Monday, May 21, 2012

50 for Fun

Saturday morning was the initial FS 50 triathlon in Washington, NC, which turned out to be an adorable little coastal town.  I covered the whole course in 3:43:12 breaking the 3:45 overall goal, I PR'd the swim and run distances, and completely blew it on the bike.  Overall it was an incredibly fun race and a great trip.

Friday night we got out of town later than expected, but still made it down to Little Washington in about 2 hours.  After getting checked into the hotel, we drove to the race site to make it easier to find parking and the transition area.  Then we were on the hunt for ice cream.  Turns out there was some kind of friday night festival going on in the Main Street district, with live music playing and lots of the stores open late, including an ice cream shop.  We didn't bring the camera, but LW has an incredibly cute small town downtown that was just so quaint and picturesque, it's hard to accurately describe.

I didn't sleep much friday night, maybe nerves about the race.  But I was still up and ready to roll about 5:15 Saturday morning.  They opened the breakfast at the hotel early to accomodate the racers, so I stuffed it down and we got out to TA to get setup.  Air temp was around 47 degrees, and the water temp was more like 73. 
Walking it into TA

The sound we were swimming in

I taped the three gel's to the top bar of my bike, got all of the gear setup, and oops I forgot to bring a towel.  Fortunately, the guy racked up next to me had an extra one.  We ended up hanging out with him and his wife a lot, they are also from Raleigh, and she actually recognized me from the blog!  First time I've been recognized in years.  Very cool.
Swim 1 mile: Goal 30 minutes, actual 29:50 PR!!!

My last several open water swims have been one or two miles going back to last year and the Ironman, and my goal for all of them has been to break 30 minutes for an open water mile.  Finally this race I actually freaking did it. 
Nice shot of Kelley and I before getting in the water

My belly looks huge here, but I'm still ready to swim.
Get ready!

Go!  My first stroke is pretty clean
Lots of swimmers in the water
 It was a triangle course with an in-water start.  The 100 mile racers started at 7:00, and the 50 milers started 10 minutes later.  The close orange/yellow buoy is the turnaround so the 100'ers could start their second lap.  I used it for sighting when I was coming back in.

I started kind of mid-pack, and really I should have moved up a bit more.  I got caught up in some traffic at the start and had a tough time passing a few people.  I was one of the only racers that did not wear a wetsuit.  Oddly enough most people were in full sleeve suits.  I don't like full sleeve suits ever, they just restrict the arm movement too much.  And if the water temps are above about 65* I'll skip the wetsuit entirely, it just isn't worth it.
How NOT to breathe
 This picture was near the start still, and it's a fantastic action shot.   You can see my head right in the middle, and here's what's wrong.  My forehead is pointing to the sky so my shoulders are stacked, my head is too far out of the water which is naturally going to pull my legs down too far under water.  That creates more drag and means I'm working too hard to move through the water at that speed.  Body rotation is one thing, but don't pick your head up to breathe, turn it to the side and put your chin on your shoulder.  You can't even see my feet or kick splash back there.  Not good form.

Made it to the first turn buoy with plenty of other people nearby but without any real physical punishment yet.  I was just settled into my stroke at that point.  I've been working on my kick a lot at the RAM practices, so I was putting a decent kick out there.  Between the turns I swam pretty straight and fast.  I got kicked in the back once, and a few times when I breathed to the right I caught a mouth full of  water, but nothing that really broke my stroke.  This was in a sound or inlet, so it tasted like fresh water even though we were at the coast, and there was no current.  It was like a beach swim in a lake!

I made the second turn buoy and started heading back to shore, and for some reason got way off course to the right.  I really tried to work on my kick this segment, without wearing down my legs for the bike.  But I just had that gut feeling like I could break 30, and I wanted it bad. Bike ride be damned.
This is breathing done right
From our form lesson earlier, you can see this time the top of my head is not completely out of the water, my shoulders are not stacked, this is an appropriate body movement, my arm is relaxed in recovery and the breath is coming easily.  I even have a few people drafting off of me!  Very cool picture.

