Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Nation’s Triathlon 2010 – Race Report


First things first – how did it go? 
I finished in 2:28:11, 61 out of 496 for my AG.  This is by far my best race, substantially better than I had thought possible.  Before the race I created a chart of the best possible time I thought I could do (here).  This turned out to be 2:46.  I am still shocked I beat that time by so much.

My prep for this race was good (except for running), however I started getting some aches/pains on Friday before the race, and wasn’t feeling so good at all on Saturday morning.  I dosed up cold/flu medication and managed to feel ok on race day.  I was still congested, but I don’t think it affected the race too much.

On Saturday we got through packet pickup and the expo without problem, although parking close to the hotel was difficult.  Managed to pickup a few goodies at the expo too (transition bag, running visor, water bottle).

The forecast for Sunday’s race wasn’t good – rain overnight and continuing through the morning.  We got up at 5am and left the hotel at 5:45 to walk to the transition area.  It was raining, but it wasn’t too hard at that point.  By the time we got to the transition area it was coming down quite hard and was miserable.  It made setting up the transition area difficult, and it was really cold.  Many put on their wetsuits early just to keep warm. 

Pre-Race

There were 5,000 people registered to race, but a lot of people came to transition just to remove their bikes and go home.  I had a few open spaces next to my bike, which made setup easy.  I setup my bike and put a garbage bag over my running shoes/hat/race belt for T2 – to try and keep them dry.  Pumped the tires and was ready to go.  The race start was delayed 20mins, giving us all a little extra time to get ready.    As I was leaving the transition area, I realized that I forgot to attach my bento box to the bike.  Since it had the gels that I needed for the ride I quickly got back and attached it. 

Swim – 27:37 – Wave #13

The pre-swim area was well organized.  Sections were marked for each wave to assemble before being marshaled in to the water.   My wave was #13, the first of 3 40-44 waves (496 finishers in my age group).  I zipped up my wetsuit with about 8 minutes to go and was feeling pretty calm.   I positioned myself at the front of the wave as we walked to the jetty so I'd have time to get a few strokes in before the swim start.  I am really happy that it did this.  As the announcers said 30 seconds I could see some people still trying to get in to the water.

swim-exit My plan for the swim was to not start too fast.  I wanted to swim just like I had done in training, focusing on being smooth and breathing every 3rd stroke.  I am very happy with the way the swim went.  The wetsuit definitely helped.  I kept pretty good form for the whole 1.5k.  One of the best things about this race was the swim buoys positioned at every 100meters, with the distance clearly marked.  This was a really good way to break the race down, all I had to do was focus on the next marker and just count them off.  Other races could really learn a lesson here.

There was a lot of bumping going on.  What I didn’t expect was running into people from the previous wave at the 300 meter mark, especially with the waves being 4 mins apart.swim-exit2

I was swimming quite well, and thinking my time would be pretty good – I was really hoping for a sub 30 time.  The turn around was at 600meters, at that point i could see a lot of people, some from 2 waves earlier.  It was often hard to see them and I bumped into a few (sorry).  I had to zig-zag a little but managed to keep a decent line for most of the race.

the last 200m was the hardest – so many people coming around 2 90degree turns towards the finish chute.

I started my watch at about 30 seconds before the race start and glanced at it as I exited the water, it was around 28 minutes!  I am really happy with that.  Official time was 27:37.  This was my best swim ever, significantly helped by the wetsuit.  I am happy that I followed my pre-race plan of taking it easy and finishing strong.

I didn’t notice much rain during the swim, and the water seemed clean enough.  It was definitely better than my last race in Culpeper.  So many people that I talked to were concerned about the thought of swimming in the Potomac.  It really wasn’t bad, I won’t think twice about doing it again next year.

T1 – 3:40t1

the distance from the swim exit to the transition area was long.  It took me almost 2 minutes to get to the transition area.  I think a 3:40 transition was pretty good.  Since I already had my bike shoes clipped in (see pic on left), all I had to do was take off the wetsuit and put on my helmet and glasses.

