A West Point Lake Olympic Triathlon Race Report
This is not the PR you are looking for…
The pattern for this year is slowly emerging. It looks like all of my races are taking place on days my Sherpa is working. While I, on the other hand, will be sherpa-ing Dee Dee’s races with relish. This is perfectly fine for me.
I spent all day Saturday getting ready for my race. I was done with my 30 minutes of workouts by 9:30 AM or so, then I had the whole day to find stuff to do. I cleaned. I washed. I packed. I even removed Ironman Arizona’s dirt and grime from Haint, Dee Dee came home from work, and we grabbed a quick bite to eat, then it was off to bed. I planned on getting up early and driving 1.5 – 2 hours to West Point Lake in the morning.
The alarm clock went off at 3:45 AM, although I had been awake since around 3:30-ish. There was no time for phaffing. By the time I got situated, the car packed, and ate breakfast, it was time to leave. The ride to the lake was uneventful. I pulled into the park at dawn’s early light. I had an hour and ten minutes before transition closed. This, of course, is much more time than one needs to setup transition for an Olympic distance race, but I don’t like to stress first thing in the morning. I got body marked and picked up my chip. It took all of ten minutes to get my stuff laid out, then it was time to hit up the port-a-potties and get in my warm up.
On the way out, I began to run into my friends. Teh Cube was there. Cube is an age group athlete that has really been pouring on the performance lately. I also ran into Richard and his family, and brutha Murtha was there as well. I followed the run course for about half a mile before turning around and heading back. It wasn’t exactly hot, but it was extremely humid, and my tri top was already wet. As I entered transition, another friend, Danielle, grabbed me to say “hi!'”. She commented that she liked the kit I had put together. Dee Dee had ordered an HTFU tri top from their web site, but it wouldn’t fit, so I claimed it. I had paired it with a new pair of red tri shorts and my Tri Bike Transport visor from Ironman Arizona. I was flaming red for sure!
One final check of transition, then I grabbed my goggles and swim cap and headed down to the lake. I went for a short swim in the 87 degree water before being called back to the beach for the race start. This race does a time trial start, with two people entering the water every three seconds. They made some attempt to line us up by bib number, but I ended up standing with Murtha and Richard. My bib number was 98, and Richard’s was 135. It took us about five minutes to reach the lake. The starter held up his arms. The assistant punched in our numbers, then the starter said “Go”, and we were off.
Richard started out a lot faster than I did, and he hit the water first. I had been experiencing my usual open water trepidation. It wasn’t a huge issue. It just felt like I was being rubbed the wrong way. Once I got going, I focused on finding my rhythm and not drinking the nasty lake water. They had changed the course up this year a bit. Rather than heading out for 2-300 meters then turning right, we only went out for a hundred to two hundred meters then turned right to follow around the peninsula.
Since this was a time trial start, there was no thrashing and fighting at the start, yet I did manage to bump into a young lady who scratched then proceeded to push my hip out of her way. I didn’t mind the pushing, but the scratching was a new experience. She had nails. I was actually swimming in a line towards the buoys, and I had to cut her off to keep my angle. I wore my clear goggles for the swim, which was fine, except that the sun was coming up over the race start. When I made the first and second right turns, I had it right in my face. It didn’t affect sighting, but it was a little annoying.
For the most part, I kept a straight line. If you zoom in on the picture above, you can see where I drifted to my right and then made a correction. I’m pretty happy with those lines though. At the race start, I had placed my 310XT in my swim cap, and I was a bit surprised when I felt it buzz while I was still in the water with about a 150-200 meters left to go. WTH? I reached the boat ramp to transition just as the sprint triathlon was getting under way, and all of the triathletes doing the sprint were crowded on m left. Now, I’m not dissing this event, nor the race organizers. I love me some GA Multisports, but its really hard to compare year over year results if the course distances are not the same, and having a swim course long or short seems to be a reoccurring issue for most race companies.
The 310XT reported my swim time as 31:04, a minute slower than my race 4 years ago, and 15 seconds per 100 slower than my Ironman pace. I cringed, but I didn’t let it get me down. Being frustrated is fine, but that’s not a reason to feel defeated!
