Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Rumpass in Bumpass Race Report

2016 Rumpass in Bumpass Sprint
May 1st, 2016


Location: Bumpass, Virginia
Distance: 750-meter swim/12 mile bike/3.1 mile run
2016 Triathlon Race Number: 2
Career Triathlon Race Number: 148
Competitors: 271 overall and 8 in my Age Group
Conditions: 50 degrees and rainy—heavy at times.  Light winds of 6-8 mph.  Lots of casual water on the course and in transition.  Wet, 100% humidity.  Calm waters at 66 degrees.

It’s been six weeks since my 2016 triathlon opener in Pasadena.  I missed toeing the line at the Oceanside Half due to the need to provide some care for our little dog Roxy, so I was excited to race again.

My immediate preparation in front of the race, while rewarding and motivating, was not ideal for the fastest racing.  Firstly, I was three weeks into a quite restrictive diet regime where my goal is to drop 25 pounds off a body that returned from California at 196.4 pounds.  I am measuring my food, counting calories and journaling my energy balance and just prior to the race had dropped 14.8 pounds through day 17 of the diet.  This is very rapid weight loss but I felt great and am well on my way to the low 170s—hopefully there by Memorial Day.  One side effect, as you might expect, is lower than typical energy levels—most of measurement devices were showing that I was off 10% or so from my normal power output.

Perhaps more importantly, due to some scheduling conflicts a group of us delayed a couple of big Shenandoah National Park hikes until the Thursday/Friday before the race.  These two hikes were quite strenuous and encompassed some 14+ hours, 29 miles and over 5,500 feet of vertical ascent (and a similar amount of descent).  Friday afternoon found my legs quite fatigued and my left knee very noticeably swelled.

My knee has been relatively stable since I last had it drained, received a cortisone shot, and completed my last knee lubricant injections in December.  I’ve been cautious in the amount of running I’ve been doing and very diligent with the PT program designed to help, especially with the complications that arise with my bum knee.  By Friday evening, as I bid adieu to Judy and my friends and drove to Fredericksburg, my knee had become very swollen and my range of motion was quite compromised.  (In fact, I made an unplanned visit to see my ortho on Monday after the race and he drained 47 cc of fluid out of my knee--47 is substantially more than my prior “record” of 27 cc--and gave me another cortisone shot.)

I had a day of rest on Saturday and rested, stretched and iced various parts of my body.  I did a trial ride on my bike and had quite a bit of difficulty at the top of the stroke on my left side—my knee just couldn’t bend very much.

As you probably also know, I’ve had a relatively light training program year to day so I was also showing up to the race not as fit as I normally am in early May.  This is part of the design for 2016 as I’m just trying to return to triathlon from my recovery year in 2014 and at the same time, build my trekking/climbing fitness for my expeditions to Elbrus (Russia) in July and Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) in September.


It was a 9 am start so race morning was comparatively easy.  I had a 32-mile drive down from Fredericksburg to the Lake Anna Marina, where race central was.  The conditions were pretty dreadful, cold and rainy, and the transition area was a bit of a swampland.  This chased a lot of would-be triathletes away—in my AG only 8 of the 16 registered triathletes actually started (although I didn’t know that until after the race).

I’ve raced the Rumpass twice before—winning my AG both in 2009 and 2012.  However, the race site today was different from both that of 2009 and 2012 (this race is returning after a four-year hiatus) and so it’s hard to make some comparisons from then to now.

One thing was the same in 2016 and that was the need for me to have a comparatively strong swim and bike and offset my weakness on the run.

I was in the third wave leaving at 9:08 and I jumped in the water about 8:55 to warm-up.  Thankfully, in the water I literally felt warmer as the water was 15+ degrees warmer than the air.  This was a three-turn clockwise box layout.  I noted that the first turn buoy had drifted to the left quite a bit and the most direct line was to start way to the left about 40 yards from the inside start buoy.  I was all by myself way out to the left when the gun went off.  It was probably 300+ yards to that first turn buoy and I felt great right from the start.  Obviously, I had clean, uncontested water and was looking at the peaceful shore scene to my left as that is my preferred breathing side.  From time to time, I’d breathe on my right side and I could see there were just a few who appeared to be swimming faster than me.  My wave was comprised of males 50 and over and so I was uncertain exactly where I stood against the 55-59 year-old crowd, but I guessed I was well positioned.

I felt very comfortable and controlled—especially considering it was my first open water race swim since Kona in October 2014.  I probably didn’t push it the last 4-5% that I might have but that’s a refinement I can add in later races.  I found myself passing quite a few folks from the earlier waves so I sensed things were going well for me.

I completed the swim in 14:45.  Unfortunately, my Garmin did not track the swim course nor distance despite the GPS being active so I have no way of telling what my actual pace was or if the course was long or short.  I do know I took 515 strokes, which works out to 34.9 strokes/minute, which is a bit leisurely—at my best I’m usually around 37 spm.  If the swim course was 750 meters, my average stroke distance would have been 1.59 yards.  This is a number that is way below my norm—I’m consistently in the 1.9-2.0 range.  To give you a sense of these numbers at 37spm and 2 yards/stroke, I’d be averaging about 1:21/hundred.  If I take a conservative estimate of what I did today: 34.9 spm and 1.9 yps, this would translate into an average pace of 1:30/100 yards (which based on my training seems right) and a total swim distance of 983 yards, which is about 20% longer than 750 meters (820 yards).

