Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Was a YouTube Triathlete: My TriRock Colorado Race Report

If I’m in love with running then triathlons must be my mistress.  I consistently train for “marys, but often stray to the sexy triathlon.

My last race was the Slacker Half Marathon in June.  Most of my run friends had run a 4th of July race.  I did not.  I needed a race fix.  With another half marathon likely in August, I opted for the TriRock Colorado Sprint Triathlon this last weekend.  Birthday weekend, rock and roll, and the fact that I had only one triathlon this summer made this an easy choice.

Transition Village
Earlier this summer, I sat down with a prospective triathlon coach.  I had seen what a run coach did for my run game and was obvious to see if I couldn't replicate the success with this crazy triathlon business.  After hearing about my current coach, progress, and plans to run the Slacker Half Marathon in June, we both decided to not "part ways," but put a hold on any triathlon coach relationship.  Problem (wrong word for it) is that I still have unfinished run business, and my current Boulder for Sports Medicine (BCSM) has seven days a week dedicated to run training so I've got little time in the pool and on the bike.

My only open water swim was my other TRI in June.  If I had a triathlon coach or even a triathlon training plan, both would have told me how stupid this sounded.

While the race was described as a good beginner's race, my tour of the course area the day before told a slightly different story.  Being on the eastern plains of the Denver area, the wind was whipping up pretty good late in the afternoon at the expo.  Okay if it's a tailwind, but that logic flies out the window with an "out and back" course on the bike and the run.  The expo itself was fairly small, but well organized as I'd find the race to be the next day.  Included in the race packets were temporary tattoos for race numbers.  A nice touch as you felt like it was a much bigger race vs. a "Sharpie" numbered arm and calf.  The transition area also struck me as well laid out with outdoor green carpet along the aisles.  The folks at TriRock and Competitor.com seemed to know what they were doing here.  Before leaving the expo, I tuned into the athlete briefing which helped understand the course a bit better.  I also drove the bike portion of the race and found it to be anything but flat, but nothing too long on each rise.

My pre-race evening was fairly routine as I laid out all my gear, applied the tat's, and relaxed.  As usual, my sleep however was "pure crap."  The wife had a glass of wine with dinner (equals snoring,) and one of my boys was up until 11.  I was lucky if I got two hours sleep yet I felt ready and energized when the early alarm went off.

My pre-race routine was just that as I racked my bike and laid out my transition gear.  While it was nice that the racks were numbered individually, they were packed pretty tight as the other athletes eventually arrived and racked their bikes.  The only other area of improvement was that the majority of the porto-pottys were outside the transition area which was fairly large which meant a bit of a walk to take care of any last minute business.

While Colorado and the Aurora reservoir are warming up, this made the race wetsuit optional yet legal.  I decided to use my Helix for (only) the second time.  Researching the nausea I had in my last open water race, I had also bought silicone ear plugs as some online triathletes theorized the cold water had something to do with that.  Another new twist was that this was an "in water" start roughly 20 yds from the beach.  After the olympic wave, the male sprint triathletes in our orange caps were off.  I was able to get some warm-up prior to the race which I thought would help.  What "played in my head" was the only swim I had Monday that week where in the warm confines of a clear water rec center pool I felt out of swim shape.  As the swim progressed, my breathing became labored and the smooth swim stroke I thought I'd developed started to resemble a chicken with one wing in the water--not pretty.  My sighting was off so my path in the water probably resembled a dashed line in a treasure map.  Not exactly point A to point B...or more appropriately A to B to C to D in the rectangle course shape.  Once I took the last turn towards the beach I saw a lot of swimmers ahead of me.  Crap.
Coming in at number five...or six...or ninth...
The nice transition area was a bit of a hike from the beach so my T1 (swim to bike transition) was a bit slow.  I could have also used some practice on getting out of the wetsuit.  Wobbly legs and inexperience marked my wetsuit disrobing.   I’m glad this was not caught on video.  Once out of the suit, the rest of my transition was pretty smooth as the sunglasses and helmet went on and I ran barefoot with my bike shoes already mounted on my bike.  At the "mount here" sign, my mount and slip into my shoes once again went fine.  Good news considering this was only the second time I'd tried the "flying squirrel" mount with rubber-banded shoes.

As I exited the bike village, I could feel my confidence rise.  My conditioning is strong and previous bike rides (although not many) had been strong.  I had also learned in other races that I could pace my peddling throughout the bike leg and have enough in the tank for the run.  I don't know how many cyclists I passed, but I only recall getting passed perhaps once by another bike.  I was aggressive on the first major uphill getting out of my seat.  I felt strong.  The course didn't have many turns beyond the first few around transition, then turning right onto Quincy for the bulk of the miles.  Halfway out, I took the turnaround and started to push the second half of the bike ride.  Passing riders again gave me confidence, and I didn't see too many coming towards me before the turn.  I'd made up ground from that crappy swim I thought.

I picked off three to four more bikes within the last 3/4 mile back into transition.  I slipped out of my shoes and started to peddle on top of them.  I dismounted quite smoothly just like I learned on YouTube.  Yes...true confession, I have no triathlon coach, have not read a book, nor do I follow a triathlon training plan, but I know how to Google and YouTube.  Thank you YouTube as my T2 transition (bike to run) was a mere 41 seconds which I believe is my fastest yet.  As I started out on my run, my shoe insoles felt like they'd bunched up.  I'd later learn that the two waxy silicon ear-plugs I'd tossed in my swim to bike transition landed one per shoe.  I don't think I could do that again if I was paid.  My other minor mistake at this point was that my Garmin was left on my bike so I was racing "naked" at this point.  On a 5K run leg, I wasn't that worried about it.  I ran by "feel" on the out and back, up and down run course.
My First Place Trophy

The one part I like about an out-and-back run course in a triathlon is you can see who is ahead of you as they've already "made the turn."  It can also work against you as it can be demoralizing if there are plenty ahead of you.  On the run portion, I once again passed a number of runners.  I counted at least two in my age group.  As I counted the runners running towards me, I realized I was sixth overall.  Fifth place sounded a lot better to me.  I slowly caught up to “Mr. Five” and noticed he seemed to be wearing basketball workout gear...perhaps the run leg was not his forte in the triathlon.  This gave me confidence even though he was some 15-20 years younger.  My eyesight and late race math prevented me from knowing just how much younger he was.  I considered drafting him and taking over near the finish.  "Screw that," I thought.  "Pass him!"  I did just that right before someone coming towards us said, "you're fifth and sixth!"

As I crossed the finish line, my Dad was there cheering me on as was my eighteen year old daughter.  I told them both that they didn't have to come to my race as it didn't really matter.  I lied, and drew energy from them just as I'd done getting out of the water, and as I'd come in and out of the transition area.  For perhaps a half hour, I reveled in the fact that I came in fifth overall in a triathlon.  My final standing was ninth overall, and first in my age group.  What I don't understand is that I came in sixth overall male.  Clearly my ranking dropped as there were some women who came in faster than I in the wave that started after the Sprint men.  What about mysterious male number five?  Must have been the heat, but I can normally count up to five even in the heat.  Nevertheless, I'll take it.

I met two others in my age group at the end of the race as we congratulated each other.  One of them told me, he had "nothing in him" as I passed him on the run.  I didn't have the heart to tell them I was a YouTube triathlete.

Author's Footnote:  On Monday after my triathlon, my run coach prescribed an hour of cross-training.  On DailyMile, I reported that I did "punishment miles" in the pool swimming 2550 yards.  You might say that I still had a bad taste in my mouth over my Saturday swim.

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine