Sunday, May 18, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Summer Open Sprint Triathlon

Three events on as scheduled.

No inclimate weather.

No high bacteria levels in the lake.

Is this really the Summer Open Sprint?

Okay, it was not a perfect day, but in four years of doing this race, this was the closest it's ever come. God knows, the good folks at Without Limits Productions deserved a break after the rough time this race has had in 2011-2013. Probably the only real concerning factor yesterday was the water temperature but I'll get to that in a moment.


I usually don't get any extra sleep simply by going to bed early, but Friday night was an exception. I turned in a little after 9:00 and I was asleep before 10:00. When the alarm went off at five, I was ready to roll out and get going. My normal pre-race breakfast of a Starbuck's bottle Frappuccino and a banana ensued and I was on my up north.

While better than a lot of other parts of the country, Colorado has still be trying to shake off a cold winter and spring and it was in the upper forty degree range as I rolled out of Parker. I was somewhat hopeful of warmer weather as I went through downtown Denver and we climbed to 50*, but that changed as I got north of the city and a misty fog settled in. Fortunately, things were dry and clear as I arrived at the Union Reservoir.

Packet pick-up was easy and body marking went quickly. In a few minutes, I was racked into my spot in transition, closer to the run exit, but still with plenty of space:

You'll note that this was on of the saw-horse type racks of which I am normally not very fond. However, in this case, there was plenty of clearance so that I did not need to lean my bike to a 45* angle just to get it free of the rack. Just pull it off and roll it out!  Please note my small and simple transition towel. No picnic for me. Just what a need and not a thing more.

Once this was done and my obligatory trip to the porta-john was completed, it was time to don the wetsuit which was fine with me because while not freezing, it was a bit chilly out.

My biggest concern going into this race was the water temp. I have not been in exceptionally cold water since my very first open water swim way back in 2011. The pre-race announcements said that the temperature that morning had been recorded at 57*.

I procrastinated a bit but finally got in the water and--DAMN THAT"S COLD! It's easy to forget how paralytic cold water can be. I found myself gasping, nearly unable to breathe. I swam a few strokes and then looked up only to breath in some water and start coughing. As best I could, I tried to swim a few strokes but putting my face in the water made it hard to breath. After a few minutes, I made my way back to the shore. This was pretty serious. I ran around the shore a little and then decided I had better make one more attempt attempt at warming up. The second go was a little better but not nearly what I had hoped for. By now, I was very concerned about sapping to much of my energy so I swam in and got ready for the start.

The Swim
Things got a little better as I got going. This was now my third foray into the lake, so I knew what to expect. It got a bit colder as I headed out, but I was managing and actually moving forward the whole time. There were a few unintended grabs of legs and arms as I made my way though the pack. My normally smooth bilateral breathing gave way to a lot of stroking with my head out of the water trying to get more oxygen.

Fortunately, a sprint is a short course and the first buoy came up quickly and I was now on the long side of the rectangular course. I swam a bit more efficiently through here though not anything that you would call pretty in terms of form or technique. That section too went by quickly and now I was headed toward the big red arch that marked the swim exit. It made an easy target for sighting so I just kept plugging along until my hand hit the bottom of the lake and I stood up.

Then I nearly fell over with a loss of balance. It's not the first time I've felt a little off-kilter when leaving open water, but it is the closest I've come to actually keeling over. I don't think there was anyone around me and I recovered fast enough to start moving forward and getting through the arch on my way back to the transition area.

My Time: 9:46
Official Time: 10:18
The swim course was short. My Garmin measured it at 0.35 mile.

I've not been particularly good at my T1 transitions so I was trying to hurry through this one, but it just was not happening. My hands were too cold to very effectively grab anything and I was just going slow, deeply chilled from the swim. I got myself ready to ride and was headed out of the area at a good run and a true sense of urgency, but I also lost a lot of time getting out of the wet suit and into my socks and bike shoes.
My Time: 4:28
Official Time: 3:32

The Bike
By now, there was a real sense of relief on my part to be out of the water. While not the warmest of days, there was nothing that was going to make riding especially difficult or unpleasant. I got mounted quickly and had not trouble clipping in.

The first part of the ride takes you away from the reservoir on county road 26. It's a bit rough but a short part of the ride. Indeed, I was on the main part of the ride course, County Line Road (separating Boulder and Weld Counties) in less than 2 minutes.

