After a very disappointing (and slightly expensive) triathlon season last year, I decided to only do one race this year. When I decided on this one, I hoped to be in much better shape then I was on race day. The ruptured tendon set me back more then a month. I really didnt know what to expect going into this race. I have done very little swimming this year and my bike training would be 2 days one week and maybe no days the following week. Prior to the injury I was riding once a week with the tri club doing a hilly route and getting faster with each week. In the last few weeks, I was starting to feel like my running was coming back, even possibly better then it had been before my injury.
While technically my 2nd race ever back in 2007, I consider this my first race because my first race was one week earlier and it was a one-time only event so I could never go back and race it again. Interestingly enough, this was also the last full distance sprint I had done.
Saturday we volunteered to work packet pickup. Because of the way the park is set up and the 3/4 mile walk from the parking lot to transition, this race required dropping your bike off the day before. We volunteered to work 12-3 but unfortunately some volunteers who signed up to work 3-6 no showed so we ended up staying to 5. We went home and I had a couple of PBJ sandwiches and a beer to calm the nerves and went off to bed at a reasonable time.
I was up Sunday at 4:30 AM. Transition was open from 5:30-7 but we didnt want to be parked to far away so we planned on heading out about 5. After another PBJ for breakfast (a staple in my diet) we headed out to the park. When I arrived I found a surprise awaiting me. Because this race had a large number of triathlon newbies who apparently decided to rack their bike on the wrong racks, someone decided to re-rack all the bikes in numerical order. Not a big deal, but a slight pain in the arse since the night before I chose an end spot. I set up my stuff and waited until about 6:45 to make sure that those adjacent to me did not mess up my bike or my stuff. I was in the first wave so at least I didnt have to likely worry about someone messing my stuff once the race started. I headed down towards the swim with a quick stop at the mens room.
They had announced that the water was 72 degrees. since this was such a short sprint, I was not going to use my wetsuit. I got into the water up to my chest and was pleasantly surprised that the water wasnt that cold. The only problem was going to be getting out of the water since it had to be in the upper 40s or lower 50s and breezy. I did a little swimming to get my head under water and loosen up my arms and shoulders until we were asked to get out of the water for the announcements and national anthem. I got shivers waiting for them to allow us back in the water. We got in the water a few minutes before the start. I chose a somewhat middle of the pack position given my lack of swim training this year. I had an idea of what I could swim it in and I swam right about what I thought I would. As soon as the gun went off, I regretted not taking a more aggressive position. I had forgotten how much of a washing machine a short sprint can be. The first thrid of the race was like a knock out brawl. My stroke is somewhat of a catchup in order to protect my face. As I got close to the first turn buoy I picked up my pace and it felt like I had to climb over other swimmers to get some space. Finally after the second turn in to the swim finish (it was a candy cane shaped course) I was able to get some space and picked up my pace. My goggles were totally fogged, but I believe I took a fairly straight line to the finish while others went wide to the outside. As I was getting close, I could tell the water was getting shallower. Once I could touch the bottom with my fingers, I stood up and started my LOOONG run to T1. I looked at my watch and I had finished in 7 minutes 5 seconds (about 1:45 per 100 yards) this is what I figured I would finish in based on previous experience
The thing about races done at Lake Lanier Islands as anyone who has ever raced there will tell you is the run from the swim to T1 is long and hard. I ran until I hit the steepest part of the hill and then resumed running once I crested the hill. When you reach the top of the hill, you are at the front end of transition, but have to run all the way around to the back end of transition. I reached T1 at 9:44, almost three minutes from out of the water to transition. When I look at my swim and T1 times from 2007, I suspect that the timing mat was at the bottom of the hill before you ever made it to transition whereas this year it was right as you enter transition.
I was in and out of transition pretty quickly. I ran to my bike, strapped on my helmet, shoes and put on my sunglasses and I ran on out of transition and mounted my bike. I had packed arm warmers just in case, but was just warm enough that I didnt need them. In and out of T1 in a speedy (at least for me T1).
The bike course is slightly challenging in the first half, especially given the fact that the bike is my weakest link. It begins with about 4 or 5 miles of rollers getting out of the park. I kept my resistance low and cadence high to get the blood back in the legs. I knew the first half was the toughest so I wanted something left in the tank for the second half of the ride. There is one challenging hill at about the 6 mile mark which had me out of the saddle. By this point my lower back was bothering me that I was worried may sabotage my run. One of my problems when climbing (besides the obvious spare tire I am carrying around) is that I really tense up when on a long slow climb. All this tension finds it endpoint in my lower back and has been known to then kill my ability to have a good run. Once I made it past this, I used every down hill to stretch out my back and legs. I was able to maintain around a 19mph pace on the flats which was decent, but every hill sucked every bit of speed out of me. I kept my cadence high and only used my big chain ring when going downhill fast so I didnt blow out my knees pedaling fast. In previous races I have overused my big chain ring a really used up too much energy. I finished the bike strong in 45:31 (17.1 mph), again about what I expected though I would have liked to have been a little faster.
T2 was a little slower then T1, but still not too bad (1:38) as I had to put socks on to head out on the run. I cant run without socks as I am really blister prone.
Heading out on the run I didnt really know what to expect. The run is also slightly challenging. It is an out and back course. The course starts downhill for almost a mile, climbs for a half mile and downhill again to the turnaround then do it all again the other way. Starting downhill, I was averaging about a 8:15 pace. This surprised me some, but my legs felt really fresh. I think I didnt realize I was going down hill at this point. Once I started the first climb, my pace became pretty inconsistent. At times I was close the 12:30/mile, but I was styaing at a fairly consistent effort level. I reached the first mile marker in 10:23, but the garmin showed I had almost done 1.1 miles for a 9:40 pace. Based on the rest of the race, I suspect the garmin was more accurate. I took a slight walk break to chug down my water since I am no good at drinking from a cup when running fast and picked my pace back up to the turnaround. I kept my effort level steady and walked the water stop again on the way back in. I only had to walk one other time for about 15 seconds as I headed up the top of the worst hill on the way back. As I got closer I could hear the crowds and I picked up the pace more. When I hit the chute I sprinted to the finish and passed several runners on the way in. I think that was the fastest I had ever run in my life. I crossed the finish line in 1:26:39 a PR by 3:22 almost all of which came on the run. My only regret was that based on how much energy I had at the finish, I probably could have run faster, but Im not going to complain. I am still learning the art of running fast. My 5K time of 28:23 (9:09/mi) is my fastest run in two years. Overall I am satisfied with my results
Up next for me is the Silver Comet Half Marathon, which is my PR race, which interestingly enough, I also ran in 2007. 2007 was a good year as far as first time accomplishments (tri, half mar) this year may turn out to be a good year for breaking those PRs from 2007. The other intersing thing is looking at my photos from 2007 I was lighter then. Once I can take off this weight, I should be able to make even bigger improvement.
Swim + T1
2007 44:25 17.5 mph
2010 45:31 17.1 mph
2007 31:59 (10:19/mi)
2010 28:23 (9:09/mi)