Busy Race Weekend

Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Training

Raced two races this past weekend:  The Spring Couples Relay and the Harriman Triathlon.

The Spring Couples Relay is an old favorite where male/female teams race against one another, and where one party runs 2.2 miles, the other party cycles 12.2 miles (two loops of Central Park), and both parties get into a row boat and row around the periphery of the Central Park pond (approx 3/4 of a mile).  I’ve done this several times and am generally good at picking a good teammate.  This year was no exception; Carin Klarsfeld was my runner again (we partnered a couple of years ago and got 1st place in our age group).  To our surprise, the race organizers switched up things and decided to have the bike portion first, then the run segment.  Once announced, the grumbles and surprised faces were abundant, including from us.

As it was described, competitors would get on their bikes and ride as a mass group behind the lead race organizer’s car, and once sounded the horn, the race would start (what we call a rolling start).  So, with good friend John Neiers also competing, we rode up and prepared for the horn.  Once it went off, the guy in front of me attacked Cat Hill, and I immediately followed with a high intensity effort.  I never caught him, but the effort created a huge separation from the pack which is what I wanted.  Throughout the bike leg, I punished myself and rode as hard as I could.  From what I was able to gather, I was in 5th position for the entire first loop of Central Park.  Halfway through the second loop, two guys managed to ride up to me, and I was so surprised by it that it got me re-focused and helped me to really clamp down and hammer those pedals.  Sure enough, I was able to get away from them, and it gave me better vision for the obstacles ahead, including dogs, tour groups, random wayward pedestrians, etc.  Literally, it felt like an obstacle course, and fortunately, I seem to thrive in those situations. Lots of very sharp angled turns later, I was clear of the mess and close to finishing the bike segment.

Once into transition, I tagged Carin’s hand and she took off on the run.  As she later told me, she got passed by one person, but managed to overtake someone else, thus netting us the 5th place position we had when she started.  Great job by Carin, and despite battling a respiratory condition.  It was so troublesome for her that when she arrived back into transition and as we ran together to get to the boathouse, I could hear her wheezing and panting loudly.  Poor thing.

Once we got to the boats, we settled into our seats and each took an oar in order to get them properly situation for rowing.  After we got set, I began what would become a monstrous effort (and a painful one too).  Carin provided micro-corrections for our navigation which was key given how bad these heavy, flat-bottomed, heavy oak-oared boats were.  Within the first couple of minutes and right near the first buoy marker, we passed a team that couldn’t seem to go straight.  4th place at that point.  A little while later, we approached another boat where the guy and girl were switching positions.  Big mistake of slowing down cost them, and Carin had me take an aggressive inside line.  We passed them easily.  3rd place at that point.  There was a long stretch thereafter and I just tried to be consistent as I watched the two boats I had just passed regain their respective forms and come after me (remember that in a rowboat, I’m facing backwards).  After another buoy turn, we were in the home stretch.  I took a quick glance and thought that the next boat ahead of us was just too far for me to catch… unless they made a mistake.  Sure enough, Carin reports that they rowed into some rocks along the banks.  They were there a little while trying to get out, and it was long enough for me to slip past them into 2nd place.  We managed to hold that position to the end, and wound up getting a very nice 2nd place plaque.  Credit to Carin for a great effort on the run and great navigation on the boat.  Really, that’s a key skill.  Here’s our pic.

The next day, I raced in Harriman State Park in a sprint triathlon with distances said to be a half mile swim, a 17 mile bike, and a 2.6 mile run.  As I later learned, none of those reported distances were accurate.  Roya joined me with our doggies since it was a rare day off for her.  We arrived at beautiful Lake Welch and with absolutely perfect conditions.  After a brief set-up in transition, we got the pre-race announcements and were told to head to the water.

Once the gun went off, I chose a straight line to the turn buoy and swam reasonably well.  I haven’t spent nearly as much time in the water this year as I should have, and it’s shown in my race performances.  So, I didn’t have lofty expectations for today, but my goal is always nonetheless to feel good and not let my technique degradate and slow me down.  I got out of the water and felt ready to attack the bike.

I blazed into transition, got my wetsuit off very quickly, and grabbed the bike as I ran to the exit.  I later found out that I was the fastest athlete in T1!  I love that that happened!

Once on the bike, I tried to hammer at the same intensity as the day before, and for the most part, that was doable… but only for a while.  The road surface was actually quite difficult for athletes who wanted to maintain a consistent effort.  Road spacers (really, they are just spaces between the slabs of concrete that make up the road surface) felt like speed bumps, and some were quite violent when cycling fast.  In the middle section of the bike, the terrain was a bit hillier and while I used to think that was a good thing, on this particular race day, I didn’t feel great.  At the turn-around point, I realized that this bike segment would be 18 miles, not 17… and it’s not like the extra mile is an issue; it’s just that the race organization is consistently inconsistent.  I do like the race director quite a bit, and this is part of the charm of the races they put on.

In any event, after the bike turn-around, I felt a bit renewed energywise and really took advantage of some downhills and fast flat sections.  For a good few miles, I was averaging 26 mph and pushing a big gear, so it felt good to be in control and fast.  On the second to last climb, the road surface was again horrible and I remember laughing at how I was once again in an obstacle course with all the swerves to avoid potholes, spacers, etc.  On the final climb a few guys rode up to me and went very hard up the hill.  It was a bit of a long climb, 0.6 miles with a steeper gradiant as you ascend, so I held back and let them go.  Once it got steeper, I worked harder.  Once it became difficult to be efficient, I got out of the saddle and cranked up the gears, and that effort helped me pass three people.  Once the climb was over, I got back to hammering and finished the segment feeling righteous, if not fatigued.

I got through T2 quite fast as well (in the end, I was 6th fastest in T2, and 1st iin T1 and T2 combined), but the bike fatigue affected me instantly on the run.  My stride length was short, and my hips felt tight.  I knew that the hips would open up and that I’d get back to my usual rhythm, and indeed, it did happen… but not until I had already run 1.5 miles.  As expected, the run course wasn’t properly measured and wound up being a bit short; by my estimation, it was a 2.3 mile run, not a 2.6 mile run.  I managed to feel good in the final portions of the run and found a rhythm and pace that I could have conceivably held to for another set of miles, so I feel good about that.  And, I had my beautiful Roya there to cheer me through the finish line.  Few things feel better than knowing that I have her there with me.  She’s always with me mentally, but physically is just a tad better!

I wound up finishing 31st out of 190 or so people, and 4th in my age group.  If I was 45, I would have been second in my age group.  I’m in no rush to age, but if I keep this up, I might get more plaques (hardware as we put it).

So, that’s two races in two days.  Next up is a biggie:  The Eagleman half-Ironman event on June 10th in Maryland.  I am a little concerned about the race in terms of my run condition off the bike, but it seems as if I do find a good run rhythm… eventually.  The trick will be to be patient until that “eventual” moment arrives.  More to come on that in later posts.


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