Monday, March 25, 2013

Tune-Up Tri Race Report

First race of the season:

Tune-Up Triathlon Race Report
March 24th, 2013


Location: Manassas, VA
Distance: 1.68 mile run/4.31 mile bike/250 yard swim
2013 Triathlon Race Number: 1
Career Triathlon Race Number: 127
Conditions: Very cold—28 degrees at start.  Clear and negligible wind.  Pool swim.

First race of the 2013 triathlon (pre) season.  I was able to combine a trip 160 miles south to Manassas with a visit with Jenny in Baltimore.  This was my first time at this race venue.

This is a very unusual event for me.  Firstly, the event is run as a Run/Bike/Swim or reverse of the normal order.  This is done due to anticipated cold weather.  Second, the race is very, very short—dramatically shorter than any other triathlon I’ve ever competed in.  Third, this is the earliest that I have raced in triathlon and is in-fact only the 3rd time I’ve raced in the month of March.

My expectations were low for the race since I was a good 6 weeks behind my normal training program as my training start was delayed by Anders and my Aconcagua expedition in January.  I also didn’t expect to get a very good read on my fitness due to the sequence of the events and the nature of the run, bike and swim courses (more on that later).  None-the-less, I was excited to race again and while I didn’t know any of my competition in the race, I thought that there would be a reasonably good chance for me to win my 55-59 YO AG.  There 10 athletes in my AG and 159 overall.

I spent Saturday night at Jenny’s and then awoke at 4 am to drive the 80 or so miles south to Manassas.  I was there by 6 am and was able to get ready in plenty of time before the 7:30 am start.

The Run

Since it was so chilly, I wore my thin RAAM cycling LS jersey on top and some lightweight running pants on the bottom over my tri-suit.  I also sported a FC Barcelona hat and some running gloves.  I was in the third wave with the under 19 crowd, 50+ women and men 55 and older.  I was very pleased with this, as I knew that any older guys were likely to be in my AG.

Running first opened up a bunch of tactical questions for me.  Since my run is my weakest discipline, my tactical decisions typically revolve around how hard do I push the swim and bike to give me a big enough cushion and not burn-out my run before I even don my running shoes.  Today, my tactical questions were much more straightforward.  I knew if I stayed close to the run leaders it would be likely that the strength of my bike/swim would be enough for me to secure the victory.  Running first is a real tactical advantage for me!

At the gun I went out pretty hard to clear myself from some of the younger, overly enthusiastic crowd.  After the first turn (of 14 on the run course) I eased off a bit.  Soon however, two older gentlemen went by me.  They opened up about a ten-yard gap and I picked my pace up just a little to see how it felt to keep pace.

I felt pretty good and was having no real difficulties staying with them.  After running across some mulch and grass I glanced down at my Garmin and saw that we were about 0.6 miles in and I was well under an eight minute pace.  We made a turn out onto an out and back segment where we were crammed onto a sidewalk with runners going two ways.

I knew that the correct strategy was for me to just pace on these two guys and then put them away on the bike but I couldn’t resist having some fun, as I felt very comfortable with the pace.  I made a tactical decision and when an opening in the on-coming traffic presented itself I surged around the two leaders and a couple of other slower runners from the earlier wave.  I eased back into a nice steady-state pace and listened to see if my competitors would respond.  I could clearly hear them working hard to close down the gap.

Just pass 1 mile (which I passed in 7:37 with an average HR of 164 bpm) I hit the turn-around and saw that the two of them (Rice and Richard) were staying right on my back.  I played a bit on the way back to transition by surging several times for 40-50 yards.  Each time, the two R’s would respond and hang onto my pace.  When I slowed a bit so did they, seemingly not wanting to pass myself.  I smiled to myself at this point.  They seemed to have decided that I was the man to beat and were trying to hang on during the run and try to beat me on the bike and/or swim.  Good luck with that!

