2010 Health First Triathlon Race Report

First, let me say that this was a very well run race. Everything went smoothly as far as I could tell, there was a small army of very supportive and helpful volunteers, and the course was set up as a great venue for spectators to view the race. I’m not sure about the accuracy of the distances, but I’ll get to that later. In the end, that doesn’t really matter–everyone has to do the same course.

Swim (1500m)
I’ve heard that you can’t win the Ironman on the swim, but you can lose it there. This wasn’t an Ironman, but I think that’s what happened to me today. I did a 28:22, which I would normally be very happy with for an open water race. I had a bad start because the water seemed to never get deep. I actually started swimming once, but my hands were dragging the bottom, so I got up and ran into the water some more. Running in water really jacks my heart rate up, and it took me a while to calm down from that. Throw in the usual punching and kicking and the fact that I didn’t do a single open water swim leading up to this race, and I probably got the results I deserve.

I found some really good feet to draft off of when we started the longest leg of the swim, which was headed north against the wind. This gave me a good chance to rest and settle down. That’s my usual goal for a non-sprint swim anyway–just take what the course give you, and don’t expect too much.

I never really thought I got off course that much, and my time doesn’t seem to say I did, but I ended up 96/195 over all and 6/9 in my group for the swim.

Weird results. Were there really 3 guys over 200 lbs who swam that under 23:00?!?!? In the past, I’ve usually in the top third or so overall on the swim and near the top in my group. This one has me a little flummoxed. Did I swim a really slow short course?

T1
Let me just say that both of my transitions were really bad so I don’t spend any more time on them. I spent enough time on them during the race.

Anyway, I didn’t have my watch on for the swim and didn’t know what to expect from my time, but coming out of T1 I heard the announcer say “We’re now starting to see a more steady stream of swimmers arriving to transition.” That had me thinking I was right where I usually am–top 1/3 or so. Wrong.

Bike (27 miles)
I jumped on and quickly accelerated up to ~20mph, when “wirrrrrrrr’ a guy zoomed by me with a disc rear wheel. Oh well, not catching that guy anyway, right? I was soon passed by another cyclist, which had me (again) thinking I had put in a pretty good swim–all the guys who are fast on the bike and weaker on the swim are passing me. However, I passed that guy back in the next mile or so. I was a net +17 passes on the bike. There may have been a couple more, but once the sprint distance racers were in the mix it was harder to keep up.

The heart rate monitor I’d spent so much time putting on was completely non-functional. I probably gained back all the time it cost me to put it on just because it wasn’t working, and therefore wasn’t holding me back at all.

My strategy was to push the northbound sections of the course (into the wind), take it easier on the southbound sections (wind at my back), and blister the causeways. If you are from the area and are reading this, let me apologize, but…Those. Are. Not. Hills. I knew I would have a psychological advantage biking and running those causeways because I’ve spent most of my life riding and running big hills and mountains. I know a lot of people here train by riding the causeways, but I think my method of getting on the spin bike and doing 5-8 minute intervals of “hills” on there is a much better training method.

The one hiccup on the ride was at the water bottle exchange. I had about a third of my water left, and threw it to the side. I then dropped, 1, 2, 3 different bottles the volunteers tried to hand me. Oh well…only 10 more miles to go–hydrate more in T2 than planned.

I have to say, that’s the best ride I’ve ever had during a race. My time was 1:13:55, 35th overall and 2nd in my group. I put in a lot more time training on the bike for this race than I usually do, and it really paid off. I didn’t care if I cooked myself because my run hasn’t been that great lately. I wanted to have a good bike.

Run (6.2 miles?)
My run definitely isn’t at it’s all-time best right now, and I knew I was going to tear it up on the bike, so I didn’t have very high expectations for the run. Strategy was to start off slowly and try to build something decent–no use trying to run fast off the bike anyway, because that wouldn’t happen. I estimated I was doing 9:30 miles, but when I clicked my watch at the first mile marker it said 8:30…huh?

Mile 2 was 7:48…what? Mile 3 was 8:4x…ok, maybe. But the next two miles were down into the mid 6:xx range…no way. My 5k PR is a 6:50 pace, and I clearly remember my entire body being on fire for that entire race. That isn’t what I was feeling during this race. The last 1.2 didn’t feel especially long, but my watch said I ran it at 9:36, and I know I was going faster than that. Probably closer to 8:00 miles at that point. I felt pretty good the whole way, and I followed through on my plan to push the causeways, where I think I gained some good ground. There were lots of people walking up.

Final run time was 49:43. Being honest with myself, I think that’s about what I could run right now in a stand alone 10k, but not in a tri. Regardless, we all ran the same course. My time was 2nd in my group and 78th overall.

My overall finish was 2:35:52–65th overall and *gulp* 5th (?!?!?!) in my group. Swim really killed me. I still have a hard time believing I finished in the top third overall and in the middle of the Clydesdales. Two and a half minutes out of the money. Ugh. Probably could have pulled another minute of that back from the transitions as well.

That’s the cool thing about triathlon though. You focus on one thing (bike) and slip someplace else (swim). You don’t practice transitions, and you have bad transitions. And that’s what keeps you coming back–there are so many should’ve and could’ve situations you can improve on.

I’m dropping down below 200 lbs for a while to do some running, but I think I’m going to be back with the fat kids next year to vindicate myself!

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