|Long Beach Swim Start|
My alarm went off at 4:20 AM this morning. There is no doubt that this is the worst thing about being a triathlete.
I stretched, showered, ate, loaded my truck and was out the door by 5:00. I got to the race at 5:30 just as transition was opening, so I got a sweet spot. My friend Bob Foyle arrived about the same time and was setting up on the next rack over, so we chatted as we laid our stuff out. All in all a pretty routine start to a race day.
Yet I was apprehensive. One of the reasons I got to the race as early as possible was to avoid some drama I faced last year. Rewind to 2009 - nature was calling, the lines at the porta-potties where incredibly long, and my wave start was in 8 minutes - 1/2 mile down the beach. In the end, I got everything handled, but just. After finishing my business and running to the swim start, I had seconds to put on my goggles before the starting siren went off.
Thankfully, things worked out better today. After I got set up, there where minimal lines at the bathrooms. I got everything handled, found Bob and walked to the swim start with 20 minutes to spare. Apprehension = gone. This is good, it was haunting me for a year.
I warmed up by swimming about 250 yards - out to the first buoy, left to a lifeguard on a surfboard, around him and then back to shore.
THE SWIM - 1/2 MILE
I was in the 3rd wave, and we went off at 7:06. I ended up taking heed of a comment left by TRI-James on my race predictions post from early last week and scrapped my plan to alternate swim sprints with recovery and opted to find an "aggressively sustainable" stroke speed and concentrate on a long reach, a strong pull, and good body roll. Also, I was inspired by something Matty O from Staying Strong And Positive wrote a few days ago about his upcoming race. As it relates to the swim, he said he was not going to go into the meat grinder, he was going to BE THE MEAT GRINDER. Though this may not be the metaphor I would have chosen (given that raw meat is essentially shark bait), I took what he said to heart. If I played football, I'd be a linebacker. Because of Matty O words of absolute wisdom, fools where going to get knocked around in the water if they got in my way.
It was full contact swimming to the fist buoy. As I rounded it, I started sighting for the next one but could not see it. I was also suddenly alone. Weird. After 25 more yards I realized that I had made a 110 degree turn instead of a 90 degree turn and was swimming a line inside the box. So once I corrected to the left I found myself back in the pack. I swam, pushed and shoved and then swam some more. I must admit that I really like this part. As the melee continued, I passed the second and third buoys and turned for shore. I was passing people from the two previous waves, which is rare. I didn't stop swimming until my hands where scraping sand.
As I stood up I looked at my watch. 15:30. This is fast for me and I was stoked. The run to transition is a couple hundred yards across the beach. You've got to love the those leg searing, heart rate pushing runs across loose dry sand. By the time I hit the mat going into T1, my watch said 17:32 - nearly a minute under projection. A good start.
Actual Swim Time: 17:32; 1:59/per 100 yards. Projected Swim Time: 18:30; 2:06/per 100 yards (Last Year: 20:25; 2:20/per 100 yards)
|Could almost be lap 2 of the bike course...|
THE BIKE - 11 MILES
The "official" split times on the race results website are off. Both the posted T1 and T2 times are long, and the actual bike segment time is short. But since my official overall time is only 1 or 2 seconds off from what I got with my watch, I am using watch times here. My T1 time was 1:42. This is probably a PR for me but I can still get this a little better. Wetsuit off, cycling shoes on, helmet on and go. That shouldn't be 1:42.
I started the bike off by almost doing a face plant into the pavement when my right hand slipped off my handlebars. But once I recovered I was good to go. At first, the bike course was relatively empty due to my early wave start. I cruised through the first lap, coming out of the aero position only to climb the ramp up to the bridge. I finished the first 5.5 mile lap in about 16 minutes. Good, but a little behind what I hoped.
By the time I started the second lap, the course was considerably more crowded with people from later waves starting their first lap. This is where I got a little bummed out. Though I completely encourage anyone and everyone to get involved in triathlon, I might suggest that race directors start putting some "how to ride the bike course safely" tips in the pre-race info packet. I encountered a lot of people going slow (which is fine) that where not holding a line and meandering back and forth across the road (which is not fine). To avoid potential disaster, I found myself shouting "on your left, hold your line!!" more than I would have cared to. Quite frankly, I think this sounds demeaning and it would certainly freak me out if roles where reversed. That said, I didn't really have a choice. I'm not even sure what the best solution is, do you ask slower riders to stay to the right? After all, who thinks they are going slow? Anyway, this made the second lap a little hairy.
My final time was 32:13. Though I was hoping for 30:00, I now realize that projection was a little ambitious. Between the traffic on the second lap, 4 U-Turns, and a poorly paved parking lot complete with speed bumps, it was heard to maintain a steady speed. I had the 6th best bike time in my AG, so it doesn't look like I was the only one affected by these obstacles.
Actual Bike Time: 32:13; 20.48 MPH. Projected Bike Time: 30:00; 22 MPH (Last Year: 37:31; 17.59 MPH)
|Coming in off the run..|
THE RUN - 3 MILES
By my watch, I got through T2 in 1:33. Once I was out on the course, I had a pretty typical triathlon run - I felt like complete crap for the first mile but I was running faster than I thought I was. The mile markers the race organizers put out where WAY off, but by the time I got to the turn around, I knew that I was looking good to hit my goal of 7:15 miles. And that's essentially what I did.
I feel like I should say more about the run, but honestly there is nothing else to really report. I just ran pretty hard and after the first mile it all fell into place and felt good.
Actual Run Time: 21:44; 7:15/per mile. Projected Run Time: 21:45; 7:15/per mile (Last Year: 25:14; 8:24/per mile)
My final time was 1:14:42. I projected 1:16:15. So for the first time since I've been writing this blog I beat my pre-race projections.
I placed 13th of 72 in my age group. This is my best placing so far, so I'll take it. In fact, I'm down right happy. Matty O (who both inspired me today and once asked why I never smile in photos), this one's for you:
|The glasses make me look too much like Moby.|
As I add more races under my belt, a pattern continues emerge that if I can get my swim times faster, I could start breaking into the top 10 of my AG. Though getting my swim faster seems like a challenge on par with climbing Everest naked (never mind oxygen), at least I have been reminded once again where I need to focus. Hello off-season.