad climb but still enough to make you unhappy hill wherein I lost count of the number of cyclist who passed me.  I think it was around 15 or so.  However, when I finally crested that bad boy, as Chris had told me, my 180 pounds would come quite handy.

With the hill being so steep that peddling was futile to spin the wheels faster, it was only time to just tuck and let gravity take over. The little 130 lb riders in front of me did not stand a chance.  As I zipped by, tucked as I possibly would dare, and not off of my seat and straddling the crossbar of my bike like some of them were doing (I am nowhere near that brave) one glance at the speedometer told me I was going 43 mph. Egads.

The final few miles were spent just trying to hold position so I could make a run at those who passed me.  On our last tight turn, one cyclist decided he need to pass me right there which I felt was a little unsafe and uncouth.  As I do not know the niceties and rules of the cycling world as much as I do what is expected in running, I said nothing.  But I did burn a hole in the back of his ridiculously ugly tri top with my eyes.

Transition 2: 0:54

This was a fairly fast transition for me which would have been faster if I could have actually racked my bike on the first try.  Someone else’s towel was bunched on the ground in such a way that I couldn’t slide my bike through.  Quite frustrating.  I also couldn’t find my Lin Socks visor where I had left it.  The sun was definitely shining overhead and I could have used the extra protection it provided. Slipping into my K-Swiss Blade Light Race shoes, with my Lin socks on, my feet felt great.  Time to rock this 10k.

10k: 43:01 (6:57 pace)

OK. Maybe it was more like time to “easy jazz” this 10k. in the first mile I slipped by no less than 10 guys who had passed me in the bike and I was feeling like I was on top of the world.  Then I looked at my time: 6:43. Wow.  And that had been with a slight downhill to start with.  I expected to be closer to 30 seconds faster at least for this mile.  It did not get much better.

I would end up passing perhaps two more people and then settled down into a position where I would more or less stay.  The leader passed me on his back portion of this out and back 10k and I figured he was going to beat me by about 20 minutes.  Ouch-arama. As the runners continued to return for the final 5k of this constantly hill course, I saw that I was in 11th place. Twelfth place was sitting on my heels.

Turning around, I was soon passed by the guy behind me, even though I felt like I was speeding up. We were both catching tenth place for a bit.  Around the 4th mile I then passed this guy but noticed any further distance on 10th place was not happening.  He had found another gear I did not have.  Around mile 5.5 I was passed by my chaser again and then another fella who was running one heck of a race. This deflated me entirely, especially since I felt I had been going so fast.  The miles were not lying however.

As I would later learn, I actually finished 11th in my age.  I mad miscounted the runners coming back and the last runner to beat me to the finish has incurred a penalty.  If I had just hung with the guy I had battling, I would have placed 10th overall in my wave.  A lesson learned here is to never give up.  One never knows what will shake out in the end.

Overall: 15th place 2:11:43.8

As I mentioned there were other waves of participants, including all the females and 40 years and older.  My time was bested by three runners I never actually raced: one female and two men in the other wave (including getting nipped  by 12 seconds by a 45 year old.) I still do not like the idea of losing to people you don’t actually race but until it comes down to an actual overall race title and me being involved in it, I guess I am not all that miffed.

With regard to the race itself, I felt it was superbly run.  Why do I think that?  Because I never once thought about anything other than my racing. Every turn had a volunteer to tell you where to go.  The transition area was centrally located and just a few steps from either discipline as you made the transition.  The road were blocked from all traffic (not hard to do in a state park but still.) More or less, like offensive lineman, if I do not think about you, chances are you did a splendid job.

So kudos to BBSC Endurance Sports for putting together a great triathlon. I can see me doing another of their races sometime in the future.


la maratonista (AKA Jenni) said...

You'll figure out the bike thing soon enough - just need to spend a little more time in the saddle (especially on the hills). And brick workouts will help with the lead legged feeling you have at the beginning of the run. Just takes a little getting used to!

All that said, you're still damn fast, and I know you'll get faster!

Daren Williams said...

Great recap, Dane. I am in awe of your ability to take on a new sport and achieve this level of success in such a short time. As your results show, you are in the most competitve age group. By the way, stop lobbying for longer swims. I'm perfectly happy with the way they are now. I agree with AKA Jenni that you'll get the bike portion down with more time in the saddle. I look forward to racing Boise Ironman 70.3 with you next week (at least I should see you at the starting line!).