Thursday, August 3, 2017

Tuckahoe Sprint Triathlon/Back in the Game!/Win # 49.....Ugly though!

Last week I decided to try my hand once again in an actual triathlon race!  My last race was way back in May of 2016 when I raced my 150th career triathlon at Hammonton (since Kona of 2014-a period of 33 months, I had only raced 4 sprint triathlons).  My original thought was to race on Saturday, July 30th at the DQ sprint at Laurel Lake.  However, a nasty weather forecast caused me to opt instead for the 12th annual Tuckahoe Triathlon (being held the next day, Sunday July 31st), a short Sprint about 20 miles north of us in Stone Harbor.  Weather-wise, this was a good decision as race morning dawned clear and chilly (under 60 degrees) albeit with a good (10-20 mph) North wind blowing.

In addition to being my 151st career triathlon, this was to be the sixth time racing this race.  In my prior five races, I had won my AG twice and finished second the other three times.  There were just 3 in my M60+ AG and only 71 in the race overall (there was a simultaneous International distance race, which limited participation in the Sprint).

I had modest objectives and expectations for the race.  After Nepal, I began training for triathlons again in mid-May, but was hampered by bursitis in my right shoulder and so had only swam about 5 or 6 times over the prior 4 months.  I also was just before the initiation of my Ironman Arizona build, which is kicked off now that August has rolled around, so my training volumes and intensity were modest at best.  In a word, I wasn’t in triathlon racing shape.  Still, my shoulder has been responding to PT and seemed good enough to give it a go.  I miss racing and certainly I need to jump into a few races to regain some of my competitive sharpness before IMAZ in November.

The swim is Egg Harbor, about half way between Stone Harbor and Atlantic City.  The course looked visually short.  It also cut very close to a jetty on the right.  I opted to start on the right, since this was a shorter line to the first turn.  However, after the gun I was forced further right than I wanted and unfortunately ended up running onto some very sharp submerged rocks.  I could feel these rocks slicing my feet so I slowed, was jostled from behind, and in short order found myself falling face (hands) first onto the rocks.  Now both my hands and feet were getting cut as I pulled my body across the shallow rocks for several painful seconds.  I eventually found deeper water but not before significant damage was done—especially to my feet.

I swam on anyways and had a relatively uneventful swim--at last if we ignore the start.  I felt slow but had no real difficulties after the initial challenges of the run into the water.  I hit the shoreline in 4:50, which sounds great but my Garmin clocked the swim distance as just 272 yards, so this works out to a mediocre 1:50/100 yards.  My average stroke length was 1.65 yps and my stroke cadence was 34 spm.  The later number is fine (should be 36) but the yps number is far off what I do when I’m swim fit—more like 2-2.2 yps.  Work to do!  I was 17th overall in the swim or at the 77.5 %-tile.  It’s worth noting that while this was my fastest Tuckahoe swim time, it was my lowest relative percentile, the previous low being 88%.  I was way ahead in my AG and would face no competition in the contest during the rest of the race.

I was aware of the pain in my right foot as I ran across the sand fumbling clumsily with the zipper of my wetsuit as I began my transition.  I was slow and sloppy—had trouble getting my swim cap off for example.  As I sat at my transition area I got a first glimpse of the damage from the rocks.  My right hand was covered in blood and my right foot was bleeding pretty heavily in a number of places—a real mess.  I decided to ignore it as best as I could and completed a very slow and inefficient T1 in 2:26, which was the 12th fastest overall (84.5 %-tile).

Upon mounting the bike I decided to not go completely all out.  I wanted to push it but also wanted to be cautious after such a long layoff.  I was preoccupied with my increasingly bloody hands (drops of blood were flying off my hands and sometimes into my face and mouth as I rode).  To compound things, both of my shifter extensions in my aero bars became lose and I had to actively pull them back to stop them from popping out of the base bar and dangling down towards my front wheel.  The rode was bumpy in several places and I wanted to get off the aero bars and ride up on the base bar but this was tricky with my aero bars at risk of popping out.  This was a real amateur show on my part!

Anyways, this did not lead to a consistent application of power or to a particularly good or fast bike.  I only averaged 217 watts during the first third of the race, which is pretty humbling for sure. I averaged 222 watts for each of the next two 4 mile sections and ended up at 220 watts for the 12.2-mile bike leg.  This is disappointing but understandable, and I see no reason why I can’t get this up to a more reasonable 240 watts over the next 4-6 weeks.

This effort yielded a time of 34:11 and a 21.3-mph average with my cadence averaging 83 rpm and my HR averaging 151 bpm.  This is a far cry from the mid to high 160s that I do when I’m Sprint triathlon fit.  Not surprisingly, this was the slowest of my 6 rides here as my prior slowest time was 31:38 and a far cry from my course record of 31:00.  I’m at least 10% slow and probably around 20% low power wise (that’s 40 watts!) compared to prior years.  This was the 11th fastest bike split or about the 85.9 %-tile.  My prior worse such measure was 95 %-tile.  Ugh—someone has a lot of work to do!

During T2 I noted that my white bike shoes were splattered with a fair amount of blood.  My foot was throbbing and it was difficult to pull my racing flats over my sockless feet.  I did ok in T2 as it took me 1:10 to complete and this was the 22nd fastest (70.4 %-tile).

I was now very aware of the pain in my foot.  I had to avoid my big toe and the outer side of my right foot was also very tender.  Glancing down at my yellow shoes I saw the right one turning a dark red at the toes and on the outside.  I wasn’t going to let it stop me but it certainly didn’t help my run.  I finished the run in 17:20, which over the 1.91-mile course averages out to 9:04/mile.  My HR averaged just 163 bpm—a pretty contained effort.  Still, this run was only 7-seconds slower than 2013, which is a least a little bit encouraging.  Relatively, I had just the 37th fastest run time or about the 49.3 %-tile.  My prior low was at 72 %-tile.

Overall, my time was 59:57 and was good enough for 14th Overall (81.7 %-tile). (prior low was 91 %-tile).  I won my AG by a large margin and secured my 49th career AG victory in the process.

So, I got the job done, but this race exposed the need for a lot of work on both my fitness and on my tactical race execution.  My right foot is quite bad (see pics below) and will slow me down for probably a week or so.  I’m thankful it wasn’t worse, which it very well could have been.  Good to get it done and I’ll try to jump into 2-3 more races prior to IMAZ—maybe as soon as next week.

Onward and Upward!

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