Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Race Report: Fearless Triathlon Double Super Sprint

I don't often race in back to back weekends.  This is for a variety of reasons - but the first and foremost is that I'm not a big fan of racing "just to race."  If I go to a race - I want to win.  Now, whether that means coming in first place ahead of everyone else, making it to the podium, finishing in a specific time frame, etc - is something that's dependent on the race itself.  However, VERY RARELY will I race "just to race."

This race was an exception to that rule.  I had a couple of things going against me going into this race.  1)  I just finished the Lifetime Oceanside race six days before.  2)  Somehow during the week after Oceanside, I sprained my ankle and, while I was able to run on it, it was uncomfortable bordering on painful.  3)  This race was in Mission Bay, San Diego - which is about a 2 hour drive from where I life and we would have to drive there the morning of (which meant waking up at 3 am).

Regardless, I signed up for this race knowing full well it would follow an "A" race for me.  Why would I do such a thing?  Simply put - this race is very unique.  It uses the standard swim, bike, run format - but then has you repeat the entire thing over again.  It's like doing two mini sprint triathlons one right after the other.  For me, that was something I wanted to experience - so I made certain I wouldn't miss it.

After the Olympic distance race the week before, I immediately begin thinking about how to go about doing this race.  From the course maps, the bike course looks pretty wavy with lots of turns, so I decided to use my road bike.  Also, the pro race is draft-legal ITU style, so I figured if the pros are using road bikes - I probably should too (I fully realize that this type of logic makes no sense).  My brother-in-law and I have also recently built up a road bike for me, so that was part of the motivation to use this bike in lieu of my tri bike as well.

Here's a picture of my fun, little road bike build.  I'll do a blog post on the build another time.
In addition, I decided I was going to use the Xterra Lava Pants that my wife purchased for me (despite them NOT being ITU legal - which contradicts the logic I used in choosing my road bike).  My thought behind these would be that they would be easy enough to take off after the first swim and easy enough to throw back on for the second.  Long story short:  I liked them.  I'll do a full review in a future post.

Picture of the Lava Pants I took after the race.

The videos of this race are, to say the least, pretty epic.  The pro race (which is a bit different from the amateur race) looks like it's amazing fun and highly competitive.  It's very different from the "get your pace and hold on" that longer distance triathlons are.  This one is more "go as hard as you can until you finish the run - and then go harder the second time" type of deal.  The video below does a good job in showing how someone would be super interested in this race.

Pre Race:
The drive down to San Diego at 3 am to be able to pick up my packet and set up transition before race time was long, tiresome, and exhausting.  And when I say "long, tiresome, and exhausting" - I really mean that my wife drove the whole way and I passed out.  (I love you honey! haha)  
We arrived to the transition area and got registered and set up in transition, where I was able to find a primo spot.  None of the vendor tents were open yet, so we just hung out in the transition area until the announcement was made to start corralling people towards the swim start.
Transition at 0-dark-thirty.
The Swim (1):
Swim was a mass start for 375 meters.  Instantly, I could tell that this was going to be an interesting start.  The course was an out and back course, taking a left around the first buoy about 150 meters out, then 75 meters over to the next buoy, and then taking a left around that buoy and back to the dock to head to transition.  
It seemed simple enough and looked like it would be a pretty fast swim.  Everyone was bunched up in the middle of the ramp (even though the first buoy was more off to the side), so I went off to the side towards the dock to wait for the start.  My thought process was that I would be out of the way of most everyone and have a somewhat calm swim.
As you can see, I was somewhat tired.
Well, I was dead wrong.  The moment the gun went off, everyone just kind of shifted over right on top of me and I felt like I was in one of those fish circles.  Don't get me wrong, I'm used to swimming in a crowd and I normally don't mind it when things get a little bumpy.  The problem with this one was that there were people who WERE NOT used to this, and they were grabbing people to stay afloat.  Somewhat dangerous.  In any case, I managed to swim my way out of it without being kicked too many times, and once I was in less crowded water my swim went pretty good.  Swim 1 time:  8:07 That's about on pace for me considering that there was a pretty lengthy run to transition that I basically walked because of my ankle.
This is a very, very rare creature.  An actual photo of me swimming.
The Bike (1):
Coming out of transition was pretty easy since I was racked so close.  I didn't have my shoes previously clipped in (mainly because I heard someone over the PA say that it wasn't allowed, although a ton of people were already clipped) but that wasn't too big of a hindrance.  
This was my first time riding a road bike in a long, long time and was the first real ride on this bike since it was built (I ride my time trial bike 99% of the time).  I went pretty hard, but was very careful to pace myself on the bike (as I knew I would be riding again).  I didn't use a power meter (I brain farted the night before and forgot to switch my Stages to the bike - which would have been easy enough to do), so I went by feel and kept an eye on my speed.  I managed to keep it around 22 mph or so, which is plenty good for me on a bike I wasn't used to.  The bike course was the Fiesta Island Time Trial course (just one loop) and is a beautiful course that's fairly flat.  Simply a stellar venue for a triathlon in my opinion.  
I have one regret about the course and that was not using my time trial bike.  For one - the "twists and turns" I mentioned before were not that bad.  I feel I would have handled them easily on a tri bike.  Also, it was driving me nuts that I was giving up time to guys on triathlon/time trial bikes based solely on position and me not being used to the road bike (I'm not a roadie by any means).  Bike time:  18:28
I feel weird looking at how weird I look like while riding a road bike.
The Run (1):
I had low, low expectations for the run - mainly because my ankle was the size of a softball and I didn't feel I would be able to put any serious pressure on it.  My thought for the run was to just take it easy and not push it.  Since the distance was so relatively short (only 1.5 miles for each run leg) - I didn't think I would do any lasting damage.
Transitioning to the run took a bit longer because I had to squeeze my shoes on (I didn't think of bringing shoes that were slightly bigger for this race).  
The run course was really nice.  Just an out and back right by Fiesta Island.  Nothing fancy to it, but still a nice run all the same.
Like a knucklehead though, I found myself pushing a little harder than I should have during the run, running around a 7:00 pace when I was really leaning more towards a 8:00 easier pace for both legs.
Run time:  9:51
The run felt pretty good , despite the swollen ankle.  This guy swam, biked, AND ran his first leg in those Lava Pants.

