Friday, June 14, 2013

Jersey Genesis Race Report

2013 Jersey Genesis Sprint Triathlon Race Report
June 8th, 2013


Location: Port Republic, New Jersey
Distance: 0.57-mile swim/15-mile bike/4-mile run
2013 Triathlon Race Number: 5
Career Triathlon Race Number: 131
Conditions: Mild—temp around 67 degrees.  Humid but not overly so.  Windy early but diminishing as the morning progressed.  Water temp of 63 degrees.

After a three-week racing hiatus that included our trip up to Boston to participate in Anders’ graduation from HBS, I returned ready to rock at this venerable Jersey classic-this was to be the 18th edition of this old school sprint triathlon.  For me, this is the 5th time that I’ve raced here having previously raced this race in 2002 (my 6th triathlon), 2003, 2010 and 2011.  This race has always attracted a strong cadre of Jersey Shore triathletes, typically in pretty good form, given the early summer timing.  It seems to also attract quite a few of the older stalwarts and as such, it’s been difficult for me to win this AG race.  I’ve enjoyed one first and two seconds in my four previous attempts.

For this year’s race, a smallish field of 201 individual people started (there were also 8 relay teams).  I can’t help but think that the very freakish weather associated with Tropical Storm Andrea that plagued us the day before and early the morning of the race might have discouraged quite a few folks from turning up.

I knew beforehand that there was a good M55-59 turnout (and 12 would race this morning) that was highlighted by my old buddy Mickey Syrop.  If you’ve read my blog and race reports through the years you know that Mick is the person I’ve raced more than any other person—in fact I had raced him 25 times previously (which is about 20% of my races).  I’ve enjoyed an 18-7 advantage against Mick through the years but I believe this statistic is quite misleading.  Mick has been challenged by something like a dozen knee surgeries, which led to a several year period where he was less competitive.  However, from 2009-2011 Mick usually got the better of me and indeed, Mick is one of those guys who races a lot and as the season progresses he becomes much stronger and tougher to beat.  In my view, when Mick is at his peak, he is the better Sprint Triathlete.

We both raced (in different races) a number of the same folks over the last few weeks of 2013 so I modeled how our current demonstrated fitness was likely to predict the head-to-head outcome of this race.  I used Blair Saunders and Katie Dickerson as my bridge competitors and determined that I was likely to be somewhere between 39 seconds behind to 28 seconds ahead of Mick—awesome!  Game on!

I saw Mick before the race and he told me that he saw that Nace Mullen had decided to enter at the last minute and so I knew that Mick and I would likely be racing for 2nd.  Nace is a fine triathlete who I have raced 16 times and have bested just once.  I haven’t raced him locally in quite a while but he did beat me rather easily last year at Kona.  He is a top 30-40 All-American in my age group and given my current fitness I knew I would have no chance to win against him this morning.

Also in the race was Tom Senff, whom I have raced 8 times with a 5-3 record.  I beat Tom earlier this year at Bassman despite my having a poor race and I expected to best him by a few minutes this morning.  Us old guys were in the 2nd wave and we soon found ourselves assembled on the beach ready to go.

The Swim

The swim is in the shape of an oddly dimensioned polygon in a brackish lake-like body of water, which in this race, one circumnavigates in a counter-clockwise direction.  I have found that its exact distance varies quite a bit from year-to-year (I think the tides influence where the buoys can be placed due to shallow waters some years).  It’s advertised as a 0.4-mile swim but it was clearly longer this year and my Garmin reported a swim distance of 0.57-miles.

Nace, Tom, Mick and I all lined up on the far right, away from the buoy line.  My pre-race analysis told me to expect Mick to outswim me by 35-74 seconds.  This is a reversal from recent years where I have been out-splitting Mick on the swim.  However, this year he seems to be in better swim form and with my limited fish time, I’m definitely not anywhere near my recent swimming fitness.

At the gun, all three of my main competitors swim smartly away from me.  While this was not wholly a surprise, the ease that they did so certainly was.  I tried not to let it affect me and swim my own race—I was prepared to give up some time in the swim this morning.  Throughout the swim I felt reasonably good, albeit slow.  I did not utilize drafting opportunities as much as I should have but otherwise did not make any major tactical errors.

I exited the water in 14:30, which I knew was a couple of minutes slower than last year—jeez, I’m slow I thought to myself.  Indeed I was, but not as much as I first thought as the course turned out to be a fair bit longer than in 2010 and 2011—everyone’s times were slower.  For example, in 2010 the fastest swim split was 9:07 and today the fastest was just 10:19.  Overall, I posted the 53rd fastest swim, which comes in at the 74.1 %-tile.  In contrast, my prior swims here were: 2002: 59.7%; 2003: 58.9%; 2010: 89.1; and 2011: 82.8%.  While I’m still a long ways ahead of where I was early in my career, my current swim fitness is off by quite a bit.  Based on my 2010 and 2011 results, I calculate that I’m about 80 seconds slower on this morning, which works out to be about 10 seconds/100 yards—this is consistent with my recent pool workouts.  During the swim, I took 526 strokes, which yields a 1.91 yards per stroke and 36 strokes/min.  Both of these are below where I’m at when I’m in top swim shape but the biggest problem is probably the yps number.  Again, none of this is a surprise and at this point it serves as a strong motivating factor—now that I’m in my IM build phase, I intend to get back to my normal swim levels over the next 6 weeks.

