OK… Now I officially feel like I’m back.
Last year life reared its ugly head. It happens. I have always said “family first” and I mean that. Everything else is secondary. Especially something as trivial as triathlons. And yes, I mean that. As much as we who do them tend to obsess about pounds, inches, watts, mets and milliseconds, what it all boils down to is that when I look at the top 3 most important things in my life, triathlons (and any other fitness pursuits) aren’t in it. That doesn’t mean it’s not important. On the contrary, it is VERY important. Maybe 4 or 5 on the list. But when number 1 or 2 is not going well, everything else has to wait. Thus went last year. In triathlon terms, I signed up for 8 races (2 running, 6 triathlon) but only managed to actually compete in 3 of them. My fitness lagged and I gained weight (nobody’s fault but my own).
But things turned around at the end of the year. I started back on a fitness schedule and have had a lot of success so far. I have made some changes in gear and training that have really helped. But, oddly enough, I’m not looking for momentum here or to continue increasing speeds, etc. No, I just want to compete in every race I sign up for and work out as much as I can. The Trizou Triathlon in Columbia, on the campus of the University of Missouri, was the first real test.
This is a good race. Lots of competitors (over 560 competed in the triathlon), good competition, great venue and lots of support. The swim (400m) is in the world class pool on the campus of the University of Missouri. The bike (14mi) is a criterium like two lap course with 2 decent hills in it, each done twice. The run (3mi) is through the Mizzou campus and is relatively flat. This would be my third time doing this race. Last year I could only muster the energy to do the duathlon.
I hate pool swims. Always have. I’m not a pool swimmer. I don’t do flip turns and I really hate waiting in line. But I decided to do this race anyway, just to get me back into it. The only downside to this race is with 600+ competitors, since I swim this distance in about 8:30, all of the 6-8 minute swimmers get to go first. one every 10 seconds. That put about 350 people in front of me. It also means you have to stand in line for the hour or so it takes to get to you. Very much like a Disneyland ride… Stand in line for hours for 45 seconds of sheer terror… Or something like that.
Anyway, idle talk and meeting new people always makes the time go faster. I met some people from Springfield, MO, where I stay quite a bit when I work, so I may have made some new workout buddies when I go there! That would be cool.
I packed up my stuff the night before. I found it to be easier than I had remembered. I kept staring at the back of the car thinking that I was forgetting something. By 9pm I was loaded up and ready to go. I got poor sleep as usual and then woke up at 3:30am for good. Transition opened at 5am so this gave me enough time to grab some coffee and cereal (not too worried about race day nutrition since this is such a short race) and get going. I got to the site at about 4:45 and there were already lots of people milling about. Transition opened at 5am as promised. The transition area for this race is on a jogging track that goes around some multi use recreation fields. I little unorthodox but it works. It makes your transition HUGE though and transition times are gigantic (my T1 time was almost 3 minutes. Most transitions I’m out in under 1 minute) since no matter where you are, you have to run 250 yards or so just to get out of the transition area. There is no disadvantage to it as everyone must do it.
The weather was HOT. The overnight low was only 68 and as soon as the sun came up, the temps went up too. No wind or clouds. Slight chance of rain. I know this doesn’t sound like hot weather, but running at the end of ANY race when the temps are in the 80s… sucks.
I set up my bike on our assigned racks. It was by race number, which I like more than the age group racking they used to do. No arguments. Just one rack for 6 bikes, no questions asked. Plenty of room. I set up next to another CMC member, Chris, and by 5:10am I was done. I was relieved to see that I was close to bike out, since I was going to just run in my bike shoes. The whole “clip your shoes on to your bike and get into them while you are riding” thing never really worked for me. I never practiced it enough to be proficient which meant I just weaved dangerously all over the road until I finally got into my shoes. I don’t think there was much of a time advantage to it anyway. Once everything was set up, I wandered around looking at the ever growing racks full of bike porn, said hi to friends and made some new ones. Then when the pool finally opened up for warm ups, I headed up there just to watch. It wouldn’t make any sense for me to get in and warm up though since it would be over an hour from the time I warmed up until I got in the pool for real. Still fun to watch the good swimmers go though!
The pool entry for this race is awkward. It’s a time trial start and you get counted down, walk gingerly to the pool edge, jump (not dive) in right at the wall and then push off and go. I was surprised that I did it as well as I did. I got a good kick off the wall and was underway. I debated heavily with myself whether or not to swim with my tri top on or just tuck it into my shorts. I never swim with it and feel it slows me down, but finally just gave up and left it on. In hindsight, this was a bad choice. I was uncomfortable the entire time and since it is loose now (yay!) I could feel it flapping in the water. I think it also threw off my balance. I never really got in a rhythm and didn’t feel like I was getting any glide out of my stroke at all. The walls were a disaster for me. I couldn’t judge where I was at since it was a new pool so I either crashed into them or stopped way too soon and… oh it was just a mess. I didn’t clock myself with the lane lines though when I dove under them and I only got caught by one person, so I think I was pretty much in the right spot. I checked my watch coming out and it said 8:40 (although my official time was 9:30… which I still don’t get…) I hit my watch again as I crossed the transition mat and headed out the door.
