Monday, August 27, 2012

Race Review : Maple Grove Sprint Triathlon

Maple Grove "Dare to Tri"- I did the Olympic distance last year, the race went well, but I said I wouldn't do the race again unless the stars aligned. And they pretty much did, plus I have had a pretty good racing year this year, so I wanted to squeeze in one more sprint before it gets cold.

The Training 
We're quickly approaching the end of the tri season in the north. I've been in full swing since January, and my brain is having trouble staying focused. So I basically just took the last two weeks off. Two weeks ago I just did two bike rides, last week I got in some swims, some rides, and one run. But things are going well, and I think my body responded to the rest well.

Packet Pickup
Last year I lamented the packet pickup process. You have to park at least a quarter mile away and then hoof it over there. This year was no different, except I didn't have my kids or wife with me, and I didn't feel the need to scout the race site since it was largely unchanged from last year. The process itself was pretty painless, the people manning the tent were very friendly. Overall, I'd say it wasn't different than last year.
The little expo, I didn't stop at any of the shops. Perhaps I should have but I needed to be getting home

No wind, I was hopeful for a non-windy race day

Not really related to the pickup process, but later that night when I finally took a close look at my packet. Much to my surprise, my running bib said "Olympic" on it... The one thing I'm sure about my training is that my lack of running lately has left my legs not really used to runs of any distance much past four miles. I was not up for just doing an Olympic distance for the fun of it. I shot an email (probably after 10:30) to the first email address I found. I fully expected to not hear anything and just try to resolve it in the morning. Much to my surprise I got a response around 15 till midnight. Apparently they just ran out of sprint bibs, and I could pick up a generic bib if I wanted in the morning, or I could race the sprint with my Olympic bib and that would be fine, she did warn me that volunteers might be confusing though when trying to direct me... foreshadowing. So I'll give props, that was pretty surprising, and helped put my mind at ease.

Race Morning
The race started at 7:30, transition closed at 7:00, we live about 45 minutes away so I was planning on getting up just after 4 so I could be there a little before 6.

Sidebar - I've gotten a new phone recently. Samsung Galaxy SIII - long story short, I do not recommend this phone.

So I use my phone to wake me up, and it did, and I hit snooze, as I often do, and then in my sleepy haze I turned it off. But I knew that, so I set a count-down timer for 10 minutes and went back to sleep. I jolted awake at about five after five (a cool 45 minutes later.) Apparently the phone's alarm will wake you with an audible tone if it's on mute (which mine always is) but not the countdown timer, no it will just buzz quietly at you forever. Needless to say I was in a slight panic. I woofed down my breakfast, jumped in the car and headed out.

I got to the race site just after six, got one of the last "close" parking spots, unloaded my stuff and headed over there. At this point I was settled down, I was only a few minutes off my original schedule.

Ahh, no wind. Going to be a great race
A truck, parked right in the middle of transition. In real life it wasn't blurry. The picture is blurry because I was overwhelmed by how silly it seemed to have a truck on display in an active transition area and was giggling.
After I got all setup it was about time for the pre-race meeting. I sat through that and a pretty good rendition of the national anthem. So now it's about 7:24, and I'm in wave FOURTEEN! Based on the advertised schedule that means I will be sitting around for another hour. So I settle in for a little wait, it was a cool morning so just sitting in the grass watching and listening made the the time go by. Eventually my friend Tony came by and we chatted a bit. That was nice, he wasn't racing, just lives nearby. I think it actually calmed my nerves a bit, so thanks Tony!

The Swim
The water temp was 78, so wetsuits allowed. I contemplated not wearing one for two reasons. First, because I didn't really want to fuss with it in transition. Second, because they requested that we wear the ankle chips on the outside of the wetsuit, and that reinforced me not wanting to mess with it in transition.

Side bar - If you're thinking about putting a race together, and the people you choose to do timing say "oh by the way our chips might not work if people wear wetsuits over them" you might want to push a little harder on some different chips.

Anyway, I elected to go for the wetsuit. I didn't really want to feel like I was at a disadvantage time and energy wise, and it was in my bag anyway :)

So I lined up in the middle in the front, we took off...and I'm pretty sure I never saw anyone in my group after that. I ran right out, did some dolphin dives and just took off. I settled down after about 50 yards into a fairly strong pace.

