The first triathlon for the year has been completed! The 2017 King Pine Olympic Triathlon took place on Saturday, June 3rd. I finished 29th overall and 6th in my age group. Total distances and times were:
As always, there’s a story behind the race. Read on for more.
How it Went
Last year, we had closed on a new home and I spent most of April and May not training due to the house move. This year I had a bit more time to train than last year. The late spring is tough as I’ve had travel for work and baseball season. I wouldn’t trade it for the world though as I help coach the kids and it is so rewarding to see the development of kids over a few short weeks. That said, I had a rough April training wise.
I arrived at the race venue with an hour to spare. Registration was easy. We were a bit concerned as the air temperature was in the low 50’s and expected the water temperature to be in the low 60’s. I still decided to just race in the team kit with no jacket or arm warmers. My rule is take the amount of clothing you think you need and remove one layer. After getting my bottles ready, transition area setup, it was time to put the wetsuit on for the first time of the season. Please let it fit, please let it fit. I sprayed on a liberal amount of Trislide and the wetsuit went on like butter. Interestingly, since this was the first year racing for Maverick Multisport we had new 2XU team kits with sleeves. This made putting the top of the wetsuit on so much easier as it just slide right over my shoulders. I took a quick gel and made the trek down to the swim start. I also put two gels in my team kit pockets so they were ready coming out of the water (more on this later).
Based on last year’s race, I knew that we’d have a decent walk down to the beach and then have 15-20 minutes before the race started. I still stand behind my previous race decisions that had me not warmup for the swim. We did get in the water to get the shock value and boy was that water cold. I really haven’t been in a pool much for a variety of reasons. Schedule being one, time investment vs. benefit for another, and honestly, I have no pools within a 25 minute radius. Even with extremely limited swim training I’m still coming out of the water in the top 1/3 of the pack.
After getting out of the water it was time for race rules. Pre-race rules were typical. Don’t draft, don’t litter, have fun. I need to reiterate that the race director (Vince Vaccaro) is one of the best in New England. I’ve done several of his events and every one is well run, fun, and this guy just cares about the events and racers. He’s an Ironman competitor himself. If you get a chance to do his events, do it. Check out Tri Tek Events.
As we entered the water, they would count us making sure nobody was left in the water. We got into the water, submerged our wetsuits and then found out we had a brief delay for the start. Typically this is because the course marshals aren’t fully in position yet or in this case, it seemed like a timing clock had a bad battery. We decided to get back out of the water as we started shivering just standing there.
After a short wait it was time to go. After pre-starting my watch, locking the buttons, it was time to go. I’ve done enough of these races to know that we are going to get bumped around, but as long as I focus on rotating my body and not turning my neck I’d be in good shape. The usual contact was alive and well during the start, but was not nearly as bad as an Ironman race where you have 3-4x the number of people in your wave.
The first few strokes were cold. In addition, due to all my friends (competitors) in the water, it was tough to see the first buoy. This race has several distance options including a sprint distance. The buoy layout was going around an orange, three yellow, one orange and then back to shore. I lost track of the first orange buoy but as I started towards the inside of the group I should have been swimming pretty straight. After a minute or two I locked on and felt like I was doing very well sighting. My sighting form is usually popping my eyes just above the water in the middle of strokes. You can see in the picture below my nose is barely out of the water (bottom right). This keeps my legs from dropping and causing more drag. Less drag means less work. Interestingly, there was one point on the course where I totally lost sight of a yellow buoy. This was because the nose of a kayak was just covering it from my sighting angle. After drifting right slightly I found it.
I felt like I absolutely nailed sighting this year. I hugged every buoy tight and saw plenty of people 50 – 100 yards off to my right on a counter clockwise swim course.
Once you get to shore it’s a quick run up to transition. It was interesting too as this was the first time I had a triathlon with my new watch. I hadn’t realized it also recorded heart rate during the swim. After the fact you could see my heart rate spike up that little hill. I took my wetsuit off down to my waist, goggles and cap off, and I’m ready for the bike. I wound up beating last year’s swim time by around 20 seconds.
I took a few seconds longer in transition this year as it was freezing. It simply took just a little longer to get my socks on, wetsuit off, and get myself composed for the bike. My goal was to average 85% FTP normalized power. I setup a new data field on my bike computer showing normalized power and Intensity Factor (IF). Suffice to say I nailed the bike here. My normalized power was 220 with an IF of 0.846. Last year, my normalized power was 180 with an IF of 0.80. But, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s get into it.
My fueling strategy had three bottles on board. I had my between the bars aero bottle with two off the rear. They were filled with electrolytes. My plan was to have two gels over the bike course with one or two Clif bars. I had planned on taking the first gel within a few minutes of getting onto the bike. I reach into my back pocket and odd…the gel was gone. No matter, I had one on the other side…damnit, that one was gone too. I always plan for losing at least 200-300 calories by dropping them, so I went to my backup stash of Clif Bloks. My theory goes that the gels wiggled loose in my pocket while swimming and when I pulled the wetsuit off, they hit the ground. Note to self, let’s not do that again.
