Saturday, August 23, 2008

Race Report: Silver Lake Triathlon

Well I mentioned a few posts ago how this race was closed when I got around to registering for it - I'm happy to report that I got an email back from the race directors on Friday afternoon telling me they could make room for me. Awesome! So, a whirlwind commenced - I was, like, 15 minutes from heading out the door for a 16 miler when I got the email, so I quickly changed plans (moving the long run to tomorrow morning) and spent the evening giving Vapor some love (still a fine layer of Dakota Dust all over the thing) and getting my gear ready to rock.

I had no big plans or ideas for this race - I kind of only stumbled onto it a few weeks ago, and was really just looking to get out there and enjoy it. No big goals, no hopeful times or speed ideas - I've had such craptacular runs lately that I was mostly just hoping to get out and go fast, see how the Achilles held up, and also get a feel for what changes the tweaks I've been making to my bike fit might mean. So when I arrived at transition, it was with an open mind and just a happiness at being at another race day - in fact, as I was walking my bike from parking down to transition, and crested the hill where I could suddenly see all the blue fencing, tent tops, athletes rummaging around, loudspeakers blaring, I had that familiar bit of butterflies, that sudden lump in my throat. God I love race day.

The course was a .25 mile swim, 16 mile bike, and 5k (3.1 mile) run. I hit the water with the rest of my wave - all 30-39 year old males - and gave as much as I got through the initial washing machine. I redlined right away, pushing hard the first 100 or so to really get some position and make the first turn buoy, where I could turn right and get into my rhythm.

I didn't feel great on the swim - I mean, I felt healthy just fine, but didn't feel like I was moving very fast, and I knew I wasn't swimming as fast as I'm capable. About 3/4ths of the way through I tried to really focus on my technique, and realized that my head had been way too high up in the water, likely from consistently trying to sight and have a sense for my position. With crap technique will come pretty slow times, and as soon as I made some adjustments I felt a lot more hydrodynamic. I was in the middle of a pack for the final 100, and pushed hard to gain some ground before getting out of the water. I was surprised to find myself out of the water in 7:48, apparently beating my PR for open-water, 1/4 mile swim (previously 8:12, last season at Devil's Challenge Triathlon). That said, I think it's hard to think much about personal bests in the water from one race to another - sometimes the timing mats are a long run up the beach, for instance, and I'm always a little suspicious that they're measured correctly at all. At any rate, my time puts me at a pace of about 1:46/100 yards, which certainly isn't as fast as I'm capable of swimming. But, whatever! I'll take it! Next time I'll remember to keep my technique on point from the gun.

A run around the entire transition area then finally put me at my machine, where I quickly got organized and on the road. Out the door in 1:21.

Besides wanting to get a feel for my aero-position in a race scenario, I also wanted to experiment a bit with pushing at a lower cadence - I usually ride very intentionally around 90rpm, and I decided to push closer to 85rpm, to see if A: there'd be any noticeable fatigue in my legs on the run, B: or if I'd in fact be using my quads a bit more efficiently and have fresher legs on the run, and C: If I could get a little more speed out of the bike in a sprint situation. The course was very pleasant - mostly smooth, clean roads, gently rolling with one or two more difficult climbs. I passed a ton of people - this is a very "beginner-friendly" event, so there were lots of mountain bikes and commuters out on the road, but I also did my share of passing the rocket ships. I was passed only twice, both by dudes at least 9 feet tall with 5-feet-long legs and on very, very serious rocket ships. I love riding sprint distance - I take the little gear bag off my bike, which usually has various tubes, CO2 cartridges, etc. (so, if I ever flat during a sprint distance, I'm screwed...), and my bike feels especially light and fast. I enjoy not thinking and just going fast. I rolled into T2 covering 16 miles in 44:06, good for a 21.8mph - another PR, nudging out my previous (13 miles at 21.59 at Chain of Lakes triathlon in '07, with a serious tailwind, chasing my man TZilla - no tailwind today). It's good to go fast. Vapor is a killer machine.

I was out of T2 in 36 seconds, and right away faced a hill on the run course. My Achilles felt pretty good all day, except when I had to run up a hill at all, or on any unsteady ground. I slowed and took the hill a little easy, and was irritated to find that the "crest" wasn't a crest at all, but just a false-flat, where it gradually inclined for another quarter mile or so - all of which put stress on the bum wheel. Finally reaching the top and turning right, I was able to make up a bit of ground with a steep decline (again, not great on the Achilles). The course went like this - a bit up, a bit down - for the first mile or so, before angling onto the Portage airport grounds, where we spent another mile on grass. Not my ideal terrain, and as I mentioned, I had a stab or two in the Achilles whenever my ankle would twist unsteadily, but at least it was flat. The course was out and back, so I was able to take advantage of those early inclines becoming descents as I threw it all toward the finish line. I finished in 23:45, good for a 7:39 pace. About two minutes off my personal best time (21:55 at Devil's Challenge last year), but I was glad to have a pretty decent speed workout and to feel generally consistent after the crap mileage I've been putting up lately.

All tolled, I finished in 1:17:33, good for 10/45 in my age group, and 25/321 overall. Like I mentioned, there were a lot of newbies at this race, so I'll keep that in perspective with those placements, but hey - a top 10 finish is a top 10 finish, and finishing in the top 10% overall ain't too shabby either. More than anything else, I just had a lot of fun and couldn't have been happier spending my Saturday morning any other way.

Some bits & pieces:

Except for a bit of registration disorganization, the race was very well organized, well run, and safe. There was lots of the usual fruits and carbs afterwards, but also free burgers, which was fun. I'll be sure to do this race again.

