Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Buzzard's Bay Triathlon...ya, the buzzards were circling alright

Since I live in New England, the triathlon season is coming to a close (read its getting cold up here and the water even colder) so I was hoping to get in at least one more triathlon. The Buzzard’s Bay Tri was the “last” one in MA and since I've been doing well I thought I’d register (normally I'd be doing Reach the Beach New Hampshire but I wasn't on a team this year), go all out and see how I fared.

1/3 of a mile swim -  11:55
It was an in-water start that we had to swim out to. “Great warm up swim” to the buoys said the race director…ugh. I figured that since I’ve been swimming well this season I’d finally get on the front of the pack. My thinking was the water would be calmer and I could get a better stroke in order to try and be faster. Great thinking…until the gun went off and I realized I’d have to deal with ocean waves. There is just something startling about turning your head to take a breath only to be met by a face full of salt water or at one point being lifted out of the water so high that when my arm came over the top I had no water for my hand to “catch”. I felt good, not great and I was having a terrible time staying on course. About half way through it dawned on me that I was being pulled of course by the waves and would need to compensate. Turning my body about 15 degrees toward the shore made it much better…and I started passing people in both my swim wave and the wave ahead of me. I didn’t want to get too excited, I just kept trying to maintain good rhythm and keep moving forward. Unlike other races I’ve blogged about, this one had nice big buoys evenly spaced throughout the swim so I could keep focused and not feel like I had 15 miles to swim. I was trying to have a strong stroke and kick. I was concerned I was killing my legs for the bike but I did want to go all out. At the last buoy it was a hard left turn for shore, lots of rocks on the bottom and then out of the water. I tried to shallow stroke as long as I could to stay off the rocks (of course with my luck I’d cut my feet or twist an ankle or something) and got out of the water as fast as I could. I felt good until I looked down at my watch to see I’d swum it in 11:55, 2 minutes slower than my last posted time at this distance and I thought to myself “if this is my all out effort…this is gonna be a long day”. Well, the best way to get over it is get through transition as fast as I can and get on the bike. My wetsuit was almost off as I got to my bike, quick shot of clean water in my mouth to wash out the salt water taste then on the bike for a T1 of 1:35. Not bad…not great either (are you seeing a trend?).  

14.7 mile bike – 44:01, 20.5 mph pace
I just wanted to get out on the bike, get a good rhythm and start hammering. As I was getting into a rhythm... a guy on ten grand worth of bike pedaled up beside me, said “nice bike” and then blew my doors off. Oh hell no! Did this guy and me bump in the water? Had I unknowingly cut him off coming out of transition? Really, what the hell did I do to this guy? Well, It didn’t matter because now I had something and someone to focus on. I stopped looking at my speed and just focused on him in the distance and keeping him within reach. I caught the guy at about the 9 mile mark just as he got out of the saddle to push up a hill. I rode by him, in aero, as fast as I could with just enough energy to say “how’s my bike look now?”. As great as that felt, it was short lived when I got by him and that pace caught up with me. I glanced down at my heart rate monitor to see I’d been in zone 5 (180-190 heart rate) for the better part of 30 minutes and I was feeling it…just in time to hit the “hill” at mile 11. L’Alpe d’Huez it was not but it was considerable when compared to the course thus far. Nothing to do but get out of the saddle and push through. Once I got on the other side I tried to catch my breath, enjoy the downhill and take the first drink of water of the ride. Yes, I know way too late but I was totally focused on the d-bag! I kept thinking about all the articles I’ve read about “ride off the front in the bike, eat the back on the run” and feared I’d just blown my chance at a good 5k. I stopped looking at speed and was just trying to not lose more time until I could get to T2. I got into transition, gassed, a little light headed…and made a rookie mistake. I didn’t know where to rack my bike. This multisport company doesn’t use the traditional hangar racks with your number on them (they use racks that your back wheel sits in) and I guess I was the first guy back from my rack because the other bikes I was gonna use as a guide weren’t back yet. Crap balls! There’s precious time wasted trying to get back to my spot! A rack of my bike, shoes and visor on and headed out of T2 in 1:36…not bad…not great.

3.1 mile run – 21:53 7:03 pace
I started off on the run and my legs felt like jello. All I could think was how I’d messed up this race because of the effort in the water and on the bike… just in time to see another guy in my age group pass me. I made the decision to myself that even if I had a heart attack he’d be the last person to pass me today and it was time to get to work. I hit the 1st mile marker in 7:19. Are you kidding me?! I didn’t feel great but 7:19? Ok, deep breath, let’s pick this up a bit. The best way for me to do that I thought would be to focus on and pick off the runners ahead of me. I kept looking for other guys in my age group too (might as well try to move up in that category too). I hit the 2nd mile in 14:40 (a 7:21 mile) and was incredulous. I was slowing down? How is that possible?! I actually felt like I was getting faster by passing runners. I spent the next 30 seconds hurtling a string of expletives at myself (in my head of course, don’t want to offend the decent folks around me) about how I needed to buck up and quit being soft. I haven’t been that upset with myself in a while. I took a deep breath (well as deep as I could being winded), leaned forward and decided it was a heart attack or the finish line for me. I kept passing people and a spectator yelled “looking good Polar (folks often refer to you by your number or gear you’re wearing at races and I was wearing my Polar singlet) way to finish strong”. Looking good? I was smashed, exhausted and should’ve looked like crap. If I looked good then I must not be pushing hard enough. I could hear the announcer at the finish and kept pushing…crossing the finish in 21:53 for the 5k with a 6:56 final mile. Why I didn’t I run that hard or harder to start?! That was my slowest mile splits and 5k time on  the season.

Ya, that face...
All of that equaled a 1:20:59 on the day (and after review, not a PR because of the 14.7 instead of the usual 15 mile bike leg), 12th in my age group and 114th overall (out of a field of 505). Granted the field was deep because it was the last event of the year, the race was recently featured in Triathlete magazine and there was a pretty competitive collegiate division but I was hoping to do better. I have no one to blame but myself. I should’ve watched my speed/exertion more closely on the bike and I should’ve pushed harder out on the run and there was that blunder in T1. I always try to focus on learning something from each race and this one gave me lots to focus on. Even with all that I did come out of the water in 176th place and slowly moved my way up to 114th by the end of the day. That is something positive to focus on and now I have some things to take into the offseason to spend time on for next year…or maybe I’ll find another triathlon around here somewhere to get this taste of this one of my mouth…

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