Monday, June 27, 2011

TriAdventure Summer Sprint Triathlon Recap

     I am incredibly happy with my performance at this event! Lots of statistical improvements! Lots of memorable moments. I don't want to miss a thing, so I'll start with 4:30. At 4:30 am the alarm goes off. I've had 3 hours sleep, but I know I have to be on the road at 5, get there by 6, get set up, do warm ups including a 100m swim and all the other pre race hoopla. My lovely wife, Denise, and my daughter, Faith, are going to cheer me on, so they get up too. Kneesee gets the daughter up and starts coffee while I do bike checks, gear checks and get everything loaded.

     My Blazer has a thermostat that's been sticking lately and I haven't taken 15 minutes to replace it, so we held our breathes that we wouldn't have any problems and we didn't. Its also missing its spare tire (don't ask) so just getting to the race was a true blessing. Faithy slept the whole ride while I rambled to Kneesee for the whole 45 minute drive about vehicle maintenance and race expectations.

     We arrived, I got set up, I got my warm ups in and even had a few extra minutes to take it all in. I'm still too new at this to be looking for age group wins or even top 3's. My intention is to race as a novice for 3 triathlons this year, the step up as an age grouper next year and do 5. For this event I just wanted to "fix" some things that left me a bit disappointed after the Angels Race Triathlon last month. I wanted to shave a minute off each transition and more importantly I wanted to get out of the pool feeling like I had reflected my best effort. At Angels Race I got out of the pool disoriented, slightly confused and thankful I hadn't just died!

     So the starting horn blasts and the swim starts. Right, left, exhale, inhale, right , left, exhale, inhale...or something like that, I don't know what swim technique he was using. Pool swim triathlons start one at a time, so when the starting horn sounded at 7am that just meant I had to wait 20 more minutes in line before my swim started. Eventually it's 7:20:40 and time for me to go...

     The 400m swim: This was my first time swimming in a 50m pool and the task at hand was to do a snake swim for 4 laps. I know I passed about 4 to 6 people during the first 250m and I got passed twice during the last 150m. Time was of no consequence for me, I just wanted to feel in control. I think the pool here made a huge difference. The lap lanes were about 2 feet wider than at Angels and it gave people plenty of room to pass. Also, the pool was deep enough that slow swimmers, like me, weren't being held up by non-swimmers who were congesting the wall at Angels and preventing me from doing flip turns. I did have a moment on the 3rd lap where I literally couldn't believe I was doing so well...and in that moment I could feel 39 years worth of self-doubt in my ability to swim telling me "Hey bud...did you forget? You can't swim!" I was like "Oh! Sh#@! The pool is 17 ft deep right here! I can't lose it now!" It only lasted for a second and I just relaxed for a few strokes and snapped right out of it. I got out of the pool knowing I had done what I came to do. I didn't know my time, but it felt right and I was overwhelmed that I had done so well..., but no time for reflections...this thing was just getting started!

     T1: I cross the timing mat and run to transition to the bike. I had laid my gear out with better forethought than last time and it paid off. I lost a few seconds fumbling with my Garmin. I might ditch the Garmin next race. I ended up putting it on backwards anyway and in the middle of a race I couldn't focus on it long enough to scroll to the screen I wanted.

     The 13.1 mile bike: The course is set up for an immediate uphill right out of transition so I decided to set up in the first gear of the small chain ring. I pulled the first hill and stayed in the big chain ring the rest of the ride. The course was rolling with few hills that required first gear. I mostly remember passing people. I thought I might eventually find someone I couldn't pass, but it never happened. I was like "Where's all the fast people at?" Nobody passed me at all.

     T2: I dismount the bike, take it to transition and get ready for the run. Part of my strategy to improve transition time was to ditch socks. The bike ride went well in practice and in the race with no socks. I only did 1 mile sockless practicing for the run and it went well too...

     The 3.1 mile run: The out and back run course had one significant hill and other than that was mostly flat. I passed other people frequently and often while I never got passed once. It was almost as if I was the only one having a race and everyone else was just out jogging. Of course I wasn't running at my typical speeds either... it wasn't till I saw the final split times that it really started to sink in what was going on. About halfway into it my sockless strategy bit me in the butt and my left foot developed one large blister and one rub spot that drew blood. Bummer. I guess socks need to be in my game from now on. Still, with the adrenaline rushing I didn't let it slow me down much and I kept passing people including 2 right before the finish line.