I was content to just stay in front of them and record the fastest AG run split.  I averaged 7:39/mile over the last 0.68 miles into transition and I finished the run leg with an elapsed time of 12:49 (7:38/mile).  My HR averaged 167bpm for the whole affair and my Garmin recorded 52 feet of climbing during the run.  I definitely had more in the tank—I tend to average 172 bpm in open 5k runs and I probably could have safely gone at least 20-30 seconds faster this morning.

I didn’t need to on this morning as I recorded the top run time in my AG and I was 38th OA (76.7 %-tile), which on the surface isn’t too bad for me.  However, given the screwy nature of this race, I won’t read too much into this result.  Here is where we stood in my AG after the run:

1.     Christofferson               --------
2.     Richards                + 0:02
3.     Rice                      + 0:05
4.     Willett                   + 2:00
5.     Metge                   + 2:01

Transition One

I ran hard into and through transition.  I knew I was in command of the race but I didn’t want to take any chances.  I didn’t want to have a poor T1 and have to play catch-up on the bike.  I switched shoes and tried to buckle my helmet but my gloves made it difficult.  I decided to just rip them off (knowing I would pay for it on the bike).  As I wheeled my bike out of Transition I glanced over and saw one of the two Rs was considerably behind me in his transition efforts.

I hit the mount line with an elapsed transition time of 1:00.  I covered 0.07 miles in transition and was really working with an average HR of 171 bpm.  I knew I had the lead and that it would be greater than I entered T1 with.  In-fact I had the top T1 in my AG (42nd OA) and enjoyed a nice gap at the start of the bike:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Richards                   + 0:36
3.  Rice                          + 0:51
4.  Willett                      + 3:13
5.  Metge                       + 3:29

The Bike

My biggest fitness concern coming into this race was my bike fitness.  The late start combined with a horrible winter/early spring has conspired to really constrain my outdoor training leading into this race.  That said, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I didn’t expect to really learn much about my true bike fitness in this race.  Coming after the run as opposed to after the swim certainly is an issue.  But more importantly, this “4-mile” (actually 4.27 miles) course featured 15 turns and 4 180 out and backs!  More like a crit than a TT-style tri bike leg.

My Edge 800 decided to reboot itself in the cold to original factory settings so I had no idea what was going on with it.  It couldn’t display my normal pages and I wasn’t even sure if it had the appropriate slope and other calibration settings for my PM—probably it didn’t.  Two consequences of this—first I never looked at my computer during the race and 2nd, the power data numbers it recorded are very suspect.

After mounting up I immediately jumped out of the saddle and started pouring on the heat.  I figured this would be all over in 11-13 minutes so I was intent to just go as hard as I could.  The ride was very disorienting as I kept having to slow, turn, jump up and sprint.  At the first turn-around I got a chance to see where my pursuers were and I knew at that point they were not going to catch me.  For the balance of the ride I rode just “pretty hard” and here is what each of the miles looked like:

Mile 1

Time:              3:01
Speed:           19.9 mph
HR average:    161 bpm
Cadence:         80 rpm
Avg Power:      260 watts
Norm. Power:  280 watts      

Mile 2

Time:              3:02
Speed:            19.7 mph
HR average:    158 bpm
Cadence:         81 rpm
Avg Power:      233 watts
Norm Power:   239 watts

Mile 3

Time:              2:55
Speed:            20.5 mph
HR average:    154 bpm
Cadence:         86 rpm
Avg Power:      227 watts
Norm Power:   231 watts

Mile 4

Time:              3:17
Speed:            18.3 mph
HR average:    157 bpm
Cadence:         84 rpm
Avg Power:      242 watts
Norm Power:   245 watts

Mile 4.27

Time:              0:56
Speed:            17.3 mph
HR average:    156 bpm
Cadence:         76 rpm
Avg Power:      212 watts
Norm Power:   252 watts

For the ride as a whole, I averaged 239 watts and had a normalized power of 249 watts.  My HR averaged 157 bpm and my average cadence was 82 rpm.

