Monday, June 25, 2012

Long Weekend Recap

Race Report – Stroke & Stride #3

Another week and another Stroke & Stride semi-race. This most recent event was much warmer than the week before with temperatures in the 90’s. The water temp at the reservoir was measured at 71* but places felt much cooler, especially as you swam further from shore.

I was able to get a quick practice swim in before it was time to start. Then, it was once again into the washing machine of swimmers with abilities ranging from expert to total novice.

This may continue to be the case in races as well, but the washing machine continues to be a problem for me. Once I get out of the crowd, my breathing relaxes and I settle into a nice rhythm. But during that first 300 meters or so, it’s a little uncomfortable.

I put a reasonable effort into the second lap (though it turned out to be slower by over 30 seconds) and then was out of the water and heading quickly toward the transition.

This went well again this week and I was out of the wetsuit, in my shoes and socks and headed out in 1:50. The distance from lake to transition area is pretty short here, but in the area I can control, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of utilizing my time well.

I had a feeling that my run would be not quite as fast this week. There were two reasons for this. First, I had done a 7 X 1 mile interval run which, with recoveries, totaled 10.5 miles that I was pleased to complete at an average pace of about 8:29. Second, it was a lot warmer and heat definitely takes its toll on me.

Sure enough, my pace slacked off some in the second mile. I finished up the run in 24:51 which was an 8:03 pace (my watch measured the course at 3.08 rather than 3.1 miles).  That didn’t bother me though. I ran a strong run and I felt pretty good, all things considered.

After the race, just as we did a year ago, my wife and I headed into Boulder to grab dinner at a place on Pearl Street called Pizzeria Locale. If you are in the area and have a taste for authentic Neapolitan-style pizza, I highly recommend it.

Non-Participant Race Report: Loveland Lake-To-Lake Olympic Triathlon

I gave some though to a late entry for this race, but I don’t think I was where I wanted to be and, in hindsight, I’m pretty sure I made the right decision not to participate.

My brother Ted, on the other hand, was running this one so I went along to cheer him on as well as serve as his Sherpa. It was a good opportunity to watch a race from an outsider’s perspective.

The 6:30 start time was none-too-early considering the extraordinarily hot weather that Colorado has been experiencing lately. Just as it was two weeks ago, the High Park Fire was blazing fiercely and putting a lot of smoke into the sky. It was not completely clear in Loveland, but I don’t think you could say smoke was much of a factor for the race.

Since I didn’t actually run the race, I can only report on the things I observed. For example, I only saw the start and finish to the bike so I don’t have anything to say about the course. That said, let me dig in and tell what I did see on this one.

The organizers used Loveland High School and the surrounding park as their staging and transition areas. This was somewhat nostalgic for me since I ran a few high school cross-country meets in the area including conference finals when I was a junior.

As you can see below, there was something of a line as participants were body-marked and checked into transition.

Fortunately, it went very quickly and I doubt the wait was even five minutes. That’s probably a good thing since my brother had only been in the transition area for a few minutes when the announcement went out that it was closing soon. He managed to get set up with time to spare however and soon we were standing on the beach of Lake Loveland.

Like most races, this one went in waves with no apparent rhyme or reason as to which group went first. Ted’s wave was the second one and it went out about five minutes after the first group. The water on the lake was placid and I was told the clarity was good as well. That makes sense since, despite being in Loveland, this is one of the drinking water supplies for the city of Greeley.

In less than 29:00, Ted was out of the water and on his way to T1.his is one long haul from the beach back to the transition area. I heard the announcer say that it was about 1/3 of a mile and I don’t doubt. This is all considered part of he swim so the actual time in the water is considerably shorter than what shows up on the results.

Ted moved through T1 quickly and was on his bike for the modified Oly bike course of 24 miles.

 I had some time to kill so I just found a shady spot and watched the people. One interesting item was viewing the transition area which was full of everything except bicycles. It’s not something I’ve seen before since from my usual spot in the middle of the pack, the area is usually at least half full.

