Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rumpass in Bumpass: Combat, Hornets, and Rubble

Rumpass in Bumpass 2012

Myself and fellow team mate Derek Clark are sort of the Black Sheep of the team, for one very specific reason.  This weekend, while my team mates were at the State Championship Criterium, I traveled south-east to Bumpass, Virginia for the annual Rumpass in Bumpass triathlon.  It's about the only early season triathlon in the area, owing mostly to it's very warm water temperatures of the shallow Lake Anna.  For those unfamiliar with it, the race is an Olympic distance (or international distance) triathlon consisting of a 1.5k swim (0.93 miles), 40k bike (24.8 miles), and a 10k run (6.2 miles).  Well, that's what it is supposed to be.  In this case, the bike was shortened due to a last minute change in venue (5 days before the race!) to 23.2 miles.  This may sound like a good thing, but I was a little frustrated as I really want a "true" Olympic distance race to get a sense of my time so that I can have that as a base line for future races.  But I digress...this is going to be long enough without me getting off on a tangent!
Representing The Team!

Bumpass is about 4 hours from Morgantown (well, google maps said 4.5 but I did it in less than 4), and I had to travel alone.  Carly could not take the day off on Friday, and I couldn't travel the morning of the race because there's no way I could make it in time.  So, I headed off by myself after working a half day in the lab.

There's 1 portion of the tip that I've driven before on the way to the outer banks in North Carolina that is just a blast to drive- I believe it's Route 29.  It's super twisty and there's very little traffic- and with a 5 speed and AWD, I really enjoy it.

After this, the trip was pretty uneventful, except at the tail end when I sat in traffic for approximately 20 minutes for what appeared to be about 30 police cruisers trying to prevent a woman from jumping off a very high bridge.  I can't find a news story but that's certainly what it looked like.

I drove directly to the course and picked up my race number, t-shirt...and socks!  Cool.

I then changed into my running gear and did a survey of the run loop.  In the details for the race a couple of days earlier they had said that the course would be "on grass and gravel" and that "there would be only 1 main hill".  I was suspicious.  I followed a group of guys that looked about my age through the- very lumpy- field and through a gate in a fence to what appeared to be a gravel road.  There was a PRIVATE PROPERTY sign on this burly looking gate blocking our way.  But this had to be the course judging from the maps they gave us.  So, naturally, we jumped the gate and jogged down the road.  I gave them a minute to get in front of me, as they were all chatting up a storm, and I wanted to focus on the course.

The course
Well, it didn't take much focus to figure out that it was horrible.  First, there wasn't just 1 hill.  Indeed, I had skipped what they called the 1 major hill, and was now climbing what felt to me to be a substantial grade...and it wasn't the only one.  And you had to do the loop twice.  Secondly, and more importantly, it was loose, large, high-way size gravel/rocks.  They hurt my feet, made me feel like I was running on ball bearings, and I was slipping constantly.  It was not good.

I jogged back to the car, a little frustrated.  But I could hear my team mate Jeff's words in my mind "everyone else is going to have to do it, so might as well make the best of it".  I locked into that mentality, and I didn't give it another negative thought after that.

I grabbed my wetsuit from the car and headed down to the swim exit, suited up, and went for my first, quick, open water swim of the year in the- very surprisingly- warm water.  I felt pretty good, seriously flat, but not too fatigued.  My spirits lifted a lot as I got out- the sun was shinning, it was a nice venue, and I didn't feel too bad!

The Rubble-Trouble on the run (see what I did there?)
I drove the bike course, and then stopped at a local Italian place- Angela's Italian.  They have a great menu, but I was getting take out and was pretty hungry (it was 7:30 at this point) and just wanted to get to the hotel.  So I got a pizza, some garlic knots, and a salad.  All were excellent, but the garlic knots were some of the best I've ever had.  I recommend the place highly.

After eating, watching the last third of Gladiator, doing some reading (a great book, The snoring bird by Bernd Heinrich), and talking to Carly for a few minutes I was asleep by about 10:45.  The bed was aweful, but I did manage to stay asleep until 3:45.  Then it was fitful until 6am when I decided it was just time to get up.

I ate 2 pieces of bread with peanut butter, had 2 cups of decaff coffee with some chocolate milk, 1/3 a bar of 90% dark chocolate (secret weapon), and hit the road.

