Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Focussing on areas of improvement

So as the season comes to a close, I am looking back at what I and others are referring to as a breakthrough season for me. I got two 4th place finishes in my age group in my last 2 races of the season and consistently finished within the top 15 overall.

I have seen huge improvements in all areas of my triathlons, especially my my bike leg and transitions. I am now up with the fastest in these areas. My run was by far my weakest part last year but I did see encouraging improvements over the season. Finally, my swimming seems to have improved greatly in the pool but for some reason in the open water I am about the same as last year.

So taking a look at where I am, I feel that I have 2 main areas or improvement for next year. I need to be up with the first pack of swimmers from the start so I really need to nail what is slowing me down in the ocean. It could be a comfort thing, or a lack of racing experience in the water. It could require a better warmup structure before the race, or just better technique in my stroke. Lots of areas to look into.

The second area of improvement is in my running. Although I have increased in pace from 8:00 miles last year to 7:00 at the start of the season and then a peak of 6:35 at the end, I need to get under the magic 6:00 by next season to be able to hold off the fastest runners at the end of the race. 6:00 pace for a 5k would be great. 6:00 for a 10k pace would be even better.

As priorities go, I am going to focus on my running first while trying to keep a base level of swimming and cycling going over the winter and we will see how things go from there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Playa Del Rey Triathlon - Race Report

After my success in Malibu, I was looking for one last race to finish off the season. I was tempted with LA Triathlon but I am still unsure about the spread out location of the race so I settled on a local event in Playa Del Rey. This was the second year for this race and I heard from my friend Josh that it was pretty good last year. I signed up and turned my attention to training again.

My buildup to the race was mixed with ups and downs. I had been doing some speed work both in the pool and on the track. I did my first 6:00 mile run, (on a treadmill), and my fastest 100m swim time of 1:15. Both these were encouraging but they were also relatively short bursts of speed so I have lots to work on for next year with the aim to be able to maintain these speeds over a much longer distance. Just while things were looking up, I injured my back again. This time it was caused when trying to perform squats on an unstable surface for the first time. Although not excruciatingly painful, it stopped me being able to do stuff and hit my flexibility hard. To add to this, I managed to contract the Hand Foot And Mouth virus off my son with 2 weeks to go before the race. Normally people get this as a child but coming from England, this must not have been the case for me.

Luckily for me, my symptoms were not as bad as my wifes but I was still given doctors orders to take it easy otherwise the virus would stick around longer. I had no choice but to hold of the training. I was also due to race in a 5k the weekend before the Playa Del Rey triathlon but I had to pull out of that one.

Race Day

I was excited about the race, not only because I felt that I could do well, but because I knew my wife and son were going to come down with me to watch me race. My wife has watched all of my triathlons leading up to this year but since our son Ben has been born, we felt that he was too young to wake up so early and drag him to the races. This was the first triathlon he would attend and I was excited to have him there. I'm guessing he won't remember it when he grows up, but daddy will and that's what counts.

I realized that I wasn't feeling 100 percent for this race but I also thought that being a small event, I still had an outside chance of placing.

On the way to the car, we looked out of the window to be greeted by a blanket of fog. Not great I thought. The race was due to start at 7am and I felt that the mist would not clear. I wasn't looking forward to a duathlon so I kept my fingers crossed that the fog would lift.

As it turned out, the organizers of the race delayed the start so that the fog had time to clear. They also spaced out the waves a little more than usual to allow the swim to clear of one wave before the next one started. I was in wave 3 so I made sure I was in the water warming up before and during the first waves start. Not only was this a recommended time to warm up, but it gave me a great view of my Sony team mate Jamie Specht getting in the front pack on the swim and exiting 5th with the leaders.

Wave 2 was all of the women 49 and under. With the extra spacing of the start waves, the worry catching the slower swimmers was removed which meant clearer water for us. They did however let the girls go at an unfortunate time as a huge wave came in just as they were entering the water. I have never seen so much chaos at the start of a swim. Bodies were tossed in all directions. Very unfortunate. They got going in the end.

