Friday, August 9, 2013

Sunset Sprint Race Report

Sunset Sprint Triathlon Race Report
July 27th, 2013


Location: Pittsgrove, NJ
Distance: 0.27-mile swim/13.1-mile bike/3.1-mile-run
2013 Triathlon Race Number: 8
Career Triathlon Race Number: 134
Conditions: Pleasant, temps in the mid-70s.  Mild wind.  Water temp of 74 degrees.

With the focus on Anders’ summit of Denali over the last few weeks, I belatedly returned to triathlon racing after an unexpected 5-week hiatus.  I had made good use of the intervening period with a very heavy training program in July as I continued to prepare for September’s IM Lake Tahoe.  On this race morning, my legs were quite heavy from the IM-build training load but I was anxious to dust off the rust and give it a go.

The Sunset triathlon was being held for it’s 20th time but just the 2nd time at this locale in Parvin State Park.  The triathlon first came here in 2011, after the water quality at its former Bridgetown site continued to deteriorate.  In 2012, the race was cancelled due significant tree damage from a storm race week.  I’ve raced at both venues and my 2011 effort would give me a good chance to gauge my performance today versus 2011.

Competitively, there were just 152 competitors with just four in my AG (although, as we shall see, this number would ultimately be reduced to three).

The Swim

Sunset’s RD has always been aggressively “anti-wet suit” through the years.  This year was no different as the RD announced about a week before the race that the water was 85 degrees and therefore we should all leave our wetsuits at home.  However, a cold snap for a few days before the race made this announcement most premature and we unexpectedly had a wetsuit swim.  I, of-course, was pleased with this development…in 2011, this was a no wetsuit swim.

As I mentioned, I had three other guys in my AG—one of whom turned out to be Wes Burns.  Regular readers of my missives will know that Wes has raced me close to 20 times historically, and always has beat me.  Wes is a very good swim/bike guy who excels at the run.  While I can usually beat Wes to T2, it’s never very long before he comes streaming by on the run.  I’ll steal a little of my thunder here and tell you that this is what happened today, but Wes had such a strong race that he was 4th OA and was the top Masters competitor and therefore placed out of the AG competition.

The swim is principally a counter-clockwise rectangle.  To my eye, it looked noticeably larger than back in 2011.  I was in the first wave with all of the male competitors.  I positioned myself on the far right and at the gun quickly found relatively calm water (I wasn’t in the mood to fight the masses for some modest drafting advantage).  I was initially disappointed but not particularly surprised to see quite a few folks swimming away from me.  I haven’t been able to get my swim fitness up to prior year levels this year, although I did invest considerable time in July so I hoped to do somewhat better this morning than in prior 2013 races.

About mid-way through the race I found myself feeling very good and noticing that swimmers were coming back to me so I picked it up a bit and was able to pass folks throughout the last 200 meters.  I hit the dry-ground with a disappointing 8:10, which I knew was way off my 7:03 in 2011.  I thought at first the course must be long but my Garmin had it at 0.27 miles.  However, competitively I was actually stronger this year and this and other data leads me to believe that the 2011 course was shorter (pre-Garmin days, so just guessing here).  Here is how I stacked up against 2011 OA:

2011: 46/150 (70.0 %-tile)
2013: 23/152 (85.5 %-tile)

The best time recorded in 2011 was 4:57 and this year it was 6:44, an increase of 36 % versus the 16% slower result this year for me.

Competitively, I was more than eight (!!!!) minutes faster than the AG gentlemen who would join me on the podium—effectively sealing my AG victory during this first leg.  However, by past standards, my swim was below what I have grown accustomed to (my improvement in OA %-tile this year vs. 2011 was no doubt benefited by the switch to a wetsuit legal swim). 

I was 26 seconds slower than Wes and in past races, I would have expected to have been equal or slightly ahead.  This would indicate I’m about 5-6% slower than I was the last two years—which makes intuitive sense to me.

During the swim I took 298 strokes at an average stroke rate of 36 spm.  My average stroke distance was just 1.6 yards—which is a very poor number indeed—I would have expected my number to be around 1.9 yards/stroke, even with my current fitness, and this indicates that the swim this morning was probably considerably longer than the 0.27 miles that my Garmin registered.

Transition One

In my view, the transition area layout and location for this race are very poorly designed—especially if compared to the set-up with the Parvin Sprint Triathlon held annually at the same venue.  As a result, T1 involves an unnecessarily long run over very poor terrain.  I did this in 3:38 vs. 2:27 in 2011.  I’m not sure why it was so much slower this year as it felt to me like I had a solid T1.  The transition run for me was definitely longer this year than in 2011 but not so much so as to account for this large a difference.  My Garmin was messed up when I removed my wetsuit and the race timing company did not provide transition splits so I have no real databased insight on my transitions.

