Monday, June 08, 2009
Bonelli Olympic Distance Triathlon
My first Southern California race is in the books. It went really well and even more importantly, I had fun!
I finished in 2:22:29, which was good enough for 27th overall (not counting relay teams) and 6th in a very competitive age group. My swim (24:24) was pretty good, my bike (1:12) was fine, but a little slower than I'd hoped even though it is a tough course and my run (42:13) was great for me, I think it was my triathlon 10K PR. But there are some fast f-ers out here, even in a "small, local" race like Bonelli and a few dudes just blazed past me during what was a fast run for me.
It was a great day for racing - comfortably cool and overcast in the morning, with the clouds mostly burning off for the run, but it never got too hot. The course is fair, even if the bike is a bit hilly to really fly. The race organizers did a good job getting everything together and getting started close to on time. The swim course was a little confusing from shore because it was hard to see which buoys were "ours" but I was able to just follow the red swim caps and didn't have any problems. The bike and run courses were clearly marked. All in all, a good, well-run race.
The official photos for the bike and run are posted, but I can't "grab" them to put them on the blog. Instead, you can see bike photos here, here, here and here and run photos here and here. Unfortunately, the guy just missed me coming into the finish.
This was my first Olympic distance triathlon in about two years. I've obviously done a ton of training in that time and my fair share of racing, but nothing that requires the kind of high heart rate constant exertion that I was putting out yesterday. Other than a few visits to the track before Boston and the Griffith Park Brick, I haven't really done any speed work in any of the sports. Racing fast like that is a different experience than the Ironman or marathon, but it was fun and I'll hopefully be back for some more Olympic distance races later this season.
OK... on to the report:
After a pretty restless night's sleep, I was up before my alarm, which gave me plenty of time to eat breakfast (bagel with peanut butter and jelly and half an apple), walk Charlie and get my stuff together before shoving off right before 6AM. It was an easy, quick drive out to San Dimas and I was parked and in line to check in before 7. Check-in was a little bit of a cluster-f* right then because everyone got there at the same time, but the race director announced that the start would be pushed back about 10 minutes to account for the delay. I got to transition and picked my spot. I noticed that Rudy Garcia-Tolson, CAF spokesperson and paralympian extraordinaire, was setting up right next to me. It was great to get the chance to talk to him for a few minutes. He's now on his way to NYC for the CAF Gala, which was such a blast last year, but which we can't attend this year. I set up my transition area and went for a short warm-up run and then, somehow, the director was announcing 10 minutes until the start. I sucked down a gel, got into my wetsuit and hustled down to the beach.
I had a good swim. I was confident and relaxed from the start. My wave of about 80 athletes was the first into the water. There was a little kicking and contact for the first couple hundred yards, but then it pretty much cleared out and it was smooth swimming. My stroke and breathing were under control and even though I knew I was pushing it, I was swimming at a pace I could sustain. I struggled to find a good draft and ended up swimming mostly on my own, which surely cost me a little time and energy. The water was warm - maybe even a bit too warm for my full wetsuit - and felt pretty clean. It was also totally calm. It was difficult to find the buoys while sighting, but the course wasn't much of an issue because I was able to follow the red swim caps ahead of me. As I was nearing shore, I could see a few guys getting out. I'm pleased with my time - 24:24 (or about 1:29/100 yards), but it was my relative weakness compared to the field. It was a good, comfortable swim and I came out of the water ready to get on the bike, so I definitely won't complain!
It was a good, relatively quick transition. My heart rate was racing as I ran up the beach to the transition area and it took me a little while on the bike to recover from that, but I got through T1 without a hitch. I was slowed down a little because my feet were filthy, covered in sand and small rocks and I was a little worried about blistering. I took an extra few seconds to wash them off. I wore my new aero helmet (LAS Crono) for the first time in a race and I was a little worried about getting it on quickly, but it slid right on, no problem at all.
Bike: Based on my usual pacing, the faster work I've been doing in Griffith Park, and my time at Philly in July 2007 (1:08), I was hoping for a 1:08 or 1:09 bike split. I'd never seen the course before, but knew (thanks mostly to Cat), that it was three loops, with some hills, one bumpy section and a couple fast descents. The bike starts with a steep, short climb out of T1 (sort of like at NYC) and then another less-steep climb to the main part o the course. When I got on the bike I could only see three people ahead of me; the first two I passed pretty quickly, then third was maintaining his lead or even pulling away a bit. That guy rode just ahead of me pretty much the entire ride (except one brief period when I was ahead of him), until the last two miles when he pulled away and finished a minute or so ahead of me. Cat's description of the bike course was right on, except I guess I didn't really appreciate the hills she described. They were tougher and longer than I expected, especially by the third loop. There are a couple fast (40+ mph) descents, which a great on each loop. The first loop was wide open and we were the only people on the course. The second and third loops were significantly more crowded, with people from later waves and the racers from the sprint distance all out there. Thankfully, the bike lanes were plenty wide enough to accommodate. Other than the one guy, I never saw anyone else ahead of us and it wasn't until about mile 16 that I got passed by anyone else. Around then, I got passed by two guys who shot past in an instant. My aero helmet was comfortable and I think I wore it well, with the fairing flat against my back. One of the official photos (the 3rd link) shows a side angle, and the helmet looks A-OK! In the end, I'm happy with my 1:12. Especially now that I've seen the overall results and realize that a 1:08 would have put me in the top ten the overall bike splits!
