Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tuckahoe Race Report

2013 Tuckahoe Sprint Triathlon Race Report
August 11th, 2013


Location: Beesley’s Point, New Jersey
Distance: 0.39-mile swim/12.2-mile bike/2.1-mile run
2012 Triathlon Race Number: 9
Career Triathlon Race Number: 135
Conditions: Beautiful morning.  75 degrees and sunny.  Wind at 5-10 mph out of the north.  74-degree water temperature.  Slight tidal current.

My fifth straight year at this funky little NJ triathlon, which was one of the first to offer an unusually short run—which might be why I’m back here for my fifth straight year (I’m neither confirming nor denying).  The race is known for its somewhat chaotic race organization and for changing layouts from year-to-year.  In the first four years, the course was different each time.  However, the bike, run and transitions this year were identical to 2012, so I will be able to make that comparison.

The race continues to decline in popularity, probably due to cheap awards and poor organization (and a bit of a glut of summer triathlons in these parts).  Overall entrants have declined for each of the past five years: 335/258/222/205 and just 152 this year—it’s unclear how long this race will survive but that was of no concern this morning.  In my first three attempts here I finished 2nd and finally last year won my AG.  This year there were just 4 guys in my AG (although I did not know that at the start).  I did see one fellow from my AG (#182) and to my eye he looked like he would outrun me but that I would likely outswim and out-bike him.

I entered the race having won five of my previous eight races this year (with two 2nds) and with a chance to post my best career “start” to a triathlon season.  If I were to win then I would have a 6-3 record versus my prior best of 5-4 in 2009.  This would also mark only the 2nd time that I was able to reach 6 wins in a season (the other being 2009).  The other piece of exciting news was that both Judy and Anders made the 20-mile trip and were on hand to lend me encouragement on this morning.

I had settled back into my IM build after our recent trip to Minnesota and had completed a 106-mile bike ride a few days before the race.  I was reasonably rested for the race but clearly my legs were feeling the effects of all of the training volume.

The Swim

Just two waves for the triathlon with the men going off second.  The course was a point-to-point with a beach start.  The course went straight out for about 100 yards and then after a 90 degree left, there was a long section with the tide and finally a sharp left back into the tide and to the swim exit which was about 75 yards up the beach towards the power plant.  The course looked longer than last year and to my eye was longer than a quarter-mile.  I estimated it was around 0.3-miles but my Garmin in-fact measured it at 0.39 miles.

I started most of the way to the right side, away from the buoys.  At the start we ran 20-30 yards into the shallow water and then dived in.  The pace was pretty quick at the beginning and I found myself surrounded by other swimmers.  As we reached the first turn, I found myself moving up through the pack and I estimated there were about 15-20 guys in front of me—we were already swimming through slower women swimmers despite their three-minute head start.

I rounded the first buoy with no problems and looked over and saw #182 next to be, which I was surprised by—maybe I had underestimated him.  It did spur me into a higher effort level and I soon found myself steadily pulling away from him.  From this point forward I was swimming pass quite a number of slower women and an occasional man who had gone out too fast.

I rounded the far buoy and headed back towards the swim exit feeling like I was having a solid swim.  I noticed everyone was veering to my left—I was probably 10-15 yards right of everyone else.  My goggles were fogged and I had a bit of trouble figuring out what was going on.  I kept sighting the exit point and as far as I could tell I was where I wanted to be.  In fact, I was correct and most folks were trying to go left of a final marker buoy when the course was actually to the right.

I exited the water and hopped up on terra-firma with a swim split of 9:33, which I was initially disappointed with given I had swam a 6:22 here last year.  However, last year the course was 0.28-miles and as I mentioned above, it was 0.39-miles this year.  This translates into a 24:33/mile swim pace, which given my swim training this year is more than acceptable.  Last year I swam a 23:05/mile pace, which indicates I’m about 6% less swim-fit this year, which seems to jive with everything I’m seeing in training and in recent races this year.

