“Out of the darkness comes light, like a flash…”
2015 Groundforce IT Powersprint Triathlon
7/15 AG 32/216 Overall
May 17, 2015 – Its been three weeks since the debacle that was the RTC Sprint Triathlon, where my goggles busted and then I flatted on the bike course. Those three weeks couldn’t pass fast enough, and I was still looking to test my off season gains for the first time in 2015. The Powersprint Triathlon is held at the Shady Grove YMCA, and there is a 300 meter pool swim, a 12 mile bike and then a 5k run. The bike and run courses are fairly flat, so I was looking for a fast time. I had yet to hold 20 mph on the bike in a triathlon, so 20+ was my goal. I was also hoping to run a sub-24 minute 5k off the bike.
My buddy Chris Busher was not participating in this particular race, and Leigh Anne and the kids were unable to attend, so I was going to be on my own. As always, pool swims are self-seeded, and I had put myself down for a 5:30 swim time, which meant that I’d be starting 53rd out of the 216 participants. I had progressed nicely with my swimming since 2014, but it still was not my strongest discipline. Nevertheless, I was swimming freestyle much more efficiently, even if my stroke still needed some refinement.
It was pitch black when I left home, and I arrived at the YMCA before the transition area opened at 5:30 a.m. I always try to snag the spot at the end of the bike rack to save a couple of seconds in transition, but unfortunately, my assigned rack was the inner of two connected racks. Thus, I racked my bike on the outermost portion of the inner rack, which would have to do.
The weather was perfect on race morning, and it was about 75 degrees even before the sun came up. After racking my bike, setting up my transition area and getting body marked, I took a quick jog to warm up. By that time, the pool had already opened for warm ups. This time, I took my TYR Special Ops 2.0 goggles with me to the pool, swearing that I would never again purchase a pair of Aquaspheres in light of my broken strap experience weeks before.
The TYR’s worked perfectly during the warm up swim, and then it was back outside for the National Anthem. Once that concluded, the athletes lined up from lowest race number to highest, and were set to enter the pool in 15 second increments.
Swim- 5:24 (1:48/100 m)
My goal for the swim was to meet or exceed the 5:30 estimate that I had used to pre-seed myself with. Pool swims can be a disaster if a few people seed themselves poorly, and I was hoping that everyone around me (including myself) had been honest with their estimates. In waiting to start, I chitchatted with the girls immediately ahead and behind me, and both had participated in the RTC Sprint. I regaled them with the tale of my adversity that day, and both remembered seeing “that guy” who was swimming breaststroke in one of the early swim waves. The girl behind me also informed me that she was normally a sub-5:00 swimmer, but had seeded herself down a bit since she had a head cold. I told her not to be bashful about tapping my leg if she needed to pass me – in the off chance that her head cold didn’t inhibit her swim abilities.
There is a timing mat at the pool entrance, and you wait a few feet behind it until you are signaled to start. There is no diving allowed, so I jumped as far into the pool as I could once it was go time. The 300 meter swim is 6 laps (12 lengths), and the first couple of laps went smoothly. Near the middle of the swim, however, I noticed that I was being overtaken by head cold girl, so I let her pass me the next time that I got to the edge of the pool. Other than her, the seeding was pretty good because she was the only person who passed me, and I never overtook anyone else.
After 4 laps I was starting to get a bit winded, but a 300 meter swim goes by pretty quickly. Before I knew it, I was crawling out of the end of the pool after lap 6, but the timing mat was actually about 10 yards away in the next room. According to the final stats, it took me 5:24 to get from timing mat to timing mat on the outsides of the pool, so my actual swim time was even faster. Thus, I was very pleased, having covered 300 meters in less than 5:30, compared to the 7:21 that it took me in my first triathlon a year prior.
There is a relatively long run from the pool to the transition area. Once you exit the pool swim, you then have to run through the kiddie pool area and out the back doors of the YMCA. There is then a run of approximately 100 yards on rubber mats to transition. During my jog from the pool to the transition area, I ran past the girl who had passed me in the pool. As I went by I yelled, “head cold my ass,” and she just gave me a sly smile. It seems that bib number 54 turned in a 5:09 swim, which was at least 21 seconds faster than her seeded time of 5:30 or more.
Upon reaching my bike, I put on my helmet and slipped on my cycling shoes. To save time, I chose not to wear socks. This was my first time going without socks on the bike and run, and I had never liked trying to put socks on wet feet. That probably saved me 20-30 seconds in transition, and I was hoping to avoid getting bad blisters.
After changing, I ran my bike towards the bike exit and hopped on as soon as I crossed the timing mat. Then it was off to the bike course, and I was crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t flat two races in a row.
Bike – 33:32 (21.6 mph)
The bike is actually a bit of blur for me. I remember taking off from the bike mounting line and passing a few people in the first couple of miles. Since I was seeded 53rd and passed a few people in transition, there weren’t that many people on the course ahead of me. Most of those already on the course had a head start, plus they were, by and large, very good triathletes due to their faster swim seed times. Thus, I was largely on my own for the 12 miles.
The first part of the course had several turns, and most were at relatively large intersections. Thankfully, there were lots of police directing traffic, so there were no issues. The latter part of the course consisted of longer straight stretches, and I did my best to stay as aero as I could and to hammer as hard as possible without risking a blowup in the last few miles. I recall feeling very good on the bike, but without a GPS or mile markers, I was unable to mentally compute my speed. While I had held 20+ miles per hour in training rides, I had not done so in any of my three races in 2014 when I was first getting accustomed to biking. In those races, I had averaged around 19 miles per hour, and I was really hoping to up my speed significantly after a full year of training.
Towards the end of the course, there were a few small hills on Shady Grove Road, but nothing significant. There was then a left turn onto Nuckols Road, and I knew at that point that I was close to the finish. Nevertheless, I was a bit turned around directionally, and I was not intimately familiar with the area. Thus, when I approached the intersection of Nuckols Road and Twin Hickory, I didn’t know for sure which direction I was headed, but thought that I needed to turn right. There was a teenage girl at the intersection holding a flag, but she was not paying attention. Instead, she was dancing around and waving the flag in a manner that suggested that I was supposed to go straight.
I slowed down a bit as I got to the intersection and yelled, “which way am I supposed to go?” That snapped her out of her dance party, and she finally indicated to the right. By that point, however, I was too far into the intersection to safely turn, so I had to make a left looping 270 degree semi-circle to get back on course. I probably only lost about ten seconds, but every second counts in a sprint race and I said some not-so-nice things under my breath. I know that it takes a lot of volunteers to put on a race, and I appreciate their efforts, but this was the first of three incidents in 2015 where I would go off course due careless or inattentive volunteers. I know, I know, its my responsibility to familiarize myself with the course, but it’s hard to memorize and then recall every turn in the heat of the moment.
Upon turning right onto Twin Hickory, it was a short ride to the YMCA on my left. I cruised into the parking lot and hopped off at the dismount line. From there, it was maybe 80 yards back to my bike rack in T2. Later, I’d see that I averaged 21.6 miles per hour on the bike, which was a significant jump up from my 2014 averages.
I was very happy with my second transition, and did it in under a minute. Sprinting in cycling shoes is not easy, and thankfully, my rack was close to the “bike in” area. Racking my bike was easy since the rack was fairly empty, and after changing into my running shoes and grabbing my race belt, I was off. Thanks to my Lock Laces, my shoes went on quickly without the need for tying. I strapped my race belt with my race number while jogging to the “run out” area, and then I was off for the final 3.1 miles. Small changes in my transitions since the prior year really added up. Previously, I was spending 1:30 – 2:00 in T2, now I was sub-1:00.