I drank a 1/2 bottle of Camelbak Elixir on the way over, love it, and I got to the site at 7:55.  Race time was 10:00 for me, I was in the first heat.  Plenty of time to get things in order.  I brought my new helmet provided by one of our title sponsors Pathfinder of WV and used it as I did a little last minute bike check and warm up.  The temperature was only 44 at this point, and I was glad I had thought to pack fleece pants and my wool vest.

I then racked my bike, went back to the car and grabbed my number, transition bag, and wallet.  I headed to the registration tent, got my timing chip, then headed down to the transition area.  Got all my stuff in order, and was back to the car by 8:40.

I again did a little running recon again as a warm up.  By now, there was a constant stream of cars.  The race was sold out- 800 people- and it was starting to feel like a festival.  There was music playing and people laughing and kids running around everywhere.  Exciting.

Hit the port-a-potties, again, and got back to my car, drank some water, ate half a Honey Stinger energy bar (my favorite, even better than the waffles) and took a moment to go through my plan.

I decided that the swim was going to be on the conservative side, and    then I would see what happened on the bike during the first loop and this would determine the rest of my race.  But above all I really wanted to make sure that I didn't over do it on any stage, as this early in the season I didn't need a de-moralizing experience, and I could care less what my finish place was for this race.  It was all about getting things executed correctly and building experience and fitness.  This wasn't a risk taking sort of race.  There was nothing on the line.

I grabbed my wicked new wetsuit, goggle, my required red swim cap, a Podium bottle filled with H2O, the rest of the Honey Stinger bar, and a package of Honey Stinger chews and headed for the water.  Once down there, it was a 5 minute walk, I took a swig of the bottle, ate half the package of chews, and suited up.

Did a brief 7-min warm up- in the now MUCH colder water (63 degrees over night dropped nearly 5 degrees!!!)- and got back to the start as the National Anthem was finishing.  The field was confused about the swim, but with my recon (and slight obsessive nature) I was already swimming out to the first buoy to get good position.  I actually had to yell to the field to come over!  It was an in water start, and we were a fair distance (50 yards) from shore.  I couldn't hear what the announcer was saying but just lined myself up about 20 ft from the best line, and put my game face on.  Kill, kill, kill.

The gun sounded, a little to our surprise, and we took off.  There was a lot of bumping, kicking, and jostling at first as usual.  I got swamped once, slammed my elbow into an unknown, but very hard, body part, and kicked some guy square in the face (I could feel his goggles).  This isn't uncommon, especially with my age group, in the first thirty seconds to maybe a minute...

...but after five minutes of constant struggle- ramming my hand into a guys foot, swimming OVER the top of a cris-crossing swimmer, etc. I was starting to get really irritated.  Screw this!  So I channeled my inner dolphin, and tried to get away.  It didn't work.  In fact, it back fired.  I went too hard, got a little too anaerobic, missed a breath, got swamped (someone takes a stroke next to you as you're about to breath and you swallow water), and actually panicked a little.  It didn't last, but it was enough to get me so out of rhythm, slipping back into my old bad habits.  I wasn't sighting well, and I was wasting a lot of energy.  I had a lot of thoughts during this time, usually I'm thinking very little during swimming in training or racing because it's so technical.  This is how I actually realized that I was doing something wrong.  Stop thinking about what a weakling you feel like, and get to it!  I focused on my technique and things started to turn around.

After another couple of minutes, I was around the final corner and it was a straight shot all the way back to the exit.  I FINALLY settled into a pace that felt comfortable, got away from some guy in a red-shouldered wetsuit whose single purpose was to drive me off course, and got a glance at my watch.  13 minutes.  THIRTEEN MINUTES!  Usually all of what I just described last for three!

The rest of the swim was typical- if not a little slow, but I picked it up again in the final couple minutes.  I hit the steps they built coming out of the water glad that it was over and I could get away from all these guys determined to drown me.  As I exited and crossed the mat my watch said 25:45.  That was 107th fastest- not bad, top 20%, but I had hoped to do better.  I always want to do better in the swim.  Everyone was grumbling about the course being long, I have no way of knowing, and if so I'm ok with the time, I guess, given my swimming this year- not great, but I'm getting better.

