Monday, June 25, 2012

Pleasant Prairie Triathlon

Sunday was the Pleasant Prairie International Distance Triathlon.
My goals were fairly simple:
1 Don’t hurt myself.
2 Don’t break my bike.
3 Swim: 18min
4 Bike: anything below 59:59 (24.8mph)
5 Run anything below a 43:29 (7min/mile pace)

I was a touch nervous for this race as it is my first “fast” race since I tore my hamstring. It isn’t that I haven’t been training, but running hard has been somewhat challenging with the hamstring. A few months ago I started into some hard running, and the resulting problems with the hamstring and left leg left me unable to run for 2 weeks. So instead of focusing on speed work, it’s been more of a push for volume and consistency.

Pre Race:
I am not exactly sure what the problem is…but there is something about waking up at 4am or earlier that really screws with my stomach. Keep in mind, my alarm is going off at 4:40 almost every morning. And if it isn’t going off, the cat is. So one way or another I am up pretty early. It goes back as far as I can remember, including fishing trips as a kid with my dad. But I wake up with a generalized heart burn that remains persistent for hours.

In any case, I took in a couple ensure shakes, 500 calories. I took in some electrolytes, water, and a gu all prior to the race. Everything was normal and fine…no major emergencies. Happy Days!!

I was a tad worried about the swim start because 2 years ago I sprained my knee fighting for position. The beach is very steep, which led to a slight hyper-extension. Fortunately this year they started us much further up, basically on the edge of the water.

I started in the middle of the pack as all the “alpha” males felt like they should have the inside line in the front row. I was chatting with one other guy who was also a collegiate swimmer and made a few loud comments about having to swim over all the guys who think they’re fast, but really aren’t. (Yeah, I was a bit obnoxious.)

In any case, the gun sounded and everyone went out hard just like I expected. In this swim you go out about 10 yards and make an immediate hard right turn and follow shore. There was a TON of congestion at the turn, at which point the pretend swimmers essentially stopped in their tracks. I had a couple choices, wait until it cleared, try to swing outside, or go over the top. The choice was obvious. I took 3-4 really hard sprint strokes and rocketed myself over the top of about 4 guys all swimming on top of each other. I am pretty sure I looked like a salmon trying to climb a waterfall. After a few seconds, a couple kicks to my gut and some slapping, I made it over the top and into clear water. I quickly located two guys swimming pretty fast and latched onto their feet. I swam behind them for the first 3rd of the course and then decided their pace was too slow. I went a little wide and made my pass, and never saw either guy again.

The rest of the swim was uneventful. I finished with a time of 20:43. While the time is slow, I was the top male out of the water by a fair margin. One girl beat me by about 20s. To this day I have only had the fastest swim split at one race, Lake Mills 2010.

I need to do something about the orthotics I wear. They have a leather-ish/slipper finish to them which makes running barefoot not ideal. I lost 20s in transition putting socks on.

The bike is flat and fast. Ultimately I held back a little bit (nPower was 280w) in order to set up a strong run. The run course was also short. They announced this very often as construction forced a course change. The course was 21.3 miles instead of 24.8. In retrospect I could have biked a little harder. But after 2 years away from racing, I am finding that I need to re-learn how to properly pace my races. Especially the debacle at Kansas where I crushed my legs on the bike and had a horrible run.

I got passed by a few people on the bike, two of which I passed back. The third went off the front never to be seen from again. There were multiple instances, especially on lap 2 where I had to coast and/or slow down due to congestion into a turn or other obstacle. Not much to do about that other than scream “on your left”.

Came into transition, which was nothing special. Looking back at the time splits for everyone, had the race been a mass start I would have come off the bike in 2nd or 3rd overall. My bike split was around 12th best for the day.

The Run:
As has been the case for years now, a lot of work needs to be done on my run. I went in with the goal of running hard and holding it. I’d never broken 7min/mile in a 10k, today was going to be the day.

I went out pretty hard at a 6:50ish type pace, held it for a couple miles. Slowed a little bit around mile 4, but mile 4 also had multiple turn-arounds which Garmins hate. And then I did what I could to hold it together. I ended the run with a 42:37 which is about a 6:52 pace. My watch had me at a 6:56 pace, so the course was measured pretty close, not perfect. But that could have been because all the turn-around points. In total the course had 4 turns of 180 degrees.

That sets a new 10k PR for me, so that is very good. Considering it comes on the heels of an injury that has prevented most hard running for the better part of a year is also very good.

I am pretty sure this also sets my 5k PR for the year. Prior to the injury I was quite a bit faster at a 5k, approaching the 20min mark. But I have not been able to run that hard without causing problems…So this race sets that benchmark as well.

Overall, my hamstring and glute didn’t cause any real trouble. I noticed a little tightness around mile 3 of the run, but it worked itself out. A little more rehab should help get rid of all that.

All of that is very good.  The bad part is that I got off the bike in 2nd or 3rd overall, but finished 11th.  That means about 8 guys ran past me.  And I can honestly say, the ones I saw run past me...were considerably faster than me.  Like 4-5min per 10k faster than me.  Work needs to be done!!

Anyway, if you extrapolate my bike speed out to the 40 distance, my overall time would have probably been in the 2:06-2:07 range. I am pretty happy with that. The swim was almost 3 minutes slower than I anticipated, despite leading out of the water. And my bike split would have been closer to a 1:01.

Essentially all my major goals for this race were met. First and foremost I did not do anything to incapacitate or decapitate myself. Always a bonus. I raced strong, and finished with a strong run. I almost broke the top 10, and was top 5 in my age group. I also set a 10k PR. So it was a good day.

Next on my race radar is the IM Racine 70.3. I will get the chance to redeem my 70.3 skills on a flatter course. Given the nature of this course, it should be much easier for me to control myself on the bike and set myself up for a solid run.

2 years ago, in good conditions I rode a 2:28 on 240-245 watts, with a crappy position. I ran pretty well after that…so I am thinking this year I’ll ride slightly harder than that, maybe 250ish, and set myself up for a strong run again. Given the changes to my bike fit, assuming similar conditions, I should ride closer to a 2:25 with similar wattage. If conditions allow for a 2:25 on the bike, I think a low 4:30 is possible. Unfortunately M35-39 is in the dead last heat of the race.

We’ll see what the day brings.

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