Usually when you come out the door of a warm pool and you are soaking wet, you get this chilling blast of morning air. Umm… no. How about a wave of humid heat… Lovely. Because of construction on campus the run in and out of transition was nearly a half mile! Too funny. I got to my bike with no problems, got my shoes on and grabbed my helmet, then realized my glasses were not with it. It took me several seconds to find them (they had been knocked off and were on the ground by my bag). The whole transition felt uncomfortable and odd. Probably just because I haven’t done one in so long. I wasn’t as disoriented as usual coming out of the pool though. I hit my watch (which I later found was useless as it had somehow shut off) again at the mount line (clock time 2:51!!) and very awkwardly (stupid pedals) set off on the bike
This bike route is not your average tri route. It has several sharp, off camber corners and a tunnel with a blind turn at the end to negotiate so you can’t just jump on, put your head down and spin. Any average over 20mph here is pretty good. That was my goal. I didn’t really care if it borked the rest of the race for me… by god I wanted 20+ on the bike.
I will resist the urge to gush here about my bike. The Valdora PHX I got this winter is, let’s just say, the right bike for me. I have no problems or complaints about this bike. I only hope to one day have the motor to power it like it needs to be powered. I can’t wait til the day I get a good set of race wheels for this bike… wow…
Moving on. The only thing I really paid attention to this time was cadence. I wanted to keep it high and push as big a gear as I could. The two big hills, each done twice, were not as intimidating as they had been in the past since I had done plenty of hill training and was really feeling good about my preparation. After a clunky start in which I missed my pedals a couple of times, I headed out and noticed immediately that my cadence was good. Through the sharp turns and tunnel, the bike felt light and maneuverable. I stayed aero a lot more than usual and actually found I was running out of RPM to keep up with my speed on the downhills. At one point on one of the downs I had to have been spinning at 130 rpm or more. I finally just coasted a bit when I felt myself starting to bounce in the saddle trying to keep up. I got my breathing under control and started picking people off. In 14 miles I had to have passed 75 people. I got passed once but it was by one of the really fast guys. We traded passes with him catching me on the ups and me catching him on the flats and downs. I only knew he was one of the fast guys because we made the turn at the halfway point together and he turned in to go back and I still had a lap to go… 🙂
I could actually feel myself getting stronger on the second lap and was really smooth and powerful in spots that I remember I struggled last year. The hills seemed flatter… The second lap was uneventful and I made the turn to go back through the tunnel (a hairpin, off camber turn over a bump into a parking lot… sound fun?). I actually remembered to start getting out of my shoes and hopped off the bike to find the usual bike legs. I knew to just ignore them and move on. The only other thing I noticed was that after I stopped and there was no longer any self generated wind from the bike… it got hot.
I got to my rack and dumped the bike, got into my shoes and grabbed my hat and race belt. All good. I was a minute faster getting out of transition, but that was still almost 2 minutes! Did I mention that transition was kind of big?
Yes. The first mile felt like crap. But besides the sluggishness of bike legs there was another reason. It was HOT! And the first mile was pretty much running with the wind so there was NO breeze. I know a month from now I will be begging for run temps in the high 70s but since this was my first hot weather race, allow me to whine a bit. But three things happened to make it all better. My bike legs went away pretty quickly so I felt like I was running better. The first aid station at the 1 mile mark had cold water that I dumped on my head. I turned at the aid station to run a different direction and caught a nice breeze to cool me off. Life was good. More cold water at mile marker 2 and a downhill to flat finish to end the day.
1. Although my overall time was a PR by a few minutes, I feel like I am getting worse… I finished in the top 25 percent overall, but was 14th out of 30(something) in my age group. Even though I went up an age group…
Because the guys that are still racing in my age group are damned serious about it. Most of them are through with kids and have time (and money) to be pretty hardcore. I’ve never been about medals and podiums, but these guys are to be admired and aspired to. Heck, the overall amateur finisher was 50! And most of these guys (locally) pound me into the ground like a tent stake on training nights so to “compete” I have a long way to go. But that is a good thing. Knowing that I can still improve even as I get older actually keeps me motivated.
2. Even though I took over a minute off my swim time, it is my weakest area. I plan to do a half ironman this fall and really need to work on swimming all summer.
3. I could have gone faster on the bike. I still held back too much.
4. I think I also had something left at the end of the run. Not sure why I didn’t leave it on the course…? Maybe I was afraid of the heat…
5. Triathletes remain the coolest people on the planet.
So now it’s time to stretch out the mileages. 1200 yard minimum main sets (2500 total yards minimum) in the water, 25 mile minimum rides (60-70 mile, long rides) and 10K runs (10-13 mile, long runs) are on the menu until after Quartermax in Innsbrook. More bricks, too. From now on, no bike rides without a run afterwards. Time to go long!