Saturday, August 14, 2010

Barrington YMCA Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Great day today!  I got home from the Barrington YMCA Sprint Triathlon a few hours ago.  I think I'm still smiling.  I had a great race and a great day today.  Here's how it went.....

This morning I was up at 4:30am and was loaded up and on the road by 5:30.  I got to the race site around 6am and proceeded to get my bike ready while I waited for check in to open up.  Registration opened around 6:15 and I picked up my chip, shirt, race packet etc and went through bodymarking.  I really think there's no better way to start the day than with someone writing a race number on your shoulder in sharpie.

I took my time in the transition area getting setup, sipping some gatorade and going about my routine.  I was pretty excited about this race for a few reasons.  One...   that I had such a strong finish at the Naval I was excited to see what I could do here.  Two...  that three of my non tri related friends were coming to watch and cheer me on.  Three...  that I knew several Tri-NE club members were racing as well as coming to show support.  Four...   the weather was perfect and the run course looked fast so I was hoping for a good result.

Once I was all setup I went for a short warmup run and then futzed about in transition double checking everything and looking for people to say hello to.  I ran into Leslie, Kevan, Dave, and Kate and also saw my friends Jen, Chris, and Michelle who came to watch the race.  I got suited up not long after that to get my warmup swim in.  It was at this point that finally I had an amazing breakthrough in the water.  I've been trying to do this for quite some time.  I've had a mental block or something.  No amount of training, relaxation excercises, humming, chanting, or anything else has worked for me.  But today it all came together.  There in the water during my warmup swim the magic happened.  I peed in my wetsuit.  It was pretty amazing.  I feel like I finally mastered another of the hidden disciplines of triathlon.  So with that victory over I finished my swim and headed to the start area.

As I waited to start the swim I chatted a bit with Kevan and Dave and shared my victory with Kevan who congratulated me.  I'm learning that all tri's start with the following ritual.  They round up everyone in the race and have them stand on the beach near the start area.  And then the race director walks over with this little megaphone and says some fairly important stuff like the order the swim waves will start in.  However noone can hear the race director as the little megaphone is nowhere near loud enough, and everyone is still talking.  So I had no idea when my wave was starting.  Apparently some people heard as a bunch of people wearing the same swim cap color as me start making their way into the water.  Crap!  I guess I'm first!  My wave was fairly large.  Maybe 30 people (the picture above and below is my wave).  We were all jockeying for position.  A lot of people held back.  I went to almost the far left of the group and right at the front.  I know I'm not that fast but I'm not afraid of contact and I'd rather get as much a shot at clear water as possible in the beginning at least even though I know I'll get run over shortly.  I just refuse to give up those seconds to let everyone else go in front of me and I also have no fear in the water of contact.

Finally everyone shut up and I hear "Ten Seconds!"  Yikes!  Here we go.  3....2....1....  and were off!

Granted I don't have a lot to compare this to, but this was a very very physical swim.  Tons of body contact throughout the entire distance.  Especially in the beginning.  Right from the get go it was a battle.  There was spray and arms and legs everywhere.  My legs were contstantly getting battered by arms and several people tried to swim over the top of me.  At one point some giant dude put his hand right in the small of my back and PUSHED me down.  Of course right as I was about to take a breath.  That kind of sucked.  Its one thing to make contact by accident, but that move was clearly on purpose and with intent.  But whatever I was too busy trying not to drown to do much about it.  We rounded the first buoy and started the longest of the stretches.  It finally started to thin out a tiny bit but not much.  Despite my best efforts I am still a solid middle of the pack swimmer which means I end up swimming the whole race in a large pack of other people.  I spent the whole swim dodging legs, feeling hands at my feet, and fighting my way through plenty of body contact.  It was close quarters in the swim for the whole thing for me.  I was always surrounded by people.  I did my best to sight but it was just impossible.  So much spray and water churning everywhere.  I didn't see the final turn buoy until I was five feet away from it.  So I just did my best to make sure there were swimmers on both sides of me in numbers and figured that was good enough.  As we round the last buoy I go to sight for the finish area and I'm blinded by the sun.  Crap!  I was pretty sure when I looked at it before it was a slight right hand turn so I tried to swim that way.  Again I just sort of followed the pack here as I couldn't see anything except spray and sun glare.  When my fingertips hit sand I stood up and saw I did ok.  I was a tiny bit left of ideal but no matter.

Out of the water I start the long run through the seashell full sand into transition.  The run into T1 wasn't too bad.  A bit longer than I'd hoped but I did my best to actually RUN it and not give up any time here.  My friend Michelle took some great photos today.  In fact all of the photos are courtesy of her fabulous self.  Thanks Chel!!!!   And here are a couple she grabbed as I exited the water.

I think I'm looking pretty strong here if I do say so myself!  T1 went really well.  Wetsuit came right off without any trouble, glasses and helmet on and I was off and running with my bike in hand.  I'd like to say I'm so coordinated that I can go through T1 and blow a snot rocket at the same time, but in fact I'm pushing my sunglasses up in this photo.
I looked at the course maps online a few days ago and did my due diligence.  I even rode the course a couple days ago.  And I knew that the bike start was uphill so I practiced that to make sure I had the right gear etc and figure out where to put my feet in the shoes.  However their map wasn't very clear... and it turns out what I thought was the bike exit, was the bike start.  This actually turned out to be a good thing as it was a slight uphill, but much flatter.  So the bike mount went really well.  I was onto the bike and had my feet in the shoes and the velcro closed in short order.  Worked out great.

