Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Woodruff Family YMCA 2012 Y-Tri Race Report

F.I.R.M. Racing held their annual Y-Tri at the Woodruff Family YMCA in Milford, CT, over the past weekend, and as I mentioned last week, I ran it.  The race started with a short pool swim, followed by an 11-mile two-loop bike ride, followed by a 2.5-mile out-and-back run.

I hesitate to call the Y-Tri one of my “A” races, especially since I wasn’t even planning to run it this year, but the fact is that it’s the first and perhaps only actual triathlon I’m doing this season, and more to the point, I’ve been coaching the Woodruff YMCA Triathlon Club for the past few months.  Truth is, I really wanted to perform well in front of my club.  So where in past years I might’ve worked through this race without resting more than a day or two beforehand, this year I wound up scheduling an entire Rest Week specifically in front of this race with the hopes that a bit of extra rest would help me do well.  Of course, we threw that planning out the window on the Saturday when Sally and I spent the day with the girls out in the sun at the 100th Annual Girl Scout Jubilee, but what are you gonna do?  I mean, I wanted to race well, but at the same time, I didn’t want to miss out on time with my family, especially on a day when I didn’t have a lot of heavy training planned before we went out. 

In the end, I don’t know how much it helped or hurt that we wound up traipsing all over a sunny field all day the day before the race, but I do know that the challenge of balancing these kinds of family activities with the desire to train and race well is one of the most difficult and interesting facets of living a multi-sport lifestyle.  It’s largely this tension that keeps me doing Sprints and Oly’s rather than trying to race longer distances, but at least I’m still out there racing and trying to do well.

My girls had their annual gymnastics show after the Girl Scout thing on Saturday, and what with one thing or another, we wound up staying out ‘til almost 10 pm the night before the race.  That might not seem late to you, but it is, in fact, very late for me, and I was happy when we got home, and I finally got into bed.  Even so, I didn’t sleep very well, and when I woke up in the middle of the night with a sinus headache, I panicked, thinking I was about to suffer a migraine.  Thankfully the migraine never materialized, but between the headache and the birds outside our bedroom window, I got up at 5 am on Sunday, having spent at least an hour prior tossing and turning before dawn.  More than anything, I think all of that speaks to my state of mind pre-race.  I was agitated before the race, and I’m not sure I ever really got it under control.

The upside of all of that is that I had plenty of time in the morning before the race.  I wound up getting to the YMCA at about 6:30 for an 8:00 am start, leaving me with plenty of time to set up my stuff in transition, change clothes, do a good half-hour’s worth of yoga, and basically get myself together.  Eventually, I got into the pool and swam an easy 400-yards or so, with one good hard fifty done just to get my heart going.  By the time we lined up to start the swim, I felt pretty good and figured I had a shot to perform reasonably well.

I should mention here as well that I’ve done several races this season that had relatively low attendance.  However, I was pleased to see that plenty of folks came out for the Y-Tri, and I found that to be kind of amazing considering the number of competing events that were held on that same day.  For example, both the Hartford Marathon Association’s Shamrock Duathlon and the Gran Fondo New York City were also held on Sunday, May 20th.  Personally, I’d have liked to have done both of those events were they not held coincidentally, but having agreed to coach the Milford YMCA Tri Club, I felt honor-bound to race in their Y-Tri as well.  In any event, a bit more than a hundred folks wound up racing with me in Milford on Sunday, and all things considered, I thought that was a pretty good turnout.


The Y-Tri starts with a 300-yard pool swim.  You enter your estimated swim time when you enter the race, and then you’re seeded in order from fastest to slowest.  The start is then staggered, with a swimmer entering the water every 10 to 20 seconds.  You zig-zag your way through the six lanes of the pool until you’ve done a lap in each of the lanes, giving you 300 yards.  The past two years, I’ve entered 3:30 as my estimated time and wound up catching up to the guy seeded immediately in front of me, and that kind of sucks.  So this year I entered an estimated time of 3:15, and lo and behold, I was seeded first.

I'm in the last lane, coming in to the wall.
Actually, that’s not really surprising.

So anyway, we lined up, and immediately this 13-year-old kid comes up behind me.  He’s wearing #2 to my #1.  He looks at me and squints.  “So, are you fast or what?”

