Monday, August 20, 2012

Fun in the Sun (Race Report: Key Biscayne Trilogy)

A pre-race meal like no other; Serendipity baby.
Yesterday was a great day; it was a beautiful morning and a perfect day for racing (if not downright hot).  Being that I'm on vacation, I let myself break from my typical pre-race routine and just went with the flow.  Like I said in my pre-race post, Saturday night was anything but the norm.  It was the first time I have not taken a race seriously and though I of course gave it 100% once I was out there, it was nice to be so relaxed for a change.  That doesn't mean I didn't analyze my performance and wonder what could have been.  Given the circumstances I still had a decent race and finished 7th out of 30 in my age group.  Had I not been cramping awfully during the run, I think I could have come out as high as 5th.  After reviewing my splits and comparing them against the group it is once again clear that I just need to get stronger in the water to compete.  My run and bike times, as well as my transitions, have improved drastically and are letting me stay in the race, but my swims are putting me at such a deficit right off the bat. 

Awesome shot by the Wife!
The race featured a wave start and for the first time I got right in the mix with the rest of the pack.  I figured it'd be good experience for Arizona to get in there and fight it out.  Things can get ugly in the water and I just don't see why people need to grab other people's ankles.  My hand sometimes brushes someones leg but I never grab it; when mine is grabbed I can't help but kick just a bit harder.  

Right before the start I realized that my entry path into the water caused me to skip walking across the mat.  I hurriedly waded towards the start, across the timing mat and then back to my wave in the water. I had just enough time to make it to the middle of the group for the starting siren. I'd forgotten how nice it is to swim in Key Biscayne; the water is so clean and there's nothing like seeing the sea floor while swimming.  The swaying sea grass and little fish both had a calming effect on my swim.

Just like in Riverhead I started out too quickly ruining my chances at a negative split, but I felt like I was keeping a good pace. With as good as I felt I was surprised to see the time on my watch as I began T1.  I need to work harder at easing into the swim and being able to finish stronger.

Swim Time:  10:01     Swim Place: 23/30 (Age Group)

I hadn’t looked at the course prior to the race but I’d heard about the long run from the swim exit to transition.  As advertised it was a long trek in the sand and then onto the pavement but I handled it with ease.  I quickly found my bike, put my helmet on and headed for the exit.  I had my shoes on the bike which made for an easy mount. For some reason though I almost always have some kind of adventure in the mounting area.  Often it involves someone else not paying attention but this time it was me who didn’t look ahead as I began to jump on.  I realized my error and narrowly avoided rear-ending another rider before taking off. 

T1 Time: 2:59     T1 Place: 6/30 (Age Group)

The bike terrain on Key Biscayne is pancake flat with the exception of the bridge.  On my borrowed bike I definitely didn’t ride as hard as I am able; nonetheless I kept areasonable pace and, for the 2nd straight race, was passed by very few.  I was eager to climb the Powell Bridge and see how it compares to the hills on which I’ve been riding.  During the early part of the climb I was passed by several riders who were churning away out of their saddles.  Having mastered the bridge during my time in Miami (along with some great advice from the White Lantern awhile back) I waited patiently for my time to attack.  About halfway up the bridge I stood up and made my charge.  As I increased my pace on the climb I passed those early attackers and never looked back (nor did I see them again).  The same dance occurred on the return climb and I have Coach to thank for my increased power on the bike.  

The rest of the ride was uneventful until, with about .5 miles remaining in the ride,  I heard my name and then saw a quick flash of Tri Loco colors whiz past.  With just a little warning the White Lantern had closed the gap and passed me on the bike. I pushed hard to stay in his wake knowing that I could catch him (eventhough he started the race after me) on the run.  

Overall I was happy with my ride.  I had made a few adjustments to the bike I borrowed, but considering I didn’t have my own bike (which has been carefully tailored to my measurements) I can’t complain.  

