Wednesday, June 19, 2013

St. Andrews Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Paul Schlosser Memorial Sprint Triathlon Race Report
June 16th, 2013


Location: Middletown, DE
Distance: 0.33-mile swim/15.5-mile bike/2.9-mile run
2013 Triathlon Race Number: 6
Career Triathlon Race Number: 132
Conditions: Low 70s.  A modest breeze, say 10-15 mph.  Clear and nice.  Water temp claimed to be 83 degrees but actually felt about 78-80.

After a two-year hiatus (graduation party and RAAM) I returned to compete in DE’s oldest triathlon—this was to be the 26th version of the race.  The race had recently been renamed to honor the passing of Paul Schlosser—one of my main competitors in Delaware through the years here.  I’ve blogged about his importance to me in my triathlon career before so I’ll just say that we all miss him and wanted to race as fast as we could in his honor.

This was the ninth time that I’ve raced this race—more than any other triathlon—so I guess you could say this is my favorite triathlon.  I’ve enjoyed some success here in the past with four wins, two seconds and a third out of eight races.  While the swim varies from year-to-year, the bike and run have remained identical so it does offer a good opportunity to see where I stand against prior year performances (which is less attractive as I get older).

The weather was very nice for a change.  It was a bit humid and there was a noticeable breeze but nothing too significant.  There were 210 competitors overall and 14 in my AG.  One of my competitors was Craig Holm, who holds the overall course record for the Caesar Rodney half-marathon, where he did a 64:54 in the 1982.  I knew I needed to have an ample cushion coming out of T2!  Us old boys were up in the 3rd of four waves and we all jumped off the dock and into the water to await the starter’s horn.

The Swim

Wayne (the RD) was using an assistant RD today and for some reason he announced the water temp at 83 degrees and for the first time that anyone could remember the swim was non-wetsuit legal.  The water felt like it was 78-80 degrees and I’m sure the RD could have justified a wetsuit swim.  Oh well, I knew this would ding me a bit in the swim but I wasn’t concerned given the swim was so short.  On that point, Wayne told me they made the swim longer than usual this year for a reason I didn’t understand and in-fact my Garmin measured the swim at 0.33-miles.

I started to the left away from the buoy line.  There is just one set of buoys and it looked to me that athletes in the first two waves who were right on the buoy line were crossing over and swimming into one another.

At the start I got off well and felt pretty comfortable.  I decided to just dial back slightly my effort to accommodate the lack of a wetsuit.  My goggles were nicked and the right one filled up with water.  This was more of a nuisance than anything and at one point I stopped to try to correct the problem—with only partial success.

After the turn, I drifted too close to the buoy line and ended up having to swim through some of the slower swimmers—this race could really use a second line of buoys!  I finally exited and scrambled up the muddy grass slopes in front of the St. Andrews campus.  I wasn’t shocked, but was still mildly disappointed to see my swim split was just 9:17.  As I mentioned, the swim was 0.33 miles, so this works out to a 28:08/mile pace—pretty slow indeed!  I took 333 strokes, which translates into 1.74 yds/stroke and 36 spm.

Competitively, I had my worst swim of the year as I finished 84th OA (60.5 %-tile) but I fared somewhat better in my AG, as I was 3rd.  Again no surprise I was slow without a wetsuit, but I probably should have been a good minute faster this morning—not the best of swims for sure.  Here is where we stood in the AG competition after the swim:

1.  Faccenda                  --------
2.  McHale                      + 1:49
3.  Christofferson            + 2:15
4.  McNaughton              + 2:16
5.  Sungtinette                + 2:48

Transition One

T1 at St. Andrews involves a lengthy run up the grass hill by the lake—my Garmin had T1 at 0.26-miles.  I continue my 2013 pattern of strong transitions and I complete T1 in 3:12.  This is the 32nd fastest OA (85.2 %-tile) and I’m at least 30 seconds faster than everyone else in my AG.  I see one of my competitors (McHale) fiddling around and I leave transition before him.  I also see that one bike is gone so I know that I’m leaving T1 in 2nd place:

1.  Faccenda                  --------
2.  Christofferson           + 1:23
3.  McHale                     + 1:27
4.  Volpe                       + 2:47
5.  Carey                       + 3:03

The Bike

I eagerly head down the St. Andrews road and exit the school grounds.  I feel like I’m ready to have a strong bike.  I’m at the end of my second week of my IM build phase so while my legs are a bit heavy with miles I’m also beginning to build some real fitness for the first time in 2013.

