Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Honolulu Olympic Tri Race Report

**Warning: Long Race = Long Race Report. If you want to read a short report on my race you haven't been paying attention to my blatant disregard for word count.**

Honolulu Olympic Tri
Swim 1500yds- 23:15 (Pace-1:33/100yd)
T1- 2:10
Bike 25mi- 1:12:04 (Pace- 20.8mph)
T2- 1:51
Run 6.1mi- 52:02 (Pace- 8:24/mi)
Total time- 2:31:21

The day started like any other race day. Early. Way early. 3:15am early. Even the roosters near our house were like, "Hey man, it's freaking early. Go back to bed." Prerace prep was done the night before, because I'm a responsible Dirtbag. So all we had to do was hit the head, grab some Cliff Bars and a banana, throw my bag and my new foot washing basin (aka Rubbermade bin) in to the truck and we were off.
Saturday at check-in I had also bought a parking pass for ten bucks, which guaranteed me a parking spot in Magic Island's lot. I figured this was worth the money because the last thing I wanted to do at 4am was drive around looking for somewhere to park. And I knew the last thing I'd want to do before I left was walk however far back to that parking spot. So parking was easy. One less aggravation.
This morning was not only an Olympic distance triathlon, oh no! That is too small and simple. This was the Honolulu Festival of Sport. It featured both an Olympic and Sprint distance Tri, a 5k and 10k run, a Youth tri, a Sprint Dualthon (2.5k run/20k bike/5k run), AND a 3.8k open water swim (which happens to be the distance of an Ironman Triathlon swim). There were 1200 people on the start list. 705 of those people were with me, doing the Oly. That is a lot of people wandering around a beach park in the pre-dawn trying to get loose and find an open Port-a-Potty. *Side note: Would it be so hard to equip those things with a small light? We can't do that, Port-a-Potty People?* My race and the two foot races were scheduled to begin at 6am. Off with the sunrise. I assume our races start so early because it gets hot quickly here and we don't want to be out in the midday sun. Also because we were using a main road for the bike course and Hawaii drivers do not take kindly to someone using their traffic area. And by traffic area I mean the place where they plan on stopping for no reason and causing massive traffic.
Because of the size of the start list, the swim went off in waves broken by gender and age group. My group, men age 35 and under, when first. Suits me right down to the ground. I'm jittery enough before a start. I don't want to watch others go first. Plus, that's less people to swim around (because I'm the Tattooed Wake, remember?). So I was in the start corral first with probably 120 other guys or so. I positioned myself behind the obvious fast starters but ahead of the nervous-looking fellas. They trust us to self-seed in these mass starts so you look around and try to gauge who will be swimming over you and who you'll be swimming over and place yourself accordingly. I'm fast in the water, but not elite fast. I'm in the front of the first chase group. Easy to find.
Countdown over the loudspeaker. "Ninety seconds, gentlemen!" Jitter. Wave arms. "Sixty seconds!" Jitter. Flex toes. Roll shoulders. "Thirty seconds!" One last jitter. Shake the magic to the tips of my fingers. Press goggles into eye sockets one last time. Dig toes in to sand for the run to the water...
No one told me we were using a mini-cannon today. We've never used a cannon before. It's always been a BEEEP or some dude going, "Go!" So I might have been startled and said, "Shit!" And we were off! An auspiciously Dirtbag start.
I seeded myself well and the mass start mosh pit broke up pretty quickly. The biggest early decision is how far do I high step in to the water before diving and swimming. Too far and you slow yourself down. Too early and you get stepped on by the guys going too far. Bodies bump, feet kick, hands thrash, and then I'm in the clear. As expected the elites are off, never to be seen again expect as they pass me on turn-arounds later. And I'm holding a strong position and my stroke feels great. Smooth, quick, long. Every few yards I poke my head up to check my direction using the big yellow guide buoys. I also pick some feet in front of me to follow. Hope he's not lost. The swim is the only place during a triathlon I make regular passes. It's the only place I get to feel stronger than the other racers. And I feel strong. The feet in front of me seem to be maintaining a decent pace so I decide to hang with them. As the swim progresses I sometimes pull even with the owner of the feet and sometimes am right on his six. We make the 750yd turn and head back to shore.
At this point there are other waves heading the direction I just came from so I made a note to stay well to my side of the buoys. I don't know if I drifted too far in or if someone was way outside where they should have been but I went head on with someone. Clonk! We both only stopped for a moment and then were back to it. A preview of what was to come.
Around this time I decide to get some draft going. It's illegal on the bike but easy to do in the water, especially with this guy so close. So I latch on and let him do the pulling, swimming in his wake and feeling clever. Haha, I think, sucks to be you. Thanks! And I feel smug for a while, until fingertips brush my toes. What the hell! Some jerk is drafting off me?
