Over the past couple of years I've been developing a race plan in an effort to help me visualize and execute a successful race. Part of the appeal to training and racing triathlons is the planning and preparation that goes into each event. It requires organization and strategic thinking, and during the race, you have to really concentrate in all phases in order to be successful. A lack of focus can create slower times through inattention, transition errors, and other mistakes that cost time. A piece of this planning always includes laying out certain goals for the race and developing a set of goal times to indicate the type of race I'm having. This allows me to have a sense of my performance and to make adjustments along the way as I complete each portion of the event. During yesterday's race, I remained organized and focused, following my race plan to the letter and yet I still managed only an "average" race. What gives? The Answer: Nothing. I think that yesterday's race was a fairly good measure of where I'm at in terms of race performance at the moment. I don't look back with any "regrets" or any sense that "if I'd only done this," that the outcome would have been any different. I finished the race feeling completely spent and satisfied that I hadn't held back in any way. That's right, I was tired, and physically, I felt like complete shit! In other words, I gave it everything I had.
Here's a breakdown of the race from start to finish:
Pre-Race: After an hour's drive in the morning, I got to the Boulder Reservoir a little after 8:00 a.m. This gave me plenty of time to pick up my race packet and get set up in transition. I felt really good prior to the race and found myself with a 45 minutes to spare prior to the race. Setting up in transition was easy as I managed to get a space on one of the ends of the racks, which gave me a little more access and made it easier to get my bike in and out of transition. By the time everyone was in place, it was fairly crowded, but I like to keep a fairly minimal transition area. All of the racks were sequentially numbered so it made it much less confusing to figure out where to hang up the bike. Even better, we were one of the racks along the outside of the area, and there was a big trailer parked right next to our spot. This made it very easy to find my space in transition during the race.
The weather didn't seem to bad either, as the sky was slightly overcast and the temperature seemed warm, but not hot. That sensation only lasted until I put on my wetsuit about 15 minutes prior to the start of the race. Then it suddenly seemed to be hot! I immediately headed down to the water and got into the small "warm-up corral" next to the starting area. It was kind of amusing to swim in a counter-clockwise circle with the other athletes, considering that it probably would have made much more sense for us to swim clockwise as that's what we would be doing during the race! But the water was pleasant and went a long way to cooling me down a bit. A few minutes later, I was standing on the shore right behind the first wave of athletes, the "Under 39" Olympic Group. The start was a run into the water, and we moved forward the water's edge just after the first group slipped away into the water. After what seemed like a very long "5 minute" wait, our wave was green lighted and we were under way.
|Racing for friend and Lily's Godmother, Jayme|
The Swim: I will be honest in saying that I seem to have a tougher time swimming in a clockwise direction compared to a counter-clockwise event. I don't know why this is, but it has been my experience in the handful of OWS that I've done. Today it was only a little bit better, but my swim performance has definitely improved from the last time I swam at Boulder. It is a bit harder to "sight" landmarks at the reservoir, as it is tucked down a bit within the confines of the reservoir, and at least on the outward portion, you are swimming towards the east, without any major visuals. Still, I had a fairly good outbound swim out, managed to keep a good pace. The return was a little more difficult as we had caught up to the slower swimmers in the first wave. Many of these individuals were swimming breast stroke which meant that one had to be careful when swimming near them for fear of receiving a nice, swift kick. I did well with this up until the last three-hundred meters. I had just finished breathing on my right side and as I rotated my head back into the water, I got a nice swift kick to the forehead. Fortunately, it was a glancing blow, and so it mostly just startled me a bit. I was able to recover and finish the swim. My unofficial time in the water was about 28 minutes, though I imagine it will be a bit longer when the time to the transition mat is taken into account. According to my charts that's an average swim, but really no better or worse than it had been during my last Olympic triathlon a year ago. The run up to the transition area isn't terribly long, and I made good time heading up that way. [Goal Result: Average]
T1: I didn't feel especially slow or fast in T1. I was able to quickly get out of my wetsuit, and get to my shoes. I did take an extra few seconds to dry my feet off so I could get my shoes on easier. That said, on the way out I realized that I'd not yet turned on the Garmin mounted to my bike. I wasn't too concerned as I really only wanted to use it as a speedometer for the day. Within about a half mile of the ride start, it was up and running. [Goal Result: About Epic]