I just don't get it though.  I can swim 10+ 100m repeats in the pool (yes, different) in 1:20 or less, with 20 seconds rest.  I also did a 1000 yards several weeks ago in 15:XX minutes.  But in a race, with a wetsuit, I can't manage to average better than 1:40?  It makes no sense.  I should be doing 1:30/100 pace: and I need to get to the bottom of why I'm not.  Maybe it was just the race course being long, but maybe not.  I'm going to assume the latter and just work harder.


It's a long run up to transition through a brush-cut field.  I had a little bit of dizziness that comes from being horizontal and having all your blood in the upper half of your body, and then instantly transitioning to vertical and asking your body to do all it's work with your lower half.  But it passed quickly.  In transition, I counted the racks to my bike.  1...2...3...all the way to 16.  Cut into the rack, my wetsuit was already half off, ripped it off the rest of the way, and threw down my goggles.  I grabbed my race belt, snapped it on, then my helmet.  No one else on my rack had left yet.  Sweet.

The Causeway.  The flattest and most beautiful portion of the course.

Snatched my bike and was off running towards the exit.  The exit was a little rocky, but I hardly remember anything else about it.  When my feet hit the pavement, I tried a running cyclocross mount.  Fail.  Almost castrated myself.  As I did this, another racer went by me.  I took a few more running steps and nailed the mount on the 2nd attempt.  I'll have to practice that again I guess.  T1 time was 1:26, good enough for 17th fastest overall.

Had a little (typical) trouble getting my feet in my shoes (they're already on my bike, rubber-banded in place) but was quickly in pursuit of those ahead of me.

I had gone no more than a couple miles when, crossing a small bridge, I could see a big swarm of insects in front of me.  As I passed my first competitor, we went through the flying bugs.  They pinged off my aero helmet and my arms- with surprising force!  Gross!  No matter, just keep going.

About ten or twenty seconds after that- OUCH! WHAT THE..?!?!?  I was being stung!

I guess it was a swarm of wasps, because there were two of them still on my left quad and they were stinging the crap out of me!  I squashed them and had some choice words before settling back into the aerobars.

I was surprised how many guys I was catching, but even more surprised how few were catching me.  I was only passed by 1 guy by mile 7.  Cycling is not my strong suit, or I should say it's a weakness, and I have worked hard to remedy this.  At mile 10 I realized I hadn't reset my torque on my power meter since I rode it on the trainer, and then mid race, attempted to reset it.  I'm not sure it worked, and I think I might have messed up my numbers even worse. GRRR!!!  Lesson for next time.

The course is nice, with a really awesome section where you cross a causeway.  After this there is a couple of corners, one that is probably a 120 degree turn, promptly followed by the worst hill on course.  It wasn't bad at all- last no more than a minute or two- but in combination with the corner I had to grind a little harder than I like to in a TT.  Still, the entire race I never came out of the 53t big ring.  At 15minutes I took my first Honey Stinger gel.

After the first loop, I was sitting in a positive place compared with my place upon exiting the swim- I had passed more than I had been passed.

Amazing little river and bridge I crossed while driving back to the hotel

Things then got interesting.  The second loop was the same...but now had probably 300 or 400 people on it.  It was a constant stream of people to pass.  A double edged sword- great motivation, but they tend to swerve around, get in my way, and do silly things to slow me down.  Especially those guys/gals who think that they need to pass a person that is a solid 30 feet in front of them so pull out to the left...and I'm flying up behind them, screaming "LEFT, LEFT!" and they don't move.  I didn't break the yellow line rule...but it came close a couple times.

The course was really nice.  Constantly rolling, except for the causeway, it's not boring, and there was 0 traffic.  The only notable hill I already discussed, although there were a couple longer grades that I had to fight with myself to hold back on and not let my watts go flying up into the 300's and 400's.

Interesting note, I did struggle with my power.  Still trying to get used to this.  The hardest thing for me was not maintaining power going up hills or into headwinds (which there was substantial out there on the course), but on slight downs or flat.  My force would slack off and drop into the high 100's, not low to mid 200's where I wanted.  I'm learning.