 I came out of the water feeling good.  They didn't have a clock out there so I had no idea what my time was.  Short run up to TA and let's hit it.

T1: 2:20

Yea, I kind of thought I might puke coming out of the water.  So by the time I got back to the bike it was a good time to sit down, throw the socks and bike shoes on, towel off a bit and get out there.

ready to roll
Bike 44 miles: Goal 2:30, Actual 2:27:55, 17.8 MPH

The bike ride started off feeling pretty good, then went horribly wrong.
Started off feeling ok
I had a plan.  One gel about 5 minutes into the ride would fuel me up to recover from the swim.  44 miles isn't so unbelievably far that I need to take it easy, it's ok to hammer a bit since I knew it was going to be a competitive field.  The flip side is that this was going to be the first time since Ironman that I had been over 20 miles and the cycling endurance might not be there.  Manage the nutrition properly and that won't be a problem.

I did not manage the nutrition properly. I left the Garmin at home so I had no measure of time or distance.  I wanted to ride and run on feel by perceived effort so I wouldn't try to push too hard to maintain some target speed.  That also meant I had no measure of distance.  I took one gel what I thought was about 5 minutes after I started riding. 

Then after I started to feel my legs fatigue I asked another racer how far we had gone and he answered 23 miles.  That seemed appropriate to me.  I knew I wanted to take my second gel about the halfway point so I went ahead and took it.  Feeling good again, let's keep on rolling.  The course, like most coastal bike courses, heads inland.  It was a loop with no spurs, all on public roads.  Some of the roads had recently been repaved and were incredibly smooth, and some were about to be repaved and were in horrible shape.  Lots of farmland, the corn was about a foot high most of the time, and a few cattle farms providing smell relief.  The winds picked up strong, but not as brutal strong as the IMFL bike course or some of the other tougher winds I've seen before.  Tough, but not brutal.  What you would expect from a coastal bike course. 

About 10 minutes after taking my second gel I ask someone else how far we've gone.  This is when I noticed the problems starting to begin.  This guy said we had only gone 18 miles.  What?  excuse me?  Didn't you say 30?  Oh shit, I took my second gel about 20 minutes before I was supposed to.  I'll just have to hold out and take the last gel at the right time, and use the bottle of powerade and water to get me through until then.  Just keep pedaling.

Of course, before long my legs were already completely fatigued, and my ass was starting to get pretty sore.  Like I said, this was the first time I've gone over 20 miles since Ironman 7 months ago.  The cycling endurance just was not there.  I was really starting to suffer out there.  The speed kept dropping, my motivation kept leaving, and I was getting slower and wanted to cry.  There weren't any mile markers anywhere on the road that I noticed before, so when I finally saw a big 40 painted on the road I let out a loud verbal relief howl.  Man was I ever glad to see that 40 mile marker.  That was oh so incredibly nice.  Yes, thank you finally it was there.

I waited about 5 or 10 more minutes, then I took my last gel.  Ready to be fueled up for the run, I was starting to see the sound again and knew the end of the bike leg was close.  Then about 10 minutes after I took the gel I saw Lauren whom I had been talking to in TA before the race.  Her odometer was only showing 34 miles.

You have got to be kidding me.  I told her I was going to puke and cry if we really still had 10 miles left to go.  I did not puke or cry, but we really did have 10 miles left.  Eventually I had to remind myself that this bike leg has to end sometime, and just to keep pedaling until it does.  Please, come on, end now.  Nutrition strategy was well thought out, but I completely blew it.  And I was severely undertrained for the bike leg.  I was good until about 25 or 30 miles.  Ready to turn in a fast oly split.  But 44 miles?  Way undertrained.
Most awkward dismount ever

Totally dead on my feet, but so glad to be done with that
Overall I should say that I knew I had that one coming.  I should have brought the Garmin to track my distance, and I should have gotten in some longer rides in training. The strangest thing of all?  I never passed anyone else on the bike.  at all.  I only got passed by about 14 people, but I never passed anyone.  In most tri's I'm fast enough on the bike to pass a few cyclists who are slower swimmers than me.  This time, I'm just glad it was over. Yes it was horrible but it's over now and into T2 we go!