Naturally, with my slow swim and with two waves in front of me I’m passing many other competitors and this serves to fan my motivation.  I catch Faccenda just pass mile 2—having made up 83 seconds over those 2 miles—and I can tell by the way he is riding that he won’t be a threat in this race.  I’m able to stay on top of my pedals and I even feel that “pop” sensation I get when I’m having a strong bike.  I power up the hill that leads to the end of the first lap and can see that I’ll have no trouble breaking 40 minutes on this ride.  Here is what the first 8 miles looked like:

Mile 1: 23.9mph/156bpm/83rpm/272 avg watts/273 NP
Mile 2: 22.3/156/84/251/256
Mile 3: 22.4/155/85/249/250
Mile 4: 22.7/156/90/251/251
Mile 5: 23.8/156/86/247/247
Mile 6: 26.3/159/88/265/277
Mile 7: 24.0/157/82/279/282
Mile 8: 26.3/160/88/265/277

I feel very comfortable on my new TT bike and it feels very fast this morning.  I hit 37.5 mph on one of the descents and it feels rock solid.  The second lap is more of the same.  I hit a soft patch from miles 12 through 14 where I probably let my concentration slip a bit—I’ll need to really focus on staying locked in for the whole ride in future sprints.  Here are the last 7.5 miles:

Mile 9: 23.4/159/87/260/261
Mile 10: 22.8/157/89/249/255
Mile 11: 22.5/159/86/252/255
Mile 12: 21.6/156/86/236/238
Mile 13: 25.7/156/87/242/242
Mile 14: 24.9/155/88/237/238
Mile 15: 23.1/158/82/272/282
Mile 15.5: 21.5/159/82/262/276

I finish the bike in 39:16, which for the 15.5 miles works out to be 23.7mph.  This course has some hills and I recorded 433 feet of climbing.  My average power is 254 watts and my Normalized Power is 259 watts.  I average 86 rpm for my cadence and my HR averages 157 bpm.  The later number is surprisingly low and indicates that I have the potential to go a lot faster and that I’ll need to work more on 100-115% of FTP intervals over the next two months.  I have lots of historical data to evaluate this effort with so here goes:

Firstly, here is how my power has improved over the last 4 races this year—all the races that I’ve had my new TT bike:

Bassman (29.8 miles): 232 watts @ 155bpm
Escape DE (9.9 miles): 245 watts @ 165bpm
Genesis (15.0 miles): 251 watts @ 160 bpm
St. Andrews (15.5 miles): 254 watts @ 157 bpm

This is a very promising trend line and I should be able to put up some very strong bike rides over the rest of the summer!

Overall, I have the 3rd fastest bike split (99.0 %-tile) with only Blair Saunders and his son eclipsing my effort.  This is a very strong result and represents my most competitive bike split of my nine races here.  Here is where I have finished historically on the bike at St. Andrews:

2003: 9th/97.1 %-tile
2004: 8th/97.5
2005: 6th/98.3
2006: 6th/98.1
2007: 7th/97.7
2008: 8th/97.6
2009: 7th/97.8
2010: 10th/96.6
2013: 3rd/99.0

I also have some comparable HR/power data from prior years:

2005: 167 bpm
2006: 165 bpm
2007: 249 watts @ 167 bpm
2008: 254 watts @ 167 bpm
2009: 237 watts @ 164 bpm
2010: 250 watts @ 162 bpm
2013: 254 watts @ 157 bpm

Comparing my splits from year-to-year is less informative as the weather has varied quite a bit but this ride is the 4th fastest of my nine efforts here:

2003: 39:41
2004: 39:40
2005: 39:43
2006: 39:03
2007: 38:34
2008: 38:12
2009: 41:48
2010: 39:45
2013: 39:16

Lastly, I looked at how I did against three specific other riders who have raced here most times: Saunders, Mulveny, and Holmes.   Saunders is 48 and he always posts the fastest bike split here (he is a former Canadian National Cycling Champion), Mulveny is 42 and a perennial top-ten finisher at this race, and Holmes, 67, is an incredible cycling talent and I hope to equal his times in the years ahead.  Interestingly, when I average the bike splits of these three guys, it is always very close to mine—which means it can provide another measuring stick for my bike performance. 

