This year’s A-race was this weekend: The U.S Age Group Nationals. Its a race I have been preparing for all year and I have spent 9-10 training sessions pr week for the last 16 weeks on (A nice, big “Thank You” to my wife is due)
I have already done 3 sprints and 1 Olympic triathlon this year and in these smaller local races I have done pretty well with an age group win and 2 top-3 results in the sprints and coming as number 16 in my age group in the NJ State Triathlon.
However looking at the 2011 national results I knew that I would have a hard time even being in the top 50% overall or even in the top 100 in my age group (the 2011 edition had 126 people in my age group)
So I set up two personal goals for my race that I would like to obtain:
Goal 1: Do a new Personal Record, preferably below 2:25 (current PR was at 2:26)
Goal 2: Finish the run leg at a better level than at the NJ State Tri where I did a 48 min run
The weekend started Friday with a 7 hour car ride with the family to Vermont. All things considered the trip went well. The kids had square eyes from playing Nintendo and iPad and my butt hurt at bit after staying the var too long but we made it to Burlington safe and sound.
After arrival I had to check-in my bike, but before I could do that I had to pick up my race packet and that was apparently NOT next to the transition area but 2 miles away at the local Sheraton hotel. So I had to bike up to the hotel and get the packet. On the way back it started to rain heavily so I got soaked and I almost got run over by a car that apparently felt that getting fast into a parking space was more important than to keep an eye out for cyclist….
With the race numbers on the bike I got into the transition area where around 2000 other bike (that is approx $10 million worth of bikes!!!) started to fill up the area.
Of course the Burlington hotels were sold out by the time I started looking for rooms, so the closest hotel room available was 45 min away in Stowe. Once more the kids and wife were loaded into the car and we moved on. To my surprise Stowe was actually a very nice little town with a few good restaurants so at least the trip out there wasn’t in vain.
The alarm was set for 5 am and with my newly discovered peanut butter jelly breakfast in my stomach we set off back to Burlington with two very sleepy kids.
The transition was absolutely buzzing with activity with 2000 triathletes running around, putting on wetsuits, setting up their transition areas and re-racking bikes.
My own transition area was quickly set up even though the space was a bit tight especially with the guys next me having much larger towels as their designated areas. On of the guys only had a pair of shoes and race belt on his huge towel, while the other towel was packed to capacity with helmet, 2 x shoes, race belt, sunglasses, nutrition etc… I just tried to squeeze in between the two.
We need bigger towels
My start group was the 5th wave so I headed towards the pier a few hundred meters away from the transition area to get ready. My wave was called forward just as I arrived so all I had time for was a quick photo with the kids and a kiss to the wife.
The kids and the sealion
The course was inside the Burlington Waterfront park and should in theory be protected a bit from the waves due to the large pier along side the course. Apparently somebody forgot to tell the waves because they were pretty big that day. Some of the bystanders talked about 3 foot swells and I could definitely feel the waves especially on the first part were the swimmers headed directly into the waves. I got into a nice rhythm though and I got to the first turn buoy without problems. At the turn the sun was directly in to my eyes so even though the waves were now in my back the swim wasn’t any easier.
Halfway to the next turn I was suddenly stopped by the officials boat as they cut into the course. They pulled a person from the watertight in front of me and immediately started to preform CPR in the boat. After a short time the boat made its way towards the pier (I later found out that the person, a male triathlete in his 50′s had died…).
The incident left me stunned for a few seconds until my mind decided that I couldn’t really stay in the water all day and I started to make my move towards the end of the swim course. During the competition I didn’t really think too much about the incident – I guess the mind is too busy trying to focus on the immidiate job at hand, but of course I have spent a bit of time thinking about it afterwards especially as the triathlon deaths seem to escalate. Only 2 weeks before the Burlington tragedy another athlete died during the triathlon in New York.
I made it to the transition in 29:55. My slowest swim so far, but considering the waves and hold up on the course I was pretty happy. And contrary to my NJ state swim, my legs felt fine and I had no problems keeping my freestyle stroke all the way.
At the transition the family was there cheering on and even though I didn’t have the energy to stop and give them a hug I could hear and feel the cheering. T1 was pretty good and I made way way out on the bike course. The plan was to stick to my newfound HR range of 158-160 for the course so I started out taking it pretty easy. The course had a bit of turns and ascent during the first couple of miles until we hit a nice stretch of newly paved highway… Very nice.
At mile 8 I looked down and realized that I wasn’t wearing my timing chip! After 10 seconds of panic I decided that there wasn’t a thing I could do about it and if the race directors didn’t have a backup system I would always have my Garmin 910XT to keep my time. It wasn’t as if I was racing towards a top-3 spot anyway. The course profile had looked pretty flat after the initial ascent but there were actually quite a few nasty short hills on the course and after the halfway point a headwind started to have a bit of effect as well. I spent most of the last 10 miles playing a game of elastics with a few riders where they pulled away of the straights and I planted them on the hills.
The last part of the course had a general decent in towards the transition and even though I tried to ride hard my HR it slowly started to fall and I ended up with an average of 157. Unfortunately most of the athletes that ridden with on the way back also rode away from me as there were no more hills for me to catch them on. With my average HR little low, I had to take comfort that at least my legs felt absolutely perfect heading into T2. I had also kept my nutrition plan consuming around 300 calories and 30 ounces of water during the bike ride.
My official time for the bike was 1:09:36 but due to the timing chip mixup this time was including my T1 time. My own unofficial time says 1:07:27 (35.1 km/h) so around 2 km/h slower than at the NJ state Tri. Now was the time to tell if the slower bike speed would pay off during the run.
Unfortunately the first 300 meters had a heavy gradient of 9%!!!. Not the easiest start. Around 25% of all the people on the hill were walking that first stretch but I was able to keep a nice stride up the hill even though my pace was only around 5.25 pr km for that first part. Again my wife and kids were there to cheer me on and take a few photos of me trying to climb the hill. You can see the guy in orange behind me. He left me on the hill and I thought that I had seen the last of him…
The orange guy and me
After the hill the road started to be more flat and even had a small decent that helped me get some speed into my legs.
I took it pretty easy for the next 2 1/2k focusing on fueling up with some Coke and gel and did the 2nd and 3rd kilometers with a 4:27 average.
I kept this pace at 4k but at 5k I decided just to go all in. And suddenly at 7k, there was the guy in orange. He kept at pace around 4:25, but I was going at around 4:15 so I passed him without problems. And as you know, once you make the pass you better make sure that you stay ahead so I upped the pace to 4:10 pr km for the kilometers 8 and 9. At 9k there was nothing left to do than just sprint as hard as I could. Luckily the course seemed to be bit short (or I might have hit the lap button a bit late after T2) so at 9.65 I passed the line. I did the last 650 meters at a 3:54 pace. I couldn’t be more happy. The official run time was 42:47, my own GPS said 42:09, but that might be my own fault not being able to figure out where the timing matts were.
The last stretch
A quick look at my Garmin told me the cold hard facts: 2:23:35… New PR by 3 minutes.
Not too bad for my second try at the olympic distance. I finished as number 665 out around 2000 athletes. So I basically got my assed kicked by a lot of very talented, hard-working triathletes but I guess that is ok. That is what happens when you go up against the best.
All the all the numbers look like this:
Age Group: 80/129
Swim: 29:55 1192/1988
Bike: 1:09:36 691/1988
Run: 42:47 616/1988
Now it’s time for a beer!!!