Monday, September 26, 2011

Westchester Triathlon

WOO! A real Olympic PR! And on possibly the toughest course I've ever raced.
So the day before I actually volunteered at a local sprint tri, the so-called "Connecticut Sprint Triathlon Championship" that was the culmination of two weeknight summer series put on by my team's sponsor shop, Newington Bike. A lot of people from the team went out to that race, and it was fun to watch. I was out early enough on the bike course that I could drive back in to see the finish as well.
Then we drove down to the race site, picked up packets, ran about 1.5ish miles of the course, then set out to drive the bike course, which was an adventure in itself. We got lost several times and actually missed the turn for the timed/prime "Claire's Climb." Oh well, at least we had some idea of where the rough/sketchy/tight downhills were, and where the biggest climbs were.
Got going kinda late race morning, woke up at 4:30, rather than leaving at 4:30. We stayed about 1:15 away, so we definitely had a drive, then I realized I needed gas, and we needed food. I was feeling that little stomach bug again as well, so I got some Pepto. By the time we got to the race and into transition, it was 6:28. Transition was supposed to close at 6:30...oops. I rushed and got everything set in about 5 minutes, thankfully, then headed down towards the beach with my wetsuit, cap, and goggles in hand, wearing an older pair of trainers so I could warm up, as I was in the 11th wave.
Swim went reasonably well for a 21:07, at least one of my fastest. No serious navigational issues or getting around people, from what I saw, but others said differently. Sighting was pretty easy coming back in towards the Rye Playland boardwalk.
T1, my wetsuit got a little stuck on the heels but nothing major, aside from (I thought) snapping the arm off my brand new Oakleys that I decided to toss out of my helmet because it was cloudy. I FINALLY think I mastered the shoes-on-pedals thing, but I'll still play it on a case by case basis if there's a hill or turn shortly after transition.
Bike was definitely the hardest course I've done that I can think of. I know there are clearly harder ones, but I've yet to do any. I was catching a lot of people most of the time and worked in with a group of (surprise) some fellow NECTC athletes, and I passed most of the top swimmers from our wave. The climbs were definitely worthy of some concern, but I just learned to not be afraid of shifting into the granny gear and staying in the saddle, or hammering out of the saddle in the big ring on false flats. Those seem like opposite ideas, but I found I made up a ton of ground on people doing both of those, so I think it works.
T2 was rather uneventful. I had a crazy fast dismount, like I was scared to death I was going to fall. I've finally learned to step inside of my left leg rather than behind, which is good to know heading into CX.
The run I started with a few other NECTC guys and tried to put whatever distance I could, as quickly as I could. It didn't work that well. I felt pretty strong for most of the time and was running with one Army guy for the better part of the course, usually we were either dead even or I was up by a few strides, then he took the first real lead about mile 4, and I caught back up and tried to set another pace, but no dice. We hit a turnaround with me in front, but either he took off or I just had nothing, because the next thing I knew I was 10 seconds back, then 15, and I was now just focusing on catching other people who started in earlier waves and just trying to pick them off as incremental goals. I came in at 2:06:56, which is a PR for Olympic distance for me, which is awesome, because this is definitely a tougher course than either The Nation's Tri or Age Group Nationals.
This was definitely a tough run too, with a few hills that seemed placed just to sap you of energy at some key times. The bike had some rough little patches of pavement too that made for some hairy situations. I know there are definitely harder courses out there, bike, run, and combined, but I can't think of any I've done. Maybe the Collegiate Nationals run course was about equal to this one, but the bike there was definitely easier. Maybe Buckman's bike course was close, but by virtue of being a sprint, it kinda doesn't count. So I've decided that not only was this a PR, but also the hardest course I've ever done...not a bad combination.
I finished 7th in the NECTC category this race, so I'm not too sure about my ability to win or even reach the podium overall, because the conference has just gotten insanely competitive. Of the top 10 amateurs at Westchester, 8 were from the NECTC! Next up is Mightyman, where I'm hoping to break an hour. I've done a 1:01 and 1:03 the last two years, so I think it's doable. Regardless, the basic bit of work is done, now it's mostly a rest/recover/semi-taper for the last few weeks.

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