Pre-Race: Am I even fit?
This is the earliest in the season I’ve ever tried to race. In the pro field, I should say. I’m a long-time veteran of the Boise Family YMCA Spring Sprint, which is usually in held sometime in March. It’s a spring classic and I love it. But that race takes an hour. This was a 70.3, and it was on April 2nd (my birthday, incidentally). It is also the “official” start to the American triathlon season, and the “unofficial” early season world championship (I made that last part up, but I think most pros would agree with me). There always a TON of big names at O-side, and this year’s running featured Andy Potts, Sebastian Kienle, Lionel Sanders, Maik Twelsiek, Jesse Thomas, Joe Gambles, Tim Reed, Andreas Dreitz, Trevor Wurtele, Jordan Rapp, etc. (that may have even been the top-10, although not in that order).
I certainly had my
doubts about my fitness. For one thing,
it’s hard to spend much time outside on a tri bike during the Oregon winter. Well, not so much hard as it is annoying,
soggy, and mediocre. More significantly,
this race is just plain early. But as I described a few weeks ago, this event has been on my bucket list. It’s beautiful, and the local community loves
it, and spectators line most of the run course, and you can hear the waves
crashing, and you can get tan lines, and all that happy fairy tale stuff. I wanted to see how I’d measure up to the
world champions, and get an early season benchmark. Despite what I will rate as average fitness (thanks to the lucidity
of hindsight), it was definitely worth the trip.
|Not a bad place for a race|
Swim: Oh so that was the gun then? Rats.
I swam a lot this fall and winter, and I am definitely faster. So I was eager to see if I could make that second pack. Of course, every swim that Andy Potts shows up for takes on a different dynamic. He goes out incredibly strong, and the fastest swimmers in the field see how long they can hang on before blowing up, which has the effect of stringing people out in the water. I wasn’t going to even try to stay with him, but I was hoping to find some of those guys who’d been spit off the back and form a faster group.
That’s not exactly
what happened. Thanks primarily to a
gentle current leaving Oceanside harbor – and secondarily to not getting any
manner of a countdown past the two minute mark – the pro field had drifted out
onto the swim course while waiting for the gun.
A few of us were treading in place at the line, thinking they’d pull
everyone back before the start. But all
of a sudden the gun went and I was 10 yards off the back, literally before the
race had even started. Bummer.
|New kit from Chris Bagg Coaching Group!|
I went off reasonably hard and ended up swimming the first 500 meters with a couple other guys. One of them gapped us and I didn’t respond in time, which was disappointing. He ended up swimming about 60 seconds quicker than I did, so I think he would have been a decent mark for me. I swam a 27:45, which seemed slow until I looked at my GPS file and realized my errant steering had taken me on nice little tour of the harbor, measuring in about 160 meters longer than was required. I actually held my new threshold pace, which I’m pumped about! But goes to show you that swim fitness in the pool doesn’t necessarily translate to improved open water performance.
Bike: I have no idea how hard I’m really working, but this sure is nice.
Before talking about the bike, I have to quickly describe what was for me the coolest part of the race: T1. After coming up the boat ramp, you proceeded to run down a narrow lane pushed up against the transition area, all the way down to the far end before entering and finding your bike. Best part was that this lane – at most 6 feet wide – was lined by spectators on the outside, and the waves of age group participants on the inside. They were packed inside the fences, lined up single file, watching and waiting to funnel down into the water for their own swim. The net effect was a 60” run through hundreds and hundreds of wetsuited-bodies, crowned by eager faces with bright swim caps, so close they could have easily slapped me on the ass and told me to get going. I could feel their enthusiasm, and was totally charged up as I rounded the final corner and sprinted to find my bike.
The bike ended up being an exercise in patience, more than anything. Patience and smiling. The course features the kind of riding you dream about: ocean winds and open roads at first, before turning inland and tucking behind the coastal range, working your way back south over rolling hills with a few steep climbs. There were also marines everywhere, as much of the route is on Camp Pendleton. Was pretty cool to ride past “TANK CROSSING” signs, and see young men in full military attire directing traffic. It was a windier ride than in years past, and times were a bit slower, but on the whole it was pretty much perfect.
I had some equipment failures, and ended up basically riding blind. Which was kind of fun, I guess. It’s the way I started out in this sport, riding by feel alone. But I have really come to rely on my heart rate data, in particular, which wasn’t functioning. So I erred on the conservative side, especially for the first 40 or so miles, and the effort was definitely below where it probably should have been. For whatever reason I also had a real bottle-cage utility problem, and ejected a few much-needed bottles of sports drink. I got off the bike feeling pretty fresh – probably too fresh – and decidedly behind the caloric 8-ball. I would definitely suffer for that on the back half of the run.
Run: I think I might be in heaven. But heaven isn’t supposed to feel this bad, or move this slow.
The run was offensively pleasant. I think I was off the bike around 9:35 am, and it was a radiant fricking morning at the beach. The 2-loop, out-and-back run course has you criss-crossing your way down the coastline, mostly running along the strand, at times jumping up short, steep inclines to paralleling Pacific Street. Not 50 yards off your shoulder, the cool blue waters of the ocean are crashing onto a perfect sandy beach, creating a soothing background soundtrack and the most refreshing breeze you’ve ever felt on a run. Just ridiculous.
As usual, I started
out controlled and smooth, to get my running legs under me. At 3 miles I felt good, so I pushed on the
throttle a bit, easing my way up to goal pace.
But around mile 6 things didn’t feel so good, and I had to back off
again to 6:00 pace or so, and even that I couldn’t manage to hold for more than
a mile or two. Definitely not ideal to
run your fastest mile in the first loop.
The last 5 miles deescalated into a laboring, damage-controlling
trot. I’m sure my heart rate had tanked,
but at that point I was thankful my HR monitor wasn’t working. This was pretty much textbook nutritional
failure. And it never feels good. Struggled home in 1:20:something, not great
running, but good enough to crack into the top-20 on the day. And given the caliber of the 40+ dudes I’d
seen at the start line, I can definitely live with that.
Take homes: I got to race on my 29th birthday,
and my dad was there.
|That's where we had to run.|
|When things were still feeling good. This is literally 600 yards into the run, though.|