Saturday, May 18, 2013

Race Report : 2013 Summer Open Sprint Triathlon...uh...Aquathlon

It is at times like this when one asks "Why does God hate the Summer Open  Sprint so much?" Well, that's a bit over the top, but understandable all the same.

Last night I took a look at my e-mail and saw right away an "emergency" notification from the race organizers. I expected to see swim cancel along the lines of the e coli event from two years ago. In fact, it was the bike that was canceled. The bike? That's weird. I read on.

" At 10:00am this morning Highway Technologies closed all their national operations, with no fore notice to their regional offices.  Highway Technologies is responsible for all the road closures, traffic barricades, cones, etc. "

I honestly had no idea that event planners were so reliant on companies like this one. However, it does make sense. There are several sections that have to be closed off from each other, particularly on this course where riders actually go right by each other in opposite directions.

You can read more details including how it nearly caused serious problems for the Colfax Marathon in this Denver Post article.

I was a little bummed. I just had my bike in the shop last weekend for a pre-race tune up. Alas, it stayed home this morning. Not everyone did that, but more on that later.

But bike or no, there was still a race and I was going to kick-off my season one way or another.

Like every other race morning, this one started early and I was on my way to Longmont. Unlike last year, I had good weather going for me. I made good time and was actually able to park in the lot next to transition. This would result in having to wait a little longer to leave, but it was nice to be near the car for purposes of dropping of my swag, etc.

Placid, clear and warm water awaited.

Pre-race announcements said it was 70*. That's pretty amazing considering it snowed in Colorado just a couple of weeks ago. However, I was not complaining. Even 70* feels pretty cold when you're used to warmer pool water.

Transition was wide open. Bikes aren't big, but bikes and racks to together take up a lot of space and you don't appreciate that until you've seen a TA without them:

If you take a look the left center of the picture above, you'll see a bike. Yep. It was not the only one on site though it appeared to be the only one in transition. I suppose some folks completely missed the cancellation story (though you kind of had to try to do that) but even if it did end up on the back of your car, why bring it into transition.

I've seen this phenomenon at other Aquathlon events. Someone brings their $4000+ TT bike to the event and locks it up to a railing. That's right, they risk theft or damage so that a bunch of strangers can admire their wheels. Much as I wish it weren't true, this sport has an inordinate number of douche bags.

Prior to the start, I managed to get a short warm-up swim. Nothing to fantastic, just a chance to see what 70* felt like. Know what, it's colder than you might think. It's not bad, but I did huff and puff just a little bit as it flowed down the back of my suit. Fortunately, I was warm and then I got to experience the fast feeling of swimming in a wetsuit. As I swam away from shore, I noticed how clear the water was. Like Aurora reservoir clear. No doubt that will change over the course of the summer, but it is kind of nice.The start was late but not excessively so.

Due to the bike cancellation of the bike, the organizers at Without Limits added a long-course option that would consist of a 1 mile swim and a 10K. I was not interested. For starters, the second lap involved a long run along the beach ala Stroke and Stride or Aquaman style. Additionally, I did not feel up to a 10K today. I don't have my first Oly for over a month. One thing at a time, I say!

At most races, I have to wait to start. Not today. Short course men were all going out at the same time. There were a lot of us. I mean an awful lot. Taking a page from my brother's strategy book I sought to stay to the outside and angle toward the far buoy rather than swim right along the line. A little experimenting with Google Sketch-Up confirms that even if you move 25 feet to the outside the total distance you swim is still less than foot. Unfortunately, a lot of other folks had the same idea and I ended up in the usual washing machine-group grope that is an open water swim start.

It was okay, though. I managed to clear through the worst of it fairly soon and then only found a little bunching around the buoys. Despite having not done anything in open water in something over eight months, I was sighting fairly well. A little hypoxia hit me at about 125 meters but I just focused on my rhythm and my breathing and soon it passed. Overall, the swim went pretty well.

I hit the carpeted exit and was soon jogging out back to transition. The run to my spot ended up being around 0.10 mile and in bare feet I felt okay about doing it at just over 10:00 pace. I struggle a little getting out of the suit, but not very much. T1 ended up being 2:39 which was faster than a year ago.

The run was underway and there is no question that I'm slower than I was a year ago. But I was moving at a decent sub 9:00 pace and feeling okay. Around 0.6 mile my right leg (the hurt one) started giving me a lot of trouble. I was proceeding with a fairly pronounced limp. I shortened my stride and slowed up for a beat. That worked because the pain faded and soon I was moving again at my normal pace.

As expected, I slowed some on the big hill that takes you to the first mile. Even so, the first mile was 8:47. Now I got to enjoy a downhill to the turn around. That helped because my second mile was 8:26. The pain returned again at the bottom of the big hill but, again, my technique of shortening and slowing helped. I'm pretty sure this is IT Band syndrome. The sharpness of the pain and the fact that it passes so quickly are pretty consistent with past bouts. It means I'll have to do some exercises over the next few weeks to strengthen my glutes and ease the strain on the band.

From a cardio stand point, I felt pretty good for the whole race. My biggest concern was I hit the last stretch  was that I'd feel that same pain and have an ugly finish. But I didn't. I had a nice sprint into the end. There were a couple of people ahead of me that I probably could have caught and passed. But that's kind of douchey. Apparently the woman who went past me in the final 15 yards didn't think so. Did I mention that tis sport has an inordinate number of douche bags?

In any case, here's the run:

I felt fine as I completed the race. Actually, I felt too good. I don't really think I left anything on the course (and my aching IT Band made sure that I took it easy on that front), but I really missed something not getting to ride.  It's not the fault of anyone at the race but it still sucks.

The Review

Next Time:

It seems like a race that can make it to it's sixth year has some competent people behind it. That's certainly the case with the Without Limits crew. There's no significant criticism I can offer. They've just about perfectly dialed this one in. From a purely nit-picky stand point, I would suggest that anything that can be done to reduce the amount of beach running on a two lap-swim is a good idea, but I didn't do the two lap, so that criticism has to be taken with a pretty big grain of salt.

The Colorado Marathon did a really cool thing this year in hiring a photography company that was selling electronic copies of pictures for $0.99 each. At a smaller event like this one, I can see how that cost might go up, but I'd probably pay up to $5 for a decent picture. As for the $15 or so most companies charge, no thanks. The race organizers might want to consider a new company for that or seeking a crowd sourcing option like the one DC Rainmaker notes here. At the end of the day, however, the photography company is a non-factor in whether or not to run a race.

The Good:

Cost: I registered a little later this year, but an early registrant can do this thing for something like $80 including the $4 charge to do race-day pick-up. The big boys (WTC, et al) are charging some pretty serious scratch just for their shorter races. I'm encouraged to see a scrappy company like Without Limits being so competitive.

Venue: I called this out in my report last year as well, but this is a really good spot for a race. That's true for racers and spectators who can watch the swim from the berm above the beach and see runners at multiple locations. The bike course is away from the main staging and transition areas, but that's true of most races.

Logistics: These were really good. Facebook, Twitter and of course, their own website, had full details about the unfortunate bike situation. That was in addition to the e-mail. When I arrived, they had figured out their route for the long course and proceeded without missing a beat. My packet was ready to go, my timing chip was waiting for me and indicating my course preference was as easy as me telling a volunteer and him making a note of it. The official results were accurate for me.

I don't have a long laundry list of all that is right with this race, but it just is. The title is Summer Open and I can't think of a better way to kick off the tri-season other than going out of state. One of these years, though, I'm going to swim, bike and run at this event and do it all under warm sunny skies!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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