This triathlon season, I am focusing on the sprint distance with the early goal of racing at the USA Triathlon National Sprint Championships in August. With that goal in mind, my race season kicked off on Sunday with the San Diego Spring Sprint (500m-ish swim – 11 mile bike – 5k run). A good-sized, well-organized local sprint race in the San Diego Triathlon Series, it usually brings out good competition to gauge early season fitness, and today was no different. The usual local age group sprint suspects were out!
Before the race report, one quick note: if you follow my Twitter or Facebook feeds, you may have noticed the #fearlessracing “hashtag” I’ve used a few times. I am racing for the Fearless Racing Team sponsored by Valhalla Sports Group and Xlr8 Sports Medicine. I hope that their network of athletes and publicity from the team will bring more attention to the blog, my dad’s Foundation, and the pancreatic cancer cause. More to follow on the team in a later post!
Coming into the race, my goal was simply good execution: I wanted clean transitions and I wanted to hit my run pace quickly out of T2.
My day started in probably the worst possible way when my 4:45 alarm time was set for PM: rookie mistake. I awoke (surprisingly well-rested) at 5:25, burned through breakfast and packed the car quickly. I’m proud of how I handled a bad start to the day today, as I stayed calm and just adapted. In the past, when I was much more of a “mental milkshake,” that would’ve derailed the whole day.
I arrived at the race site with about 15 minutes to spare before the transition area closed. The late start just cost me my warm up out of the water; I got a decent spot in transition despite being “that guy” that created a little space on the bike rack. Fortunately, the guys around me were understanding and cool about it.
Hustling to throw on my wetsuit even though I still had 35 minutes before my wave start – the old “hurry up and wait” in military parlance – I got a little bit of stretching in and took to the water to get some blood moving. Mission Bay was just short of balmy, but comfortable at 66 degrees: good wetsuit water.
The swim started out fast as I focused on sprinting out and getting to clean water as quickly as possible. The “fish” got out in front quickly and I did my best to hang on to their feet to draft. Once I settled in from sprint to more comfortable pace, my swim was smooth and I kept a pretty good line despite being rusty in the open water. In the end, I was fourth out of the water, which I will always take given my strengths come later.
T1 was almost as clean as could be with just a small wetsuit hangup. I had contact with one of my competitors that I ended up losing right out of transition on the bike. As my coach noted, he’s a “biker freak.” I had the second fastest T1 in my AG – check!
In review, my ride was faster than it felt. I maintained a quick cadence and strong tension on my legs for the most part, and ran into just a couple of traffic issues weaving through the earlier wave starts. It was a relatively calm day, and the course (2 laps around Fiesta Island) is flat with just a couple of “false flat” type hills. (Tip: It’s always good to ride the course shortly before a race so you know where the false flats are. It makes a big difference mentally to understand why you’re moving a bit slower or putting out a bigger effort.) I maintained an average speed just over 24 mph, which is pretty good for me, particularly early in the season. My bike split? Fourth in the AG (behind at least one “biker freak”) – see if you can spot a trend here…
T2 was clean, but could have been even quicker (can’t they always?). That said, I had the fastest T2 among my competition, and second-fastest in the AG – check!
I did well telling my legs to “shut up” coming out of T2. I felt like I hit a good pace right off the bat, and continued to push that pace throughout. By mile 2, I had regained contact with one competitor, though he was still about 30 seconds ahead. At least I could see him… and he was getting closer. As I pressed the pace, I continued to close, but ultimately ran out of real estate and finished 14 seconds behind him.
… and in fourth in my AG (with the fourth-best run split to boot!).
As I like to tell people when I finish fourth, it’s the most efficient place to finish: you’re fast and done quickly, but you don’t have to wait for the awards.
I knew I produced a good effort when, through the mental fog about two minutes after crossing the finish line, I tried to put the cap from my water bottle back on… a banana.
It’s always disappointing to finish just off the “podium,” but considering how I fared compared to my competition, I am pleased with my effort.There was less than one-minute’s difference between first and fourth in the age group, so I was in contention. I closed the gap from last season on some competitors, and beat a couple of others. It’s good to get validation for your training early on; I know I’m on the right track and definitely ahead of where I was last season.
On the plus side, I saw the athlete that finished third in my AG after the race sitting with his 1-year-old English bulldog. I chatted him up for a few minutes about my favorite dog breed which eased the sting… good dude.
It’s interesting to compare efforts and see where I stand today compared to past efforts. Of course, there are lots of possible differences that make direct race-to-race comparison of limited value – weather, fitness, freshness to name a few – but in general I can get a little bit of an idea of how my training is progressing thus far. My last effort at this race came in 2009 – my last and only full race season in San Diego – and the course changed somewhat over the course of those years.
Comparing the two events:
2009: 51:31, 5th in AG, 22nd OA, 18:13 run
2013: 55:47, 4th in AG, 13th OA, 19:11 run
The swim split and overall time are relatively meaningless as the course changes year to year. The bike course was more than a mile longer than in 2009. Looking at common opponents, I’m definitely ahead of last season and maybe even better off than 2009. Unlike last season, I entered my first race with a pretty good base in place. Having trained plenty of tempo and longer workouts, but not yet really focused on building speed, my results today – particularly my run time – are well in line with how I’ve trained thus far. May will undoubtedly bring a little bit more base work with some speed mixed in, and then I expect June to start the speed focus more intently.
I look forward to the next opportunity to get out and hit it in late June when I tackle the San Diego International Triathlon sprint distance event. See you there!