Monday, July 9, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Boulder Peak Triathlon

With a 70.3 race on the calendar, it's easy to overlook the importance of the first Olympic distance race of the new season. I was worried I might be guilty of that, but overall, I'm pleased with how I did.

Threatening weather seems to be a theme with my races this year and, unfortunately, this one proved to be no different. Our state has suffered under some of the worst wild fires I've seen so it's hard to complain too much when we get some much needed rain. However, I'd be a liar if I wasn't hoping for a brief respite during my racing window.

Boulder is only about 50 miles from Parker, but with transition closing at 6:30 on race day, I made the decision early on to stay the night in town rather than lose an hour of sleep driving. So with that, my wife (and chief blog photographer) arrived at the reservoir which is the race venue and also the site of the expo.

I expected no less from a 5150 event, but I was still glad to see that the check in process was organized and efficient. I went through a series of tents signing my waiver, picking up my shirt, numbers and timing chip.

The expo was pretty much part and parcel with any other you might expect to find. Expos are rarely a big deal for me, but there were some event-appropriate vendors present.

And of course, everything was ready to go. The 5150 series is a travelling show so the trucks were there to set up the course, transition area, check-in and so on. There's some quiet anticipation about a race venue the day before.

Soon after we went and drove the bike course. I had already done a practice ride on it, but I also got some news that the road had been chip-sealed recently and wanted to see conditions for myself. It looked pretty good and after having done so much training on rough bumpy roads, the prospect of riding on fresh (but not too fresh) asphalt appealed.

We returned back into Boulder and checked into our hotel. That was when the rain started. At times, it really  poured and even partially flooded the parking lot. That let up, but a steady shower was with us all evening. 

I slept fine when I wasn't waking up which meant I didn't sleep great, but I didn't awake feeling totally fried either. When I peaked out the window, there were still drops of rain hitting the puddles in the parking lot so I just crossed my fingers and hoped the weather would let up during race time, just like the forecast said it would.

The car loaded up, we made our way out to Boulder Reservoir. This is a venue I've gotten to know pretty well over the years. Though I went to college in Boulder, I never made it to the reservoir during my four years there. That changed when I did the Boulder Backroads half marathons in 2005 and 2006 and then started making regular trips there last year for the Stroke & Stride swim run series. This means I've swum in the lake and run on half of the race course. In addition to my practice ride, I knew pretty well what I was facing.

The pre-race video (which very smartly was made available on You Tube) explained that they were pushing the start time from 6:30 to just aver 7:00. That meant my wave (the first half of the 40-44 year-olds) were slated for 7:55. In other words, I had some time. That was okay, however since there's usually a lot to do including setting up my transition, getting body marked, waiting in the porta-potty line and in my case, getting a strap for my timing chip since mine did not have one.

All of that taken care of, it was time to don the wet suit and watch the other waves go. A positive note at this point was that the rain had stopped, the sun was shining on and off and what would have been temps in the eighties for even nineties a week earlier were now more like mid sixties. Nice.

The swim is a single loop (as I believe it should be in a race) with orange buoys on the way out leading to a larger yellow buoy where you make the clock-wise turn, swim the shorter width and then swim back with green buoys guiding you back. This made sighting and navigation much easier. The sun was shining at the camera so it made this shot a little difficult but you can get a sense of the course here:

Though the wait was nearly an hour, it didn't seem like that long. I got a short warm-up lap in and then it was time to kiss my wife goodbye and go get in line. They were not overwhelming, but I felt some nerves. My last Oly was way back in September at the TriRock. I've done all of the distances and then some, but I was still nervous, or perhaps just anxious.

The starter/PA announcer put us in the water about four minutes before the wave start. A nice touch is to call out someone who put an interesting tidbit on their registration form. That included people who had lost tens of pounds training for the event, and one Bronze Star winner. Pretty cool.

Finally, after much waiting and four weeks since my last race, it was time to start. The field was every bit as crowded as the typical Stroke & Stride, yet I didn't seem to be bothered by it. In fact, as I turned, seeing others around me swimming was kind of cool. Not even the cameras that follow Olympians in the pool can give you the same perspective of swimming with a couple dozen of your peers in open water. There's no way I'd be taking a camera with me on a swim, but sometimes I wish I could.

I swam what I think was a fairly straight line, a little bit outside the guide buoys. I know I'm not going to stand on the podium in a race like this and I'd rather avoid the groping/getting groped process that is an open-water race. 

That worked and I swam closer to the markers on my way back.

I pushed it, but not too hard since there were still more than two hours of racing ahead of me as I exited the water.  

It's a little more than 0.1 mile from the water to where my bike was racked. That took me longer than I might have thought. I also had trouble getting my bike out since the rack was so low that I had to tilt it to fit it under  the bar. Race director's requests aside, next time I have rack like that, I'm hanging it by the bars.

