Sunday, September 25, 2011

Big Lick Triathlon: Race Recap

     When future archeologists begin researching race results of 21st century athletic type people they will undoubtedly look to the 2011 Big Lick Triathlon as the pinnacle of human achievement in the realm of endurance sports events. Actually, err, maybe not so much..., but still I had a great time out there today and I was thrilled to be a part of this event as the runner on a relay team. In acknowledging that my open water swim skills were too unreliable for me to make an effort as an individual racer, I had about written this event off. As I was finishing up a treadmill workout a few weeks back I guess Larry S. saw some potential in me and tapped me for a run spot on his relay team. I was more than happy to oblige.

     Unlike the Iron Mountain Trail Race from a few weeks back, this race didn't actually fit into my training plan for the Richmond Marathon, but it was was worth it to me to make the adjustments so I eliminated cycling workouts for the week to keep my legs fresh, did my interval and tempo training on consecutive days early in the week on Monday and Tuesday to allow for more rest at the end of the week, did my long run at a recovery pace on Thursday so as conserve intensity for race day, and used Wednesday and Friday as rest days except for the fact of swimming a few pool laps to keep things loose.

     Also for this race I ran into fellow triathlete, former classmate, Northside High School athlete, and just all around good guy Neil B. I took to living actively back in Jan. 2009 and I discovered Facebook shortly after in May or June of that year. As FB connections with old friends and classmates started becoming the norm at about the same time that I was figuring out what "being athletic" means to me (no, I had never been athletic before 2009, never, not even in High School) I was inspired that a good handful of people began to offer me encouragement. I looked around for one former track star, just to see how she was doing, and was saddened to learn Christina C. had passed away at a very young age. On the mens side, however, Neil B. was active with triathlons and suggested I try one. I explained how I can't swim and nothing more was said (posted) about it, but in the back of my runners mind the words "I can't" just weren't sitting well with me anymore. I had a gym membership, the gym had a pool, and when my daughter presented me with the opportunity by wanting to spend a lot of time at the pool...I slowly learned how to swim.

     Swim, yes, in a pool, and many who might read this know I already did a couple of pool swim triathlons, but open water is not where my comfort level is right now, maybe next year. Which brings me to this race....Our swimmer, Bobby B. , a year or two out of High School is phenomenal in the water and setting school records at his college while he's just practicing. Larry S., our cyclists, is a regularly on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so with that kind of experience tackling elevation I knew he could hold his own, and I'm training for the Richmond Marathon, where I'm looking to go under 3 1/2 hour and I've picked up masters awards in my last 2 races. I thought we had as good a shot as any at a good overall finish time.

     We made our introductions, got our gear in order and waited for the start. Seeing a nearly 1 mile swim course laid out was memorable. I can look at the pool and say "30 laps" but its just not the same visual picture. Watching the swimmers take off and swim was also quite the experience. Swimming is a comparatively slow activity among the 3 triathlon disciplines and even the best swimmers took a few minutes to firmly establish a lead. With all the swimmers all in the water and the distance that I was from the beach I couldn't tell Bobby from anyone else, so I just stretched and waited around the transition area.

     Turns out it's a lot of waiting involved with being on a triathlon relay team. Bobby got out of the water, Larry took off to do his cycling, and I waited some more...eventually Larry got back, and from my point of view that is when the action started!

     Running a 10k as part of a triathlon is different than with a traditional road race because with a triathlon slower runners can get way out in front by being  better swimmers or cyclists. I knew the best I could do would be to not become complacent with the pace of whoever was in front of me. Just get out there and pass people. Do it aggressively and get it done. In a road race I might tie a rope around a faster runner and let them "pull" me to their pace, In a triathlon its more of a bungee cord and I sling shot myself past whoever is in front. I couldn't count how many people I passed, but the great thing about the athletic community is all the encouragement we give each other, especially runners, the whole time I'm out there passing people all I'm hearing is "good job", "way to take that hill" and "go get it".

     As for the terrain, Mile 1 was a slight uphill. The Garmin will say 6:11, but I started my watch in transition so I'm gonna call it 6 minutes flat. Miles 2,3 & 4 (6:24, 6:41 and 7:05 respectively) were just finishing the incline started in the first mile and some moderate rolling hills. Mile 5 took us down a steep hill to a turn around and then right back up it, I felt like I made good time running down the hill, but I lost more than I gained coming back up it, 7:27 on that one. Mile 6 I took a few 10ths to recover from the uphill and then picked the pace back up to the mid 6's (6:41 to be exact). As the finish came into view I thought I was running solo, but a volunteer called out to a participant in such a way that I figured he was right behind me. Rather than take a chance at getting burned at the finish line, I summoned up every ounce of speed I could and finished strong for the final 10th. The Garmin registered 13 mph for my sprint to the finish, but there could be a margin for error. I was late, as always, turning my Garmin off, so I don't know time to call for that section.

     Oddly, after the race, I wished it had been another 2 miles or so. I guess it's all the long distance training I've been doing, I just felt like I had  more to give. Never the less, the cold water bottle handed to me by the volunteer was welcome and I enjoyed a little cool down walk. Larry kept an eye on the results sheet and informed me that it looked like we had 3rd place locked up for the male relay. We ate the post race meal of spaghetti, corn, green beans, and a roll, then we collected our 3rd place trophies at the awards ceremony and headed back to our homes.

     Great way to spend the morning...Official race results Big Lick Triathlon (1500m/40k/10k) Time-2h34m27s, (S-20:12, T1-1:04, B-1:30:54, T2-0:36, R-41:43) here is the Garmin data for my 10k run...

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