I'm currently trying to build speed on the bike using a bike heavy program that is more geared toward a half distance than a sprint. I did not deviate from that program at all leading into this race, in fact I did sprints on Friday, and 50 miles on Saturday.
There were a couple of options for packet pickup, Friday before, Saturday before, or even race morning if you were so inclined. Friday was at Gear West Bike, which is about an hour from my house, Saturday was at Waconia which is only 25 miles, but still about 40 minutes. And it's not my personality to wait to Sunday morning, so I didn't. I went up there Saturday, I left at about 4:30, the designated time slot was 5 - 7. I didn't get there till 6:30, it seems like every road into Waconia is closed. The actual process of picking up the packet is pretty simple and painless though.
|The lake during packet pickup, no waves|
The race started at 8:30, transition opened at 6:00, so we figured getting there around 7 was going to be good.
|Rise and Shine sleepy head|
The setup for this transition was pretty simple, the swim in was the same as the bike in, and the bike out and run out where also the same. I had chosen a spot I figured would be easy to get to and would result in an equal amount of running with the bike and not.
|The swim course - I didn't think it was possible to get smoother than the night before, but there it is|
|Me and some Jeffs from work before the race|
|Ready to get in the water|
The swim was a time-trial start, except for elite, they went off in a wave. The deal was you line up by number and then the guy sends you off every 3 seconds. My number was 297, so that means I was going to wait for 296 (roughly) people to go before me. Since the water was 71 degrees I had my wetsuit on, but the sun was blazing so it was super hot in it. So I was standing in the water trying to stay cool. I was keeping an eye on the numbers of people going in (thankfully not everyone had my setup on, else I would have had no idea what numbers they were.) Suddenly I look over and they're in the 250s, so I head over the line (that I didn't know existed) got in my spot and in a few moments I was off.
There are two major differences between a wave start and a time trial start. First, you're not in a wave, so there's not the feeling of getting ready for the gun, and then the sudden rush of speed from 20 or 30 of your new best friends. Second, people are spaced fairly evenly throughout the course.
For me that second difference means you never hit clear water, there's always someone in front of you, or right next to you. I found it pretty annoying, as I am used to finding clear water pretty fast and then just settling in.
The swim went pretty well, again I had a little trouble staying in a straight line on the return trip, not as bad as Liberty, but still unusall for me. The other feature I remember is that when we made the first turn, you had to sight into the sun. Not impossible, but I did throw me off for a bit.
Again near the end of the swim I found myself swimming past people standing in waist-deep water. No big deal, my one word of advice to someone doing a triathlon, do not stand up until your hands hit the bottom. You cannot run in deep water faster than you can swim. The trip to transition was short, I found my spot pretty quickly, took my wetsuit off without sitting down, tossed my socks on and then headed out.
|Looking good coming out of the water|
|Almost ready, just need to stuff this gel in my suit and off I go. Note to self: The gel can go in before the swim if I'm wearing a wetsuit I think.|
|On my way out - notice no shoes yet. Also notice I think I'm fiddling with my watch *sigh*|
The start of the bike course was pretty fast. There was a small hill not far from transition, so I took me a bit to catch my breath and let my heart slow down, but overall the pace was pretty fast. In the first 5 miles my pace was over 20 mph, which I was not expecting at all.
Another side effect of the time-trial start, there are people everywhere on the bike course, and you know what that means, lots of drafting. I mean it's almost hard not to draft. Think about it like this, in a wave format you have a surge of people hit the water every five minutes. If you do 50 people per wave it would take 6 waves to get through 300 people, or about 30 minutes till everyone is in the water. If you do someone every three seconds, it only takes about 15 minutes to get everyone in the water, so the density of people is roughly double. More people means more swim drafting which means lots of people getting on the bike at the same time. Now I only saw one time where someone was clearly purposefully drafting on the bike, but there was plenty of incidental drafting due to a cluster of people forming on turns.
|Coming back from the bike, notice no shoes again. Also notice watch band with no watch, it would stay that way for the remainder of the race.|
The blue is where my bike was supposed to be, the red is where I was standing. I had just gone a few feet too far. Needless to say this flustered me a little.
|Heading out for the run|
About 10 seconds into the run I realize that I didn't bring my watch. It's on the bike recording the longest transition time ever. Oh well, it seems like this is one problem I will continue to have. It seems like it happens at every race. They do not have a water stop immediately out of transition, I miss it. That was a great feature of Liberty.