I think I did okay getting everything changed out. I'm getting better and better and taking off the wetsuit and I opted for socks before the bike so that I could transition to the run faster when I got back. 

I don't know why, but I had the hardest time getting clipped in. My shoes just kept slipping on the pedals. It took four or five tries 

but I was finally on my way....

Advice I got from both the pre-race video as well as a friend who has done the course was to spin easy on the way to the very big hill on Olde Stage road. To give you an idea of what I mean, here's the elevation profile as measured by my Garmin:

The fun really starts at mile five, but it's a fairly steep climb to get there, up almost the whole way. So with that in mind, I spun easy and made sure my HR stayed in the 130's. Past experience told me it would shoot way up once I was on the hill. Past experience was right.

The climb up the hill mountain on Olde Stage road is rough. I got passed by some of the hotshots, but went by quite a few others including several who had opted to dismount and walk up the hill. At my slowest, I was down to 5 mph, but only for a moment and when I reached the false summit (not yet the top of the hill) I picked back up. It was humid enough at this point that my sunglasses were pretty foggy, but once I picked up speed they defogged.

The down hill side of the road is steep. Very steep. In fact, so much so that the race officials put a Boulder County Sheriff's'vehicle near the bottom of the hill with a radar gun. Anyone going over 35 mph would be DQ'd. Not a warning, not a penalty, you're done. It was a good safety point and the speed zone was relatively short. 

The best part of this course is that once you're over the hill, it's a lot of downhill or flat the rest of the way. In fact, I actually picked up more speed after I turned on to the still steep, but not as steep Left Hand Canyon portion of the course. Through this section and the next good down hill on Nelson Road I was dropping more people than were dropping me. 

As I reached the last few miles, I decided it was a good time for some nutrition. I've felt a little low-energy on some of my longer rides lately. Though this was a shorter ride, I still had the run to consider. So I took more of my energy drink and a gel. I might get tired and out of breath on the run, but I wasn't going to bonk.

It's occurred to me on more than one occasion that I might speed up my T2 by getting out of my shoes before the dismount. It might, but I also knew a race was no place to practice. So I got off at the crash line, ran into the transition area. For a moment I got panicked and thought I was in the wrong row. Then I looked down and realized I was standing right at my spot!

I put my bike back in, bars first, and was into the running gear quickly. It was an easy transition out and I was out on a run course I've done half a dozen time before.

Probably one of the best things that has happened this season is the ease with which I've been going from the bike to the run. That's not to say it is easy, but unlike last year, I don't feel like I'm going to die when I start. Such was the case here. 

A half mile in I decided I was getting bad readings from my Garmin because there was no way I could be running at that pace and keeping my heart rate that low. But it kept up that way. By the time I was through two miles I was feeling good about the run. I can't really point to any one thing I've done, but it's gotten a lot better. This course is pretty flat so while there are a few slopes, it's hard to call any of them a hill.

A run at an average pace of 8:31 is better than I could have hoped. Combined with my other events, I finished in 2:50:44.  And since we were in Boulder, my wife and I enjoyed an evening out!


The Bad:
There's not much here, but there are a few things:

Bike Racks: I don't know anything about the costs of things like bike racks. I have no idea if a tire-based rack is more difficult to transport than the type from which you hand the bike by the seat. Nevertheless, these things don't work well. I actually tipped the bike next to mine (though fortunately not all the way over) and needed help from a guy on the other side. My brother had similar problems at Lake To Lake a couple of weeks ago. WTC is a major name in the space and 5150 is a growing brand of theirs. It's time to step it up and start using better racks.

Results: These may improve but as of now (more than 24 hours after the last finisher) the results are pretty basic. Just a name and a time. No splits. I'll take this section down, but only if I see the more detailed results. Late this evening detailed results were posted. Better late than never.

The Good:

Pre-Race Info: This was great. The website was up to date months in advance and the week of the race, they posted a You Tube video that was basically a pre-race meeting. It's a great idea and I hope more races adopt this practice.

On-Course Support: Water and energy drink were offered at two places on the bike course and at every mile on the run. That's what I expect, but more than I have seen from other races. The organizers also had both the Boulder PD and County Sheriff's office out in force. Intersections were effectively closed to traffic when they needed to be. The were was also good marking and mileage indicators.

Value: I registered early for $100. That's pretty good for an Oly. This came with a good swim venue, a great bike course, and what I consider to be a good run course (fast and flat). I got a nice tech shirt and a tote bag that my wife will probably use for groceries now!

Volunteers: There were lots of them and they were all great. No race can make it without an army of these folks and I can't begin to express my appreciation for all they do.

It's hard to say what my race schedule will look like in a year. But scheduling would be the only issue I would have with doing this one again. It's a great race and I must say that WTC did much to enhance their reputation with me this weekend.

1 comment:

  1. Great Race Bro! Your run times have really come down! We'll talk to you soon!