Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kiwanis

Kiwanis is a sprint triathlon with a pretty good sized turnout here in the small town of Medical Lake. It's a race that feels like it was thrown together despite being around for years. It has everything you need for a race save the clear cut rules and instructions and accurate posted leg lengths. On occasion, I get asked why I do this "beginner's race" that is annoyingly named a mini triathlon.
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1. It's 1200m by water from my house to the swim start or 1.08M on the trail. If you've never had the pleasure of living on a lake with three triathlons, then just know it's great to wake up in my own bed and be at the race as well. The only thing better is Trailblazer, which starts at the park 50' away. There's no packing or travel. If I forget something, I can go home and get it. It's low stress with little time investment and I love it.

2. Yes, it has a lot of new triathletes, but any time I'm in a race, I can crank it up regardless of how close or far the competition is. If I want to guarantee being pushed to the limit, I can travel to some other race on any other week. On the other hand, this race has had some great athletes toe the line. Roger Thompson and I were both chasing the old course record, missing it as a result of mysterious time being added to my time and a longer swim course for him and missing the record by seconds. Ben Greenfield has recently raced here too. There are more, but I don't know the stats and history of this race that well.

3. Racing a course that I train and race on all the time gives an easily comparable result. Other than the swim, which can be 500m or 200m depending on the year and how well or poorly they eyeball the mark, the bike can be compared with simple math because it starts 1.08M down the road from my usual start, which is basically the same as Trailblazer. The run is one lap minus .06M vs. minus .02M for Trailblazer or 2.86 and 2.90M respectively. I like data and knowing how my training and racing is going, so this is a course for me.

As for the race itself, I woke up on race morning and enjoyed being able to pack my things and head on down to the race well after most who stressed over their packing list, loaded up the car, double checked and were driving for a while. Part of the race is knowing transition and few understand or appreciate transition like I do. A little contention over one elite triathlete in Trailblazer made that clear. I'm all for competing head-to-head, but part of the race is strategy and investment. Show up late and get a bad spot ... too bad. I'm not going to give up my course strategies, tell you where to start, how to pick lines, tricky spots on the course, things to watch out for, give you my equipment if it's better, etc. So forgive me for being competitive in a competition people, but it's all part of the race, which is why I try to crush people in transition rather than wait for them so we are competing head-to-head in the swim, bike and run only. When I show up late, which has often happened for a variety of reasons, but most often because of military duties, I suck it up and take whatever spot is available and will do my best to make up for it with a great strategy. That's part of the race, like it or not.
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At Kiwanis, I showed up and many racks were full, but luckily for me, I got on what I felt was the best rack, but just a couple spots down from where I would have set up had I been there earlier. The others preferred the other racks I guess. Other than the usual prerace stuff, I got into my Piel wetsuit and did my warm-up, then headed up to ask the race director whether we were swimming clockwise or counter-clockwise (the usual). He said counter-clockwise, then went on gushing about me and following me and my course record of 34:14. What?! 34:14 for a 10 mile bike and 2.86 mile run, two transitions and a variable swim? After the race we debated it a bit, which has always been fruitless as this guy is always certain he's right. This time I was successful though. I said that no triathlete in the world could do that. Even my best TT bike and fastest lap around the lake without transitions or a swim would be well over 34:14 (roughly 39 minutes give or take). He then realized he must have been mistaken and must have transposed the numbers. It should have been 43:14, which is a bit faster than I recall, but it's at least reasonable. I'm thinking it was a high 43 to a low 44.

Anyway, I did another short swim to get warmed up, looked at my watch when I got close enough to touch and it was 9:56:38 and we start at 10. I heard something about Bergquist back on the beach that I couldn't hear well with water in my ears. Apparently he was still talking about me and joking about me giving others a chance. He must not be aware that I'm a LOT slower and still trying to get back INTO shape. Some people just don't believe that, but getting whooped nearly every time I race is a pretty good indication that I'm not 2008 Michael Bergquist. I'm the downgraded 2010 version. Then I heard a countdown start! Yikes! I never heard where we were supposed to start, how deep, shore or whatever. Some were near me and others were closer to shore, while some were on shore. I worked my way back for about 5 seconds, then stopped, prepared my watch and started it 2 seconds early and waited for the go!