A fair question at this point is why bother when I can compare OA %-tiles through the years?  Well, I worry that while I had my best OA %-tile this year, that perhaps it was because 3-4 guys who used to race here are no longer racing and therefore that standard has become easier.  Therefore, comparing directly to these three long-time, very strong cyclists gives me another view.  So what does the data say?  It says I nailed it this year!  Here is how I compared (plus means I was faster and minus means I was slower):

2005: +1.1%
2007: (3.7)
2008: (0.1)
2009: (2.9)
2010: (0.2)
2013: +2.6

Anyways, enough of this.  In my AG competition I put 4+ minutes on everyone on this bike leg and here is where we stood after the bike:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Holm                        + 5:48
3.  McHale                      + 6:35
4.  Faccenda                  + 6:51
5.  Volpe                       + 7:17

Transition Two

As I rolled down the final part of the bike course I pulled up my averages page on my Garmin so I was well aware that I had put down an effective bike split.  I was confident that the race was mine at this point.  I focused in on my transition and once again (2013 is the year of transitions for me) executed a very solid T2—I completed my tasks in 46 seconds with an average HR of 158 bpm.  This was substantially faster than anyone in my AG and was the 28th fastest OA (87.1 %-tile).  With the bike and my transitions I had built an insurmountable lead—even given my run weakness and the strength of Holm’s run—and I knew this was true as I left T2.  Here is where we stood after T2:

1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Holm                        + 6:04
3.  McHale                      + 6:58
4.  Faccenda                  + 7:27
5.  Volpe                       + 7:55

The Run

I struggled throughout this run—no two ways about it.  I probably could have run faster if I had competitive pressure but my legs where fried right from the start.  I’m not in good enough run shape yet to deliver the (even so modest) runs I expect.  That said I thought I gave it an honest effort.

My Garmin had a lot of trouble in the woods on this run course.  It’s a challenging cross-country run but it’s one of my favorites—a lot of up and downs, leaping over rocks and trees—very entertaining.

I exited T2 in 10th place OA and fell all the way to 31st during this run (85.7 %-tile)…pretty disappointing for sure.  My run took 24:22 to complete with an average HR of 162bpm.  At an estimated 2.9 miles this works out to a very disappointing 8:24/mile.  This is also 1:23 slower than I did in 2010, which was heretofore my slowest run on this course—yikes!  The 162bpm is telling as it indicates that I was a good 10bpm lower than when I’m really pushing.  Conclusion—I’m not in good run shape and I didn’t push hard enough today.  Oh well.

I was still fast enough to win my AG rather easily.  While I had the 95th fastest run (56.2 %-tile), I strangely enough had the second fastest in my AG.  Here is how we ended up in my AG competition:
1.  Christofferson           --------
2.  Holm                        + 2:48
3.  McHale                      + 7:08
4.  Faccenda                  + 9:15
5.  Volpe                       +11:39


It’s easy to conclude poor run/swim and excellent bike from the above.  I think that’s probably more true than not.  Still, the biggest takeaway I have is the progress on my bike and the seeming potential I have for the rest of the year—it’s possible that I’ll have an exceptional year from a bike perspective.

This was my 4th win out of the 6 races (2 seconds) this year and that is not so bad.  It was also my 42nd AG victory.  Never a bad race when that happens—quite satisfying actually! 

I for sure did not race well on the swim and run today.  That combined with my poor fitness in those areas makes it pretty clear what I need to work hard on over the next 14 weeks before Lake Tahoe—and so I will.

Next Sunday I’m doing Mont Tremblant-70.3 and I’m excited to do so.  My expectations are modest given my training history and demonstrated fitness levels.  At the very least, it will be a great training day as I build towards my “A” race of 2013 at Tahoe.

Thanks for reading!

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