Wednesday, August 8, 2012

For the Win: The Book Worm Sprint Triathlon

The Transition Zone after the Race

Couple of weeks ago I decided that I had been doing a lot of cycling racing and wanted to go do something different.  I had had a tough race at the ABRA mapletown race, coming in 13th out of a very small field of only about 25 riders.  It wasn't a course that favored me and I think I was still fatigued from Tour of the Valley the weekend before.  I was feeling a little discouraged, as it dawned on me that USAT Nationals was coming, and it was coming quick.  I started looking at various sport calendars to see what was out there that would get me back on track and sharpen my fitness and skills for nationals.

I found the Book Worm Triathlon in Scottdale, PA. Scottdale is a pretty nice little town only about 50 minutes from Morgantown, so the location was good.  And it was only $40 even if you signed up day of the event (plus it went to the library).  And it was a sprint triathlon, with a pool swim (300 yards), a 12 mile bike, and a 5k run. I debated doing it as I knew I was still feeling the effects of my constant cycling racing with my team.  But the course didn't look too demanding, and the timing was great so I decided I'd do it.

After confirming with the race director that I could sign up day of (who was very courteous and seemed to know what he was doing- said he was a triathlete himself) I set off early saturday morning for Scottdale.

I got there plenty early after getting up at 5am and eating a bagel.  I didn't feel too swell, I will admit.  I was tired.  But my legs didn't feel sore, just general fatigue.  I hadn't backed off on training the week before so it's not surprising that I was feeling a little bit tired.

Upon showing up I immediately ran into fellow area triathlete Bill Ulmer.  I know Bill as he sold me my very first set of aero wheels.  I still use the front, and indeed used it in this race.  We chatted a bit and he told me I had a good shot at winning the race, as he knew everyone there and there wasn't really anyone to challenge me.  Now, that made me feel good, but Bill himself is pretty fast, and not being familiar with who was on the race list, I was still not convinced.

I signed up, and got my body marking.  I gathered my things and headed around the back side of the library to the transition area.  If I have 1 complaint about the race, this is it: no bike racks.  I had to lay my bike on the ground on top of my transition bag.  Bummer.  I also was way way in the back around a corner almost in the parking lot, as far as you could be from the pool exit.  I knew that probably didn't matter, and just went about setting up my area like I always do.

I got a look at the competition, and it was the usual mix of what appeared to be fast, average, and beginner triathletes.  I actually was surprised being such a small race how many really nice bikes there were...but of course there were also some full suspension walmart mountain bikes as well.  In little races (approx. 50 people) like this you always get a good mix.

I set up pretty quickly, and sat and waited for the pre-race briefing.  Being a pool swim, there were heats and so I didn't start until 8am.  The first wave went off at 7:30; I had lots of time to get myself warmed up.

After the meeting, which was pretty standard, I dropped extra stuff off at the car with Carly, and I did a 15 minute jog/run warm up.  I got back to the pool (right next to the library and the transition area) sweaty and thirsty.  Ugh.  I drank some camelbak elixir and had my final honey stinger gel (with caffiene).

The pool area was super hot, and I knew that meant this was going to be a warm pool.  No big deal, the swim was really short I'd be out in a flash anyways- probably a good thing actually as it'd help me warm up more for the bike.

I was in the last lane, with a 30 something guy, and a 13 year old kid.  We had to swim 4 people to lane, which was actually more like 2 people to a normal lane because they took out 1/2 the lane lines.  It looked a little chaotic, but seemed to be working fine.  But because I had signed up day of, I only had 3 people in my lane.

I got to do a full lap before I had to start, which was good.  I felt really great in the water, so maybe my day was going to go well!

At the whistle, I took off like a rocket.  I mean, I went off at 50m pace (probably 32 second pace).  I figured I just wanted to get away from the others in my lane.

Thing was, the 13 year old stuck with me for the whole first 50!  I was surprised.  It made me smile; he was crushing it!

But after another lap he was already falling off.  My pace also, of course, slacked a bit as I can't hold 34-35seconds for more than a 100-150.  I ended up pulling myself out of the pool in just smidge under 4:00.  Not stellar, but totally respectable.

I was the first one out in my heat, and although we can't be sure, I think I also had the fastest swim overall.  We had tried to time the first heat swimmers but missed the first guy exiting the water somehow.  There were no splits in the results so not sure.  It doesn't really matter, but I had wanted to have the fastest splits across the board.

I ran down the deck (carefully) and out the door to the transition area.  They had carpet down on the pavement leading to the transition, very professional.  I was impressed.  I quickly grabbed the roo' and took off back out of the transition area.  I lept onto my bike at the mount line (also a professional little detail) and took off.

The bike course had been on map my ride, so I knew approximately what I was up against.  I thought.

There were lots of volunteers on course to send me the right direction.  The course starts in town and heads out away from it in a loop that ends the same way it starts.  There is a decent climb in the beginning, but it's not until you get out of town a bit that the pitches really start to come.  The profile said that it was basically up on the way out and down on the way back.

 But I had misread the map my ride...and it wasn't 328ft of eleveation was 328 meters!  Big difference.  This course was much much hillier than I thought.  A couple times I was in 1st gear, and 1 time I even got out of the saddle because I was only going about 10mph.

At 15minutes in I passed some faster looking riders heading back that were from the first heat.  That helped me focus not on the toughness of the course but on being smooth and getting back as quickly as I could, keeping my eye on the win.

The course is really nice, all through farm country and on really quiet roads.  But like I said it's tough!