Run- 23:36 (7:33 min/mile)
The run course for the Powersprint is fairly flat, but the first half is slightly uphill, with the second half slightly downhill. Without a GPS, I had to run by feel, and I was only able to gauge my pace at the mile markers. My goal was to run a sub-24 minute 5k off the bike, which I thought was a stretch goal. In 2014, my runs off the bike were less than optimal, but I had been putting in more brick (bike to run) training sessions, so my legs were getting used to running while tired. They still felt heavy, but that sensation was getting shorter and shorter.
From the transition area, we had to take a left onto Twin Hickory Road, and then there was a left onto Twin Hickory Lake Drive. There was a turn around cone at the midway point of the run on Twin Hickory Lake Drive and then it was back to the YMCA. All in all, there were not many turns on the course.
I felt pretty good coming out of transition, and by the time I was halfway up Twin Hickory Road, the race leaders were already heading back in to the YMCA due to the staggered pool start. I passed the water station near the 1 mile point, and I thought that I’d soon be seeing the turnaround cone. By that time I was beginning to tire, but I kept running and saw no cone. After what felt like another mile, I finally saw the cone and rounded it to head back in. When I checked my watch, I saw that I had completed the first half of the run course in a little under 12 minutes, so my 24 minute goal was possible if I could hold it together.
The run from the turnaround cone until the right turn back onto Twin Hickory Road felt like an eternity, and I did my best to run the tangents of the small curves in the road to minimize my distance. I was really beginning to suffer by that point and had developed a cramp in my right side.
When I finally made the right turn to head back towards the YMCA, there was a slight downhill and I knew that there was only about 0.6 miles to go. I was able to push the pace a little harder knowing that I was almost finished, even with the cramp. When I was a few hundred yards from the YMCA, I could see a few people on the side of the road and someone was ringing a cowbell. I took the final right turn back onto the YMCA property, and the finishing chute was directly ahead.
I always do my best to sprint through the finish, but I’m also mindful that if I have too much sprinting energy, then I haven’t pushed myself hard enough on the course. On this day I was able to run hard at the end, but I still felt like collapsing as soon as I crossed the line, so I feel like I left almost everything on the course. Immediately upon finishing, you are swarmed by volunteers who want to give you a medal and a drink, and another who removes the timing chip from your left ankle. They then want you out of the finishing chute as soon as possible to make room for the next finisher.
After collecting myself for a few minutes, I hit up the Papa John’s pizza and found some leftover coffee from the volunteers who had arrived early that morning. Unless its really hot out, I never have trouble eating immediately after a sprint race, and this day was no different. Due to the chip timing, you can usually see your results within minutes of finishing, but for some reason, my time was still not up by the time that I finished eating. I immediately came to the conclusion that I had a bad chip, and that my great day of racing was going to be totally wasted. Finally, however, my time was listed on the scrolling board.
My overall time was 1:05:33, which put me 7/15 in my age group, but 32/216 overall. The men’s 35-39 age group is generally very competitive, and I was pleased to see that I had only missed the podium by 4 minutes. Now, 4 minutes in a sprint triathlon is still a fair amount of ground to make up, but I had severely narrowed the gap to the podium from my 2014 efforts. At last I could see that my year-round training schedule was beginning to pay dividends, and a podium spot in the near future did not seem too far out of the question.
My 2015 Powersprint Triathlon was pretty much the polar opposite of the RTC Sprint Triathlon three weeks prior. Everything seemed to go wrong for me at the RTC Sprint, but everything went as well as I could have hoped at the Powersprint. I felt as though I paced myself perfectly in all three disciplines, and honestly, I don’t think that I could have been much faster if my life depended upon it.
Next on the calendar, however, was an entirely different race – Ironman 70.3 in Raleigh. That was the race that I’d been training for all winter, and 70.3 miles of racing was going to be a far cry from the 15+ miles that I’d just completed. As it would turn out, I could handle the distance, but the unrelenting sun and heat would take its toll on me during the 13.1 mile run.