Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sandman Triathlon: Heavy Localism

Abstract: I won in traditional Aquavelo fashion. It was awesome. Happy birthday, Dad. There was beer-like liquid at the race.

Normally I go into painstaking detail about my ridiculous travel arrangements leading to a race. I don't have to do that for Sandman, which took place at the Virginia Beach oceanfront, with large portions of the course concurrent with some of my more common training routes and transition a mere 3 miles from my apartment. I pretty much laid low after Hy-Vee with minimal training, accidentally starting my postseason break a little early, so I honestly wasn't too sure what to expect from this race. I couldn't skip it though, being so close. The day before the race was super-mellow, just kind of lounging around at home, at one point going to pick up my packet and pick up my dad at the airport (because it's honestly impossible I think for me not to involve *some* sort of travel in a triathlon, even if it's not me) after he decided to give himself the birthday present of coming down to visit.
Initially I'd planned to wake up at 4:30 give myself plenty of time to air my tires, get dressed, and eat breakfast before riding over to transition, hoping to get there when it opened at 5:30. However, I decided the snooze button was a good idea, so I ended up not getting out of bed for almost another hour. I was still fine on time, but the most remarkable thing about the ride over was how cold it was! I mean, I know it was still dark, but it's theoretically still summer and I live in the South. I got to transition right around 6 give or take and set everything up, nothing really notable there, except that I went with my trustworthy cardboard tube box to cover the whole on my disc. It's pretty much the most aero thing ever, and I pretty much had to dress up like I was going skiing for the ride over.
Dressed up and ready to ride over. So much for it still being summer and/or being in the South.
After a warmup yog, I put on the wetsuit and walked down to the swim start, then splashed around a little bit. I didn't really practice figuring out how many times to dolphin dive or anything on the way in, but I did make sure to do that on the way out of the water, as well as taking note how forceful the waves were, so I'd know whether it was worth body surfing in if I could.
After that, I carefully stalked the two guys I knew best in the field, both of whom I believed would be better swimmers than I: Aaron Williams, an alum of Stevens whom I raced against "back in college" (I feel old being able to say that) and Matt Greene, a "retired" pro (he says he notices that at 28 he doesn't recover as well as he used to in the 'old days'), now a Navy SWO-Nuke in the area, whom I've met through some group rides and runs. After a rather non-descript start, with barely a little toot of the airhorn, we were off, running into what NOAA says was high tide, but I insist was low tide because it was a long way out there in pretty shallow water. I saw Aaron went way off to the left, even though the first turn was a right turn, but I saw to my right, Matt was duck diving a lot quicker than anybody else under the ankle-high waves, and he was the first or second to the buoy, which couldn't have been more than 100m offshore, just past the breakers. Right before the buoy I tried to slide over into the pack of about 4-6 guys, latching onto Matt's feet. Then I noticed Aaron recovering from his decision to swim wide on the turn and he was coming up onto my feet. By the 200m mark, though, I was pretty much side-by-side with one other athlete whom I did not recognize. I don't know when exactly we dropped the rest of the field, but we did at some point. We stayed side by side, but separated by probably 10m, as I was farther out to sea, making sure any early-breaking waves wouldn't swamp me from the side like so often happens when I go surfing. I remembered last year that the second and final turn buoy was significantly farther out to sea than the first one, too, so I took a more diagonal line rather than swimming directly parallel to shore. It's a loooong way swimming the straight 600-700 m parallel to the shore between 8th and 2nd St, so I finally was able to discern that the object I'd been sighting was the actual turn buoy about halfway to it. I also saw a jet ski right near it, presumably to make it more obvious. I tried to drop the other non-wetsuitted swimmer a couple times, but to no avail each time, but he also seemed to have no interest in sitting in my draft, so it didn't bother me too much. Right as we got close to the buoy, I noticed that the jetski actually had a hold on it and was moving ever so slightly. A summary of my thoughts on the jetski/buoy combo:
"That's a big shape that I can't really tell what it is, and it's right near the entrance to Rudee Inlet, but it's orange. Or am I actually colorblind and the Coast Guard never picked up on it? Red, right, returning, so that should be a red buoy there if that's actually the channel marker and not a turn buoy. It's kind of pointy, so it might be a nun buoy. Are nuns red or green? Something about squares and cans and nuns, but I have no idea what's what. I knew I should have looked at the nautical charts for my area of operation and corrected through the most recent Local Notice to Mariners"
"Oh, good, it's more obvious with the jetski now. That's definitely the turn buoy. I'll live another day to fail the deck watch officer exam. So glad I'm an inspector. Buoys are hard to remember. Oh look, a dolphin!"
