Sunday, August 18, 2013

Race Report: 2013 Rattlesnake

Sometimes the best thing that can be said about a race is "meh." This is one of those times. Not to fault the race itself or its organizers. I just did not have particularly good day. I'm not overly disappointed, but not really thrilled either.

The day started like any other race day which in August means pre-dawn. This was the view I had walking from my car to transition:

That faint pink dot in the middle of the screen is actually the sun. Apparently forest fires in Idaho are sending smoke down into Colorado, hence the hazy air. However, it did not really impact my performance.

Parking was closer this year and it made it pretty easy to set everything up. I had lots of time to prep my area, pick up my packet and walk the distances between the entrances and my spot. No losing my bike at this race!

As I have espoused before, I believe in minimalist transition areas. This was mine:

Like my last race, I had no one on either side of me, but if I did, they would have had plenty of space to rack and set up.

The swim area at Aurora Reservoir is pretty small so I just did a couple of lengths up and down before deciding I was warmed up enough. Despite a possible e coli scare, the water was crystal clear and a bit on the chilly side, though not unpleasant.

The Swim

For reasons I still don't fathom, this is a multi-loop course. I realize that the same buoys are used the following day for the Sprint event, but is it really hard to re-position them from one day to the next? Especially in an age of nearly ubiquitous GPS resources?

Because of this, the start is time trial style which I actually think more races of this size should do. It thins out the pack at the start and makes the washing machine effect a little less intense.

Despite being number 269, I found myself in the starters box in short order and then into the water. The guy in front of me was apparently unaware that this was a timed race and strolled out into the water with no particular sense of urgency. I managed to get around him and was soon moving easily through the water.

The route takes you out to a buoy about 0.2 mile from the shore. Then you make a 180* turn and head right back to the start area, run around a pylon of sorts and then back out. When reaching that far buoy a second time, you stay a bit more to your left and swim to the other end of the beach.

Throughout the entire swim, even after running around the pylon, I still felt pretty good. I was not pushing really hard, but I felt alright and seemed to pass more than I was passed.

After exiting, I found my way to the wetsuit strippers, one of whom was nice enough to hold my Garmin, swim cap and goggles after they pulled off the suit. It is a very fast way to get out of it and I was soon up the hill and back into transition.

The Bike

Putting my helmet on before heading out, it felt a little snug, but I figured it would work for me. I made my way out and was soon riding down a nice downhill toward the first turn at the far end of the dam that makes the northern shore of the lake. As I made that turn, I noticed that the seat mounted water bottle rack had come loose and then it came off altogether. I had to dismount and leave it with the volunteer who was working that station. I only lost a minute or so, but it's not exactly how I wanted things to go.

Once you leave the reservoir grounds it's an east bound ride on Quincy Avenue. It's been the beneficiary of a recent shoulder-widening project and so even thought the route was open to traffic, it still felt pretty safe. The drivers who were out were courteous and slowed down as needed. That's much appreciated, especially since, unlike last year, I did not see a police presence.

The lost time for the water bottle rack not withstanding, I felt pretty good about the bike. I spun up the big hills and got into the big ring to pick up extra speed going down. I was able to grab a water bottle and refill the aero bottle with ease and the return trip went by quickly. 

There is something of a climb going back up to the reservoir and this was complemented with a bit of a breeze, but I ground it out okay. I was more or less by myself as I went back into transition which is a far cry from the last two races I've done.

The Run

Being such a small transition area makes for a really easy T2. I was in and out in 1:07 which is about as fast as I ever am. Running is on a lake shore bike path with a simple out and back. It's never really hilly, but it's never really flat either.

Like so many other runs, the first half went pretty well. I got out to the half way point in a little under 31 minutes and generally felt pretty good though my heart rate was at 159 at that point so I was in my top zone.

By mile four I was hurting but I pushed on until reaching the bottom of the only real hill on the course. I tried to keep up a decent walking speed while still allowing my heart rate to come back down. I ended up walking most of the next mile and then just sort of walk-ran the rest of the way. Truth be told, I felt pretty lousy and the culprit was the heat.

According to Garmin connect, the temperature was 79* when I started. Keep in mind, that's a shade temp and there was basically no shade on this course. The breeze that had been blowing on the way out seemed to have stopped as I was on my way back in. I'm guessing it was in the high 80* range for those last two miles. In the end, it was the ugliest run time I've done in an Olympic.

The Race Review

I really like this race and the people who put it on so I don't have many criticisms, but I do have a few:

Next Time

Swim Course: I really don't know why the multiple loop thing is necessary. For one thing, as you enter the water, you have to be cautious of the people who are running back in to do their second loop. For another, it just feels like someone is taking a short cut not to map out a full 1500 meters. Another factor, the course was significantly short. 1500 meters should work out to about 0.93 mile. This year it was 0.77. This all calls for an overhaul of the swim. 

Bike Course: The course itself is fine. The rolling hills make for a good challenge and really do separate those who have trained from those who have not. I also can imagine that closing the road is an option that is too expensive to contemplate. But how about hiring an off-duty cop or two to provide a little more support? It's great that there were no jerks out on the rode, but that's more luck than good planning.

The Good

Cost: Races just keep getting more expensive so it's nice to see an independent like this one doing so well and still charging a reasonable fee. Clearly a lot of first timers come out and I'm sure the lower entry fee factors into their decision.

Venue: The Reservoir is clean and cool making for ideal swimming conditions. The bike course is challenging but not overly so and the same can be said for the run course. They also make a point of renting both picnic shelters providing plenty of space for post race enjoyment.

Transition: I've harped on others about their racks so I have to give this race credit for theirs. Individual racks with one spot per wheel. None of this try and force your bike into an empty spot and hope you don't start a chain reaction of bikes tipping over. Are you paying attention Boulder Tri Series?

Intangibles: A combination of great volunteers, a well organized race-day plan, a professional announcer who calls  your name as you finish all make you want to come back in future years. I expect I'll be back as well.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry the heat was so bad for an otherwise good race. Austin will be better!