Tuesday, June 12, 2012

TriJesus Sprint Triathlon Race Report

This was my third battle with the TriJesus course, seventh triathlon overall--all sprints.  Having an excellent 2012 race season thus far, I was optimistic leading up to the race--possibly more optimistic than realistic--and I set aggressive goals for myself.

Total: <1:14 (good scenario)
Total: 1:10 (better scenario)
Total: 1:05 (best scenario)
400m swim: 8 minutes
T1: 30 seconds
13mi bike: 35 minutes, ~22mph average
T2: 30 seconds
5k run: 21 minutes, ~6:45/mile
Top 5 overall
First in age group

Although I have greatly improved over the last five years, I continue to struggle with swimming.  I have been swimming once or twice a week most of the year so far, but the workouts have been short due to my busy schedule.  However, my form has improved and I am generally more efficient.  Last week I swam a 400 yard time trial at the QU Fitness Center in 7:43.  I'm sure that must be a PR.  So, on race day I lined up with the 8-9 minute group toward the front of the line.

I jumped in on cue, kicked away from the wall, and off I went.  I started okay, but was soon passed.  (I don't think we were spaced apart far enough at the start.)  My form soon deteriorated.  There are no lines in the pool to follow and the lane lines on either end of the pool were just a thin wire, so it was difficult to know where I was at times.  The water was quite choppy too--I got some added hydration for the bike.  That's about all I can remember from the swim--a blur as usual for me.  I just don't enjoy the swim.  The training is okay, but I dread it on race day.

Official time: 10:00.  Nine seconds faster than last year, but well off my goal pace.

My shoes were already attached to the pedals and I had borrowed an aerodynamic helmet with a visor (thanks, Martin!), so I did not need to take the time to put on my shoes or glasses in transition.  I dropped my goggles, donned the helmet, grabbed my bike and trotted to the bike mount line.  22 seconds--fastest T1 of the day!  It's the little things...

This is always my favorite part of the race.  Because I start out behind so many swimmers, I generally get to pass a lot of people on the bike.  Fun!  My training on the bike this year has gone very well, owing to a mild winter, power training indoors early in the year, and perhaps, a new saddle.  I have been training with the Quincy Bicycle Club on Wednesday evenings and a group in Hannibal on Saturdays, both speedy groups.  With both, I have been able to stay at the front most of the time and win the occasional sprint.  I am stronger than ever.  I rode the course last week to reacquaint myself with it, so I would know where to work hard and where to conserve my energy.  I hopped on the bike with my feet atop my shoes, slipping my feet into the shoes before I exited the park.  I started hammering as I left the park and turned north, traveling with the wind.  I was watching my average speed on my Garmin and I quickly neared 21mph.  My mantra during the first section was "22. 22. 22."  I knew from last week's ride that the course became more difficult during the latter half, so I would have to exceed 22 mph in the first half to meet my goal average speed.

I got as aerodynamic as I could on the early, flatter sections, leading up to the rollers.  Then, I worked hard up and flew down.  This lead to another straight, flat section where I tucked and hammered some more.  Then, the course got hilly.  Leading up to the first big hill about halfway into the course, I was averaging 22.  I started gradually losing speed as the undulations in the terrain increased, but gaining on several cyclists in front of me.  As we turned back toward Quincy and we faced our last big climb, I passed three riders in turn. When the road flattened again for the return, I went aero' and monitored my average speed that had crept down near 21 again.  Over the last few miles, I worked hard to gradually increase my average speed.  I slipped my feet out of my shoes after I entered the park, pedaled up to transition, and dismounted onto jelly legs.

21.4 mph average according to my Garmin.  PR split!  Better than my previous PR performance this year in Petersburg on a much tougher course.  According to the official results, I was the sixth fastest cyclist.

After racking my bike, I had to sit on the ground to put on my running shoes.  My legs were fried.  I, of course, dropped off my helmet and grabbed my race belt and glasses, before I trotted through transition to begin the 5k.  37 seconds.

Usually, I descend hills quickly when I run.  I just relax, lean forward a bit to attempt to stay perpendicular to the road, and go as fast as possible while maintaining control.  After exiting transition, the road hairpins and drops.  I struggled to maintain control; my legs were bloated with lactate and weak.  Then, the road goes back up right away.  Now, I train on hills, but I was still struggling.  I soon realized, monitoring my pace would not help.  I was red-lining it.  I was just going to have to be happy with whatever time and pace I could achieve, gauging my pace by perceived exertion.  As the course snakes around the park, it is rarely flat--lots of up-and-down.  However, during the latter one to one and a half miles, I started to feel a bit better and felt like I could speed up. Perhaps, the gel I took during the first half-mile kicked in.  I think I passed a few guys on the run; nobody passed me.  The highest pace I saw was 7:30/mile.  The little push during the last part of the run helped.  I was able to finish strong and average 7:22/mile according to my Garmin.  I didn't meet my goal, but it was a course PR for me.

My total time was 1:10:19, an improvement over 2011 by more than four and a half minutes and good enough for ninth overall and first in my age group.  I didn't meet all of my goals, but several.  Most importantly, I finished with nothing left in the tank--I performed as well as I could have on that particular day.  It was definitely a clear representation of my recent training.  I had been swimming enough to maintain; cycling strong and regularly; and, missing a lot of run workouts.  My nutrition the previous week wasn't as good as it should have been either; I made a few poor choices.

It was a successful race and I had fun.  I also identified areas of weakness where I can focus my training.  Next.....I may race a triathlon with a team as the cyclist--it is the best part.  Whatever I do, I'll write about it here.  Thanks for reading.