“I’m okay,” I replied.  “Why?  How fast are you?”

“I’m fast.”

I looked at him, then looked at his dad.  The dad looked back.  “He is.  He’s really fast.”

And I thought, Oh Hell, here we go.  This is what I get for putting down a time of 3:15.  I’m about to be embarrassed in front of my own team!

I sighed.  I’d been planning to try to cruise through the swim without really putting out any serious effort, but the idea of getting embarrassed by a kid who’s not even in high school yet did not appeal.  So I tightened my goggles, got in the water, and said a little prayer.  The official looked at me, counted down, and then said magic words.  And we were off!

As it happens, I don’t think the kid actually went second.  There was some shuffling of the order right before the race started, but frankly, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it because, bottom line, no one wanted my spot.  That said, the fear of getting passed by that kid weighed on me, and when I took off from the wall, I did it with a strong stroke and a solid six-beat kick.  Somewhere around the 150- or 200-yard mark, I realized I was significantly over-working the swim, but by then it was too late.  I’d put at least 15-seconds into the next fastest swimmer, and I’m happy to report that that kid didn’t get anywhere near passing me—or even holding even—but I really worked that swim, and it wasn’t by any means the smartest thing I’ve ever done. 

Still, I was swimming in front of my team, and there is the matter of honor to consider.  I was first out of the water by a lot more than I needed to be, but that’s a damn sight better than getting smoked by a 13-year-old kid.

300-yard pool swim: 3:30 (~1:08/100). 1/7 Age Group; 1/95 Overall.
3:30 was my official time, including the time it takes to get out of the pool, run out of the building, and cross the mat.  I was probably right at 3:15 or maybe 3:20 to the wall, which is how I come by an estimated 1:08/100 average.

The run from the pool to Transition is maybe 30-yards over grass and blacktop.  I jogged it and tried to let my heart slow down a bit.  I then fumbled around in Transition, so that the guy who came out of the water behind me actually left Transition before me.  Still, it wasn’t horrible.  Transition itself wasn’t timed, but I’m gonna guess that the run and the fumbling together took about 2-minutes.

T-1: Untimed.

Start of the bike leg.  Note that I'm out of the saddle, picking
up speed.
We got onto the bike, and I was pleased to see that the guy who passed me in Transition had trouble getting his cleat into his peddle right out of the gate.  I didn’t have that trouble and re-took the lead briefly at about the 50-meter mark.  Right out of the Y’s parking lot, you enter a short, slightly downhill straightaway, and I hit that at a dead run to my competitor’s fumbling, which gave me enough impetus to hold the lead again for maybe a half-mile or so.  However, both he and the guy behind him passed me shortly thereafter, and frankly, I’ve raced both guys before and wasn’t overly surprised to get passed.  Instead, I tried to settle in and work at my own pace without blowing up.

That’s not as easy as it sounds in these short races.  I mean, there’s just no time for anything.  You have to work the entire way just to keep pace with the field.  For example, I started the bike leg with a heart rate of about 165, and I doubt it dropped much in the first four miles.  The bike course starts with a short, straight false-flat down, but then it turns right, and you’re in a false-flat up for the next three miles or so.  It wasn’t brutal by any means, but it also wasn’t an easy place to hold a hard tempo over, especially when you want to go fast but also want to ride easily.  It wasn’t happening for me, and it didn’t until we made the second and third turns.  After that, you climb very briefly before coming to a 2-mile false-flat decent, and it was there that I finally started to get myself back under control.

But the bike course is a two-loop course, and soon enough, I was back into that upward false-flat that had just left me winded.  I felt better by this point but still not what I would call “good”, and although I think I made decent time, I’ll tell you right now that I paid for it.  By the time I reached the one small climb, I was tired, and I know my speed fell off badly going up there.  It would have cost me a lot to get out of the saddle and hold the pace, but I didn’t do that because doing it would have been completely insane.