I was crashing into the waves of the unusual northern wind, but I like short fast races. Not many had wet suits as it's usually so short that the time it takes to get it off gives them a slower net time than wearing one. The wetsuit gave me just enough speed to stay out front and breaking the waves with Warden on my toes (never touched them though). My only concern is hitting that turn in or near the front to avoid the absolute chaos that must ensue with a couple hundred people making a 180 degree turn 100m into a swim! I hit that turn and cranked it up on the way home. I exited first by quite a bit and began trying desperately to get my split. It was 3:04, but I didn't get it split until 3:08! Not bad for a 400 yard swim (accuracy?). The swim is the only thing that isn't consistent about this race, so I see it as a way for my intelligent approach to get me on the bike with a bit of a lead. The Piel wetsuit has breakaway zippers that go down to the ankles. Just pull to pop the zipper and peel it away like an NBA warm-up suit. I could have it off before I touched dry sand, but running with it on is faster than trying to carry it, so I waited until I got near my bike.
I hammered it up the hill and followed the route I did three or four times before the race to make sure I had the best lines and went straight to my bike. I dropped the wetsuit off right after arrival, threw on the helmet without glasses and was running out of T1 as the next person entered. It was like lightening! Too bad that wet suit is a terrible fit and not good for anything other than a sprint tri, but it's perfect for this race! T1 was 1:10.52, but I count that from the water's edge to the turn onto Salnave/Hwy 902 at the exit to the parking lot. This way I can compare my bike split to Trailblazer and my rides from home without the mess of climbing that hill and it's awkwardly short distance, etc.

I've been working hard at improving and was looking for something better than my 23.55 MPH average in Trailblazer. It's shorter at 10.05M vs. 12.17M, but that means less time for working out the time loss from starting and stopping and makes the harder parts of the course a greater slowing percentage of the race. In all, I'd consider whichever had a faster average a better ride as the beginning and end of Trailblazer are relatively flat and fast. My time to and from Clear Lake Rd. always varies a bit due to wind and how well I start, but the time around the lake is my real gauge. My best lap (around Clear Lake) was 17:50 during Kiwanis 2008 when I set the Kiwanis course record with the short swim, which was disappointing as I would have beaten the old record anyhow. The 17:50 was my best time around the lake for any TT or race. On this day, I made it around in about 18:40 or 18:50. I can't recall exactly, but I was still in front with only one person in sight about a minut back. It pays to know a course so well that you can catch a glimpse of a rider in the distance behind and know about how far it is! After the lap, I dropped the effort a bit and tried to recover a bit for the run. I thougt there was a team there with a good runner, so I wanted to make sure I had my best overall performance vs. trying to gap the #2 guy by enough that he ran for #2 instead of #1. My bike leg was 24:47 for 10.05M (24.33 MPH). Knowing that sub 25:00 would be my best pace of the year, I felt pleased that I'm making good progress and was substantially faster than my Trailblazer ride.
T2 was fairly flawless, but in an unorganized race without clear rules on where to go, I did what I have always done and entered the wide open, unmarked transition area the way I left it ... for years now. As I was off my bike and running at about 15 MPH toward my T2 spot and about to step on the grass, I heard someone say that I had to go through the trail entrance to my left. A quick look revealed that a crowd of about 2 or 3 deep was scattered about across the path and everywhere; moreover, it was a bit late for an added bit of organization from a random voice in the crowd. I just kept going. I racked my bike, dropped the helmet, threw on the shoes, synched them, grabbed my belt and was on my way in just 32.10 seconds from the top of the park driveway. I don't know how it compares to other years, but it didn't matter as I was on my way and the run was going to be the one way to seal the deal. I looked to my right as I was about to turn left out of Waterfront Park to see if there were any bikers coming. Nope, I was in the clear for the moment. A spectator told me a moment later that he saw the next biker coming in and I did a rough, but slightly generous estimate that I had about a minute lead.
The trail has 5 different markers from faded old stars to newer quarter mile markings. I also have points that I run past regularly and can gauge my performance on splits in various different places. It seems I settled into a 6:08 pace during the first mile. I kept it nice and steady and ran 1:32 for each quarter. When I got to the mile mark, I decided to crank it up. I was only able to drop to 6:00 pace for the next mile, but entering north park, I looked back and figured there was still at least a minute lead. I had no idea if someone was coming from back in third or fourth, so I pushed the pace even more and held on with my rubber legs to cross the line with a run time of 17:14.98, which is good for a 6:01.88 pace. It's not a fast course with all the constant grade changes (around 28!) on the final stretch, but I ran better than I did at the Trailblazer.

My finish time was 46:49.80. Oddly enough, I had a posted time of 46:15. Second place was some person I didn't know from a local club who posted a time of 48:50. Third place was 49:40. I'd guess that the time must have started about 35 seconds late, which wouldn't surprise me. It had started to rain lightly, which was great for the racers, but bad for the timing, which got jammed up paper swelling from the rain drops, which ruined many of the later racer's "official" finish times.

I'm pleased with my race as it shows a marked improvement over Trailblazer just about 5 weeks ago. Although the swim can't be compared, I rode .78 MPH faster and ran 12.6 seconds/mile faster. I always have a jump in improvement after a hard race effort like that, so I did a Trailblazer bike TT from my house (.04M longer at 12.21M) and hoped to ride a sub 30:00. To my surprise, I managed to break 29:00 with a 28:58.39 (25.29 MPH). It's my first time over 25 MPH since 2008 when I broke 26 MPH on this course. Maybe this training more than 50 miles/week on the bike has it's merrits. There's still a long time to go and a lot of ground to make up to get into better shape than I was before. At least I'm closing in.