We make landfall around the same time and jog/run to the transition area. My bike is near the bike exit side, which means I have a longer run to the bike, but then a short run from my bike to the mount line. Using my new wash basin, which Sexy Wife had filled with water earlier, I dip my feet and pull on my shoes and helmet. Not the fastest T1, but not awful. It needs work.
I felt good getting out on the bike. I had left it in the correct gear when I put it up so I was able to get on and get a good cadence going right away. I also immediately noticed a problem. You see, dear reader, we were all given numbers to put on our bikes. Most people, myself included, stuck this flag-like sticker around the top bar of the frame, which connects the seat post to the front-end. I didn't think too much about whether to stick the numbers close to the seat or closer to the bars and it ended up more to the former. Lesson learned. Next time I'll put that damned thing as far forward as I can get it. Why? Because when the wind catches it, and it does if the bike is moving, it makes that number flag wave. And that number flag is juuuuust long enough to touch the inside of my thigh. So every single pedal stroke than damn thing scratched against my left inner thigh. Not enough to hurt hurt or even make a mark, but enough to annoying hurt. And bending, creasing, or crunching it didn't help in the least. For 3/4 of the ride it was amazingly annoying.
Like I said, and I've said this before in other race reports, coming out of the water early, and I was 42nd out of the water out of all 706 finishers, only means that I get to watch the stronger cyclists and then runners pass me for the rest of the race. But for maybe five minutes I didn't see but one or two other people. The road was mine. Then one dude would flash by, then nothing but quite road, then another would come zipping by. Kind of cool. I bared down and got to work. Because here, unlike the water, I have to focus to make the Go Fast go. And focusing was getting difficult with that damned scrape scrape scrape on my thigh.
The course was mostly flat with a few very shallow climbs and descents. Nothing too painful or slowing. I was mentally ready. For almost all of it. I knew the basic layout of the course and I'd even ridden it that Monday. But I had never gone out the short out-and-back they had to add to get the distance up to 40k. And that screwed up my head. At the turn around right outside the Arizona Memorial I was still feeling strong. I even made my only attack of the ride, passing a guy while climbing. I felt pretty badass when I did that and it got me through a couple of miles. I started thinking too far ahead. And then we turned on to Lagoon Drive and I mentally wiped out. For some reason it felt much longer than the five miles or so it probably was. I mean, it was flat, it was straight, ninety degree right turn, straight, U-turn, and back but I had such a hard time keeping my pace up. It's parts like that which are why I don't race with my bike computer. Because as good as it would feel to see those numbers hanging in the 20s it would be incredibly demoralizing to see them drop in to the mid-teens. And I know I was in there for two or three miles. I was fighting it. But I knew that as soon as I made the right back on to Nimitz and the main road I'd be fine because the end really would be in sight.
Not quite.
I spent the whole ride down on my aerobars, proper racing position. This puts me far away from my brakes. That's ok because in a race why would you need to brake? Well, one reason you should brake is because you're coming up to a sharp right and you might be going a leeeettle bit too fast. You might do that. If you were bright. I did not. I stayed down on my aerobars, leaned in to that right, felt really good about how well I'd managed the corner, noticed I had taken it too far without straightening back out, had not enough control down on the aerobars, clipped one of the cones lining the course with me right pedal, had time to look up and see the next cone right in front of me and think, "Awww fuck," then I hit it full on, which shot the bike to the right directly in to the curb. The bike stopped but, thanks to Sir Newton, I did not, flying off to the side, landing and partially rolling on my back. To my credit, and I do like to give myself credit, I got right back up and right back to the bike. My biggest concern at that point was not, "I hope I'm not hurt!" It was, "I hope my bike isn't hurt!" Because I can finish the race with scrapes and bruises. I was five or six miles from the transition area. I can't finish the race with a flat or a bent or broken bike. Quick check, tires inflated, everything spins true, water bottle cages slightly ganked, one aerobar slightly lower, good enough. And (I swear I did this) with a barbarian bellow I was back on the bike and cranking. I honestly think the crash helped me finish the ride. Nothing says Adrenaline Rush like a high-speed crash.
I knew I was scraped and muddy but had no idea how bad. I'd been getting passed for over an hour now by individuals and groups and that didn't change at the end, but I did feel focused again. It was time for my least favorite leg. The run.
