Monday, April 15, 2013

Triathlon Diary: Brian's Beachside Boogie 2013 Race Report

After four working weeks in a row, last week was a Rest Week.  That was convenient for two reasons.  First, I had to go to Albany for work, and it’s always tough to train when you’re on the road, and second, I had my first multi-sport race of the season yesterday.

Right off the bat, I'll say that I didn't plan to do much last week.  Run once, maybe swim once... I had limited goals.
No matter how limited my goals, however, I didn't even get close to meeting them.  In fact, I was a complete sluggo while I was up in Albany, doing nothing at all except eating too much, drinking too much beer, and trying to catch up on my sleep.  And that was fine on Tuesday and Wednesday, but I should definitely have gone for that short run on Thursday because by the time Friday rolled around, I felt fat and useless.
To make matters worse, my wife Sally woke up sick on Saturday morning, so I couldn't even go to Tri Club practice.  I eventually got over to the pool late Saturday morning, where I swam a very rusty-feeling 2000 yards in an effort to try to kick my metabolism back into gear, but it was a rough experience, and quite honestly, I didn't know what to expect out of the race the next day.
I got up around 6:00 am on Sunday morning and felt a little better than I had the day before.  I grabbed my stuff, threw my bike in the car, and headed out with a cup of coffee, a banana, and a Clif Bar in hand.  I got to Hammonasset State Park about 7:15 for a race start of 9:00.  So far, so good.
Race Productions is the company that runs Brian's Beachside Boogie, and I've got to give them props for swag.  They didn't hand me a bag full of one-off gu samplers, coupons I'll never use, and yet another race t-shirt that I might never wear.  Instead, they gave me a very nice running hat—with Brian's Hope, the charity for whom the race is run, stenciled on it—and my timing chip, and that was that.  I'd never gotten a hat at a race before, but I quite like this one.  It's white, and it's got lots of venting in the top.  Plus, the name of the race, Brian's Beachside Boogie, is stenciled right on the side.
Anyway, with check-in and associated nonsense taken care of, I got out my mat and started doing yoga.  One of the reasons I got to the race so early was that after nearly a full week of lethargy, I figured it was gonna take at least a half-hour to get myself right, so I'd tried to allow plenty of time.
That was a good idea.  I wound up doing nearly forty minutes of yoga and then riding a couple of easy miles and running about ¾ of a mile easy, and eventually, I started feeling like myself again.  By the time all of that was done, it was about 8:30.  I set up in Transition, stretched out again, and then grabbed my phone to kill the last fifteen minutes before the race started.
As soon as I picked up my phone, work called.  It was so incongruous that I sat there staring at the screen for ten full seconds before I finally answered the call.  There I was sitting on a beachside park bench getting ready to start a race on a Sunday morning, and my office is calling.  And it wasn't even important.
Needless to say, I put my phone back in my bag right after that.
Run #1
A triathlon is swim-bike-run.  Biathlon is cross country ski-rifle marksmanship-cross country ski.  Aquabike is swim-bike.  And then there's another kind of multi-sport race involving canoeing that I can't quite name off the top of my head.  Brian's Beachside Boogie, however, is a Duathlon: a two-mile run, followed by a roughly ten-mile ride, followed by another two-mile run.  What makes it interesting, though, besides the fact that it's so early in the season, is that it's off-road at the beach, and fat-tired bikes are mandatory.  
We lined up to start the race right at 9:00 am, heard a few words about Brian's Hope and the Myelin Project from our race's sponsor, and then we were off.
The run course is a kind of lazy hourglass, mostly over grass.  It's probably not quite as fast a surface as running on a road would provide, but it's not bad, and it's certainly easier on the body than road running.  That said, if you've never done a duathlon before, the key to doing one well is to remember that it's a single race that’ll last an hour or more.  Invariably, folks start off that first two-mile run as if the race were only two miles in total, and that rarely works out well for them.
That happened this time as well.  Folks took off, and I let them.  But them we got about a half-mile into the course, and I started feeling good.  So I leaned into the run and let myself pick up speed, going from what had been a steady pace to something that was more like a tempo run.  Frankly, I'm not sure that that was the smartest thing I've ever done.  I started passing people, and thatnever happens on the first run of a duathlon.  In fact, by about the ten minute mark, I was actively trying to rein it in a little and get my heart rate back down.
But for better or worse, the damage was done.  The good news was that I was solidly up at the Front of the Pack coming out of what is usually the worst phase of my race.  The bad news was that I'd pushed a little harder than I meant to in order to get there.
