Monday, June 27, 2011

Firecracker Sprint Tri Race Report

Firecracker Sprint Tri
Swim- 9:40 (500m)
T1- 1:37
Bike- 35:09 (12.4mi)
T2- 1:25
Run- 24:14 (3.1mi)
Total- 1:12.02

To start off on a positive note, this is a PR for me at this distance. I ought to be thrilled.
But I'm not. Not really. I'm trying to be. But not so much.
Because the race did not start out on a positive note, and I let that throw me off for way too long.Come with me now to 5:45am, Sunday morning. I have prerace butterflies, which happens for most races, but these are slightly more active than they normally are. Because of this I'm not paying the kind of attention I should be to the prerace briefing. I'm jittering and chatting with other racers. I miss an important part of the announcements. A part I really should have known anyway, but forgot.
Which direction the swim goes in.
Every single race I've done, Every. Single. Race, the swim has gone clockwise, buoy on the right shoulder at all time. But for some reason I'm standing on the beach at 5:59.30, with a start time of 6:00, wondering aloud to the guys around me which buoy we are swimming at first. And we are all confused. Was it the race organizer's fault? No, we should have known. Should have been listening better. I did not hear a countdown to the start, but I'm sure there was one. Every race has had a, "Ok, guys! Ten seconds! Five!" But I missed it.
I was mid-sentence when the gun went off. With my goggles on my forehead. Like the greenest newbie you've ever seen.
But I reacted fast and was in the water right away.
What I should have done
Swimming hard.
Towards the wrong buoy.
Like a moron. And guys I was talking to were following me. We'd chosen, like the man told Indy, poorly.
It wasn't until the lifeguard caught my eye, waving frantically, yelling we needed to go the other way, that I course corrected. I estimate I went at least 150m, maybe 200m, out of my way all told because of my mistake. And instead of having clear water in front of me I had to spend 90% of the race finding a path through swimmers who weren't faster than me, but ended up in front of me because they, you know, went the right way. Positive: I made it up and was tenth out of the water overall. Negative, my time was a miserable 9:40, at least two minutes slower than it should have been. I should have been second out of the water.
What I did
Bigger negative: Look at what I was doing at the off. Talking. Unprepared. Unfocused. How can a person race when their mind isn't at all where it needs to be when the gun goes off? This is so unlike me, so unprofessional, that it makes me madder than anything else. How could I be that blasé about the start of a race I was determined to do well in? It taught me a lot. It's not going to happen again. To be honest, it bothered me so much that right after the race I wanted to do it again. I wanted to redeem myself.
Trying to get my head back in the game
A true elite athlete would take this problem at the start, swallow it, and move on. But I'm not there yet. Yes, that's pretty harsh on myself. Yes, I think I deserve it. I'm a swimmer, I shouldn't make these mistakes. Moving on. I know it ate into my transition and my ride. T1 felt slow. It wasn't that bad, it was actually the fastest T1 yet. But it could have been better. I tried to get over my swim mistake, tried to move past it and get in to the race, but I struggled mightily. I couldn't get out of my head for the first half of the ride. I was riding, my feet were moving the pedals, I was breathing hard, but there was no Urgency. I wasn't Racing. I was merely riding. Talking to myself, trying to get out of my head and get some, but it wasn't happening like I was asking for.
After the turn around it got better I think it was because I could see the end of the ride now. I knew what to expect for the second half of the course and had a good feeling for my fuel tank. Too fuel. My legs were too fresh. I managed to get on it.
I don't remember a lot about the second half of the ride, which is a good thing. It means I was racing now, I was in it and my mind was where it needed to be. Now I feel strong and fast. Now the race report gets more positive. The damage to my average bike speed, 19.something mph, instead of 20 or 21mph where it should have been, had been done. Now was not the time to fret. I was finally racing.
You can see my foot half out of the shoe. Also, I look fast.
I'm especially proud of T2. It was at least twenty seconds faster than my fastest transition so far. I think that time save was mostly due to my new slip off the shoes while riding but still clipped in, then off the bike and barefoot into transition while the shoes remain clipped in. (More detail: Cycling shoes attach to the pedals via a clip, allowing the rider to pull on the upstroke, granting him or her more power all the way through. Triathletes use this to their advantage by unVelcroing the shoe on an upstroke, slipping one foot all the way out of the shoe, placing it on top of the shoe, and then pedaling again. The process is then repeated on the other side, taking the foot all the way or nearly all the way out of the shoe. This way I don't have to run in my cycling shoes, or deal with taking them off in transition. I feel like a real triathlete by pulling this off. Then I remember I swam the wrong direction. D'oh!) I've been practicing this for a month now, it was easy and fast. Once I get better at putting the Bikilas on quick that T2 time will drop even more. VFFs just aren't built for getting in to quickly. There are other minimalist options out there, but this is what I've got now and I love running in them, so why play with it too much?
As far as you know, they guys behind me stayed there all race
My run was where the race finally truly coalesced. It was thirty seconds faster than any previous 5k. I felt strong, fast, and confident for the first time since the gun. (Ok, not true. I felt strong and fast in the water, but I was too busy bubbling to myself to notice.) I still was being passed, because that's how I run, but not as often. And my internal gauge said I was having a good run. There was plenty of gas in the tank, my stride was quick, and I hammered as well as I've ever done. I was even feeling positive enough to joke with a guy who ran by me wearing a Star Wars cycling jersey ("I love your jersey! Awesome!"), recommend VFFs to another guy passing me ("You like those things?" "I love these things!"), shout at and startle a dude running full on barefoot (but not passing me, YAY!) ("Barefoot! YES!"), and joke with the girls at the water aide station at the turn around ("No one else needs to pass me. Tell them you are the finish line! Don't let them by!"). I even executed two attacks in the final kilometer, passing people. Dirtbag does not normally pass on the run. It was a good feeling. I kicked hard in to the finish and laid down a PR of 1:12.03.
Like I said at the top, its hard not to think about what could have/should have been. I am positive this race should have been a 1:09 at least. It wouldn't have moved me on to the podium in my age group, I came in 6th, but it would have been the race I wanted to have. Instead I have more fuel, more to make me hungry, more to make me focus. I learned a lot during this race. I need to train harder, increase the suffering when I'm riding and running so my threshold grows.
Big Finish!
I'll be taking at least a month off from racing now, and at least three weeks off from serious training while the Super Sexy Wife and I head to the mainland for West Coast Summer Family Tour 2011. My next race will probably be one of the Chuns swim of the North Shore Swim Series. As always, I've got to thank Background Profiles for their sponsorship, and my wife and all of Team Dirtbag for their amazing support.
I would also like to plug Cycle Dirtbag's blog about his recent metric century. Way to be, brother! Get some. Go again.


  1. Well, making the mental mistake did cost you, but you still did your personal best time... don't beat your self up too bad. Remember what Yogi Bera said, 90% of hitting is 50% mental.... and Crash Davis said to Nuke, "Don't think, just throw"... the metal part of sports will mess you up every time- (i.e. Tiger Woods)

  2. You did great, Doug, you should be so proud. Making mistakes is the only way to learn sometimes. I plan to have all your marketing stuff up and running for your next race :) Just you wait...

  3. Mental note..distract DB with small talk before Chuns race to insure victory on the swim. Haha. Jk. Have a good trip!