50 minutes in I took my second gel, this time with caffeine, and was almost through my (only) Podium bottle filled with electrolyte drink.  Things were looking good.  I was nearly done!

Coming into the finish of the bike (same as the start), I slipped out of my shoes and dismounted on one side of my bike, riding it down the grade like a scooter for probably 100 yards.  This got me a lot of unnecessary cheering, and some laughs.  I had not intended it to be funny, but I bet I looked ridiculous standing on one pedal going 23mph in my hideous 1 piece triathlon suit, and vulgar looking aero helmet.  If I hadn't been racing, I probably would have been embarrassed.  But at the time I didn't have time to think about it.

1:03 total bike time, 23.12 miles, for about a 22mph average.  Not stellar, but nothing to scoff at.  87th fastest- top 6%!

Finishers Medal.  Triathletes are whiny, so they give us
medals just for finishing.
This part of the transition area I do remember.  There's a steep little ditch you had to run down to the mats, and it was nearly impossible on my bike legs.  My bike bounced along next to me and I nearly dropped it at one point due to the roughness of the field.

Racked my bike and in an instant, had my shoes on in less than 5 seconds, grabbed my Garmin 305, a quick swig of another bottle I had sitting there, and took off.  No hat, no glasses.  Simplicity is the key to being fast.

Ran down and out the transition and around the outside across the mat.  After no more than 30 seconds I knew something was wrong.  I felt like I had a water balloon in my stomach/digest tract.  I was sloshing but it was more than that.  It was aweful- I usually don't suffer from digestive distress and I get it now.  So for the first mile I suffered with classic digest problems- cramps that almost bent me over being the worst of it.  I don't know the cause, but I think I probably didn't have to drink as much as I did since the temperature was low.  Maybe the dark chocolate?  Everything else I'm used to eating...still analyzing what it could have been.

I hardly noticed the first hill, gravel, or grass.  I was focused solely on my digestive problems, my foot turn over, and how much my glutes, hams, and quads were hurting.  By 2 miles I was at 13:33.  Hell yes.  I'm crushing it.  After the 2nd 180 degree turn, and the 2nd turn around stop-go, it became clear to me, again, that no PR was being set today...

By mile 3 the digest problems had passed, I had done an entire loop, and I was able to see all the guys in front of me.  And it didn't seem like that many (there were others that started in heats behind me, but I figured the majority would be those guys in front of me as the next fastest age group had started right behind me, only 4 minutes, so they would have caught me by then).  I counted 37.  Wow.  I could be top 5%!

This put a quicker pace in my run...for about a half mile.  THEN I noticed the hill on the second lap.  Gravel and about 2-3 minutes long, I was sucking the black hole when I got to the top.  I still had had nothing to eat or drink yet.  I couldn't risk the digestive distress again.  But I was starting to slow down.  I glanced at my GPS and it said I was only doing a 7:37 pace.  I have to eat!

Scenery on the Run Course (This is the morning of)

So I took a gel, and as always, it's amazing how fast my body (or anyones) re-acts.  Within another minute or two I was back in it.  I was not thirsty, and so didn't drink anything but a sip at the aid station just to get the Gel down better.  I pushed on but it was no longer my will or energy systems that were failing, my legs were just starting to burn BAD at every knoll or hill.  With 1 mile to go I was passed for the final time.  I tried to hang tough but was hurting.

As I rounded the bend and saw the big clock I realized that I HAD slowed down pretty substantially there in the middle at some point.  I didn't even realize it.  But I could break 42 minutes!  I picked it up and crossed with a run time of 41:59.  This was the 42nd fastest run, almost top 5%.  Very happy with that given all the other factors, but mainly the essentially off-road rough trail run!

Total time was 2:13:13.  Finish place was 56th.  I would learn later that this was good enough to be almost top 10% of men.

As I crossed the line, the announcer pronouncing my name wrong, happy with the day, and happy with the day being over, the race director was passing and stopped to shake some hands.  I stopped and talked to him.  I was honest- the run was bad.  But I was glad that they figured out a way to have the race since they had to move the venue (out of their control).  And I told him how nice the bike course was.  I forgot to mention the bees!

