Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Collegiate Nationals (Pt 2) The Race

Standing a full head taller than Dustin McLarty, the overall winner
Swim: 20:42 (86th)
The start was incredible.  I was literally under multiple bodies.  It was a very contact-heavy swim until the second turn buoy when we started back downriver on the long, straight stretch.  I found myself caught between two major packs.  Every so often I found myself trying to sprint up to catch up to the stragglers from the first pack, but by the time I did that I would be so exhausted that I would drop off anyway.  I still managed to come in at what I think was the tail end of that first pack, which is a big deal for me at a race like this full of some incredible swimming talent.  Obviously I'm no 17:00 1500m swimmer, but it felt great being that far up there.
T1: 2:16
A looong run up from the water; only a few people managed to have T1s under 2 minutes even.  As far as the actual transition part went, relatively uneventful.  I took longer than usual to get into my shoes on the bike, but I wanted to make sure I wasn't putting along fiddling with my shoes when I could just do it coasting at 16-20 mph.
Bike: 1:04:40 (86th) Ride File
It definitely took me a while to get going on the bike this time, and I felt slow until at least the turnaround on the first lap, but by that point things began to pick up.  At a few points I came dangerously close to getting a penalty, but that was definitely in my mind the whole time.  I got into a few legal-style pacelines, everybody 3.1 bike lengths apart, more of a mental benefit than anything.  My avg MPH may not be what I want, but I'm pretty sure this course is up to a mile long depending on who you ask.  I felt really good the second lap though, as I started lapping some of the later wave athletes.
T2: :45
Again, nothing too special.  I spent a little longer coasting than I would have liked, but it's not like that would have really cost me any time.  It was a quick put on shoes, grab the number belt and go sort of thing.
Run: 44:40 (402nd) Run File
I came out of transition feeling spectacular.  This was it, I'd put myself in great position with a solid swim and bike and I knew the run course well.  I turned out onto the first flat, straight stretch which is also the start/finish of the bike, so there were spectators all along the course making almost a Tour de France-style tunnel, or at least that's how it felt.  Combine that with my natural tendency to pretend to be Usain Bolt whenever I start running and you have a pace somewhere in the 5:30-40 range.  That's all fine if you plan on running a 34 minute 10k, but I was not.  I decided to just go with it though, maybe today was the day for a magical run.  About a quarter to half mile into the run there is a NASTY little hill that I mapped as about an 8% grade.  I decided to "charge" that hill.  STUPID.  After climbing that hill, there are a few rollers for the next mile and a half or so before going back down that hill in another spot to put you right behind transition.  I got caught up in the little runner guys blowing by me and decided I could keep up with them.  I had lost track of the fact that in collegiate triathlon, I am strongest as a cyclist, not a runner.  By the time I came back around the backside of transition, I passed a guy from Ohio State who was barely shuffling.  At that point I was hurting from trying to stick with the little 35 minute 10k'ers who kept passing me, but I was still in that state where I could hold out hope to "re-find my legs" with some Gatorade or water or gels or even an encouraging fan.  By the 3 mile mark, things were unraveling quickly.  My pace slowed significantly and I could no longer do 7 minute miles.  At this point I started to think more and more about how awful I was feeling, and I was done at that point.  It got worse and worse.  I kept holding out hope that maybe even at the turnaround for the least 3km I would find some second wind, but I didn't.  I nearly walked through the aid station at about mile 4.5 or so because I was absolutely dying.  That Ohio State guy passed me back somewhere around mile 5.  I only ended up passing one person in the last 3+ miles, and he looked like he was doing even worse than I was.
Overall: 2:13:01, 128/937 finishers, 97/460 male undergrad
Nowhere near the PR I wanted/half-expected.  I was definitely on track to at least match my Age Group Nationals time if not my Westchester time from last year.  I had a personal best swim, I think a best bike in a real tri (Nation's had a cancelled swim/is really flat/had bad drafting), and a great feeling exiting T2.  I have finally learned my lesson not to explode out of T2 like it's a 100m dash.  It may work for a sprint with only a 5k to hang on, but it's not reasonable to try to hold on over the red line for an entire 10k.  If you look at my Strava file, you see my first mile, which included the only signficant hill, was a 6:08, while my flat and straight as all hell 6th mile was an 8:35.  You don't have to be a runner to see how bad of a blow-up that is.
Down the finish chute for the last time in CGA kit

Anyway, more to come about the super-fun relay! and some thoughts on my collegiate racing career that is over until I get to grad school as soon as I possibly can

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