And, a nice surprise to me again, the course ended up being almost 14 miles- 13.70 miles.  So at 11 miles I was figuring I was already almost back again, but it ended up being almost another 10 minutes! Which wasn't that big a deal, but I'm glad it wasn't much further because I only had 1 small bottle of elixir and it was just about gone.

I got back in 39 minutes, 226 watts average, 20.6mph average.  That's pretty damn good for me.  I was psyched to see my power numbers that high, as my watts have been disappointingly low as of late.  I had major drag feeling on the bike, same thing I've been feeling for the last couple weeks on the bike.  Still trying to figure it out!!!  So frustrating!

Got back and ran into transition, and Carly was yelling at me to hurry.  Gee, thanks Carly :).  She had timed the first few guys, and Bill, who was the first back in heat 1.  She told me that my bike time was about a minute faster than his, plus with transition and my swim I was almost 2 minutes in front already.  I was pretty confident at this stage that I could win, but I was nervous about how the run would go.  I haven't been running nearly enough, like 6-12 miles a week, and I didn't know if maybe there was a super fast runner in the group that could knock out my lead and the win.

I took off out of transition, and realized I had forgot my Garmin!  I had to go back.  I probably lost 30 seconds.  Oh well, I wouldn't do it in a big race, but I wanted it for this course so I could have the data.

The course is pretty much perfectly flat, except for a very short downhill going out, and a short steep up hill on the way back.  I motored down the side streets and across the main road to the rail trail the majority of the 5k of the run was on.

The course goes out to the end of this rail trail, turns around and comes back, takes a detour right about half way back, goes out to a main road and turns right again.  Then you run out that way about a half mile, turn around and come back.  At the fork you turn back the way you came and finish along the route you ran out, except at the very end (last 500m or so) you run straight up a small hill and into a nice little park.

At the first turn I was averaging just over a 6 minute mile.  That was pretty good, but I was struggling to keep my head in the game with no one around me and no one to try and chase down, and no one chasing behind.  I don't have a lot of experience being on the front, and I often find that I start to play mind games.  It's easy to sit here and say that I'm just being silly and I need to harden up and suck it up, etc., but when you're racing you're not the same.

So by the water station at the fork I had started to slow, and the middle mile dropped down to about 6:35.  The next part of the course was a little confusing, but pretty straight forward once I saw the cones leading off into the distance.  The only thing that was surprising on course was at the turn around there was no one telling you to turn around.

The last mile seemed to drag along, but I glanced at my watch and saw that I could potentially break an hour for my transition, bike, and run time total.  That got me going again, and I ended up doing a 6:20 mile for the last mile.

I crossed the line pretty unceremoniously, Carly screaming for me like usual.  I had no idea where I placed, but I saw my time was about 1:05.  I figured with my solid swim, good bike, and a decent run, I should have clinched the win...

I walked over to a pavilion where they had some water and some food...and some really delicious fruit!  Peaches, plums, was all so good!  What a perfect post-race treat!  I had a couple peaches and a plum, and then we walked back to the library and the car.

I gathered up my stuff from transition, and loaded it into the car, changed my clothes and hammered a bottle of elixir, and some whey protein.  I caught the RD and told him that the race was great and that I was impressed with how many volunteers they had.  He said that they got 12 unexpected ones that morning, and he was very happy with how things went.

We then headed back over to the little park for the awards.  The awards were posted up.  I meanered over and as I got close I heard some murmuring, and I got a little nervous.  I looked at the results...I was 3rd.

At first I just stared at the results not really knowing what to think.  But Carly snapped me out of it with "that's impossible- you were two minutes ahead coming back to T2!!!".   But we just walked away for a second and Carly was pretty mad.  I didn't really know what to think; maybe they did beat me, I didn't know who the 2nd place guy was but Bill was in first.  I knew he wasn't slow.  I was surprised though.

But then logic kicked in and I realized that there was probably a mistake, and I asked a racer standing looking at the results if there had been any problems, and he told me that Bill and the 2nd place racer hadn't run the whole course (unintentionally, there was some confusion I guess)! it makes sense.

Carly then told me she heard Bill talking to a volunteer saying he had turned around because he got confused and so didn't run the whole course.  He's an honest guy, so I was sure he had told the RD.  So then I went back to the results again.

I noticed there was a guy sitting there that looked about the age of the 2nd place guy, 21 years old, so I went over to talk to him.  I asked him if he was the 2nd place guy and he said yes.  I asked him what happened, and he basically said the same thing we already knew.  I told him that was too bad, because he really would have done very well (probably 4th or 5th overall).  But, and I didn't say this, it's always the racers responsibility to know the course; ALWAYS.  I asked him if he wanted to go talk to the RD with me or not, and he declined.

So I went to find the RD.  He was busy carrying some boxes and looked busy but I tried to walk with him and talk to him.

But he already knew what had happened and he told me he was going to have to DQ (disqualify) those first two guys- Bill and the young guy.  Said that Bill asked to be DQ'd, because he hadn't done the whole thing.  Stand up guy.

This made me feel better, but until the RD actually called my name I was a little nervous I wouldn't get the win.

But he did.  And I did.  He called my name and Carly was beaming, and he announced my time and made some kind of comment like "and on this course that is really fast!" or something like that, and in the crowd I heard "oohhh" and "wow" and they all clapped.  I was pretty proud at that moment.

With that we left because we wanted to get home to Gus.  All in all, a good day, at a really nice little race.  It was only their first year, so I was very impressed.  I will likely be back next year, schedule allowing!

Total Time was 1:04:54