Monday, August 4, 2008

LBRR – Patriot's 50-mile "half-lite" triathlon

So I've followed up last week's first-century-of-the-season with my first triathlon of the season.

Again, pretty late in the season; at this time last year I'd already done the Devilman half and Anthracite. And then proceeded to not do any more triathlons until yesterday.

The race yesterday was somewhere between an Oly and a half-iron. Total of 50 miles; 1300 meter swim, 41 mile bike, 7.6 mile run. I wasn't to hyped for it – I've been running a lot and biking a fair amount. And swimming once a week or so, but really not much. But I'd been wanting to do at least one tri, and some fellow wanderers – Chris, Polly, Matt – were doing this one, which I figured (correctly) would make racing more interesting than doing one where either I went on my own and didn't know anyone or where Helen came with me and we didn't know anyone else. This was especially good yesterday as Helen ran 20 miles (!) on Saturday, limiting how much she could run during the race itself.

Anyway, some notes.

First, some notes on the race itself, borrowing Helen's G/B/U format:

The Good
This was a nice venue and a nice distance. I've noticed a lot that RDs try too hard to get their races to fit a specific distance – Oly, HIM, IM – when the local terrain really fits better with a different distance. (Anthracite is a case in point – the 24 mile bike consists of a 20 mile loop and a 2 mile out-and-back. It would be a better race, in my opinion, if it was just a 20 mile bike ride. But then it wouldn't be an Oly, so they put in the out and back). Overall a well-organized race. And the roads out there on the bike were nice and scenic; the run was less scenic but shaded, and that was a trade-off I'd take any day.

The Bad
The bike route consisted of three loops. Not my thing. Again, I know my vision of a point-to-point IM isn't going to happen, but I still would have liked to see more than I did. Yes, there are advantages – going around the same turn 3 times you get to know what line to take and how much to slow down – but it would be nicer to get to see more.

I'm also not a fan of combining longer and sprint tris on the same route at the same time, as this race does. I like how the Philly Tri does it – sprint on Saturday, Oly on Sunday. Devilman was the worst, knowing that you've got 13 miles to run and seeing the sprint racers driving away. This wasn't as bad, but it still adds to the confusion.

The Ugly
There were just over 100 people who did the 50-miler. I don't understand why the swim start didn't include waves. It was all of us heading out at the same time. Most cramped swim I've ever done. Yes, I know that IMs are like that, but that's supposed to be part of the experience. And those are usually in huge lakes. This was a pretty small pond. Most I've ever been hit during the swim. Early on I even turned and yelled at someone who, from what I can tell, was trying to drag my legs down. I think that the general rule of thumb, if you're going to swim over someone, is that you need to actually be swimming faster than them!

It also seemed like they didn't have that many kayaks out there, which surprised me considering how many people have died in tri swims recently.

Make this a wave start swim, and it's instantly a much better race.


Ok, now some notes on my race.

It'd be easy to reuse the G/B/U format here, which would be reversed to U/B/G. Out of 105 finishers I had the 46th fastest swim, 37th fastest bike, and – wait for it – 5th fastest run.

But that doesn't really fit with how I feel about my race. First off, while I thought that the swim itself was ugly, I was pleased with my performance. I barely swam all winter and spring, and still managed to mendoza the swim (actually went 1:51/100 yards, although I suspect that the swim was short). And given my goals of the swim – don't drown, don't get kicked in the face – the time was just icing on the cake. For the bike, though – I should be doing better. I guess that's what I get for just bike riding and not training.

I’m surprised that my run was the 5th highest split, which seems to me to say something about the field. But I'm still really pleased with it. It's the fastest I've gone on a tri run, faster than last year's (shorter) anthracite run. I was hoping to go sub-7, and did! (Yes, 6:59 counts!) And I kept my streak of not getting passed on the run.

Overall, the race reflects the training I've done. They say that the way to get faster at triathlons is to swim with swimmers, bike with cyclists, and run with runners. I run with runners; I bike on my own; and I hardly swim.

And I was right about a race being more fun when there are other friends there. Nice hanging out before and after with Chris, Polly and Matt. I think it made things a lot more interesting for Helen, too.

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