Run course is pretty.
The Swim (2):
Coming out of the run and back to swim again is a really, really crappy proposition for someone who isn't a good swimmer.  I had every intention in the world of putting my Xterra Lava Pants back on for the second swim, but was kind of out of it and trying to rush when I got to transition.  So I just dumped my run gear, threw on my swim cap and goggles, and bolted for the water. 
To my surprise, I was the only one in the water at the start (which meant that I had ran past most of the people in my pack and was well behind the people in the front of the pack).  I jumped in and started stroking.
Unfortunately, my swim arms just weren't there.  I was having a tough time on the second swim and going slow.  People were passing me and I was trying my best to keep up - but just didn't have it in me to keep a good position and stay streamlined.
Soon I found myself surrounded by a pack of people, and I realized any advantage I gained from the bike or run was quickly lost.  I ended up coming out of the swim way slower than than my first one - once again reminding me of the massive amount of work I have to do in the water in order to be competitive. Swim 2 time:  10:18 (which had to be among the slowest of anyone in the race).
Hopping in for the second swim completely solo.  Just wasn't face enough to come out that way.

No, I'm not wearing black socks. My feet are just filthy.
The Bike (2):
I came out of transition pretty pumped.  I wanted to make up some lost ground on my competition and pass some people now that I was on dry land.  My ankle was hurting a bit by this time so I figured any chance I had to overtake some people in position would be on the bike.
Coming out of transition.  I should have just clipped in with everyone else, but an announcement made before the race start had me sketched out.
I came out of the bike pretty hard.  Too hard.  The second go round I passed a bunch of people very quickly - pushing forward like a freight train on pure power.  I was hitting the 24-25 mph range for most of the stretches and had it in my mind that I would just keep this pace and then hold on as much as I could for the run.

Nope.  (LOL@ME)

About halfway through I dwindled down and struggled to keep a 20 mph pace.  I kept with that almost to the finish and prepped for the run.  Bike 2 time:  19:01

The Run (2):
The second run was almost an exact duplicate of the first.  Literally.  The same people I found myself running with on the first run were right there on the second run.  I ended up pushing myself a bit too hard on the run - as my ankle was in a lot of pain afterwards.  The price I pay for egotism and vanity I guess - I just didn't want people to beat me.  Still pretty slow on the run, but a bit better than the first go round.  Run 2 time:  9:11

I look absolutely miserable in this picture.

I kicked it up a notch when heading in to the finish chute.

Complete time:  1:20:08

This race was very, very well done.  There were a few slight snags (like having the run course changed mid race because someone set the cones slightly wrong - which diverted some of the first people to that area of the run to run only half the course), but nothing that effected anything too bad.  Lars Finanger and company put on a hell of a race, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a new challenge or just something different.

I do feel there are some things I could have done better.  The obvious is my swim - with some work on that I feel I could be a lot better than I am.  Maybe not front of the pack - but I think I would be fast enough that I won't be giving the race leaders a 5-6 minute advantage on me out of the water.  On the bike - I feel that I would be faster in transition if I would have clipped in prior (which isn't a problem for me).  Also, I'm obviously more comfortable and a lot faster on a time trial bike - so being on that would work better for me unless the race specifically calls for otherwise.  The run wasn't a huge deal for me - I had a hurt ankle and there's not a lot I can do about that.  I can't wait to come down for the next one fully healthy and in the right mindset and see how I fair.  I truly feel that this is a race I can compete in once I get my swim in check.

Now, it's time to recover (using my daily EnduroPacks) and relax and let my ankle heal up.  I'm going to take a week or two off from running, and concentrate on my swim.  Only one more triathlon this year (The Turkey Tri from Renegade Race Series), and then I'm shutting it down until January (race-wise).  

Final Verdict on my performance from my son:
Not Impressed.  Oh well.  

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