Last Saturday I competed in the Loveland Lake to Lake Triathlon. The L2L is an Olympic distance event (sort of) that has been held for a number of years. I was excited to do this one as the venue was the same for the Loveland Sprint Triathlon (my first tri) that I did two years ago. The area is a great location for the race with a large park, high school and parking lot, etc. next to the lake.
|A view of the fire from the front range (from High Country News)|
Luckily though, the Race Director anticipated some challenges, and so we received word on Thursday that there would be a modified bike course that would keep us well south of the fire area. It also meant that the distance of the bike race would drop from 30 miles to a mere 24. I can't say that I was really upset with this as I'm still probably more conditioned to a shorter ride (I also discovered that the run course was abbreviated, but more on that later).
One of the things I have done prior to my bigger races this year, is to spend some time focusing on race strategy and goals. Borrowing from a post by Joe Friel that I read last year, I spend some time creating a race plan that highlights my goals for each race, as well as lists the steps/ strategies that I will use to get the results that I want. I usually work on this plan a few days before the race, and then revisit it several times, so that I can remember as many of the details as possible. I've also added some additions to the plan including an equipment checklist, as well as a table that lists possible outcomes based on different levels of performance for each portion of the race. For example, the swim section lists four different completion times, and gives me an indication of the type of race that I'm having that particular day. I chose to use four different levels of performance ranging from an "epic" day, where everything goes right, to an average day, where my racing is mediocre (note: I didn't include a "poor" or "below average" category, as I don't see any point in planning to do poorly). In addition to a performance chart, I also select three goals (usually one per discipline) that are my focus. For L2L, my three goals were as follows:
- Have a strong swim that is controlled, on course, and doesn't exhaust me completely going into the bike.
- Continue to show progress on the bike by racking up a "good" time with a pace between 19-22 mph.
- Run well and finish the race feeling like I didn't hold back on any aspect.
The alarm went off Saturday morning at 4:45 a.m. (I had to get to the race early to get my packet), and I quickly got ready. My brother was up in Greeley as well, and he generously offered to go with me that morning. As it turned out, that was a great thing because he wound up watching my bike, carrying a few things, and overall making my race day easier (I owe you one, bro!). As it turned out, we had pretty good timing for the race. I was able to get my packet, get set up in transition, and take care of a few things before it was time to line up for the race. As a bonus, it started on time which meant that I wasn't standing around for more than about 10 minutes prior to the start of the race. I should mention at this point that as I was lined up outside of transition, I thought I heard someone talking about the run portion of the race, and that it had been shortened as well. However, no one had mentioned it during packet pick up, so I assumed that I had heard wrong.
The transition area was packed for this race with over 500 participants. Since I wasn't the first one there, much of the real estate in transition was taken already. I did finally manage to find a space near the swim entrance where a couple of folks had taken the liberty of spreading their things out. They didn't seem thrilled at the idea that I was joining them, but they didn't make a big fuss either. Maybe it's just my nature, but I do triathlons because they are fun. I do like to compete, but I also know that there isn't someone waiting outside of transition to sign me up for a sponsorship, or for the Olympics. When someone is looking for a spot in transition, and you have room, you share that space. It's called sportsmanship . . .look it up! Okay, I'm done ranting now.
A few minutes after 6:30, and I was underway in the swim. I chose to line myself up to the far right at the start so that I wouldn't have to participate in the "mosh pit" in the middle of the swim. This turned out to be a great strategy for me. In fact, I've never done an OWS that was so free of contact with others. This allowed me to settle into a rhythm right away at the start of the race. My sighting throughout the race also went well, and I found myself climbing out of the water at 28:44. This was faster than I anticipated, and according to my performance chart, put me in the "epic" category for the first portion of the race. Sweet!
The L2L has nearly a 1/4 mile run up from the lake to the transition area. As a result, my official swim time was 30:57. I've been experimenting during the last two races with leaving my shoes on my bike as this seems to cut down on my transition time a great deal. I discovered at the Greeley Triathlon however, that it was very difficult getting my wet feet into my shoes while on the bike. This time, I brought an extra towel to quickly dry the top of my feet. I also put a little Vaseline on the top inside edge of each shoe's tongue, so that it would slide on easier. It didn't work. In fact, I had a horrible time getting my feet into my shoes, and I was probably a good mile down the road before I was set. I even considered getting off of my bike at one point to get them on effectively. For the next race, I'm going to suspend this practice and take a couple of extra seconds in transition to get them in right. I will consider this approach again next year, and do some more practicing to see if I can get it to work better.
My second goal was to continue improving my ride with a good time during the race. A key to success here was to be sure that I was doing my own race. I kept my focus on my own speed, and didn't worry about what other competitors were doing around me. I tried to take a "time trial" approach for this portion and remember that my main competition was my time. Plus, my bike doesn't look like this:
|But does it have "dimpled" wheels?|
Coming out of T2 (which was just average by the way), I felt very strong. An aid station was set up just outside of the transition area, which I thought was a really nice touch, and I was able to get some Gatorade and water before getting into the race. The run is the portion of a triathlon where I feel strongest and most competitive, and today was no exception. I powered through the first couple of miles and felt strong (my pace was about 7min/ mile). At each station, I was careful to take water, Gatorade, and another water to pour on my head. This allowed me to keep cool as the morning wore on (the high temp. later that day would be about 104 degrees).
After reaching mile three, I noticed that we weren't turning around yet (I was under the impression that it was an out and back course). A short time later, a spectator shouting encouragement as we ran by yelled out "only about a mile and half left." Now, I'm no math expert, but that seemed a little less than a 10k to me. That's when I realized that the run had been shortened to 5.1 miles. Not exactly bad news when you are in the middle of a race, but it is something that I would probably have liked to have known a little sooner. I had read on the site that the run course had been altered due to some construction issues, but I must have missed the distance being listed as 5.1. Truth is, I don't think it impacted my run that much. I might have run a little faster, but it wouldn't have made a significant difference. Since I didn't have a 5.1 time listed on my chart, I used the TriCalc3 site to figure out what my 10k time would have been (my 5.1 time was 35:22). According to their calculations, that would have been a 43:05 10K, which would have been pretty close to an "epic" pace. The 35:22 was a very good pace for me, and left me with an overall time of 2:18:02 (with a full 10K that would have been about a 2:25:43). My overall performance would have been somewhere between "epic" and "great."
When I look at my goals and performance for this race, I'm very pleased with the result. I had a strong swim, improved my bike performance, and really dominated on the run. When I compare my performance to others in my age group category, I'm basically a middle of the pack person. I'm slightly slower than the average 40-44 year old in the swim and bike, but I'm towards the top in the run. For my age group, I was 25th out of 56. Overall, I was 121 out of 506, which is in the top 25 percent of all racers. And allthough I have a few podium finishes to my name, they have been at much smaller events. That's okay with me, as long as I've run the best race that I can.