Red Hills Triathlon 2012

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. IMG_3241


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!

Wind Down

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. IMG_3244


DJK Pressather Sprint Triathlon 2014

Lead Up & Arrival

I had chosen this triathlon back in January for a few reasons.  Proximity to house, lower price, Saturday race, and it was a sprint.  I signed up, submitted my entrance fee, and then succinctly forgot about it.  Having another baby join the family can place other things on the back shelves in your mind. My training plans were also focused on an Olympic in August, and a 70.3 in September, so I didn’t do my normal sprint specified crescendo leading up to this race.  All that said, I was ready for this race, and it was a good first triathlon of the season test for me.  Quite a fun race actually, and highly commendable.

Upon arriving at the race location, the first thing I noticed were the expensive bikes rolling to transition accompanied by skinny, tall, cut, men and women.  Now, I have long been accustomed to feeling inferior to most triathletes because I am slow, a little hefty, and I use inferior equipment.  This however, was a different feeling.  Maybe it was because they were all speaking German which is an intimidating language by itself.  I decided at that point, that I wasn’t going to luck into any age group podium spot.  Sometimes you just know by looking at people who within their legs resides slow twitch muscles capable of 300 Watts and 3:30 km/min paces.  I resolved then to simply focus on my own race plan.

Race plan! yes, I am nerdy!

Race plan! yes, I am nerdy!


After reassembling the bike and the 3 tiered stroller, I went over the check in area.  Germans have a hard time with my name.  They never know which is my first or last name.  I usually need to explain it two or three times. After name bingo, the handed me what to date is the most minimalistic race packet ever.  It included: my race bib.  That’s right, nothing else.  No timing chip, no batch of flyers for races or sports companies around the area, just my number.


Thirty minutes before the start of the race, the director got on a PA system and informed us of the rules and specificities of this race.  They had moved the start time back 10 minutes to hopefully not interfere with a scheduled train on the tracks we were to cross.  One detail he mentioned with this race was that because the water temperature had reached 22 degrees Celsius, wetsuits would be verboten.

Ready to race sans wetsuit.

Ready to race sans wetsuit.


After the few minutes of briefing and a welcoming from the mayor we were given a little more time for preparation.  Shortly thereafter, most of the athletes slowly made their way to the swim start.  The race director assured that only the first wave of athletes were in the starting area, and then let us know the minutes remaining with a periodic announced count down.  It is funny that no matter where you race, the same feeling is experienced by the athletes.  I heard one man say what I have thought many times during this final countdown.  “Why am I standing here?”  This thought usually stems from the knowledge of what could go wrong.  Be this cramping, side aches, component failure, crashing, or any other injury.  It also stems from mans desire to be at rest.  This man is the one that is truly screaming during the countdown, “Why am I standing here?”  That voice has gotten quieter for me over the years, but regardless of the distance to be raced, it is still present.

Due to the low-level of the water in the pond, after the gun was shot, we had to wade a long way into the pond before swimming was possible. The path was a triangle with 2 left turns around 2 buoys. During the first stretch I sighted every 10-15 strokes and noticed that while I was taking a fairly straight course to the buoy. Most everybody else was out wide. Maybe they wanted to curve the turn? I wanted to swim the shortest distance possible so I stayed my line. After the buoy a short 50 m took the swim path under a foot bridge. The water was again very low here, so I ran in the knee-deep warmer water for about 25 m. Another 50 m and the 2nd buoy was circumnavigated whilst receiving a few teeth kicks. Somewhere on the stretch back to the start my pace really suffered. I don’t know exactly why, but sighting was also needed more frequently. It was in this stretch that I noticed 1 or 2 people from the 2nd wave swimming gracefully passed me. I really wish I could swim like those people. Finally I arrived in the area where I could stand up and wade to shore. When I pushed lap on my watch I noticed 11+ minutes (crap!) – I was already behind my goal pace. I’d have to make up that time on the bike.

Swim Path as mapped by fenix 2.

Swim path as mapped by fenix 2.

Swim splits per fenix 2.

Swim splits per fenix 2.


The transition went as smoothly as last year’s sprint in Virginia although it took longer than I wanted. Putting socks on wet feet is difficult. I decided that for sprints, I wouldn’t worry about bike shoes (or cleats) during the bike. This doesn’t make T1 faster, but T2 is lightning quick. Riding in cages is also very easy for me to adjust to quickly. It puts more strain on your calves, but that is fine, too. One issue I had in transition was the bike computer. It had turned off and took a bit to turn back on. I didn’t wait for it, but instead pushed it while running. (note to self: extend computer sleep time)


