Friday, June 3, 2016

Hammonton Sprint Triathlon 2016 Race Report

2016 Hammonton Sprint
May 28th, 2016


Location: Hammonton, NJ
Distance: 0.25-mile swim/12.5-mile bike/2.91-mile run
2016 Triathlon Race Number: 4
Career Triathlon Race Number: 150
Competitors: 218 overall and 19 in my Age Group
Conditions: Mid 70s to low 80s--humid.  Clear and sunny.  15 mph wind.  Lake swim, water temp around 68-70 degrees.

My 3rd triathlon in the month of May and the fourth of the 2016 season.  I drove the 45 miles up to the Blueberry capital of NJ for my 5th Hammonton Sprint Triathlon.  This is an old school DQ TriDu sprint that saw me competing once again with old stalwarts Mickey Syrop and Jack Boyle (although both, being a year older were not in my AG).

Although typically a low priority “B” race for me, I was excited to race Hammonton again to see where I was at fitness wise.  I would have a good comparison to my prior years’ races here.  Also, I felt I was ready to show some meaningful improvement in my fitness over the first three races of 2016 given the strength of my recent training sessions.  However, I was nursing a pretty bad cold that potentially could be a limiter in the race.

The Swim

The swim takes place in a shallow, weedy “lake” in Hammonton State Park.  A lot of folks complain about the water conditions but I’ve never had an issue through the years—swimming through lily pads has never really bothered me.

It was a lot of fun seeing the old dinosaurs again but soon we found ourselves in the water, just after 7:50 a.m. for the 2nd wave—guys over 45.  The swim here is basically two sides of a triangle with a very small base—essentially an out and back that ends 30-40 feet away from the start.  As such, there is just one turn and happily for me it’s a lefty (counter clockwise direction) so I lined up on the outside right—well away from the buoy line.

At the gun, I pulled quickly away from most of the pack and found mostly clean water until the turn buoy.  I felt pretty good and could tell I was having a decent swim.  However, I had only been able to swim twice in the prior two weeks (lots of familial obligations) so I knew I wasn’t going to set any speed records.

After navigating the turn buoy and swimming wide to avoid the congestion, I once again found pretty clean water all the way back to the “beach”.  I hit terra firma in an elapsed time of 6:39.  My Garmin clocked the swim at 410 yards—so a bit short of the advertised quarter-mile.  As such, I averaged 1:37/100—pretty mediocre but not surprising given my lack of swim training as of late.  I took 234 strokes at an average stroke rate of 35 spm—the later number in the ballpark of what I typically expect.  However, my average stroke length was just 1.75 yards.  This is an improvement over my Virginia races earlier this month but still well below the 2+ yards/stroke that I’m capable of when I’m on my game.  This would indicate that I’m still about 15% off of “full swim fitness”.

None-the-less, my swim this year compared favorably to my prior swims here:

         2004          8:56
         2008          7:10
         2009          7:23
         2012          6:48
         2016          6:39

So, effectively I was about 55 seconds faster (12%) than my average of my prior 4 swims here.  I don’t want to read too much into this because I’m sure the actual distance swam each year was likely different.  However, this tracks my perception that with all of the technique improvements I made from 2010-2013, my swim holds up pretty well—even when I’m as under-trained as I am now.

Competitively, I had the 54th fastest swim OA (75.7 %-tile) so clearly I’m paying the price for not getting in the pool enough as I would expect to be in the top 10% for this race.  In my AG I recorded the 3rd fastest swim (89.5 %-tile) and here is where we stood after the swim:

1.      Talerico               --------
2.      De Vivera            + 0:16
3.      Christofferson     + 0:18
4.      Vanore                + 0:34
5.      Griffiths               + 1:05

Transition One

The transition from swim to bike is a relatively straightforward affair here at Hammonton covering 0.16 miles.  I had what I felt was a solid T1 and completed the run from the beach to the bike mount line (and associated costume changes) in 2:26.  This was the slowest of my five T1s here and OA I had the 72nd fastest T1 (67.4 %-tile) and 5th fastest in my AG (78.9 %-tile).  So reflecting on these numbers, I had a pretty uninspiring T1.  Here is the AG situation after T1:

1.      Vanore                --------
2.      Christofferson     + 0:08
3.      Talerio                 + 1:11
4.      Griffiths               + 1:16
5.      Wetzler               + 1:45

The Bike

The bike is contested on a 12.5-mile out and back course with the turn around in front of the old Blueberry farm.  There are several little risers but like most Jersey courses, this bike is relatively flat.  The wind was present but it seemed to mostly be a side wind and I don’t think it had a major impact on my speed at any point out on the course.

I have to say I felt pretty good.  I passed both Jack and Mickey very early in the bike (I had outswam Mick but he had a better T1).  Entering this race I believed I was now ready to put out something in the 230-watt range but a quick glance down at my power meter told me this was likely to prove to be wishful thinking.  This is what the first four miles looked like (Speed-mph/Heart Rate-bpm/Cadence-rpm/Avg Power-watts/Normalized Power-watts):

1.            22.5/162/81/254/254
2.            22.0/161/79/220/222
3.            22.3/160/89/212/217
4.            22.6/160/83/218/222

So, for the first four miles I was just able to average 226 watts.  I was spinning with a pretty solid cadence but my HR was on the low side (I’d like it to be 165-168 for a Sprint).