I completed the bike leg in 13:11, which translates into an average of 19.4 mph.  Not surprisingly, this was close to two minutes faster than my closest AG competitors.  Overall, I posted the 9th fastest bike split (94.9 %-tile).  Here is where we stood after the bike:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Richards                   + 2:21
3.  Rice                          + 2:50
4.  Willett                      + 4:03
5.  Metge                       + 4:13

Transition Two

This was my first ever bike to swim transition.  I knew I had a big lead and I had a lot of clothes to strip off.  I was joking with other folks in transition but by and large stayed focused on the job at hand.  I ended up taking 2:19 to execute the transition.  This was only 3rd best in my AG and was 37th best OA (77.2 %-tile).  Pretty messed-up transition.  A bunch of running in my tri-suit outside in 31-degree (it had warmed up a bit) weather.  This was followed by a longish WALK on the pool deck.  That said, my lead remained insurmountable:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Richards                   + 2:11
3.  Rice                          + 3:07
4.  Willett                      + 4:02
5.  Metge                       + 4:42

The Swim

When I finally reached the start of the swim there were 5 other people congregated there seemingly not in the most hurried of states.  I knew I had won my AG race so I was not in a hyper-competitive state but I was still in race mode and anxious to jump in.  There was a fair amount of jostling but finally I was able to slip in (you were required to sit down and slip in).

I was shocked when I slipped in.  First, it was very deep and very deep I went!  Second, my frozen hands (and body to a lesser extent) interpreted the pool temperature to be about 140 degrees!  I surfaced and gasped at the sudden change of environment.  And then I was pushed by a largish dude in front of me in my face causing my left goggle lens to fill with water…Grrr…..

I proceeded to try to claw my way through the crowd in front of me but surprisingly I made little headway.  After 25 yards I stopped to try to fix my goggles and was immediately pushed by one of my fellow competitors.  All right—enough of this…lets go!

A side note on the rules of this leg.  This was a 10-length “snake” swim.  After each length of the 25-yard pool you had to touch the wall.  Then slip under the rope.  Then touch again and then go.  No flip turns nor pushing off in one lane and cruising under the rope.  The upshot of this was I had to stop and wait for a (seemingly) long time after each of the first 3-4 lengths.    The fourth length was especially hand-to-hand combat oriented!  After that I was able to clear the crowd and swim relatively easily.  On the 6th length (125-150 yards) I looked over and saw that no one was gaining on me and I cruised the rest of the way home.  Here is the Garmin data about my swim:

Length 1:        25.0        12 strokes
Length 2:        24.2        12 strokes
Length 3:        31.0        14 strokes
Length 4:        34.4        15 strokes
Length 5:        26.6        13 strokes
Length 6:        28.4        14 strokes
Length 7:        28.1        14 strokes
Length 8:        26.4        15 strokes
Length 9:        29.5        13 strokes
Length 10:      39.0        15 strokes

The last length obviously included a wait at the ladder, a climb up the ladder and a bit of a “walk” across the deck to the timing mat.

In any event, I finished the swim with a swim split of 4:54 having taken 136 strokes.  I’ll refrain from calculating my SGolf score, as it is certainly not representative of my fitness for this swim.

I was nosed out by two of my AG competitors on the swim and posted the 35th fastest swim OA (78.5 %-tile), which despite everything is not that bad for a pool swim for me.  My swim split was 4:54.

Anyways, I ended up winning the AG race by a very comfortable margin, especially from a percentage perspective.  I was 19th OA, which was good enough for an 88.6 %-tile.


-      Awesome to race again….I really love to race!
-      Pretty encouraging results overall
-      Felt good on the run…. can’t declare victory of course but I think I might be getting better with my training changes
-      Bike probably looked better than it really is
-      Swim data is not useful at all, but I’m not in very good swim shape
-      39th win!  I don’t take anything for granted and am relieved when I win again….I’ve still got some juice.
-      Nice start to 2013!

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