Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Sunday, May 11, 2014

First race of the season complete! OMT Race Report

Saturday morning was the first race of the season for me, the 2014 Ordinary Mortals Triathlon.  It was also the first I'd done since crashing at Ironman 70.3 Austin last fall.  The OMT is a reverse order sprint that begins with a 3.1 run, followed by a 12.5 mile bike ride, and a 300 yd pool swim to finish things off.  I last competed in this race back in April 2012 and in 2013, I volunteered to help with set up.  This year I decided to do both.  This is our local tri club's big event so it seems to make sense for everyone to do their part.

 I arrived at the starting line right around 6:00 a..m.. There were a variety of tasks at set up but my biggest contribution was to sit on the back of a slow moving truck and hand out cones to be set onto the race course.  I kind of chuckled at this task considering how much trouble a single cone in Texas had caused me.  Maybe I was appeasing my subconscious by making sure there would be no wayward cones placed out on the course.  By seven there wasn't much left to do which meant that I had almost two hours to kill before start time.
Given the amount of time I had available, I decided to go ahead and get body marking done and to get set up in transition.  That way, I could choose the spot I wanted and wouldn't have to worry about squeezing in somewhere as more people arrived.  I prefer a simple transition area: a small towel, bike shoes, and swim goggles.  I kept my glasses and my bike maintenance (tube, tire lever, CO2) inside my helmet which rested on my handlebars.  Well, that took five minutes. Done.  And more time to kill.
Normally in the lead up to a race, I will develop a rather extensive race plan (see example) but  I did not have that luxury this past week as work is busier than ever.  I did manage to sit down and create my chart to describe various levels of performance.  As always, the chart identifies a range of results for each of the individual disciplines and sorts them from an Epic Performance (PR type of stuff) to Average Performance (Just another day at the office).  I don't include anything below Average because I don't see the point in planning to have a crappy day.  I imagine I will know it when I see it:

Despite the lack of a detailed plan,  I did have a few goals that I hoped to accomplish.  My biggest goal for this race (and probably for most of my races this year) was to turn in a strong performance on the bike.  I know that biking has been my biggest limiter and although I've started to fix that in the past year, I still have a ways to go.  As I get into longer distance races, I know that a strong bike leg is what can set me up for a successful run.  I always prefer to race, and not just survive. For me, strong is anything with an average of over 20 mph and for such a short distance, I really hoped to keep my pace even a bit higher than that.
Another goal was to have a strong run.  In most triathlons, this is the last leg, and I always feel like I have an advantage over my more run-limited competitors.  For this race, however, I know that a strong run is necessary to get some distance prior to getting on the bike.  I would love to have a sub 7:00 minute pace, but something in between 7:00 to 7:30 would be fine, especially considering the rather hilly course for the OMT.
Lastly, I hoped to have a top 20 finish.  While an age group podium would be great, the reality is that since I'm in the 40-44 age group, it's always going to be a challenge.  For a small local race like this one however, I believe a top 20 finish is doable and would put me in the top 10% or so for finishers.

Where's Waldo?  Oh . . . there he is!
Just a few minutes before nine, there was a briefing for the athletes right by the starting line. Mostly a quick review of the course and some of the more significant turns, although I would suggest that a quick review of the rules around biking would be helpful considering the number of new triathletes that participate in the event. Next they presented the flag while a young lady sang the National Anthem.  I'm always moved by this moment and reminded how blessed I am to live in a country where I have the opportunity to spend a beautiful spring morning doing something that I love. After a cheer and a round of applause, it was time to race.

Starting up the first hill after a 6:30 split!
Nearly the entire first mile of the race is downhill and so people start off way too fast, even more so than your typical race.  I must include myself in this group this time.  I let the momentum carry me but I didn't really feel like I was overexerting.  The hilly nature of this course means that you can't really keep a "consistent" pace throughout.  At any rate I figured a fast first mile would help with my overall time, especially considering that there are two fairly steep climbs along the way (This course is anything but flat!).  Still, I was surprised to blow through the first mile in 6:30, but I knew the looming hill would slow me down fairly quickly, which of course it did.  Mile two which involved both uphill and downhill portions came in around 7:30 and I was sucking wind.  By that point I had started thinking about the bike and was a bit concerned that I'd burned through too much on the run.
Downhill Start
 I can't remember who made the analogy (maybe Macca) but any time you race, it's a bit like having a book of matches and you only have so many to burn.  If you burn too many early in the race, you won't have any for later on when you might need it.  Since having a strong leg on the bike was my main goal for the day,  I made it a point to slow my pace a touch for the last mile (this was helped by a fairly long climb back around the west edge of CSU-Pueblo).  Garmin says that my last mile was around 7:50.  I circled back around to the starting line and after trading "high fives" with a couple of youngsters cheering alongside the road, I turned back to the transition area with an official time of 22:40.  This was 20th overall and fourth in my age group.  According to my chart this is a little slower than "great," but I was satisfied with how things were going and felt like I still had some matches to burn.

Transition One
I didn't spend a lot of time in transition, but if I ever get to where I'm focusing on Sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, this is an area where I will need to improve.  My T1 time was a whopping 1:34 which was slower than it should have been considering that this is a reverse order race and it's much easier to get out of running shoes and into biking shoes as opposed to the opposite.  Of course, it's one thing to plan on being fast in transitions, and quite another to actually practice that (something I didn't do leading up to this race).  The other "oops" was that I managed to leave my race belt on meaning I had a nice flapping bib ready to go for the bike.  Oh well, it was a less than "average" T1.