In any event, from a competitive perspective I was able to substantially outswim my competition in my AG.  Further, I was 49th OA or 82.2 %-tile.  In 2009 I was at the 71.4 %-tile and 84.9 %-tile in 2012, so all things considered, I’d judge this as a very good swim for me.  Here is were I stood AG wise after the swim:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Ching + 2:14
3. Foy + 2:32

Transition One

While, I had no way to be certain, as I ran into T1 I felt I was doing well and potentially leading my AG.  At the worst, I felt I was likely very close to the leader in my AG.  As I noted earlier, transition was a bit of a swamp and I sat down in a puddle of mud to better execute my transition into cyclist.  After getting changed, we had a lengthy (0.2-miles in total) run across the grass/mud and up a hill to the mount line.  I thought I did reasonably well all things considered and I completed my T1 in 3:18.

This turned out to be the 3rd best in my AG (75th %-tile) and 35th OA (87.5 %-tile).  Competitively, I increased my lead over the second place guy by a modest amount in T1:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Foy + 2:23
3. Wilkins + 3:16

The Bike

At the top of the hill I finally mount up and head out to what will by necessity need to be a relatively cautious ride.  It’s raining and there is a lot of casual water on the course.  The course itself is not overly technical but does feature several sharper turns and a number of ups and downs that demanded operator attention.

My bike set-up on my BMC TT-01 was not dialed in.  In California, I had raced on my old BMC—now my son’s bike—because it didn’t make sense to bring my TT bike for 1 or 2 races.  The last time I had really rode my TT was Kona 2014.  Upon returning from California in April 2016, I went out into the garage and dusted the bike off.  I changed out some of the rubber and took my bike to my LBS—which had since gone out of business—with the mechanic who had wrenched on the bike since I bought it.  The new guy at the new store (in the same location) did a pretty good job of swapping out the 3T Brezza 60mm risers but he did not change any of the modular adjustment pieces that make up the stem of the TT01.  Since I picked it up on Wednesday afternoon there was no time to make any modifications before my 4am departure on Thursday for Shenandoah.  I was left with a very aggressive sit-up with probably an extra 2 inches of drop more than I’ve raced in the past.

This set-up was not ideal, especially given my knee and back issues but I judged that with a 12-mile ride it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  Not too long into the ride the left (big ring shifter) aero bar extension became loose and would rotate and move fore and aft in response to the various forces that came into play while I rode.  This was more of a minor nuisance that a control hazard but it was one that I kept my attention focused on throughout the ride—especially given the conditions.

I felt pretty good all things considered.  My knee seemed to loosen up pretty quickly and I think ultimately it was only a modest limiter on my power output.  However, my bike fitness and the tiredness of my legs (they felt a bit dead after the hikes) definitely were limiting.  In 2009 I averaged 241 watts and in 2012, 239 watts in this race—both of which were relatively low compared to other races in the springs of those two years.  I noted early on that anything over about 220 watts was giving me a bit of trouble.

None-the-less, I pushed on and feel pretty good about the ride.  I passed many people and nobody passed me during the 12-mile ride.  By mile 4, I had passed 4 guys in the 50-54 YO AG and then I didn’t see anyone else above 50 for the rest of the ride.  I became increasingly convinced (and correctly so) as the ride progressed that I must have had the best swim in my AG and I was in the lead.

I completed the bike in 34:10.  I clocked it at 12.01 miles, so this averages out to a pretty uninspiring 21.1 mph.  This is principally a function of my lower power output, which while relatively stable, ended up averaging 211 watts with a Normalized Power of 213 watts.  My HR came in at 159 watts and my cadence at 81rpm.  The later two numbers tell me I had pretty decent technique and was spinning well but my legs don’t have enough speed work in them to really stress my heart—when I’m sprint fit on the bike, I would expect to get my HR up to 165-168 bpm.  Obviously, some of this is due to my dead legs, but clearly I have a lot of upside bike fitness wise, if I can apply the necessary training stimulus in the weeks ahead.

Another thing that slowed things down were the conditions.  The slickness (and my carbon braking surfaces) meant one had to apply brakes earlier and with less force before turns.  The road surface is mediocre and there were potholes and puddles that had to be navigated.  Also, the rain, coldness and 100% humidity undoubtedly slowed things down.  In fact the top cyclist today did a 30:27 (23.6 mph) and the second fastest was just 31:13 (23.1 mph), so no one went fast today (historically, I’m disappointed when my own bike speed averages less than 24 mph).

