Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Stayton Sprint Tri Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 11th Edition 
1 mile skied, 500 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 131.7 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Stayton Sprint Tri
Place: Stayton, OR
Miles from home: 63 miles
Weather: 50s; Cloudy; Partially rainy

I signed up for this race solely because of proximity.  After many weekends away from home, I wanted to stay local. I also wanted to do a triathlon and try to kickstart what has been a slow-starting 2013. I simply haven’t been able to get on the bike or in the pool and figured the only way I would do both would be to race. So, all the tris and duas and everything in that realm would all be basically workouts. Workouts I pay for. (Kinda dumb, but hey, whatever makes you go.) For example, getting on the bike for this race would mark only the second time I had ridden my bike since September. Of last year.  That of course, in no way shape or form keeps me from illogically expecting to do far better than I should.

As the race would start in a pool, it required the swimmer to submit a time that they expected to finish their 500 meter swim in. When all was done, I found out I would be the absolute last swimmer in the absolute last heat of the day. While the race started at 8 a.m., I would start at 11:08:30 a.m. Four swimmers to each of the five lanes with me going dead last. I could tell I wasn’t going to actually enjoy much of this event at all, at least from a competitor standpoint.

In the dozen or so triathlons I have done, only one or two have been of the kind that allows all the athletes to actually be competing against everyone at the same time. I understand in small triathlons this is rarely a problem and in larger triathlons if you are good enough to matter you will be in the fastest wave. Nevertheless, it is something I will never full enjoy. For the most part, there isn't a better ways to actually do the seeding and racing of so many athletes in a confined space but that doesn’t stop me from trying to think of one. It is a complicated sport with many moving parts and I do not envy those who have to put it together, like the nice people in Stayton.

I did, however, appreciate that I would not have to be up at the crack of dawn. I would be able to sleep in a touch, lazily saunter over to the race starting area, prep my bike, get body marked, check out the course and then watch some of the swimmers in front of me. It was all rather relaxed. I tried to see how others were handling the cluster of swimmers in the pool, how they got out of the exchange area and many other things.  It was too late to change some of my basic strategy but I saw a few things which would help me in the future. Every second counts! Sooner than I expected it to go by, we were called to the pool’s edge for pre-race instructions.

I found out we would be circling swimming in each lane with ten seconds between each swimmer. I then realized that if those in my lane actually swam what they were claiming to swim, I would have roughly 5 seconds from when I started my lap before the first swimmer in each lane would be doing a flipturn and hunting me down. When it was our turn to hop in the water, I stayed out for a second to observe those in my heat. Two of them looked like they totally belonged there. The third? He didn’t look like he should be swimming at all. I could only hope that his race performance would not reflect his warm up lap.
Swim: 7:20    (4th fastest)

While I have not biked very much in the past half of a year, I have only swam a few more times. However, I had a feeling I would be able to hold my own. I had mistakenly thought we were swimming in a yard pool and would only find out much later it was a meter pool.  For those not in the know, the difference between the two in a 500 yard/meter swim is about 45 seconds in the yard pool's favor. In hindsight, if I had been watching my Timex Run Trainer with each 100 yards, I would have been very upset with my times. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I rarely had a chance.
50 Meters in and already passing him. Sigh.

When the whistle went off for the first swim in my lane, I was getting antsy. Ten seconds later the girl in my lane was off. Ten more seconds and the guy in front of me whom I was hopeful wasn’t a dud was underway.  And as predicted, as I pushed off the wall for my start, I was barely one stroke in when the first swimmer was already passing by my side and heading toward the wall. Then, within 20 yards I had already caught up to the swimmer in front of me, thrashing away.  As per the rules, I tapped on his feet so he would stop at the wall and I could pass. Unfortunately, he did not. As I did a flip turn and shot up beside him, trying to avoid his washing machine arm motion, I wasn't sure what to do. After both the other two swimmers had gone by my side in the other direction, I simply swam by him.  I was already completely off my game.

Over the next hundred yards or so I could see the female swimmer was virtually a fish.  She passed the male in front of her and another 100 yards later had caught up to me. She was absolutely moving. (In fact, she would be the fastest swimmer of the day.) It took all I had to not get lapped by her again before the 500 meters were done. Granted, she had a twenty second head start but as I would find out later, even in my swimming prime she probably would have still handed me my lunch. While I would hold off the other fast swimmer until there was about 100 yards to go (he would end up being the third fastest swimmer of the day), he too passed me. Neither of these were good for my psyche. The fourth swimmer in our group, had pulled over to a basically unused lane and was just hanging out on the wall. I wonder what his story was and why he thought he should be in this wave. Not judging, just curious. He would DNF the race and never leave the pool. Stinks he had to do that.

Finishing my swim, I hopped out and was utterly disappointed with my time.  I felt that I had been swimming very hard and even with having to pass, being passed and having the one fast male in the lane not realizing he couldn’t take his half in the middle, figured my time would be good. Again, I totally didn’t realize this was a meter pool and conserving my energy for the bike and run, I had actually done better than I expected. Nevertheless, I figured I was middle of the pack of swimmers and wanted to simple get out and on the bike.

Transition 1: 1:38  (30th fastest)

Shannon knows which side of me is best.
Running from the pool to the T1, I wished I had worn a tri suit.  I could tell that slipping into clothes and socks was going to be hard as I was dripping wet.  As predicted, it took me far longer than I had wished to get dressed and ready to go on the bike. I made some strategic errors in putting on clothing and just got more frustrated as time ticked by. Finally, I had my ROAD ID jersey on and was out onto the roads.

