Saturday, May 7, 2011

St. Anthony's - the race itself and lessons learned.

Transition was supposed to be open starting at 4:45AM and the was scheduled to close at 6:45. Transition was about a 20-25 minute walk from my hotel and then to get to the swim start I estimated that it would be another 20 minutes or so. Given the time to neoprene up (still hoping), I figured I needed to leave transition no later than 6:30 to make my 7:13 wave start.

I set the clock to go off at 4am but was up before it went off. The first thing I did was to looked out the window and I saw the trees bending over from the wind. Not good. I looked up the weather and it said sustained 20 mph winds. I dreaded seeing what the water conditions were as I ate my breakfast.

As we were walking over to the start I noticed no one going towards the swim start. I heard announcements but couldn't make out what they were saying. I got body marked and then was able to hear the announcer say that the water temp was 78.5 and due to safety concerns they were modifying the swim. The swim was going to start and finish in a different place than originally designed and was shorted to 1000m. They were going to have a wet suit wave after all the rest of the waves. It was still dark out so I couldn't see the water conditions.

I set everything up and walked over to the now new start. The water wasn't as rough as the day before. My plan was to go into the neoprene nation if I had the choice and now I was second guessing myself. I decided to turn my brain off and follow the plan.

Following the plan meant, though, instead of going in an early wave I would be in the last wave. The announcer was saying only a few triathlons (NYC, Chicago and maybe Nations) had more waves than StA. I would be sitting in the sun for 2 extra hours and it was going to be hot (approaching 90F) later in the day. There were three blunders that became evident with this revised plan: 1) I had no shirt on since I left it in transition; 2) I only had a bottle of Gatorade to sip on while I waited; and 3) I needed to put on sun tan lotion. I was proud of myself for bringing lotion but my skill, or lack there of, became self evident later in the day (mostly after the race) when I had racing stripes on various body parts that I misapplied the Coppertone.

About halfway through the waves I started getting annoyed. People were wearing wetsuits and they weren't getting stopped. Maybe the volunteers thought they were wearing legal skin suits (they weren't) but I saw many people go with their original wave. Eventually it was time for wave 33 to go. The water by then was relatively calm. So calm, in fact, I wouldn't have had an issue without a wetsuit but I decided to stick with the plan.

The problem with the new swim course was that there was a lot of running necessary to just get to the water from the beach (it was a beach start). I didn't want to run and blow up my ankle early so decided to walk instead of run. The tide was out, I walked slowly and the rest of the wave participants were at least 25m ahead of me before I even started swimming. I realized, though, I was swimming well. I was passing tons of people at a very conservative effort. My sighting was spot on. I turned for home and popped up after my arms were hitting the bottom of the bay. I looked at my watch and saw 21:14 for 1000m. This included the time walking. The timing mat was on the beach and it took me some time to walk to it so they had me out at 23:01. If I extrapolate the 23:01 for 1500m it would be 34:30. A little slow but with the walking, I'll take it. Later on I calculated this pace over the iron distance would translate into 1:27 so I still have some work to do (my goal for IMFL' swim is 1:20).

Then the true issue with the new swim became evident for someone who can't run. It was a long run (for me walk) to get to transition for the bike. By long I mean my T1 time was 11:00. Really.

Then it was time for the bike. I was feeling good. Mentally I had a decent swim, The wind was kicking up and it was getting hot. The last time I did this race I biked it just under 1:17 (19.6mph) with power at 225w. That was with no swim before but I wanted to start at that power number and see what could happen. My coach told me beforehand that 225w might be a little aggressive due to the heat. When I looked at the download from the power meter it shows that I averaged 226w for the first 30 minutes at 18.2mph so I was right on plan. The wind was impacting my speed a little but that was ok. What wasn't ok was that I felt it was harder than it should be. The heat was impacting me so I ate a gel, drank some water, and stepped it down a little.

Now comes the second biggest blunder of the day. I rode up to the bottle exchange. I only brought one bottle on the bike. There was still some water left in it so I blew past the exchange. It continued getting hotter, I kept drinking and a few miles past I was out of fluid. I stepped it down a little more and cruised in the last few miles. My bike split finished 1:25 (about 5 minutes slower than I expected). I realized the hydration fail was the cause and consciously stepped down the effort so I wasn't too upset.

