Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Race Report - Kinetic Sprint

Cold, wet and muddy. These three words about sum up my race experience at the Kinetic Sprint.

Bart and I entered the Kinetic for one reason only - to practice race day conditions (particularly our new transition techniques) and to help Coach Harlow fine tune our race paces for the upcoming Half. Post-race, I'm not sure we achieved any of those goals.

When we arrived at Lake Anna Sunday morning, it had already began to rain. We picked up our race packets in a slight drizzle, got body marked (an ugly "36" for me) and headed back to the car to get our gear to put in transition. By then, the rain started streaming down at a faster pace. We prepared as much as possible at the car - adjusting our tire pressure for the rainy conditions, applying our race numbers, etc. I donned the fashionable trash bag and we headed with our bikes over to the racks.

The transition area had already started to get muddy. The day before was the Kinetic Half and the grass had been worn away in lots of places, including the area where I was to rack my bike. I chose a great spot next to one of the dividers and laid out my new simplified transition equipment. I made a last minute decision due to the conditions not to perform my new, still shaky bike/shoe mounts and dismounts under the rainy and muddy conditions and included my unclipped bike shoes in the transition area. Bart and I covered our transition mats with plastic garbage bags to attempt to keep things as dry as possible, and then headed back to the car to stay warm.

With about 20 minutes before race time, we took our wetsuits to the changing rooms and prepared to race. I've never had issues getting my wetsuit on before, but with my legs cold and wet from the rain, it was quite a challenge. However, for the first time that morning, with my wet suit on, I was warm.

Swim - I was disappointed I was in the last wave of swimmers. For me, I knew it would mean having to deal with traffic in the lake and traffic on the bike. Plus, the anticipation is never good for my nerves. The horn sounded for my wave, and I was off. Running and then dolphining my way out into the water. The water was very cold (around 65) and I struggled as a result getting into any rhythm until the first buoy. However, each time I sighted, I knew I was towards the front of my wave and I could see my Tuckahoe Y Masters buddy swimming right next to me. After the first turn, we hit the traffic in the water. I kept trying to find someone to draft off of, but everyone in front of me, it seemed, was from the waves before and swimming a slower pace. So I ultimately gave up on the draft, and just aimed for the straightest line. I never was able to feel my pull the way I do when I am swimming strong at the pool and really stretched out. My sighting techniques pretty much stunk and I reverted to my 10 strokes free, one quick breast, technique to sight better. This is something I definitely need to practice. But like everything with a sprint, the swim was over quickly, I stripped down the top of my wetsuit, and headed for transition.

T1 - Already transition was a muddy mess. The spot next to my bike (which was not the spot I originally picked thanks to number 441's "friend" moving my bike and transition stuff off the nice spot near the divider I picked and further into the mud - I think I would have complained post race if she hadn't quit after the swim) was all mud and after stripping my wetsuit completely, it was impossible not to step in the gooey brown mess. I then put my muddy feet into my tri shoes, without socks, and started to negotiate my way towards the bike mounting area. I couldn't run to the start for fear I'd go down in the mud, so I quickly walked my bike to the mount line.

Bike - The first part of the bike was about a mile and a half ascent out of the park. Prior to racking, I had shifted into an easier gear and the ascent out seemed easy. I was already passing folks and my legs felt great. By now, however, the rain was a constant pour and the traffic on the course was extremely busy. There were cyclists everywhere - many with no clue of the rules of the road - i.e., if you are not passing at the moment, stay to the right. My race plan said to stay in zone 4 of my HR, but I was having trouble seeing my HR since I couldn't get my Garmin to switch directions on my wrist so I could read it. In addition, with all the traffic and the extremely wet roads, I played it conservative - using my brakes a bunch on the descents and being cautious passing traffic around me. I caught a couple of glimpses of my HR throughout and each time was close to the right zone but many times was low. The 18 miles went by quickly. I'm not sure if it was because I was so on edge due to the wet roads or just in the moment. Soon we were descending back towards transition - for me the scariest part. The descent by now was all wet, and I feared that if I didn't take it cautiously, I would end up missing the turn before the dismount and careening into the transition area. So yes, in a race, I again applied my brakes multiple times. I was thankfully able to stop at the dismount area, get off my bike safely, then wade through the mud bath towards my bike station. My favorite part of the bike - all the comments along the lines of "Love your bike! Awesome paint job!" I received along the way.