     So the race ends. The post race food is excellent, pasta and barbecue. The overall results get posted, I pick up a 2nd place among male novices trophy (missing first by 5 seconds), and I'm left anxiously awaiting my split times to get posted, which they eventually did around noon of the following day. Now I realize what I had begun to suspect during the race. Starting in the back at a pool swim triathlon completely changes the race environment. I had even begun to feel it at Angels, but I never put it into words. Statistics don't lie. In this race, as well as at Angels I was the fastest male novice cyclist and runner. I keep getting 2nd because I haven't taken transitions seriously enough to practice and because I'm a below average swimmer. By the time I get out of the pool the people I'm really competing with are half way through their bike ride and I will always be playing catch up. In a foot race people always fall into a pack or group or order, but that's not going to happen at pool swim triathlons, for me anyways, until I become a better swimmer.

     Final Results: 31/121 men, 2/24 novice men, Swim: 9:35, T1: 2:51, Bike: 39.25, T2: 2:00, Run: 22:51, Overall Time: 1:16:40

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rambling and carrying on...

1) What a May! The most active May of my life. First triathlon, first metric century ride, half marathon trail race, and 10k asphalt race.

2) My 2nd triathlon is just 2 1/2 weeks away. The swim is 400m and it is being held at the new Christiansburg Aquatic Center. Just doing a 400m swim in a pool that is twice as long and twice as deep as the ones around here is worth looking forward to, still I must have specific goals. For the swim I look for 9-10 minutes, but my biggest goal will just be get out of the pool feeling like my performance was worthy of my training. I failed to do that 5 weeks ago at the Angels Race triathlon. At Angels I got out of the pool feeling like I had just barely won a fight for survival. Other than that I look for a 19-20 mph bike ride, a 5k pace in the 6's and 1 minute improvements in each of the transition times.

3) I'm gonna get through this next triathlon and a 4 mile asphalt race on the 4th of July and then I'm ditching the whole competitive event scene for awhile. I want to be able to keep my focus on Boston Qualifying this fall in Richmond and I can't do that if I'm randomly refocusing the intensity of my workouts. August and September are the calm before the storm. October will see a few tune-up races and Nov 12 will be 26.2 miles of give it all you got and don't stop, and keep on gettin' it!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

2011 RNUTS/Conquer The Cove 25k race report

     Today was the inaugural running of The Conquer The Cove 25k and Marathon trail race, Chris and I both signed up for the 25k option. My goals for this race were to A) have a good time, B) not get injured, C) Thank all volunteers, and D) Finish with a sub 9:00 pace. I had a good time, I didn't get injured, I missed thanking a volunteer or 2, and my final pace was 9:16 so thats like 2 1/2 out of 4 I guess.

     Good time. Really, if you like to run trails, then this would have been the hardest race ever to not have a good time at. Josh and Gina Gilbert of Mountain Junkies LLC and their volunteers had an excellently laid out and well marked course, their was good variety in the post race food, plenty to eat, and an excellent venue in Loch Haven Lake with its swimming area for a post race cool down.

     Not get injured. I did play it just a bit conservatively today so as not to turn a minor discomfort into a serious injury. I doubt it cost me more than a minute or two on the clock. I never really established a competitive mileage base for this race anyway, so since I wasn't bringing my "A" game I didn't see any need to push much harder than a comfortable effort.

     Thank all volunteers. Volunteers are the life blood of my recreational life. They make ALL races/competitions possible. If I missed saying it to you directly, then hopefully you will read this and know that you are appreciated. My lovely wife, Denise, volunteered today and I appreciate her effort especially knowing what she was dealing with.

     Finish with a sub 9:00 pace. I usually set pace goals based on previous runnings of the same route, but I never ran this route to train for it, so I just took my trail half marathon pace from a few weeks back of 8:09 and I added 30 seconds per mile to accommodate the longer distance then I added 20 more seconds per mile to accommodate my lack of a training. I ended up with a 9:16 and the truth is a 9:16 pace IS a very solid pace for this course. Sometimes a trails elevation profile is a significant factor and that was the case here because even some of the hard core mountain junkies who always finish strong ended up pacing in the 9's today. So in retrospect I probably should have added another 21 seconds per mile to my goal and aimed for a 9:20 pace in which case I would have been slightly faster than goal pace!

     After I crossed the finish line I accepted my finishers medal, which is of an excellent design, and waited on series points to get tallied. My son, Chris, picked up first place for his age group and I ended up with 2nd in mine. An excellent ending to the 2011 RNUTS trail races. Looking forward to 2012.

    Final results:
Conquer The Cove 25k
2011-time: 2:26:22.57, Pace: 9:16, Place 19/122 overall, 3/7 in my age group, 16/74 among men