No, this wasn’t my first triathlon…but I did two things that would have made it seem that way anyone watching me.
I woke up Sunday morning and had my customary race morning sweet potato. I was feeling pretty good considering the 12 straight hours of digging, planting and mulching I had done on Saturday. I packed up my gear and headed out around 6:30am.
As I pulled into the Clear Creek Park parking lot I was a little confused. The transition area has been in the same place for every single race I’ve ever done here (now 7 and counting). My first thought was that things were running a little behind and the bike racks just weren’t set up yet. Once I went inside the building, I saw signs indicating that the transition area had been moved due to other events going on at the park that day. Kudos to the race organizers, Todd and Cynthia Heady for moving the transition area with less than 24 hours notice!
I got my transition area all set up and was ready to go. Since every second matters in these sprint races, I decided that I would race without socks. It takes me about 5-6 seconds to put on a pair of socks in T1 and I wanted to get my transitions even faster. I was racing in my new Asics Gel Noosa Tri 7 shoes (see picture to the left) for the first time. They are made for running with no socks. They have a liner and are very breathable. I had run some short distances in them without socks, so I knew that there wouldn’t be any uncomfortable rubbing. I slipped them on for a quick warm-up jog before the race just to make sure I didn’t need to grab those socks out of my bag. Everything felt good – I was ready to go.
A few laps in the pool to get loose and then it was time to line up. Just like the last race, we lined up for a single-file time trial start. I was 17th in line, and right behind two very fast swimmers…including my swim coach Manny and friend Scott Panella. I knew that I wouldn’t have to worry about passing these two guys in the tight lanes.
The race started and I was still feeling good. I was concentrating on my form and as predicted, I had no traffic in front of me. I was passed at about the 300 yard mark by someone, still not sure who it was…but he flew by me pretty quick. I exited the pool and glanced at my watch. I was shooting for 6 minutes, and I came out just a few seconds over…so I was happy with the start of my race. This was my fastest swim in the 7 races I’ve done in this pool. The weekly practices and drills are paying off!
Official 400 yard swim time = 6:05.5 (1:31 per 100yd)
2nd out of 8 in my Age Group
20th out of 112 Overall
With the transition area moved, the run from the pool to T1 was now quite a bit longer. It involved running down a grassy hill to a parking lot. I ran into transition, threw on my helmet and sunglasses and grabbed my bike. I was in and out as fast as possible. Good T1.
Official T1 time = 1:06.1
2nd out of 8 in my Age Group
9th out of 112 Overall
I slipped my bare feet into my shoes as I started down the road. I immediately started to push the pace. I saw some other riders once I got onto a straight-away and began to chase down the “rabbits”. I did this same race last year and had a pretty good idea what the course looked like. I knew not to veer left at a “Y” in the road and I knew that it was an out and back with a loop on the end (kind of like a lollipop). My quads were burning almost right away. I knew that the constant squatting and shoveling of mulch the day before was taking it’s toll on my legs. I continued to push through, passing people that had started before me on the swim. I had a single gel taped to my frame, so I decided to go ahead and take it hoping for a quick energy boost. As I was looking down at the gel pack, making sure I had squeezed every drop out, I saw a yellow arrow in my peripheral vision. I jerked my head back only to realize that I had missed my turn. With the road only being two lanes wide, I had to slow to almost a stop in order to turn around and go back. This was rookie mistake #1. I thought that I knew the course well enough to not study it or drive it before hand. I should have taken the time to make sure I knew where I was going. The missed turn cost me no less than 10-15 seconds. I tried not to be aggravated with myself, and no sooner than I made the turn…the wind showed up! We fought the wind the rest of the way. It went from a headwind to a crosswind – neither of which are much fun to ride in. I came up on “Mr. Kona”, Scott Panella with just a few miles to go. I passed him, then he returned to favor. I used this as motivation to hammer past Scott again and go hard the rest of the way back. I managed to catch three other guys before reaching T2. The move in transition area added a little over half a mile to the course (in comparison to last year). So even though my time was a minute slower this year, I’m still happy with the bike.
Official 16 mile bike time = 44:45.1 (21.5 mph)
3rd out of 8 in my Age Group
12th out of 112 Overall
I got my feet out of my bike shoes and coasted into T2. I hopped off my bike and ran it over to the rack. Everything was going great…until I tried to “slip” my feet into my shoes. My feet were sweaty from the bike and I didn’t have a towel. Getting my dry feet into my shoes had been easy, and I didn’t think that they might get wet on the bike. Rookie mistake #2! Trying something for the first time in a race is a big no-no. I knew better and in an effort to save 5-6 seconds by going without socks, I cost myself around 40 seconds! I just couldn’t get my feet to go in the damn shoes! I was using bungee lases, so I couldn’t even loosen them up easily. I finally got the left one in and then I felt myself panicking. So I just sat on the ground, loosened up the laces on my right shoe and got my foot in. A grabbed my race belt and headed out of T2 – in what seemed like an hour. I had watched everyone that I passed on the bike come into transition and leave while I was struggling with my shoes. Needless to say, I was pissed.
Official T2 time = 1:00.0
7th out of 8 in my Age Group
67th out of 112 Overall
I left T2 right behind David Hsu, a guy that I knew was a good runner. He finished 3rd Overall in the first race of the series, so if I could hang with him on the run, I would be doing ok. We headed up the paved path and I never let him get more than 15-20 feet in front of me. I don’t wear my GPS watch during races because it’s not waterproof and I don’t want to take the time to put it on in T1…so I had no idea what pace I was running. I just knew that it hurt! I was trying to shorten my stride and increase my cadence to hold on to the pace. David stopped to walk for a few seconds when we got to the aid station at the turn around. This allowed me to catch up with him. We ran together for a little while, then I felt like I had some gas left, so I pulled ahead. We came to a very steep hill and I gave it all I had left. My legs were toast once I reached the top and David passed me again. I tried to hang with him over the last mile, but he pulled away. It was all I could do to keep running at that point. My quad and calves were on fire and I was breathing like I was running 400 repeats! I crossed the finish line with my slowest 5K in years…but I was happy to be done.
Official 5K run time = 21:21.1 (6:53 min/mile pace)
3rd out of 8 in my Age Group
15th out of 112 Overall
As soon as I stopped running, both quads locked up and I couldn’t move. I attempted to walk around, but it was painful. I was still angry about the problems I had in T2 and as we all stood around catching our breathing and talking about the race, I told anyone that would listen about how stupid I had been. Turns out that baby powder in the bike and run shoes help with getting them on. I might try that during one of my brick workouts, but more than likely, my adventure with sock-less racing is over!
Overall race time = 1:14:17.8
4th out of 8 in my Age Group
12th out of 112 Overall
So I figure that I lost around 45-50 seconds to what I’ll call rookie mistakes. What really hurt is that 2nd place in my age group (10th overall) was only 37 seconds faster than me. This is my 4th year of racing triathlons, I shouldn’t be learning lessons the hard way anymore!
My legs are still a mess. After another 6 hours of work in the yard after the race on Sunday, I woke up Monday morning and could barely walk. I did some swimming yesterday (Monday) and about 50 minutes of easy riding this morning followed by a 30 minute session with the foam roller to try and break things up…but my calves and quads are sore and tight. Small price to pay for the beautiful oasis that is now our yard!
I finished 1st in my Age Group and 2nd Overall for the 4 race series with a total time of 3:54:48…not too bad of a start to the 2012 season!