Friday, May 10, 2013

Bassman Race Report

Bassman International Race Report
May 5th, 2013


Location: Bass River State Forest, NJ
Distance: 0.6-mile swim/29.8-mile bike/5.2-mile run
2013 Triathlon Race Number: 3
Career Triathlon Race Number: 129
Conditions: Cold and breezy (10-15 mph), around 42 degrees at the race start and 48 by the end.  Overcast with heavy, laden skies.  Clear lake swim with water temp around 62 degrees.

This was to be my third triathlon of 2013 and the “official” start of my “regular” season, having completed two “pre-season” races in late March and early April.  Early week forecasts proved optimistic as race morning greeted us with raw and uninviting conditions.

I was competing in the International race, which was being held in conjunction with a Sprint and a Half-Iron distance race (plus numerous aquabikes, duathlons and relays).  There were 120 starters in the International race and there were just 7 guys in my 55-59 YO AG.  In fact, there were only two guys older than me entered in the race.

The field in my AG did not look particularly deep but I did have my eye on Tom Senff and Ted Maglione.  I had raced each 7 times before besting Tom 4 times and Ted all 7.  I expected to win this race with it’s bike heavy composition as I have won this AG race all three times I had entered prior (albeit, back in 2005, 2006 and 2008).

The race is run by a nice RD from City Tri.  Unfortunately, his style is a bit loosey-goosey and the race distance and courses were changed just 4 days before the race (swim from 0.5 to 0.6 miles, bike from 29 to an advertised 29.9 miles, and the run from 4.4 to a claimed 5.1 miles).  The start time actually changed 3 times in the final two days as well.  Not surprisingly, there was a bunch of confusion getting things going race morning and we ended up starting 38 minutes late.

None of this bothered me as one comes to expect this from City Tri.  I actually was rather worry-free race morning as I definitely viewed it as a “C” race and I trained right up to the race (I also had a busy travel week going to Washington and Boston).  I felt in reasonable shape despite my later start to training this season, but I felt a bit under the weather over the 2-3 days leading up to the race.  I definitely was not in “A” game status. 

The big news for this race was my first attempt at riding my new BMC TT01.  I only had about 60 miles on it and I was no where near comfortable yet with the fit so I didn’t know how it would work for 29+ hard race miles.  Anyways, after the sprint guys went off, soon enough we waded into the chilly water to begin our contest.

The Swim

The ladies went first and the 40+ guys followed 3 minutes later in Wave Two.  There weren’t that many of us so I decided to line up on the buoy-line as this was a clockwise box swim course.  This would allow me to keep the field in view as I breathed on my preferred left side.

At the start I veered a bit right to avoid any congestion but this soon proved to be an unnecessary precaution.  The field spaced out relatively quickly.  Quite a few folks were ahead of me, which for some reason I didn’t register as an issue.  I knew there were some strong 40+ competitors (such as former pro Scott Duprex) so I guess I wasn’t alarmed to have so many people swim away from me.
The water temp turned out to be fine—pleasant in fact once under way.  I settled into a comfortable rhythm right away.  I enjoy swimming in this lake (I think it’s the best I’ve ever swam in—in New Jersey anyways).  I had a completely uneventful swim—no drama and I felt well within my fitness envelope the whole way.

In retrospect, this was probably a mistake as I think I just took it way to easy on this swim—the reason I felt so good was because I was lolly-gagging!  My total elapsed time for the swim was 17:11.  One way of evaluating the swim is to compare my swim at Bassman to my swim last year at Rumpass, which was on April 15th last year:

                      Rumpass 2012      Bassman 2013

GPS Distance          0.59 miles              0.60 miles
Time                      13:52                    17:11
Pace                       23:27/mile              28:38/mile
Stroke Rate            37/min                   36/min
Strokes                  513                       612
Distance/Stroke      2.024 yds                      1.725 yds
OA %-tile               84.9 %                  71.7 %

Now, I will say that I do think the numbers in 2012 exaggerate my swim performance—I noted in my race report from last year that I didn’t think the course was really the 949 meters my GPS measured but I knew it was definitely longer than the 750 meters advertised.  As for Bassman this year, it looked visually pretty close—I estimated 0.6-0.7 miles before the start of the race and my GPS had it dead on 0.6 miles (as advertised).  In any event, this was a very slack effort on my part—well under my fitness I believe—I’ll need to bring a little bit more game to my future swims this year for sure!