T2: 1:20, total transition: goal 5:00, actual 3:40!
Two fisting it to get more water in

Seriously?  That's the picture you want to take?
Bike helmet & shoes off, running shoes on.  Grab the hat, chug some more water and go.  I wasn't conditioned for a bike leg that long, and I totally blew the nutrition since I didn't know the distances.  Running would feel good at this point.

Run 5 miles: Goal 40 minutes, Actual 41:49

I"m not going to really call that a success, but it is still a PR and I can live with it.  It's only a PR because I don't race the 5 mile distance very often, so I beat my 2008 Ache Around the Lake time.  It's not a common distance!
Oh crap I have to run now.

Let's do this!
The run course was a straight out and back, through the park first then over the bridge and down the main road in this little town to a turnaround point, then back through the park to an incredibly long finishing road.  Since I knew I wasn't properly fueled I didn't want to bonk with a few miles left.  But since running is my strong suit I started passing the people that were passing me on the bike.  I just found my pace, held form as long as I could, and walked when I needed to.  The strategy was to only walk for 8 breaths at a time, that was enough to bring my heart rate back down and start to feel better.

About to catch my next victim in mile 2

Doing the dead man shuffle
I actually felt really good getting to the turnaround point.  They gave us the yellow livestrong style bracelets to keep people honest at the turnaround.  I was passing people and chatting with some on the way back, but it had to be a much more focused run.  I had to focus on my form as it was starting to fall apart.
That's how I felt in the second half

Finished: 3:43:12 Goal under 3:45, 48/85 overall, 8/11 Men 35-39

Overall this race was kind of screwy. Really competitive crowd.  I claim to be a pretty fast guy anyway, so if I PR the swim and the run distances and didn't crash on the bike I should be in the top half.  I was actually pleasantly surprised to see 17.8 mph average on the bike, it felt much slower than that.  But nobody else in my age group was slower than 18.3 mph.  With the way the distances split out, it was a cyclists race to win.  And I'm not a cyclist by nature, I'm a runner by nature, swimmer by choice, and triathlete by practice.  The venue was amazing, Little Washington is an incredible town and the course was fun.  I wouldn't hesitate to do this race again or recommend the venue to others.  But I've got to work on my bike endurance next time.

Or not.  Wednesday (the day after tomorrow) is the first Aquathon of the season.  It's a half mile swim followed by a 2.6 mile run.Let's just skip the bike entirely for this little multisport adventure.  I did this race last year and absolutely loved the format, but I remember the trails killed me on the run.  I will adjust my expectations for Wednesday.  And hopefully break the 36:11 I put up last year.


Unknown said...

Not bad for the start of the season.

Michelle said...

Lots of really nice pics!
I particularly like the ice cream run prerace!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Nice work! Way to go on the swim PR. You got some great pictures of you racing (or I should say Kelley did, I assume she took them!). I think that is a solid first tri for you! Well done!

sarah said...

Nice job!! Love the pictures!

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

Good job on the swimming PR. It sucks that your nutrition was off for the biking! I guess maybe you need to have the garmin just for that reason? I think you can set it so it only shows mileage and not pace. You got a lot of great photos! Are those all taken by friends or your wife? She/they did an excellent job! (even the belly shot!)

Sophie @ threetimesf said...

Well done on your PBs despite the plan going a little to poo!

Karen said...

Nice job, John! That was quite the race - Funny you were talking about where you placed. I just read another blog and she was bummed about placing last. It really just depends on the race, some seem to draw all the speedy people. Love that you had a swim PR!

Al's CL Reviews said...

I like the pics. Great start to the season!