How do I write about yesterday’s Mass State Triathlon?
On the one hand, I had my best open-water swim and 40km bike splits ever. It was hot, but I still managed to do better than most of my expectations for the Olympic-distance tri. Diabetes didn’t play as nicely as I’d hoped—I started in a good place but ended up near 300 mg/dL (17 mmol/L) and was feeling the results near the end of the run—but I executed my nutrition and hydration plan very well, and I had my best swim-to-bike and bike-to-run transitions ever, significantly improving my Olympic time. I missed the top 1/3 of my age group by about 10 minutes, so I didn’t qualify for USAT nationals, but I’m happy with my time of 2:32:15. Here’s the breakdown of those times:
- Swim: 1500m in 29:05 (1:46/100 yards, or 1:56/100 meters)
- T1: 2:16
- Bike: 22 miles in 1:05:10 (20.1 mph, 32.6 km/h)
- T2: 1:53
- Run: 10K in 53:51 (8:40/mile, 5:23/km)
I must be getting better at the swim, because I’m getting knocked into and grabbed a whole lot more throughout the entire event. I made sure to be one of the first people in my swim wave to get into the water this race, so I set myself up at the front and sprinted when the horn sounded. I concentrated on the catch and pull phases of my stroke and found myself keeping up. Definitely not leading my wave, but not near the back either. I was even drafting off someone for a while, although I found it hard to concentrate on having good form when I was busy trying not to get too close to the person ahead of me. (Clearly other people didn’t have such qualms—or concentration—as my feet and legs were grabbed a few times.) I also confirmed that I sight really well in the water during races and am not a pack-follower. For some reason lots of people were staying well to one side of the course and then turning in toward the shore rather than swimming straight to the swim-out after the last turn buoy. That’s two events in a row. Hmm.
I was pretty shocked to see a “2″ as the leading number on my watch when I got out of the water, and I was feeling pretty good when I left transition onto the bike. I’ve never really liked my transition times, so on Friday and Saturday before the race I set about to figure out how to do them faster. Basically, I borrowed the lean production idea of value stream mapping, writing down all of the things that I do from when I stop swimming to when I get onto my bike and start pedaling away. I found a few places with wasted time that I was able to improve immediately, a few more I can change but which need practice before trying in a race, and one or two places where diabetes just takes time that I can’t get rid of. (I didn’t have time to do the same thing for my bike-to-run transitions, but it seems very promising.)
The Mass State bike course is a single loop over really nice roads. There’s some up and down but nothing extreme, with only about 750-800 feet of climbing over the 22 miles. (I have my own personal scale for figuring out the hilliness of a ride: divide the number of feet of climbing by the length in miles. If it’s less than 30, it’s flat. If it’s between 30 and 50, it’s slightly hilly. 50 to 70 is probably very rolling. If it’s over 70 feet/mile, it’s quite hilly, and over 90 is really hard. Because of where I live, most of my training rides lately have been in the 50-80 range. This course was merely 35.) I subscribe to the “you always pedal when you’re on the bike unless you have no more gears to use” school of cycling, and I wanted to see how hard I could realistically push on the bike and be okay on the run. I think I found that point today.
Which brings us to the other hand. (You knew it was coming, right?)
The run was just really hard, like most of the running I’ve been doing recently. It’s possible that I might have ridden too hard, but I did try to hold back a bit. When I started out on the run, I was feeling pretty fresh—all things considered—but at 85°F (30°C) it was quite warm. By the time I got to the first aid station a mile and a half in, I was ready for a little walk, but I kept going for a bit longer before I started a run/walk. As with the Patriot Half last month, I didn’t enjoy the run . . . at all. The feelings of just wanting to be done already started within the first ten minutes, which was definitely better than Patriot Half where I felt that way within the first mile, but it was still disappointing. Once I got to the turnaround at 5K, I was feeling a lot more motivated, and I was able to kick in the last 800 meters.
A couple days before the race, I made high and low estimates for each part. I was on the low side or better for all of these estimates except for the run. Being able to do that left me feeling very satisfied. Now all I need to do is to get my run mojo back, and I’ll be really happy.