Monday, May 19, 2014

SOST Debrief

With the race now done, it’s now time to break it down and see how I did vs. what I planned to do. You can read the race report for more details about the overall race. This post is really just a comparison of the strategy vs. what actually happened.


Due to his family commitments, my brother and I left at different times, but I still was rolling out of the house at 5:15. I ate a banana after getting up and drank a bottle of Starbuck’s Frappuccino in the car. I would estimate I had just under 400 calories.

The transition set up was just as planned. Both sets of shoes, visor and race belt all fit on a small towel. I forgot, however, to unbuckle my bike shoes. I didn’t check it, but my bike was already in low gear.

It was a cool morning. I figure about 50* or less. What’s more, there was a breeze blowing off the cold lake so I zipped up the wetsuit early and was still a little chilled.

The lake was cold as in 57* so that meant I had to get in and try and get adapted. I was about 75% successful at that. I got in, managed to swim and stop hyperventilating, but I still struggled to put together ten minutes of smooth stroking. Just the cold shot my heart rate way up.

The Swim

Of course, any warm-up is followed by the inevitable waiting period for your wave to start. I was luck enough to be in the first wave so I was swimming at 7:39; just six minutes after the first wave went off.

 Had the water been warmer, I think I would have felt confident enough to be near the front of the pack and get out in front of them. I do fast 50’s and 100’s all the time at the pool. However, the paralyzing cold really shook my confidence so I just moved in the middle of the pack and fought through the washing machine. The first buoy came up at about 100 yards and that was where I got out of the worst of the crowd.

I did my best to keep my face down and breathe bilaterally, but there was a lot of head-out swimming. I also did a poor job of kicking. Nevertheless, I swam faster than I thought I would at about 1:35/100 which is faster than the 1:36 goal. The course ended up being pretty short (0.35 mile vs 0.50). Still, I would have hit my goal either way. In fact, the last 150 yards were probably my best swimming of the whole event.
Time: 9:29 (on pace for 12:59 for 0.5 mile)


I did my best to run in from the shore and I did okay, I guess since I made it to my bike in 46 seconds more or less in line with the plan of 45 seconds. My time in transition was longer than expected however. As I mentioned, I had to unbuckle both bike shoes (not a huge loss but seconds count) and it was not easy to roll on my socks. I have terrible balance and I probably wasted 30 seconds just doing that. I almost wonder if I should have sat down!

I really did hustle out of transition. I don’t recall running through an area at such a good clip but I did this time. I also was already moving on the bike before I hit the lap button on the Garmin so that probably stretched the time out a bit too.
Time: 4:28 (1:35 longer than the 2:53 goal)

The Bike

I got going with a fair amount of ease and was moving down County Road 26 away from the reservoir without difficulty and at a decent pace. Turning north onto County Line road, I felt like I was executing my race plan well. However, one factor that I could not predict was wind. As a result, I was going slower than expected even though I was still cranking out roughly 200 watts.

Wind combined with the hill just made me slower than I thought I would be during this section. I still was passing more than I was being passed and as the big hill started to level out, my pace picked up.

I have to say, the value of using power to measure effort really became apparent here. As I started to crest a hill, my power meter made it clear when I needed to shift up. The only time I let it drop down was during the big drop to the turn around. I probably could have pushed into the big ring, but since I was going to have to come to something near a dead-stop to make the 180* turn, I just coasted in. I was still pushing nearly 30 mph at this point.

The fortunate part about reversing direction halfway through a race is that what was harder than expected becomes easier than expected. Such was the case as I rolled back down the hill. Now I was in the big ring and pushing speeds up to 37 mph without too much effort. I felt good and I knew I’d be ready to run.
Time: 38:24 (2:20 longer than the goal of 36:24)


I hit my lap button the moment I stopped moving even though the timing chip sensors are located at the transition area entrance. I made good time back there and ran nearly as fast back in as I did out on the run.

I found my spot, racked my bike and was in my running shoes in just a few seconds.  Since I was so close to the Run Out arch, I was out of the area a few seconds after I left my bike.
Time: 1:37 (0:08 faster than my goal time of 1:45)

The Run

As I mentioned in my race report, leaving the transition area at a sub 8:00 pace felt fine. I kept this pace heading out toward the big hill. Once I hit that hill I slowed as expected, but made a conscious effort to keep that pace in the low 8:00 range.

Once I started moving down the long hill to the turnaround, my pace got gradually faster and I still felt okay. My heart rate was over 140 bpm but I kept at it and was still not feeling overly fatigued.

The greatest challenge of this run is the return up the long hill to the 2 mile point. It’s not all that steep, but it’s long. Nevertheless, it went by quickly for me and I stayed under my 8:00 goal pace and started to catch a few people who had been ahead of me the whole time until that point.

I did not pour on the speed heading down the steep hill since there was still nearly a mile to go, but gravity helped spike me up to sub 7:00 at this point. This may not have been what you would call “free speed” but it was close. Even though I went faster, my HR actually dropped back down from its peak rate of 156 which is 92% of my max.

I kept the pace in the low 7:00 range for the flat section that makes up the last 0.6 mile or so even though a couple of times I started to slow down a little. There was really no question of catching anyone ahead of me. With my HR now up to 157 and holding right around that point, it was all I could do to just stay on pace and finish strong.
Time: 23:29 (0:59 fast than my goal of 24:20).

Overall Race Time (1:17:26, adjusting for the full swim distance, it would have been 1:21:43 which is 2:30 slower than my goal).

Placing is not really a concern at a race like this, especially since it is in Boulder County and draws out some of the best age groupers in the state. However, here’s how it worked out for me:

Age Group (45-49) 13/28
Overall: 113/359
Swim 9th in AG
Bike 13th in AG
Run 13th in AG

I was also in the 77th percentile of all swimmers which confirms it’s still my strongest event.

Areas for Improvement

Cold Water Swimming: This will be less urgent as the summer goes on, but I definitely need to get used to dealing with the cold. My hope is to practice this at an upcoming swim race out at Grant Ranch. I still hope it warms up just a little bit out there!

T1: Transitions are as variable as any other factor on the race course, but the time I spend getting out of the wetsuit and into my cycling gear has got to get shorter. Odd as it sounds, I may have to practice rolling my socks over wet feet while standing on one foot!

Bike speed: There’s nothing more to do other than just keep doing the workouts my coach gives me as best I can. I’ve improved a fair amount from where I was last fall, but clearly I need to find a way to get faster up hills or into the wind.

Of course, with a century ride coming up in about a month, I'll have plenty of time to practice riding!

Thanks for reading. 

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