"Ok, it's moving a little with the jetski, but he's probably holding it because it was drifting or something"
"WHAT THE HELL??? HE JUST TOOK OFF TOWARDS SHORE!!!!!"
"Oh well, I guess I'm outside of the buoy, time to turn right and into shore"
"Damn, now look at those slower swimmers, they get to take a shorter line. That's kinda crap"
"Oh well, I'm still 20+ seconds up on everybody. It probably doesn't matter a whole lot"
So, for some reason, right when we got to the buoy, they decided to move it in. To their credit, it ended up being dropped stationary again, but kind of in the breakers, so it probably would have been difficult to see from a long distance. However, I'm still not too happy about the situation, even if it made no difference in the outcome of my race.
After turning towards shore, I took the lead for sure, including a little better half-bodysurfing into shore, then a looooong run up through the shin high water and then into the soft sand. As I was at my bike, I said to the other lead swimmer "am I crazy or did they actually move the buoy?" He confirmed that I was not actually hallucinating from too much coffee. My time was 9:21, which leads me to believe it is accurate-ish. A simple straight line drawn from 8th to 2nd St is approximately 650m, so it's fair to say we went at least 50m out and 50m into the water. Although I led out of the water, I ended up not having the fastest overall swim split, as a few of the faster swimmers in the age group categories swam faster, although they swam straight for the buoy, rather than the amusement park-style moving buoy.
And right there is where running through the sand started to REALLY suck.
I was first out of transition by quite a ways even though I yogged a bit through, not taking the fastest T1 (darn!), where the police motos were waiting for me. I didn't see a line painted or taped onto the ground though, so there I was, running probably 1/10mi onto the bike course before eventually deciding that the motos were already 4 blocks in front of me and it was probably safe to mount my bike now without fear of a penalty. So there I went, cruising past some of the places I go on training rides. At one point early-ish on in the bike I smelled bacon, which was probably coming from Doc Taylor's or one of the other awesome breakfast places at the oceanfront. I looked back a couple of times to see if anybody was gaining on me and I never really noticed anybody back there, just the couple of motorcycles up the road, with people lining the whole way through the resort area. About ¼ of the way through the course I made the turn out from Atlantic to Atlantic (weird, but the road changes names so Atlantic is always the closest to the ocean. Makes sense, I suppose) and from there I was flying. The spectators got a little less frequent save the JROTC volunteers who were pretty much lining the street because there were so many intersections to block. It was neat, because they'd salute the police motos as they went past. I pretended they were saluting me for leading the race...or because they know I am an officer...or both. The course takes a slight bend when Atlantic Ave becomes Shore Drive, but I didn't bother to look up. Instead, I made sure to crest the HC climb of Shore Drive and keep going strong. That's when it got lonely and cold, because there were trees everywhere to block the sun, and there were no more volunteers. Then I remembered that Shore Drive is where I do about 95% of any interval work, especially if it's on my TT bike, so I felt comfortable again. I knew exactly where the turnaround was, but I just couldn't remember how far it was from when the road got shaded, because it's only about halfway to the end of that section. Eventually I reached it, but I didn't take the turnaround nearly wide enough on the way in, so I had to swing super wide and nearly stop on the way out. Whoops.
This is the mental image I had throughout the ENTIRE bike ride. Do you realize how difficult it is to ride away from the scent of bacon?
