Monday, June 25, 2007
Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon
Phew. What a couple weeks. What a GREAT couple weeks. The trip to Italy was fantastic and then we topped off our vacation with a fun trip to Philadelphia for a mini-reunion with some friends from college and a little Olympic distance triathlon.
First off, the race went pretty well. I'm generally happy with my result, especially given the fact that we had essentially just gotten off the plane from Italy and my belly was/is still carrying around a little too much pasta, red wine and olive oil! Also, as Coach John reminded me, I haven't been training for this distance or speed. The long course training is a different beast and my legs aren't used to moving as fast as I wanted them to move yesterday. More important than anything, though, it was a really fun day. Reid organized a pretty huge group of people to do the race, including a lot of first time triathletes, and I think everyone finished and had fun doing it.
It was an absolutely beautiful day. It was a little on the hot and sunny side for racing, but I'll take that over the Harriman conditions any day! The weather made for a great day for spectators - and there were a ton of people out there. I thought the race course was really nice. The Schuylkill River was warm (I was hot in my wetsuit), calm and actually looked, felt and tasted(!) much cleaner than I'd expected. The bike course was fun, generally pretty flat and fast, with a couple nice hills and descents. There was one sort of scary turn, but nothing too dangerous. The run was a little boring, but it was flat and the couple there-and-backs were nice because you got to see people going in front and behind you on the course. It got hot on the run, especially because the last 3+ miles were totally exposed without any shade. Finally, and importantly, the race was really well organized - check-in on Saturday was smooth and easy and for race-day, the course was well marked and the volunteers were great at all the aid stations.
After passing out on Friday night, we were up pretty early Saturday morning. I did a short spin on the trainer, to stretch out my legs and make sure the bike was OK. Then we got on the road for Philly right around 11AM. We checked into our hotel and then drove to the race expo to check in. We met up with a few friends at the expo and went out to Reid's parents' place for a little pre-race barbecue. It was great to catch up with everyone at the party. The group of racers was more than 20 strong and included friends from Brown, members of Reid's family, friends of Reid's from growing up and friends of friends. As I mentioned, nearly everyone was a first time (or first-time-in-a-long-time) triathlete. We made special red visors (you can sort of see mine in the picture above) for people to wear during the run so we would be able to see and identify each other. The visors, designed by a friend of Elizabeth's, came out great.
I'll try to make my race report brief, but apologize in advance for its length...
We had to be at the race site early, so we tried to get to bed early and get some sleep. Unfortunately, neither Elizabeth nor I really slept and the feeling must have been contagious because even Charlie didn't sleep much. We finally got out of bed around 4:30 and started getting everything together. We picked up Bill and David from their hotels (and dropped Charlie off with David's 8 month pregnant wife) and made our way to the race site. By the time we actually got to the transition area, we only had about 15 minutes to set up and get on the buses to the swim start. Our plan was to have about 45 minutes... oops. Anyway, we got on the bus and made it to the start with about 35 minutes before our wave went off. I got in the bathroom line and by the time I got through the line and out, my wave was already in the water, just about ready to go. I rushed to the start, got my wetsuit on and we were off. My heart rate was already in the 120's - the anticipation had something to do with that, but all the last minute rushing didn't help.
The swim went well. I was pleased that, unlike Harriman and some other recent races, I actually eased right into my stroke. The course was a point-to-point, straight down the river, with a short "J hook" at the end. I managed to stay on course with minimal sighting. Our wave didn't seem that big and the swim lane was wide, so there wasn't much bumping, contact or flailing. It helped that we were in the third wave - I'm sure that the later waves found more crowds as they caught up to swimmers from earlier waves. As I mentioned, the water was warm - I think they said 76, which made it wetsuit legal, but it felt warmer than that! It was also clean - it tasted like water actually, and didn't feel silty or dirty, which were nice surprises. I'm fairly pleased with my absolute time - 25:53 (or about 1:35/100 yards), but it was still my overwhelmingly relative weakness compared to the field. I've improved a ton in the last couple years, but the swim is where I still have the most room for further improvement.
I got through my first transition faster and smoother than ever before. It was so nice not to have to get dressed for the cold like at Harriman. There was a short run from the water to the transition area. But I got out of the wetsuit quickly and had my helmet and sunglasses on in a flash. I had clipped my shoes into the pedals and rubber-banded them to the bike to keep them from dragging, but, in my haste to set up before the race, I did make one stupid mistake: I forgot to open the velcro straps on the shoes. I didn't realize this until I'd already jumped on the bike and started pedaling with my feet on top of my shoes. So, here I am, about 30 yards onto the course, and I'm struggling to open the straps before I can even get my feet into the shoes. I didn't want to stop and just take care of it, but I probably lost a minute fumbling with it. I doubt I'll make that mistake in the future!