Bike: 39:47    (11th fastest)

My goal was to average 25 mph on the bike and I figured with such a relatively short bike course I could do just that. Within the first mile or so I was hitting that pace or faster even when a few cyclists passed me by.  I soon passed the super fast female swimmer and a few other cyclists as well. I was feeling great. I then remembered that we had a more or less downhill course
Not nearly as up or downhill as it seems.
on the way out and would be peddling uphill on the way home.  Nevertheless, my goal remained the same.

When two cyclists passed me around mile 5, I began to stay in contact with them, intent on letting no one else pass me on the bike. While they would both move further and further out of sight as the race went on, I was able to hold my place. A couple of close calls with some local drivers (the course was not closed) left me quite wary and shaken but it was the wind in the face on the way back home which presented the greatest challenge.  I actually yelled at myself to go faster. “PEDAL!” I bellowed looking down at my legs and they would respond for a bit, getting me up to 22 mph until the slight uphill and wind slowed me back down to 18 mph.

The cloudy weather and cool temps, almost perfect for racing, gave way to just a smattering of rain here and there. I did not care whether I got wet from the rain as I was wet from sweating and the pool. I did care about rain on the road making it slick for my tires. Already a little wary of bike crashes, this just made me more cautious. Soon I recognized the surroundings and passed by my parked car. Containing my books for a signing requested by the race, I knew I would never get them out.  The place to sign them was a few blocks away and it was raining.  Neither characteristic bodes well for me hauling paper products to be signed and purchased.

Thanks to Mick Evans of
I slowed up near the second transition and stopped my bike just shot of the dismount line. So happy to be off the blasted contraption, I smiled. I averaged around 22.5 mph for the bike so while it fell short of my goal, it wasn't too far off.

Transition 2:  :49 (6th fastest)

I was much happier with this transition and was in and out about as fast as I could hope for. I knew I had some work cut out for me if I wanted to make the top 5 athletes.  I knew at least four triathletes were in front of me.

Run: 20:13    (7th fastest)

I took off trying to track down every runner I could. A 5k is hardly my specialty but I was hoping the others were worse than I.  Almost out of the gate I could see one runner in front of me who was the last cyclist to pass me. Before long I was gaining on him exponentially and knew I would soon have him.  As I popped out of a park on the path one of the volunteers yelled “Hey there!” as I turned away.  After stuttering for a bit they yelled “This way!”  I wasn’t aware the former exclamation had meant the latter and wasted a few seconds turning around and heading the correct direction.

A few blocks away, as runners were streaming through an intersection not closed, but monitored by volunteers, one volunteer was a bit too preoccupied with watching runners come back towards the finish. Only after I went all the way through the intersection did he realize he needed to direct me back 90 degrees to the right.  I was a little perturbed but did my best to tip my cap in thanks.

Thanks to Mick Evans of
These two wrong turns kept me from passing the runner in front of me for longer than I wished, but by around a mile into this 5k I finally caught him on a narrow bike path.  Twisty and turny, it didn’t allow much room to pass, nor did the competitor in front of me go out of his way to assist me in doing so either.  When we finally hit the road and I had more room to maneuver, I shot by.

This is the position I would remain for the final two miles, I passed runners from earlier start waves, dodged and almost punted a wayward barking dachshund and made another wrong turn.  But nowhere on the run did I see the next cyclist in line that had passed me. The main reason for this was because he ran the fastest 5k of the day. While I was pushing hard, running against more or less no one, without any real mile markers, I was a little out of sorts. I did not know if what I was running was hard or if I actually had more in the tank. As it turns out, I had much left in the tank.  When I saw the finish line area, I turned it on the best I could. I figured I could get both a sub 20:00 5k and a sub 1:10 for the entire triathlon.  But by now it was too late and I failed in both.

I ended up finishing 6th overall in a time of 1:10:08 but 4th against those I actually raced against. By that I mean two of the athletes who beat me I never once saw. One I had no chance in hell of beating as he was the second fastest swimmer, fastest cyclist and second fastest runner. But this underscored how triathlons of this nature really are just a time trial of sorts.

Overall, while mildly disappointed, I was pleased with my effort for the day. It was, for all intents and purposes, a hard workout that just so happened to have a price tag and a way cool medal at the end. There was a good community spirit at this event and while virtually not a soul was out to cheer us on in the small town of Stayton (in spite of the fact that at least the run went through neighborhoods where this was possible) there was a still a great vibe around the event. Having my awesome friend Shannon along to take pictures and cheer definitely helped things!

Even though many athletes had finished a long time before I even started, many hung around afterward. Maybe it was to see how they placed overall or perhaps it was for the door prizes. Either way, nearly every athlete (save the male and female winners, who appeared to be on a cool down run post-race) were there until the last competitor crossed the line. This was a nice touch with many competitors applauding everyone until the timing mats were taken away.

The finisher's medal was also one of the neatest I have ever seen, employing a bike chain as part of the ensemble. I found this to be very ingenious and one I will proudly display.

I learned that I cannot simply will myself into triathlon shape, even if I already knew this in advance. I can, however, still mildly get by treating triathlons as hard workouts every 3 months or so.  However, if I want to get better, I need to make some life changes that allow me to stay home more often and get my butt in the saddle and my gills wet. Believe me, for more reasons than better tri times I am trying my best to do that. Summer is arriving in Portland and I cannot wait to enjoy all the beauty that is this wonderful place during the summer months.

As it stands, I have my first tri under my belt for the season.  A 50k on Memorial Day in Forest Park put on by the awesome company NSpire followed by an aquathlon just two days after my birthday will wind up the first 5 months of the year. With at least two potential tris in the month of June, I look forward to massively improving in all of them and taking on the rest of this year. Setbacks happen and we are rarely in the shape we want to be but we strive on nevertheless.

And as always, any triathlon where I don't crash on the bike is considered a good day.

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