The Bike: The first few miles of this ride consist of a gradual uphill before turning onto Highway 36. At that point the ride is mostly one roller after another. It was a busy day in this area with a number of recreational cyclists out on the course as well. I felt just a bit tired, but overall very good and while my initial pace was slower than planned, I knew that the faster part of the course was still ahead. Still, I managed to pass a number of riders that had beaten me out of the water. There were of course a handful of riders that passed me as well, but fewer than in years past. At one point there was a small climb and up ahead, I saw a pair of "recreational" riders going up the hill riding side by side. As I got a bit closer, I called out to them that I was coming up on the left, and neither of them made a move over to the right or fell back to ride single file. I called again, and still nothing. When I was right behind them, I said it again, and finally one of them responded, "Okay, I hear you" in a rather sarcastic tone. He apparently had no intention of moving out of the way, and I moved way left to get around him. This was fine, except that we were now riding three across along a fairly narrow stretch of the road. Clearly this person knew there was a triathlon in progress given the fact that there were so many people passing he and his buddy. He could have demonstrated a bit of respect for people who were involved in a race, but he was deliberately choosing not to. It would have not been a big deal for him to either drop back and ride single file behind his friend for a few miles or even accelerate in front of him so as to provide a little room for racers to pass a bit more safely. But no, he preferred to ride this way instead. There's a name for people like this, and it rhymes with "Asshole." Er . . .wait, no it IS Asshole! No Rhyming Needed. Beyond that encounter, the other non-racing cyclists, triathletes, and vehicles were perfectly respectable. Within a couple of minutes, we'd turned onto Nelson Road where I enjoyed speeds in the mid to upper 30mph range for the next several miles. Before I knew it, we were turning onto the diagonal highway and soon enough, back towards the reservoir. [Goal Result: Between Good/Average]
T2: T2 wasn't super long either, considering that I'd decided to wear socks for the run. I got my bike racked and although I had a bit of trouble with my race belt, I was able to get everything together fairly quickly. At this point, I recognized that it was definitely, officially, hot outside, so I took a moment to dump most of my extra water bottle all over myself. I wanted to be sure that I did all that I could to stay cool. I headed out of transition and onto the run. [Goal Result: Between Epic and Great]
The Run: The run course consists of two out and back loops along the eastern edge of the reservoir. The first half mile or so is run on blacktop and it is a slight up and down hill. Heading out, I tried to stay as relaxed as possible, though my heart was pounding like crazy. I crested the top and then coasted down the back side and onto the dirt trail, where I found my running legs and settled into a rhythm. It was hot, but I felt it was quite manageable at that point. I estimated my first mile to be slightly under 8 minutes, and that seemed just fine. I pushed onto the next aid station and then forward to the turnaround feeling pretty good. In fact, I felt pretty strong going through the first three miles of the race and I would estimate about a 24 minute time. But turning around and heading back out on the second loop is when I really started to feel the heat a bit more. I took a little Gatorade and grabbed some more water at the next aid station. A good portion of the water was used to douse my head and body in an effort to keep cool. For the next couple of miles, I tried to keep a steady pace, but it was a war of attrition at this point. I turned around with a mile and half to go, and did my best to push forward. With a mile to go, I tried to pick up the pace, and this worked for a stretch. Once we crossed back onto the blacktop however, and the last half mile, the temperature was searing, and as I climbed the gradual rise, it was all I could do to keep moving forward. I was still passing people (many of them were doing the sprint race) but we were all moving at a crawl. Fortunately, the rest of the course was downhill and/ or flat. I crossed the finish line with a clock time of 2:48: something or other. With the second wave discount, I later saw a time of 2:42:28 on the unofficial listings. [Goal Result: Less than Average]
Post-Race: It took me a good 10-15 minutes to feel somewhat "normal" again. When I got finished, I was flirting a bit with Heat Exhaustion. I felt a bit nauseous and unbelievably sleepy. I could have easily gone and found a shady spot in the grass and fallen asleep. God Bless the Ice cold towels handed out at the finish line and the availability of water. I wandered around a bit, and not locating any Gatorade, I grabbed a bag of oranges (which they kept on ice, Nice Touch!), and sat down at a picnic bench for several minutes. Finally, I felt like my normal self again and I was able to head over to the food tent and onto the beer garden. Nothing like a Turkey Sandwich and an IPA!
Analysis: Here are the key takeaways from this race experience for me:
- This was the best that I could do on the race that day. I gave it everything I had, and while I know that I can do better, I don't think my performance was the result of any lack of effort.
- My overall results are encouraging as I'm moving more towards FOP than MOP (granted it's the back of the FOP, but hey). In this race I finished 6th (out of 19) in my age group and 58th out of 247 overall. In my age group I was 9th on the swim, 5th on the bike and 7th on the run. The time on the bike is the most dramatic improvement for me compared to races in year's past. I know that I can still get faster at this, but the summer spent with a bike focus has definitely paid off.
- Based on these results, I know that there's room for improvement. I also know that if I were racing in slightly cooler conditions I could probably reduce this time by 6-8 minutes off of the run alone. A better swim, a minute or two faster on the bike, and a much better run, could get me closer to a 2:30 finish.
The Boulder Sunset Triathlon was a great event and I'm glad that I participated. It was much easier to get ready for this one, than it would have been to race in a 70.3 distance next weekend, as I'd originally planned. My next triathlon is now about 8 weeks away, at the end of October in Austin. It's my "A" race for the year, and I'm quite excited to begin pulling together a training plan!