Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pflugerville Race report

So on Sunday I raced. It was unexpected, I did not decide to race until Friday late. I figured worst case I would get to have a great brick workout since I have been working on speed lately.

I did not know what to expect from my body at the race. I have been just getting back into doing speed work after a 6 months hiatus because of Ironman training which is almost exclusively long endurance. I need to do a post about my new training philosophy soon but for now here is a race report for the Pflugerville Tri:

This race is an awesome beginner course. It was my second time doing this race. I did it a few years ago as my second ever triathlon and found it to be a great venue. This time I decided to race the Open wave instead of vie for an Age Group win. I like racing with the fast guys and the pros when I can because they push me faster than I normally would go.

The swim was perfect. It is only 500M so I can go all out the entire time. The open wave was small, kind of disappointing, but also less traffic. I quickly found a rhythm and fell into place behind a local triathlete named Todde with Richard, another pro, not far behind. I knew from previous races that I could swim with these guys any day of the week so I was able to draft Todde the entire swim. There were a couple of times that I lost site of his feet and panicked thinking that he had pulled ahead but I would lift my head up to site and realize that I had just drifted off line. Exiting the water the three of us were within milliseconds of each other. I exited the water 2nd and left transition 3rd. The other athletes in the wave were not even in contention with us so it would be a three man race all the way.

Once on the bike the three of us stayed close for about 2 or 3 miles, but Richard quickly opened a gap that neither I nor Todde could match and that was the last I would see of Richard until the run. I decided to test my legs in this race even if it meant disaster. The bike leg is only 14 miles so it is a perfect distance to go all out.
I have hired a coach recently and one of the things that we are working on is my muscle endurance so I figured by hammering it on the bike I would test the leg endurance to identify any weaknesses. After analyzing some previous races we determined that I am fast at short distances but have trouble keeping that fast pace for long periods. Some of this comes with time but can be trained specifically too. Anyway, I stayed close to Todde for a good 8 miles before he started to pull away (there is that muscle endurance limiter). Todde ended up with a bike leg only about 1 minute faster than me though. On the bike It took me about 8 miles to get my heart rate down to a manageable level. I think a lot of that was nerves. Usually on the bike there is someone that is a speed demon that catches me but this day it felt good to come off the bike in 3rd place uncontested. All I had to worry about was catching the guys in front of me.

Off on the run I went out pretty fast and ended up with wind cramps. I was redlining my heart rate within the first half mile. I eventually settled in, got my heart rate down, and just tried to chip away at the leaders. The run is a loop around the lake we swam in so you can see exactly where you are compared to the other competitors. I saw that Todde over took Richard in the first 1.5 miles and I checked my pacing figuring I was about 2 minutes back from Todde. I knew I would not catch him because at this distance he can easily run a sub 6 minute mile. I worked hard on the run to close the gap on Richard but ran out of real estate. I think if I had another mile I could have caught him though.  I came across the line in third place just over 2 minutes behind the leader, which is an eternity in a sprint like this one, and 1:30 behind Richard.

In the end there were 3 other age groupers that finished faster than me. They started 3 minutes behind in another wave but overall time was faster. So overall I was 6th. Not too shabby of a performance. A great confidence booster and I learned that I need more muscular endurance on the bike so that on the run I have more energy and can run a little faster at the end.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Unexpected race

So I am getting the chance to race tomorrow. It was totally unexpected. I know this guy who used to do some racing and we were talking about this local sprint that I have enjoyed doing in the past and turns out his girlfriend is one of the race directors. He totally hooked me up and got me into the race even though it was full. I am a little nervous because I don't know if my body is going to hold up to the intensity of a sprint yet. For so long I was training long distance and my body is just getting used to the intensity of fast workouts again. I keep telling myself that this is just a really great intense brick workout but I am always one to want to win races. I think what ever happens I will enjoy being in competition again and it will give me a perfect gauge of where my fitness is no matter what happens. I have revamped my training lately with the help of a coach and I am anxious to test out my fitness even though it has only been a few weeks.

Something else I am nervous about is that the last time I did a race of this length I wrecked my bike and bled all over the pavement (See previous posts from August last year). I thought that I had shook off those fears but I am feeling them again. Intense fast races like this you tend to take more risks to keep speed high. I hope I don't get skittish and back off, but I also hope I don't have a repeat of last year.

I will probably post more on my new training approach soon now that I have finalized it and I will also give a full race report too. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Last week I actually spent the morning as a spectator instead of an athlete and surprisingly I had a good time. The only other time I was at a triathlon and not racing was years ago when I was thinking of getting into triathlons and went to watch a sprint down in New Braunfels. At that one I had no idea what I was watching, but yesterday I learned a lot and not just about racing. I observed quite a bit of chaos from the race organizers that frankly scared me. Things that as a racer you take for granted.

Yesterday was the 20th year of the Cap Tex Tri in Austin. Its a good race. Probably the biggest in Austin (Longhorn 70.3 may have more participants). The race includes an Olympic, and a Sprint. In some years it attracts a lot of big names and it always fills to capacity with average the average Joe trying to complete his or her first triathlon.

Yesterday I went to the race with the goal of watching some of the pros and picking up some secrets that will help me win too. In the end I learned more about the spectators and race directors than anything but I did find a few things to work on in my own racing.

The first thing I noticed was cadence. On the swim, bike and run. All the fast athletes kept a high cadence in all disciplines the entire race. Next was that the pros suffer just as much as the back of the packers, they just do it at a higher speed. Yes, they are mortal. Also, there are no real secrets to transitioning faster once you get the basics. The real difference between the pros and the rest of us is that they do it faster. That's it. That is what I learned from watching the pros race. Maybe I was blind. Maybe I know everything already (highly unlikely) but I was surprised that I did not get more out of it.

What I learned more of was how much it takes to run a race and how much chaos goes on on race day that most of us athletes never see. Some of it scared me!

I was sitting at a corner watching the bike and some guy in a van, obviously lost, decides that he will not only ignore the barriers but will drive the wrong way on a one way street. As he crossed a barrier he stuck his nose right into the bike course and almost took out 3 of the race leaders. They actually had to swerve across the road to not get hit.
I also was surprised that even 45 minutes after the race started cones and barriers were still being placed to show the race route. Several different athletes almost made wrong turns because the course was not clearly marked.
Spectators, do you not realize where you are? Did your parents not teach you to look both ways before crossing the street? Over and over again I saw spectators ignore the volunteers, not look both ways, and cross a part of the course only to almost get run down by a bike or a runner. Several of the pros had run ins with spectators who were crossing the street. Oblivious to the fact that they were on the race course, which strikes me as funny because the reason the spectators were there was to Watch a Race! It took 20 minutes for the race director himself to show up and start putting in barriers. I wonder if this is something that the pros see all the time? By the time us average age groupers are on the course all the holes have been plugged and the sheer amount of bike or run traffic scares off people wanting to enter the course.

Triathlon is a great sport and I appreciate all the spectators that show up and cheer us on. It is really a hard sport to watch though. People stand in one spot trying to find their husband, dad, brother, wife, etc.. in a sea of people who are flying by at 20 MPH. If they are lucky enough to find that person the contact is only a couple of seconds and then he or she is gone again and may not be back for a long time, depending on the race length that could be hours. In some cases the course is an out and back so people see their loved ones for 1 or 2 minutes in transition and that is about it. Thanks to all and to my family whom have waited in the blazing humid heat and in the freezing cold just to see me in 5 second spurts. It means a lot to see a friendly face.

To sum up, the two most important things I learned are:
  1. I don't want to be a race director.
  2. I'd rather be racing.