Thursday, April 29, 2010

LA Tri Series #1 2010 - Race report

My second race of the season was another new one for me. Out in San Dimas is a small but popular family run race series that is set at Bonelli Park. It's a beautiful setting and I would recommend this race for good experience without the huge crowds.

I had planned to drive out here on my own on race morning as it would keep the costs down by not getting a hotel and would allow my family to sleep in peace. It's also good for me to practice being able to race with just the stuff I need. In the past, I have carried around way too much and now that I am a lot more organized and have a good transition bag, I am finding the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.

So I woke up at 4:50 after a slightly disturbed nights sleep. This didn't bother me too much, I have been given good advice that the important nights sleep is 2 nights before the race and I new I was well rested in that respect. I also knew that the car was fully packed with everything I needed for the race and all I needed to do was get into my race clothing and set off. Being prepared and organized is one of the best lessons I have learnt so far.

15 minutes later, I was on my way. I was so chilled out that I had time to fill the car up with gas so that I definitely had enough for the journey.

Once on the open road, I started on my pre race fuel. I started with a banana and followed this up with a breakfast cookie. I wanted to keep things light in my stomach as this was a short distance race. I sipped on water as I drove. I would take 2 GU gels before the start of the race as specified on the packet.

The roads were foggy which did trigger an element or worry about the race conditions but as the sun came up the mist burnt away and we were left with a beautify setting. The temperature was rising fast but for racing it was just right.

I was relatively early to the venue so I took my time to pick up my race packet and get my bike sorted. I got a pretty good spot in transition. My race number was also pretty good, #111. In Malibu last year I had #444 and finished 4th in my age group so if the pattern continues I could be in for something special. As it happens, I wasn't expecting to be this good today. I had been nursing a torn calf muscle. I have been able to swim and bike without too much issue but have struggled to run. This has resulted in no running at all for the 2 weeks leading up to this race. The hope is that I will be warmed up enough after the bike phase to be able to run and get through the race.

As usual, I headed down to the swim start for a warm up. I have changed what I do here and instead of doing basic swimming to warm up, I mimic more of the drills I have been doing from my swim training. This consists mainly of balance drills but I think it works well to recalabrate my stroke to wearing the wetsuit.

After my focused but rather brief warmup, I headed to the start. I got a last minute tip from my good friend and coach, Ian Murray, about how to best position myself for the swim start. With his advice, I lined up to the left at the front. I was in wave 1 so I had a clear course ahead of me.

The gun went off and I ran into the water with the front guys. I have changed my racing technique recently to a much more relaxed and more balanced movement, with breathing only every 2 strokes. This controlled breathing has helped me in the open water swims. The last race I did, I found myself very close to 2 other competitors that always seemed to splash me when I went to breathe. As a result, I lost my rhythm and lots of time. This setup has resulted in an even faster pace while keeping it sustainable. I don't feel like I am gasping for air anymore. The ultimate result was being able to see the first guys come out of the water and knowing that I was not too far behind. My split was 6:58 which equated to a 1:23 pace for 100m. This is by far my fastest pace yet and I was less that 1 minute behind the leaders onto the bike.

The exit of the water was up a hill to transition. It looked steep but was actually quite manageable. My transition went smoothly and I was out on the bike in a good position. I had not practiced the mount all year and this has been a bad part of some of my previous races. It went slightly better this time although still not smooth or fast. It helped to have a gentle down hill out of transition.
The one thing I did do differently this time was have my glasses taped to my bike. This is supposed to save a couple of seconds in T1 but it resulted in a partial disaster. To open up one of the arms, I flicked the glasses and as a result, one of my lenses flew out. I saw it land on the side of the road but it was not the time to turn back so I continued on with one lens in and the other missing. It must have looked weird but it deflected enough wind to do the job I needed them to do. [Note to self. Do not try anything new on race day.]

The course was unknown to me so this was a bit of a disadvantage. I wasn't sure when to push and when not to. The good thing however was that we were to do 2 loops of the course so the second time around would be much better. Not long in, I felt a real lack of energy. I have experienced this before and I had an idea why. Two things, as a "B" race, I was training through this one. This means that I was not due to peak for the race and I wasn't supposed to taper either. I did stack up my more intense workouts earlier in the week but I was still not rested for the race. The second reason was that I don't think I was very hydrated. I realized the day before the race that I hadn't been drinking much but when I tried to correct this, I still forgot to drink the fluids. It's amazing how important the right amount of hydration can be.
The course was described as flat but I would disagree. Okay, there were not too many hills but the way the course is designed, the first short climb was right after a hairpin corner that due to the dirt across the corner, it made it really hard to get a run into the hill. This was then followed by a long flat stretch around the airport that should have been great, but a strong headwind knocked the pace out of everyone. The riders in front were moving away from me but at the same time, I seemed to be moving away from the riders behind. The end of the loop consisted of a relatively long but shallow climb which I liked and a very fast decent where I hit 43mph before returning to the start and repeating the loop again.
The second time around felt much better but my overall pace was only 22.5mph. A little less than I had hoped.

The dismount went much smoother this time too. I got my feet on top of my shoes with plenty of time to spare. I also didn't get lost in transition like the previous race. The one thing I did decide to do was to put my Garmin Forerunner in my back pocket to try to record some of my run. This added 5 extra seconds to T2 and resulted in a heavy(ish) object bumping around behind me. [Note to self. Do not try anything new on race day.]
As it happened, one of the bumps had turned it off so it wasn't worth the hassle but looking on the positive side, I used it as a gauge of how much up and down motion I had when running and was able to correct it.

As I set off on the run, I struggled straight away. My left calf was strapped but felt like it would cramp if I didn't let off. Another competitor passed me and recognized me as one of Ian Murray's friends. His name was David Lee and we exchanged happy thoughts about finishing the race soon. Although I had to let him go, he acted as a rabbit ahead and as the calf muscle released slightly, I was able to focus on staying ahead of those behind me. One other competitor passed me, (Mathieu Gonin), with a pace that was 5:44 per mile and I just hoped he was the last. Luckily he was.

The run course was a loop with a small out and back built in. This out and back was the main hill on the course but also gave a brief snapshot of who was ahead and who was behind. The leaders were coming back down the hill as I was heading up. They were setting a really fast pace. Just before the turn around, David passed me heading back down. As we passed, we high fived each other. Although this is primarily an individual sport, I cannot emphasize enough the benefit of racing as part of a team and making friends out there.
The turn around point had revealed that I was in 11th place in my wave. It also revealed that there was a gap behind me. No-one looked faster than I could run but I didn't know for sure, so I dug in and made sure I gave it what I could.

I finished with at least the same gap I had seen at the turn around point behind me. I was pleased with the finish but slightly disappointed with my legs on the day.
As the results came out, although my name was nowhere to be seen, I realized that my time in my age group was better than the printed fastest time. I asked the timing stewards and they went away to investigate. On returning, they said they had identified my timing chip but it had not been associated with me. A quick correction and the result was confirmed. I had won my age group for the first time.

To be fair, my age group on the day seemed to be the least competitive of the main ages. If I had been 5 years older or younger, I would have finished just off the podium, but I will take the win.

More importantly for me was my overall placing. This was much closer to how I thought my performance had gone. I finished 19th overall, 2 places behind Ian Murray. This is the area that I am hungry to improve. My swim was great today but my strong point, the bike, let me down and the run did also.

Finally a big congratulations to Drew Haberkorn for finishing first overall. We hung out together after the race and we realized that we live a couple of miles from each other. Hopefully we can do some training together sometime soon.

The race results can be found here:

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