Coming off of the Spudman I was feeling really pretty fit at this point in the year and hoping to luck into an AG or overall podium in this small home town race. I know pretty much all of the contestants that come each year, and because the advertisement for this race only perpetuates by word of mouth, it remains a small race. There are usually anywhere from 40 to 80 participants. However, regardless of the small participant list, this remains one of my favorite races, and I participate every year that I am able.
In years past, it has been attempted as a reverse triathlon due to unwanted expense that comes with timing chip usage. Price increase is something that both contestants and the city don’t want. This year the normal order of swim, bike, then run was done with different waves to facilitate the pool swim. This works well in my opinion, and most of the “contenders” get in the first wave anyways just to make it a race. MSRH does this race with his wife (my sister) every year, and it becomes a friendly battle between the two of us. He is a much faster swimmer, and most days he is faster on the bike, but I am a faster runner, so it always comes down to if and where I might pass him. If I have a good bike, then I have the edge, but if he has a better day on the bike, It becomes a close race for the two of us.
This year I was racing a new triathlon specific bike. I was putting in some good splits beforehand too. I also knew that since the course was a very flat and fast 20km, I could push it as fast as possible given my fitness. My swim pace at this point was also as fast as it has ever been, so I was feeling good. One small item of motivation was that before the race one of my friends whom I had bettered during the Spudman a few weekends earlier (by close to 10 minutes) said that his goal was to better me. “Good luck with that one buddy” was what I thought, but what I said was, “That’s a good goal, you never know”. My goal at that point was to take minutes out of him. I also had never broken the 1:10:00 mark and wanted to see if that was possible. My training brick splits said it was, but race day is sometimes unpredictable.
Body marking and pre-race banter is always fun at this race, but soon enough it was time to get in the pool. Three people per lane is what it came down to, and each lane had two official counters assuring you touched the wall. For a 25 meter pool, 17 lengths equates 425 meters, and the most difficult thing for me in sprint triathlons in pools is always counting the predetermined lengths. Today’s goal, count to 17 and then get out of the water. I jumped in the same lane as MSRH because I knew he would be the first out of the water. I was going to try to draft off of him for as long as I could. I think that lasted about 2 lengths until he started to steadily pull away. By the end of the swim he almost had 2 lengths on me. I got out of the water just under 7 and half minutes. Pretty good for me.
This transition is always the most difficult for me. Wet feet and dry socks never go as quickly as I plan. I also had a difficult time with my cycling shoes during for some reason. The transition area for this triathlon is on the patio of the pool, and is the smallest, fastest transition area I have yet to race. Placement of your bike doesn’t even really matter cause it all works out so quickly.
After fiddling with my shoes for way too long, I hopped on my bike at the mount line and tried to get my cadence up as quickly as possible. The race start was at 8:00 a.m., so there was still some cool air present amidst all the sprinkler watered lawns of this small town. It was rather welcome. The course goes quickly through the town and spits the riders out on an intertown highway. This road goes past the fairgrounds and local radio station as well as one of the two in town veterinarians. As MSRH was riding his road bike and I was on my Tri-Bike, I figured I would pass him on the ride. I caught up to him right near the radio station and passed him rather quickly. This put me in the virtual lead on the course for about 4 seconds. At approximately the same speed difference of my passing MSRH, another rival of ours passed me on his fully aero setup. I kicked up my pace for around 30 seconds to see if I could keep the gap at a minimum, but it was spiking my HR so I let my pace fall. There was no way I was going to keep a 25MPH pace for the 13 miles (he didn’t either). The course is an out and back, and as soon as you get to the neighboring town, you make a sharp U-Turn and head back. This gives you a good idea of where you are with respect to others. MSRH though on a road bike, was not too far behind, so I did what I could to put the hammer down. There was no way I was going to catch the leader, but I could do what I could to keep others from passing me. Yes, on a sprint, you can make silly game plans like that if you know the course and aren’t worried too much about cramping.
However, just before the last turn to get back to the swimming pool, I was passed by someone who I didn’t know. Grrr! As I rolled into T2 my Dad gave me a report that he was only 30 seconds ahead, and I could get him easily. This is much like my father, and one of the reasons I am so competitive. It is in my genetics. I knew however, that I wasn’t catching anyone on the run. Shoes off shoes on was very quickly done, and I exited T2 pretty optimistic.
The run course is a double OAB course in the shape of a T which also gives you an idea of how far ahead you are of your followers, or how far ahead of you the leaders are. At the first turn around, I was only approximately 15 seconds down on the 2nd place man. This was roughly 1km into the 5km course, but right then is when the wheels started to come off. Previously, this happened to me almost every run portion triathlons around 1km in. It usually takes my legs that long to get into the rhythm of running after riding. I get a little too excited off the bike sometimes and my cadence stays higher than it should. This 1km mark is where my heart finally catches up to my legs. When that happens if I haven’t kept myself in check, I either get cramping or sluggish and have to slow down. I have made adjustments recently in my running off the bike, but this user error possibility always looms. Also of note is that this pain onset is much more accentuated when I haven’t gotten enough sleep. For this race, I didn’t get cramping, but extremely sluggish and a pace drop of approximately a minute on the mile. It now became a race of holding on to what I could. As soon as I made this realization is when I was passed by the 3rd person. Expletive!!! With only 2km left, I did what I could to ramp up to his pace, but it was impossible.
At the second and final turn around I started counting and doing math. The time between myself and the next chasing racer was 90 seconds. In order for him to catch me at my pace (appx. 8:30/mile), he would have to run a 7:00 min final mile. Not happening! The reason why I sometimes do math in my head is to block out the screaming lazy man! Like a banshee he was at this point. It also gives me a boost when I solve the most miniscule of math problems. My pace almost always picks up afterwards too. As I made the final turn to the finish line, I saw the running clock and noticed it was still within the 1 hr and 8th minute. I picked it up as fast as I could and crossed the line right on the minute change. My no kidding official time was 1:09:00. A PR for me on that course by 2.5 minutes. Sweet!
As I walked over to my Dad he held up 4 fingers with a large smile which meant I was currently sitting in 4th overall. For AG, I had no idea, and would have to wait for the awards ceremony for that. Around that time my little nephew (son of MSRH) was just finishing the kid’s triathlon bike course. He was near tears, so I decided to run with him and help him out. The kids only had to complete the first OAB of the T equating to roughly 2km (swim and bike were shorter legs as well), and he was running at a relatively slow pace, so it became a good cool down for me. More importantly, he seemed to find his groove with me along side and ended up passing a few kids. This was fun for me. I was proud of him too.
At the awards ceremony I found that I had taken 3 minutes out of MSRH and nearly 5 minutes out of the guy who had challenged me at the beginning. I also ended up lucking into 2nd place in AG and 5th overall as one other guy from another wave had been faster. All in all, it was a successful day for me and showed me how much difference a triathlon bike could have on overall time. Things to improve on would be the pace check during the first km on the run, and assuring to always have a math problem handy while racing. Just in case. As said previously this is one of my favorite races during the year and 2012 didn’t disappoint. Like always thanks for stopping by. Next up, my first German side Olympic Triathlon in Kitzingen.