Sunday, July 15, 2007

Anthracite LBRR

I did the Anthracite triathlon last year on something of a whim.

After September 05, when I had my ACL replaced, I'd been working towards the Philadelphia Triathlon. It was a rehab goal – and, as it turned out, a very achievable one. But the swim was cancelled that day because of all the debris floating in the Schuylkill, (and because it was brown and gross, too) – so I just didn't feel like I'd done a triathlon. Something felt missing. So Helen and I looked around for another race, and found Anthracite. Not super far – it's in Jim Thorpe, PA, around 90 minutes away. And, as Helen noted in her last post, it plays to my strenghts – a hilly bike ride and a run on trails. They're not techincal trails, but they're a softer surface.

I had a great time last year, so I was pretty set on heading back this year. It's a small race, nice crowd, a ton of volunteers, beautiful setting, challenging bike course. And it's a nice area too – lots of hiking and stuff in the region, and a little city center that's kind of neat.

I was also looking at this as a race to really prepare for and do my best at. But I didn't really get to do the whole peaking/tapering thing as much as I'd hoped. And I'd barely been on my bike in the last two weeks. On the other hand, I had run a lot lately and even done some open water swimming. I also have a wetsuit now, something I didn't have last year.

My race strategy was to go out hard and just try to hang on. I was hoping to get under the "Mendoza line" on the swim. Ideally, this meant under 30 minutes, although the maximum Mendoza time is 32:48. (It's a metric/standard thing). I was also planning on using most of my effort on the start of the bike, as that's when the hardest climbs are (or so I thought), and then run as fast as I could. That was the strategy.

I started off the swim calmly, though. At first, I really just didn't want to get kicked in the face. Just tried to swim my swim, and draft when I could. I was actually able to draft for maybe a quarter or a third of the swim. It was good when it was happening, but it was just that little bit too slow, so eventually I just headed out on my own. Worked harder in the swim than I usually do. Finished in just under 31. Not what I'd been hoping for, but around 5 minutes faster than last year's time.

Tried to rush through T1 (it's hard getting that wetsuit off!) and headed out. A few people passed me on the bike, which isn't usual but it does happen. I probably passed 15-20 people or so. Maybe less, but I'd be really surprised if it was less than 10. Overall, I was ok with my ride. I didn't do great, didn't feel great, but kept working. There was never a hill I felt like I couldn't do. This included the one at mile 16 which I'd forgotten about, but is quite a lactic-acid producing switchback. I averaged a bit faster than last year, but not much (waiting for the splits to go on-line for the exact time). No mechanical issues, which was nice. I was worried, as my tires have 1,000 miles on them and my chain far more. But they held together today. At one point my chain did shift off the outside of the big ring but I got it back on just by pedaling through (i.e. without getting off the bike).

T2 was pretty unremarkable. I was worried, though – I'd never been that spent heading out onto the run. Helen met me there and headed out with me on the run. This made it a lot easier for me. It may also have been illegal –

From the USAT rule book: No participant shall accept from any person (other than a race official) physical assistance in any form, including food, drink, equipment, support, pacing, a replacement bicycle or bicycle parts, unless an express exception has been granted and approved, in writing, by USA Triathlon. …. Any violation of this Section shall result in a variable time penalty.

But no one said anything and I didn't win anything.

My upper-level goal was to run at a 7:15 pace. Last year I ran at a bit over 8, but I've done a lot of running since then and lost around 10 pounds, so I was optimistic when planning the race. But I was hurting out of T2 – legs were heavy, side stich, the works. When we passed the first mile marker at 7:46 I was pretty surprised, it had felt slow. As we kept running, though, I managed to hit stride for a while. Then you have to go up a big hill, which we did ok on, then back down. Had a final gel. Kept going – Helen was having trouble keeping up, having already run 6 miles or so that day! – so I asked her if we could just run with me through mile 5. But after that marker it started to go uphill, I was cramping up again, and just felt beat. So I got Helen to run with me some more. And things got better. I wound up finishing strong, with more of a finishing kick than I'd expected. I finished the run in 45:36 – again, 5 minutes faster than last year. Faster than my time in Philly last year, too, which is an easier course.

I'd had grand dreams of breaking 2:30, or of placing in my age group. But that wasn't going to happen. I'm way off of that. The age group is brutal – 7 of the top 10 finishers, I think. My final time was 2:41. Under 2:45, which was my bottom-line good time. I'd never gone out that hard, but more on that later – it made my time faster, but it's not how I've normally raced in the past.


Helen said...

Hurray for going out hard and doing positive splits! That was a great run in spite of cramps.

noah said...

the irony is that i'm pretty sure i negative split the run.