Out through the turn-around and I continued to grind out the next 4 miles in pretty much the same fashion:
5.            23.2/159/86/213/213
6.            23.2/161/89/214/215
7.            22.7/162/84/224/225
8.            23.5/162/87/218/218

Upon inspection you can see that my speed was better through this section, which is the flattest and fastest on the course.  I continued to spin well but I could not get my HR up which indicates my legs were lacking in power this morning.  Indeed, my average power for this four-mile segment dropped to a disappointing 217 watts.

I tried to stay focused down the stretch but if anything, my power dropped even further indicating I wasn’t ready to “go” on the bike this morning:

9.            22.9/160/80/205/211
10.        22.2/158/81/208/208
11.        22.5/158/81/205/212
12.        23.1/158/86/207/207
13.        20.4/158/83/204/204   (last half mile)

I averaged just 206 watts for miles 8-12.  So my power went from 226 to 217 to 206 for each third of the bike course.  That just doesn’t cut it, even given my lack of hardcore bike training in 2016.  I feel like I was ready to go 230+ today and at least for now, I’m going to attribute this lack of power to the cold I’ve been struggling with for the week prior to the race.

Indeed, I only averaged 216 watts (218 NP), which compares poorly to my other rides this year—two weeks ago I did 219 watts over 15+ miles at Kinetic.  (Other key numbers were: 160 bpm, 84rpm, 22.6 mph, and +177 feet of climbing).   Indeed, here is how my power compares to my prior years here:

         2008          254 watts
         2009          220 watts
         2012          239 watts
         2016          216 watts

Incidentally, 2009 was the year I took a breather from IM racing and really backed off my training…

I finished the bike in 33:09, which not surprisingly was the slowest of my five rides here:

         2004          32:25
         2008          32:02
         2009          31:55
         2012          31:56
         2016          33:09

This means I was about a minute slower than I had averaged in prior years—about 3% slow.  This is in line with about a 10% power shortfall.  I need to and expect to do better in the months ahead in 2016.

Competitively, I had just the 23rd fastest bike (89.9 %-tile).  To put this in perspective, here is where that metric has been here at Hammonton:

         2004          96.7 %-tile
         2008          96.6
         2009          94.5
         2012          93.6
         2016          89.9

This is annoying and enough to motivate me to put more effort in on the bike in the weeks ahead!

I had the fastest ride in my AG and here is where we stood after the bike:

1.      Christofferson     --------
2.      Vanore                + 1:21
3.      Roma                           + 2:15
4.      Deegan               + 2:36
5.      Wetzler               + 3:50

Transition Two

I had no idea of where I stood competitively (or indeed what any of my AG competitors looked like) but if you had asked, I would have correctly told you I was leading my AG at this point.  I sped into T2 and executed a pretty decent T2 in my opinion with a total time of 1:06.  This is in line with my prior T2s here.  I had the 69th fastest T2 (68.8 %-tile) OA and the 5th best in my AG (78.9 %-tile).  The standings as we headed out for the run:

1.      Christofferson     ---------
2.      Vanore                + 1:03
3.      Roma                           + 3:49
4.      Deegan               + 4:59
5.      Wetzler               + 5:45

The Run

My run is in the worst shape of the three disciplines here in 2016.  It’s been getting better from race to race but it’s still a long ways from where it should be and indeed where I’ve had it in prior years.  As with the bike, I hoped to show some solid improvements in this race—ideally running mid 8 minute miles.  However, as with the bike, this was not to be on this Saturday.

Unlike the bike, I could feel myself struggling to generate any speed on the run.  At some point during the first mile, Vanore must have passed me but I didn’t see any calves marked with numbers from my AG and I don’t know anything about him or what he looks like so I can’t say when it happened.

In any event, my three miles (the last one was 0.91 miles) looked like this:

1.      9:14/mile                     162bpm
2.      9:04/mile                     164bpm
3.      8:15 (9:04/mile)           164bpm

I finished the run in 26:32, which was a disappointing 125th OA (43.1 %-tile) and 5th in my AG (78.9 %-tile).  Here are the final AG standings:

1.      Vanore                --------
2.      Christofferson     + 3:10
3.      Roma                           + 6:10
4.      Deegan               + 6:12
5.      Griffiths               + 9:58

Incidentally, here are my run times through the years:

         2004          23:11
         2008          21:15
         2009          22:22
         2012          23:42
         2016          26:32

Basically, I’m about 80 sec/mile too slow right now (17% or so).
My overall time was 69:51, which was just 57th OA (74.3 %-tile).  I was about 4:45 slower than my average time here in prior races (this is about 7% slow).

It’s great to be racing again of course, and perhaps it’s a healthy sign that I’m disappointed with a 2nd place in my AG (in prior years I finished first twice, 2nd and 3rd).  I can’t help but think I was slowed down by my cold today and I probably could have been at least a couple minutes faster this morning, even with my limited fitness.

Oh well.  I did manage to beat Mickey and Jack—not something that always happens.  I also finished my 150th triathlon—150 started and 150 finished.  I’m motivated to push a bit harder in my training and race again soon to see if indeed I’m a little better than I showed today.  All good.

Onward and upward!

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