I anxiously awaited this race to atone for my poor efforts at Wet Dog. After making some big gains on the bike earlier in the year, I lost a little fitness over the hot July. Work hasn’t been as forgiving either. But I was able to put some volume on the bike for the last few weeks and felt much stronger. The bike threshold is still 8-10% below my peak earlier in the year but I have time to push that back up before the Goosepond Half-Ironman.
So, I went into this race feeling fresh and ready to smoke it. The race is self-contained within the gates of the Redstone Arsenal U.S. Army base. As such, there is a security checkpoint to make the Start. Fortunately, this year it was quick and smooth. They just checked my license against a list and I didn’t get subjected to a full car search. Apparently, I haven’t made any watch lists despite my ObamaCare rants.
The swim was in a calm river. RD reported that the upriver dams were supposedly closed for 3 hours that morning. I certainly didn’t notice any current. Start was time-trial seeded by predicted 1500m swim time. I started in 76th place. I wore a Desoto 2 piece and pulled on my Blue Seventy speed suit. No diving off the pier so I jumped in feet first and for some bizarre reason landed face first…Smack! By sheer luck I didn’t lose my goggles but did dislodge the seal a bit. I may have cursed under water (sorry fish) but pushed hard for the first buoy more from embarrassment than skill. About halfway there, the water seeping in started to bug me. I rolled over and popped the goggles back in place and sprinted back to the group I was trailing. The rest of the swim was thankfully uneventful. I was cruising along, drafting a fair amount. I exited in 19:53 (officially 20:00 to timing mat). No, I’m not that fast, but good enough for 7th in AG and 55th overall. Course was only about 1300y by GPS. The lead swimmer got out in 14:33. Now that’s a fast olympic distance swim. Ha!
Transition was cozy (only about 600 age-groupers and relays). Most of the bikes in my row were still racked…small ego boost accepted. I exited in 1:20. Slow for me but removing the speedsuit and going to the wrong bike exit added some time. Gotta practice those transitions. On to the bike, I felt good. There were markers every 5 miles so I just keyed on those splits for consistency. I was aware of the power numbers but I didn’t obsess this race. The course is mostly flat with a couple of rollers and a 180deg turn thrown in. I was happy to hit every 5 miles in about 15mins. It was going to be a sub 1:05 40k which was a PR. I pushed hard through a headwind in the last 6-8miles but the legs still felt strong. I passed some folks and traded places with a few bikers for variety. Nutrition was one aero bottle on my frame that I successfully dropped at mile 22. At least the end of the bike was close…Did I mention I was sweating profusely or at least my hands were?! I finished the bike at about 93% threshold. I little lower than hoped but I’m still working on pacing. Officially: 1:04:57; good for 5th in AG and 33rd OV
I scared a few volunteers with my last minute bike dismount at full speed. They were expecting a train wreck but off I jumped and ran into transition. At least some transition skills are still intact. Again, I had a slow transition but I had planned this one. I put socks on…Gasp! Yes, I know, it’s unthinkable. I still haven’t found a running shoe with seams that like me. No amount of BodyGlide/Duct-tape/Tough-Strips seem to prevent Doc’s feet blisters. The local Fleet-Feet had a sale on the Pearl Izumi isoTransition shoes but without my size making the cut. Dang it. And I had coupons too.
Exiting transition, my legs felt a little heavy. I knew I didn’t push too hard on the bike but they didn’t feel fresh. It was starting to heat up a little which didn’t help my willpower. The first mile is flat and on a trail through the woods. I just kept running hoping my legs would open up soon. That was until we hit the gravel road rollers. I generally like running hills but those sapped my energy. I ended-up walking through a few water aid-stations after that. Ice would have been nice but wasn’t available. I noticed I was still running 7:30 miles despite the stops. In retrospect, I was running low 7min miles and easily left 2-3 mins on the course. The limiter was the lack of freshness in my legs. It is hard to push out at a good pace when there’s that dead feeling. I had some discussions with my coach about the why. He seems to think that it may be biomechanical from a poor bike fit. The more I study and read about hip angles, I may agree with him.
I’m going to go off the reservation a bit to write about this. I’m not a bike-fit expert, but I’m a self-learner. This was the first race on the new bike. We tried to match the fit of my previous bike but it is just an estimate. I know I am lower in the front on this bike and that can reduce your effective hip angle. Doing that will help reduce aerodynamic drag but may reduce bike power or fatigue certain muscles before the run. In defense of my bike fitter, I took the liberty of pulling the aerobars back, moving the armrests, and moving the saddle from the original position. My saddle, I now realize, is too far rearward. That is reducing my hip angle and probably is sabotaging my run. I noticed I was inching forward on my saddle to compensate, but since I use an ISM Adamo saddle, that’s a mistake. There may be other subtle changes in my hands and arms that is effecting this as well. Lesson learned: Comfort is still important, and I’ve sacrificed aerodynamic benefit for comfort in the past (how do those guys set their elbows so close together?); but it is truly pointless if you can’t run to your potential off the bike. I’m also trying to achieve a low effective pedal force plus a high cadence around 90 during these races. This is a way to reduce the neuromuscular power demands during a race to save the legs for the run. It’s especially important for longer distances. In simpler terms, the smoother one pedals, the less stressful on the system. Burn less matches people!
The coach wants to video my set-up and send it to a friend to analyze. Maybe we can get an improved position before theGoosepond Half. For the time being, I’m leaving the aerobars at their current location and slowly inching (or centimetering) my saddle forward and will be testing the legs with short post-ride transition runs.
Ok, back to the race. My pace remained consistent through the run but my legs never felt super-fresh. Passed Matt H. after mile 4 but didn’t see any other friends on the run. I finished the run in 46:45; 4th in AG, 61st OV. Left some time out there on that split.
I ended up 4th AG, 41st OV at 2:14:04. 3rd place dude beat me by 4 mins with a 60min bike split. Got an age-group 2nd place as 2 in the 40-44 placed in the overall Masters. I’ll take that swag by roll-down. I’m not proud when it comes to bling.
Remember that 14:33 swim guy…Yeah, him. He went flying by me, obviously, in the opposite direction. He won by a lengthy 6+mins including a sub 57min 40k. He’s Craig Evans and he’s a Pro Xterra triathlete. He went 2nd in the 2012 ITU Cross Worlds this year behind Conrad Stoltz–you may of heard of him. So that’s my competition. Please!
Also, making an appearance on the winning relay team was beastly World Master Time-trialist, Mike Ohleiser. He thrashed the course in 51:17, that’s 29mph avg. Some folks were laughing about it at the finish line. One guy said he thought a motorcycle went before he realized this monster had blasted by him.
Overall, I was happy with the race. The Black Mamba performed well and is a wind cheater. There’s always something to improve. Next up is my A race in Scottsboro. It’s a half-distance triathlon. I rode the course earlier this week and it will be fun. Then I’ll be getting my run mileage up for the Rocket City Triathlon in December. More fun to follow if the old man will hold together.
Hope you enjoyed reading,