The Swim

It was our time next. The gun went off and I was one of the first to touch the water. I had a good start. There were no big waves. I remember a couple of high knee steps, a couple more dolphin dives, one dive under a wave and then into the swimming. There was one crest that nearly caught us out but it only resulted in a missed stroke and we were on out way. I think I was about 10th around the first buoy which I put down to bad sighting and then myself and the other load swimmers started to stretch out. I tucked in behind a swimmer, but he ended up being all over the place so I looked around for someone else to follow. There was no-one nearby so I tried to swim cleanly for a bit to try to see if another faster swimmer would come by. Finally I decided to drop back behind someone that was fairly nearby but for some reason they came by me and I couldn't seem to latch on. I had messed up my swim a little but I kept moving forward and rounded the last buoy. The was no surf on the way in but I had a good swim right up into the shallows and exited strong.


I ran up the long beach section, through the water containers to remove some of the sand and into transition. I saw about 10 people in my wave that were already there but for some reason, they were still all there when I left for the bike portion of the race so this made up for the slightly weak swim.

The Bike

My main comment would be that I did not feel strong. I was passing riders from the wave ahead but I could not see any of the riders I was racing head to head with. I was averaging about 23 mph but before the race I was hoping for close to 25 mph. It seemed to be windy in every direction. I guessed it would be the same for everyone else so I kept my head down and pushed as much as I could. At the first turn around point I noticed the group of riders that seemed to be racing hard from my wave. There were four or five of them and they seemed to be holding the same sort of pace as myself. They were a couple of minutes ahead of me but I took the turn and pushed hard to catch them. I took down a GU gel on the slight decline at the end of Westchester Parkway and took down some Gaterade as I headed back down Purshing. The gap seemed to have closed to a couple of the riders by the second turn around point but it was only towards the end of the course that I caught one of the riders.


The dismount went smoothly and I ran into a fairly empty T2. Helmet off smoothly, taking my glasses with it for the second race in a row and I grabbed my race belt and hat and set off through transition. I had stored the empty GU gel wrapper up my tri shorts so I decided to extract it and throw it in the trash while I was in still in transition. It didn't slow me down and I felt good about not littering.

The Run

Simon told me that I was in 4th place in my wave as I entered the run course but I didn't know how that equated to my age group so I set off with two main tasks in hand. To try to catch the runners ahead and to try to hold off those behind me. My pace felt solid for me but I always felt that it wasn't quick enough for either task. I was picking off runners from the waves ahead of me but it was only as I approached the half way mark that I saw anyone from my wave ahead of me. They were heading back and about 3-4 minutes ahead and running strong. Not long after I turned, I saw a runner from my wave in hot pursuit. I was about 30 second up on him but he looked very strong. I dug in and tried to hold him off. With less than a mile to go, I heard the footsteps behind me of the runner I had just seem. He slowly came past me and I upped my pace to stay with him. This I only managed for about 30 seconds. Although I didn't have my GPS watch on, it turned out afterwards that he was doing sub 6:00 mile pace. I'm getting there but was not quite ready for that at this time. It also turned out to be a pass for 3rd place which was very disappointing even if I wasn't quite feeling 100%. I had come so close to a podium position but was pushed into 4th in the last mile. Next year, the run will be my weapon along with my bike. I had run my fastest 5k in a race with a pace of 6:35 so this was very promising given the way I felt. My wife said that I wasn't looking my best as I came to the end of the run so I'm wondering if I dropped off the pace a little in the second half or whether my stride now makes my running look easier. I'll assume the first and work on this for next year.

Race Roundup

As a round up to the season, this was a great event and I really look forward to doing it again next year. I had set a theoretical target of 1:04:35 based on my malibu results and purely scaling them for the new distances and ended up only 1 minute and 16 seconds shy of that. The swim was slightly over but the longer run up the beach may have accounted for that. The bike was nearly 2 minutes longer than anticipated but as I was still one of the fastest on the course, I would put this down to the conditions and the layout of the course. Finally my run was nearly a minute faster than my estimate which I am really please about. I need to continue to improve in the run and really work on racing in the water before next season.