T2 - I missed my rack and went down the wrong isle. Next time I need to remember a bright cap to put on my rack area. So I trodded back up through the mud and went and down the next isle. I racked the bike, took off my wet muddy bike shoes and started to put on my running shoes. My wet muddy right foot didn't want to go into my right Newton. After what seemed like a minute struggle, I finally had success and dashed towards the transition exit.

Run - Like the bike start, the run start was all up hill. About halfway up, I decided to look at my HR. Crap! I realized then that my Garmin didn't start and that my HR was sky high almost at my max. Slow down. I forced myself to slow down which gave me a chance to at least adjust my Garmin, get the right pace and HR screen and keep running. Right around this time, a guy came up from behind me and said, "Are you the one with the great paint job?" My reply, "The pink polka dots?" His response "Yes, that is an awesome bike. I recognize your number from watching it from behind during the bike." My reaction - huge smile. Love my bike and I love having a fairly in-shape man say I was ahead of him the whole bike. By the time we reached the top of the hill, I was feeling good. My running legs were beneath me and I knew I could push myself on the run. It was now downpouring at such a rate that I just laughed out loud. I stayed within my target for the next mile and then during the descent back to the lake started to push my pace. For the first time in the race, I felt like I was racing the race I was supposed to practice. Soon, the finish line was there and I pushed it to the end. Time on the official clock 2:0something.

I had no Garmin time, no HRs recorded to feed back and I have never been so happy for the finish line, a silver warm blanket from the medical tent and to gather my stuff from the transition area. Nothing felt good about the race except for the fact that I knew I had the mental toughness to finish and I felt that I had at least had a good run. As for the rest, I was not looking forward to the results. I knew I didn't have the strongest swim and my bike was conservative all the way. We loaded up our muddy wet equipment into garbage bags and left the site as soon as possible. The warmth of the car was great and the hot shower and time on the couch post-race, even better.

Last night the results came out. In the end, not as bad as I expected. Surprising in some ways and what I expected in others. The official stats:
Swim: 17:18 (82nd)
T1: 2:54 (30th)
Bike: 57:08 (40th)
T2: 2:58 (141th)
Run: 28:35 (110th)

Total: 1:48.51 (63/192 overall finishers; 5/25 in age group)

Post-race reflections: I need to work on my transitions. The conditions definitely contributed, but I am leaving easy time on the table here. Swim - in an area where I'm usually much stronger, I wasn't Sunday. A few open water practices and more efficient sightings will hopefully help this. Surprise- my bike was actually my strongest and I averaged around 18.9 mph. My legs felt good and I felt like I left a lot out on the course due to conditions so hopefully this bodes well for race season. Run - even though my ranking here is the lowest out of the three disciplines, I was still really happy about my run. Compared to last year, I have taken about a minute and 20 seconds per mile off of my pace.

Overall, a wet start to the tri-season and by far, the most miserable race conditions ever. But I have one under my belt going into White Lake and that, for my nerves, was the goal. So if it pours on May 3rd, which hopefully it won't, I'm ready.


TriGirl 40 (okay - 41) said...

WOW! Congrats on an impressive race! Your bike time - in the rain - was amazing! White Lake, watch out!

SusieQ said...

Great race - especially in the rain!


Kate said...

What great race in awful conditions.

Diane said...

OMG your stats are amazing in any weather! You rock!

And I'm so jealous that you have a very young "36" on your calf!