Monday, June 1, 2009

Issaquah Triathlon Race Report PR

Issaquah Triathlon Race Report PR

issatri Pre-Race

The day started early, at 4:30AM, just as dawn began to brighten the Northeastern sky. My alarm was set for 4:40, but I was up, so I killed the alarm. I flipped through my iPhone, checking the latest weather readings and forecasts. The forecasted cold marine push never materialized, so the day started clear and not too chilly. I had packed up everything the night before, so all I had to do was prepare my usual pre-race smoothie consisting of fruit, yogurt, and soymilk including a banana, strawberries, and blueberries. I also packed a Starbucks Double-shot, an instant dose of caffeine(if you can stand the taste). I lathered myself with BodyGlide to prevent chafing, and threw on my tri suit, a run/ride/swim suit that looks like a wrestlers uniform.

I left the house at 5:30, and arrived at the race site fifteen minutes later. The sun had just started to peek over the distant tree line. It was still a bit chilly, but I had 90 minutes before my swim, and I knew things would heat up. I used the potty, then wheeled my bike and all my gear over to my rail, right in the center of the transition area. Only a couple people had arrived, so I claimed a nice spot. A one-footed guy set up next to me, so we chatted about how he would change his prosthetic for each leg of the Triathlon (no pun intended). I jogged a long lap around the parking lot to warm up and stretch. People arrived in droves, some of them actually riding their bikes to the event. I arranged all my bike and run gear neatly on a towel, hoping I didn’t forget anything. I put on my wetsuit and headed towards the start.

They held a quick “blah blah” meeting which I guess was supposed to bring order to the chaos, but people received it as much as they listen to airplane safety lectures. I hit the water to warm up. It felt real nice to just splash around, and the lake had heated up nicely after a couple 80-degree days last week. People swam around, but I just kind of enjoyed the moment, floating around and acclimating my body to the water. I left the water, and walked around looking for other people with gold caps. These were men in my age group, so I knew I would see them a lot during the race. The race starts by age group and gender. I greeted a guy I had met a week before during a training session and we wished each other luck. Then, of course, I needed to use the potty again, ten minutes before my race start.

Using a potty with a wet suit and tri suit on is not easy. I essentially had to strip inside a portapotty. Needless to say I got everything done, but getting that wetsuit back on while wet it not an easy task. I almost pulled a muscle in my back.

The Swim

Finally it was my wave’s turn. We waded into the water. A bunch of guys started swimming right away. I realized they were warming up or just getting wet.  I looked behind me and noticed I was right at the front of the pack, not where I wanted to be. I had no idea how fast I swam compared to everyone else. I pushed back a little bit. The horn sounded. I started to walk, but then I slipped on a bunch of large rocks. I grabbed the start banner, almost bringing it down on the guys behind me. Those rocks really hurt. I dove in, my foot screaming. It hurt so bad I wondered if A) I was leaving a trail of blood in the water and B) whether I’d be able to bike and run with it.  Bodies flailed all around me. I had no idea where I was going. I tried to stay in the middle of the course by keeping people on either side. Guys kept stopping or doing breaststroke which meant they hit or kicked me. It was pure chaos. I got pissed off enough to think, “fuck it, I’m going for it. I gotta get around these morons.” So I kicked my stroke up a notch, and finally swam into clearer water.

I almost saw where I was going. I swim using “bilateral breathing” which means I breathe on both sides, every three strokes. I think in an event like this it’s the only way to go, because it gives you a better sense of your position and direction. I passed the final buoy, and spotted the finish gate. I then changed to every-other stroke breathing on my right side so I could sprint to the finish. I usually practice a sprint or two during my swim training. When my hand contacted the bottom, I got to my feet, and immediately fell over, disorientated from swimming. I got back up, and waded off the beach, trying to remove my wetsuit as I ran towards the transition area.


I hit the beach running, heading towards my bike. Someone tied a smiley-face balloon on my rack so I knew exactly where to go. My foot didn’t feel too bad at this point and I had no cuts. I panted and gasped for air from my swim sprint. A ton of bikes had already left, so the area wasn’t too crowded. I yanked off my wetsuit, snagging it on my timing chip, then put on my helmet, socks and running shoes, and my CamelBak. I had decided it was a much easier option than a water bottle. I also remembered that I had forgot to A) change the gear of my bike to something low and B) open my Shot Bloks, impossible to do when in a hurry or on a bike. Fortunately I had packed some Sport Beans, which I threw in the little pocket I had attached to my bike.