Run #1: 15:24 (7:42/mile pace).  5/10 age group; 31/80 overall.
Eh.  That's not blazing fast or anything.  Looking back, my concern over my initial pacing was probably a little overblown.
So.  I usually come off that first run solidly buried in the back of the pack and then spend the next few miles trying to reel in as many people as I can.  This time, though, I hadn't let myself get buried, and as a consequence, there wasn't as much passing that needed to get done.
The bike course at this race is a two loop course that also looks a little like a lazy hour-glass.  In past years, the course has been relatively easy, with well-maintained trails and lots of road-riding.  However, two years of hurricanes have taken their toll on the park, and on top of that, the race organizers had to change the course a little this year in order to protect some kind of rare birds' nest.  As a consequence, the course was varied and ever-changing, and I felt like it really rewarded good bike handling.  In the space of five miles we went from gravel to loose sand, back to gravel, and then onto roads—for a maybe two and a half miles.  Then we were into the woods, over exposed roots and trails, through grass, and back onto gravel and loose sand.  There were several very sharps turns, some in the woods and near all the exposed roots, and there were a couple that were in the gravel, one of which was a hairpin.  And this was a two-loop course, so we did all of that twice.
I'm not complaining.  I ride almost every day—in New York City—and I think I handle my bike fairly well.  So this course suited me.  It was interesting and challenging, and it kept me fully engaged for most of the ride.  I was worried more about the mechanics of how I was gonna approach the course than the physical factors of how hard I was working.  It wasn't “Is my heart rate too high?”  It was “Can I countersteer around that hairpin in this gravel, or will that make my rear wheel slide out from under me?”  That made the race very different than your average road bike race.
In a larger sense, I felt lousy on the first loop but loosened up nicely on the second and attacked the course aggressively on the back half.  Truthfully, the course was fun but exhausting.  Still, I'm satisfied with how I rode.
Bike Course: ~10-miles 41:04.  4/10 age group; 19/80 overall.
Run #2
The ramp up to T2 was a divot-filled grass surface.  I let myself coast in, losing speed until I could safely jump off my bike at the dismount point without breaking stride.  After the exhilaration of the last bit of that bike course, I was ready to charge straight into the second run.  
Both feet hit the ground at the same time, and my calves locked like a vice.  For the first time in awhile, it occurred to me that I’d been pushing the pace pretty hard for nearly an hour.
For a moment, I was afraid I was gonna have a serious problem, but after a few steps, things kind of loosened up.  I dropped my bike and my helmet, grabbed my running cap, and headed out onto the run course thinking, “Holy shit!  I need to do some more brick workouts!”
I looked at my watch.  56:00.  With that, I tried to gauge about when I thought I could finish, but my brain refused to do the math.  So I settled in, tried not to panic, and made the best of it.  I didn’t feel fast, but I knew from experience that if I could at least hold my stride together, it’d be okay.
Amazingly, I passed a guy right out of T2 and was then by myself for the vast majority of the run.  Eventually, I hit the turn-around point and started back in, and by then I felt a little better, but I’d still call this a tough run.  A couple of guys passed me with maybe a half mile to go, but I didn’t have anything like the gas to give chase, and when I hit the finish, it was with more relief than triumph.
Run #1: 17:02 (8:31/mile pace).  6/10 age group; 39/80 overall.
Running is no my best thing, but even so, that right there is not a stellar performance.
Brian’s Beachside Boogie: 1:13:30.  4/10 age group; 19/80 overall.
Rough finale or no, this wasn’t a bad race.  I ran pretty well early, rode well over a fairly challenging course, and then held it together when things got rough.  All things considered, I’ll take it.  Plus, it’s highly unusual for me to be in the Front of the Pack in a race without a swimming leg, so that’s good.
That said, in the preliminary results, it looked like I’d gotten 3rd in my age group, and I was super happy about that.  Seeing the reality this morning was deflating as Hell.  If I was still in the 35-39 age group, I would have been third, but as it happens, I would’ve needed to drop over seven minutes to get there as a 40-year-old.  That is a lot of time.
Final Thoughts
I’m back at the office this week and back in the saddle as far as training is concerned.  My next race is a short sprint triathlon at my local YMCA, and I’m looking forward to it, but at the same time, I’ve got to admit that these short races are in many ways even more brutal than the longer ones.  It’s one thing to hold a aerobic pace over time; it’s very different to try to run/bike/run tempo for an hour solid.  
After this next race, I’m on to a charity ride for my company and then an Olympic triathlon at Lake Quassy, and at this point, I’m solidly looking forward to both.