Around the first buoy I started catching the wave in front, by the second buoy I caught the bulk of that group and came out the water with the leaders of that group and some stragglers from the groups before them. The swim felt great, and this will sound strange but, even the water tasted good. I came out of the water feeling pretty good.

The run to transition is pretty long, maybe a couple hundred yards, but I felt pretty good during it.

Side bar - the transition area is setup by wave. I really like it, I like being able to gauge where I am in relation to other people I am competing with for awards.

So I get to my rack and confirm that I came out of the water first, I struggle with my wetsuit for what seems like forever and then get on my way. I actually probably didn't have to mess with my wetsuit for as long as I did, but I tried to not use my hands, and then the suit, not surprisingly, got stuck on the chip and I waited a bit before I reached down and just used my fingers.

On the way out I did a first, I ran with my bike holding it by the seat. That was a ton of fun! I even successfully navigated not one but TWO people coming in from the swim. I'll also note that by this time the SUV had been moved.

The Bike

The bike starts with a short but decent climb. I just sort of shot up it, passed a few people and then turned on to the road and settled in and got into a pace I felt good at. About three seconds later a girl in front of me dropped her water bottle. Here were my three thoughts, in order.

  • That sucks for her, she's going to get thirsty
  • I hope she doesn't get the littering penalty, because that would suck more
  • We're two minutes into the bike, you probably could have waited a few minutes

She apologized, and I told her to not worry about it and just keep going. I shouted "have fun" as I rolled off. Hopefully she did.

BTW - remember the shot of the lake at the top where there aren't any ripples from the wind. Well that's apparently because the lake is protected. At least in one direction it's sheltered by a large hill with trees on top. On the bike course that day, wind. Not a ton, but considering I wasn't expecting it, a little surprising.

One of the cool things about the way this race lined up this year was that the last wave of Olympic distance athletes was a group of college kids trying to qualify for some sort of national team. And I ended up near a bunch of them on the bike. They were super competitive and really didn't like people passing them. So me and about four of them (girls and boys) spent the better part of five or six miles passing each other. I'd pass one, they'd pass me back, I'd pass them again, they'd pass me and say something like "I'm here again." Every time they'd repass me the language would escalate "not this time", "I could do this all day", "see you later!" It was a ton of fun, and then we hit a hill and I dropped all of them, and then, of course, they went on to ride ten more miles than me and run twice as far, but who's counting :)

Over the course of the bike I got passed (permanently) twice and I did a bunch of passing. It was a good feeling. I got to transition, pulled my shoes off as I rode down the hill toward the dismount line and hopped off and headed straight to my rack. A quick survey and it looked like I was still in the front. I didn't spend a ton of time evaluating the 60 or spots, but it did look pretty empty.

The Run
I tried to make good pace out of transition, I passed a few people right out of the gate and then ... cramp. My calf was cramping like never before. I sort of hobbled up the first little hill and finally stopped and reached down to touch it. I just wanted to feel it, it didn't feel super tight or anything, and the break made it feel better. So I started up again, the two people I had passed repassed me as I got going again. After fifty feet or so I decided that maybe the hobbling wasn't actually helping, I tried to take a few "normal" strides and sure enough the cramp started to work itself out. All in all the whole cramp thing took less than a quarter mile.

The run is a little hillier than I remembered, but it was a cool overcast morning so I wasn't baking in the sun or feeling super thirsty which made it all the easier. I hit the first mile at 8 minutes, which considering I at one point was literally stopped I was pretty happy with.

During the second mile a lady passed me, but she kept looking back, at one point she yells to some woman "hey <insert name> get up here" then she dropped back to just behind me "the girl up there in the black sports bra, she's the last one, go get her" <indistinguishable> "I've already had one this year, go get her" Then the second lady ran by, and I never saw the first one again. I thought two things, first how on earth did she know who was left to beat in front of her. Second, man I would love to know if there was someone in front of me that I needed to pass. The second mile ticked off, roughly the same pace as the first. I had been passed several times so far, and was not really passing anyone.

The final mile has one or two hills near the end, but I was feeling good. Near the end the crowd from the park spills out onto the course, and it really starts to get fun. One sort of humorous moment (remember the bit at the top about my running bib, here's where it comes into play) is where a volunteer directing runners says "Olympic runners keep going, don't turn here" he picks up that clearly I am going to try to take the turn toward the finish "OLYMPIC RUNNERS, KEEP GOING" I start slowing for the roughly 172 degree turn "OLYMPIC Runners..." I couldn't help but laugh. I looked at my final split later, I did the last mile in just about seven minutes, so pretty awesome!

