Sometimes, despite your best intentions and thoughtful planning, things don't go quite as you expect. This certainly defined the Boulder Sunrise Sprint Triathlon for me this year. And that isn't a bad thing.
On race day, we left for the venue right at 6 O'Clock in the morning. To the West, a thin haze of smoke covered the Rockies, blurring the edges of the mountains where they reached into the sky. In the East, more than a dozen hot air balloons soared into the dawn, their presence unexpected, yet typical for a Colorado morning. We made great time to the Boulder Reservoir and within minutes, I was entering the transition area getting set up.
|Hot air balloons fill the sky on the way to the race venue.|
Prior to leaving for a race, I use the table in our dining room to "prep" for the race. I carefully lay out all of the items needed for a triathlon (it's a gear intensive event so this takes a bit of time, even for a short sprint race). These items go into my race backpack, making it easy to transport everything from the car once I arrive at the site.
The Sunrise Triathlon has an "assigned" area for parking one's bike in transition. I found my spot, and began to lay everything out so that it would be easy to find. I prefer a minimal transition area, with just the most necessary items. It only took a few minutes to lay down a small towel and place my cycling and running shoes on it, along with a few other items like a visor, and race number. Then it was time to get everything for the first event and get down to the starting line at the edge of the reservoir. I was especially excited for the swim because I'd recently acquired a new shorty wet suit and I was looking forward to trying it out.
I went through my mental checklist of what I needed to take down to the shoreline. Wet suit . . . check, Goggles . . . check. Green cap to indicate my age group . . . check. Timing ankle bracelet provided by the race . . . check. Garmin Watch . . . Garmin watch . . . Sh#t! I looked through my backpack at least three or four times. It wasn't there.
Since the race has various start waves going at different times throughout the morning, and given the nature of a triathlon, there wasn't a clock anywhere in sight. No Garmin meant that I would be doing the entire race "blind" so to speak. I would have no idea not only of my overall time, but also no indication of how fast, or how slow I was racing. I would be doing the entire race by "feel."
Well, so be it. I made my way down to the water where the remaining athletes were on shore. The Olympic distance athletes had left a few minutes before, and you could see them off in the distance. I normally don't bother with a warm-up for most triathlons, but since this one was so much shorter, I figured it probably made sense to at least get in the water and swim a bit. I did just enough to get the blood flowing and then I heard the announcer calling our AG to the starting line.
The swim start for this race was a running start into the water. I positioned myself towards the back of my age group as I didn't really want to participate in the mosh pit that describes most swim starts in triathlon. We got underway and I found myself swimming right along with the group for the most part. I really tried to concentrate on staying relaxed and maintaining good technique in the water. In an OWS, it's easy to become distracted and lose all sense of an efficient and fluid swim stroke. I did very little sighting during the first part of the race as the first leg is almost directly into the sun. While my goggles weren't fogging up, it was still a really big challenge to see much, so I put my trust in the athletes around me that we were going in the right direction. In a matter of minutes we rounded the first turn, and this is when I started to realize that I maybe wasn't swimming as "fast" as the rest of the group. One of the clues was that I noticed that one of the guys next to me was doing some combination of breaststroke and freestyle or "crawl." I expected him to fade away, but each time I looked over, he was pretty much right there next to me. The other less subtle clue was the fact that several swimmers from the female 39 and under group, which had started a few minutes after our wave, were now swimming alongside of us. I kept looking for someone's feet so I could draft off of them, but only managed to hang on for a second or two before I'd lose them. I could tell that I was having a difficult time swimming in a straight line. I put my head down and finally felt like I was getting somewhere. We made the final turn and I put my head down, trying to stay relaxed. The next time I looked up, I'd opened up a gap between myself and the other swimmers. This was because I'd gone off course and swam to the left by several yards. Had I kept going, I would have swam straight into one of the docks on the shore! I turned myself back to my right, and I was off again, generally in the right direction. I must have really been enjoying swimming in my new wet suit (it actually was very comfortable). My official swim time was 16:30! OWS seems to be hit or miss with me, and I don't really have a solution. Given the lack of options for open water swimming near to where I live, I guess I could try swimming with my eyes closed. Or maybe I should invest in a pair of these.
|Getting ready to swim!|
Emerging from the water, I could tell I was with more of the back of pack participants. Many were slowly coming out of the water and walking up towards transition. I quickly got my goggles/ cap off, and pulled my wet suit down to my waist, all while running. My transition went quickly. My feet were still wet, so I decided to forgo socks for the bike portion, figuring it would be easier to get socks on after the bike when my feet were a bit drier. I hadn't ridden in these shoes without socks before, so I knew I was violating the "nothing new on race day" rule. But I figured between no Garmin and such a terrible swim, what's one more experiment! All told my T1 time was 1:39.