Remember how the first part of the bike was so fast even though there was that little hill right out of transition. And remember how the bike out and run out were in the same place. The run was just the first two miles of the bike on foot. It was hot, and there were hills, and there was almost no shade. There were three water stops, and they felt like they were about a million miles apart, and it felt like the longest four miles of my life.
I was pretty sure I was off pace, but I didn't know by how much. I felt like I was roasting, and all I could think about was some water. There were some people running by me, but it wasn't a slaughter or anything, I was also running by some people so I didn't feel that bad about it.
Water stop one, probably about a mile in, it was good. Drink some, dump some on my back. Keep running, more hills, sun beating down on the black road we were running on. Another water stop at the turn around, more water, three cups this time. One on my head, one in my mouth, one on my back. I'm starting to feel a little cooler. My stomach has been tight since the beginning of the run, you know that tightness you get right before you vomit, that's what I had. I didn't feel like I was going to vomit, but it didn't feel awesome.
At this point I saw one of the guys from work, he was looking pretty good. Hopefully I was too.
Third and final water stop, I was starting to feel normal again, also at this point the majority of the run was downhill since most of the start of it was uphill. The mantra of the run was "just keep running, do not walk" and that's what I did. I didn't know how fast I was going, but I knew it was faster than walking.
As I was coming near the finish it occurred to me that I hadn't seen one of the guys from work on the run. I turned down the finish chute, saw my family, and my daughter popped out and ran the last few yards with me. This was the first time she didn't totally whomp me at the end. I actually caught her and gave her a kiss on the head as we crossed the line. I grabbed some water, found some shad and sat down with the family.
|At this point I'm running so fast the camera can't take my picture fast enough to prevent the blur, sorry.|
|Sitting down in the shade, shade is good, seeing family is also good.|
The swim – Thirty seconds isn't that significant, the swim felt fine. This was a pretty stacked race, that time puts me second in my age group, 22 overall.
The bike - 22 seconds is basically nothing. The bike went well, I lost some steam near the end, otherwise I may have been able to keep the pace up. Still, to hold 20 mph on my own for 20 miles is a pretty good feeling.
The run – The run was basically just me trying to stop myself from walking. At no point did the run feel like it was going according to plan. It didn't feel like it was 1:30 per mile slower than I wanted, but it also didn't feel good. It's hard to tell if I had the watch on if I would have been able to adjust to something closer to my goals. I tried to latch on to someone who passed me once, but I felt like he was accelerating away from me even though he passed me pretty slowly. So I'm not sure what to take away from this except I know it can be done by me, so I just need to execute.
I gave myself three minutes in the goals for transition. The first one took 1:50 which isn't all that fast, and surprisingly the second one only took 1:45, and I am not kidding that I bet I stood there for 30 seconds looking for my spot.
Overall I'm feeling a little down about this, to miss the goal by so much is a little disheartening. But I probably could have tried hard to rest my legs in the days leading up to the race, but this isn't my "A" race, or even my "B" race. So I'll take the high points. The swim went well, I improved some aspects of my first transition. The bike pace is second best ever, and over about 70% more distance.
The event itself is pretty decent. I'm not sold on the time trial start, it would be interesting to listen to pros and cons about it. The volunteers were great, the event staff was good, the after race snack was hot dogs, fruit, muffins, cookies, juice, water, etc. So that was good. The competition is pretty stiff, the top six male finishers compete on the national level fairly successfully.
Waconia is a nice little area, the roads were not as busy as I remembered the other day, the beach area is very nice, the lake is also very nice, not weedy at all.
Next up, sprint triathlon in three weeks and a half iron the week after that.