Monday, May 01, 2006

Race Week!

It's race week! Whooohoooooo! The first triathlon of the season this Saturday. It's a very small Sprint triathlon - somewhere over just a hundred or so athletes. The swim is 600 yards in an indoor pool, then a 13 mile bike and 3 mile run. I'm really excited just to be back in a triathlon race some 8 months after the last, and for all the things that come with racing and race day. Man I love this game.

This was my first ever triathlon 2 short years ago, in 2004. It's great for beginners and first timers, because there's no intimidating open-water swim, and being indoors in the organization and safety of a pool is interesting. It's fun to look back on my first race because I had clue zero - my swim stroke was some slow and appallingly inefficient thing that harkened back to Red Cross swimming lessons. I didn't understand that transitions were for racing, not for resting, and since it was seriously like 40 degrees that day, I lolligagged my way through transition 1, putting on my tights (Lycra is not easy to put when wet) and just sort of whiling the time away. I was riding my first bike, a road bike fitted with aero bars for triathlon, but I was poorly fit on it, had owned it less than 2 weeks, had no idea how to effectively move through gears and when, and no idea how to be efficient on the bike. It was all so brand new...the video of the race shows me jumping on my bike - which I had intentionally positioned in my biggest, fattest, hardest gear (I thought it was fastest!), and so I start the bike leg in this HUGE gear and I'm slowling mashing away trying to get some momentum. I had 4 water bottles on my bike (!) for a 13 mile ride. I'd never done a brick workout, so this was the first ever transition from bike to run, and my legs felt like jelly getting into transition - I was jumping up and down trying to get my legs under me, and then on the run I was just sort of hobbling along. My times were really unimpressive - 11:19 to get out of the water, 46 minutes on the bike (for a whopping 16mph) and 25:37 on the run for a crawling 9:10 pace. But it was so much fun to say afterwards "I'm a triathlete", that the numbers didn't matter, and I didn't have any relationship anyway to know what they meant. Interestingly, I've never really had a great race here. The weather last year was crappy too - cold and raining - and while my swim was a minute better at 10:14, my bike still seemed slow at 42:24 (18.4mph) and my run wasn't bad, but I had some GI problems from poorly eating before the race and finished in 24:55 at an 8:19 pace. Neither year was I in very good shape - I'd only been in training maybe 4-6 weeks before the race, and it was evident by my weight and lack of fitness, particularly on the run.

Whereas last year these races sort of kicked off my season in general - including training (coming never more than 6 weeks out of starting my training), this year the race comes in the middle of serious training, and unlike previous years, I'm in fantastic shape. So this race has strategic purpose as a sort of checkpoint, but mostly it's a time trial, which is a lot of fun. I haven't ridden my bike "as fast as I can" for a very long time, and not once in training this season. I've run "as fast I can" a few times for short mileages, but never off the bike. So it'll be fun to throw all my usually well thought out nutrition and pacing plans generally out the window and just freaking go, as hard and as fast as I can. Tonight I'll clean Ol' Blue up from the grime and mud of the weekend's ride, regrease the chain and get things reorganized for speed. I'll shed the many bottle cages I have on the bike, lighten the toolkit load, and put on my racing wheels for the rest of the week. I'm excited.

The swim is sort of the x-factor. First of all, as I said, the swim is indoors. I swim 24 lengths of the pool, and they have "official counters" who count laps for you - basically high school kids. The first year, they didn't alert me to my progress and I ended up swimming 25 lengths and getting out of the pool at the very opposite end of where I was supposed to. You're supposed to, when you register, provide some kind of indication for what time you expect - between 8-10 minutes for the 600 yards, or between 10-12. Then you share your lane with at least 2 other swimmers. Last year this dude in my lane was saying how he'll probably finish in 10 minutes or so, which is about where I thought I'd be, but I thought it made sense to let him, who I thought might be faster, go first. Literally seconds before the gun he realized that this whole time he'd been training 12 LENGTHS, not 12 LAPS in 10 minutes, which meant actually he was going to be slow as hell. So I spent the next 10 minutes trying to find ways to avoid him sloshing around in the pool. I enjoy the brand new triathletes, however they perform, but it was kind of a pain in the ass for me. So, anything can happen. More specific to my own appraisal, I've intentionally spent less time in the pool than on the bike or run so far this season, and I'm not anywhere near peak swim shape (and don't want to be), and so don't really have any expectations for my swim. I'll go as efficiently and smoothly as possible, and hope that translates to speed. If not, oh well, I'll see it as a benchmark from which to work. The bike, however, and the run, I have some expectations. I expect to go fast. Really fast. Not just faster than previous years. Crushingly fast. Stupid fast. I'm experienced enough, and have certainly put on the miles so far, where nutrition should be no issue - especially for such a short race - and leg strength and lung strength should be no issue with my present level of fitness. So I'll say it out loud right now - I expect Personal Records (P.R.) on the bike and on the run. I don't expect it in the water, but I will hope for something at least as fast as last year. I expect my overall time, then, to be a P.R. for this race, no question. Poor performance this weekend will only be a result of carelessness - which I have no tolerance for (like last year's stupid GI issues, brought on by my own stupid carelessness) - or things outside my control, in which case the scope of "poor" becomes relative to the situation, and I deal with it. But all that said, it's still a "C" race - an organized training event to benchmark speed progress, but with little to no bearing on Ironman performance. Freed from that, then, I see no reason not to just go out, have a blast, and run like hell!


Michael Anderson said...

I sort of hope you kick ass - because I think you can!

May the Force be with You.

Todd said...

Godspeed this weekend buddy! I will be thinking of you! Crank some Em and give er' hell my friend!