The Chicago Triathlon

Posted by on August 23, 2008 in Training

It’s been a long time since I’ve written on the blog.  I guess that some of the reason was due to other priorities but mostly due to the post-Ironman blues.  Although I’ve had an enjoyable season since Brazil, I’ve found that my focus has been intermittent… and the results reflect it.

In the Philadelphia Triathlon (Olympic distance), I came early to support my buddy Craig who raced in the Sprint distance which was on the Saturday of the triathlon weekend.  It was good to spectate and get the competitive juices flowing by feeling the energy of the athletes competing.  When it was my turn the next day, I had a lot of internal questions about how much intensity I should apply given my long course training over the year.  I did however put together a decent swim, and on the bike, though a little reserved on the first loop, I managed to be very aggressive on the second loop and got out to the run feeling pretty good.  That sensation was short-lived though; I’ve not had a good season with the bike-to-run transition (“T2”) and my first three miles averaged about 9:15 per mile… which is dreadfully slow.  At the halfway point, something naturally clicked and I found myself checking off faster and faster miles, eventually finishing with a 7:50 final mile.  It felt good even if Craig overslept and wasn’t there to congratulate me!

A few weeks later I raced in the Montauk Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon which is always a lot of fun given the location and the community of folks who race there.  With the start of my triathlon “career” on Long Island, so many of my friends are there and since I don’t race on the island that often, this was a big treat for me to reconnect.  The race itself is pretty short, so a high intensity effort is important.

The swim was supposed to be a half-mile but the course was either mismarked or the final buoy moved; as a result, it felt more like three-quarters of a mile.  That hurt me, so I was absolutely committed to going all out on the bike.  I felt as if I had an incredible effort and it showed; I was 26th out of 500 on the bike leg.  This was also only the second race of my career where I went without socks throughout, so my T2 was pretty quick… but just like the Philly race, my run start was slow and not fun.  And again, just like Philly, I got faster and faster as the miles ticked by.  It was only a 4 mile run, but in the last 1.5 miles, no one passed me while I blazed by a few guys in my age group.  Ultimately, I finished going up the hill to the lighthouse passing two people in a sprint for the final 100 feet.  I was totally spent but felt great!

Next race was the NYC Triathlon but I wasn’t able to participate.  With this sport gaining an incredible amount of press and popularity, events sell out in hours or minutes.  This NYC Tri was no different.  I was vaguely aware that back on November 1st, 2007, registration opened up at midnight.  So, to find out that at 9 a.m. that morning that the race had closed out, I was in shock.  I had hope that some kind of hook-up to get in through a connection might work, but that failed and I was s.o.l.  So, to ensure that I’d get in for 2009, I decided to volunteer, my first time doing so.  It was a good experience as I got to meet some very nice people, root for the 20+ friends I knew racing, and not be subjected to the awful conditions that day.  There were jellyfish in the water (tons of people had stings and welts), it was 90 degrees at 4 a.m., and it was 10,000 % humid.  Heat and humidity are my kryptonite, so not participating wound up being a blessing.

Next up for me was the Central Park Triathlon which is easily one of my top 2 or 3 favorite races.  It couldn’t be much shorter as it consists of a quarter-mile pool swim, two loops around Central Park on the bike (=12.2 miles), and a 5k run.  In 2004, I won my age group by a whopping 0.2 seconds with a crazy finish line sprint.  In 2006, I came in second in my age group.  Seeing the even-numbered years trend, I had strong aspirations of keeping the streak alive.

The swim was better than last year and I charged into transition with great intensity.  This was my first race ever where I’d mount the bike with the shoes already attached; it’s sometimes called the “flying mount” and the intent is to save precious seconds in a race where, as 2004 showed, every little moment counts.  I got out onto the bike course and climbed the Harlem Hill well.  As I finished the first loop, my telemetry reflected a slower lap time that I had wanted or predicted, so I went out even harder on each hill (that’s where one can really make up time gaps) and finished the second loop a good 30 seconds faster.  I went into the run in 8th place but got passed by 6 people.  Again, just like in Philly and Montauk, I was slow as molasses in the first half, but I found something inside me to get that speed up especially after the turn-around point since it allowed me to see who was behind me and how far back they were.  Up ahead, one of my best friends, Fernando, was in the park on a training run and he did everything he could to shout at me to run faster.  Another buddy, Javier, was cycling and together, and the two of them were drill sergeants.  I saw that someone was closing in on me and from what I could gather from Fernando and Javier, it was a guy in my age group.  Frankly, I was so maxed out in terms of effort that I couldn’t understand anything they said!  I ran the final half-mile as if my life depended on it and finished strong.  Shortly thereafter, a woman finished; that’s who it was behind me just a few minutes earlier, not a guy in my age group!  Dammit.

When it was time for the medals ceremony, I prayed that my performance would merit a podium position in my age group.  It was not meant to be; the third place guy in my age group was about 4 minutes faster which is an eternity.  Turns out that I was 16th out of 200 or so, but of the top 16 places, 6 of them were men between 35 and 39 years of age.  That unequal distribution killed any shot I had.  Oh well; I was slower than last year by about 45 seconds and that disappoints me too, but life goes on.

So, that brings me to this weekend in Chicago.  It’s another Olympic distance event and I’m admittedly a little under-trained.  Sitting on a jury trial for 3 weeks, traveling, and job-hunting has been time-consuming and I wasn’t been as motivated to train as I should have been.  I’ll still do fine I’m sure, but I don’t expect to crack the 2:30 mark.  It is however a flat bike course which could translate into fast times for me, and it appears as if this run course, which is a flat 6.2 miles, will also benefit me based on my second-half performances this season.  We shall see.

Next up after this race is the Malibu Triathlon on September 14th.  It’s supposed to be a sprint distance event, but the bike course is a bit longer, 18 miles, and features some climbs from what I can tell.  That’ll help distance me from others.  It’s also on the day following the USC-Ohio State game in Pasadena, so we’ll see how disciplined I am about not tailgating before the race!


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