Next, I remembered a quick little trick that I pretty much just figured out how to guesstimate your lead. Previously, I knew it was fairly simple to determine how far you were behind somebody at an out-and-back; you just had to pay attention to what landmark was near you when you crossed. It never occurred to me that unless the turnaround is at the top or bottom of a steep hill, you can just look at the clock at the turnaround then double the time until you cross the athlete behind you. Somehow that discovery had never dawned on me. I am a bit of a fool at times. By my rough math, I had 40 seconds on 2nd place, whom I did not recognize, and over a minute on 3rd, Dan Hathorn (although he now has an awesome beard, unlike that video). I had no idea where they were out of the swim though, so I had absolutely no clue whether they had picked up any more time on the bike, so I decided to just go hard because the guy in 2nd was wearing a speedo, which to me has typically indicated a good runner, unless you're me running in the Allen Stone Run-Swim-Run. I figured at that point I'd gone only moderately hard for the first 7+ miles, so I could afford to burn some matches on the second half of the bike to extend my lead. I made my way back, finally into the sun (ahhhhh) and then back into the tunnel of volunteers. When I turned back onto the "other" Atlantic Ave, I was pretty confident that I'd get off the bike with a pretty big lead. I made my way back, and at this point other athletes were pouring out onto the course still, and people had come out to watch all along Atlantic, so it was pretty neat. I heard one or two cheers from people heading out on the course specifically for me, so that's when I started to realize how cool it was to race in my "place of residence" (as opposed to hometown...that'll always be Columbus).
I looped around the bottom of Atlantic Ave around the parking lot and came hot into T2, volunteers more than ready for me to come in. I ended up having the quickest bike split by over 30 seconds in a 35:14 for 14mi (or 14.5, according to some of the race literature). It's a deceptively slow bike course; I'm not sure why, but the hotels area is markedly slower than the more open roads. I also recently learned that at some point, the course changed so that transition is at the bottom of the boardwalk, so trying to compare to older races when I see splits in the 33s and 32s is a bit apples to oranges. For me, though, it was over a minute faster than last year!
Dad's just trying to point to me, in case it's not obvious where I am in the photo, T2ing all alone. Transition areas are creepy with no bikes in them.
So I got off onto the run after a tied-for-fastest T2, completely unsure what kind of runners were behind me and actually unsure what the gap was, too. After wrestling with my race belt and tiedye bandanna that decided to clip themselves together even though I specifically laid them out such that they would not, I was onto the run course. I felt *ok* at best, so I took it at more of an 8 or 10km-like pace, trying to keep it fairly conservative, and I'd push if needed. Every time I passed spectators, I tried real hard after passing them to hear if they were cheering for second place, but each time I found I was out of earshot, which I took to be a good thing. I snuck a peak over my shoulder around the mile mark, and I couldn't see anybody. I didn't necessarily assume I was safe though, because there were people all over the boardwalk and I knew I could have easily mistaken a runner for a normal person out for a Sunday morning yog or walk...like the poor woman that the police moto leading me almost hit because she was super zoned into her iPod and didn't move...and neither did he. I definitely expected to have to somewhat fend for myself on a boardwalk course, because I definitely have in other races there, so the police escort was a nice touch, one that is definitely an advantage of leading. I passed by the side alley leading to 23rd St, where I normally enter the boardwalk for my own runs, and then just like a training run, I got to avoid a garbage truck parked in the middle of the boardwalk. I knew it was somewhere between 1.5 and 1.6 miles to the very end of the boardwalk from 23rd, so with the start/finish of the run between 2nd and 3rd, the turnaround couldn't have been much past 24th. As I came up to the garbage truck though, there were cones everywhere, so I actually thought that was it, before I started veering off and saw a little cone chute and a couple of volunteers. Right then I started cramping like a 7th grade girl in gym class, and the cause was about as suspicious as that same scenario. I definitely didn't drink much on the bike (even though that's all my race photos show), but it was cool and it was a sprint, right? Anyway, I did my quick math again at the turnaround, but this time I screwed up and couldn't remember whether I hit the turnaround at 9:38 or 9:48 according to my watch, so when I passed 2nd place at 10:03, I was trying to figure out whether I had 30 or 50 seconds on him. Either way, because he wasn't absolutely blitzing the run John O'Neill/Alex Willis-style, I felt comfortable with even if it was just a 30 second lead, because I was going to negative split this run, damnit! I hit the two-mile mark and started sneaking more and more peaks back, trying to figure out when it was really ok to chill out. When I got to the pier at 15th St, I was almost certain that I was home free because there was hardly a mile to go, so I had one last look back and then had a mini heart attack (Garmin file proves it...HR went up 3bpm in one data point before pace got quicker) so I dropped back down to a true 5k pace for me for a little bit, then that started to hurt really bad, so I slowed down again, now looking back shamelessly every so often.
