Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Escape From Fort Delaware Race Report

Escape From Fort Delaware Race Report
May 18th, 2013


Location: Delaware City, DE
Distance: 0.22-mile swim/9.9-mile bike/2-mile run
2013 Triathlon Race Number: 4
Career Triathlon Race Number: 130
Conditions: Cool (59 degrees) and breezy (15-20 mph).  Overcast with heavy, laden skies.  A light rain falling.  Swim was in a channel off the Delaware River and the water temperature was around 58 degrees.

My fourth triathlon of the 2013 campaign was a last minute decision in wake of my election to not compete the prior weekend up in Mass.  Since the race is in the Delaware River, not too far from where it empties into the Atlantic the RD times the race with the tides.  So I was treated to a 4 pm start—what a luxury!  The weather conditions were raw, which seems to be the story of my 2013 races so far.

There were just 83 entrants in this inaugural Sprint version of the Escape From Fort Delaware Race.  As it turned out, I faced but one other competitor in my AG!

The Swim

We all took buses from the transition area across the canal to an Island where the swim start was located.  It was starting to rain but with a wetsuit, I felt quite comfy.  The current was quite strong so the RD kept us out of the water until about 20 seconds before the start—with an in-water start there was no way we could hold our positions at the start line for longer than that.

Prior to the start I eyed my AG competitor, one Mark Alderfer, and he looked like a runner type.  I have never raced him before but was feeling pretty confident with his size that I could put the hurt on him in the swim and bike.

The first wave was for the men with the women starting in wave 2.  I decided to start to the right, the farthest point away from the finish, which was across the 50-60 foot wide canal on the other side.  This turned out to be a tactical mistake.  At the start I kept trying to angle across the canal but for some reason I kept getting pushed to the right and ended up hugging the canal wall on the right for most of the way.  I’m sure the current was weaker here and my management of the swim course was quite poor.

I was dismayed to see quite a few folks in front of me—I had frankly expected to be in the top 10 of the swim.  Also, I saw Alderfer’s distinctive wetsuit right next to me and I began to think that maybe I had underestimated him.

The water was cold and I had trouble breathing.  It also seemed like my heart was racing a bit.  Not a pleasant swim—the water was very murky—you could not see anything in the water.  Despite this, the swim was over in a flash—My swim split of 4:23 is the shortest amount of time I have ever swam in a triathlon!

My Garmin clocked the swim distance as 0.22 miles so with the aid of the current my swim pace was just 19:55/mile, which is the first time I’ve ever been under 20 min/mile in a swim split and this is my “fastest” swim ever….LOL!  Competitively, I had the 13th fastest swim overall (85.5 %-tile) and I exited the swim right next to Mr. Alderfer—the race was on.

Transition One

There was quite a lengthy run involved in getting from the swim exit to the transition area.  We climbed up a couple of ramps and were blasted by a fire truck hose (presumably to wash the Delaware river toxicity off of us!).  Then there was a long run to the far side of the transition.  I pushed very hard and passed a number of people and probably ended up getting credit for a better swim position finish then I deserved as the swim timing matt was at the entrance to T1.

My Garmin had the T1 distance at 0.18 miles and I completed my T1 activities in 2:24.  This continued my pattern of improved transitions this year as I was 10th OA (89.2 %-tile).  I passed a number of folks in transition and actually was the 5th male to leave transition.  I also put a whopping 52 seconds on Alderfer and was soon on my way to the bike mount line with a sizeable lead!

The Bike

I was very interested to see if I had solved some of the bike positional problems I endured at Bassman.  I changed the drop on my new BMC TM01 downward by an amazing 4.5 cms.  I was also able to open up the spacing of the aero bar pads by 1.5 cms.  I was hopeful that these changes, which brought the new bike much closer fit-wise to my first BMC TT bike, would solve my comfort issues and allow me to create the kind of power that I typically see in a sprint triathlon.

I noticed right away that my left foot was angled unnaturally inward quite a bit and that my right foot was moving all over—like it almost wasn’t clipped in. Aghhhh!  Rookie mistake!  I was using new racing shoes and I neglected to check them to make sure that they were really tightened down after my trial ride the day before.  The new shiny carbon on the bottom was not biting the cleats and I was especially concerned about pulling the cleat entirely off my right foot.  The cleat problems combined with the light rain and open city roads with lots of intersections caused me to be fairly conservative in the early parts of this bike ride.

Tactically, I did not have a good grasp of where I was.  As I left T1 I saw a guy right in front of me and I could see Blair Saunders about 20-30 seconds up the road.  Blair is the best cyclist that I routinely compete against.  He’s in his mid to late 40s and was a former Canadian Olympian and was the National Cycling Champion for Canada a bunch of times.  He is much better at cycling than I am of course.  However, I am typically faster in the swim so the realization that Blair is in front of me coming out of T1 tells me that I’m not off to the best of starts.