Not surprisingly, my competitive performance was nothing to get excited about.  I was 35th OA (71.7 %-tile) and a disappointing 3rd in my AG.  Here is where my AG stood after the swim:

1.  Senff                        --------
2.  Cassimatis                + 0:22
3.  Christofferson           + 0:33
4.  Stahl                        + 0:55
5.  Hanrahan                  + 5:00

It would appear after the swim that it was a four-man race, but as we shall see, that was not the case…

Transition One

Blissfully unaware.  That’s the best way to describe my state of mind in T1.  Of course I was hoofing it as best as my aged body could but I assumed that I had the best swim and that I would soon put some hurt on the bike.

Despite my ill-placed confidence, I did in fact manage to execute my transition very efficiently in a total time of 3:50, during which I covered 0.18 miles.  This probably appears quite slow, but the transition area is very extended at Bassman.  Further, I felt it appropriate to don a bike jacket given the temperature and I also took the precaution of bringing spare tubes and repair stuff, which I put in the jacket.  Despite all of this, my relative performance supports a strong T1 on this morning.  I was 25th OA (80.0 %-tile) and first in my AG (my AG did not distinguish itself in T1).  In fact, after passing the timing mat at the exit of the bike rack area and running the lengthy distance across the sand to the mount line, I was surprised to see Senff in front of me and I passed him and left T1 in first place.  However, the official results—back at the racks—had us in the following order after T1:

1.  Senff                        --------
2.  Christofferson           + 0:14
3.  Stahl                        + 1:23
4.  Cassimatis                + 2:44
5.  Maglione                   + 5:51

The Bike

I was very aware of Senff mounting right behind me and I was determined to quickly pull away from him on the bike.  I felt pretty good right from the start and with a strong tailwind I was pleased with my initial sensation of pace.

I was soon out of the park and then at the fork made the left turn out onto the first (sprint) loop.  I felt ok during this initial phase but when I checked my average power early on I didn’t like what I saw.  I set my Edge 800 to give me splits every 2 miles—here is what the first three splits looked like:

2: 241 watts avg/242 watts NP/22.4 mph/80rpm/161bpm
4: 227/228/23.2/82/159
6: 230/232/22.1/85/158

At mile 6 I was settled in and my cadence was up in my target zone.  However, I could tell that all was not right in bikeland.  I was real antsy on my new stead and I began to become aware of discomfort in my neck and upper shoulders.  I could also feel discomfort in my arms and I had trouble trying to keep from sliding too far forward on my seat.  My power numbers were disappointing and I felt like I was getting passed by folks I wouldn’t normally expect to get passed by.  Yuch—and I had 24 more miles to go!

The next 6 miles were similar and if anything, worse:

8: 229/232/21.0/81/155
10: 232/234/21.4/81/156
12: 235/239/20.8/81/156

During the last split, I made the U-turn back at the State Forrest and I was able to see that Senff was about 1:50 behind me.  I ran the math and figured I’d be able to open up 5 minutes on him in the bike—this was good—almost certainly good enough, but frankly less than I expected.  By this point my upper body was hating my new bike and I knew that today would be a very challenging day for sure.  I soldiered on fully aware that my bike was going to be a major disappointment.

The next 6 miles was predominately on the Half-Ironman loop.  During this section my back/shoulder/neck pain intensified and I had to sit up quite a bit.  My bike numbers continued to suffer:

14: 228/229/21.8/81/153
16: 221/223/22.6/79/151
18: 243/245/21.8/81/154

As you might surmise by looking at the last split, I tried to rally a bit between miles 16 and 18.  I was aware that I was now firmly mired in a really poor bike split and I tried to shake myself out of it.  I was a little worried competitively and when I saw Senff I estimated that my lead was only around 2:45.  As I contemplated this I concluded that I would still have a big enough lead coming into T2 to be able to likely prevail but that relatively speaking, my race was unfolding quite poorly.

