Sunday, June 16, 2013

2013 Pat Griskus Olympic Triathlon Race Report

I’ve been training all season for the Pat Griskus Olympic Triathlon.  It’s a tough race--tough course--but I’m reasonably satisfied with how I did overall.  Still, the race itself was kind of an exercise in humility.  
I don’t think I’m bad or untalented as a triathlete, but this race is the Northeast Regional Club Championships, and it brings out some pretty talented racers.  Lots of dedicated folks in tri-clubs from all over the greater New York City/Westchester County/Fairfield County area.  And truth is, sometimes how you do in a race is as dependent on who else shows up as it is on how you yourself perform.  This race was a reminder that there are a lot of folks out there who’re at least as talented as I am and who train a lot, lot more.

For me personally, this was a crazy week.  Then on Friday night, Sally and I went to see Man of Steel.  Not a bad movie, but long, and we didn’t get home until about 10:00 pm.  After that, it seemed like 4:30 am came pretty quickly.  Before I knew it, I was getting up to get to Lake Quassy Amusement Park for the race.  In retrospect, it all kind of went by in a blur.
The race itself is super-well organized.  There were about 400 people entered, maybe ⅔ men to ⅓ women.  I checked in, got my shirt and a free water bottle, put on my tri suit, and then did maybe twenty minutes of yoga.  After that, I headed down to the water to start psyching myself up for the warm up.
The most challenging part of this race was by far the course itself.  Early in the week, Lake Quassy was 70°, but then we had a long cold snap with heavy rain such that by Saturday morning, the lake’s temperature had actually fallen two degrees, to 68°.  Not ideal!  I swim without a wetsuit, and I do okay in cold water, but I’ve never met anyone that likes to swim in less than 72°, including me.  Still, I eventually forced myself into the water, and after a few deep yoga breaths and a bit of stern internal monologue, I realized that I could handle it.  It wasn’t necessarily going to be easy to swim in water that cold, but I put in about 300 yards of warm up, and I knew that I could do it and survive.
After that, I got out and just sat down.  We heard from the Race Director, sang the National Anthem, and then started filing into the coral to start the race.
They blew the horn, and we were off.
First thing I’ll say is that there were some really good swimmers at this race.  Granted, part of my strategy here was to take it easy and leave as much as I could for the bike and the run, but still...  It usually only takes me a couple of hundred yards to get out away from the pack and into open water.  At the Griskus, I was surrounded by swimmers the entire time!  That doesn’t happen often.
The water temperature didn’t really affect me while I was swimming, save that it made me stiff.  I mean, I actually enjoyed the swim for the most part.  It was cold, but I didn’t notice much, really.  Instead, I just cruised, not letting anything bother me, and the only real issue that I had was that I had a little trouble sighting on the buoys after the first turn.  
For whatever reason, most of the guys ahead of me made a really lazy turn off that first buoy and headed out in an arc to the second buoy.  I however made a hard cut after the first turn, sighted on the second, and headed straight for it.  But there were like fifty people off to my front left--as much as 25 yards away!--and I thought I must’ve missed seeing a buoy!  So I sat there for like half a minute searching for that missing buoy, and it wasn’t until as much as five minutes later that I was completely sure that I’d done the right thing.  As it happens, the thing I thought might have been a buoy turned out to be a lifeguard in a yellow kayak.  So, bottom line, what I’d done was correct, but I floundered because the sun was low over the water and very bright, and I didn’t realize how much that was apparently affecting everyone, me included, with sighting.
Whatever.  After we hit the second turn buoy, things were better.  Almost before I knew it, I was on the beach and headed to T-1, feeling relaxed but very stiff from swimming in that cold water.
1.03-Mile Swim: 27:59 (~1:36/100),  5/38 Age Group; 45/307 Overall.
See?  I told you there were some good swimmers here.  Granted, that was a pretty easy swim for me by design, but still.  It’s weird that I wasn’t even in the top 10% coming out of the water.
Also, I think this experience has convinced me that I really do need to buy a wetsuit for these early season races.  Probably sleeveless, but something to keep me just a little warmer would’ve helped a lot.
I got out of the water, and I felt good.  Really stiff in my upper body, but my heart rate was under 130, and that’s where I wanted to be early on in what I knew was gonna be a challenging race.
I will confess that I didn’t hurry much through T-1, but I did decide to skip my socks--a decision I would later regret.
T-1: 3:04.  21/38 Age Group.  165/307 Overall.
We hit the bike course, and that’s when I started realizing just how stiff I’d gotten during that swim.  Whatever yoga I did pre-race was pretty much jettisoned by a half-hour in that 68° water, and I was gonna have to more or less warm up all over again.
Luckily, the course itself is pretty easy for the first five miles, but I didn’t push it the way I probably would have under other conditions.  Of course, a larger consideration was the course profile--climby after Mile 5, then down hill, then climby again to damn-near the end of the bike course.  