Figuring out my lead and how much I could saunter my way to the finish.
Finally I got to the giant tent near 7th St and knew I was ok at that point, so I chilled out again. I started seeing more and more people I noticed, so I pushed a little more to make sure Simon Whitfield (I'm not linking the video again) wasn't behind me, then I saw my boss with about 150m to go, who happened to be out with his wife for a Sunday morning stroll. I was really hoping I'd get the chance to throw out some high-fives into the finish, but the police moto pretty much threatened certain death to anybody who got near me, so everybody was at the very edges of the boardwalk or off of it entirely. At that point it was time to flip the glasses up and smile. I was the hometown hero! I ended up coming across with a 19:40 run split for a 1:06:07. It's a significantly better time than last year, but it's really apples to oranges, especially with the swim being actually 750m this year, as opposed to last year's 750 that was kind of more like 1100m, but might have been intended to be 1000, that also had some decent chop. I ran close to a minute slower, but I'm more than ok with that. I know I had plenty more in the tank, but I didn't need it. I ended up with 19 seconds to spare, after all...
It turned out that all of the top three live in VB, so that was cool (hence the title, a reference to the fact that this place is well known for localism among surfers...even though nobody is actually from here; they're all at best second generation military transplants)
So it was pretty neat to win the super-local race, and the way it happened was super-awesome. Leading pretty much wire to wire with a nice little cruise on the run; if only every race could be like that. Afterward, I got to partake in the awesome decision of dishwater or air conditioner condensate, so I went with Bud Light over the Michelob. Then there was pulled pork, and a discussion with THE Matt Shaffer, founder of the great USCGA Triathlon Club, so we've got some lineage there. It was cool, as there were quite a few coasties in the 18933 different iterations of CG uniforms, including the one I designed. I didn't get a chance to talk to most of them, but that's ok. I was pretty pumped to be able to give Dad the birthday present of the W, so that was really neat.  It's been a couple years since I won a race, so that's also neat. Part of that is because I've been doing bigger, more competitive races, but so much of it is just who shows up. Still, you can only race who is there, and my start line included a couple of ex-college swimmers, and an ex-pro (Matt, despite his holeshot victory, finished 10th after realizing 200m into the swim and 5 minutes into the bike that he is no longer 22 years old and spending 30 hours a week training...he'll get back, and I was semi-hoping we'd be able to get it to come down to a Gomez-Brownlee type sprint, because that'd be AWESOME)
At one point during the post-race funsiness, I had to have Dad hold my beer so I could get my first TV time, so I'm pretty much a celebrity now.
Well, I sort of interviewed myself, because the cameraman and reporter were the same dude. I tried watching channel 3 like the microphone shows for a couple of days, but never saw it. The "standards guy" probably didn't like how visible my junk is. I made sure to mention how transition is my favorite part of triathlon, though...because it's true.
#hardware Dan doesn't believe in clothes. I wouldn't either if I had a beard like that.
So after this, I've got one race left in NJ, which was originally the plan before Dad decided to come down and visit, so my parents could come watch, as they haven't gotten much of a chance to this year. The tri-specific training really is done at this point, though. I was able to aquavelo my way to victory at Sandman, but that strategy isn't usually the most effective, so I'm going to start seriously working on my run, including a half marathon in November and as of this writing, a crapload of run training that's having me go to bed before 9 pm most nights. All in all, though, the only thing that made this weekend better was being entertained by my dad, a Packers fan, watching the Packers/Redskins game at a bar in Virginia. Well, and the free beer post-race. That's always nice.

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