Monday, September 27, 2010

Week Eight: Santa Cruz Triathlon Race Report

I really signed up for Santa Cruz Triathlon because of the club competition. But then my mom and step-dad decided to come out since they won't be at IMAZ. Then, our club participation kind of fizzled. (But we still took 2nd place!)

In the meantime, I decided to use the race as a bit of a practice run for IMAZ. First, the bike course is an out and back of 40K along rolling hills with wind. So it was slightly shorter, but also slightly hillier than IMAZ, but as much like it as I'm likely to find in this area. Second, the run is fairly flat too. The swim is an ocean swim, but otherwise it was close enough.

I ended up being unhappy with my swim time, ecstatic with my bike split and okay about the run.

First, the swim was delayed due to fog. I was worried it was going to be a repeat of Big Kahuna last year, but you could tell the fog was burning off and we only had to wait 30 minutes. This actually worked out as it gave my family time to find me.

My swim wave was all the 50+ women and was pretty empty. I really don't know why they didn't combine us with the 40-something women. The fast swimmers all got away from me pretty quickly with very little drafting on my part and I was fairly alone for most of the first part of the swim. Then, about 2/3 of the way up the pier, some guy in a gray/silver cap came roaring by me. I was pretty sure it was my friend Tom from our club. I figured that the wave behind me had caught up to me and was not happy. But actually, the rest of them didn't show up until I was rounding the first buoy. (Yes, he really is that fast.)

Then, after swimming across the top of the pier and rounding the other buoy, I suddenly saw lots of people: a few from my wave, a lot of 50+ men with silver caps and even some people from the hot pink wave which was the 40-something guys who started ahead of us. I felt a little better about that.

I felt like I kept up a pretty steady pace and one I could keep going for a lot longer so I'm hopeful that my swim time, while slower than I wanted , will still hold up for IMAZ even though it's more than twice the distance. If so, I will finish in my desired time frame.

Plus, IMAZ happens in a "lake" so I won't experience things like getting to shore and having all the water suck out to sea before I can stand up. I had to dig my fingers into the sand to try to keep from losing ground and then I attepmted to body surf when the wave came back. It was a very lame attempt as the water was only four inches deep. I did manage to worry the lifeguards though. I thought it was kind of funny myself, but they thought I was in trouble.

Then I ran up the beach and saw my mom and step-dad, husband and kids and that was cool. I made good time running to transition (which was up a steep hill) and getting out again. I thought it would take 5 minutes due to the distance from the beach but I got out in under four. I think I can do better though.

Then I just started pounding on the bike course. I was in my aerobars almost the whole way out once we got out of town. So that was good. Unfortunately, I had shifting issues. It seems when I put my bike back together after washing it, I messed something up. So I could only get onto the big ring on the front if I got on the smallest ring on the back. Once I figured that out, I was okay, but I lost some time trying to figuring it all out.

When we got to the turnaround, I tried to negative split the course, but I don't think I was entirely successful. There was one part where I had no one in front of me and no one passed me for a long time and I did lose focus and start lallygagging. I snapped out of it, but it's definitely a weakness of mine when I'm on a straight course. I also need to build up the amount of time I can pound for before I have to back off and let the lactic acid drain out of my legs.

However, inspite of all that, I finished in under 1.5 hours! I had 1.5 hour as my dream finish and I beat it. My average speed was 16.7 mph! I don't think I've ever done that before. I need to be able to do that type of speed for the entire IMAZ course if I want to finish the bike in seven hours there and now I have some hope that I will be able to do it especially with eight weeks to go.

My T2 time was one of my fastest -- 1:25. I think I may have been faster than that once. I could have been faster too as I stopped to put on my hat instead of putting it on as I ran out. So I was happy about that too.

Finally, we have the run. I was very worried about this. I was thinking it could take me as long as 1.5 hours given the state of my calf. I wasn't sure I could make the entire 10K doing run/walk either. I was hoping I could do 12 minute miles on average and I actually was able to do better than that.

I started out with five minutes of running because I felt good and I was trying to shake off "bicycle legs". I had to stop myself though because I knew from experience that if I ran until I felt discomfort, that I'd not be able to keep it up for long. So I switched to 3:1 right after that.

It worked too! Well, for the first four miles anyway. After that I started to feel it and had to take some Advil. In between I had the worst case of gastric distress on a run that I've ever experienced. At least I had most of it in a porta-potty at the turn around point. I wasted five minutes in there though. (Hey, that makes my time even better, right?)

I need to figure this out as I have never had an issue with this short of a run. I did use Clif Shot Bloks on the bike and had more gels than normal. (I was hungry because the swim was delayed.) I didn't bring my Powerbar Energy Bites either as I knew it was going to be hot and I was afraid they'd turn into a melted, gooey mess. I think I may have to rethink the Shot Bloks. I was going to use them to add variety and caffeine, but I wonder now if they are my problem as I had them the last time I had gastric distress. I have a few brick workouts coming out where I can experiment and figure it out.

Around mile five I had to walk for two minutes because my knee was really feeling it. I was afraid I'd have to walk the entire last mile, but two minutes of rest did the trick. I was really slooooow after that, but I was able to continue with 3:1 and then I ran the last four because there was no way I was going to walk over the finish line!

My family was at the finish too. It turns out some of them, including my sister and niece and niece's family where also at the bike but they never saw me even though they were there when I came in. I didn't see them and they didn't see me. Bummer.

All-in-all, it was a good experience. I learned from this race that I do have the fitness that I want to have. I still want to get faster at the swim, but it looks like my bike is doing better than I thought now that I finally got to do a comparable ride to what I'll do in Tempe. I have some good bike workouts planned for the final six weeks before my taper too to get even better.

I had been getting panicky with IMAZ so close and thinking I had to really step up the workouts. But now I'm thinking that I should stay with this level of workout or even back off so I can heal my calf and not burn my body out.

I have to heal my calf more if I want to do 3:1 for 26.2 miles. It was great to do it for 6.2 miles with pretty much no long-term soreness or damage, but I was hurting that last mile and there is no way I could have done it for much longer.

I also have been having side-issues. A few weeks ago, I had an episode of back spasms and recently I pulled something in my hip. It's probably related to the calf, but I also think it's a sign of over-training. I had been attempting to step things up for my last 12 weeks before Ironman, but I think I need to cut it out or I'll end up arriving to the start line one big mess of hurt.

Results:
I ended up 15th in my age group out of 20 finishers, 208 out of 262 women and 622 out of 702 finishers with an overall time of 3:25:49 - five minutes faster than I thought I'd finish and technically a new PR for me at this distance (though that's not really a fair comparison because my other two Olympic distance races were mega-hilly and one was mega-hilly at altitude to boot).

Swim: 00:39:20 - 652 / 702
T1: 00:03:58
Bike: 01:28:38 - 608 / 702
T2: 00:01:25
Run: 01:12:28 - 694 / 702
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