As soon as I got on the bike, I began passing people. I've done this race more than a handful of times in some variation or another, that I'm getting to know where all of the hills are on the course and how best to ride each section of the race. The first few miles are a gradual uphill which can really make for some slow going. In a longer race, it makes sense to go easy through this portion, but for a sprint, it's just a good way to kill your overall time. I just put my head down, found a good cadence, and began riding. One of the challenges with smaller sprint races however, is that many participants are new to the race. In some cases, they may not have read or understood the rules around what to do on the bike. In that first stretch, I saw a number of people riding in packs, or even side by side. An even greater number of folks were riding way over to the left. This meant that passing them was a bit frightening as I had to move way to the left, and into open traffic. I don't know the extent to which there were course marshals, and I don't really care too much about the drafting as no one was really riding fast enough to gain any kind of advantage. I do however hope that races will continue to emphasize the rule about staying to the right and only moving over to pass. Not only is this a unique aspect of non-drafting triathlon, but it's also a significant safety factor to consider. Blocking violations aside, I felt really strong on the bike and like I could push the pace the whole time. I was particularly proud of how I handled the small hills throughout the course. While fairly short and not too steep, these can really cut into your pace, if you don't stay aggressive. I managed to attack them with enough momentum that they were fairly easy to conquer. The bike leg wound up being the best component of the day. My bike time was 47:36, over the 17.3 miles, a 21.8 mph pace. This was the 16th fastest bike time overall and the 2nd fastest in my AG!
|The race had some really cool bike numbers . . . personalized and everything!|
I had a successful dismount coming into T2, and quickly found my parking space. It took me a bit longer to get my socks on, and then there was the tying of the shoes. I can see why speed laces are such a good idea for a sprint race. But there I sat, tying them as best I could, which was a little more difficult as I was still breathing hard coming off of the bike. Once everything was double knotted, I started out of transition and noticed a couple of other athletes coming out at about the same time. I made an effort to try to catch up to them, but as soon as we hit the first hill, they pulled away. T2= 2:13.
I struggled through the first half mile of the run. There's a slight uphill, and while my legs didn't feel too bad, nor did I feel too tired, I was really having a difficult time getting my breathing under control. I kept moving forward and tried not to worry about how fast or slow I was running. Nevertheless, I had several folks blow past me in that first stretch. One of the great things about triathlon is that everyone's race distance and age is written on the back of their calf. This makes it easy to keep track of the competition. Although I was being passed early, as near as I could tell, none of these people were in my AG. As the run progressed, I felt a bit stronger, and when I reached the turnaround at the halfway point, I started passing more people. I even caught a couple of folks at the end which was great. My run time wound up being 23:48, or about 7:40 per mile which is roughly the same pace as the last two reverse sprint races I've done. I didn't feel that fast during the race, but it's always a little difficult to tell during a triathlon, especially given the change in race order.
At the finish, I was met by my lovely daughter who had come along for the race. The race also includes Olympic distance race, a duathlon, a 5k and 10k, and with all of the different events, the atmosphere at the finish line is quite festive. After catching my breath for a moment, I went over and checked the streaming results. To my great surprise, I'd actually finished 3rd in my AG with an overall time of 1:31:48. Now granted, there were only like eight people in our AG, but hey, I'll take it! It was fun to stand on the podium again. Hadn't done that in probably 4 years!
As far as the Garmin goes, I somehow managed to forget it at home, even though it was sitting in plain sight! I wouldn't recommend racing without a watch, although I do think there were some advantages this time around, one being that I wasn't limited by my own expectations for myself. I don't know if I would have ridden or run as fast had I been able to gauge my time. On the flip side, a quick peek at my swim time, might have caused me to push a little bit faster.
I'm not currently registered for another race until late August and I'm contemplating whether or not I'll do another one until then. If I do, it's probably four weeks away. The bookend of my triathlon season is the Boulder SUNSET triathlon, in August, the same exact course. Maybe I'll bring my Garmin next time!