The finish line

I wandered over to my car, being all alone I was ready to just get out of there.  But I changed by the car, went and got my bike and other junk, and loaded the car as people were still coming in off the bike.  I then jogged/walked back down to the water to get my shoes and bottle I had stashed in the woods before the swim.  I stood in the water for a little while to let my legs get some healing cold-water treatment.  I reflected on the day.

Although initially I thought, given the 209 watt average, thought I'd maybe be able to do between 220-225, that I probably didn't push hard enough on the bike, in retrospect, I think I did.  Not to claim it's wrong like is so typical of so many others, but I tried to reset the torque mid-race after realizing I hadn't, and who knows what I did to skew it negatively.  Right or wrong, 22mph isn't a PR, but it's not at all shabby for April!  IT'S ONLY APRIL!  And no way my legs were 100% from the road race last week.

Next the swim was...what it was.  That's it.  Next time I'll take what I learned and use it.  Enough dwelling on the what could have been.  Time to work on it.

The run was tough.  The topography wasn't extremely tough, but the terrain was.  Probably a 9/10 in terms of difficulty in that regard.  I've done multiple trail runs that were much easier on my feet.  2 years ago I did the Coopers Rock stump jump in 42, almost 43 minutes.  It was a brutal course in terms of hills, but this was much much worse terrain.  Much.

I marched back to the car, dropped off my stuff, waited in line at the food tent for about 20minutes, got an average turkey wrap, some really good black bean and corn salad, and a chocolate cookie (all free for racers) and sat by myself for 20 minutes.  I started to miss Carly at this point, and honestly my team mates too.  It's not nearly as much fun racing alone.

I waited for the results, debated staying for the award, but left.  I saw that I had finished 8th in my age group and there was "no reason to stay" (even though I counted 5x that I was 6th on the overall results- not sure what happened, either way I'm ok with top ten in an age category of 48).  I was super tired and not at all excited for the 4 hour drive home.

Before leaving, however, I also learned that, for the first time since I can remember at a big race, I beat the first place woman.  Usually I get beat by the first couple top women/elites.  It was close- only 1:20 difference.  Man those woman are fast!  Make me feel bad about does the couple guys in their late 40's that beat me.  Monsters.

Overall a pretty stacked field really.  I was surprised how fast my age group was; more surprised how fast everyone was- nearly 200 people within the 2:30 mark (although the bike was short).  I guess because it's early in the season and close to some big cities, it attracts a lot of "big timers".  But that's what I want.

Closing thoughts.  I had fun.  I had enough fun to go back.  If they change the run course.  If not, I'm not sure.  It was pretty bad- risk injury bad.  The drive is relatively easy (except for the 15 miles of 95 where on the way back it took 45 minutes) and the bike course is beautiful.  I need to work on a couple things.  Swimming.  I need to get faster; which means improving my SKILL more than my fitness.  And for this I'm going to need outside help, and I know people who can help.  Also, I need to work on pacing- which I don't work on at all, so even a little work (maybe 2 workouts between now and Columbia Triathlon in May) will help a lot I think.  All in all, a good early season experience.

And I am SO SO SO tired today.  And getting more and more sore by the hour.  Monday work day is going to be rough.  6 days from now, on Saturday: Next ABRA pain fest: Greene County Road race.

Here's the numbers:


Swim:  Distance: 1500m (unofficial- racers claim long?) Time: 25:52  100m pace: 1:43

Bike: Distance: 23.12 (unofficial measured, powertap CPU)  Time: 1:03:12  Avg. Power: 209 watts  Avg. Speed: 22.1mph  Elevation Gain: Unknown (unofficial, map my ride user 381, another says 840- guessing it's close to 840 than 381)

Run:  Distance: 6.1 (unofficial measured- Garmin 305) Time: 41:59  Pace: 6:57  Elevation gain: 1037(!)

Age Group Information:
8th of 49, 25-29 year old men.  13th best swim (27%); 5th best T1 (10%); 13th best bike (27%); 3rd best T2 (6%); 9th best run (18%)

If I extrapolate out the bike course to make it regulation length I would have done 2:18:08, which is faster than my goal time of last year, and closing in on my goal time (2:15) for this year (which I may not have a chance to try and break given all the rest of the courses are either long or hilly).  Putting it in that light, I guess it really was a good race.

See? I've already forgot about how miserable I was.