I took 351 strokes, which averages out to 36.8 strokes/minute.  My average stroke length was 1.96 yards.  This compares to 37.1 strokes/min and 2.09 yards last year.  My cadence is within a percentage point of last year but my glide is still off by about 5 inches per stroke.

Competitively I had the 20th fastest swim OA.  Here is how my swim percentile has been over the last five years:

2009: 94.0
2010: 95.3
2011: 96.4
2012: 89.3
2013: 87.5

I was able to put quite a bit of time on #182 (Delaney) in the back half of the swim and recorded the fastest swim in my AG.  Here is how the top three stood in my AG after the swim (as it turns out Delaney raced here in 2012 as well and I was 2:57 faster than him last year):

1.  Christofferson                           --------
2.  Miner                                + 2:21
3.  Delaney                                    + 3:44

Transition One

The first transition is needlessly long at 0.28-miles and I executed it in 3:10.  I had the 27th fastest (82.9 %-tile) OA.  In 2012, I recorded a 3:27, which was at the 84.9 %-tile.  I was a bit faster than my AG brethren:

1.  Christofferson                           --------
2.  Miner                                + 2:39
3.  Delaney                                    + 4:01

The Bike

I didn’t know where I was competitively (although I would have been very confident had I known about my lead) as I weaved my way through the tortured path out to the main road.  I saw Anders and Judy but couldn’t wave, as I was busy avoiding slower traffic.  Once on the road, I began passing women and better swimming men in fairly large numbers.

With the wind directly at our backs on the way out to the turn-around of this out-and-back course, I was moving pretty quickly but I could tell my legs were heavy and that all of my IM training volume had sapped them of their top-end kick.  This is a familiar place for me this time of year as it always seems as I get closer to my “A” Ironman race, in late summer, my sprint “speed” leaves me in my bike and run legs.

I continued to pass folks throughout the ride and as far as I could tell I had reeled in most of the men who outswam me.  At one point a fire truck blocked most of the road, which led to a dicey two-way choke point but I was fortunate to blast through with no on-coming traffic and only a modest reduction in speed.  I finished my bike in an elapsed time of 31:06.  Here is what the data for each of the bike miles looks like:

Mile 1:  22.3 mph/163 bpm/84 rpm/259 avg. watts/262 watts NP
Mile 2: 25.0/162/85/233/234
Mile 3: 24.9/156/90/226/226
Mile 4: 24.8/156/89/212/216
Mile 5: 25.5/150/89/235/235
Mile 6: 24.6/145/89/228/230
Mile 7: 22.4/163/87/252/253
Mile 8: 22.7/163/91/247/249
Mile 9: 23.3/162/92/239/239
Mile 10: 22.3/162/88/240/246
Mile 11: 22.5/162/88/229/229
Mile 12: 24.5/162/92/248/253

It seems like I might have a couple of bad HR numbers in the middle so my actual average may be higher than what my Garmin measured.  That said, here is how my key bike parameters compare to 2012:

Split time: 31:06 vs. 31:00 in 2012
Speed: 23.6mph vs. 23.7mph
Average HR: 159 bpm vs. 164 bpm
Average Cadence: 89 rpm vs. 89rpm
Average Power: 238 watts vs. 246 watts
Normalized Power: 241 watts vs. 250 watts

Obviously, this is a bit of a disappointment in terms of absolute power output but it’s interesting that my HR was 5 beats lower (probably should have been 4 with good data) this year and that my speed was pretty similar to last year.  Last year had less wind and I think what we’re seeing here is the faster nature of my new TM01 as compared to my older TT01. It would seem that my new set-up is in the 5-10 watt faster range—I’m going to do a more detailed analysis of this in the coming days.