I love you, newbies. With your big fat tires, your commuter bikes with aero-bars (!), your humongous satchels hanging off your frames, your 4 water bottles for 16 miles (I did that too, in my first race!) I love your huge squishy seats and bikes on kickstands in transition. I loved watching you come in off the bike, get your run gear on and breathlessly make your way out on the run, where a lot of you maybe just walked up that first hill, but you were moving forward. I don't know if this was your very first time, or if you just enjoy this on weekends sometimes, or maybe this very race is a tradition for you, but you and your family and kids with glittery signs saying "Go mom!" make me smile, and are what this game is all about.

Highlight number one: Dude wearing a plaid, long-sleeve, button-up shirt, in his 60's or so, with rear-view mirror attachments on his bike, riding next to his wife, both casually cruising along on the bike course. Extra special was that his out-in-the-garden shirt was tucked into his spandex cycling shorts.

Highlight number two: Really old dude, walking along the side of the road with his cane, clearly enjoying his morning routine. That his walking route happened to also be the running route for this race didn't faze him at all, and he'd just teeter on at his usual pace, waving his cane after us once in awhile and shouting "I'll get you next year!"

My cockpit isn't comfortable at all. Even for all the tinkering I've been doing, even a 40 mile ride a few weeks ago, as soon as I got on my bike I felt like I was on somebody else's machine. I need a shorter stem, I think, and generally just a lot more work. I don't think the position is generally bad, but I have to get the front end worked out. Whatever I finally decide, a professional, let's-spend-a-few-hours-on-it fitting is in order late next spring.

I'm managing the Achilles okay. I was really happy that it was, except for places I'd expect it to be, mostly a non-issue today. Still, I realized today that I just couldn't get the leg turnover that I wanted, which accounted for some serious speed compromise. I just don't have the strength to push off with my right foot with the tendon in the shape it is. The situation is: I'm kind of hobbling to the proverbial finish line this season. I'm being cautious - I'm not making it worse, per se, but I know in a perfect world I'd just stop and let it heal for a few months - I'm aware that I'm certainly not making it better. This marathon is important to me, though, and I'm committed to not using the Achilles as any kind of excuse. I'm going to train the very best I can, and hope to execute at the Twin Cities Marathon whatever that training has prepared me for - whatever that is. It is what it is.

My experimenting with the bike - I think I did have more speed, and I didn't feel any fatigue, pushing 85rpm instead of 90. I'll plan to train like that on the indoor trainer a bit this winter - obviously a 16 mile sprint triathlon is a whole other thing than going long distance. I'll have to see if that's something I can apply next year as I'm in Ironman training without blowing up.

Just a related sidenote - I feel like, as a triathlete, I'm fine-tuning. Like, the major lessons for me are mostly learned. Now it's experimenting about how to get the most out of myself, rather than teaching myself how to get anything out at all. That's kind of cool. Kind of a fun place to be in. Again - not a sense of "I know it all now", but just that I have some experience and education after these years that's serving me well. Still so much to learn, of course. Always.

Good Karma once again to Mike and Heather, the race directors, for letting a schmuck like me in to race today. I really had a blast.

Finally, this kickass email I got from my man Thomps today:


Just got this info from the 2008 IM Moo Athlete Guide. Priority Registration for 2009 goes to 2008 volunteers.
2008 volunteers will have priority in being first in line to go through the registration process starting at 9:00AM on Monday. Volunteers must have their shirt and/or wristband attached to be in the volunteer line for registration as well as photo ID. Otherwise, individuals will be asked go in the general line. No exceptions! Once volunteers are through, we take all others. 2008 Athletes will be able register Saturday, September 6, 2008 from 9:00AM - 11:00Am.

Great news, as I'll be on State Street with Amy, Kritta, Erin and Chief of Stuff at the aid station from 3:00-8:30. Fantastic bonus that registering for '09 is made available to volunteers like that! Really exciting.

And on that note, sending positive mojo to Thomps and my new WIBA friends, who are in taper for IMWI, and my man Brazo (#1638) who's rocking IMKY next weekend. Can't wait to cheer you all on, in person or online.


Iris said...

WooHoo - a top ten finish! Gotta love that. Take care of your Achilles - it's a major pain if it goes on too long.

Megan said...

Whoa - nice race!! And I too will be joining you all on State Street in two weeks. Who knew that passing out water would get us a line-jump?

Jason said...

Hey man, congrats on the race. Just did my first tri this weekend and it freakin' rocked!!!

Hope your Achilles works itself out. I had a similar problem earlier this year. I don't stretch it anymore and that seems to keep it in check. Stretching seemed to keep it injured.

RobbyB said...

Nice race!

RE: Bike fitting...I'd get that sooner than later. Getting the fit set right from the start will only make your winter training better. There's no need to get used to a new position next year. The more you can get now, the better. Especially for rocking the IM WI 2009 course.

I recommend the guys at ChronoMetro if you can make it into Madison.

xt4 said...

Sweet Megan, I was hoping you'd be able to join us! Plus, we can unite our powers for line-standing-in Monday morning!

RB - I think you're right - no point waiting around for it while I continue to dink around with my fit.

kritta said...

Megan's going to be there, too?!


Alili said...

36 seconds in T2? Teach me, this grasshopper is s.l.o.w.

Fantastic race xt4!

TKS said...

Fine stuff my friend, well done!

Steve Stenzel said...

NICE JOB!! So you didn't PR on the run, but your times were blazing throughout!!

And "commuter bikes with aero-bars"?!? That's super duper.

TriSupporter said...

Great race! Rian was at race Sunday that had a lot of newbies with nubbie tires, camel backs, etc. I even saw one guy where his tightie-whities under his generic running shorts - for the swim!!

See you in Madison.