Monday, June 07, 2010

Race Report: Blue Lake Sprint

The short version: Lots of fun, great friends, awesome weather (in a month marked with horrible drenching rains), a muddy course with long transitions, and a fairly well executed race for me (except for a surprisingly slow run). 2nd place in AG, 5th overall woman. Woohoo!

This was the first race of the season for me, due to breaking my arm earlier this year. Normally I'd do a spring sprint, one of the many in this area that are usually an indoor pool swim. I haven't done a sprint with an open water swim in a few years, so this was fun. Two of our folks from our garage gym were going to do this race as their first triathlon, as well as one of my Master's swimmers. So we've been going up to the lake (mostly in the cold, rain, and wind) in the last couple of weeks to make sure everyone was comfortable with wet suits, open water, and to do some transition practice and brick workouts. I think that really paid off as everyone had a terrific and relaxed swim (and if you read first-timer race reports, the open water swim is usually the worst part).

Three of us went up to Portland the night before in our VW camper van and camped out in some friends' backyard who live a few miles from the race start. We had dinner and played a fairly complex board game called HansA Teutonica (if watching this video about how to play doesn't make your head spin, I'm not sure what will!). That definitely took our minds off of getting nervous about race day (probably mine more than anyone else's because they are all much more into gaming than I am, and probably didn't find the game as overwhelming to keep track of as I did)

Race Day was a little crazy because we have had SO MUCH RAIN here (I'm not kidding, I went to take my dogs for a hike on a local trail and the ENTIRE FOREST was underwater and looked like a bayou) that the grassy field where they normally have race day parking was a mud bog. So they had to set up an alternative parking area at the very last minute and have shuttle busses bring us in on race day morning. Also, the grassy areas you run through in transition were also muddy boggy slicks, which led to a lot of discussion about which is worse: keeping your bike shoes on your bike, running through transition in bare feet and then trying to stuff your completely mud-covered feet into your bike shoes; or running in your bike shoes and filling your cleats with mud and grass. Tough Choice.

Still, although it has rained non-stop for a fortnight or so, race day dawned clear and absolutely beautiful. Lucky lucky us! We set our alarms for 4:45 and got up early enough to get to the shuttle parking at 6:00 am in time for the first busses. That left us with a very relaxed pace for our pre-race preparations. Unfortunately, athletes were still arriving and trying to get shuttles right up until race start time and the race was delayed. But not by too much and from that point on most of the race went as planned.

The waves were small, about 50 people each, with 3 minutes in between each. Carrie went first and I actually cried as I watched her start swimming with her wave. This time last year she could barely swim, and not with her head in the water. She has worked so very hard and has become a very proficient swimmer. Mastering the open water swim was a huge achievement and it was cool to see her passing people!

I didn't get to see Devlin start as I couldn't pick him out in his wave once all of the black wetsuited folks were in the water with the same caps on. But I was hoping he was off to as good a start as Carrie was, then it was my turn to start getting warmed up.

Compared to what we've been swimming in, the lake was warm (about 67 degrees I think) and pleasant. I had taken my bike out for a warmup and gotten some running strides in. My left hamstring/glute still felt very tight from the car ride up from Eugene. The VW van has the WORST seats of any vehicle and for some reason the driver's seat always bothers my left hip. I was hoping the leg would relax during the swim.

They called my wave and it was into the water for a swimming start. In the front of the wave, the horn goes off and we start swimming. There was one other gal who went out fast, and in retrospect I should've gotten right on her toes because she just kept getting faster. Usually people who start fast peter out quick but she never did. Still, I was going out smooth and with all of the slower people in the water from the waves ahead of us, I lost track of her. At one point, some woman swimming double-arm backstroke (no kidding!) swam right in front of me going completely perpendicular to the swim course! It took me by surprise as she just appeared out of nowhere and I swam completely over the top of her. Tons of people were swimming backstroke, sidestroke, stopping and treading water in place. Wow, lots of unprepared swimmers out there.

In retrospect I should've taken the swim a little faster. My last few open-water triathlons have been Olys or Half-Irons and I think that was what was in my mind for pacing. As I rounded the final buoy and looked toward the arch, I said a mental "Shit! It's over already? I feel way too fresh!" I definitely wasn't swimming hard enough for a sprint. My watch said 11:50 as I got out of the water. Not as fast as I would've liked.

The race officials had warned us over and over not to try running into transition because it was a mud/grass slick and so not wanting to fall on my ass I tried to just walk pretty fast and run where it looked dry enough. Uneventful transition, everything went smooth. I decided to opt for putting my shoes on in transition and taking my chances with the mud in the cleats. It was a long chute through the grass/mud to run with the bike. As I mounted my bike I looked at my watch: 14:50. Almost a three minute transition, shit! Much longer than I've done at this course before, but I think everybody's T1 was slow due to the mud.