The Bike

I jumped on my bike with no real sense of urgency and I spent the first few hundred yards trying to get my Garmin back on line.  I finally zeroed it out and decided to just rely on my bike-based Edge 800.

I felt reasonably good despite my training fatigue and was more and more confident about the fit of my new TT bike at this point in the season.  I was coming off a 2nd, 7th, and 3rd OA in my last three sprint bike legs so I was confident in my ability to hammer the bike this morning.

The course here is generally flat and I didn’t feel much wind during the ride.  I was surprised to hear after the race that other’s felt it was pretty windy.  In my view the course is fast and I steadily passed the majority of riders in front of me.  I went past Wes around 6 miles in and saw just a couple of other riders up the road, which I soon passed.

I rolled into T2 in third overall, having passed 20 of the 22 folks who had outswam me.  Here is my per mile split data for the ride:

Mile 1: 21.9mph/82rpm/158bpm/256 average watts
2: 25.1/87/160/245
3: 24.4/88/159/235
4: 25.7/89/160/248
5: 25.1/86/161/260
6: 23.8/84/162/249
7: 24.0/88/163/261
8: 24.2/87/164/257
9: 23.1/87/161/246
10: 24.1/84/160/235
11: 25.5/86/160/249
12: 24.8/86/162/242

I ended up averaging 24.2 mph for the 12.1-mile course.  My HR averaged 161 bpm and my average cadence was 86 bpm.  My average power was 249 watts with a normalized power of 254 watts.  This implies a Variability Index of 1.02, which is not surprising given that I only faced 164 feet of total climbing on this bike leg.  My bike split was 29:48.

My power numbers are a bit disappointing but understandable given my fatigue—note the low average HR.  Also, I probably wasn’t as focused as I needed to be given the competitive situation and clearly I had several portions of the bike leg where I let my power dip too much.

Still, by comparative measures, I had a very good bike split this morning:

Speed: 24.2 mph vs. 23.2 mph (2011)
Time: 29:48 vs. 31:21
OA Place: 3rd (98.7 %-tile) vs. 13th (92.0 %-tile)

The two athletes faster than me Jones/Barbee ended up finishing 1/2 OA this year and they were 2/1 in 2011.  On a percentage basis here is how the top three OA on the bike compared to their respective 2011 efforts:

Jones: 2.0 % faster
Barbee: 1.7 % slower
Christofferson: 4.9 % faster

This was my 4th straight sprint top 10 bike leg since I (mostly) dialed in my bike fit on my new TT bike—I’ll take it!  Also, as an aside, my AG margin had now grown to over 16 minutes.

Transition Two

I knew I was 3rd OA as there were just two bikes racked ahead of me as I ran through T2.  I executed what I felt was an excellent transition (although I have little data to support that assertion.)  My total T2 was 0:53, which is comparable to the 0:55 I did in 2011.

The Run

Dead. Dead. Dead.  My run is suffering this year, even by my lame standards, but with the added stress of a big July, my legs where, how best to say it?  Dead.  Further, I had little motivation to push it.  I knew Wes would pass me, which he did around the one-mile point and when he did I figured he had a good chance at getting 3rd or top masters.  I also knew that I was likely to be way ahead in my AG.

The above factors led to a plodding jog through the woods.  I don’t have a lot of confidence in my Garmin data (which I started up again in T2) given all the tree-cover but here is what my three splits looked like:

Mile 1: 8:50/162bpm
Mile 2: 8:56/160bpm
Mile 3: 8:43/162bpm

This led to a run split of 26:08, which averages out to 8:26/mile (according to my Garmin I covered the last 0.1 miles in 19 seconds, which is about a 3-minute mile….I can report that it did not seem that fast!).  In any event, my HR shows I was dogging it a bit and I was quite a bit slower than the 23:55 I recorded in 2011.  However, so was everyone else in the field, which leads me to believe the trail runs through the woods were different 2011 vs. 2013.  Here is how my 2013 time compared to 2011 vs. the same comparison for the top two finishers in both years:

Jones: 10.0% slower
Barbee: 4.6% slower
Christofferson: 11.9% slower

OA, I finished 61st on the run (60.5%-tile) vs. 62nd in 2011 (59.3 %-tile).

For the race as a whole I was 16th this year (90.1 %-tile) vs. 25th in 2011 (84.0 %-tile).

I recorded my 5th AG win (with two 2nds in 8 races) of the year and my 43rd win of my career.

Nothing special for sure, but it does indicate that there are some good things going on….

Onward and upward!

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