The Finish
After the, basically, 180 degree turn you head down a little hill that ends up down a finishers chute with people lining both sides. It's a lot of fun, most people are really pushing the pace, it's a great way to finish, they even did the thing they did at Trinona last year and reset the finish tape for people. That is a lot of fun, I really liked it. I even saw someone I knew on the side lines, that's always fun!

I staggered down the lane a little, some guy took my chip, I got a medal and some water and then just sort of wandered around for a while. Because I thought I had a chance at placing, and because I picked up my individual splits and saw I basically made my goal I wanted to wait to see what the overall placement was. More than an HOUR later they posted them for the first time. I had run into a guy who was also thinking he maybe had placed, he said it felt like they were keeping us hostage. I agree.

The Results

Goal Actual
Swim 7:45 6:48
Bike 39:00 40:06
Run 23:00 23:09
Total 1:13 1:13:31

The swim – Much faster than I expected, based on finishing times I'm going to say that the course isn't .3 miles, it's shorter. It's hard to tell comparatively how well I did, the results say 6th overall, but the woman who got first's time is 48 seconds, so I'm guessing that once again the timing is a little messed up for this race. The other times were pretty believable though, so there was a good mix of fast swimmers out there.

The bike - A minute over, but the garmin says the course is about a half mile longer than they do and I didn't start it till I got to the top of the hill so I am very happy with this. According to the garmin that's 21.5 mph. I was talking to a guy who placed way better than me after the race and he said he got new deep rimmed wheels this year. He says it's a free mph or maybe 1.5. Yikes, last year he was doing my speed, then bought new wheels and sometimes averages 23-24 this year... I was really hoping I'd never find a reason to spend a chunk of change on a set of race wheels. He also sounded a little sad that he didn't go for a disc wheel. Apparently at 24 mph is when the disc really shines, but he thought he wouldn't be there this year, but he is.

The run – Basically right on pace, the watch says the run is a little shorter than they advertise. So they say I did 7:45 average, the garmin says closer to 7:50. Considering I stopped and stood for 5 seconds at the start, I'm happy with it.

Overall I got 27th overall, and FIRST in my age group! Obviously I'm super happy by that. I placed well at Lifetime, but not quite podium, I thought I had a shot at Lakefront days but missed, and in this race I thought I had a similar shot, but didn't focus too much on it. What can I say, I loves me a good sprint.
First place schwag! It's a bowl.
Side shot to give some perspective. It's the size of an oversized soup bowl.

When I look at this race from the numbers, because I led the swim I led the entire race. Best swim in my bracket by 2:45, but then 7th on the bike and 20th on the run. Second place was 4 seconds back, third place was 7 seconds back. I guess it's a good thing I pulled 7 minutes from my hat for that last mile, that was the difference between first and fourth.

Closing Comments
I had a great time at this race. My family couldn't make it out there to see my race, but it's been a busy year of races. This is the eighth race for me this summer, and there is one more coming up. Obviously it is fun to win, and the best part of it is that this doesn't feel like a "everything went right and things just clicked into place" it's more a sign that the effort I put in is amounting to what I wanted it to, and so I have a sort of renewed drive.

I enjoy a big race, they had 1200 entries over both distances including 700 in the sprint. That means there is room for all sorts of people of every ability level. I met and chatted with more than one person where this was their first race. It's fun to talk to them and see their perspective, to see what they think is strange or confusing about triathlon, one guy even had a sort of inspirational story. I also had a chance to talk to some people who finished quite a bit faster than me. I know I'm talking to someone who's fast when they say they're a slow runner and still average minutes per mile faster than me. I'm not the fastest pig in the race, but I'm not exactly slow either. It's fun to see meet people with so much talent.

Next up is likely the Rev3 70.3 in Florida with big sister where she says her goal is 5:30. If you've been keeping up on my record, you know that is faster than me.

It's on big sister, it's on... Tell your coach to pull out all the stops, cause I'm coming for you! :)


Christopher Hawes said...

Nice job, congrats on winning your AG

Jeremy said...

Thanks Chris!

Eric Dronen said...

Wuhuu! Congratulations Jeremy!!