I arrive at transition with everything laid out nicely. I put on my HRM, my race belt, grabbed my helmet and sun glasses, and then stopped. Where were my shoes? LOL… I had forgotten to take them out of the bag. No doubt, this little snafu cost me precious seconds, but still, I was out of T1 and onto the bike in a respectable 1:42. I CAN have great t-times when I try :-)
Before the race, I had mapped the bike course on a popular web site sose I might peek at the elevation chart. After looking at it, I thought to myself: self? That doesn’t look quite as rolling as I remember it. Famous last words. It was. The first couple of miles out of the park are slightly downhill, a great time to get pacing and heart rate under control. Teh Cube came flying by me around mile 2, and that was the last I ever saw of him. He was motoring. My HR was in the high 150s/low 160s, which was completely normal, but not the long term plan.
Once the rollers started, my heart rate settled down into the 148-150 range that I wanted. I tried to conserve some of my energy on the down hills, and I allowed my HR to drift higher on the climbs. Over the course of the bike route, I played leap frog with a twenty year old girl in a Georgia Bulldog kit. She would pass me on the uphill, then I would fly by her on the downhill, only to hold her off for 5-10 minutes before repeating.
At about mile 17, I think, we enter a park by the lake where the aid station is. I dropped my empty water bottle expecting to be given a bike bottle or a bottle with a top on it in return. I was a bit flabbergasted when the volunteer handed me a bottle with no top. How was I supposed to put that in my bottle holder? I spent the next three or four miles drinking my water and riding with it in my hand. That was annoying. I finally dumped out the remainder and put the empty bottle in my aerobar holder.
I passed twenty-something about 2 miles from the end of the bike and teased her about still having time to pass me once more, which she didn’t. I pedaled into transition on top of my shoes and hopped off the bike with no problems. I was very calm and relaxed in T2, remembering to grab my gel and visor. I was out onto the run course in a minute-thirty.
The run course for West Point is deceptively flat. It starts out going slightly downhill, then there is a long period of slight uphill that is annoying. I started out at an 8:40-ish pace. My entire goal for this race was to set a new stand alone PR on the run, and to do that, I wanted to keep my pace in the 8:30 to 8:50 range.
Both of my thigh muscles were starting to cramp as I neared the first mile marker. My right hamstring had cramped on the swim (I forgive you wet suit!). I kept my stride short and quick and sent relaxing thoughts to my muscles. All of the runners were sticking to the shade as much as possible. Once we hit the bridge over the dam, there was no shade, and things got hot.
The pace on my Garmin started to go into steady decline and walking through the aid stations did not help. Within a couple of hundred meters of the turn around, Richard picked me up. I had swam around five minutes faster than he had, and it had taken him up to this point to make it up on the bike and the run. As we headed back across the bridge, we crossed paths with Murtha.
BRUTHA MURTHA! I bellowed. Getting it done, today!
Andy was nursing an injured foot, and I was glad to see he was having a great day. Richard and I chatted a bit on the back, but the heat was taking its toll. Richard told me that he liked to sprint at the end, and I mustered a laugh.
You go right on ahead, I said. I don’t want to hold you back.
The final aid station and the lone hill on the run course finally did me in. I couldn’t hold pace and my overall average drifted up into the 9-9:10 range. That little crescent where we follow the lake in the image above is right before the hill. That stretch of road from the hill to the left turn back to the finish was the longest ever. Just like last time, I could feel my thighs threatening to cramp, but I hung on.
Now that I was back on the other side of the bridge, I was able to utilize the shade, and it felt ten degrees cooler. It took every ounce of perseverance I had to keep running all the way to the finish. Within a couple of hundred meters of the finish, twenty-sumfin chicked me on the run for good measure. There was no sprint to the finish for me this year. I maintained my pace and crossed the finish line with a smile.
Two young boys were claiming the timing chips, and it took some effort from me not to fall over. I grabbed a water and went for a short walk, before heading to the sprinkler tent for a nice cool down. I chatted with Richard and his family and watched Andy finish. Then, we packed up our stuff and headed home.
A few days later, the results arrived in my inbox. My 10K run time was 56:52, a mere 28 seconds off my stand alone 10K PR. drats!! My overall time was 2:48:37, a 3:08 PR over my results from four years ago. That wasn’t quite the PR for which I was looking, but I’ll take it. Not a bad result for “just having fun” this year.
Up next… The Callaway Garden’s Sprint Triathlon…