Right out of transition is a nice downhill which was super warm given I was wet and the temp was in the 50’s. Soon after getting on the bike my toes felt like I had a rock in my socks. Turns out it was my feet going numb and wouldn’t be until the run to get blood down there. Anyway…my goal was to keep the normalized power pegged at 85% FTP. Right after the nice downhill was the first of three hills you’d see on the course. This first hill would be done twice over the course of 33 miles. I was getting passed by a few people, but tried not to overcook myself. Plus, I’d wind up catching these guys on the downhill.
I kept to my plan and just stayed steady. I felt very good in the position on the bike, sit bones on the saddle, and the team kit wasn’t uncomfortable. #Winning
On the backside of the course on the first loop was the largest climb. Again, I kept to my plan, passed a person or two and kept at it. I really was feeling quite good. I also wound up hitting almost 50 mph on the downhill. This course has two loops, a larger loop the olympic distance does and a smaller loop for sprint distance. The olympic completes both loops. Once I was out on the sprint loop you could see lots of people going all directions. I only had about 10 miles left.
My goal at this point was to make sure I was taking in fluids and kept the nutrition game alive. As with my calories, I knew I had an extra water bottle on the bike. I did manage to get down almost two full bottles of liquid which was good. Coupled with the low temperature on race day, I did not feel dehydrated. Dehydration was a problem for me on this course in prior years.
I finished the bike portion in 1:43:40 or roughly 5 minutes faster than last year. If I had to do it again, I’d try to target 90% normalized power as I felt so good on the bike. Rack the bike and ready to rock the run.
T2 took me almost roughly 15 seconds more than last year. Even after having a good bike my body wasn’t moving as fast in transition. I chalked this up to being cold. It was odd, getting off the bike I felt like a rock was in my shoe. But after putting weight on my feet in my running shoes, it was apparent my feet were cold and there was no rock. I decided that given this year’s temperature was 15 degrees colder than last year, I’d forgo running with water or nutrition. I made sure coming off the bike to get calories and fluids in me and rely on the course water stations. The first three miles of the run course were downhill and the last three were pretty much all uphill. My plan was to take the first three miles easier and push the last three. I always try to run 1 minute per mile slower for the first mile just to get the legs setup.
I started out between 8:15-8:30/mile. This seemed about right considering I had a 10k a few weeks ago where I ran a 7:45 pace on a hilly course. I was running a little faster than I wanted, but given the downhill, I felt ok with it…until mile 1. Out of the blue my right hamstring totally seized and cramped. In my 20 years of running I have NEVER had a hamstring cramp like that before. Some runners around me thought it was a result of the cold starting with the swim. I’ve also heard theories that as you get older, you cramp for apparently no reason. Still this was hugely disappointing as I felt so good all day. I wound up walking for a quarter mile or so to try and uncramp the hamstring.
During the spring I was dealing with a hip issue which I think was caused by sitting down for work. I’ve converted back to a standing desk for work and within a matter of days the hip has felt better. It might be coincidental that the hamstring issue was on the same leg as the hip issue, but something tells me with the cold and residual hip soreness, it’s all related. Time will tell.
Soon enough it felt good enough to run on. Unfortunately, it felt like the damage was done and while I could run 9:00 pace, it was a far cry from the 8-8:15 I had hoped to run. Still, I passed a few people and made sure to take two cups of Powerade at each of the two aid stations should the cramp have been from an electrolyte issue. Unfortunately, Powerade has about half the electrolytes that Gatorade does. One aid station was at mile 1.5 (sprint turnaround) and the other was around 3.1 (olympic turnaround). I wish they actually put the aid stations at 0.75 and 2.5 miles. This way you could hit them each twice and it would be at a better point on the course.
My friend Dan passed me close to the turnaround and after exchanging some good luck wishes, it was time to start the slog uphill to the finish. I kept my pace steady and am happy to say the hamstring issue didn’t return. I crossed the line in 3:12:49 which was three minutes faster than last year. Despite a disappointing run, I’m happy with the finish.
What I Learned
This year I did better than last, but still was slower than my 2015 time. One thing is for sure, I’m taking a more structured approach to training and recognizing that my season is quite long. I’m not as worried about early season races like this and may not even do them in future years. Schedules are tough and burnout can be high. I’ve got my first 70.3 of the season next week. This was a nice setup for that race to validate fitness and next week’s race plan. I felt like this year my nutrition and hydration was spot on. I never felt any crash of energy or felt like I didn’t drink enough. While I didn’t have the run I wanted, I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better. Some thoughts for next time.
- Don’t put gels in your pocket during the swim. They’ll fall out.
- Stick with the nutrition you know works.
- For olympic distance, try to average 90% FTP for normalized power
- Losing some weight would probably help on those climbs.
As always, thanks for reading!