Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Buckhead Border Triathlon Race Report

Was not as tired as I thought I would be considering getting into town late after a long day of work and drive. Felt calm and relaxed. Got signed in easily, went for a twenty minute ride on the course to warm up and fire up the legs. Ate some food, set up transition, did a quick jog, checked out the swim exit, then got on the bus to go to the swim start. Had an Espresso Hammer Gel on the way over. Overall, I felt good, relaxed and confident. The race atmosphere was low key. Wasn’t wearing a watch, except for pace on the run when I’ll throw on my Timex Global Trainer. My objective was to race the race, not the clock.

Seventy-nine degree water in The Ohio meant no wetsuit. Had a good warm up and sighted a good buoy line. It was an in-water start, I was in the first group to go. From the gun I was with the small front group and nobody was really swimming super fast. The current was pushing right to left pretty good and soon enough I was far left of the first buoy I was aiming for and not behind but just not with the group anymore. Swimming solo I pushed on feeling strong. I didn’t have the best line but the river wasn’t helping. Finally across I had to make a small backtrack to get around the turn buoy and head left downriver. From there I couldn’t tell what position I was in, just swam strong and steady to the finish. Getting out I knew it wasn’t my best swim, but I also new there were not too many people in front of me. The climb out of the river up to T1 was insane, literally the steepest zig-zag grass hill ever, I walked/crawled hand over foot to the top. The mat for T1 was at the top of the hill so the swim split includes the riverbank summit.

Pretty out of breath into T1 I jogged in control to my bike making sure to calm my HR. With a quick switch into helmet, shades, and another Espresso Hammer Gel in my pocket I was out and pedaling. Smooth.

Riding the course in the morning really helped me determine how to settle into the ride. Out of T1 there were a few sharp turns and bad road sections, so I waited to maneuver that before eating the gel and getting down to business. No one around me, I rode as hard as I could, staying around twenty-two mph. It had to get faster but my legs were a bit heavy still, I knew they would loosen. There was no wind, it wasn’t too hot, and the road was straight and rolling and only a few train track crossings to be careful of, overall pretty good conditions. It was a two-loop out and back course. The grade on the way out was just slightly uphill, but enough to notice, so I pressed on hard and wasn’t getting too worried about the less than ideal speed. As I rode out I counted the riders coming back at me to get an idea of my position. I was in about fifth or sixth for most of the ride.

Almost at the first turn I was passed out of nowhere. I wasn’t too happy about it so after dropping back, I got on it and kept him legally close. I got mad at myself because I was quickly up to twenty four twenty five mph at the same PE as before I was passed. To be clear, I was not in his slipstream, nor was I even close. I could have and should have been riding this pace from the start. In a way I was happy he passed me and got me on track. He stayed ahead until the second turn around near transition. I went past him as he took the turn way too slow, I didn’t see him again. Still feeling pretty strong I just wanted to get back to the far turn around so that I could open it up on the way home on the slight downhill. I knew my time was off by this point, but I also knew I had maintained my position in the race and was eager to run. On the way back one of the riders up in front had flatted on the train tracks and was out of the race, it sucked for him but my position just got that much better. Confidence boost.

The only mishap of the day was at the very end of the bike where there was no one telling riders where to turn onto the last road into transition. At the intersection I literally had to slow completely down, do a circle in the road and yell to spectators where to go. Finally a police officer pointed. Just as he did, the other rider zoomed past. Damn it. Again, I got on it and followed him (in a legal position, so relax) back into T2. I was upset because I worked pretty hard get that position, but there was nothing I could about it at that point. I just wanted to run.

I drank my entire bottle of Hammer Melon HEED on the bike and never took my Espresso Gel. But felt fine.

Bike racked quickly, visor on, Timex Global Trainer watch and race belt in hand as I ran out looking up the road to the guy a head. Again, pretty concise and seamless transition.

Right out of T2 a volunteer yelled, “top ten” which made me happy, although I figured I was more like top five or six. I got my watch on and race belt clipped and was running well with the guy about fifty yards ahead. We made a big loop around transition before running up to the bride over the river. Approaching the first aid station on the bridge I sucked down my last Hammer Espresso Gel and got some water in my mouth and on my head. Best decision of the day to take that gel. At this point the runner had pulled pretty far ahead and I thought, well, it’s no big deal that he passed me on the bike because he would have gotten me on the run anyway, he was clearly keeping a stiffer pace at the moment. My watch was acting up so I couldn’t get a solid read on my true pace so I just kept tempo running, focusing on good form and breathing.

As we made our way down off the bridge and back under it towards the river walk, I stalked and passed another runner while now making up good time on my target runner. I really was feeling strong and focused, my HR was where I knew it would be (172ish) so I just held it there and pushed on through. As we approached the turn around, I was now right on his heals. This was a combination of him slowing and me speeding up. We both grabbed water before the turn, and then as we made the turn next to the aid station he suddenly stopped right in front of me and started to walk. A little shocked, I ran around him and got on the gas a bit to put some daylight between us. That was weird. Front this point on, I had no idea how far ahead anyone else was but my main goal and focus was to hold him off from trying to pass me back once he began running again. I ran all the way back to the bridge without looking back. I knew he was running again now because I could hear people cheer and I passed, then again as he passed, it’s how I gauged the gap. He wasn’t too close, but he wasn’t far enough either.

At the bottom on the bridge I knew the incline would be tough for both of us, but I also knew I run hills well, I was still feeling solid, and if I could accelerate up it, it would really tighten the screws on him with only a mile to the finish off the bridge. (This is the same bridge I ran across at mile 1-2 at IMKY a few years ago; when I was not feeling so great...redemption crossed my mind) I ran up the bridge with controlled aggression and focus certainly putting myself in the pain cave for the first time of the day. As I came over the crest of the bridge, I snagged some water and opened up my legs all the way down the backside towards the last eight hundred meters of road. Again, I had heard the volunteer yelling at me for water as I approached that last bridge aid station, and as I ran past I listen for him to yell again, but never heard anything. A sharp left turn off the bridge showed that he was nowhere in sight and that I had did what I tried to do. If he had any thoughts of attempting a pass before the bridge my acceleration up and over put them to bed.

Running down the final stretch into the finish, my HR spiked a little crazy again, partially because I was pumped and partially because I was running as fast as I had been all day. I knew I ran well and had earned a solid finish, but didn’t know exactly where. As I crossed the line I only saw three guys standing at line, two of which still had their hands on their knees, I was fourth. As the runner behind me came across the line a few seconds later, I gave him a high five and thanked him for pushing me all day. He smiled and just said “I couldn’t hang with you on the run, nice job.” Right on!

Coaches Notes:

  • Happy to have learned to race the race, not the clock or the two-hour mark
  • Everyone has to race the same course, not all courses are two-hour courses
  • That being said, I still need to swim faster and sight better
  • Loved having no watch, but need to figure out my GPS so it’s ready for me in T2
  • I can run strong/fast with good form off the bike even when I am all-out on the bike.
  • At this distance, I need to swim, bike, and run at tempo HR the whole time. It’s not no pacing, its constant controlled fast pacing
  • I am fit enough to do that
  • “Controlled Aggression” Raced hard, burned matches, but all at the right time and with purpose and strategy
  • Spin one easier gear out of T1 to loosen legs up faster
  • Execution of race nutrition and pre-race warm up were major factors for success
  • Six day block starts today before Music City Triathlon in ten days.

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