Sunday, September 16, 2012

Local VA Sprints: Patriot's Sprint and Sandman

I'm being lazy and combining two races into one, but it's basically like I'm only writing one entry for an Olympic distance race, right? Not serious on that one.
Patriot's was last weekend.  I did something to my hamstring a few days before, so I was pretty much off it for either three or four days leading in.  It was supposed to be a training/tuneup-type race, so to accidentally do a bad taper wasn't really the plan, but I figured I may as well roll with it.  It was nice to sleep in my own bed for once the night before a race though. I realized this was the first local sprint event I'd done all year, whereas that used to be my bread and butter. I've done some sprints, sure, but Clermont and Harvey Cedars hardly count, and the others were XTERRAs, also a different animal.  It was nice to only have a ~1 hr drive up to Williamsburg the morning of the race.
Speaking of the morning of the race, it's no longer 115*F heat index here in Virginia. It was actually slightly chilly race morning, which meant that I stayed in the water as long as I could after warming up because it was a non-wetsuit swim (warm water, not warm air). My swim wave happened to also be the same as the collegiates, which meant it was FAST. I ended up coming out of the water 10th I believe, and it was a long way up to T1 so with my semi-bum hamstring, I lost a spot or two because I was a little apprehensive about sprinting it like I normally would.  The swim was definitely long, because I know for damn sure I don't swim a 14:30 for 750m, nor does a former D2 All-American freestyler (Max, who I met at Harvey Cedars and leads the swim at pretty much every race in VA) swim a 13:30. So with that, I was onto the bike and slowly reeled in a couple of people here and there until I was sitting in fourth.  It was a tight group with some 7-meter swap outs going on from about 3rd place back to 6th at various points, but it ended up being a very hard ride.  The turnaround was a bit surprising, because the website had indicated something about part of the out and back being on a bike path, but it turns out it wasn't.  Oh well.  On the way back, there were a couple of close calls with cars backed up at one intersection in particular, to the point where I and another rider from NC State had to pass them on their left, teetering just inside the yellow line while there were riders going out the other side of the road en masse.  I came off the bike fourth, well behind a group of three guys up front, one from Liberty and two from Navy, but not after nearly missing the turn into the park for T2.  It was a tiny little road with not much marking that I'd seen on my warmup run, and to make it more confusing, it was poorly maintained so even after I turned in, I thought "no way this can be it. I need my mountain bike to ride this with these bits of grass." But it was, and it was a sketchy, sketchy final 400m or so of the bike.  I got out onto the run and immediately started getting passed by a couple of guys who I believe I out-transitioned.  I tried to go as hard as I could, but my run just isn't there right now.  I pretty much held 6th for the majority of the race until getting passed by a Va Tech athlete with about 700m to go.  With athletes from the later waves, I ended up 9th overall.  Afterward there was pizza and beer and IT WAS GLORIOUS.

Fast forward a week to today, Sandman.  I was all excited about this race when I was first scoping out races in Virginia because it was right near my apartment.  Like, I routinely bike and run on the course, and I surf where the swim is (and I suppose if I actually trained to swim in open water, I might do that here too, but we'll probably never know). That level of right near my apartment.  I was then apprehensive when looking that it frequently doesn't have a swim, and upon some further research, the race was halved in distance some time in the 1990s due to waning numbers. It seems this is somewhat of a classic race here in Virginia, but in some ways, time has stood still for it (and I see that as a good thing).  But, when you schedule a sprint triathlon in an area with not many races in September, you're going to attract plenty of first timers, and I think that's awesome.  But when you make that race an ocean swim in September, AKA when there is actually a chance that it won't be Lake Atlantic on the Eastern Seaboard, you run the risk of a harrowing swim for those beginners.  It's a fine line, and I actually signed up for Patriots as a way to hedge my bets, but I figured at the worst case scenario, I would have done a brick workout today anyway, so it made sense to ride 2 miles to the start and at least do the race, which is exactly what I did.
In my warmup this was the first time I actually went through and did any sort of real active warmup, rather than just "run a little, maybe bike if I feel like it, swim a decent amount if the venue allows me to" like I normally do.  I went through all the same sorts of dynamic stretching sort of stuff that my coach Jeff (who still deserves his own entry on this at some point) has had me do with my runs to try to increase my turnover and fix my horrific form. It's really a great sign that he can help with my run form from 3,000 miles away.  That also shows just how horrific it was and had gotten to be.  Anyway, the swim actually happened, and the charge into the surf thinned things out quite a bit.  Two swimmers got away very quickly, Derek Russell and Matt Balderston (a former Olympic Trials swimmer whom I've met on some group rides), and I hit the first turn buoy sitting 3/4 with one other swimmer, who I lost very shortly thereafter.  I did some zigging and some zagging I'm sure, because I couldn't really tell where the second buoy to turn all the way back into the beach was. It was way farther out than I expected, so I had to go back outward a little bit, but nothing major.  I was able to body surf a little bit on the way in, which is always fun, until you end up in the trench that inevitably forms at the water's edge along most exposed east coast beaches (well, at least in Virginia Beach and Long Beach Island, NJ off the top of my head). I had nobody really to see in either direction, but I knew I was a little faster than Matt so I just started hammering away, and eventually I saw him a ways up the road.  It took a long time to catch up to him, almost to the turnaround. I did, however, have to pass two buses that somehow ended up on the closed course but refused to go around Matt, who at that point was just up the road.. It was right near one of the race photographers, so I really hope he got a picture of that.  The rest of the bike was mostly uneventful, just riding the whole way back in all alone, hoping and praying that Derek was not a fast runner because I couldn't even see him.  I started the run like usual, doing my best impersonation of Usain Bolt, but I calmed down quickly.  I had no idea how far up he was because  even though it's a wide open, flat run, there were too many people on the boardwalk to see him or the lead biker until I saw them just after the turnaround and knew what to look for.  After the turnaround, I started to gain a bit and thought just maybe I'd nip him at the line, but I ran out of ground.  I ended up finishing about :50 back.  Afterward, there was a post-race party that had BBQ and your choice of Bud Light or Mich Ultra.  My ideas of the old days of triathlon were right; this race was locked in history.  Maybe next year I'll do this one in a speedo and half singlet, just for the hell of it.
Although I played arts and crafts and made some finisher's medals into kitchen magnets one time, I normally don't care one way or the other about them. They also don't normally have bottle openers.
You save .04 watts when taking a trip down to the beach every day on this getup.

Top three overall. I'll say one downside of riding to a race is the lack of spare clothes you bring
Well it's certainly nice to see this attitude displayed rather than the usual threats on my life for obeying the law and not riding on the sidewalk or for running period.
My poor, poor helmet was a casualty of a quick T2, it seems :( I don't know what to dooooooo

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