Second biggest blunder, you say. What could be the biggest? I had planned on walking the 10k. I wasn't going to run since the only thing that would do would potentially hurt me. It was hot. It was late and I figured that I didn't need socks since I was only walking. I had the socks with me in transition but chose not to wear them. I drank at every water stop and was putting ice in my hat while dumping water on me (and in my shoes). At about the 2m mark, I started feeling hot spots on my left foot. The hot spots kept getting hotter. I was walking fairly quickly (for a walk) but were almost limping near the end. I kept a 15:30 pace while walking the 10k. The rest of the TNT crew were waiting for me and we sprinted it in. I had to run near the end - I think it is a rule.

My finishing time was 3:39. That time would be very disappointing to me typically but I realized with an 11 minute t1 and walking the walk, I did ok. I got to race. My blisters hurt a lot and they continue to hurt. Reality set in when I exited the plane on returning to Long Island and the air temperature was 52F. A far cry from the upper 80s/low 90s of the previous few days.

My wife told me, wise woman that she is, that I should write down the lessons from each race and read them before the next race. It seems like I need to relearn lessons from time to time and this will help "educate" me. The lessons from this race are:

  1. I was proud I brought lotion. I was less than proud of all the spots I missed. Learn to be more generous with the application of lotion.
  2. I made a choice to not wear socks since I wasn't running and got huge blisters on my foot. Lesson learned: always wear socks.
  3. Transition closed at 6:45. My wave was supposed to go off at 7:13. Since I did wet suit wave, my wave went off at about 9:20. I was without a shirt for hours. Lesson learned: always bring extra clothes.
  4. I ate breakfast at 4:45 and brought a bottle of Gatorade to sip while waiting to start. I should have brought more food and eaten another meal about 7AM to top off the nutrition. I paid for it later. Lesson learned: bring more food just in case.
  5. I only put one water bottle on the bike and passed the bottle exchange since I had some water left. I was out of water with about 6 miles left on the bike. Lessons learned: Always overstock liquid and never pass a bottle exchange without topping off.

I didn't post any pictures since I looked fat in every one I saw. In this case the camera isn't lying. That is a lesson in and of itself.


Big Clyde said...

...but you raced! Good job.

Unknown said...

congrats on the race. i love the fact that you are writing down lessons for next time. :-)

Jim ... 50after40 said...

Ha, I look at the tops of the trees every morning before I step outside too. I have so much respect for you tri guys and girls. Even though the race didn't go as planned, it takes so much coordination and planning on your part with the gear - I couldn't do it! My hat's off to you. You're probably being too hard on yourself.

Unknown said...

Good job overall! I consider a race a success if you come out of it having learned something. I love your idea of writing down your lessons learned, and I might just steal that.

jillieb2 said...

Your wife is very clever:) Glad you made it through. One of these days I WILL try a tri. Your blog helps.

Michael said...

Wow, even with so many things against you, you were still able to finish!! Great job! I can't believe you ended up having to wait that long to start. That's crazy, but at least the water had calmed down. You did amazing job and should be proud of yourself!!

Kate Geisen said...

Sorry it didn't go more smoothly, but way to get through it all!

It's so easy to skip those "little" things that make such a big difference. Hopefully, all the lessons stick so that everything comes together just right for you when you're feeling 100% and can kill it.

Al's CL Reviews said...

You finished! Awesome!

And I love the writing down of the lessons learned.

Dee said...

That has to be the most entertaining race report I have read! Good job Joe! Overcoming "blunders' while racing is important... Rarely does a race go smoothly and "as planned". You should be proud!!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

The first tri of the season is full of rust and learning experiences, us people in the north, we havent raced since september or longer. I think you did great!!

Karen said...

and you finished - great job! I can't imagine having an unanticipated wait thrown in on me. You need spray sunscreen - Coppertone sport is the best ever - never miss a spot!

Katie said...

Congrats on finishing your first tri of the season! Despite everything you made it through the finish line :)