I soon pass the guy in front of me and watch Blair recede into the distance.  I feel pretty good and much more comfortable with the fit adjustments I’ve made on my new TT bike.  A couple of miles in I’m passed by a 21 YO and I decide to track him, which I do from 40-50 feet back.  I’m surprised by the number of rolling hills on the course and at one point we have a fairly steep descent followed by a railroad track crossing and a hard right turn.  I’m pretty timid through this part of the course.

Here is how the first five miles unfolded:

Mile 1: 21.8 mph/166 bpm/82 rpm/259 watts/261 watts NP
2: 22.2/163/88/231/231
3: 23.4/161/85/226/230
4: 25.5/160/84/268/268
5: 19.3/162/84/257/268

As you can see above, I began to feel more confident in miles 4 and 5 and began to up my effort.  I felt pretty good for sure.  I saw Blair come by the other way a couple of minutes in front of me.  I didn’t see the fellow in second for some reason.  My slower speed in Mile 5 was due to the descent down to the turnaround and then the 180 and climb back up.  As I execute the turnaround the 21 YO has some bike problems and I re-pass him.  At this point I believe that I might be in 3rd place behind Blair.  I’m pretty energized and I feel very strong and decide to keep pouring it on.

On the way back, I look for Alderfer and I see that he is more than 2 minutes behind me and I know that this race is mine.  I keep pouring it on and I start closing the gap to a cyclist I believe to be in 3rd.  I catch him at around mile 7 or 8 and at this point I believe I am now in 2nd.  Further I can see a cyclist up in front of me and I can see that I’m closing on him as well.  Could it be that I’m having a truly great bike leg and actually catching Blair?  I laugh out loud at this thought and when I look at my average power I know that there has to be another competitor in front of me that I’ve somehow missed.

In any event, I keep pushing it over the last 5 miles (well, 4.9).  Here is the data from this segment:

6: 24.0/168/88/254/272
7: 20.7/166/90/256/259
8: 24.5/168/90/252/252
9: 26.0/165/84/242/245
10: 19.8/166/87/234/238

I’m very pleased with the back half of this race.  I clearly have more power to access and with continued training I should begin to see some real improvements in the races ahead.

As it turns out, I have the 2nd fastest bike split (98.8 %-tile) OA.  My bike split is 25:56.  I average 22.9 mph and 245 watts with a Normalized Power of 249 watts.  My HR averages 165bpm and my cadence is 86rpm.  The HR and cadence are excellent but the power is a bit lower than I would expect.  Perhaps I was too timid.  Maybe my fit is not dialed in yet.  Maybe I’m just not fit enough yet.  I’m encouraged by the progress indicated by these numbers but until I see power above 260 my new bike experiment must still be considered a work in progress.  We’ll see what I can do at Jersey Genesis in early June.

As I mentioned I had the 2nd fastest bike overall and was now in 3rd as I entered T2.  I put a huge 4:02 on Alderfer and sealed my AG victory.

Transition Two

I could see 2 bikes in transition so I knew I was in third.  I could see the fellow in front of me—maybe about 20 seconds ahead.  The 31 YO rolled into T2 just as I was heading out for the run.  I had another solid (for me) transition with a T2 split of 0:55 (this was only 26th OA, which is puzzling).

The Run

I chugged out for the short two-mile out and back.  I felt sluggish as usual but I was upbeat due to the prospect of only two miles.  I was passed a few minutes in by the 31 YO and I decided that I really wanted to at least finish in the top 10.

Shortly before the 1-mile turnaround I was passed by a couple of other folks.  I hit the mile split at 8:04 and with a HR of 168bpm.

I was a little pissed at the 8:04 and I decided to push the last mile—I wanted to see if there was more in the tank.  To my surprise there was.  I felt pretty good running harder. 

I was surprised to see some of the ladies so close so I figured they were likely ahead of me with the wave adjustment—I needed to push it to finish in the top 10.  Which I did.  I was passed shortly before the finish line and dropped to 7th OA on the road.  However, there were some fast women in the race as 3 finished in the top 10 and the two fastest finished 2nd and 3rd OA!  Wow!  Everyone but Blair was “chicked”!

I’m pleased to report I ran my last mile in 7:29 for a total run split of 15:33 (7:46/mile).  My HR was 170 bpm over the last mile for an average of 169.

I finished with a time of 49:11, which was good enough for 10th OA (89.2 %-tile).  I won my AG by 4:10 and this marks my 41st AG win.  I’ve actually won 6 of the last 7 local races I’ve entered and am 8 wins out of 16 races that I’ve entered in the 55-59 YO AG.

I’m not in the best of shape yet but days like today are quite satisfying none-the-less!

No comments: