Monday, March 25, 2013

Sarasota Elite Development Race: Double-wowie

So I really need to run. Like a lot. And fast. Then I need to run more. And run faster. That's the synopsis. You could really stop reading now and it wouldn't matter.
In the event you have a GRE to study for (like me), an apartment to clean (like me), some work work to do (like me), backdating your training log for the last week and a half (like me), lots of foam rolling and stretching (like me), or schoolwork (like I wish I had)...I'll write more detail than "I need to get faster running," although again, that's the theme.
Unlike all but one other athlete who I know of (Dan Feeney, second year pro from Delaware), I was the only person in the Elite Development Race (pretend-to-be-pro) or the Continental Cup (actually pro even though the vast majority still aren't 'making a living' doing it) races that did both Clermont and Sarasota that did not spend the whole week in between in Florida. I'm sure some of the semi-locals went home, but I had to go all the way home to Virginia to work the week in between. It was a smart move for my work because it was a very productive week and I'm almost done with something that is important for work but isn't relevant to this story.  What that meant was that I was blessed enough to fly back down to Florida the day before the race, which was somewhat of an odyssey itself, including a three hour drive from Orlando to Groveland to Sarasota, then an hour and a half of unpacking my bike because my chain was tangled and I am not very good at logic puzzles (which is exactly what a tangled bike chain is). I was lucky enough to avoid the bike fee on the way down because of the awesome John and Jodi at AAA Tri Camp in Groveland/Clermont. They held onto my bike/case for me the week between, so at least I had that issue avoided. I decided next year I'm staying there; I'm fairly certain that place is a tri wonderland in the middle of Florida swamp land (why swim with dolphins at Sea World when you can swim with manatees only a half hour away?)
Anyway, when I got out to the race site that Friday afternoon, I did some openers running and my hamstring/knee were still pretty tight/stiff. I'd noticed it the day before while playing around crawling in the engine room of a 55 year old boat and I really didn't feel great. I did a few laps of the bike course while dodging the construction trucks at the still-under-construction Nathan Benderson Park, went to the pre-race meeting, then swam a little too in the built for crew regattas lake.
Race morning I got to the site and did my little run warmup, but it was still pretty chilly for Florida because sunrise was only about 20 minutes before the race start, so much of my setting up transition was still in the dark. I got in the water and swam for warmup too.
They called us down to the pontoon by number so I ended up somewhere in the middle of the starting line for the dive start. Although I practiced a couple times the day before, nothing simulated just how much the pontoon leans over when everybody is on the edge, so my notion of make a long but shallow entry with a couple dolphin kicks went out the window. It was more of a belly flop, surface as quick as possible and start windmilling the crap out of my arms to get momentum going again. I was going SUPER hard early on in the swim because that's just the pace that the pack dictated. Nearing the first buoy around 300m in, I was starting to get worried that I couldn't keep up the pace because I thought I was going to die. I think around then is when a group of three or four kind of got away a little bit, because our pace eased up a little to something slightly more humane. At this point, my one-speed-wonder swimming helped, as I moved up a little through the pack. Similar to last week, about 400-500m into the swim, I had to throw in a little surge to make sure I stayed on the tail end of the main group in front of me. I came out of the water and sprinted the hell out of T1 after learning my lesson the hard way that's where I got gapped and lost the eventual leaders. It looks from the results like I really was at the tail end of the group. I swam a 10:30, and only two other people behind me in the swim made it into our bike group.  It took us about halfway through the first loop for people to kind of group up, as there were some ones and twos scattered about based on varying T1 times and putting on shoes, but eventually we settled in with about 12 guys. Some were taking pulls, some weren't. I was trying to stick behind some of the bigger guys (all relative) and stay off the front, which I did fairly successfully for the first lap and a half or so. We were semi-trying to work up on a breakaway group of three, but we weren't quite organized enough to get them. Sometime in the second lap, the attacks started coming. I threw a couple half-hearted attacks including one where I got maybe a second on the field coming through transition to start lap three, but they reeled me back in quick enough on the mini-climb out of transition. I did another couple and I know it pissed off one or two of the guys in the group who shouted about yo-yo-ing. Admittedly, I was shredding up my own legs, but I knew I was in a group full of runners, so I had no other choice. I had to either get away or destroy their legs more than mine so that I'd have a shot at running in the same ballpark as them. I couldn't just let it be a team effort to make it to T2 all together and alive and fresh. The closest I think we came to getting away was two guys going on a flyer right before the turnaround for the last lap, but I missed the initial break and, in trying to ride across the gap, simply closed it then was able to just drift through coming out of the turn towards the back of the group. I actually came into T2 among the back part of the group because a couple of guys attacked like hell after taking their shoes off, but didn't really gain any time. I had a reasonably quick T2, but I looked over my shoulder and noticed that my helmet was out in the open, so I kicked it behind my front wheel to avoid a :10 penalty.
Starting the run, I again tried to be a little more careful about blowing up, especially since at this time I was starting out with some VERY fast runners and up a slight little hill. They all gapped me like I was standing still, and then they just continued to pull away. It was rough, running out there by myself, just hoping maybe one of them would pop so badly that I'd catch back up, but it didn't happen. Eventually I saw that the super runners from the next bike pack were closing on me, so my goal at that point became to hold them off. One did manage to catch me, but I also started to close in just a little on one of the breakaway riders who was clearly not having a good run. I ran out of real estate to close that gap though, ended up finishing in 16th place out of 34 starters/31 finishers.

So, I can clearly swim and bike with some of the best, but I can't even touch them on the run. Maybe in a non-draft I could have put a little bit of time on them, but if my 18:46 5k (admittedly I KNOW I can run faster than that if I don't chew my legs up on the bike trying to burn up other people) is compared to the top three's 14:49, 15:07, and 15:14, I NEED to do something. Unfortunately, PF Flyers give me runner's knee, so that's out of the question.
I've made HUGE swim improvements in the last year and a half and some pretty big bike improvements in the last several months by swimming with swimmers and riding with cyclists, so clearly the most obvious step is to run with runners. For now though, it's a few days off especially given the little knee/hamstring issues I had before the race. It wasn't anything during the race, but now afterward even walking around it's kind of an issue.
I can also just watch this video over and over. It's about Kenya, so it'll make me faster.

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