Sunday, April 28, 2013

OmegaWave Sprint Triathlon

Omegawave ITU Sprint Tri Race Report

I always enjoy writing about my races.  There are lots of reasons.  My dad likes to read my race reports, sometimes fellow triathletes like to read them, and it's just a good way to try to learn something from the race.  This past weekend's race was no exception.  Of note, I hadn't done a sprint tri in over a year and a half.  Last season was Ironman St. George (in May), then fighting and recovering from plantar fasciitis (June through September).  I've been gradually coming back, starting to feel like I'm getting close to the fitness I had a year ago.  While my focus is ironman, sprint races are fun for a multitude of reasons.  First, it's just fun to race!  Second, I can't really beat myself up too much with a sprint.  Third, sprints are an opportunity to do some major suffering for a short period of time.  As my coach told me going into this, the run should hurt as much as the last 3 miles of an ironman.  That was my goal, and I achieved it.  

I actually just decided to sign up for this race a couple of weeks ago, after finishing the California 70.3 and reminding myself how much I enjoy the race venue.  Also, I'd always wanted to do a tri in San Diego, and especially to ride my bike around Fiesta Island, a 4.2 mile loop in Mission Bay.  So, with that in mind, I drove down on Friday, parked my car and put my bike in the shuttle van, and got on the shuttle bus.  By the way, this was all as directed by the racing website.  The bus took us to the Hyatt, which was about a 2/3 mile walk to registration and transition.  When I got off the bus, I asked the bus driver where the van with my bike was, and he pointed to the registration area, 2/3 of a mile away.  That seemed fine, so I made the walk to registration, went to the information booth and asked them where the van was.  They pointed to transition, about 1/3 mile away.  I was starting to get concerned, but I got my bib number and went to transition.  No van, no bike.  The volunteers at transition didn't know where the van was, and couldn't reach anyone by cell phone.  After about a half an hour, they still didn't know, but suggested I return to where I started at the Hyatt.  I was really trying to stay calm.  My bike is not inexpensive, and I was really hoping to rest up for tomorrow's race.  They did give me a banana and some water.  They even offered me a sandwich, but I try to stay gluten free prior to a race.  I walked the 2/3 mile back to the Hyatt and the volunteer there didn't know where my bike was.  I sat down and pondered all of the times that my wife teased me about my expensive wheels that saved me several seconds in a race.  Over the years, I will admit, my expensive aerodynamic bike accoutrements have rarely made a difference in where I place (13th versus 14th in my age group doesn't really matter), however, one of my extremely rare age group victories was achieved by mere seconds, so I suppose that moment (for a geeky non-athletic former kid) was worth it.  At least it gives my wife and I something to talk about when it comes to triathlon!  After sitting for about 15 minutes I saw a van pull up across the street.  Hey, maybe?  So, I walked over, and there was my bike!  Now, I got to make the 2/3 mile walk to transition again, and than back once more for the shuttle.  Also, I hadn't put on sunscreen, thinking the whole thing would take a half an hour, not 2 1/2 hours.  Still, I took it all in stride, got back to my hotel and chilled the rest of the evening.

I don't worry too much about carboloading before a sprint tri, in fact, I'm more concerned about keeping my GI tract fairly empty, knowing that I'm planning to red-line it the next day.  I recently read that applesauce is a good food, so I did have some of that, along with some soup and a salad and some rice cakes and almond butter.  I used my NormaTec compression device on my legs and got to sleep at a good hour.

Woke up before the alarm (that always seems to happen to me on race day), ate some applesauce and drank some water and got dressed.  All of my equipment was put in my backpack the night before, so I was ready to go.  Drove to the parking lot, got on the shuttle and had a nice conversation with a local 67 year old woman who was hoping to win her age group, but mostly hoping to have fun.

Got set up in transition, met a guy from Castle Rock, who is in my age group.  He's a coach and personal trainer and former competitive sprint swimmer.  We hung out, warmed up in the water, and planned swim strategy.  The first group went way right of the first buoy and had to come back to go around it.  The second group went too far left, so we ended up nailing the proper line.  Oh, during my warm up someone swam straight at me, I tried to get out of the way, but their fist hit me in the jaw.  No harm, no foul, I laughed it off like I usually do during a race.

The start was a beach start, which meant running into the water.  I took a line to the right, and started out front.  Got a good running start and swam well to the first turn buoy, where, remarkably, there were a bunch of people from the previous wave (started 5 minutes earlier).  Overall, I kept a pretty good line the entire swim, didn't really draft much at all, and had a very acceptable swim, only a couple of minutes off the top people in my AG.  Best of all, it was easy, which was my goal.  I really see no reason to swim hard anymore.  I can swim reasonably fast, but not hard.  If I gained one minute, I'd lose much more on the bike and run.  Got out of the water and got my wetsuit off, made my way to my bike, where I struggled with my helmet, getting my chin strap stuck inside my helmet, so I had to take it off.  Probably lost 20 seconds, but still had a fairly decent transition.  Ran with my bike, mounted, and the rubber band came off, so I struggled for a short time to get my foot in my shoe, another 20-30 seconds lost.  