The wetsuit came off easily and I was out and on my way.  As I got close to the center aisle another competitor fell while taking his wetsuit off, his head crashed into my right thigh – ouch.  I stopped to make sure he was ok, then ran the bike out of transition.

 

 

 

Bike – 1:08:27 – 21.7mph

I was really looking forward to the bike portion of the race.  I had worked hard for the 4 weeks prior to this race, and my average speed was coming up.  I was hoping to finish around 1:18, just over 19mph.  The roads were wet, and the rain just kept coming for most of the ride, which slowed things down especially at the turn a round's and some other tight corners.  There were a lot of volunteers on the course that did an excellent job of warning us of tight turns and even some water hazards.

I was feeling really great on the bike, each time I looked down at my speed, I was over 20mph – often 23 or 24.  The course was very flat.  There were a few up and downs but mostly rolling.  Nothing difficult.  Most of the roads that I train on were much harder and I think this really helped me. 

there were 2 things that i didn’t like about the bike leg:-

  • lack of mile markers.  I would have liked to see ones at 10, 15 & 20.  I did remember that the race website showed the first turn around was at mile 10.  I hit that in 29 minutes and change.  Once I saw that I knew I was in for a good ride time.
  • some sections were narrow and a few sections had a lot of water.  with so many riding there were some places with a lot of people bunched up, as soon as the road opened up again I put in a surge to pass the pack.  there also seemed to be a lot of drafting – mostly unintentional I think.  Some people were definitely getting a sizeable advantage.  At least we were warned about the narrow sections, before the race and by the volunteers.

bikeI kept a good steady effort, aiming for a good mix of speed, but not killing myself so I'd have something left for the run.  I tried to focus on a good cadence and spent most of the race in the 90’s – exactly as planned.

Even with the rain, the ride was over quickly.  Much faster than I had expected (by 10 minutes).  As I went past the Watergate hotel and the Kennedy center I realized that I was nearly finished, and it was about 1h 5mins into the bike leg.  The picture on the right is close to the finish of the bike leg.

The race organizers did an excellent job with the bike finish – signs were posted every 100meters, starting 500meters out.  There were a lot of people lining the streets cheering.  That was fun.

I had a fast dismount, didn’t really slow down much at all and left the bike running.  I think I passed over 10 people who stopped to get off the bike.  The flying dismount really saves time.

Final time was 1:08:27 – way better than I had thought possible.  The flat course really helped there.  Most of my training rides were around 19-19.5 mph, but with more hills and on hotter days. 

The cool day and rain helped a lot – I didn’t even go though my first water bottle (40oz speedfil).  I had a gel at 30mins and about 1hr in.

T2 – 1:50

Nothing exceptional, but a pretty good transition.  Got the shoes on quickly – no socks, put on the visor, race belt and picked up my small water bottle, the one that attaches to your palm.  In previous races i always felt like I needed to sip water more often, rather than take a bigger drink at aid stations.  I picked up the bottle at the expo before the race and I am so happy that I did.

Run – 46:39

run The run was the portion of the race that I was most concerned about.  I didn’t really have a good idea of what time was possible.  Having 2 knee surgeries this year meant that I had not trained much, plus I have had a few calf problems recently too.  2 weeks before the race completed a 10k training run and managed to just break 50 minutes for the first time.  The next run after that i was going slow, and after 3 miles had some calf pain.  I didn’t run after that until the day before the race.

I started the run at a steady pace.  I was feeling great.  Usually my legs feel heavy after the bike leg, but this time i didn’t have that at all.  I think this is a result of some good training, and also good pacing on the bike.  My pace started out at around 8:30/mile and since i was feeling good i kept going faster.  The run was very flat, and with the rain easing and the cool temperature it was close to perfect running conditions.

I looked at my watch and after the fast swim and bike, I was 1:45 in to the race at the start of the run.  I had to look a few times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.  I started to think that I had a shot at finishing within 2:30.  I couldn’t believe that I was even possible.