I pulled into T2 feeling pretty good and ready to run. I put on socks for the run, which I'd been debating.
I started the run feeling good. I had been a little concerned about racing without any taper or days off and the day after a long, hard brick. I was curious to see how my legs would hold up, especially on the run. But I started off feeling strong. My heart rate was through the roof, but I hoped that once I settled in a bit, it would come down. Pretty soon into the run I passed the guy that I'd been riding with on the bike. There are no mile markers on the run. That's tough! I felt like I was running well and hard, but I wasn't passing anyone and I had no idea what my pace was. About 15 minutes in, I got passed by a guy who I know from the Griffith Park workouts. He's really fast and I knew there was no point in trying to keep up with him. Then between miles 4 and 5 (I think) I got passed by a few more guys. I tried to keep up with one of them, but just didn't have it in me. The run course is nice - probably 2/3 roads and 1/3 dirt trails. There are some nice, shady sections, including one where the trees reach over the trail and create a bit of a tunnel. There was one stretch without any shade at all, which got pretty hot. It's a little bit rolling, but only a couple real hills to climb. With a mile to go (the one mile marker on the course), I looked back and couldn't see anyone close. I decided that no one else would pass me. I looked at my watch (34:40) and started for home. My legs were really heavy, but I steamed through and finished that last mile in about 6:30. Wow.
After I finished, I found a few people who I've met at recent LA Tri Club events and talked with them, re-hashing the race. I also found Cat and Jeff, which was fun. It seemed like everyone was happy with their race. When I went back to transition to gather my stuff, I ran into an challenged athlete, Brandon Erickson, who lost his right arm in Iraq in 2003. It was nice to talk to him as well! After loading my car, I watched the awards ceremony before driving home.
Bonelli will likely have been my only race before Canada. I won't be racing in a half Ironman so I wanted to get at least one race experience in. This wasn't my fastest Olympic*, but I think it was my best overall performance. I was worried about "heavy" legs from my training, and maybe I would have gained a couple minutes (and spots), but it's tough to consider.
If you've made it this far, thank you! That took almost as long to write/read as it was to race! A few other short notes:
Friday - Friday afternoon, I went out to Malibu to volunteer at the Seven Arrows Elementary School's 6th Grade Triathlon. It was a blast! At that school, all sixth graders (all 13 of them) are required to do the triathlon at the end of the school year. It's a short swim in a pool, a 2 mile bike ride along the beach and a 1.5 mile run up a long hill to the school, where all the students are waiting to cheer on the finishers. I got paired up with Isaac, who was a crack-up. Hopefully they'll email some pictures that I'll post.
Saturday - Saturday was another early morning to meet with a group to ride PCH and some of the canyons. It was a great ride, with a tough, long climb up Yerba Buena and a screaming descent back to the PCH. Funny thing - during the climb up Yerba Buena, we passed the entrance to Gindling Hilltop Camp, where I went to camp for a couple summers around 5th/6th grade. Riding by brought back some funny memories.
p.s. Steve - if you're reading, I saw your questions the other day in the comments and will respond in the next day or two!
*I did NYC in 2006 11 seconds faster and Philly in the exact same time as Bonelli, but the NYC swim was a lot faster because of the current in the Hudson and the Philly bike course was a considerably faster course.
Swim - June 5
Distance: 3,062 yards (2,800 meters)
Brick - June 6
Bike course: PCH, Yerba Buena, Mulholland, PCH
Run course: San Vicente
Conditions: Overcast, then sun, 50s and 60s
Brick - June 6
Total Time: 4:55
Distance: 73.1 miles
Average heart rate: 122
Bike Course: Santa Monica start, PCH to Yerba Buena, other canyon roads, back to PCH then Santa Monica, extra loop on Amalfi Drive
Transition Time: 3:30
Distance: 2 miles
Time: 16 minutes
Average heart rate: 145
Run course: San Vicente grassy median
Conditions: Early (6:30am) start, a bit cloudy and low 60's to start, but burned off and got into high 60's and sunny by end
Bonelli Olympic Distance Triathlon - June 7
Overall time: 2:22:29
Overall place: 27/289 (not counting relays)
Age Group place: 6/36
Rank: 47 (including relays and DNFs)
Average heart rate: 143
Rank: 29 (including relays and DNFs)
Average speed: 20.5 mph
Average heart rate: 144
Rank: 33 (including relays and DNFs)
Average heart rate: 162
Conditions: Overcast in the morning, then mostly sunny and comfortably warm