Boulder Sprint Triathlon Race Report
I have finally gone and done an actual triathlon! For all my training and talking about triathlon, this is the first one that I have ever actually done. A sprint triathlon is a short distance triathlon that attracts everyone from first timers (me), young people (youngest male was 13), old people (there were a few septuagenarians in the group) and some very, very, very fast athletes. This sprint is an Ironman branded event which really doesn’t mean anything significant except that there is a bit of a quality standard that Ironman branded events are held too. This race was a 1/2 mile open water swim, a 17 mile bike, and a 3.1 mile swim. This is slightly longer in the bike than a normal ITU sprint triathlon.
Athlete check-in was Saturday and we were there right at the start because it was a training day so the team decided to do a little workout while the check-in was being set up. Check in was uneventful and the staff was helpful. We attended the athlete briefing which was short and sweet. There isn’t a ton of stuff to go over for a race this size and distance. We didn’t have mandatory bike check in, which nice because I don’t like leaving my bike where I can’t control it. I have a lot of money tied up in that thing.
The next morning Sarah woke me up before 0500 (which annoyed me) to get out to the race location. We didn’t start swimming until 0730 and I hate standing around. We didn’t have to be quite so early but it worked out OK, we ran into a bunch of people we knew and we hung out.
I am second from the right. Our coach, Nicole, is very close to having that baby! Jason, far left, and Brian, right next to me, are in my age group so they swam with me.
Hijinks ensued when it was time to get into our wetsuits, which caused nerves for me because the last time I swam in the wetsuit (the day before) it felt like I was shoulder pressing the entire time. Imagine those little elastic bands with handles on them which you can find at almost any health club. Imagine stepping on one end and doing the crawl stroke holding the other. This is what it felt like to swim in my wetsuit. I texted Nicole, distraught at the thought that I had made a $700 mistake in buying that wetsuit. Her response; “You have to pull that thing all the way up so that it hurts your nards a little bit”. Okie dokie, hurt the nards, got it.
Sarah helped me put it on, Nicole was being might helpful holding the camera . Joking aside, if you notice that the sleeve is a couple of centimeters away from my wrist, the day before it had been down at my wrist, this time we pulled it all the way into the shoulder to give my arm more freedom…and we pulled it all the way to the nards.
The ladies got into their wetsuits much earlier than I did, I have a superstition about things and I don’t like getting my equipment on until I am absolutely ready to start doing whatever activity I am about to start.
Unlike last year, when Ironman races did a metered start, this year they are doing wave format starts. I was in the first wave, males from 12-34 years old. We started in the water about waist deep. The course is a U shape with three buoys on the long sides and one on the short side. The starting noise went off and we were into the race. A triathlon swim is hard to describe unless you have done it. Unlike the pool, you have little to no directional reference looking down or ahead in the water. You have to spot the buoys and set a course and hopefully you stay on it otherwise you will stray. This is easier when you are with a bunch of people because the pack tends to go in the right direction. As much as it was annoying swimming in the pack, when I found myself not around anyone, it wasn’t because I was going wicked fast, I was actually off course. I probably lost a minute or two over the course because I had to change direction to get around the buoys.
Fortunately the adjustments in my wetsuit helped though I was still swimming with more resistance than I am used too. This may be just a consequence of swimming with a full sleeve wetsuit. I had no idea, I am such a novice that I just got a wetsuit that someone told me I fit into and went from there. Doing it again I would go with a sleeveless wetsuit. The water is not cold enough to phase me and unrestricted arm motion is more important to me than getting slightly more hydrodynamic with rubber covering my arms. People make a big deal about how much their wetsuits “help” them, primarily with buoyancy, to me it feels like more of a hindrance. Then again I don’t have issues with buoyancy in the pool, so it is solving a problem I don’t have and introducing problems of its own.
At any rate the swim didn’t go badly. I got in at 14:04 right before my two buddies in my swim wave. They passed me going up the chute to T1, I was a little dizzy from the swim so I didn’t go too quickly into transition.
Sarah is a more experienced triathlete and open water swimmer than I am. Getting out of the water and into transition was less dramatic for her.
It took me 2:47 to get out of T1, probably a whole minute of that was peeling off the stupid wetsuit. I got that thing off and shoes + helmet on and I was ready. It sucks to run in cycling shoes. It is like running in ski boots, awkward, slow, and noisy.
For a 17.1 mile bike ride I would be on my bike for less than an hour. Only one water is needed for that so I went without any additional bottles on my bike frame.
I had a good and strong bike, 21.6 mph and I finished in 48 minutes. I know this course well and there is a grinding uphill portion for the first 5 mile stretch. Even when you start going downhill you are still kind of going uphill at the same time until you hit Neva road where all of that work gets rewarded with almost constant downhill until you get back to the start.
I got a two minute penalty on the bike for “overtaken”. In triathlon rules there is a rule that says once you get overtaken you need to drop back a certain number of bike lengths in a certain amount of time. I did not do that and I was penalized. In a longer race this might result in going to the “penalty tent” for the prescribed amount of time, in this case the penalty was added to my total time. This only really matters if you are competing for money, age group awards, or to go to a world championships. None of those apply to me so I am not so broken up about it. I knew the rules and I got dinged, I will be more careful next time.
Due to my decent swim and good bike, I got in off the bike with a lot of serious athletes. My T2 time was much better (1:37) owing to the fact that all you really have to do is take your helmet off and change shoes.
A 3.1 mile is a little baby run compared to most triathlons and open running events. At the end of a triathlon, even a sprint, the run can be an unforgiving mistress. I set my pace in the high 8 minute miles (and I stayed there) and I was passed mercilessly by what seemed like everybody (it wasn’t everybody, but it was probably 130 runners). It wasn’t that my run was terrible, it was that I was in with all the very good athletes and compared to them, my run is very slow. I am talking about sub-20 minute 5K times. I can’t do that fresh.
I did the run in 27 minutes and change, which is actually a quick 5K for me. I am bulkier in the upper body than most triathletes owing to the 10 years of weightlifting I did before this sport. That extra weight does me no favors at any portion of triathlon.
Overall I placed 145 out of about 470 competing athletes and the upper half of my division and gender. This was a competitive field so while I would have liked to have paced better, the only conceivable place to do that was the run, and training to do a 1/2 marathon in a 70.3 is different than training to do a fast 5K. Maybe after the 70.3 I will put some more effort into my speed, but at this point I am happy with where I am at.
Now for the 70.3
As a predictor of my performance on the 70.3 I am OK with my results and how I felt. I felt like I could easily continue running for another 10 miles. Obviously I will approach the 70.3 much differently than the sprint. I will have to do a much better job sighting the buoys and I will plan on spending at least 40 minutes in the water so the vertigo will be more pronounced. I will go probably 2-3 mph slower on the bike than I did on the sprint and I will be between 3 and 3 hours and 10 minutes on the bike. I will start the run at a 10 to 10:30 pace instead of blazing out of transition as fast as possible. The half marathon will take anywhere from 2 to to 2 hours and thirty minutes – maybe more. Fueling will be much more important, I had one bottle on the bike and I took two cups during the run. During the 70.3 I will have three bottles (or more) on the bike and almost every aide station I will take some water. I will have a bonk breaker, gummies, and a gel on the bike. At the beginning of the run I will have an EFS power shot and 1-2 gels over the 1/2 marathon and possibly another bit of bonk breaker.
I am a little more confident now that I have done the sprint, but I am still wary to “respect the distance” on the 70.3.