So my next race should have been Redondo Beach triathlon a couple of weeks ago but a trip to England forced me to change my plans. As a result, I filled my schedule with another race I had been considering, Breath of Life up in Ventura, CA.
It was a new race for me but it was also a new venue for the race which made it a level playing field. As with all my races scheduled this year, I am doing the sprint distance so that I can continue working on my speed. Looking at the course, I was very pleased this was the case. The swim course for the Olympic distance race looked very complex and I heard lots of nightmare stories of athletes getting very lost out there.
The sprint distance event was going to start 10 minutes after the last wave of the Olympic distance event. This put me in wave 8, the latest start I have had so far. This was the first sprint wave, putting me with the 34 and under bracket, but more interesting was that we would be linking up with one of the later Olympic distance waves as we shared the last part of their course.
The gun went off and I must admit, I didn't react as fast as I thought I would. I wasn't in the front row but just behind what looked like some fast young swimmers. Even though I was in the middle of the row, I still managed to find some clear water but I failed to latch on to anyones feet which I was disappointed with.
I was amazed just how quickly we got to the first buoy though.
We knew we were going to connect up with the Olympic distance swimmers but I didn't realize there would be so many colored hats out there. Actually, we ended up linking up with about 5 different waves so it got a little chaotic. As far as I can tell, the majority at this point were missing the last buoy. All of the youngsters in front of me in my wave seemed to head straight back after the 3rd buoy which I wasn't very pleased to see. There was a lifeguard on a surfboard telling people to round the last and 4th buoy but not stopping those that didn't. If it was this confusing for the sprint distance competitors, I don't even want to guess at how bad the Olympic distance swim was.
The exit from the swim led us up the beach and around some sand dunes. This part the day before had looked pretty bad but in reality it was fairly easy. I have really eased down my kick in the swim so my legs felt strong at this point.
I had a smooth transition with just an additional squirt of water to clear the sand from my feet before continuing.
My bike mount was my best so far. Back to basics and making sure my feet were firmly on my shoes before continuing. I got up to speed before putting my feet, one at a time into my shoes. It felt good on the course. I quickly got up to the 25mph I had as my target and set out to catch those ahead of me. One by one I overtook all of the kids I had seen in transition. One of the USA twins was ahead of me blatantly drafting on the bike. Again, it was very disappointing seeing something so obvious not get picked up. Apparently, he and his brother are on team USA and allowing this kind of cheating to happen at that level is upsetting.
Anyway, it didn't affect me as I blasted on by, still feeling very comfortable.
On the bottom part of the loop, I was caught by some other bikers. I had eased down slightly to take on fluids and a GU gel. Once back up to speed, there ended up being about 5-7 of us all together. I think it was about 50-50 sprint and Olympic distance athletes but there was no way of knowing.
We exited the loops and headed back to the finish. It was actually quite hard at this point as there were so many of us together but I am really pleased with everyones ability to avoid drafting by spreading out sideways. I'm looking forward to seeing the photograph that was taken as we all came back into the harbor.
My dismount was nearly perfect. They had two lines marked. One as a warning and the second the official dismount line. This confused us a little as we all got ready to dismount too early but after coasting a little bit further, I had a clean dismount and headed into transition.
The bike of the 15 year old I talked to before the race was already there. I underestimated him. My T2 went smoothly as well and I set off through transition at a fairly good pace.
As I said in my last post, my run is by far my limiter in terms of being competitive in a race.
My breathing felt heavy even though my legs felt pretty good at this point. I was caught by a 22 year old in a UCLA outfit. He seemed pretty nice and muttered encouragement as he passed. I increased my speed slightly to try to stay with him. I did, which made me feel better. On one of the corners however, he didn't round one of the cones that stated, stay left, and he gapped me by 5 or 6 yards. This made all the difference and he started pulling away from me. The next part of the course was a nasty little thing they called the maze. A zig-zag section presumably there to stop cyclists.
It was just after this section that we saw the 15 year old. He was flying. Out in front on his own. The turn was only around the corner but he had a lead of over a minute.
At the turn around, a number of guys ahead of us continued straight on, leaving me in 3rd place. There was a little gap behind me to the next guy and I was holding the UCLA guy ahead of me. As we approached the maze again, we were guided around the outside, but instead of taking a tight right to get back down onto the path, the UCLA guy went straight ahead. It wasn't his fault as the marshals on that bit of the course did not tell him where to go but I still lost out another 15 yards or so.
To make things worse, the guy behind me, Josh, was reeling me in. With about half a mile to go, he overtook me. I looked down at his ankle and saw 33. The same age as me. I had lost 1st place in my age group. I have to admit that I hate this feeling. At first he gapped me but I put in a burst and tucked in behind him. I was at 100% and he kept pulling away. I kept putting in burst to stay with him. He seemed to have a fair bit of support which didn't help me.
I saw the finish line to the left and put in a final burst to put me on his heels. As we rounded the corner, I knew we only had 30 yards to go. I drew all my effort and kicked hard. To my surprise, there was not a counter kick to match mine. I pulled out a couple of seconds and claimed my 1st place in my age group.
Josh was a really nice guy and we talked for a while afterwards about different scenarios where he could have won. With me just behind him on the run he had admitted to being on 100% as well. I had no idea that by sticking with him, I had been draining him of energy. He had nothing left at the finish.
Overall, this was a great race for me. I would say my best performance yet and I was really happy with the result. Here are my times:
Age Group 1st
Swim: 7:24 (Includes run up beach to transition)
Bike: 36:09 (Includes T1 and T2. 24mph est on bike)
Run: 19:33 (6:18 Mile)