Tuesday, August 21, 2012

wildwood race report

Wildwood Sprint Triathlon Race Report
August 18th, 2012


Location: Wildwood, NJ
Distance: 0.5-mile swim/9.94-mile bike/3.1-mile run
2012 Triathlon Race Number: 9
Career Triathlon Race Number: 123
Conditions: Mid-60s, raining quite a bit early on but then clearing—rain was quite cold.  Breezy and from the North.  73-75 degrees water temperature—felt cold.  Strong current and very choppy.  Muddy, with huge water puddles in transition.  The bike was dangerous—what can you say!

I had very mixed feelings about doing this race.  I did it for the first time back in 2004—it’s debut—and was struck by how dangerous the bike was—putting 500-600 triathletes (many who are not skilled) into a space that is about 1-mile long is a recipe for disaster in my view.  Plus, a high tide beach run with my knee is not a good thing…. Still, Steve Delmonte is the race director and there is not a living race director that is better in my view…. So, when he sent me an e-mail asking what it would take for me to do it again, and since I was going to be in town, I agreed to sign up.

Unfortunately, race morning I awoke at 4:45 in Stone Harbor to a steady rain and scattered lightning.  The wind was whipping 15-20 from the North.  I almost went back to bed then but thought I owned it to Steve to follow through on my commitment.  I also thought it was pretty certain the swim would get cancelled with the lightning and then I could easily bail (I don’t do Du’s when I sign up for Tri’s)—Wildwood is just a few miles south of our home in NJ so no big deal…

I went through all of the pre-race hassle that comes with a tri on a very crowded NJ beach resort during high season.  The rain was pounding down and people were actually shaking and trying to find relief.  I cut my warm-up short and put my wetsuit on just to stay warm—I ended up wearing it for 45 minutes before I actually hit the water.

It was supposed to be a 7:30 sharp start but the weather delayed us for over 30 minutes.  Finally the first swim waves went off.  The swimmers were dramatically swept southward by the very strong current.  The swim, for some reason was a swim out into the ocean and then straight back again—as a result, as the swimmers were swept right (North to South) pass the turn-buoy it guaranteed that folks swimming in would have to swim through folks swimming out.

I looked on from the shore and debated bailing.  I decided that was the wimpier option.  I considered my competitive position and was pretty certain I was some 4-8 minutes faster than anyone in my AG so I thought that I could take it easy and still comfortably win.  My plan was to get up early (4am) the next day and do the LiveStrong Challenge 100 in Montgomery County, PA—some 120 miles away so I decided there to race, but to be very conservative.  Pretty close to 8:30am, it was time for us dudes, 50 and older to finally race….

The Swim

My Garmin 910, for some reason, had no charge so my data for the swim is limited.  Further, the posted results are full of bad splits—lots of folks doing 9-minute swims and then 9 minute T2s.  A friend in my wave who had the fastest swim split in the mid 12s said most of the faster swim splits were bogus.  All of this is to say I don’t have a lot of solid data about the swim.  I tried to isolate obviously bad swim splits (I found at least 13 of them) and I’ve adjusted the results for them…. but, it’s murky at best.
I found the swim very challenging.  The surf, while not huge, was definitely a factor.  The water was much colder than expected and the currents kept sweeping me off of my feet at the start.  Still, I could clearly see that there were just 2-3 swimmers in our wave (50+ males) that were faster I assumed (correctly) that these included Lehner and Fabrizzio—both in the 50-54 YO AG.

My goggles filled with water at one point and I had to stop and fix them.  I also stopped a couple of times just to get my bearings.  I had started a good 50-75 yards north of the turn-buoy to deal with the side-current and this seemed to work OK.  When I made the turn for home I had to swim through a gaggle of swimmers swimming in both directions.  I did not feel comfortable and the turbulence in the water made for very slow goings.  All of this obviously led to a very slow swim but while I didn’t have my Garmin, I’m pretty sure this swim was much closer to a half than a quarter mile.

I finally washed up on shore—some 100 yards South of where I started the swim feeling disoriented and a bit queasy—still, I knew I had a relatively good swim competitively.  In fact I had the 48th fastest swim out of 582 competitors (91.9 %-tile) and I had the fastest swim of the 13 guys in my AG.  My time was 13:56 and here is where we stood in my AG after the swim:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Reich                        + 0:37
3.  Morey                       + 0:38
4.  Weiner                     + 2:29
5.  Beyers                      + 2:51

As an aside, Reich and Weiner had finished 2nd and 3rd the year before and were the two gentlemen (along with Beyers) whom I felt would provide the most competition.  That said, I had a vague sense of the above results as I ran up the beach and was feeling pretty confident that I could put the AG race away on my bike….

Transition One

I was quite a ways south of the starting point due to the current so I ran along the water’s edge for a bit and then finally up over the soft sand—it’s quite a trek to get across the very wide beach in North Wildwood.  I finally made it up and into transition proper.  There were deep puddles of water and lots of slippery mud to negotiate. Which I seemed to do ok with and I executed what I considered a decent T1.  My overall T1 time was 4:00.  This turned out to be 53rd OA (91.1 %-tile) and 2nd to Byers by 7 seconds in my AG—here is where we stood in the AG after T1:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Morey                       + 1:10
3.  Reich                        + 1:43
4.  Beyers                      + 2:44
5.  Weiner                     + 2:44

The Bike

The bike course at Wildwood is tight and congested.  It consists of a roughly 1-mile out and back that is connected to a 1-mile stretch of Central Avenue, which has a grass median, and this forms a two-mile loop that you complete four times before heading back to transition.  The RD manages this well by creating 10 waves and sending them off in 5 minute intervals so my guess is there is never more than 60% of the race participants actually on the bike course at the same time.  The loop is also closed to traffic, which is critical as North Wildwood is very densely populated in August.  Still, the course is very crowded and since many of the competitors are novices, it can be quite dangerous.