I tried to keep negative thoughts out of my brain as I headed back on the out and back and then rejoined the sprint course for the final portion of the bike.  The next six miles:

20: 227/230/21.0/82/154
22: 223/226/21.8/82/150
24: 220/221/22.2/81/150

As we headed back towards transition I was fortunate enough to engage in a duel with a 49 YO and this led to more effort on my part and a modest reversal of the downward trend evidenced above.  This was important because the last 6 miles were back mostly into a strong head wind:

26: 236/240/21.5/82/152
28: 236/240/21.5/83/155
29.8: 234/237/19.4/80/153

I finished the bike with an elapsed split of 1:22:23, which works out to a pedestrian 21.7 mph.  Yuch!  I had the 19th fastest bike split overall, which was just 85.0 %-tile.  My average power was an OK 232 watts and my NP came in at 234 watts.  My cadence averaged 81 rpm and my HR 155bpm. 

So how to evaluate this ride?  A number of observations:

My power output was not a total disaster.  At 232 watts I was just 3.33% off the 240 watts I recorded here in 2008—the only other ride here that I have power data from.  However, in 2008 I averaged 23.0 mph.  If everything else was equal, given this years power output, I would have expected to average 1.1% slower or 22.7 mph or I should have been 57 seconds faster today.  Now my RR from 2008 indicates that it was rainy and very windy then—perhaps, even worse than this morning.  So it’s hard to read too much into this comparison.

Interestingly, in 2008 I averaged 150bpm in generating my 240 watts while today I averaged 232 watts with a 155bpm HR.  Clearly I had to work harder this morning.  Another interesting data point is the low 81 rpm cadence.  Normally, I’m right around 85 rpm.  Perhaps these pieces of data reflect my struggle to find a comfortable position during this ride and by sitting up I became less aero, grinded more than spun, and while I was still able to produce reasonable power, I had to work too hard for it and I was slower than I should have been.  What this would mean is that my new bike as it is configured is considerably slower for me than my old bike.  It certainly felt that way!

Another way to assess this ride is to compare to others in the field.  Here are my OA %-tile numbers from the 4 times I’ve done this race:

2005: 85.0
2006: 94.0
2008: 93.6
2013: 85.0

Compared to most Jersey Shore races these are all low numbers for me.  I believe in part this race does attract more than its fair share of younger bike studs, given the heavy bike weight.  However, on the surface, my 2013 numbers are on the poorer end of this spectrum.  The differences between the 2008 and 2013 numbers and the discussion in the prior paragraph taken together suggest that the conditions were tougher in 2008 and I should have been even more than a minute faster this morning.

I also compared my self to Scott Duprex.  Scott is a former pro and many-time Kona veteran.  He is a consistent Bassman entrant and he finished: 1st, 1st, 3rd, and 5th respectively in the ’05, ’06, ’08, ’13 versions of this race.  Unfortunately, the RD did not capture his 2006 bike split but here is how my bike split compares to his for the other three Bassman bike splits:

2005: + 6.67%
2008: + 6.26%
2013: + 9.51%

It’s hard to get a lot of insight from such a small dataset but at face value this implies I should have been some 3% faster this morning.  This means I was about 2:30 slow, which feels right to me.  In any event, I definitely had a very disappointing ride this morning.

Competitively, in my AG, I did still manage to secure the fastest bike split.  Maglione had a surprisingly strong split, although he was also rung up for drafting and a 2-minute penalty.  Here is where we stood after the bike, with Marlione’s numbers showing both with and without penalty:

1.  Christofferson                  --------
2.  Senff                               + 5:02
3.  Maglione                          + 6:49 (8:49)
4.  Cassamatis                      +13:57
5.  Stahl                               +17:46

Transition Two

As I labored into transition I could sense right away that my legs were shot—much more than they should have been.  This was a big disappointment because the steeper seat-tube angle on my new bike should in theory lead to less stress on my legs.  Maybe the new position was stressing weaker, relatively undertrained muscles than my older, more dialed in position.  In any event I felt like crap as I trudged into T2.