I was really surprised by the bike course.  I was expecting more traffic would force me to use the shoulder a lot more and the shoulders in Barrington are atrocious!  My hope was that I could just ride in the middle of the side of the road we were using.  Turns out that was mine and everyone elses plan.  Which worked out well.  I did my best to stay right whenever possible and any time I heard the sound of a disc wheel I moved over, but I held my own on the bike course so I felt comfy with my road position.  I did get passed quite a bit but only by the guys you would expect to pass you.  The speedy guys in the aero helmets and disc wheels.  the rest of the pack I did really well against.  In fact being in the first wave is awesome!  The bike course was fairly empty which rocked!  I passed a lot of the speedy swimmer / slow bikers quickly and then it was just me and a bunch of guys who knew what they were doing.  So we rode well, didn't draft, and got out of each other's way nicely. 

Oh I almost forgot...   so I'm riding up a slight incline.  I ride with a pretty high cadence on hills.  And as I'm passing this guy on my right he says to me "your cadence is a little high there buddy" to which I replied something like "yep and its clearly working cause I'm passing you're ass!"  He laughed.  It was kind of funny.  Who offers biking tips in the middle of the race?  Seriously?  Apparently I'm a magent for unwanted advice.  (and no this does not apply to my fellow club members whose advice I very much appreciate and welcome, but random dude?  Not so much!)

I did have one bit of fun on the bike course.  I was gearing up to pass someone in front of me so I turned my head to look behind me to make sure it was clear to swing out and pass the guy and my front tire hits a drop in the road at that exact moment.  So the front tire drops dramatically.  So much so that suddenly the only part of my body steering the bike are my hands on the very ends of the aerobars.  My elbows came completely off the pads.  My tire went slightly left and there was a very wobbly squirelly 20mph bit of nastiness.  Fortunatley I managed to get the front end back under control and get moving again.  That bit was hairy!

I had a lot of fun on the bike course.  I worked really hard to not relax and keep pushing.  I saw a lot of people cruising on the downhills which I didn't get.  Its only a 12 mile bike.  No need to rest your legs.  So I took full advantage of those times to try and pass them.  It wasn't long before I was coming down the street with the left hand turn into the dismount area.  I got my feet out of the pedals on a small downhill section and lost very little momentum and then rounded the left hander into the steep downhill into the dismount line.  Heres where being in the first wave is awesome.  There was nobody in my way.  Apparently later in the race there were some serious traffic jams at the dismount area that some of the faster guys and gals who started in later waves got caught behind and struggled to get through.  Thats a bummer.  My flying dismount went perfectly!

I was off the bike and running into T2 without any trouble.  I FLEW through T2!  I racked my bike and was off and running in no time.  I even managed to get my garmin right this time.  I held a pretty solid 6:30-6:40 pace throughout the entire run.  I wanted slightly faster but that was all my legs were willing to give so I went with it.  I was pretty happy to be able to hold that for the whole thing though.  Although I did have some help.  Right around mile 1.7 or so I got passed by the most lovely piece of pace booty I've seen in a long time.  To the woman in the worlds tiniest tri shorts (they looked more like booty shorts to me) thank you very much for being faster than me and leading me almost the entire way to the finish.  Eventually I just couldn't hold her pace.  She was probably 10-15 years younger than me so I was lucky to keep up as long as I did. 

for those of you thinking...   ugh!  what a typical man...  jerk!  ask yourself this...   have you REALLY NEVER checked out someone during a race?  have you really not then used that distraction to pull you through a tough part of a race?  Yeah...   didn't think so.

I rounded the 2nd to last turn and could now see what I knew was the last turn towards the finish area.  So I did my best to pick it up a tiny bit more and see if there was anything left in my legs.  I rounded the final turn which was a steep downhill into the finish area.  Not exactly ideal.  It was a little too steep for my taste as a runner but I did the best I could to hammer down it without tripping over my own feet.  I had to lean back a bit to avoid getting so much momentum that I'd lose a foot behind me.  And then I was through the finish!  I looked up to see the clock say 1:06 something er other.  I was pretty psyched with that!  Great race!

I spent some time in the finish area stufing some watermelon, energy bars, and cold water down my throat and then set off to find my friends.  Thanks so much to everyone that came out today to race, cheer and show support but especially to Chris, Jen, Michelle, Kevan, Kate, Cass, David, and Leslie.  Great to see all of you!

These results are preliminary...  and its hard to tell what was what on the printed results at the finish line...  but I'm fairly certain my time was 1:06 or 1:05 and change, that I was 5th in my age group, and somewhere around 48th of 325+ racers.  Not the top ten percent finish I was hoping for but this was a much tougher field than the Naval.  I definitely saw a lot more very fast guys on very nice bikes riding disk wheels at this tri that I didn't see at the Naval.  Still I'm very pleased with that finish and I'm REALLY looking forward to seeing all the splits to see how I did in the various disciplines, how I ranked overall, and get to look at the numbers a lot more closely.

Great day today!  I'm really psyched it went so well!

Next up....

tomorrow morning I'm going to ride the FIRM bike course for the first time.  Probably at "recovery" pace although if I end up riding it alone and my legs feel good I may go a little harder than that and see what happens.  I'm looking forward to it!


  1. I must look smashing in your tri kit. I have never checked out a guy to pace me in ANY race...perhaps because all the hot ones are way ahead of me? Usually I dial in on womens legs (looking for their age)and real in the old bats that are in my age group. Ha! Nice job Nick, you rock!

  2. Thanks Nancy! I missed 4th in my AG by five seconds. Apparently I should have spent more time looking at calves and less at other bits! : )