June 4, 2008

Race Report: Black Bear Sprint Tri

Before I get into the details of the race report let me start with saying that this was the first early season triathlon and I'm very happy with the results even though the first part of the race analysis may not sound like it. With the disclaimers successfully behind us we can start.

I was very much looking forward to this race as I always do look forward to my first triathlon race in the season. I just like the tri-racing much more than plain road running and I was quite frankly ready for change of pace in racing. I will not bother you with the recount of the waking-up and getting to the race site. Let me just say that this race is held in one of the most beautiful locations I ever raced. The day before the race PA had a tornado warning and the storms in the area were pretty strong. Luckily on Sunday morning the sky was clear and it looked like a great day for racing. I had opportunity to ride the bike course the day before in my car and I checked the previous year race results. From both I knew the bike will be tough as only first few finishers broke the 20 mph on that course. It is very hilly, but that is the fun part of this race.

After arrival to the race site and the body marking I went to secure my spot in the transition area - luckily my number placed me three racks away from bike exit which is fairly ideal location. I setup my transition - this time it was even simpler than last year - it was my birthday on Friday and I got brand new tri-shoes that I was testing in this race. Nice spanking Sidi T2 semi-carbon sole shoes. Very nice white shoes that I took for about an hour spin and T1 / T2 practice on Saturday morning before the race. So my transition basically had a towel with my running shoes, socks, running hat, race belt with one gel and race number. I put the Polar watch on the bike, installed the sunglasses on the bike as well as all the fuel and water. The helmet was sitting on the handlebars and I was ready to roll. About an hour before the start I went to the water and walked the route from swim exit to transition, counted racks, walked to bike exit and back, counted the racks and checked how my spot looks from different angles. Then I walked towards the run exit and I was ready to take my stuff and go for a practice swim. Before doing so I made sure that my shoes are ready in position, that my gear is selected properly for the climb out of transition and that my bike computer is properly positioned. Once the pre-race ritual was over I took my wetsuit and put it half way on and walked to the water for practice swim.

Waiting for the start

The practice swim went quite well and I was feeling great. Not much stressed as this race was my first race and I treated it as a B-race to test few things (new shoes, sock-less running and new swim stroke technique - more on that later). I tried to eat the bar I readied for the pre-race fueling, but it was too hard and I did not want to risk breaking a brace just before heading to 90-100 minutes race - the joys of wearing braces. So I just took the pre-mixed Hornet Juice and readied for the pre-race briefing. Then it was time to line-up, walk across the mat and head to the water. The water start far from the shore was quite new to me as all the previous races started with us touching the bottom. Regardless there was quite a strong current that pushed me little too much to the front (and I also lined-up little too up in the front).

Waiting for the start

Washing machine I

Then I made another rookie mistake - I was trying to keep-up with the fast swimmers on the first few hundred meters. There was some kicking and crawling on other people's backs, but not more than usual. It did not really bother me. But what threw me off was the hard pace and the waves - after some 200 meters I was out of breath and I could not get into the rhythm. I actually had to lean on my back and swim backstroke - I consider it faster and less tiring than breaststroke many people use when they are tired. I was swearing at myself and saying something like - oh my so many hours in the pool and now this. It was a complete melt down. I was unable to resume free style until last about hundred meters and I was mad at myself for wasting so much time on the swim. Yeah my swim + T1 time shows it. I actually had very good T1 - just ran up the hill to transition, grabbed my helmet, put it on, grabbed bike and off I went.

End of swim

The bike was very challenging, but I knew it will be as I rode the course in my car the day before. I remembered all the hard hills and tricky sections. I was ready to ride the course and on some occasions it was great to know the course - I was able to challenge people to pass me on the uphill that looked like short climb, but I knew there was more behind the bend. That way I was just pacing myself and re-passed the mashers later towards the top of the hill. It was sooo much fun. The only thing I did not like about the course was that it was hard to fuel - I could drink water from my front bottle, but it was almost impossible to open a gel and finish it before hitting another hill. The course was basically endless sequence of steep uphills and fast downhills. On one downhill I clocked new personal best on the bike 47.1 mph and I did not push it too much. I really liked the bike although my legs were completely done at the end of the bike. In case you wanted to check the bike course here is the Garmin Connect link (note it is recorded in a car not on the bike).

Bike start

Arriving to bike dismount went very well and I used new dismount to leave the shoes on the bike and run barefoot to the T2. Transition was fairly quick and I just put the shoes on, threw down the helmet and grabbed the hat with race belt and off I went. On the run I had hard time finding back my legs. It took me more than one and half mile to get my legs back. Only after the first aid station I started to get them back. I took it easy on the uphills as I did not want to rev the engine into the red so early in the run. The run course was similarly challenging as the bike course. It was trail run with a lot of stones and pebble for which my racing flats were not the best shoes. But they held quite well even with me running without socks. I got my legs back shortly after the big hill and was able to re-pass some people on the way down hill and on the flats. From that point on I was either keeping-up with people of passing few of them. The only exception was one girl that just zoomed by us - she must have been doing 6 minute mile that no one in the group I was running with could match. Just before the end when we could hear the crowds cheering the finishers I passed two guys and ran to what I expected was a finish. When I got close the volunteers yelled - it is up the hill. "What? Up the hill? You kidding, right?", "No, and watch for the ditch." My rage was back - I jumped the ditch and sprinted up the hill _ I so did not want to be passed on the final meters. I finished only few seconds ahead of the person I passed. Once I crossed the finish line I had to let it all out and yelled some profanity (I'm still ashamed I did that, but I simply could not help it). Then somebody handed me bottle of water and I kept walking to get some refreshments. Overall the run was OK - only later I realized that this was my second brick this season. Need to do more of them before the A-race.

Uphill finish - it does not look it, but I was working hard


I was happy I finished and I did not even care about the finish time. After finishing the water I grabbed some more water and some fruit to refuel. I was not ready to get burger or fried shrimp or fried other stuff at 9 am. It was just too early for something like that. Then I went back to the transition to look for Fred - I knew his race number and wanted to see if his bike is in and if he is around. He was not, but when I walked out I saw him walking from the finish line. So there I was meeting another on-line friend at the races. Unfortunately we did not have much time to chat as I had to get to Dallas in the evening and Fred had to get back home to attend a game. I hope we will both have some more time during the Steelman in few weeks. Until then we will keep training and racing. Next up is the Anthracite Triathlon.

Meeting Fred and the family

If you wonder how I finished - check out the official race results. Let's just say that placing in the top 50 is something that blew me away when I learned about it. Especially considering the swim melt down.


Leah said...

Hey, I think we spoke at Black Bear. You swim at Swim-in Zone, right? (If not, just disregard...) Congrats on a nice race at BB!

kxux said...

Yeah that would be me. Was at swim-in zone today. Need to train for the next race. No more swim melt downs.

How are you doing?