The Ride

I ran to the bike start and I was off. Someone told me to start fast, so I tried. I soon confirmed two things I had already suspected: A) My bike is not a racing bike. The main difference between my bike and a tri bike is the geometry. The point is to minimize the overlap between riding and running muscles. So people whizzed by me like I was standing still. And B) I’m not very fast on a bike anyways. Some of these guys flew by like they were going downhill and I was going up. According to my GPS, I ended up with a overall speed of 17.6mph. That’s better than my training pace of 15mph. There were a couple of those radar signs on the course, so I could actually the rates of the other bikers. They were 23,24 where I was 16,17. The thing is, and I confirmed this after talking to a few other participants, is that a Triathlon is basically a bike race with a small swim and run thrown in for fun. The bike leg is clearly the most difficult (at least for a runner). I can’t afford one of those fancy shmancy Tri bikes. Some people even raced time-trial bikes with those solid wheels. They sound like Tie-Fighters when they pass you: Wuh wuh wuh wuh wuh.

At a couple of points along the course we passed through a snow of puffy white seeds that float in the air. I guess they come from cottonwood trees, but they literally can be as thick as snow, and even cover the ground in places. Weird but pretty. I did okay on the big hill (both ways). I did manage to pass a few people on the course, so I didn’t feel like the slowest person out there. They wound up cutting the course short due to construction, so I was surprised when the turnaround came at 7 miles instead of 7.5. I was glad though. The second half of the ride wasn’t too tiring either. I wound up eating the Sport Beans on each downhill section of the hill where I didn’t have to pedal. It probably cost me a few seconds but I figured the energy from the beans would make up for it. I managed a negative split, meaning my second half was faster than my first.


I transitioned quickly, only need to take off my helmet and CamelBak, and threw on my running visor and GPS. As I ran towards the run start I realized two things: A) My inner right thigh hurt like hell, and B) I had to pee really bad. Fortunately there’s a restroom building right along the trail at the start, so I ran in. I only lost 20-30 seconds. That time would only account for about 10 positions in the overall rankings, and no effect at all in my age group, so it was time well spent. Some Shot Bloks would have been nice to grab in hindsight.

The Run

The first mile was pretty slow.  It was through a field with rough terrain, and my legs and feet ached. I couldn’t catch my breath, even though my heart rate wasn’t very high. This is completely opposite from my last race when my heart rate was way high but my breathing was okay. It was strange, but I went with it. My first mile elapsed 11:03 but that includes the potty stop where I lost some time. The next mile included a water stop. I drank one cup and threw the other on my neck. It was pretty warm by then, maybe upper 60’s. (That’s not warm for swimming/biking, but it’s hella-warm for running, especially in a field with the sun beating down). The second mile elapsed at 10:30, and the last at 10:08. I’m pretty pleased at that. I did pass a lot of people, but I’m not sure how many were triathletes since they had some other races going on as well. A bunch of guys cruised past like I was walking. I poured it on the last half mile, as much as I could, and crossed the finish line.

Post Race

They took of my chip and then handed me my finisher’s medal. I found the nearest park bench where I alternately drank water and poured it down my back. I felt great but also slightly let down, partly because I thought it would be harder, and partly because I knew I had not performed my best due to the pain in my bruised foot, my stiff leg, and my lack of training. I felt better later on in the day when I calculated an estimated finish time (about ten minutes over what I actually did), and now that I can see my actual time and placement, I’m pretty pleased. At that moment, I knew I had a lot to work on, and I was glad it was over. (Sorry it’s not a magic cathartic ending). They did have a nice post-race spread including sausages! Words cannot describe how great sausages are after a grueling race. It’s a children’s benefit, so they also had tons of homemade cookies. I even loved a raisin cookie which I usually hate. You know why? Because it tasted like Victory.

The rest of the day I was completely wiped out and in pain. The bottom of my foot is black and blue. I’ve been icing it, but it may be a couple days before I run again.

Official Results

Leg Time Overall M 40-45
Swim 8:06
1/4 mile PR
617 65
T1 3:42
Ride 50:07
14 mile PR
743 84
T2 1:28
Run 31:21 786 85
OVERALL 1:34:44
737/929 82/97


Firsts: First Swim Race. First Open Water Swim Race. First Bike Race. First Triathlon. All Personal Records! (PR’s)

So here’s the crazy thing. If you look at these results, everything is opposite what I’d expect. How did swimming become my strongest leg and running my worst? I only learned to swim any kind of distance last year. And I run all the time. How is that my worst event? (The potty break had no effect on my rankings). I don’t see much room for improvement in either swim or run. I could maybe shave a minute off the swim and two with the run. The place I need to concentrate is on the ride and the first transition. I managed 17.6 mph, which is pretty good compared to my training times. I think I could get it over 20 with more training, and maybe 22-24 with a better bike. If I can do all these improvements, I think I can get my ride down to 45 and T1 closer to 2 minutes. If you add all that up, I figure I left maybe ten minutes out on the course.

I do hope to do a few more of these this summer, maybe one a month. I know my biking would definitely improve if I kept at it, and maybe I can find a decent used tri bike somewhere along the way. Just getting my head down out of the wind would help a lot.

Overall I’m pretty pleased. I’m going to be so much better prepared for the next event. I’m taking a couple days off, but I’m back on the horse tomorrow. I still have plenty of challenges to come.

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