Sunday, June 26, 2011

Innsbrook Quartermax

On June 25, I raced the Quartermax (1000m swim, 28 mile bike, 6 mile run) about 55 miles west of St. Louis at Innsbrook Resort as my last "training race" of the season before my "A-race" at Evergreen Lake. My first intermediate-distance tri of the year, it was certainly an endurance challenge in my book.

I set a swim PR for 1000m, but the race went downhill from there (figuratively - in reality there were a lot of uphills, too.) After arrival under overcast skies, I completed a short bike warm-up and headed to Lake Aspen beach, hoping to log a 15-minute swim warm-up. Much to my disappointment, the lake was closed to warm-ups about 40 minutes prior to my scheduled start wave - a huge negative in an otherwise first-class event. There was a usable section of beach outside the course, but it was unpatrolled and officially off-limits. Undeterred, I hit the water hard and swam 1000m in 16:11, but the effect of the missed warm-up was felt immediately on the shore. It was a harbinger of things to come.

The private roads through Innsbrook Resort encircle and connect a series of several small man-made lakes. Many do not follow valleys or ridges, but are cut willy-nilly over hills and across earthen dams. The first 6 and last 3 miles of the bike course are inside the gated resort and present the rider with a sequence of short, but steep climbs and fast, winding descents. This is the only triathlon I've raced with hay bales on the bike course. The opening 6-mile salvo put me under a lot of pressure and I could have easily quit then, but there was still almost 2 hours of racing remaining. Exiting the resort, the bike course gave way to flat-to-rolling terrain and I dialed it back to recover. About 10 miles later, I finally started to feel good and a strong finish seemed a hopeful possibility. A furious descent capped the 23rd mile, but the final 3 miles presented more short, but punishing climbs. So much for feeling good and recovering.

I began the run at a gentle 8-minute/mile pace and thought he could hold on or maybe speed up during the second half. However, gravel roads and hills proved too much for legs that were already softened by 1100 feet of climbing in the saddle. I walked up the second of several ascents that totaled 500 vertical feet, then alternated running with recovery until the final 3/4 mile.

I finished in 2:28:45, 50th of 299 amateurs overall and 5th of 34 in my age group. My swim, bike, and run splits ranked 35th, 14th, and 151st, respectively (results). The race was tough, but yielded few surprises while serving me homework for the next 3 weeks - endurance is the key. Fortunately, my next race will not require so much climbing!

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