Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Race Reviews: XTerra Bonelli, Cal State Long Beach Tri, and Contest Winner!


What a way to close out May.

I ended up doing five events in the span of two weeks to finish May out, with mixed results and lots of back to back races.

I'll cover the first batch of races in this post, and then get to the others later this week.

We'll start off with the ugly:

Race Report:  Xterra Bonelli Triathlon

Let me preface this entire report with the fact that this is an incredibly well run event and had a lot of positive energy around it.  The course is laid out, the good folks at Renegade Racing put on a first class event and even hosted preview rides and runs for the course.  There's really no excuse to not come into this race with a ton of confidence and knowing exactly what you're doing.  And even if you don't - there is a metric shitton of course markings everywhere on the course - so it's impossible to get lost.

I was really psyched for the event (as I've won my age group in a "normal" triathlon at this same spot last year) and couldn't wait to actually try out an "off road" triathlon.  In addition, this was going to be my first triathlon competing in my super snazzy wetsuit from Zone 3 Wetsuits (review on the suit forthcoming)!  So I was stoked to have a great swim, hit the trails on my mountain bike (which is an older Fuji model that's probably too small for me), and then kill it on the run!

Did that happen?  Well...not really.

Gear all racked up in transition.  You're not missing anything by not seeing the bike.

Before I go over my race - I should probably state that I've ridden my mountain bike a grand total of three times leading up to this race.  That's three (3).  Also, all three were on the bike path by the Los Angeles River (where I would occasionally zoom off the path and ride in the dirt for a minute or two and then zoom back on).  This would ultimately lead to my demise - which I will get to in a moment.

First off:  The swim.

I must say - it's absolutely refreshing to finally have a fullsuit that actually fits me and is flexible enough for me to swim in.  I've been dilly-dallying with entry level suits and "whatever suit I can find a deal on" for awhile now which has led me to swimming in stiff suits that weren't flexible or suits that "fit but really didn't fit" because they were a few bucks cheaper.

I'm now using a Zone 3 Aspire, which is hands down the best wetsuit I've ever swam in (and I've demoed a lot of the more expensive suits).  Finally having a wetsuit that I could swim in and not be burdened by was a big help - and it showed in this swim (which was the first race I've had it in).  Prior, I've been averaging 2:00/100m in the open water - which is a decrease from my 1:40/100m pool time.  Now, that's not blazing fast by anyone's definition - but the difference was something that always puzzled me (I've been told by many coaches that pool time ALWAYS transfers to open water).  During this race, it transferred and I think I finally was able to put my finger on it.  I did this race (a 900 meter swim) at 1:38/100m.  For me - that's a spectacular swim and if I can keep that pace in my races this year - I'll be thrilled.  Can't say enough how much I love this suit (well - I can and I will - but in a future post, not this one).

Hopping out of the swim in actually a semi good position in the middle of the pack.

I'm using a GPS watch in my swim cap which is why I'm staring down at it here.  Doing some testing with my current GPS unit.

Then the bike came.  I expected to murder this segment and do incredibly well.  I average 15-16 mph on the flats of the riverbed path and figured that would translate to this race.  Which it did, for about a half mile until the race went off of a path onto the trail.

And that's when things got a little difficult.  First off - the course is epic in my opinion.  I loved it - I was just woefully underprepared.  I found out - very quickly - that bike handling skills on a mountain bike are approximately a billion times more important than raw power.  In addition, while you can get away with having a bike that's not really mechanically up to par on the road - that shit doesn't fly when you're climbing a super steep vertical rock face on a mountain bike.  There is one section where it was a long, rocky hill and I fell over trying to climb it.  I ended up hopping off and carrying my bike up it (like a lot of other people were doing as soon as they saw it).  

Off I go on the bike!

In addition, I had my life flash before my eyes several times with "close calls" where I almost lost control of my bike.  However, being as hard headed as I am, a "close call" isn't good enough and I need to actually wreck to get some sense knocked into me.  Well, that happened coming down one of the hills where it turns left against a ridge and then cuts back right around the ridge (not incredibly sharp and there is plenty of room if you're not bombing the hill like an idiot - like I was).  Well, as I came down, I made the left pretty easily but wasn't able to turn all the way right - and off the path I went.