Fortunately, I got going on the bike and quickly got up to speed, or rather, up to wattage.  It was my goal to keep my wattage between 200-230 watts for the whole bike.  One of the challenges of this bike course was that there were a few "no pass" zones that didn't have signs to tell us that the "no pass" zones were over.  Clearly, these areas slowed me down a bit, and had to back off the wattage during them.  Got to Fiesta Island, where they were timing the loop around the island and did a good job maintaining 200-230 watts, kept speed between 22-25 mph around the island.  Continued to hold wattage where I wanted it for the remainder of the ride.  In fact, my ave wattage for the entire bike ride was around 200 watts;  Normalized Power was ~210 watts.  This was far and away my best average wattage for a sprint race and, in fact, best 30 minute wattage ever.  Took my feet out of my shoes as I approached Transition and jumped off my bike, entering transition and making a quick change to my running shoes.  My average bike speed was about 21.5 mph, not too bad considering the "no pass" zones.

Came out of transition and started running.  I got my breathing up quickly from every 4th/5th step to every 3rd step and just started pushing as hard as I could.  Looking down at my garmin, I saw paces of around 7:00-7:30 per mile and was quite pleased.  This wasn't easy, but it felt perfect from the effort perspective.  My breathing was hard, breathing every 3rd step, which is typically my tempo effort.  When I really push, I tend to grunt, and it must sound like I'm really laboring (perhaps I was).  In fact, I asked a couple of people if they knew CPR as I passed them.  I kept this pace for about 2 1/2 miles and then felt a side stitch, which meant I'd pushed myself as hard as I could, so I briefly backed off and prepared to push for the last 1/2 mile, except the last 1/2 mile became a whole mile, as the course wasn't 3.1 miles, but was, in fact, 3.5 miles.  I went as hard as I could until the end.  As I turned the corner towards the finish, I ran as hard as I could, finishing the run with an average pace of 7:42/mile, still the fastest sprint pace I've had in five years.  Not bad for 53 years old.  

Ended up 14th out of 37 in my age group.  

Got back to my hotel, went to pick up my daughter and her friends at the train station, then went for lunch with them.  When I got back to the hotel, I felt like going for a run, and I did!  Ran another 3 1/2 miles and swam a bit, a perfect end to a really great day.

Monday, April 1, 2013

2013 California 70.3, "The Perfect Race"

One can never really judge a triathlon on actual time, as conditions will vary.  I had hoped to get close to my PR of 5:13 today (done 6 years ago), but I also had a very specific race strategy that I wanted to carry out.  And, I carried it out perfectly, so I can't complain.  In fact, I'm quite happy, crossing the finish line with the feeling of wanting to collapse is a good thing, but more on specifics later.

I woke up very calm today, got ready at my hotel, ate a banana, two rice cakes with almond butter, and some vitamin water.  Got bundled up, as I wanted to avoid getting cold prior to the race.  The weather was actually pretty mild, and no shivering, which is good.  Took in a gel and 3 prerace capsules a half hour before start time.  Got my Freak of Nature wetsuit on, it fits tight, but is still comfortable.  I still think it saved my life at St. george last year.

I seeded myself right at the front on the left, and promptly got swam over by a couple of people.  Conditions in the water were great, smooth, no chop, and water temperature of 62 degrees.  Within about 100 yards I was in a very comfortable mode, staying right with the buoys.  My sighting today was excellent, drafting was so-so, but it seemed like I was always around several people in my age group.  About 1/3 of the way in, we started hitting slower swimmers, who weren't too hard to navigate.  At the first turn to the open water area of the harbor, there was no chop, and again, I kept a very good line.  The second turn, back into the harbor, is where I have always gone off course.  Not today!  I stayed with the buoys, and with other people in my age group, and maintained a very comfortable stroke.  What is interesting, is that my swim training has been different is year.  Not a ton of intensity, or volume, but with a pool in the backyard, I often get in the pool for 10-20 minutes, in order to maintain my feel for the water.  Also, I've started using a Vasa swim 
Trainer.  Who knows?  I ended up coming out of the water with my best half ironman swim time ever.  