Competitively, I had the 2nd fastest bike split OA (99.3 %-tile), which continues my streak of top 10 bike splits at sprint races.  Over the last five sprints I’ve finished 2nd, 7th, 3rd, 3rd, and 2nd on the bike.  Here is how my bike %-tile has varied here over the last five years at Tuckahoe:

2009: 97.6 %-tile
2010: 99.6
2011: 96.3
2012: 97.6
2013: 99.3

I was much faster than my AG competition:

1.  Christofferson                           --------
2.  Delaney                                    +10:18
3.  Miner                                +10:54

Transition Two

I entered T2 having on the bike passed everyone ahead of me except the eventual winner (and fastest cyclist), a 27 YO mohawked speedster.  I didn’t know this of course, but was able to execute a solid T2 in 0:47.  I clocked 51 seconds in 2012 and improved from 75.6 %-tile in 2012 to 85.5 %-tile (20th OA) in 2013.  I continued to pad my AG lead:

1.  Christofferson                           --------
2.  Delaney                                    +10:47
3.  Miner                                +11:01

The Run

I ran out of T2 feeling reasonably decent.  My bike apparently had not overly-taxed my legs.  Anders and Judy cheered for me and Judy urged me to try to run Midge down.  This was good encouragement because I figured I was well ahead of my competition and by locking on Midge (who had started three minutes in front of me and was racing for the OA women’s championship) I had something to focus on to keep my effort honest.

When I was running out the chute at the beginning of the run I did see a guy in red who looked like he might be in my AG coming in on the bike.  I estimated he was about two-minutes behind me and I made a mental note to keep track of him.  The run was pleasant enough although in the sunshine and with the wind at our backs it felt pretty warm during the first mile.

I hit the first mile in 8:28/167bpm (slow, but I wasn’t dogging it).  At the turn-around I saw the red guy and estimated he was just one minute back—oh-oh!  I began to push a bit harder, especially the last 400-600 yards leading into the final turn off of the main road.  At that turn, I looked over my shoulder and there he was—right on my back!  Yikes!  My second mile was 8:01/169bpm, which given my run fitness was putting some stress on my body.

We had about 200 yards to go and I slowed to let him pass me so I could see his calf and determine if he was in my age group.  However, he slowed with me and refused to pass.  It seemed to me that he was sitting on me and I guessed he planned to outkick me at the end.  This raised some alarms and I decided that I would race him assuming he was in my AG.

I accelerated back up to race speed and he followed directly behind me.  I could see and hear Judy and Anders on the left cheering me on.  I angled to the left as he was sitting on my left shoulder.  I could feel him getting boxed in and wondered if he would try to push by on the left or cut right as we neared the finish—but still no move.

At 30 yards to go I went all out and I could hear him let out a yelp of surprise.  I headed straight for the finish and had enough about me to make sure to drive my left ankle (the one with the timing chip) across the mat first.  He closed the gap but still finished a foot or two behind me.  I covered the last 0.12-miles in 51 seconds (a 7:09/mile pace) with my HR averaging 175bpm.  I stood bent over trying to avoid giving up my breakfast for 20-30 seconds and then walked over to shake his hand.  At that point I discovered he was 53 and racing in the duathlon!  Oh well—it sure was fun despite the pain.

I finished the run in 17:20, which averages out to 8:10/mile.  I was 16:59 last year, which is not good news, no two-ways about it.  I finished 43rd OA on the run (72.4 %-tile).  Here is how the last five years have compared on this run:

2009: 82.1 %-tile
2010: 83.3
2011: 79.6
2012: 69.3
2013: 72.4

I was 3rd in my AG on the run but my 61:49 was comfortably ahead of my competitors at the end:

1.  Christofferson                           --------
2.  Delaney                                    + 9:20
3.  Miner                                +10:19

On an encouraging note (I suppose), Delaney was 1:42 faster in 2012 and 1:27 faster this year.

OA, I finished 11th (93.4 %-tile).  The last five years in that regard:

2009: 96.7 %-tile
2010: 96.9
2011: 93.2
2012: 93.2
2013: 93.4

In the end, it was a fun day and we sat around chatting and waiting (endlessly) for the award ceremony.  I notched my 6th win of the year and 44th in my career.  Perhaps number 50 will be within reach in 2014—but there is much to do before that pops up on the radar screen!

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