Friday, June 5, 2015

Rock Hall International Triathlon Race Report

This past weekend I officially kicked off my 2015 triathlon season at the Rock Hall Olympic Triathlon in Rock Hall, Maryland. It was hard to know what to expect out this race, as it fell smack in the middle of ironman training. Despite knowing that I was coming off both my biggest bike and run weeks of the year, I was still hoping to be able to pull of a PR. I'm lucky in that throughout my few years of racing triathlons I have always PRd. All of my races have gone pretty dang well and even my worst races have still been pretty good. I took things easier in the week leading up to the race but still put in two solid bike rides with quite a bit of climbing.

Friday evening I drove down to Columbia, Maryland to stay at my sister's place for the night so I didn't have to pay for a hotel. It was so nice to spend that time with her but what was less nice was the 4:00am wakeup call to make it to the race site by 6:30. I do have to say that driving over the Bay Bridge with no other traffic was pretty cool. Parking, checking in, and setting up transition were all a breeze, and before I knew it I was making the trek over to the marina for the swim start.

Swim (1500m)
Despite not being in the swim shape I wanted to be in, I was really excited for the swim because it would be my first time trying out my new wetsuit. Except the water was 79 degrees meaning no wetsuits. The plus side of this is that I am a strong enough swimmer not to really mind swimming sans wetsuit. I debated getting in the water to warm up some but didn't want to deal with standing on the deck shivering while the guys began.

In the past I have positioned myself in the front of my wave, gotten clobbered when the gun went off, and then proceeded to pass all those women who swam over me in the first 100-200 yards. Moving to the second row of women was definitely the smart thing to do, at least for me. By the time I reached the first buoy I could hardly see any women from my wave around me, which led to an internal debate over whether I was having a great swim or a terrible one. Before I had time to settle this debate I hit the wall of dudes, otherwise known as all the men from the previous waves that are slower swimmers that I have to navigate around.

I couldn't help but laugh to myself about how great I felt in the water, since my swimming has felt pretty crappy lately. I'm going to chalk it up to how choppy the water was-- at times I felt like I was swimming in the ocean. To be completely honest, the harder the swim conditions are, the better it is for me. Nothing will prepare you better for the swim leg of a triathlon than an overcrowded swim meet warmup. Needless to say, I was pretty happy with how things went and was excited to be heading out for my first race on my new bike.

Swim 25:31 (4/194, 1:27/100yds)
T1 2:17 

Bike (24.5 miles)
Like I said, this was my first time racing on my new bike. Once out of transition there are a few turns and then you can really settle down into aero. And that's what I did. I was nervous about riding aero for the first time with other people near me but was having too much fun to give it much thought. I got to work passing more of those dudes who started before me. I remember looking at my garmin for an idea of what pace I was holding and seeing a number I had no business riding at. I debated easing off the gas but I felt so good that I kept at it. It wasn't until maybe halfway and we turned into a headwind that I realized we had been riding with a nice tailwind. Oh well, It was still fun to pretend I could hold 22-24mph.

The bike was mostly uneventful except when I dropped my one and only bottle of skratch around mile 5. I debated going back to get it but by the time I realized I should probably get it I was already down the street. Lesson learned. I should also mention that my legs were starting to feel all the climbing I did the week beforehand in those last few miles. Nothing too bad, just enough to remind me I was in no way fresh coming into this race. All in all I ended up with a 4 minute bike split PR.

Bike 1:18:21 (63/194, 18.7mph)
T2 1:22

Run (6.2 miles)
Remember when I said I dropped my only nutrition and liquid in the first 15 minutes of the bike? Yeah, that came back to bite me in the butt. Big time. I started the run desperate for water. Oh, and remember how I said this was my first time racing on my new bike? Well my back was not even close to ready to staying in aero for that long and then running at any kind of respectable pace afterwards. I was pleading with myself to suck it up and get moving but I just didn't have it in me. What started out as trying to PR quickly turned into survival mode. I was downing Gatorade at every aid station, and eventually even walking aid stations to relieve some of the pain in my back.

It didn't take long for me to realize this run was going to be a sufferfest but ironman is pretty much synonymous with sufferfest. As hard as running those 6.2 miles was, I knew I would be able to get through the marathon of ironman. I do understand this probably makes no sense but ironman is about continuous forward progress, not going fast. I didn't have a problem trotting along slowly, I had a problem throwing down sub 8:00 min/miles.

Run 58:28 (80/194, 9:25/mi)

Overall 2:45:57 (38/194)

In the end I missed my PR was 5 minutes, most of which I added during the run. But when I dissect the race I am really proud of both my effort and my performance. I know I have a lot of work to do before ironman but the work is what excites me. The long days in the saddle, chasing the fast guys and then passing them climbing hills, running in circles during the hottest part of the day.. these are what keeps me going. Because at the end of this journey it's not about the race I have. It's about pushing myself out of my comfort zone and reaching goals I never thought possible.

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