Monday, June 29, 2009

The Bike Split

At last year's Mattoon Beach Sprint Triathlon, Wild Card Cycling teammate Rob finished 2nd, but posted the fastest run split. He recounted the race in a blog post, aptly titled The Run Split. I will never win a run split unless everyone else faints or runs backward. However, I thought that someday I might pen a post entitled "The Bike Split." I didn't think it would come so soon, but the unfortunate fact that Wild Card Cycling teammate (and normally stronger time trialist) Martin skipped the race due to a stress fracture meant that the door was open. My recently acquired rear disc wheel cover and carbon tubular Zipp 404 wheelset certainly did not hurt.

The Giant TCR C1 with Zipp 404s. In the race, I used the Zipp on the front and a Mavic Ksyrium with wheel cover on the rear since the wind was light.

Like last year's edition of this race, the weather was beautiful. The days leading up to the race were rather hot, but a cooling trend moved into the Midwest on race day. The high for the day still reached 89 degrees at Lake Mattoon, but the morning race time temps ranged from the mid 70s to low 80s. There was a very light wind, in the 3-7 mile per hour range, mainly from the east. The conditions were fast.

The race had 80 participants total, which was a pretty good turnout for a sprint race in the the Mattoon Multisport series. Past editions of this event featured both a 1/4 distance race (with each leg 1/4 as long as a full ironman race) and a 1/8 distance race. This year, only one race was offered and the distances, as advertised, deviated slightly from 1/8 ironman.

The Swim

The race started in two waves, with all men at 8:00 am and all women at 8:03. I like the mass start format because you always know the score. If someone is ahead of you on the road, they are ahead of you in the race. There is always some guess work in a staggered start race.

The swim was billed as 400 meters, somewhat shorter than the 1/3 mile of last year's race. As usual, I tried to focus on an efficient stroke with good rotation from side to side. My regular workouts with the University's Masters Swim Team have helped considerably, but I am still not a particularly strong swimmer. My goal is always to exit the water without having used too much energy and without giving up too much time to the leaders. I think I did pretty well to that end. The top swimmer finished less than 2 minutes ahead of me and no one that beat me in the overall race swam more than 90 seconds faster. My swim pace was slightly faster than it was at this event last year, though the distance was shorter.

The Bike

The 14.5-mile bike leg started very poorly. First, I had some trouble just getting my bike out of transition. The saddle caught on the rack as I tried futilely at first to squeeze it underneath. I finally had to push some of my gear out of the way and turn the bike sideways to dislodge it. I set my right pedal forward when I initially racked the bike to accommodate my preferred mounting method. I normally stand left of the bike, swing my right leg over, then stomp on the right pedal to start moving. Somehow the pedals had flipped when I was wrestling to get the machine off the rack. Standing in the road, I rotated them back by hand, which took more time than it seemed it should have because my shoes were clipped in. (I prefer this to running though grass and over other surfaces with bike shoes on, which can clog the cleats with debris or scratch them. The cleats are also quite slippery on hard, smooth surfaces, so it seems faster and safer for me to push the bike barefoot.) Anyway, the shoes tend to get caught on the ground if the pedals are rotated without lifting the bike up. I must have looked rather clumsy trying to get on. Once I did, my troubles were not over.

The next task was to get my feet into the shoes and fasten the Velcro straps. As usual, I pedaled several strokes with my feet on top of the shoes to build a little speed. I inserted my left foot and fastened the shoe without much trouble, but the Velcro became bunched and stuck on the right. I yanked on the strap to free it, but pulled it out of its clip entirely. I had to climb a small hill and pedal a few more strokes to get some speed back before I could reinsert the strap. I no doubt lost a lot of time as it took almost a mile to get fully settled. I just managed to strap in before the first turn. My average speed for the first mile was 18.4 mph. Not a good start, but it was time to focus on the task at hand. There were 19 riders up the road to catch.

If I had any hope of contending for the overall win, I would have to catch everyone on the bike and lead the race into the run. The course turned north into a light crosswind for several miles, a stretch that also featured a slight increase in elevation. The next turn was right, into a light headwind, before a turnaround at the halfway point. The tailwind after the turnaround would provide an opportunity to recover, so I decided to ride hard up to that point. I caught all but three riders before the turnaround. Several shouted kind words of encouragement as I passed - usually something like "good job!" to which I would reply "nice swim!"

