This past weekend marked the first race of my 2014 season. I figured that’s worth at least a brief race report.
The Tri The Parks triathlon series is a well-known, long-standing set of races in Georgia. TriBlueSky does a GREAT job with the races and the May 31 Blalock Lakes sprint, the 2nd race in the series, was no exception. The course is very fair, but still challenging for all levels of racers. The 15-mile bike is mostly rolling hills, allowing you to go fast on flat sections and descents and keep a steady pace on the uphills.
The 600M swim takes place in a small lake in the middle of a neighborhood. The water temp was 80F on race day (no wetsuit).
The bike course does one loop on the open roads surrounding the area. There were a few turns, but everything was well-marked and the volunteers (thank you!) did a great job of making sure you knew when a turn was approaching. (I may or may not have a history of making wrong turns in races).
The run course is an out-and-back over the rolling hills of the neighborhood. The best way to describe the course is “honest”. It makes you work for it. If you are willing to dig deep and do the work, you can make up ground on your competitors. If you slack off and let the hills get to you, you’ll quickly be caught or passed by others.
I was fortunate to be able to do this race with some great friends and teammates on the All3Sports Race Team. This is a top-notch group of athletes supported by one of the industry’s top triathlon shops. All3Sports also sponsors the race series and is on site to support ALL athletes, not just those who race as part of the team, during the Tri The Parks races.
Now for the actual race. Quick background… I’ve done an Ironman-distance triathlon before, qualified for the Boston Marathon and completed numerous half ironman-distance races before, but I had never done a sprint-distance tri. As somebody who likes to race, not just “finish”, I knew the translation of the term “sprint” was “PAIN!” How much pain was I willing to endure?
Looking around, I knew there were some fast dudes in my age group (40-44). I would have to be ready to go right from the gun if I had any chance of a podium spot. My swim has improved, but I haven’t done an open-water swim in a LONG time. It showed. I went HARD for the first 100M of the swim and then had hoped to be able to settle into a rhythm. No such luck. I hung near the front of the pack for a bit, but eventually began to drop off. Every time I looked up, there seemed to be more green swim caps in front of me. I felt like I needed to cough up something stuck in my throat and kept drifting slightly off-line. By the time I reached the 2nd buoy and made the turn to head for home, I was FINALLY able to start feeling good and began passing some people.
SWIM TIME: 12:11 (7/32 in AG)
With a less-than-stellar swim, transition times were going to be critical. I wore a TYR Torque Elite swim skin over my tri suit. I reached back and yanked on the zipper as I exited the water, stripped it off, put my helmet on, grabbed the bike and ran out of T1. My shoes were already clipped in with a rubber band keeping them in position for a quick mount. (Maybe I could have saved a few seconds without the swim skin, but it felt fast in the water. Plus, I bought it so I was going to use it!)
SWIM-TO-BIKE TRANSITION: 00:43.5 (7/32 in AG)
The bike was a bit uneventful. With a big week of training still in my legs heading into the race, the legs felt a bit sluggish at times. I was hoping to average 23mph, but lost some momentum on some small climbs and finished with a 22.4 mph/avg. One other unexpected issue was my rear derailleur. I couldn’t get it to shift down into the smallest ring in the back, costing me some speed on the fastest sections of the course. (Note to self: take bike to All3Sports before every race for a quick tune-up.)
BIKE TIME: 00:39:22.5 (6/32 in AG)
(Photo: Beau Bearden)
Looking to make up some more time in T2, I slipped my feet out of my shoes as I approached the bike finish, threw my right leg over the saddle and cruised to the dismount line on top of my shoes with both legs on the left side of the bike. (I see pros do it this way so I know I must have looked super-cool and awesome.) As long as I didn’t do a face-plant when dismounting, all would be good. I approached the line and jumped off… I stayed upright. Bonus.
Ran into transition, racked the bike, slipped on my shoes (Yankz/Lock Laces are the key to fast bike-to-run transitions). Also, don’t bother with socks. It’s just 3.1 miles. Deal with it.
BIKE-TO-RUN TRANSITION: 00:23.4 (2/32 in AG) Only super-speedy Dan Arnett – pictured below – was faster.
On to the run… this is where the pain comes in. I’d been doing a lot of speed work in run training lately with my coach, Chance Regina of AVC Endurance.
He has pushed me to do some runs that I didn’t think I was capable of. It was time to see if it would pay off. Before the race, we had both agreed that a “good day” meant that I would be able to average 6:30/mile or better. A “bad day” would have been 6:45/mile or worse. (Over the previous three weeks, we had done a series of 90-minute runs together with 6×1-mile repeats @6:20/mile in the middle of the run. On the most recent one, we averaged 6:14/mile over the 6 repeats. None of those runs were off of the bike on a hilly course though… the jury was still out.)
Never having run the course before, all I knew was that it had some rolling hills. I was prepared for this and knew that if I kept it steady up the hills, crested them with a few hard strides and then let the legs roll out as I went down the hills, I’d be fine. That was the plan.
This is where I discovered the good and bad part about a sprint tri. The good: it’s ONLY 3.1 miles. The bad: it’s a HARD 3.1 miles. If it doesn’t hurt when you run a 5k, you’re doing it wrong. I just kept telling myself “it will be over in 20 minutes. Push hard!”
The run starts out going up a few small uphill sections. Ouch. After the first mile, the legs came around and I was able to settle into a decent pace. On the way out, I saw several familiar faces heading back to the finish, but I wasn’t sure what place I was in. I knew I’d be close to the podium. Once I hit the turnaround, it was good to know that there was only about 1.5 miles to go. Time to push. I began passing people, including one guy in my AG. I knew once he saw the “43” on my calf as I passed, he would be coming after me. I kept waiting to hear his footsteps fade into the distance. As long as I could still hear them, I knew I had to bury myself. (sure enough, after the finish… he told me he was trying hard to chase me down.) I was pleased I was able to hold him off.
I dug deep and pushed hard over the closing 1/2 mile for a 19:49 run. (6:22 avg). This was by far the best part of the day. I had put in a lot of work on my run and it paid off. Like I said, it’s an honest course. If you put in an honest effort, you’ll be rewarded.
RUN TIME: 19:49.5 (2/32 in AG) — A 5k PR – I haven’t run many 5ks either.)
Now the bad news. Thanks to my awful swim, I was 4th in the 40-44 AG by :19. No podium for me. Lesson learned.
FINISH TIME: 1:12:30.6 (18/344 overall 4/32 AG)
After the race, I got to hang out with friends and others on the All3 team. A good time was had by all. Next up: Tri The Parks Blalock Lakes – Olympic distance on June 21.