Sunday, April 17, 2011

2011 Pioneer Sprint Triathlon

Martin and I traveled to Petersburg (about 23 miles NW of Springfield) on April 17for the Pioneer Sprint Tri. It was the first tri for the season for both of us. We both felt pretty good before the race, though our preparation was not ideal. In Martin's case, everything he does is focused on Ironman endurance. In my case, I just haven't done that much of anything this year. That's typical, as I spend most of winter training and racing on skis. It won't change anytime soon, because I love skiing with my kids and ski racing, despite my limited natural aptitude for it. Still, this year has had slower start than most, especially with running.

The event was held at the local high school (PORTA). The swim took place in the smallish PORTA pool - 6 lanes of 25 yards. As with most pool tris, the swim was a zigzag deal with each racer starting on an interval - start at one end and work across the lanes to the other end. However, in this case, the swim totaled 300 yards. 6 lanes x 25 yards per lane = 150 yards. Uh oh. That means you have to swim down and back in each lane before changing lanes. Sounds a little crowded. Maybe they'll at least start us on 30 second or longer intervals so we won't jam up. Nope. 10 seconds. And, as is customary, the start order depended on athletes placing themselves according to their anticipated swim times. I put myself amongst a group of others who estimated 4:30. In my case, this was based on a time trial I had done 2 days prior. I should have followed Martin's advice and cheated by 30 seconds. After my start, I literally swam 2 lengths (50 yards) before running into someone's feet. With traffic moving in both directions, passing would be a challenge at best. Another 25 yards and someone was on my feet. 25 yards later, the woman in front of me must have felt like I was violating her, because she paused on the wall and told me to go ahead. I said "thanks" and took off. 15 yards later, I'm crawling up the back of some dude. This was starting to get old. I got desperate and tried to pass. Bad idea. I exchanged forearms to the head with someone coming the other way. I swam with my head up and counted at least 4 people in front of me - and there were probably several behind. So this whole mess was caused by some idiot who put himself at about 4:15, but was swimming about 5:30. I was really frustrated, because I have been swimming about 10 seconds per 100 yards better than I was a year ago and was looking forward to posting a result that proved it. Instead, I probably lost 45 seconds off my race time. Grrrr.

Off to the bike for 13 miles. I've been practicing cyclocross-style mounts at home to help shave a few seconds in tri. However, I am not yet confident enough to try it in a race, on asphalt. So I got moving the old-fashioned way and was soon out of the parking lot and onto the open road. Within the first mile, 2 dudes passed me. One was on a road bike - naked setup, no aero bars. I'm not used to getting passed on the bike (except sometimes by Martin). Not that I usually win the bike split either (I have once), but anyone who can beat me on the bike is usually an elite triathlete who can also clobber me on the swim. Hence no one passes me. I checked my speed. 23.5 mph into a gentle headwind. Damn, these guys must be good. 1/2 mile later, their gaskets blow - first Mr. Naked Road Bike, then the other dude. See ya! The out-and-back course included some rollers near a creek close to the turnaround. Nothing major, but I did have to get out of the saddle 4-5 times. (Bike Profile)

Back in town and time to finish this gig with a 5k run. A rather hilly 5k run. My run training has suffered the most in the early season, and my run was not pretty - about a minute slower than I probably should have been, but it is hard to know for sure since I don't usually run hills. (Run Profile)

Shortly after I finished, Martin rounded the turn into the school parking lot for his finish. He started several places behind me on the swim. (I thought he'd catch me on the run, but his Ironman legs now only know 26.2 pace.) The announcer remarked, "look at that smooth stride; it looks like he could run all day." I'm not sure if he knew how spot-on his comment was.

After it was all sorted out, I finished 3rd overall and Martin 5th of 144 racers (results) - not a bad showing for Wild Card. The second place finisher was almost 2 minutes faster, tempering my frustration over the 45 seconds that evaporated in the pool. The results were stacked pretty tight behind me, so someone else may be thinking "I coulda beat that Scott dude if not for the morons in the pool." Not exactly. Martin finished just 32.1 seconds behind me - a margin probably afforded by my use of a disk wheel and dedicated TT bike setup. Martin used his road bike with aerobars and ~58 mm section wheels, so he could ride home 110 miles or so after the race. Ironman training doesn't take a day off for a 1-hour race.

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