Last year, I ran my first Olympic-distance race. Although I kept it mostly to myself, I was really disappointed in my performance. I had a goal to finish the race in 3:15 and straggled in at 3:39. This year, I was out for redemption.
First, a good laugh:
(If you don’t know why this is funny, you might not be a triathlete, but I’ll explain later.)
Saturday I packed all my trash. I am a firm believer in “nothing new on race day,” but this year Dana convinced me to try an optimization: a triathlon bucket. She bought me a simple orange Home Depot bucket to use as a stool, and I resolved to give it a try in hopes that it would speed my transition times a bit by helping me not fall over. For nutrition, I packed several bags of Bonk Breakers, premixed some Mercury, and made a Sufferlandrian pain shake (1 scoop Karbolyn, 2 scoops Optimum Nutrition vanilla whey), stuffed my bike into the back of the Soul (it barely fit), and tried to get to sleep early. Too bad Matt and Tom woke me up a total of 3 times between 1030p and 430a. I got up on time, got my stuff together (sorry, no picture this time), and headed out to Florence under about a 12000′ overcast with occasional spotty drizzle.
Once I got to the venue, I got everything staged in transition, got my timing chip, and so on. I hadn’t forgotten anything, for once, so setup was smooth and I had time to chat with some of the many other Huntsvillians who were there. I also got in a short warmup swim.
The swim went very well except for my perennial sighting malpractice.. and that I forgot to start my watch when I went into the water, so it’s probably 25y or so short. The swim used a rolling start, with predicted swim times governing order of entry. I was #160. At about #125, one of the buoys came unmoored and had to be chased down by a kayaker, but it was in place before I passed it so I can’t blame my course line on that. (The zigzag just under the “T” in “Tennessee River” is a GPS glitch, luckily). I got out of the water, went into T1, and did my business.
Obviously I shouldn’t have had a 6+ mph average in T1. I was concentrating on a smooth toes-to-head flow of gearing up: socks, bike shoes, HR strap, jersey, helmet, glasses. I forgot to include “press the lap button” in my flow so it didn’t get done until I was on the way out.
I love this bike course. It has several long straights that reward steady cadence, which I am slowly learning to hold. Unfortunately, I dropped my chain on one of those straights and that cost me 5 minutes or so. I also had an unplanned stop to try to get my power meter back online– it was working fine on my shakedown ride Saturday but wouldn’t send any data race morning, so I don’t have cadence or power data. I’m not sure why the bike and T2 times in the picture above are so jacked up, because I didn’t restart or stop the watch (just my ELEMNT bike computer). Thanks, Garmin. I ate some Bonk Breakers and drank nearly two full bottles of Mercury on the ride, which was plenty. Overall the ride was overcast and cool-ish; I had maybe 20 minutes of partial sun and 30 of drizzle.
T2 was blazing fast for me. Belt, snack, running shoes, hat, and boom, I was off. The run course starts off uphill, goes through the UNA campus (so I got to see the famous lions), travels through downtown, and then hits a mostly-downhill course through some pretty, treed neighborhoods for the back half. I was able to hold a fairly steady pace because it wasn’t diabolically hot– in fact, it rained steadily for almost the entire race. Thankfully I had a hat to keep the water off my glasses, since I HATE running with water spots on my lenses. I was completely soaked by the time I made it back to the finish line.
I finished in 3:17:15:
- 38:22 on the swim
- 3:13 in T1
- 1:34:33 on the bike
- 2:49 in T2
- 58:28 on the run
That’s a whopping 22 minutes faster than last year, and, had I not dropped my bike chain, I’d’ve come in under 3:15. For me, that’s a stellar time. If I can get my sighting under control and build a bit more power on the bike, I can see myself getting under 3:00 late this season– I think I can pick up 5 min on the swim, a minute each in T1 and T2, at least 2min on the run, and 5+ min on the bike. Onwards!