32:55, 35th in my AG (out of 138), 740th Overall (out of 2220+)

Took off the top of my wetsuit while running into T1, actually felt really good and ran well, had a little trouble getting the wetsuit off over my Garmin (watch), but made my typical quick transition.  Actually, I think this was one of my fastest here.  4:57 in T1

Got on my bike, wore my road bike shoes, and headed out.  There's a short steep hill coming out of the harbor, took some good momentum going in and made short work of it.  My goal today was to hold 170 watts on the bike.  The first 25 miles of rollers and flats went by quickly, holding an average of 170-175 watts the entire time.  The course was crowded with the 11 swim waves ahead of me, and I passed a ton of people, rarely getting passed.  I felt like I was flying, although I was just maintaining about 21 mph.  I took in one red potato (with salt and olive oil), and plain water, while I didn't get a mouthful of ocean water for a change, I'm sure that I still took in some salt.  I also started drinking water with honey.  During the first 2 hours, I took in a couple more electrolyte caps and 3 prerace caps.  I finally hit the hills of Camp Pendleton, and they didn't seem as long or as steep as on previous years (Thank you Malibu Hills!).  Still, I never pushed my wattage over 230 watts on the climbs.  As I rode, I noticed that my average wattage had settled in nicely at 170 watts, precisely where I wanted it to be.  My quads were hurting just a bit, but my breathing was comfortable.  I took in two Honey Stinger gels and finished my honey water and shut down nutrition with about a half an hour to go.  Still passing a lot of people, not getting passed by many.  As I came back to the beach, I was still at 170 watts!  The perfect bike ride.  All of my training pointed to average wattage of 170w, and I held it for the entire bike.  No complaints.  If I pushed harder, my legs would have blown up prior to the run.  As it was, I know I pushed my limit on the bike because my quads were somewhat sore.

2:49:32, 25th in my AG,  527th Overall.  While this was one of my slower bike times at Oceanside, they did change the finish a little, and I still stacked up pretty well in my age group (20th percentile, still the winner of my AG rode 2:30:31!).  Hey, I was also in the 20th percentile overall, not bad for a 54 year old.  
Looking ahead to next year, the 55-59 year old men biked right in the 2:45-2:52 range.  I'm already getting excited about aging into the next group!

My run transition was solid and quick 2:37 in T2

Started out on the new run course, which has more turns, and several short steep ramps to go up and down (the downhills sucked in regards to my quads).  My legs did not feel good, but they never got worse, so I'll live with it.  I ran the first 2 miles breathing every 5th step, and my pace was right around 8:50.  This wasn't the 8:20 training pace I'd been doing, but it was respectable.  I realized right away that my new goal was to hold this pace.  I have to say, this was tough!  My legs never felt good, but at mile 2 I increased my effort to breathing every 4th step, and held the pace.  While relatively flat, this course has lots of undulations, and on the uphill sections I was more like 9:10-9:20 pace, and on the downhills, I was closer to 8:30.  On the flats, I seemed to be closer to 8:40.  My goal began to be to get to Mile 7 and increase the effort to breathing every 3rd step, which I did, and continued to hold 8:50 average pace.  I had taken in 2 flasks of honey and water, and was feeling all right.  No side stitches!  (I did rub some balm on my torso after the 3rd mile, and massaged one of my typical tender spots).  I was excited to get to Mile 10, this meant that I had a 5k to go.  I was suffering, but I kept thinking "blue sticks", in honor of my good friend, Carol Overholt, who passed away a couple of weeks ago.  Energy washed over me and kept me right at the 8:50 pace.  I started taking some cola at the aid stations ( by the way, walked the first four stations, but ran through the rest), which gave me a bit of energy.  The last 2 miles were tough, breathing had increased to every second step in order to stay close to my goal pace, although the last 2 miles were right around 9:00 pace, still keeping me close to my goal of averaging 8:50.  Finally, the finish line was in sight.  I ran hard, well, as hard as I could.  As I crossed the line, I knew I was done.  I couldn't have kept going.  I essentially even split this run, which suggests that I couldn't have run faster.  If I'd tried, I surely would have blown up.

Run time was 1:55:14 (8:46 pace) 28th in AG, 569th overall.

My final time was 5:25:15, only 12 minutes off my PR several years ago. Can't complain too much about that:)

Winning time in my age group was 4:28:58, which is sick.
S25:12, b2:30:31, r1:28:10
Top 10 was 5:01:21, so my 5:25 is respectable.  
37:09, 2:35:20, 1:41:02

Looking forward to next year, the 55-59 men were slower than 50-54, although the 
4:47:57 winning time is out of my reach, but  3rd place was 5:11:49, and 7th 5:26:25, hmmm?  Still, one never knows who will age up with me. I just have ti stay healthy and keep training.  I can only do my part anyway!  That said, as I look back on this race and dissect it, I have no complaints, and I really don't think there was anything I could have done to go faster.  In fact, there's a lot I could have done to go slower!

Thus, ended my "Perfect Race"