Heading out of T1 and onto the bike course
The first mile of the bike follows an almost identical course to the run.  Instead of turning back up towards the university however, the course heads east onto the highway.  It's a simple out and back affair of approximately 6.5 miles each way.  The "out" portion is downhill, so it's a great place to gather some speed and to catch your breath.  It didn't take too long to fall into an easy rhythm and I was pleased with my average speed.  At this point, I imagine that I was somewhere between 20th and 25th place.  I wasn't quite sure, but the further I got into the bike, the more I passed people.   The pace on the bike felt good and I was averaging between 21 to 23 mph through the first portion of the ride.  This is important because my experience is that once you turn around you are confronted by a mostly uphill return that is accompanied by a head wind.

OMT Bike Course Elevation Map
I've ridden this course many times and seen a difference in time of as much as 10 minutes due to this fact.  Pleasantly, there was actually a slight tail wind for the way back.  My pace didn't change significantly from the out trip, but I was also headed uphill at this point.  I hoped to keep my pace at less than three minutes per mile and with the exception of the first mile (which also included some transition time), that seems to be the case.  With about a mile to go, I put in a little extra push to crest the small climb up the exit ramp going back onto campus.  In so doing I noticed a slight, cramping sensation in my left calf.  It wasn't anything major or painful, just a slight squeezing kind of feeling.  The feeling didn't last however, so I managed to keep riding the last mile to T2.  Coming up to the finish, I noticed that the person in front of me was getting out of his shoes for the dismount.  Initially, I had decided not to do this because the ride finishes on an uphill and I thought it would be difficult to do. But then I decided to go for it.  The right foot came out no problem, but I didn't execute the left foot properly.  Now don't worry, I didn't fall over or anything embarrassing like that.  However, as I managed to free my left foot, I felt a sudden and very painful feeling in that left calf.  It was as if someone grabbed the muscle and twisted it.  I grimaced and took a deep breath, but  managed to dismount and hobble into transition.  I had an uneasy feeling for sure as I took my socks off and grabbed my goggles (once again forgetting my race belt was still on). My race time for the bike portion was 35:06 (21.4 mph) which was right at an "Epic" pace for me.  Even better, this was the 10th fastest time overall for the race, and the third fastest in my age group (all of the bike times in the 40-44 range were within about 1 minute of each other).

Transition Two
Because of my sudden "calf" issue, I give myself a pass for my time in T2 (1:09).  It still didn't take a long time, but I had to very gingerly run out of transition and up to the pool.  While I do have a bit of a strain, I don't think it is anything too terrible.  I managed to run at a fairly steady pace up to the swimming pool and I believe that a few days off from running is probably in order, but that shouldn't be a problem.  Considering my calf issue, this was almost a "great" transition.

What can I say.  The swim is the swim, especially coming at the end of the race instead of the beginning.  The swim was only about 300 yards and it's done in a "serpentine style" meaning that you start at one end of the pool and then swim up and back in one lane, before ducking under the lane rope and swimming up and back the next lane.  This continues as you work your way from right to left across the entire pool.  Once you reach the end of the 6th lap, you've done your 300 yards, and it's up and out of the water and onto the finish line.  Having the swim be the final portion of the race is definitely a "weird" feeling.  I was a little short of breath but I managed to turn and breathe more frequently which helped.  Overall I felt good about the swim, although I probably could have pushed it a touch faster.  I was quite a ways ahead of the next competitor as well as quite a ways behind the athlete in front of me, so I didn't have a lot of immediate incentive in terms of the swim.  I knew that in terms of place at least, I would finish right where I was. A bonus was that my goggles didn't fill up with water.  My overall swim time was 6:52.2 (including running).   Subtract the running, and this would probably be about a 5:52, which is only around 1:57 per 100 yards. This was the slowest in my age group and only 26th overall. That matches up to a "good" swim overall.

From the race directions, this maps out the swim course so you won't get lost!

My overall time wound up at 1:07:23 which makes for a race that was very "good," and less than a minute from a "great result."  I placed 15th overall which is in the top 10% of the total racers.  I also managed a fourth place finish in my age group, which is better than I thought I would do.  Compare this to 2012 when my overall time was 1:13:08.  That puts me nearly 6 minutes faster than previously.  Overall, I met each of my goals for the race.  My time on the bike was right at about 35 minutes, and I was excited to have the tenth fastest time overall.  I give credit to a more aerodynamic bike, but better bike fitness also plays a role.  The run was good too.  A 7:19 per mile pace is fairly strong running considering that I had to bike and run afterwards.  Lastly, I finished within the top 20 and 15th overall.
 And with that, my first race of the season was over.  I managed to find the massage table a few minutes after being done, and they went to work on my calf muscle right away.  There's definitely some soreness there, but at least I'm not hobbling around the house.  I'm going to get back to more stretching and rolling in the next few weeks to see if I can keep this thing from pestering me all summer long. Up next for triathlons is the Boulder Sunrise Triathlon.  This will be an Olympic distance event that takes place in early June.  I did the "Sunset" version on Labor day weekend last year, and I'm anxious to get back out there and see if I can get a faster run time this year.  Between now and then, I'm sure I'll have a few more adventures!

Note: Emily Sanchez took pictures for the Ordinary Mortals Triathlon and posted them on Facebook.  Several of these photos are used in this post. Thank you!