Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Race Report: Diamond In The Rough Triathlon

There were 2 things you could hear people talking about, the morning of the race: 1) The hot weather (mid 90s) and 2) "THE HILL". As a newbie to this race, I listened openly as different discussions transpired around me. Anyone who had done the race, told war stories of the hill. But it wasn't just one hill. Of the 27 miles, a good 17 of them were all hills, some larger than others. However, since I wasn't able to pre-ride the course or even pre-drive the course, I'd have to wait till the actual race to find out what they were talking about.

Pre-RaceLooking out on the pier before the swim

During the drive, I made sure to continue drinking fluids. I had a large bottle (24 ounces) of Accelerate to keep me hydrated and add some calories. I also ate a Cliff Bar and 2 slices of whole wheat toast with peanut butter. 15 minutes before the swim start, I took down a Cliff Shot with some water.


I don't pretend that I am skilled swimmer. I am average at best. I know I need to put a lot more time into developing my stroke and improving my swimming efficiency. For these reasons, I just try to "get through" the swim and try to make up ground in the other 2 disciplines. Since an Olympic distance is the longest race I've done, my open water swimming experience has topped out at 1.5k. Not that it is a huge difference, but this race's swim was 1 mile. Just a little bit longer than anything I've swam before. I knew not to line up in the middle of the pack, front and center, so I stayed over to the side, where I thought the current would pull us. By the time the race was ready to go, the water had gotten a little choppier.

The swim course was described as a baseball diamond, where you swim to 3rd, 2nd, 1st, and then come on home. Only problem was that the swim to 2nd and 1st were straight against the current. I don't like that. As a weak swimmer, its hard enough going the distance, let alone going against the current. As you got about 200 meters out from the start, you hit the choppy stuff. The swim was pretty uneventful, with minimal contact. My biggest challenge was sighting. I've never had any issues with it, but there was a combination of a few things that contributed to my troubles. First, the choppy water made it so that there was no guarantee that when I did go to sight every once and I while that I would see anything. Half the time, I got a mouthful or a face full of water. Second, the buoys were small orange balls, not the usual large yellow pylons. Add to the fact that my swim wave was orange caps, anytime I sighted all I saw were some orange balls bobbing up and down. I couldn't tell if it was the buoy or a person going in the wrong direction. So I had to struggle at times to stay on track.

In the end, I survived. There was a bit of seaweed that occasionally got tangled in my arm or leg, but I was glad to see the pier at the end of the swim. Only problem, was that we had to climb up a long series of stairs to get to transition. That shot my heart rate sky high as I headed into transition.

Time: 32:18 Distance: 1 mile


Like I mentioned, I was warned of the hills on this course. I had training quite a bit over the last month and a half riding the biggest baddest hills I could find in this area. I think the training more than paid off. The first 10 miles were pretty much rolling hills with a few long climbs. While I was riding these rollers, my legs were feeling a bit tired and I was wondering if I'd get through the day. Toward the end of the hilly stretch, we hit a long section for nearly the next 10 miles that was flat, with a few downhills and a few uphills, but mostly allowed me to fly. Over this period, I stretched out my legs by going into a solid spin, pushing 21+mph the whole way. I passed a lot of people, including one notable dude in his Cervelo P3C with Zips. Never did see him again after I passed him. I doubt his tri bike make it up what was to come at mile 20. Oh the hill. This was a bad mother. Approximately a mile long, averaging 7% grade or more with little to no break. I passed a lot of people stuck in difficult gears. Fortunately, I went way down on the granny for this one and spun my way up. After that, I knew it was rollers all the way back for the remaining 7 miles, so I just stayed calm and readied myself for the run.

Time: 1:33:32 Distance: 27 miles


Feeling pretty good as I came in off the bike, I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace. I had no idea what speed I was actually going though, because I was in a gap of people, where there weren't many people around me. I guess I was moving at a good pace though, because I came upon a series of people that I passed. Only 1 or 2 people passed me the whole run. At the first water stop, I made sure to grab 2 cups of water. Drank most of it and poured the rest on my head and back to cool off. A few times into the run, I'd feel a muscle start to tighten up, so I'd have to back off, but I think I held a steady pace pretty much the whole way. The run was mostly along a gravel path, which made it a little more difficult than normal pavement. It also cut across some grassy areas, which varied the terrain up nicely, but made traction a little difficult especially on the one hill. When I finally spotted the finish in sight, the adrenaline started to flow and I really wanted to push it and look good for the cameras. I think there is something to this. I now have a patented move. Every longer distance race and I do mean EVERY, my hamstring cramps up right as I am nearing the finish line. I kid you not. Fine the whole time. Then boom. Cramp. I can't walk, can't run. Everyone yells at me, "you're almost there". I'd move if I could, but when it happens, everything stops until my body says ok. So after about a minute of stretching, I dragged my leg and the rest of my body across the finish line.

Time: 43:43 Distance: 5 miles

Overall Time: 2:53:40 - a PR of 10 minutes from my first Olympic triathlon that I did last year!

Lessons Learned
  • I have a lot to improve on, like, my swimming. Although the time included the walk up the stairs, I know I have much to improve on. However, my time was a significant improvement from last year's swim, which was in a calm lake, with no current and barely any run to T1.
  • I felt really good on the bike, but my time doesn't really reflect it. It was a hilly course, and although I passed a ton of people, I still think there is a lot of room for improvement. I'd like to see what kind of speeds I can push when I hit a flatter course.
  • And the run, although I averaged 8:45 min/mile, I felt a lot slower. Some more brick workouts off longer bike rides should help that out. My issue still comes down to my muscular endurance. Its something that I need to work on in all 3 disciplines. I can go fast in each one, but when I string them together, I break down fairly quickly.
  • Nutrition-wise, I think I finally made progress. This was the first race that I got to use my Profile Design Aero Drink and boy did it make taking in liquids easy! I got through all 60 ounces (2 bottles of Accelerade, 1 bottle of water), and could have drank more if I needed to. That, in addition to the 2 gels I had on the bike, gave me a total of 400 calories on the bike. I might want to add another gel in there for some more calories to bank for the run, I'm moving in the right direction.


IM Able said...

Thanks for the report! Sounds like a really solid race and you learned some great lessons. Fantastic!

Wrenching Winz said...

nice race, great writeup. your totally gonna kick my ass at eagleman

NoRacer said...

I saw that guy on the P3C messing around with his bike on the first third of the Bainbridge Rd hill. He was dismounted and seemed to be experiencing a mechanical. I'm a racer for the Baltimore Bicycling Club and just happen to be riding down Rt 222 through Port Deposit when I happened across this Tri in progress. I recorded my ride using a GPS--it appears here:


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