However, I did execute a very efficient T2 posting a time of 1:53 over the 0.13-mile transition.  I averaged 154 bpm from a HR perspective.  I had the 13th fastest T2 OA (90.0 %-tile) and the best in my AG.  One positive I take away through the first three races this year is that my transitions are quite a bit better than in years past.  Here is where we stood after T2:

1.  Christofferson                  --------
2.  Senff                               + 5:53
3.  Maglione                          + 6:51 (8:51)
4.  Cassamatis                      +14:34
5.  Stahl                               +20:04

The Run

As I headed out for the run I was under the clear impression that I was both comfortably in the lead and that I was having a very poor race.  The early part of the run indicated to me that if anything I was going to have an even worse day and that perhaps I shouldn’t be so comfortable about my lead.

Around about 2 miles there was an out and back section and I could see that Maglione was now in second and that he was a bit more than 4 minutes behind me and Senff was not far behind him.  As bad as I felt (really bad), this calmed me a bit.  Normally I would expect to run about the same as Maglione (I was 29 seconds faster at Bassman in 2008) and and a bit faster than Senff.

Later, around 4 miles, there was another part of the course where I could get a glimpse back to my competitors and I was shocked to see that Maglione had closed to within 2 minutes and it seemed like Senff was still a good 5 minutes back. Ughhh!  This confirmed my poor run but I also determined that I could still win this one pretty comfortably.

Here are the splits from my run:

Mile 1:  8:36/161 bpm
Mile 2:  8:42/162 bpm
Mile 3:  8:46/160 bpm
Mile 4:  8:37/160 bpm
Mile 5:  8:44/161 bpm
Mile 5.2: 7:55/162 bpm

It may have been slow but it sure was consistently so!  Anyways, I finished with a disappointing 44:43 run split.  This is an 8:37/mile pace.  There was 92 feet of elevation gain in this mostly flat course.  My heart rate averaged 161 bpm so it certainly wasn’t the case that I was dogging it!

Comparatively, this was a horrible run.  I had the 58th fastest run (52.5 %-tile) and was a miserable 5th in my AG.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had one as bad as this!

None-the-less, I finished the race in 2:30:01, which was 32nd OA (74.2 %-tile).  My AG victory is the 40th of my career in 129 races (31.0 %).  Here were the final standings:

1.  Christofferson                  --------
2.  Maglione                          + 2:35
3.  Senff                               + 4:42
4.  Cassamatis                      +13:09
5.  Stahl                               +21:19


1.     No two ways about it.  A bad day in the office!  I’m not surprised by this.  As I’ve progressed from old to ancient I’ve noted greater variability in my race day performance.  I used to be able to train through “C” races and still preform reasonably well almost every time.  Increasingly this approach leads to clunkers like I had today.
2.     That said, I persevered and finished yet another triathlon and I was fortunate enough to not be at my best and still claim my AG victory—and number 40 at that.  I certainly don’t take this for granted and am grateful for this outcome.
3.     I didn’t feel particularly good before the race and my guess is that this did negatively affect things.
4.     My new bike and my position is slower than my old bike/position.  I suspect that I’ll be able to correct that over the next couple of weeks and I will work to do so.  I’m also aware, that even when I get it “right” there will probably be an adjustment period before my body is able to go as fast as it should be able to on this beautiful new machine.  That said, I’ll race the old TT01 up in Boston next weekend.  The TM01 is going back to the “minors” until I’m confident I have it right.
5.     There is also a strong probability that the optimistic take from my first two triathlons this year was in-fact too optimistic.  Today’s race may just indicate that my reduced training load in 2013 has left me in not so good shape for early May.

We’ll find out more this coming weekend when I race up in Boston at the New England Season Opener.

Thanks for reading!

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