The bike was my real strength yesterday. Once I got into my shoes, I felt like I was cruising. I rarely came out of aero and shifted smoothly and comfortably. I charged up the hills and didn't let up once. Even though I hadn't checked out the bike course beforehand, it was pretty straightforward and best of all, well marked. I got passed by a few people, but generally, I was the one doing the passing. During the first loop, only the elites and one other wave were out there, and the roads seemed more than wide enough. By the second time around, with many more racers on the course, it felt more crowded and I was forced to do a little illegal passing on the right once or twice, but even then it wasn't too bad. The two steep climbs were more than off-set by some fun descents and a lot of flat or nearly-flat racing.
As I pulled into T2, I heard the announcer congratulating the winners. They did have about a 15 minute head-start, but that still put them over a half hour ahead of me. The winner, Craig Alexander, actually did a 1:52:18 (splits: 18:51/57:45/33:18). Wow. That's fast! I was pretty pleased with the speed of my T2. Not blazing fast, but again, faster and smoother than prior races - and that's what it's really about. I rode without socks and had planned on running without them, but during the bike I thought about it and I haven't trained much without socks and didn't want to risk getting blisters and potentially screwing up my feet for the coming weeks of training.
I started the run confident. In the past, I've been able to make up time and places on the run. Unfortunately, from the moment I left transition yesterday, I could tell it wasn't going to be that kind of a run. I felt sluggish, heavy and slow. I also had a pretty nasty side stitch. The cramp wasn't slowing me down much, but it was a psychological bummer. I hit the first mile marker at 6:50, which amazed me - I felt like I was running closer to 7:30. I guess I was moving pretty quickly, but it didn't feel "right". I also got passed a few too many times. A couple of the people were blazing and would have passed me on my best day, but I feel like I should have been able to keep up with one or two of the others. But yesterday, I just didn't have that "zip" that I'm used to in this distance. I think that I can comfortably "blame" that on the Italy trip and the long distance-training I've been doing recently. My last three miles were pretty weak. I had a gel in my pocket but didn't take it because of the side stitch (maybe I should have taken it because of the stitch, but I couldn't force myself to put any solids - or semi-solids - in my stomach). And by the time the stitch went away, I was already into the fourth mile and at that point the calories and electrolytes weren't going to do me any good. Near the end of the run you come around a turn and all of a sudden there's the finish line. I sprinted the last couple hundred yards, which felt great - especially because people were lined up along the chute loudly cheering.
After I finished, I hung out around the finish line and cheered the rest of our group in. In addition to our group of 20+ racers, there was a lot of family and friends who showed up to cheer. It was fun watching everyone else finish. Everyone in our group did great. Once everyone was in, we collected all our stuff and went over to one of the boathouses on the river for a lunch organized by Reid, Pete and Quartie. We all got to tell our stories and catch up.
It's hard to compare triathlons and judge improvement across races. Race courses are all different and even condition changes make the same course run much faster or slower from year-to-year. I'm in considerably better shape this year, but my time at Philly yesterday was 11 seconds slower than NYC last year. The difference there was that the current in the Hudson was strong last year and my swim time was over six minutes faster. My bike split at NYC was five minutes slower and my transitions were each slower. My run last year was a minute faster. Even though the time was essentially the same, I can still feel a lot of improvement - I felt more comfortable on the swim and bike, I know what to expect from my body at all stages, my transitions are smoother and my recovery was much easier.
Finally, I forgot to mention that in Italy I noticed another injury that I assume came from my fall. One or two of my upper left ribs are bruised. It's fine about 95% of the time - but actions like sitting up from laying down hurt and sit-ups would be totally out of the question. It's a bit of a bummer, but I didn't think about it at all during the race yesterday and it hasn't affected my training so far. Again - I'm just plain thankful that it wasn't worse!
And now it's less than four weeks to the big day... no more racing, no more vacations, no more screwing around!
Bike - June 23
Time: 40 minutes
Average heart rate: 124
Philadelphia Insurance Olympic Distance Triathlon - June 24
Overall time: 2:22:29
Overall place: 113/1544
Age Group place: 20/172
Average heart rate: 150
Average speed: 21.7 mph
Average heart rate: 149
Average heart rate: 161
Approximate mile splits:
Conditions: Sunny and warm, beautiful day
Bike - June 25
Time: 30 minutes
Average heart rate: 109