The eastbound section included a freeway overpass (otherwise known as a hill in East Central Illinois) into the headwind which was the slowest part of the course. Even so, with the calm conditions, my minimum speed on the course (except the "extended" mount, turnaround, and dismount) was 20 mph, occurring on the overpass. After the turnaround, we headed west into the tailwind. I recovered a little and then picked up the pace to try to catch the three guys still ahead on the road. It was clear they were pretty strong riders.

I soon turned left into the crosswind. Just before the final turn back to the transition area, I caught one more rider. The other two stayed away and I entered T2 in third place. It would prove fleeting.

Here is the recorded profile of the bike leg - most of it, anyway. My bike computer suffers from forced shutdowns caused by loose battery contacts. I'll have to fix it when I have some time, but the consequence is that everything before the shut down does not upload. Fortunately, it only shut down once and it lost only the most agonizing part of the start of the ride.

The Run

I decided that if I had any chance of catching anyone else, I needed to move through T2 more quickly than usual, so I skipped the socks. I had done this before in the Champaign Park District Mini Tri, but its run is only 2 miles. Nonetheless, the last guy I passed on the bike overtook me just before we both exited transition and I dropped back to 4th place. Out on the run, he was fast. The 3.1 mile out-and-back run course was L-shaped, starting with a short westbound segment in the tailwind, then turned north for a longer segment before the turnaround. I held him in sight for a while, but he kept pulling away.

After the turn north, I looked over my shoulder through a field to the "bottom of the L" and saw no one. At this point, I was pretty tired and breathing heavily. I gave up the notion that I might catch any of the guys up the road. At the same time, 4th place seemed pretty secure as no one threatened from behind. The motivation to push hard wasn't there.

As I approached the turnaround, the guy that passed me in transition was still flying. He overtook another runner to take hold of second place. I tried to keep my pace from dropping too much, just in case one of them started to fade or someone from behind found a second wind.

After the turnaround, the trailing runners were still comfortably back. I plugged away at a steady pace until the final turn home. By this time, the three leaders were well out of sight. I again looked across the "L" to make sure no one was attacking from behind. All clear. I still wanted to finish as strong as I could, so I picked it up for the last 1/4 mile or so. The decision to go sockless left me with a blister on one toe - not a terrible penalty. Still, I didn't reap any benefit in terms of position.

Summary of my results:

Swim- 8:35 (20th place, 2:09/100m, included some running to transition)
T1- 0:49 (13th place)
Bike- 36:10 (1st place! 24.1 mph; 24.8 mph after the disasterous first mile)
T2- 0:55 (44th place)
Run- 23:18 (14th place, 7:31/mile)
Total- 1:09:47 (4th place overall, 2nd place age group)

Here are the official results overall and by age group. No matter where I place overall, there always seems to be one bloke in my age group that edges me out. I have a lot of second place trophies.

My run pace was much slower than what I achieved at this race last year, which I attribute to a few factors. Though I have recovered quite a bit from the knee pain (which I suspect is patellar tendinitis) that flared up in May, it has kept a lid on my run training. I have mostly been able to run at least twice a week, but I have not worked in many high-intensity workouts lately. Most of my training has been lower intensity tempo running. Second was the lack of close competition by the time I reached the run. Finally, though I did not measure the run course, I suspect it may have been a bit longer than 3.1 miles. Last year, this event incorporated a 3.25 mile run and the course seemed identical this year. Perhaps the turnaround came a little sooner, but it sure felt long. The aid station, which was supposedly positioned at the one-mile mark, seemed to come pretty long into the run (perhaps because I was running slowly.) Also, the fastest runner officially posted a 6:24 per mile average, which seems a little slow. Only five runners in the field of 80 recorded splits below 7 minutes per mile.

I had hoped to improve my running a bit more approaching the Olympic-distance Evergreen Lake Triathlon, to be held this year on July 18. On the upside, my cycling is ahead of where it was last year. Hopefully it will be good enough to compensate for any shortfall on the run so that I can still improve on my performance in that race. I plan to compete in the Freedom 5k, held in conjunction with Champaign-Urbana's 4th of July celebration and parade. It will be my first pure running race since intramural cross country and track in college. Faith will participate in the event's Youth Run.

1 comment:

Ragfield said...

Congrats on a great race, Scott. Good luck to you and your daughter at the Freedom 5K