In any event, I had the 16th fastest bike time, which translates into the 94.5 %-tile, which is not far off from 2009 (96.1 %-tile) and 2012 (95.9 %-tile).  Perhaps my experience and bike handling skills helped overcome some of my lower power output.
Age Group wise, I was 4+ minutes faster than everyone else and coming into T2 I had an insurmountable lead:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Foy + 6:13
3. Wilkins +11:03

Transition Two

I dismounted and gingerly ran down the hill on the slick asphalt back to transition.  I was very confident I was leading and probably by a healthy gap.  I took my bike shoes off and plunged my bare feet into three inch deep mud and then put the whole mess into my racing flats.  Soon I was headed out of transition on my way to a comparatively mediocre 2:42 T2.  I was just 105th fastest OA (61.6 %-tile) and once again I was 3rd fastest in my AG (however, I was able to increase my lead over 2nd place).  Here is where I stood after T2:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Foy + 6:57
3. Wilkins +10:39

The Run

I trudged on out of transition and out across the grass to the road and hill up towards the exit of the Marina.  As I reached the top of the hill, near the bike dismount, I saw a decidedly older looking gentlemen whom I thought might very well be in my AG (he was not, being 61 and the eventual winner of the 60-64 YO AG).  Based on my transition, I guessed I was anywhere from 2:30-3:30 ahead of him—hmmmmm.  Might be something to keep my eye on.

Shortly after moving past the metal gates we diverted off the road for about 0.4-0.5 miles of “cross-country” running.  Notably, we had a fairly long section on a dirt, I mean mud, path through the woods that then connected to a lengthy gravel road out to where the run course rejoined the asphalt.  This was quite challenging to run on as it was very uneven with lots of trip hazards, extremely slippery and filled with shoe sucking mud—at one point I looked down to see mud coming up over my shoes and reaching above my ankles—what a mess.

This obviously slowed things down and I was quite cautious to avoid going down or twisting an ankle.  I finally made it out to the road and the comparatively easy running it afforded.  After a minute or two on the road, I realized just how dead my legs were.  I was trying to work hard but frankly I wasn’t moving very fast this morning—even by my modest running standards.  I hit my first mile in 9:30 with an average HR of 160 bpm.  This is about a min/mile slower than I think I’m capable of, even with my lower training base.  The conditions slowed things down for sure but my legs really didn’t have it this morning.

I kept plugging around, feeling a bit faster in the second mile despite some noticeable hills.  I hit the turnaround and realized I was on a 29 min 5-k pace (yuck).  I looked carefully to see if there was any competitive threat and I saw the old guy (in bright yellow) I had seen dismounting his bike.  I calculated that he was about 2 minutes behind me, which given my pace was a bit unsettling, but given my estimate of our delta at the start of the run, I felt like I could probably hold him off.

My second mile passed in 9:12 and my HR was 161bpm.  I didn’t see anyone else who looked remotely dinosaur enough to be in my AG so I kept pushing steadily on.  Just before the turn back onto the gravel I looked back and could see that the man in yellow wasn’t going to catch me.  I consciously slowed down and carefully and gingerly picked my way across the path (when did a “Tough Mudder” break-out?).

My third mile was 9:50 and my HR was up to 163.  Once off the path I picked it up a bit (avg of 8:40 for the last tenth of a mile) and I hit the finish line with a run split of 29:03.  I turned to watch for the yellow man and he finished 25 seconds behind me.  I figured I had snagged my AG victory.  The run was pretty much spot on distance wise.  I averaged 9:30/mile with an average HR of 161bpm.  My run cadence was 176 spm and each step covered 0.96 meters.  The course featured 217 feet of climbing, which was quite noticeable—certainly not a flat course.

As it turns out no one had a fast run today—just 3 of the 271 competitors even broke 20, so undoubtedly, some of my slow time was due to the course and conditions.

I had the 4th best run in my AG and a pretty mediocre 139th OA (49.1 %-tile).  My final time was 1:23:59, which was good for 47th OA (83.0%-tile) and a comfortable victory in my AG—my 48th such victory in my 148 races:

1. Christofferson --------
2. Foy + 6:10
3. Dagostino + 9:00


How to interpret this race.  Well, I’m very happy with it.  Just doing triathlons, given the physical challenges of the past couple of years is a reward in and of itself.  Mastering tough climatic conditions is great.  I’ve never felt winning my AG is ever a bad thing so there is quite a bit of satisfaction from that as well.

Still, this begs the question of how fit am I—or how much faster would I have been if I were my typical early May self?

Normally I might expect to finish right around the 90th %-tile in a race like this (I was 91.0 in 2009 and 88.6 in 2012).  If I had been 90th %-tile today I would have been 3:17 faster or about 4% faster OA.  I think this understates things a bit….

As I noted before, I would expect to go about 10 seconds/100yards faster when my swim is dialed in—so this means about 80 seconds off my best in the swim.  On the bike, I was 30 watts slower, which translates into 2.4% faster speed—a savings of about 50 seconds.  I also believe that it’s entirely reasonable for me to expect to run 8:30 (or faster) miles so probably another 3 minutes on the run.  This adds up to 5 minutes or so or about 6% short of my potential.

Given, everything that went on before and during this race, this is a result I can certainly live with, and am fact pleasantly surprised by.  Further, I’ll probably get a fair bit faster as the season progresses—which is always welcome!

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