As for my AG, my competitors certainly had their way with me, as I was a dismal 6th out of the water.  As I hit the shore, I guess I might be as much as 2 minutes behind but fortunately, things were not quite that bad—here is where we stood after the swim:

1.  McGuire                           --------
2.  Senff                               + 0:02
3.  Mullen                              + 0:05
4.  Syrop                              + 0:23
5.  Pape                                + 0:26
6.  Christofferson                  + 1:09

Transition One

As I run through the rocky parking lot I’m aware that I have some ground to make up and I’m determined to do so in T1.  I’ve been doing rather well in my transitions this year and today is a continuation of this happy trend.  I execute my T1 in 1:43, which is good enough for 20th OA (90.5 %-tile) and 2nd in my AG to Mick.  As I run out of T1 I can see Senff mounting up (although I did not see Mullen nor Syrop who were just in front of him) and it occurs to me that maybe I’m not in as bad shape competitively as I had feared.  Here is where we stood after T1:

1.  Mullen                       --------
2.  Syrop                       + 0:06
3.  Senff                       + 0:13
4.  Christofferson           + 1:03
5.  Pape                         + 1:04

The Bike

I hop on my bike and start reeling in the many folks in front of me.  I’ll feel decent but there is a definite weariness in my legs from the heavier bike mileage I have logged over the prior week.  Nothing to worry about as I expect to race with heavy legs at “C” races during my IM build cycle.

I run Senff down relatively quickly and soon pass another 57 YO who happens to be in the Aqua Bike race.  Between miles 3 and 4 I pass another guy in my AG wearing a yellow tri-top.  I don’t recognize that this is Mickey (he usually races with no top or in different colors).  I shake my head as I’ve already passed 3 guys in my AG who outswam me and I believed that both Mick and Nace are still ahead of me.

All things considered, my output on the bike is pretty good and as I near the turnaround on the out and back course, I see Nace and estimate that he’s around a minute in front of me.  I don’t see Mick and wonder if he’s ahead or behind Nace.  Here is what my first 7 miles looked like:

1.      20.9mph/162 bpm/80 rpm/268 watts avg/268 NP
2.      24.9/163/86/258/263
3.      24.3/160/86/245/245
4.      24.9/160/86/253/254
5.      25.1/163/84/258/259
6.      23.8/158/83/243/245
7.      23.5/158/86/240/243

After the turn I just soldier on without a clear tactical perspective.  My power fades a little bit over the last 8 miles, which is in contrast to recent races and I feel this is probably more a mental issue than physical.  Here are the next 8 miles:

8.      22.5/159/83/265/266
9.      24.3/160/86/248/248
10.  24.5/161/88/264/268
11.  24.1/162/86/256/256
12.  23.2/160/88/246/249
13.  24.8/160/87/243/243
14.  24.3/160/88/242/246
15.  24.1/155/81/231/233

I roll into the dismount line with a bike split of 37:44.  This is my shortest bike split at Jersey Genesis but the RD changed the bike course this year and it was about a half a mile shorter than it was in recent years.  At the dismount line, Bostwick runs into me from behind knocking my bike sideways and almost out of my hands—this costs me a few seconds in my bike split as I have yet to reach the timing matt that captures my official bike split.

It turns out that I post the 7th fastest bike split OA, which is comparatively strong relative to my prior efforts here:

2002: 94.6 %-tile
2003: 98.3
2010: 94.3
2011: 91.6
2013: 96.1

This ride is noticeably better than 2011—the only other race I have power data from.  In 2011, I managed only 233 watts and this morning I averaged 251 watts with a NP of 254 watts.  My HR averaged 160 bpm and my average cadence was 85 rpm.  My average speed was 23.9 mph.

It’s interesting to compare this ride to my prior race at the Escape From Ft. Delaware.  At that bike, which was 10 miles, I averaged 245 watts and my HR averaged 165 bpm.  Today, over 15 miles, I output 251 watts but with a heart rate of 160 bpm.  I believe that this reflects the fitness changes in my body over the last three weeks as I have really amped up my bike mileage for the first time this year.  My cardiovascular system has built enough endurance fitness now that my leg strength is more of a limiting factor.  This bodes well for the rest of the summer, as my leg strength will improve with all the miles I’m now riding.  Still, at 251 watts I’m about 10-15 watts off where I’m at when I’m really on.  I no longer think my new TT bike and it’s fit is an issue and this shortfall is principally a reflection of my current fitness.