A lot like this - just less dramatic.
I was scared to death as I was tumbling down knee high grass - not knowing if there was a rock or large branch that was going to be in my path and cause me to have a serious accident.  It seemed like minutes of falling down this steep hill - completely out of control (the whole thing was probably 10 seconds at the most), but I did manage to spot a "bare area" of the grass covered in what appeared to be very soft clay.  The moment I saw it - I made a split second decision to lay my bike down (motorcycle style) on it and just hope for the best.

It actually worked out well!  I went down, skidded a bit and then stopped.  I sat there stunned for a few minutes - knowing full well how bad it could have been.  This was confirmed as I was climbing back up the cliff with my bike and I was walking over a ton of big roots and jagged rocks.  It was pure luck that I didn't one of them and faceplant onto a rock or something.  

This spooked me, and I spent the rest of the bike ride and pretty much all of the second loop with my hands on the brakes and just going as slow as humanly possible.  Although I will pat myself on the back a little bit - it took pretty much everything I had to not pack it in after the first loop and call it a day (which I REALLY wanted to do).

So I hopped off the bike and decided that, after that crazy bike ride, I would just take it easy on the run and enjoy myself.  The run was actually pretty challenging, especially since I had toasted my legs on the bike portion.  Beautiful, but challenging.  It gets pretty hilly once you go off of the trail - including a "straight up to the sky" portion at about 1/4 of a mile in.  

Pretty clear and non technical path for the most part on this run.

The Skora Cores were the perfect shoe for the run portion here.
I had a blast on the run, although it was probably one of the slower runs I've ever done (intentionally, as I had all but given up on getting a good time at that point).  I used my Skora Cores and they were really at home on the trail.  Such a great and comfortable shoe.  Also, my Headsweats Supervisor worked like a champ.  Great for keeping the sweat off of my face in what turned out to be an incredibly hot day on the trails.

Upon finishing, I happily received my finisher's medal - which meant a lot to me.  Mainly because I had a disaster of a race and managed to keep my cool and still tough it out, but also because the medal is pretty damn cool too.

With all that said, I think this will be my first AND last Xterra event.  Mountain Biking just isn't for me.

Pretty awesome medal for the event.

Race Report:  Cal State University Long Beach Reverse Sprint Triathlon

The next day - I ended up doing a reverse triathlon at Cal State Long Beach put on by the Cal Stat University Long Beach Triathlon Team.

This was kind of a just for fun event and was something that I was hoping to use as a "speed day" and a tune up for future triathlons in my upcoming season.  However, I was hoping to do pretty well for what was, generally, a pretty small event.

The format for this was pretty standard for a reverse triathlon.  5k run, 12 mile bike, and a 400 yard swim in the pool afterwards.  Seemed easy enough.

All racked up and ready in transition.
The run came first and off we went in a long loop around campus that went up some stairs and had some tight turns.  Nothing too troublesome - but I knew during the run that I wasn't going to have a great day.  My legs were simply toast from the day before.  I finished with a 19:50 or so on the run - which isn't a great time for me when I'm not running off the bike.

The bike was four loops around campus on a course that wasn't too technical, but had some turns to it.  There was one hill in the middle of the course that proved to be a difference maker (for me) - as I just couldn't keep the effort up throughout the bike.  I went from being with the leaders on the bike to falling to the second group after the second lap.

Crunching up the aforementioned hill.
I came off of the bike in 10th or so place and jumped in the pool for the swim.  Surprisingly, I actually had a decent swim (although I was passed by two people in the pool).  It's always confusing for me to go under lane ropes to change lanes and it slows down my already slow swim time immensely.

I ended up 12th overall and 5th in my age group - which is a result that I'm pleased with considering the weekend I was having.  Still a lot of work to do as I felt I definitely should have been faster on the day.

The finisher medal.  Pretty generic, but it looks cool.

Brucie obviously like the finisher medal as well.
So that was part the first weekend in my race - packed month of May.  I'll follow up with additional blog posts including the recap of the Laguna Hills Half Marathon and the Special Olympics World Games Endurance Weekend.

So now onto the winner of the giveaway for the contest I ran at the beginning of last month.

The winner is....

Derrick Maybar of San Clemente, California!  I've sent Derrick a facebook message (have yet to hear back from him) - but he will get to choose a pair of shoes out of any brand that A Runner's Circle carries or a pair of Skora Fits!  Congrats Derrick!  I'll post a picture of you with your new shoes as soon as you send them over to me.

I'd also like to thank everyone for the support, and hope everyone sticks around as this blog grows and gets continually updated.

With that, I'll leave you with a picture of my son rolling in his ride.  Once he gets in this thing, he never wants to get out.

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