I was mindful of this as I headed out on my bike.  I was eight weeks out from Kona and I certainly did not want to wreck my TT bike or do something major to my body by crashing in this race.  Also, the road was soaked and there was a lot of white paint on it that looked quite slippery.  I was more than prepared to back off to try to avoid trouble.

I went pretty hard right out of transition, as the first mile out to the loop was sparsely populated.  I felt pretty good and had a lot of power available despite my heavy training load coming into the race.  Once I entered the 4-lap loop I could immediately see that I was not going to be able to just lay down in my aero bars and let it rip.  The first half of the loop was downwind and I could easily hit 28-30 mph.  However, this didn’t happen much as people were riding right, left and center and many times yelling “on your left” did not have the desired impact on those ahead who were technically violating the blocking rule.  I had to sit up on many occasions and several times weave right and left to get around little groups.  My rate of closure on many riders was well over 10 mph, so there were several occasions I had to slam on my breaks to avoid a mountain biker tooling along on the left side of the road at 15 mph.

I took all of this in stride, as my sole objective was to complete the bike loop safely.  Also, early on I could see Dan Fabrizzio not too far ahead of me and I could see that I would soon pass him.  I knew that Dan was considerably faster than all of my 55-59 YO competitors last year so I felt it was safe to assume that if I entered T2 ahead of him that I would have a very comfortable lead heading into the run.  I managed to avoid trouble for the most part and completed my bike leg in 26:51. 

I clocked the course at 9.94 miles so I averaged just 22.2 mph.  My power averaged 243 watts, which was surprising given how much I had to back off.  My NP was 246 watts and my HR was only 155 bpm—a good 10 bpm below a normal sprint effort, so clearly I had the potential to put up a big power number today.  My cadence averaged 87 rpm, which is very good given the course and the crowding.  Here is how each mile looked:

1:  20.5mph/155bpm/82rpm/263 watts AP/263 watts NP
2:  23.2/154/89/235/235
3:  21.9/155/86/248/251
4:  23.5/154/84/231/239
5:  21.6/154/84/251/253
6:  24.7/155/92/235/243
7:  21.6/155/86/243/245
8:  23.7/154/90/238/238
9:  21.1/157/88/253/256
10: 20.7/152/91/227/229

Competitively, I was surprised to post the 8th fastest split OA (98.8 %-tile) and quite a bit faster than all of my AG competitors.  Here is where we were in the AG after the bike:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Weiner                     + 3:50
3.  Morey                      + 3:55
4.  Beyers                     + 4:59
5.  Reich                       + 7:50

Transition Two

I made short work of T2 and completed my transition tasks in 2:00—it was quite a long way to the T2 timing mat.  This was a disappointing 126th OA (78.5 %-tile) but easily the best in my AG—here is where we stood after T2:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Weiner                     + 4:46
3.  Morey                       + 4:48
4.  Beyers                      + 5:11
5.  Reich                        + 8:02

There was a great race going on behind me in my AG but I was blissfully, and thankfully unaware or concerned about it.

The Run

The run here is about 1.4 miles on the beach—and in this case due to the high tide, all soft sand--followed by a convoluted 1.7 miles or so through three of the pier-based amusement parks that dominate Wildwood’s shoreline.  Yuck!  I actually don’t know how far the course was, as my 910 had no charge and I didn’t use it.

I figured I was way ahead in my AG and decided to just jog the run.  I knew I had to get up at 4 the next morning to drive to Montgomery county—NW of Philly to ride 100+ miles at the Livestrong Challenge 100 and that I needed to nail the next 10 days with very heavy training—especially focused on my run.  I decided to jog easy until Fabrizzio caught up to me and then I’d cruise it on in—I was pretty certain this would easily yield an AG victory for me.  So that is what I did:

The run on the beach was very frustrating as the uneven surface created constant stress on my bad knee—even though I was running very slowly I was in a ton of pain.  This is why I avoid running in soft sand.  I hit the first mile in 10:12 (My Garmin 910 wasn’t working so I’m relying on the RD’s measurements here).

Dan passed me around 1.3-1.4 miles so I started to run a bit more aggressively—especially when we finally made it up on the boardwalk.  My second mile was 8:01, which with the soft sand running struck me as too aggressive so I backed off and just cruised all the way home.  My 3rd mile was 8:46 and I finished the run in 26:59.   Competitively, this was, of-course, quite poor.  I had the 222nd fastest run OA (62.0 %-tile) and I had the 7th fastest time in my AG.  Overall, I finished in 1:14:34, which was the 42nd best time (93.0 %-tile) and here is how my AG ended up:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Beyers                     + 2:19
3.  Weiner                     + 3:02
4.  Reich                        + 4:20
5.  Morey                       + 4:46

Not much to conclude from this race beyond I did what I needed to do to win my AG and I was too tired and conservative to really race today.  Still, I’m happy with the race and my effort during it—I think I did it just right on this difficult morning.

Now, time to focus on Kona! 

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