Triathlon by the Sea
Sunday, May 11 2008 – Mother’s Day
Swim 250 yards, Bike 10.5 miles, Run 3 miles
Results (Rank / Pace)
Swim: 5:08 (92 / ~4:20 per 250 yds)
Bike (plus T1 & T2): 32:39 (18 / 23.2+ mph)
Run: 18:36 (6 / 6:12 pace)
11th Place Overall
2nd Place Age Group M35-39
After a busy several weeks that saw me run 3 marathons in 4 weeks, two of which were Sub-3 Hour brigades, it was time to shift focus to bike training for the upcoming triathlon season and Ironman Lake Placid. But because the sheer number weekends remaining were limited, where I couldn’t afford to lose a weekend for a long bike ride, the Triathlon by the Sea in Marblehead, Massachusetts, a race that was to be a season-opening C-race, was made even less so, since I knew I’d be riding long the day before it. With a goal such as Ironman, it wasn’t ideal to blow off the small Sprint triathlon, but with bike miles now being a priority, it was necessity.
So on Saturday, the day before the race, I hopped on my bike for a 70-mile ride, my longest ride of the year, and followed it up with a 2.5 mile brick run. Because I pushed hard enough on the ride, where I averaged a sliver over 20 mph, I was struggling toward the last third of the ride and new my race the next day either wouldn’t happen – I’d blow it off – or that I’d go into it without any goals or nerves. It would be what I called a “freebie race,” where results didn’t matter; I would simply let the day come to me.
So with a freebie race the next day, Heather and I decided to go out that night for our one month anniversary celebration. “We should go to a British Pub, drink some ‘Pride’ [Fullers London Pride], and get fish and chips.” A brilliant idea, that’s what we did. 4 pints of London Pride ensured that I slept like an English Hooligan snoozing on a bar stool at his choice Local.
Getting Pysched for the Race with Jake-E-Man!
The Swim was a 250 yard snake swim comprised of 10 lengths. Athletes were seeded based on their estimated swim times for the distance. For 250 yards, or 5 laps, I estimated 4:15, which was good enough to earn me race number 75. Spaced 10 seconds apart, each athlete in turn would jump into the pool and push off for their laps. 10 seconds later, another would go.
Nearly 20 minutes after the first swimmer jumped in, I finally got my turn. A race official gave the countdown: “Three, two, one… Go!” I jumped in the pool, took a deep breath, and pushed off the wall.
For the first 3 lengths, I stayed in control by focusing on a strong pull while using a bilateral breathing rotation as a governor. At each turn I could see that I was neither making progress on the swimmer in front, nor was I being caught by the one behind. Until the 4th length; that’s when I saw a woman a few lanes over catch and pass a guy. On the 5th length, she took another swimmer; on the 6th, another. And by the 7th, I felt someone grab my toes. Sure enough it was her. She slipped by while the rest of us neither gained nor fell behind. By length 8, I was so out of breath that I had to switch to one-sided breathing. My form was crap, my toes were tingling due to lack of oxygen, and I was thinking how 4 minutes could feel so long. I tried not to think about it and instead stayed focused on the moment.
Before long, I was on the final stretch, up the ladder out of the pool, out the building, and over the timing mat just outside the building by before the hill descent to Transition.
Time: 5:08 (92 / ~4:20 per 250 yds)
Summary: As a C-race, my goal was to not disturb the flow of the snake swim. Being passed only by one swimmer who obviously seeded herself incorrectly, I came out of the water exactly when I expected.
After a pokey change to bike gear in Transition, I was on the bike and adjusting my sleeves for a fun time ahead. With a long bike ride of 70 miles the day before, I had no expectations but to let the day come to me. Come to me it did.
With a stiff wind at the back, I was cruising along without much effort, hit the first turn, now into the wind, and still feeling good and feeling strong. Down the stretch was a quick left, which I knew was with the wind at the back. I was pushing by well within myself, when I looked down at my bike computer to see 23.5 mph. I had to do a double-take. That 23.5 mph was my average speed, not the current; and since my bike computer was also slow, I knew it was much closer to 24 mph. I was feeling surprisingly good and decided to make use of the wind and drop the hammer. I’d settle back in, I figured, once we turned back into the wind a few miles later.
A few miles later the course turned back into the win. Now in a zone and pushing hard, with my average pegged at 23.4, I decided that the day was coming to me alright. I can’t the hammer down and pushed and pushed while staying compact and low into the wind.
One more loop of the course. I flew by many riders like they were standing still. On the stretch with the wind at the back, I was zipping along at 30, then 31 mph, and even going faster. The gentle rollers did little to slow my momentum, so I used them to my advantage, like a roller coaster thrusting from one to over the next.
With a final slingshot into the wind, I was finally set for the longer stretch into the stiff wind back to Transition. As I rolled to a stop, my computer read 23.0 mph, which I knew was good for closer to 23.3 or .4 mph.
Only, I gave all that time back in screwing around with my clothing in Transition. Struggling to get off a tight-fitting shirt and back on with a Tri-top, I finally gave up and started running out. I figured I’d straighten out my top and get my race number belt on within a half mile.
Time (includes T1, Bike, & T2): 32:39 (18 / 23.3+ mph)
Summary: If this were any better than a C-race, I’d be pretty pissed with myself. I hauled ass on the bike with an awesome (for me) 23+ mph average only to give all the time back with being stupid in Transition. But this was a C-race, so I laughed it off. Regardless, the bike is really proving to be among the most fun parts of triathlon.
As fun as the bike was, as amazing a feeling it was cruising along at an average of over 23 mph, the run was still more fun.
Out of Transition, with legs burning from the build up of lactic acid, I achieved a first, a level of maturity, in my triathlon career. Not once did I wonder whether my legs would have pace in them even though they felt as if they couldn’t move; I knew they’d have pace in them. The day before I did a 70 mile ride, felt like I was to hell and back, and my legs pumped out what were probably 7:15 minute miles or better.
Now, after a 10.5 mile ride, I knew the legs would respond even if they still felt lethargic. Respond they did. Right out of Transition. I already passed a club mate that passed me in Transition, and I could one other guy too. Within the first mile, now with my Tri-top finally pulled down and my race number fastened securely around my waist, I was picking off runners like I was picking off riders on the segment before. By mile 2 I was flying. I knew my pace was healthy, I was running on edge, and so I pushed a little harder.
Over the middle mile, just as the course navigated to the water’s edge, I couldn’t help but think back to how easy running a hard 3 miles is when you’re used to racing marathons. Racing marathons requires holding on to a deep pain for 2 or more hours, while the 3 miler would be no more than 18 or 19 minutes. I could do this. Why wait to push pace? I had no response, so I pushed even harder.
The final mile was a gradual down hill and very fast. This was where the course makes up for all of the other little risers, two of them steep, most of them very easy inclines. Feeling good and pushing hard on legs that should have been much more sluggish, I must’ve pushed out a sub-6 minute mile in the last mile before rounding the final corner and crossing the line.
Time: 18:36 (6 / 6:12 pace)
Summary: Simply awesome!
This was a fun race. I was amazed at how well my legs felt considering the long ride the day before, but still, I was happy with my “freebie” race, as I let the day come to me and, in seeing it there for the taking, performed very well.
Being such an early season race, it was a season opener for many in my triathlon club, so the turn out was very big. Lots of laughs and high-fives as I stuck around to cheer on others and swap stories of the battle that was the 2008 version of the Triathlon by the Sea.
Finish Time: 56:22
11th Place Overall
2nd Place Age Group M35-39
Trifury Group Photo!