Friday, January 30, 2015

North East Olympic Triathlon, 8/24/14: Race Report

I enjoy triathlon.  It's a hard sport to finish a race in, harder even to be competitive.  I want to be competitive and in the top 10% of amateurs.  What I have come to understand after this weekend is that there is not much room in deviating from a training plan, no matter how loose.

I started a new job, which yanked me back into the professional world, demanding a full work week plus a commute.  What a nightmare.  I'm good at the new job, it's demanding and it's really cutting into the rest of life...  so between the new job and the mountain bike crash a while ago, I've cut back significantly on training, mostly because I haven't made time for it.  About 2 months of no training aside from about 70 total miles of riding and maybe one long run and I was already pretty terrified of this race a week before it started.  The thought of dropping down to the sprint distance had crossed my mind but I figured, I got myself into this mess, take care of it.  It would be a good measure of what happens with cutting training out for about 2 months and I'd take it kind of easy, more of a training race than a competitive one.

We loaded up Saturday night and were in bed at a about 8 to get up early to head down an hour to North East, MD.  I tried to recall the bike course and how hilly it was but really couldn't remember.  I knew it wasn't quite as steep as the races earlier this year so I had an idea that I'd be 25 min in the swim, 1.5 hr on the bike and I really really REALLY wanted to be under 50 on the run.

Check in was much smoother this time compared to my last race.  It always is when you have your ID on you and don't have to waste your time running back to your car to flip it and look.  We racked up an I sent Kristen off with the sprint-distance racers.  I got to watch last year's runner up destroy the field in the swim a full 3 minutes ahead of the 2nd fastest swimmer.  I learned he'd made the US Olympic team, pretty awesome.  He was in from the bike before the Olympic-distance racers hit the water.

I hopped in a few minutes early to warm up.  The water was comfortable around 76-78.  The crowd wasn't too big and I felt pretty confident in finishing very well in the swim, despite my plan to sandbag it a little to conserve energy for the bike.  With the gun I started chugging through the water at a consistent easy pace, focusing on maintaining a cadence and form.  I am pretty sure I did a good job with that but was having issues sighting the course.  I was consistently drifting away from the planned loop, adding distance, and feeling some discomfort in my left shoulder.  It nagged but never slowed me down or really raised any red flags.

About 200 yards from the finish, the top ladies started passing me.  No big deal, elite girls can easily swim a sub-20 min mile.  I assumed I was going to hit right around 25 minutes as expected.

Just trying to survive the race with a respectable effort, I tried to set no records in transition.  I made it out in about 2.5 minutes onto the bike and was ready to go.  I was loaded with only water and an extra Hammer gel.  I had no Hammer Perpetuem, which I was annoyed that I'd run out and not replaced prior to the race.  I'd consume enough Hammer gels to compensate, I assumed.

I felt pretty strong from the start so I let myself go on and try to ride at somewhere between full race effort and a medium training 25-mile ride.  Early on, I felt some signs of cramps pinching my left calf but they slowly faded as I rode on (I assumed they'd just cripple me when I got off my bike and send me to the ground writhing in agony).  Thankful that the cramps never materialized and riding along, I did learn something.  During this attempt, I discovered whatever part of my brain dictates the amount of conscious control over my level of exertion just doesn't exist.  I feel the need to go way too fast, which is, sadly, pretty unimpressive.  I know I'm a pretty poor cyclist and it takes years to develop strong cycling ability but wow- I was awful for how hard I exerted myself.  I need to resume my TrainerRoad subscription.

I assumed I'd be 1.5 hours on the bike.  I also thought that would be 25 miles, not just 23.  So I averaged 16.6 mph on some pleasant rolling hills, not passing a soul and being overtaken by pretty much everyone.  When I finally rounded a corner that took me into the recognizable town streets and back to transition, I felt relief.  I knew I only had a 10K to go.

Happy to ditch the bike and throw on my running shoes, I eagerly booked it out of T2 and back onto the road.  I was aiming for a 7:30-45 pace and tried to keep myself from outpacing myself from the beginning.  How hard could it be?  The fool that I am, I must have forgotten that the bike trashed my legs and not half a mile into the run leg, I was already pulling aside to walk-run.

I really eked out a finish, just under 3 hours and found Kristen for a minute at the finish line for a quick hug and kiss before getting back in the water to soak a little.  I grabbed some food and we split, pleased that we sucked it up and raced but I was still disappointed in myself.  The course was still awesome.  I would do this race every year.

We got ourselves home, picked up some awesome tacos from the Mexican joint El Limon then hit the bowling alley to try to enjoy the rest of the weekend.  We had a blast and really wound up proud of ourselves for getting out there and sticking to our race despite weak training.  Our reward was bowling, beer, and a little Wild Turkey!

Nations, here I come.  Expectations lowered for performance but I'll make it a fun race with my best season-ending effort.

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