By mile 2 I felt some pain in my calf, but it didn’t really slow me down so i continued.  Actually i continued to pick up the pace each mile.  This felt really great. I continued a good steady pace and was passing a lot of people.  There were some really fast runners going past me, but not nearly as many as previous races.

run-2 The finish line was really well done, after passing under a bridge (14th st I think) there was a small rise and after that you could see the finish line about 400 yards away.  I put in a great final surge and finished the run in 46:39 – way exceeding my expectations.

I looked at my watch just after the finish – it said 2:28.  I couldn’t believe it.  I knew during the run I was going close to 2:30, but this was an incredible run, considering that I really haven’t trained for running.  The hard swimming and riding training that I have done have really increased my aerobic fitness, and this really helped. 

Final average pace: 7:32/mile – way better than any race before, especially for my first Olympic race.  I think the course might have been a little shorter than 10k too.

The finishing medal was a nice touch.

Post Race Review

finish-medal I am looking forward to this race next year – anyone considering entering should really give it a try. the course is flat and fast, and very well organized.

I lined up after i finished at the timing tent, but they didn’t have the results at first.  I did manage to get back there about 30 minutes later.  It was nice to see my official time – and have it printed for me instead of crowding around some paper pinned to a board.

 

 

 

 

What are the things that i can take away from the race?

  • I validated that my training is working.  I performed better than expected in all 3 legs.
  • the wetsuit definitely helps.  I’ll wear it in every race that i am allowed
  • the course was excellent and made for a fun race – hopefully next year without the rain
  • the hand-held water bottle is a keeper!  may even use that for longer training runs
  • the Speedfil drink system worked very well.  I could sip water as often as i liked without leaving the aero bars
  • for the first time i used an aero helmet – the Rudy Project Wingspan.   I’m sure this helped take 1-2 minutes off the ride time.  I got it only a few days before the race and had not used it on the bike yet.  I am very happy that i did.
  • race and pre-race nutrition was good. drank only water, consumed 2 gels on the bike and 2 enduralytes at the start of the run, continued sipping water throughout the bike/run (refilled once at mile 4 on the run).  Since it cool and raining, there was far less need to consume a lot of water.  Breakfast was a Hammer almond/raisin bar, airborne and a cold/flu tablet and water.  A packet of Powerbar Strawberry/Banana energy gel blasts (yum) while i was setting up and and a Hammer gel about 30-40 minutes before the swim start.  Drank a good amount of water throughout the morning before the race.
  • my heart rate was definitely under control for the whole race.  Much lower and all previous races, even with the faster speed for each leg.  The last race i did, i averaged in the 180s for the swim alone, this race was 167 – the bike was in the low 160’s.  this shows that i was pacing pretty well.  Run average was 168 and up to 183 for the sprint to the finish. 

What can I improve?

  • i still have more work to do on all 3 legs.  Mostly the run.  If i can stay injury free, i am really looking forward to next year/season.
  • speed up transition times.  I think i can take 10-15 seconds from each.  perhaps just by running a little harder & putting on the race belt/number while running.

Final times:-

Finish Time

2:28:11

average/pace heart rate avg/max
Swim

27:37

1:42/100m 167/175
T1

3:40

   
Bike

1:08:27

21.7 mph 161/166
T2

1:50

   
Run

46:39

7:32/mile 168/183
Age Group

61/496

 
Gender Place

385/2834

 
Overall Place

422/4391

 

 

To think about for next year

I think i can cut a good amount of time for next year.  If i can cut just 1 minute off each leg that will get me in the 2:25 range, but if i can really work the bike/run i think i could get down to around 2:20.  If i can maintain some continued steady swim progress, and some good run/bike training should get me there. 

At some point I would like to buy a Triathlon bike, but not before I am stronger on the bike itself.  I passed many people with the full aero bike, wheels and all (that was fun).  My philosophy is to work on the engine first, then when I think the my current bike is slowing me down, I’ll upgrade.  I am hoping to do this early in the season next year.  Added to that is the fact that i have to save for a new bike too!

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