Two factors came into play on the outbound. First, a decent hill begins just north of Colorado Highway 66. It's about a 1.9% grade over the span of 2 miles. That's not terrible, but then there is the second factor; wind. It was not a strong gale or powerful gust, but a steady flow at around 7-8 mph judging by the flags. It was just enough to make you feel it and crank up the power out put. As a result, while I had hoped to tackle the hill at around 16 mph, I was often much slower.

Things did pick up as I crested the hill and there were a couple of other short down hills and the a big one before the turn around. Anticipating the climb back up out of the turnaround, I shifted into my lowest gear and had no problem moving forward back up. The climb out of the turn was slower, but now the wind was at my back and while steeper, it was a much shorter hill.

The great thing about an out-and-back course where the out is harder and slower is that the back is easier and faster. Much faster as it turned out. I hoped to be clocking about 25 mph but it turned out to be more like 34 for large sections. I got dropped by a few younger guys on bikes with race wheels, but mostly I was passing.

The road was mostly but not entirely closed to traffic. They must have been letting locals in and out. At one point, I was behind a box truck and I cruised down hill, I realized that I was gaining on it! I began to wonder what the drafting rules were for vehicular traffic. That said, I really did not want to be right behind a truck that could slam on the breaks without warning. I thought I might have to pass him which was also not my first choice. Fortunately, just as I was about to ease left and try it, he turned off the road and I was able to open up again without any worries of bike vs. truck.

Though things flattened out during the last 3 miles or so of the bike course, I managed to stay at or above 24 mph even though my power was not dropping back below 200 watts. I kept going hard until there was about a tenth of a mile left and cruised easy to the crash line and dismounted easily. Then it was another fast run into the transition area.

My Time: 38:34
Official Time: 39:13

My rack space was at the far end of the area so I ran quickly and benefited from not having to maneuver around anyone else. Everything got done quickly and efficiently here, my chill from the swim long gone. I had my helmet off, bike shoes off, run shoes and visor on and I was rolling out. I put my watch back on it's band and my race belt on as I ran out.

My Time: 1:37
Official Time: 1:23

The Run
Like all tris, the real test is the run. In a sprint, it's a question of how long can you maintain a very intense effort. I was pleased to see my time out of the finish area was sub 8:00 and I felt okay. I've done enough suffering during training over the winter that I hardly notice it.

This is an unpaved section of the previously mentioned County Road 26 and during the first mile, the surface is a little rough. There had been rain in the area the night before so while I did not have any mud puddles, there were plenty of small divots and other ankle-twisting hazards along the way. I kept an eye on someone a ways ahead of me and moved where she did.

The courses biggest challenge is a hill leading up to the first mile. I knew my pace would slack going up it but I pushed to stay in the low 8:00 range and did a pretty good job. My Garmin notified me that the first mile split was 8:02 which was slower than my goal pace. However, there were going to be plenty of opportunities to pick it up.

Just after the one mile marker, I was headed down hill and was clocking a speed of around 7:20 per mile which, for me, is pretty fast. I kept that up all the way to the turn around and then did my best to stay below 8:00 pace on the way back up the hill. It's not especially steep, just long. I kept my eyes on the top and just kept pushing.

The reward was going down the hill that marks the end of the first mile. I actually got under a 7:00 pace a few times here and then stayed in the low 7:00 range for the remaining section of the run. This is a fairly flat area but I again had to navigate the rough road. Fortunately, that did not prove to be too difficult and soon I was happily approaching the finish.

It's safe to say I left all of my effort on the course so there was no sprint to the line, but then none was needed.

My Time: 23:29
Official Time: 23:26

My Overall Time: 1:17:54
Official Overall Time: 1:17:55

I've done enough race reviewing (especially of this one) over the years that I think I'll abstain this year. Suffice it to say that I recommend the SOST to anyone who is either a first timer or to any veteran who wants to get their season started a little early without having to travel. I suspect that I'd enjoy doing the HITS race in Grand Junction, but that is clear across the state so not high on my list. This sprint is a good way to tune up for the upcoming season.

My main focus now will be on the Mountain Top Experience Ride on June 21. This is a 106 mile ride with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. Much to do between now and then and I'll do my best to document those efforts here.

Thanks for reading and whenever and wherever you are racing, Good Luck!

No comments:

Post a Comment