I trotted in to the transition area and had a slow slow T2. Sexy Wife called to me asking if I was ok and I nodded that I was fine and blew her a kiss. But I was a little shaky. Fatigue and a crash, you know how it is. And I'm sure she was worried. I ride away fine and ride back muddy and scraped. This race also marks the last time I go without a race top. Had I been wearing a top the damage would have been much less. Obi Tri Kenobi was there watching some of the racers he's coaching for the Honu Half Ironman compete and talked to me about my race afterwards. One of the things he said was, "Yeah, saw you got pretty scratched up. You weren't wearing a top, were you?" It was said in a gentle, conversational way but I know coaches. He really said, "You should have worn a top, dope. Don't do it again." I speak Coach, I get it. And I will from now on. Dirtbag likes racing without and it is more comfortable, but protecting my fragile (sexy) skin is more important. (Even though scars are cool.)
Here's the thing with the run: I have had some good runs over the last 18 weeks. But none of them were what actual runners would consider "Fast". I did. But I'm still not a runner runner. I'm learning. And my training was seriously lacking in brick workouts. I should have been bike/run-ing once a week for nearly all of it and I didn't and I totally felt that during the six miles on my feet. And if that wasn't enough, I was running in my VFF TrekSports after deciding that the hole in my KSOs was just too much and it wasn't going to work to tape them. Let's just say I could have been more prepared than I was.
I felt slow. I kept thinking, Ok I need to pick it up, come one lets get that cadence going but it never really got there. A lot of that is that I don't run six miles fast on a regular basis yet. So there was fear and caution and a mental block to really reaching deep. I did my best. But I never really ran for it. On the run course they put out mile markers. So you run for a while and then you pass a sign, "1 Mi". These are both good and bad. It helps you pace yourself and know how far you have, hard hard you should be pushing, when to stop conserving and just go. But, for me at least, it also meant that I'd pass the one mile marker, run for what felt to me like a while and I'd start to think, "I'm sure I've gone another mile. Maybe they aren't putting those out every mile. Maybe it's like one, three, and five. Because I'm sure I've gone at least two miles now." And then I would pass the two mile marker. "Damn." Messes with your head. I promised myself I'd push after three, but I couldn't find it. I did have the energy to crack a joke with one of the volunteers. To motivate (?) us there was a DJ at about the halfway point spinning 80s and 90s hit. And I called out, "Hey, we need some SLAYER!!!" The volunteer nodded and smiled and pointed the direction I was supposed to run. I don't think she understood. But if I ever organize a race there will be metal all over the place. Slayer makes for fast running.
I promised myself with one mile left I'd push. Really push. And...I had a hard time finding anything to push with. I did manage to break through the last 100 yards and sprint-ish to the finish, passing three people staggering in but getting passed by a little girl, maybe ten or eleven years old who was finishing her youth tri. Yeah, a small child beat me to the finish. So I gave her three pages of homework and detention. No, she's not in my class. But teachers have that kind of power. Don't tell anyone I told.
Overall, I'm very happy with my performance. I think its obvious the race didn't go exactly to plan, but I can't complain. I told Sexy Wife a few days prior that I would be happy with anything around 2:30, shocked if it was faster, and bummed if it was slower. I hit the nail right on the head. I also correctly predicted my swim and bike pace pretty well. How can I complain about averaging nearly 21mph over a 25 mile ride, especially knowing I crashed both mentally and physically during it and knowing I was conserving for the run? My run, as Obi Tri would tell me later in Coach-speak, "needs work." But I know that and it gives me something to focus on. I need to go out and find run drills and workouts tailored to speed over distance. I'll get it.
One last funny thing about the race: Half of Japan was there. There was a massive Japanese contingent. Which meant that they needed a translator. This woman, this tiny little Japanese woman, had the most stereotypical Japanese voice AND the most stereotypical Japanese-to-Engrish accent you have ever heard. Like, if you put someone who sounded exactly like her on a TV show you would get massive amounts of "I'm so offended by this offensive display of offending offense!" letters. She was awesome.
Anyway, I'm taking this week off completely. No running, no bike, no swim. I'll start planning my future races in a few days. There are no local Olympic distances coming up that I can find so it'll be Sprints and I think I'm going to do some open water swim races. I should find run-only and ride-only races too. That would help.
Your friendly, long-winded Dirtbag is proud of himself and I'm ready to find more challenges. I would also like to thank everyone who participated in the 50/50 Contest and everyone who helped and encouraged me during my training. Team Dirtbag Rocks!


  1. Great report Doug! Proud of you!!

  2. Only takes one cornering error to put the fear in you. Now, corner harder, faster, and in sketchier terrain until you crash again--then you'll conquer that fear!

    Nice race report sir. Time for some speedwork for those feet. One suggestion: 2x(5x600m repeats) at/above race pace. Twice per week. And make race pace something challenging--like 7:15 or so. Then increase repeats distance until you can do 5x1600m repeats at 7:25 or better.

  3. Great race Son. I think your commitment and desire is excellent. WooHoo.