At this point, I hadn’t seen anybody for a half an hour, and I was breathing pretty hard.  I hit the false-flat down to Transition and worked it as hard as I could.  There was one spot where I came up from behind on a truck who obviously didn’t see me, and I yelled at him, but he slammed on his brakes without killing me, so I guess that’s all that matters.  I finished the course, hopped off my bike, and ran into Transition with burning lungs and rubbery legs.  Argh.

11-Mile Bike: 35:06 (~20 mph).   2/7 Age Group; 10/95 Overall.
Again, transition was untimed.  So my 20 mph estimate here relies on a T-1 time of roughly 2-minutes and change.  That’s the best I can do, however, since my bike computer fell of my handle bars a few weeks ago and got run over by yet another truck—on the same course, if you can believe that.

I ran into T-2, changed shoes, dumped the rest of my stuff, and opted not to wear a hat or a running visor.  I was out pretty quick, but we had to exit Transition through the back, and I wasn’t moving super-fast or anything.  I’m gonna guess I was in there for about a minute, but that’s kind of a wild guess.

T-2: Untimed.


The start of the run course.  Still out there by myself.
It’s a short run course, but it was getting hot by the time I got onto it.  Moreover, I felt like hammered crap when I started, but I’ve done enough triathlons to know that if you just run your race and hold your form, eventually it’ll start to come together again.  Well, mostly that’s how it happens, anyway.  This particular time, I noticed right off that my hands were too high and my form was all wonky, and try as I might, I couldn’t do much with my form.  I wanted to straighten it out and pick up the pace, but I just didn’t have the energy, and that’s about all there is to say about it.  I saw the two guys in front of me on their way back in as I was headed out, and I kind of saluted, but there was no way I was gonna start making up time on those guys, no matter how badly I wanted to. 

Still, by this point it’d been at least forty minutes since I’d seen anyone at all besides those two guys in front of me, and with the exception of the 13-year-old kid’s sister—she passed me right at the two-mile mark of the run, but she was obviously part of a family relay for the event—I hadn’t seen anyone, and that was fine.  I knew I’d swum well, I thought I’d probably ridden reasonably well, and truth to tell, I thought I was probably going to finish well.  I mean, I did see some folks running out as I was running back, but they looked like they were at least a couple of minutes behind me, so I just held my pace and tried to keep it together.  I crossed the line at 59:20 and thought I had a good shot at 3rd overall.

2.5-Mile Run: 20:43 (~8:00/mile).  5/7 Age Group.  25/95 Overall.
This is where it sucks that Transition was untimed.  I’d really like to know what I ran for those last two and a half miles.  I mean, I have trouble believing that I was much below 8:00/mile considering how badly I was feeling, but it’s only 2.5-miles, and I’ve been running a lot.  If I was in T-2 for :50, then I averaged about 7:53/mile.  But if I was only in T-2 for :30, then the average was closer to 8:05/mile.

In any event, I was somewhere around 8:00/mile, which is right at the pace I ran during the Westport 10K.  Considering that both races are not quite an hour, and that I ran them both in a similar fashion—hard up front, holding it together as best I could towards the end—I suppose that’s about what you’d expect.

F.I.R.M. Racing Y-Tri: 59:20.  3/7 Age Group; 11/95 Overall.
As it happens, there were several folks who didn’t pass me straight up given the head-start I had heading into the swim but who nevertheless actually finished faster than I did.  This includes both of the guys who beat me in my Age Group, neither of whom beat me by more than a minute.  It would have been nice to have been able to see those guys in the closing part of the race, but I tell you frankly that I’m not sure I could’ve gone a whole minute faster no matter what.  Maybe competition would’ve helped; maybe it would’ve just driven the point home about how much I need to keep working on my running.

Me, Marisol, and Laetitia after the race.
Going Forward
In the end, this race was sort of the same old thing for me—a decent swim, a decent ride, and then holding on for dear life against a field of better runners.  I keep working on my running—and I’ll admit that it is getting better—but it’s still frustrating.

Up next, Sally and I are running the Fairfield Half Marathon.  After that, depending on what happens at work, it’ll be either an early end to the season or a few more races.  I’m not sure which, and until this thing with work gets sorted out, I’m not making any plans.  Still, it’ll be nice to focus on running by itself for a while.  That’s both easier than multisport training and a little less intense competition-wise given that I’m, just not as good at it.

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