One brilliant idea I had while waiting for the race to start was to set up a data page on my bike computer with only AVG SPEED, HR and CADENCE. I had already set the auto lap at 1 km, so updates on my current pace were frequent, but my driver and goals were set up with AVG SPEED for the whole course. I also needed to know where my HR was, and if possible keep it above 165 but below 180. Cadence was just a filler that would tell me he stupid you can shift now if my body hadn’t informed me already.  Hopping on the bike went fine, and I found myself in a small pack of about 5 riders. Since my HR was already in the zone I wanted, it didn’t take me long to find the groove, and get my speed up. The first 2 km were rather flat, and the AVG SPEED jumped all the way to 37 km/h. Those were the last flat km on the course. I hadn’t really looked at the elevation profile with too much scrutiny beforehand, and maybe it was better that way. Climbing is not an issue for me, but your overall pace suffers and you never get it all back. During the course there were 2 extended climbs that were small chainring climbs for me. However, my thoughts and hopes were what goes up must come down, and I was looking forward to some high speeds while in the aero position on coming back down. There were some good descents in the middle of the course but they were immediately followed by more hills. I watched my AVG SPEED vary as low as 20 km/h and reach back up to 34 km/h. Usually the bike portion is where I pass most of the people within reach. This wasn’t the case on this race. Everyone was fast on the bike, and while I was only passed twice (both on downhills by tri bikes with aero helmets), I ended up only passing 4 people. That was really interesting to me. As assumed, the expensive bikes weren’t just for show.  These guys and gals were good.  After the last extended climb, I knew that there couldn’t be anymore significant climbs because I was getting close to the end of the bike leg. I stuck myself in the aero, and worked on getting the average speed back up as close to 33 as possible (my goal). It slowly climbed to 31.8 and I then made the final turns to get back to transition. Overall not bad, but as I said hills never give back fully.

Bike portion as mapped by Edge 500.

Bike portion as mapped by Edge 500.

Elevation profile of bike portion.

Elevation profile of hilly bike portion.

Summary of bike as per Edge 500.

Summary of bike as per Edge 500.


Getting off the bike I felt good, and I hung my bike quickly and took off my helmet. I pushed lap late, but overall, I think I was in the transition area for 15 seconds. That short T2 brought the average of the 2 transitions to just under 1 minute; exactly what I was looking for.

Coming out of T2.  A lot of bikes are already hanging.

Coming out of T2. A lot of bikes are already hanging.


As I started the run, I saw my small family just outside the transition area.  That is always a boost for me. Another 30 minutes and I could play with the boys on the slide I saw. As I was running out of T2 I heard the race director tell me to turn my number bib around to my stomach over the PA system.  As I did this, the bib broke/ripped off my belt. Thus I spent the first km trying to figure out how to get my number to stay in place on my stomach. After that problem was solved, I looked down at my pace and noticed I was exactly where I wanted to be; 5:02 for the first km. I started running alongside the guy that I had followed on the bike for most of the way. We talked briefly about the hilly bike, and then he said, “Oh, save your strength for the hills on the run.” Hills here too? Awesome! I thought. The first hill took my HR up to the 180’s and I needed 500 m to get it back down to where I wanted it. At this point I decided perceived effort was to be my guidance along with pace. The 3rd km was the fastest, and I felt he best during it, too. There was a downhill section and I let my legs go as much as I could. There was another climb during the 4th km and it almost brought me to a walk. I passed a few people during the run, and was passed twice by real runners. At the top of the second hill, there was another aid station, and the lady handing out water said that it was all downhill from there. “Yeah, I figured.” As soon as my HR steadied, I attempted to shorten my stride and pick up the pace. I got it to a 4:30 min/km pace around the 5 km mark, and then felt what I feared I would: knee pain. I had to dial it back, and I was mad and slightly depressed.

I had been stretching and resting my knee for the whole previous week (Runners Knee symptoms), so I was a little disappointed that what I had done didn’t help.  As soon as I had this thought however, the pains went away and in actuality hadn’t really even started to hurt too bad. Then the hill we ran up at the first was descended, and less than 1 km remained. I picked up the pace as high as I dared (and could), and closed the gap between myself and the two people I had been chasing. Because timing clips weren’t being used, you couldn’t pass within the last 200 m, so I ran behind this man and woman to the finish. The race director made a big deal about me crossing the finish, and attempted a few words of congratulations in English. My name is definitely American.

I need to work on my "I'm happy I just crossed the finish line" face.

I need to work on my “I’m happy I just crossed the finish line” face.

Run map and summary data as per fenix 2.

Run map and summary data as per fenix 2.

Thoughts & Take-aways

This was a fun race, and were I here next year at this time, I would do it again. Though hilly, it is a good test for training. In fact, most of the top ten finishers were professional triathletes. They do this race because it is a really good workout. Lessons learned included bib preparation, or maybe another bib belt. I really like the data page I set up before this race, and will use it again (but maybe without cadence). Pushing the lap button at the right time is necessary for proper data accumulation. Finally, I reaffirmed my belief in using running shoes and cages for sprints.  Thanks for stopping by.

This little man's first Triathlon.  He was ambivalent.

This little man’s first triathlon. He was ambivalent.