As the first riders came back, I got a good opportunity to watch transitions from some of the best. Well, mostly. There was one guy who was off the bike (having already gotten out of his shoes) and moving quickly to his spot, bike hung up, shoes on and on his way. Might have been around 30 seconds. I was impressed. There was another poor soul who slipped trying to swing his bike around to front-out position (the transition area was grass) and fell on top of his bike. Doh!

By the time most folks started their run, the heat was really building. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess we were already in the mid 80* range when Ted started out and it was probably close to 90* by the time he finished. Wisely, the first water station was immediately outside transition. There were also water stations at each mile which is important, doubly so on a hot day.

I managed to find Ted on the run at a place where I could get pictures at two locations.

Then I hustled back to the finish line, even though I figured I had five minutes or so to spare before he arrived. So I was surprised when I heard his name called at the finish and I was looking the other way. It was then that it became apparent that the run course had been shortened from a 10K to 5.1 miles.

The Review

The Bad

No announcement about the run course change - There was fairly major construction on one section of the run course and I’m sure that’s what drove the decision to shorten the course. That’s understandable but you need to tell your participants about the change through multiple mediums. That means, your website, social media and finally, PA announcements on race morning. These were all absent. A shorter course has a significant impact on pacing decisions.

Lax enforcement of the dismount rule – Riders are supposed to be completely off their bike, including both pedals once they hit the “crash” line. That’s for both safety and fairness. Nevertheless, I saw several people go well past it including one woman in the relay who has a good 25 yards past the line. I don’t know if race volunteers are authorized to cite folks with a penalty, but perhaps they should be.

Inaudible start signal – Just outside the swim area, a DJ was doing announcements as well as starting the waves. I prefer a gun, siren or some other non-verbal but loud signal to start, but someone shouting go is fine. That is, it’s fine as long as you can hear them. Swimmers had trouble hearing the “go” command.

Short Bike Racks – The racks in transition were the bar type were you typically hand your seat and point your front wheel out. Unfortunately, these were set short so taller bikes (like Ted’s) did not fit under the bar. It’s one thing for someone with a short bike to have to lift theirs a few inches high to hang it, but much more difficult to twist your bike sideways and try and get it hung up. This created unnecessary delays in transition.

The Good

Venue – The long run from swim to transition is somewhat unavoidable and in truth, variety in courses is a good thing. I like the location and I think it lends itself to a great place to swim, bike and run.

On-course support – I was glad to hear that the organizers had water available at each mile marker in the run. Heat stroke is a serious concern on days like last Saturday and water is the single-best way to combat it. There was, I’m told, also a water station at the bike turnaround which is also a plus in my mind.

Volunteers – I would guess that getting enough people to come out and support your race is a tough task for any director. This one had top-notch people all doing what is too often a thankless job.

General organization – The Lake-To-Lake is an older event as triathlons go (more than 10 years) and they’ve obviously learned a thing or two during that time. Ted picked up his packet on race morning, but had no issue with it. Start transition and finish were all well run (except for the start audibility issues) and it looked to me like most folks were having a good time, and that after all, is the point.

The ultimate review point is whether or not I would run the race based on what I saw. The answer: Yes. I think I’d like to give this one a try. It looked pretty good this year and hopefully next year they won’t be dealing with issues like forest fires or road construction.

Another Ride in Weld County

This past weekend was intended to be one where my family and I got together with my cousins, aunt and uncle at my parents place in the mountains. However, the High Park Fire closed part of the road leading up to Red Feather Lakes so we ended up spending it in Greeley instead.

As a result, I had to change my bike ride. While that meant going shorter, I think I still managed to get a good ride in on a course that simulates HITS Sterling. Sunday would prove to be another hot day so I got up early again and was on the road by just after 7:00. The smoke was definitely thicker this time, but not terrible. It’s never a good thought to think you’re inhaling ash and soot but I didn’t feel like I was being affected by it.

The course I took went south to Highway 85 then back north passing through a handful of small towns before I turned west and back to my mom and dad’s home.

All told it was just over 40 miles. That’s not bad, but I also need to kick it up a notch. I may have to look at more eastern routes because the fire threat continues. This is one of the worst years that I can remember for wildfires and at this time, there’s not much relief in sight.

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

No comments:

Post a Comment