The Griskus Oly Bike Profile.
What can I say?  It’s a tough course by design.  I knew that when I signed up.
I’ve become a much better climber in the last two years, but it still seemed like everyone in the world passed me on the bike.  And I let them.  I wanted to chase, but I knew I better not, and in the end, that was a pretty good idea.  I train about 10 hours per week, and that’s fine, but there were a lot of folks here who put in a lot more time than that, and it was pretty obvious both early on and then at the end of the bike course.  I held my own and felt good through the first (larger) series of climbs from Mile 5 to Mile 16, but the next set of climbs--starting at Mile 20--put the hurtin’ on me.  Somewhere around the top of the last climb my right quad started wanting to cramp, and that sucked.  But then we hit the top, turned, and went down into the Park and T-2.
Bike: 1:24:48 (~17.5 mph).  22/38 Age Group; 133/308 Overall.
Despite being slightly below average in my age group, that’s not a bad performance by any means.

T-2 was better than T-1, and with the exception of my right quad being twitchy, I felt good.  Plus, I was in and out quick, and that’s always nice.
T-2: 1:06.  13/38 Age Group; 96/308 Overall.

Ah, running.  My nemesis.
I started off feeling pretty good, and the run course starts off with a gentle downhill.  I’m gonna say my first half mile was probably about an 8:20 pace.  But then we hit a steeper decline, and my right quad started cramping.  For a second, I thought it was gonna lock up hard, and I was gonna have to walk, but I slowed waaaaay down and managed to hold it together.  I finally hit a water station at about the mile mark, walked through it and put down a full cup of water, and got my shit together.  In retrospect, I think I mixed my Gatorade a little too strong and had too much salt in my system.  Anyway, I took pure water all the way through the run, and by the end of it, my quad was fine.  
Beyond that, I tried to run at a moderate pace, holding back for the first half of the run and then slowly letting myself pick up a little speed towards the end of the run.  And I never felt like I wanted to die during the run--an improvement for me at this distance--so that was good.  My second mile was 9:30, but after that, my quad seemed better, and I ran more normally, if at a very measured pace.
Run: 53:30 (~8:37/mile).  25/38 Age Group; 210/308 Overall.
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right.  That is slow.  But I’m a slow runner.  No way around it, really.  
My 10K race pace is only a shade under 8:00/mile, so this is about the best I can hope for, all things considered.  And considering that I timed my second mile--the mile where I was dealing with that cramp in my right quadriceps--at 9:30, that puts the rest of this run at just under 8:30/mile.  That’s pretty much right where I wanted to be.
2013 Pat Griskus Olympic Triathlon: 2:50:25.  21/38 Age Group; 131/308 Overall.

Final Thoughts
I’ve run something like ten Olympic triathlons, and that’s the distance that I tend to focus my training towards.  That said, I’ve always found the run at the end of this distance very challenging, to the point where I’ve wound up walking at some point in at least half the Oly’s I’ve run.  This one was the first time I felt like I really paced myself correctly, and if I wasn’t quite as fast in the swim or the bike as I usually am, my run was far less pathetic than normal, and that’s really an improvement.
Also: based on these results it seems clear that I’m not doing enough interval training on the bike.  That’s something I can work on.  But it’s tough finding the time to get all of the work in that I want to get in.  Well, that’s the trick, right?
Anyway, next up for me is the Greenwich Point One-Mile Swim (in mid-July), followed by the Charles Island Sprint Triathlon in mid-August.  After that, I’d like to take a shot at the Hartford Marathon, but we’ll have to see how the long distance run training goes before I really commit.

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