Luckily, the mud didn't throw my cleats off as I was able to easily clip in and pedal away. One more thing that I have not been used to is biking on a crowded course with so many beginner triathletes. This race is heavily peppered with beginners, so the course was a bit like playing Frogger on a bicycle. Still, it was sunny, most of the athletes were doing a good job of keeping out of each other's way as much as possible, and I picked up the pace to about 21.5 or so and started cruising toward the turnaround. The only eventful thing that happened on the bike was a small altercation with a local roadie. This road cyclist entered the course, and then decided to pedal along way over to the left, essentially creating a situation where you would have to pass him on his right in order to get by him. Unfortunately, if the race officials see you doing that, it's an automatic DQ. Not good. So I got near enough to him and hollered out "Hey, can you please move to the right so I can pass?" Well, if there's one thing a snobby roadie hates worse than a triathlete, it's apparently a female triathlete trying to pass him. So he sped up and said "I'm not in the race, just go around me". I hollered out that I couldn't, the race rules state that you can't pass anyone on the right. He could care less, he was going to hang out there and said so. I had to squeeze past him on the left, being careful not to cross the center line (another DQ-able offense). What a jerk. Other than that, the last half of the bike course went pretty smoothly. I downed a chocolate Accel Gel about 15 minutes from T2, which I had picked up just the day before and never tried. I have to say it was darned tasty! Probably the best gel I've had. Normally I hate the things, but that was okay.

Into T2 at somewhere around 49:00 (I think, I forgot to look at my watch), for a 34:00 to 35:00 bike. Right in my usual ballpark. Uneventful T2, managed to avoid slipping in mud. Into my lovely purple Nike Frees and off through the slip-n-slide and onto the run course. It was about 51:00 when I went through the timing mats and onto the run. I was hoping it would be under 50:00 at that point, but the extra transition time was adding up. I like the run course at this race since it just winds through the park and is very pretty. Some of it is out and back so you get a look at the other runners as well. I finally spotted Carrie coming towards me on the run and she looked like she was running well and smiling big. I knew she was just about a mile from finishing and having a great time, so I was really happy about that. I never spotted Devlin on either the out-and-back bike or on the run, but we must've gone past each other somewhere out there. Too many people made it hard to tell.. As for me, my run wasn't going so hot, my left hamstring was really locking up and the left leg felt kind of numb. So it was just about picking them up and putting them down and trying to finish it out. Fortunately, a sprint is short, but I didn't feel like I was able to get any running speed (well, not that I usually have much in the way of running speed, but I usually have more than that!)

The last bit of the run goes along the lake, very scenic. Then you turn into the chute and it's done. I forgot to stop my watch, but it was somewhere around 1:18. A very slow run, 27:30 - almost a 9 minute mile pace, yuk! I was a bit disappointed, I was definitely thinking I'd need under 1:18 to place in my age group, just based on past years' results. Fortunately, the muddy transitions slowed everyone down and I think the times this year were a bit slower overall as a result. So when I went to the results tent to look up my finishing time, I was really shocked to see that my name was pretty close up to the top of the list. Looking closer, only four women finished ahead of me, one of them in my age group. So that gave me a 2nd AG, 5th place overall women's finish. Wow, all of a sudden my race looked a lot better! I still wish I could've avoided the poor showing on the run, although to be honest it wouldn't have given me the age group win. I think the woman who out-swam me just kept getting faster and beat me by a few minutes. Three of the four women ahead of me in the race were over 40 - one in my AG and two in the 45 - 49! Damn, these women just keep getting faster, it's harder to place in the 45 - 49 than it is in the 25 - 29 AG in most races. Tough!

Overall, my peeps had terrific races. Mitch picked up 3rd in his AG, Devlin came in 6th in his, and Carrie 15th in hers. For first-time triathletes, that's a very impressive showing! They were all trained up, well-prepared, and confident. They put in the time to really get themselves ready for this race and it showed. Best of all, they really enjoyed themselves out there. I love seeing the excitement when people finish their first race, and this one definitely had lots of happy first-time triathletes hanging out at the finish. Overall, it's a terrific and well-organized race. The race directors did a great job of dealing with a potential snafu (parking suddenly not available) and getting it all taking care of. The shuttles got everyone back to the parking lots and it was time to head for home (with a side trip to Red Robin for a burger and a chocolate malt.)


Marv said...

You must feel good about this after the arm. I know I did on my first event after the shoulder problem. I like the way the errant roadie didn't get into your head and skew your race mentality.
You did great ! Congratulations on the award. It will get easier to place the older you get if you just keep showing up for the events.

Perhaps our athletic life is one big event marked by stages we call events. "And the race is not always to the swift, but those who keep on running." Way to go...great race report.

midlife_swimmer said...

I saw your results up last night :) and wanted to say congratulations. I had a couple people i helped learn to swim better out there on saturday and a friend I gace tips on swimming to...who braved the olympic distance in the pouring rain sunday. Glad you had fun and did so well! I am Registered for the woman's tri on july 31 there and the Seattle danskin tri aug 15th.

Robin said...

Marv, you are right, and I love that quote! I figure it's more or less a war of attrition, and by the time I'm 70 I should be qualifying for Kona every year, right? :-)

Stacia, one of these days we'll be in the same place on the same day and can say "hi" in person! I'm glad to have missed the day of pouring rain, we had such good weather and you all got stuck with rain again. I'm glad your friends did well, and best of luck in your upcoming races. I love the Danskin, the energy there is just so SO amazing! Plus, it's fun to bike through tunnels.

Anonymous said...

awesome...especially since you're bouncing back from the "arm" thing. Keep working..