Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lessons learned

My first on-road tri today. Me and a bunch of friends signed up and participated in the Downtown Columbia Tri. For many of us, it was our first 'real' triathlon. Without a doubt, all of us learned a heck of a lot!

This is actually a great course. The pool at Carolina is very nice. 10 lanes in the 50 meter pool. It made for perhaps the best introduction to a pool swim triathlon possible. Since the swim was 500 meters, you swam each lane one time. No doubling up in the lane which gave plenty of room to pass (or be passed!).

The swim was a complete eye-opener. Most of my friends agreed with me that the swim was a very hard event. It's going to take some time to get used to that. One thing that was nice was the way the race was started. One at a time, swimmers are released to do their swim. A five second gap between each swimmer. Being 172nd in the line, I had about 20 minutes to hang out before my chance to swim.

When it was my chance, I dove in and went about as hard as I could. What a fool! I did great for the first 50 meters, even passed the girl who went out in front of me. About half way down the 2nd lap, I swallowed a bunch of water and had to breast stroke for a couple strokes. By the end of lap 2, she re-passed me.

It wasn't until I was well into lap 3 that I started to settle down a little. I was too worried about going fast, and not worried enough about having good form. Had I slowed down just a little, I bet my time would have been better. My breathing was all messed up, I don't think I was using my core correctly and I'm certain I wasn't getting the appropriate amount of rotation. I was a mess.

My results showed it. I was ranked 141 out of 196 with a time of 11m58s for the swim plus about a 150m run to the transition area. The timing pad was not at the exit to the pool, it was at the entrance to the transition area. Not a problem, but it made it difficult to get an actual swim time.

However, since I was using my super cool new Garmin 910XT, I hit the lap button as I got out of the pool. It shows my actual 500m swim time as 11m23s. That means it took me about 25 seconds to jog that distance to the actual timing pad.

When I arrived at the transition, I did decide to wear socks for the ride (and thus the run as well). I didn't anticipate how tired I would be after the swim, so it took me quite a bit of time to get the socks on, and then the shoes. I lost my balance a couple of times before I started to slow down a bit and get squared away. I popped a gu packet, on with the glasses and helmet and I was heading out towards the bike course, and another timing pad to get my transition split.

Turns out that was a pretty slow transition at 1m43s. The fastest guys were doing it in around 30 seconds. Probably the average guy was doing it around 45s. Something for me to think about when I do the half ironman in May - I should just go ahead and sit down on my towel to put my socks on. Do it right away and don't waste the time.

I'm committed to putting on the socks. I don't think I can be comfortable for a 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run without any socks. That's why I did it today - all in training for the half iron. I probably could have been ok without socks for today, but it didn't serve the purpose of doing the transition just as if it were half iron race day.

I ran my bike out of the transition area and mounted up. The course immediately goes uphill. Not a super steep uphill, but a nice hill nonetheless. I kept it in the small chainring until I got to the top, then I kicked it into the big ring and started pushing as big a gear as I could handle.

The bike course was a great course. Three laps of 3 miles each. As a loop, of course you get to do some descending since you had that great opportunity to climb coming out of transition. I was really amazed to see people coasting down that hill. I was big ring, small cog and pushing for all I had. I was determined to gain as much as possible whenever I could push the gears.

I passed a lot of people. I think I was passed once where it actually stuck. One guy passed me just as we were getting towards the top of the climb, but I bombed past him on the downhill and never saw him again.

Of course I was riding my Javelin TT bike. For the most part, I was able to ride in the aero position. When I approached a corner at speed, I did sit up a bit and grab the bars with the brake levers. Never know when you're going to need to slow down a bit.

On my second lap, I passed Robin who was cheering us on outside the transition area. Almost as soon as I got past her, as the road started up again, I lost my chain! I had shifted into the small ring to tackle the hill, and boom, the chain falls to the inside of the crankset. I had to stop, so I lost between a half and a full minute getting the chain back in place. That includes the time for stopping and the re-acceleration in those big gears. Not the end of the world, but losing a minute on the bike cost me 10 positions in my bike leg ranking. As it was, I was ranked 40th with a time of 28m44s (the guy ranked 30th was 27:47).

Of course, I'm pleased with that result as it puts me in the top 21% of the field for the bike leg. Much better than the bottom 25% on the swim!

As I rolled back up to the transition area, I was feeling pretty good. The legs were holding up just fine. I dismounted and ran to my transition area to get ready for the run. I got out of my bike shoes and into my running shoes just fine. Removed the helmet, spun the race number from around back to around front, and headed out for the run.

I was already out of transition and headed up the road when I realized that I had forgotten my hat. While not the end of the world for a run that ended up being short of the advertised 3 miles (I clocked it at 2.75mi), I certainly don't want to forget that for the half marathon that finishes out the half ironman!

This transition was better, and the results show a time of 54s. Again, the fastest guys were doing it in 30ish seconds. Although I was better, it can use improvement. No reason to mess with my number at that point. and, DON'T FORGET YOUR HAT!!!!

As with the bike, the run heads uphill from the transition area. It was a mostly out and back course with a loop thrown in at the end before the finish. I set out on the course just trying to find my groove. At mile one, my pace was 7m58s. I was good with that, and would have been happy to have kept that pace for the entire distance.

At around mile 1, I passed my buddy Scott. He started about 40 swimmers in front of me. I didn't recognize him as I really was in a zone. Once he said something, I realized who it was and said hey. We weren't too far from the turn-around, so I got to see him again shortly. He was looking pretty good.

The next of my friends I saw was Rene. She looked like she was rocking it! Then, I saw Jen just as I started the last leg of the run, which was a loop around the block. Mile 2 was clocked at 7m32s, and the last .75 mile to the finish was clocked at 5m29s (a 7:17/mile pace). I really didn't feel like I was moving that fast! I was ranked 77th in the run. In the upper 50th percentile. Looks like there is room for improvement there.

My garmin shows a total time of 1h4m33s, while the official results show me at 1h4m31s. That puts me in 63rd out of 196 men. I'd say that is the top 30%, which is where I seem to end up in many of the larger events in which I participate.

So, what did I learn?
I need to concentrate on my form, and forget about speed for the swim. I'd probably be faster just in doing that. I'll contact a swim coach to see if I can get some help improving my technique. 1.2 miles is a hell of a long way to swim, and I need to get better. I have a little over a month.

Need to speed up the transition to the bike. Sit down immediately if I am going to wear socks. I'm certain that is where I lost all my time. I had a towel to dry my feet, but don't think that is necessary, just need one on which to wipe my feet.

DON'T FORGET MY HAT!!!!! Stupid move here. Again, not a big deal for a 2.75mile run, but I will definitely be hating it if I forget for a half marathon! Concentrate on smooth during the bike - run transition. Smooth is almost always fast.

Tune up my bike, and test ride it about a week before the event. For some reason, even though I have been riding the TT bike, I had not noticed the front derailleur contacting the big ring when I switched from small to big ring. Also, fix the damn thing so it won't drop the chain to the inside when shifting from big to small ring. I have time to mess with it, so I need to work that out.

Overall, I had a great time. My finish of 1h4m31s puts me in 9th place for my age group, and 63rd in the overall men's ranking. Nine women finished in front of me, so for the overall event, that puts me 72nd out of 271 participants.

Next up: I need to find another on-road tri. I need to get more swimming!

1 comment:

Don't be shy! I'm interested to hear your comments or experiences.
NOTE: I have switched on the comment moderation because I have been getting a number of spam comments lately. Be patient, I'll post it up as soon as I can! Thx JD