Monday, June 3, 2013

Race Report: Great South Bay Triathlon (Islip, NY)

My first triathlon of the year came and went yesterday and I'm feeling completely energized for my next few months of training for Timberman.  Great South Bay was the first event where all three NY Tri Locos raced together and it was the perfect start to the season.  The temperature up north has finally risen to what it should be this time of year and the triathlon gods gave us a great day for racing (so what if the water was a bit choppy).  Now onto the details:

One of the first things we noticed when we arrived at the marina was the choppiness and current of the water.  As we milled about before the race making our final preparations we noticed a small huddle of race personnel down near the water's edge. Our speculation of probable course adjustments proved correct and during the race briefing we were informed that the swim had been cut in half; music to my ears (and shoulder)!

I usually swim on Long Island's North Shore and I'd recently heard that the south side is generally warmer.  When I entered the water I immediately felt the difference; the temperature was at least a few degrees warmer than what I'd swam in the day before. 

As usual, the swim for me was about getting through it so I can bike and run.  I'd done very little swimming in preparation for the race so I stayed back for a moment after the start to let the masses go.  Once the water was clear I began my slow and steady stroke.  I guess it's just part of that fact that I am still not 100% one with the water but I can't seem to get myself to actually race the swim.  I'm going to try to work on more max-effort swimming so I can get myself used to swimming at, and sustaining, higher paces. 

Nonetheless, the swim was rather uneventful with the exception of one odd thing: I saw the faces of lots of people.  I can't figure out why so many people were doing the backstroke AND why they were doing it at virtually the same speed I freestyle.  This was a triathlon first for me but I just stayed my course and did my thing.

Swim Time: 8:51 (Age Place: 18/21)

T1: Swim-to-Bike
The run into transition was fairly short and afforded me just enough time to get my upper body freed from my wetsuit.  I was glad to have opted for booties because they insulated me well from what was apparently a rocky shore line.  Once at my bike I had a pretty quick transition, until I (tried to) put on my bike gloves.

I have to decide what to do about the gloves situation.  I hate riding without gloves; not because my paws are too sensitive to hold on without them, but for the protection they offer in the event of a crash.  I raced without gloves at Riverhead Rocks and though I got lucky that I didn't injure my hands during my crash, that didn't turn out so well.  My new rule might be to skip the gloves on sprint races but wear them for all other distances.

T1 Time: 1:49 (Age Place: 7/21)

As I like to do (if I have the chance) I previewed the bike course with my training buddies before the race, and I'm glad I did.  While the course was flat with just a few turns there were more than a couple areas of pretty rough road.  The .25 mile start and finish of the course was particularly gnarly and needed to be ridden with extreme caution.

All the pre-race information given warned participants to ride with caution and keep their heads up.  Did they forget this was a race?  I vowed to be cautious but still aimed for a fast bike time.

Once off of the rough patches at the start of the ride, and with my feet finally inside my shoes, I settled into a nice pace.  Within the first few minutes of the ride I was passed by a girl who I'll call "Twenty-five" because of the age on her calf.  Twenty-five had a nice pace going and I decided to follow the rabbit.  We rode almost the entire bike course within a couple of lengths of one another (without drafting of course).  We surged at about the same times, came out of the corners equally hard and just seemed to sync up.  

It was fun having a pseudo-partner out on the course and we chatted afterwards about what a great ride it had been.  My goal for the bike was to have an average above 20mph and with her motivation I met that mark.  It seems I made a good choice about who to follow because she ended up placing in her age group.

Knowing how fast/hard to ride is to me the most difficult part of triathlon.  Unfortunately I lost the aid of my heart rate monitor (which malfunctioned during the race) but I figured that the race would be a learning experience one way or another.  Without my heart rate I focused solely on my cadence.  I tried to never drop below 90bpm to avoid putting to much strain on my legs.  I ended up averaging 97bpm which may have been a bit too high but my legs felt ready to run.

Bike Time:  31:54 (Age Place: 4/21)

T2: Bike-to-Run
After a smooth dismount from the bike I ran with my bike into T2.  I can't say I enjoyed running alongside my bike through sand, but such is life.  I quickly racked my bike, sprayed some Dry Goods on my feet, put on socks and shoes and hit the road.  I'm not sure what ended up taking so long in there but I will definitely practice T2 before my next race.  I was disorganized and chaotic in T2 and I see no reason I can't shave at least 30s off of my time.

T2 Time: 1:36 (Age Place:11/21)

After a hard bike and a frazzled T2 I was winded to begin the run.  I didn't even need my heart rate monitor to know that I was somewhere above 90%.  I focused on my breathing and worked to get myself in check.  I was able to reel myself in and settled into my pace comfortably.  My body felt fluid during the run and I felt good about being able to cap off a solid race.  

Along the way I caught up to a fellow Ironman (a Lake Placid finisher) and we ran together for a solid stretch.  As is fairly typical for me now, I wasn't passed by many during the run but I do recall being buzzed by the top finishers of the 40+ age groups (who started after me).  

I kept a steady pace throughout the run and did my best to turn it up over the final moments.  There was one dude who I had see-sawed with several times and I was intent on getting past him one last time.  One of the stalwarts of my training (as preached by Coach Tim) is to do strides at the end of many of my runs. Running at almost full speed at the end of so many long runs has given me the confidence to lay it all out there when the time is right.  I was able to continue my goal of sprint finishes and as soon as I could see the race clock I raced towards it.  I surged past several other racers down the final stretch as the spectators looking on faded into a blur.

Run Time: 22:39 (Age Place: 6/21)

Total Time: 1:06:48 (Age Place: 6/21)

Overall I am very happy with my performance this past weekend.  I didn't have any finite goals for the race other than to have fun and stay safe but I'm pleased with how my body felt just three months removed from surgery.  The other Locos had awesome showings including both a PR and a podium finish and I'm proud to train with them.

Event Power did a nice job organizing the race.  Perhaps there are a few details they could handle better (like how about a tech t-shirt instead of a heavy cotton one) but overall the race was smooth and well-run.

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