Nace actually puts 2 seconds on me in the bike (the first time I’ve been out split in my AG this year) but I put substantial time into everyone else—notably, I’m 3:42 faster than Mick.  Here is where we stand after the bike:

1.  Mullen                       -------
2.  Christofferson           + 1:05
3.  Syrop                       + 3:50
4.  Senff                        + 3:58
5.  Pape                         + 6:30

I was 2:45 ahead of Mick at this point.  Before the race I had predicted a lead of from 1:45 to 2:33.  If I had known that I had this lead I would have felt reasonably confident at this point.  However, I still wasn’t even sure if I was ahead or behind of Mick!

Transition Two

After the bump with Bostwick at the dismount line I was a bit flummoxed but soon refocused on trying to execute another solid transition.  I think I did so (for the most part) and ended up with a T2 of 0:55 with an average HR of 155 bpm.  This turned out to be 40th OA (80.6 %-tile) and it was the 3rd best in our AG.  Here is where we stood after T2:

1.  Mullen                       --------
2.  Christofferson           + 1:17
3.  Syrop                       + 3:59
4.  Senff                        + 4:18
5.  Pape                         + 7:18

The Run

I headed out onto the run with a very poor understanding of where I stood tactically.  I knew Nace was ahead of me and not coming back.  I had no idea where Mick was.  I was however, pretty confident that Tom and the rest of my AG competitors where not going to catch me given my bike split, which I felt was pretty solid.

I was soon aware how leaden my legs were.  Hmmmm—I’ve seen this movie before.  It is what it is so I just decided I was going to try to run as hard as I could and see what happened.  I thought about where Mick likely was.  I decided there were several possibilities:

-      after his strong swim start, he had some problems on the swim and actually exited the swim behind me
-      he had a difficult T1 and I passed him in T1
-      he had bike mechanical issues and had dropped out on the bike
-      he was having the bike split of his life and despite the 251 watts I had delivered, he was better and was now if fact in front of Nace
-      I passed him somewhere on the bike and just didn’t notice it and he was now some undetermined time behind me

I applied Occam’s razor to evaluate the competing hypotheses.  The first implied that I assume that Mick had a bad swim despite his clearly superior (relative to me) recent swim performances.  The second implied he had a bad T1, which he never has had in my experience.  The third was possible but I didn’t see anyone on the side of the road and the possibility of that seems small.  The fourth required me to assume for the first time in 25 races, Mick was stronger on the bike than me.  The last just required me to assume that I missed him somehow in all the people I passed on the bike.  I therefore concluded I was now in 2nd.  I assumed I had passed Mick somewhere on the bike and just didn’t see him.  That conclusion was not super helpful, as I had no idea how far ahead I was.

This became more of a concern when I hit the Mile 1 split in 8:28 with a 163bpm HR.  I had predicted that Mick would be 2:15-2:30 faster than me on the run but that was off of my performance at Escape From Ft. Delaware where I averaged 7:46/mile.  Frankly I would not have been surprised to have Mick come running past me even at this early stage of the run.  Be he didn’t and I decided to just stay focused on myself and try to push the pace as best as I could despite the fatigue in my legs.

Mile 2 came in 8:25 (163 bpm) and my legs began to feel a bit looser and I was (somewhat) pleased to hit an 8:04 (165 bpm) for Mile 3.  I made the next to the last turn and crossed the steel bridge wondering where Mick was—I still didn’t look back.  I just put my head down and kept pushing.

As I was running down the stretch before the final turn, Nace came out and decided to run with me and try to “help” me and urge me on.  Now, as I understand USAT rules, this is a violation and I’m not sure how you feel about someone who kicked your ass running in front of you urging you to go harder and dig deeper when you are already fried, but this did not go well with me.  None-the-less, I persevered and actually delivered my 4th mile as my fastest at 8:01 (170 bpm).  Although all four miles were painfully slow, for the first time that I can remember I consistently got faster as the run progressed—thanks be for minor miracles—and a low starting base!

I finished the run in 33:13, which is 2:05 slower than 2011 and 1:47 slower than 2010 and reflects my poor showing on the run today.  In fact I have the 101st fastest run OA (50.1 %-tile) and I’m getting dangerously close to falling into the bottom half of the run at a local sprint for the first time.

Strangely enough, I fair a lot better in the AG competition.  I have the 4th fastest run with Mick being just 4 seconds faster and Tom 2 seconds faster.  As it turns out, Mick has had a poor run for him as well and I comfortably capture 2nd place in my AG with a time of 88:17.  Overall, I finish 30th.

So, a weak swim with a pretty solid bike with a very poor run yields an expected result.  I probably should have been 3-4 minutes faster with my normal fitness level but that would not have changed the AG outcome.  Had Mick been on his A game I was probably ripe for the picking this morning.  But there you go.

I’m in my IM build now and I hope to see my fitness steadily rise (of course so will my fatigue).  Hopefully I’ll see continued evidence of fitness improvement at St. Andrews this weekend.  Stay tuned!

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