Bike Time: 30:24     Bike Place: 8/30 (Age Group)

Now that I’ve had more practice with the rolling dismount it’s become one of my favorite parts of the race. I love riding in fast enough to slightly alarm both the crowd and the race staff member stationed at the dismount line before swinging my leg over the saddle and hopping off into a run.  Sunday’s dismount was a thing of beauty after which I jogged to my rack, got my socks and shoes on, and ran off.  My transition time was acceptable but I think I can still shave off a bit from T2.

T2 Time: 01:17     T2Place: 14/30 (Age Group)

I've finally mastered the "pinch & drink"
It wasn’t long into the run before I began to feel the cramps.  First on my left side and later on the right, it felt like I was being stabbed.  I tried to get as much water as I could but it was too late.  Not enough sodium and perhaps lack of hydration on the bike had taken its toll.  Luckily I was only stuck with the discomfort for 3.1 miles.  I did the best I could but I was frustrated when I saw some 30-34 year old calves pass me.  Again though I trusted my pacing strategy and knew I’d run them down.  As my run pace has increased fewer of my age group are able to pass me (those faster are usually well in front anyway).  I made sure to keep the couple of guys who ran by in my sights.  

The SoFla heat was more intense than I remember it being and it was during the run that I was glad I’d chosen the sprint distance.  Even though I was running out of gas, when I reached the 2nd mile marker I kicked it up; fatigue and discomfort be damned, I was going to get my negative split.   I started closing the gap on anyone nearby and poured it on during the final .25 mile to pass them all.  It wasn’t my typical sprinting finish but I gave it what I had that day.

Run Time: 23:40     Run Place: 6/30 (Age Group)

Total Time: 01:08:20:80     Total Place: 7/30 (Age Group)

I'm not sure how serious I should take my second cramping episode in as many races.  The issues could have been attributed to pre-race nutrition or hydration but it also could have been me forgetting how hot and humid it is in SoFla.  I'll need to talk to Coach and get a better handle on my sodium intake to see if I can get this under control before it becomes an issue.  I ran through it today, but it held me back and was just plain uncomfortable.  The run has quickly become my strongest sport but I won't be able to excel if I'm limited by nutrition issues.

Despite the cramping I still consider the race a success.  Each time I step out on a race course my #1 goal is to finish and take something positive away from the experience and each time I learn something.

On another note, seeing the other Tri Locos was awesome.  Though I hadn't trained closely with all of them when I lived in Miami I still feel like we all share a unique bond.  Those of us en route to Arizona are going through the same experience, even if I am 1,100 miles away.  Seeing the colorful Loco unis on the race course was uplifting and I can't wait to I get my new digs.  Congrats to all the Locos who raced today; special shout-outs to Mario & JoJo (third place in their categories) and the White Lantern (4th in his).   We're going to have a strong showing in AZ.

This recap would be incomplete if I didn't mention my awesome cheering squad:
Best cheer squad, ever!

  • My supportive wife could easily send me on my own to races now but she's there yelling for me every time; her shouts never fail to motivate me. 
  • My sis-in-law and her Mike have also been at many of my SoFla races, including a surprise appearance at Miami 70.3.  There are much better things they could have been doing at 6:15am (like sleeping) but instead they were en route to Key Biscayne to show their support.  You guys rock!
Finally, hats off to Multirace.  For awhile they were the only race production company I knew, but now that I've raced in NY I have more to compare them to.  I'm sure I'll see a whole new level of organization in AZ but Multirace does a solid job with their events.  In particular their timing system is one of the best I've seen.  As soon as you complete the race you are given a receipt with your splits.  You can then head to a trailer which has at least 10 monitors constantly updating the results.  Within a few hours of the event you receive an email with your times and a link to the race results.  By comparison the NY races I've experienced leave you hanging and waiting for your times, left to hope you've done a good enough job with your Garmin.  Overall, Multirace has it together and puts on safe, organized races. 

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