RTC Sprint Triathlon Race Report
April 25, 2015 – The start of my 2015 tri season was set to begin with the Richmond Triathlon Club Sprint Triathlon, which was held at the Collegiate Aquatic Center in Chesterfield. 2014 was my first tri season, and my main focus that year was simply to get through the races, while increasing my distance from sprints to the Olympic distance (and not embarrassing myself in the process). In 2015, my goal was to climb up the ranks of the age groupers, and I had been working hard all Winter and Spring to improve.
One of my main acquisitions in the Fall of 2014 was a Wahoo Kickr bike trainer, which allowed me to train from the confines of my bonus room. Training outside is great, but my schedule rarely permitted it, particularly in the winter. The trainer allowed me to ride in fair or foul weather, and particularly, when it was dark outside and everyone else was sleeping. Another upside was that the Wahoo Kickr has a built it power meter, which I could control via the Wahoo Fitness App with an Ipad. I mounted the Ipad to a microphone stand, so I was able to control the trainer’s resistance with a few finger swipes, and my stats were readily available during the ride.
I was pretty excited about the RTC Sprint because it was close to my house, and I also swim at the Collegiate Aquatic Center, so it was my “home” pool. It has a 50 meter pool, and the 400 meter swim is conducted “open water” style. In short, you’d swim 8 lengths of the pool, but instead of touching the wall, you had to swim around a buoy. The swimmers were also sent off in groups of 10 every 30 seconds. Thus, there would be a fair amount of jostling for position.
On race morning I was up at 4:00 a.m. to have my obligatory bowl of oatmeal and my cup of coffee. Then it was off to the Collegiate Aquatic Center to check in and to try to snag the optimal spot at the end of the bike rack. Thankfully, the weather was clear, but it was a pretty chilly morning, with the temperature at the start expected to be in the high 50’s or low 60’s. That’s not terrible, but getting on the bike while sopping wet can make for a pretty chilly ride at those temperatures. I hate being cold, so I had opted to bring an Under Armor shirt for the bike.
Once I got my bike racked and my transition area set up, I did a quick warm up jog to loosen up. Due to the chilly temperatures, I decided to head inside fairly early to warm up in the 25 yard instructional pool. Normally, I swim with TYR Special Ops 2.0 goggles, but I decided at the last minute to swap them out for my older pair of Aquasphere goggles. The Aquaspheres were not tinted and have a wider field of view. Thus, I figured that they’d be better suited for the indoor swim, and would allow me to see the swimmers next to me a little better.
The pre-swim was uneventful, and I felt ready to go after swimming a few laps. Soon enough, it was time to line up around the pool according to bib number.
Swim – 8:16 (2:04/100 m)
The swim began in waves of ten swimmers, and the swim waves went off every 30 seconds. Thus, there were a lot of swimmers on the 400 meter swim course at any given time, and it can actually get pretty hectic for a pool swim. My wave was the 14th to start, so the pool was already full when my start time arrived. I had participated in the timed pre-swim the weekend before the race, and my unofficial time was just under seven minutes. I hoped to do something similar on race day.
When the starters finally allowed my group of 10 in the pool, I hopped in and waited for the starting signal. As soon as it came, we were off. Unfortunately, my right goggle completely filled with water as soon as I stuck my face in the water. I don’t mean a slow leak, it was filled to the brim immediately. My goggles had been fine during warmups, but failed miserably in the race. Not panicking, I rolled onto my back and dumped out the water. I put the goggles back against my face and pulled on the strap to tighten them up enough to prevent another leak. As soon as I did so, however, the strap broke.
This time, panic set in and I flung my broken goggles onto the pool deck. I was 10 meters into a 400 meter swim without goggles, and this was not a good situation. I wear contacts, and its impossible for me to swim with my eyes open. Still, I gave that a try for a few seconds, but everything was blurry and I was worried about my contacts floating out. Given my level of blindness, there is no way that I could bike if I lost my contacts. I then attempted to swim freestyle with my eyes closed, but I kept zigzagging and was either hitting the lane line to my right or the swimmers to my left. I finally determined that my only option was to swim breaststroke for the remaining 390 meters.
Swimming breaststroke in a triathlon is not prohibited, but its also not favored since your legs can really flail out and cause damage if you hit another swimmer in the head. There was also a high level of embarrassment for me as well, whereas we had pre-seeded ourselves based upon our expected swim times. No one in my swim wave should have been swimming breaststroke, but nevertheless, there I was, kicking like a frog. At my next race, I would hear several people talking about “that guy” who was swimming breaststroke in an early swim heat at the RTC Sprint. Oh well, shit happens, and sometimes we have to turn lemons into lemonade.
The swim felt like it took forever, but I did try to mix in some freestyle when there was no one around me. In the end, I finished the swim in 8:15, which was actually very good given my predicament. I hopped out of the pool, and in the run to transition, I told myself that I would need to push myself on the bike to make up the time that I had already lost.
My crappy day continued in T1 as I struggled to get into my red Under Armor shirt. I should have just sucked it up and been cold for the first few miles of the bike, but my parade of horribles continued. Putting on a form fitting shirt is hard enough, and the challenge is magnified when you are wet. The shirt probably cost me 40-60 seconds, but then I was off onto the bike course.
Bike – DNF
Bike Course Map **I note that this course map is backwards from the course route**
The first bit of the bike course is uphill from the pool, and then you take a right onto Ironbridge Road and ride that all the way to the Chesterfield County Airport. My head was reeling from my early struggles, but I actually felt really good on the bike. I was out of the saddle all the way up the first hill, and upon turning onto Ironbridge Road, I was into the aerobars and cruising.
There were a few other bikers immediately ahead of me, and I managed to pass them all in the first mile. I told myself that my problems were all behind me, and focused on turning in a good bike split. Two miles into the bike I was still feeling good, and felt like I was going to have a good day on the bike.
After a few miles, I passed CVS and then the Comcast complex on my right, but then it happened. I did see it a split second before I hit it, but there was no way that I could avoid the rock once I saw it. I don’t know why it was on Ironbridge Road, but there was a three-inch piece of granite driveway gravel in the middle of the right hand lane. I hit it so hard that my front tire immediately exploded and my chain came off of my chain ring. Quite frankly, I’m lucky that I didn’t end up going over the handle bars.
I immediately pulled over to the right and said a few four-letter words. I knew that my day was over – as far as a respectable time was concerned – but I did have a spare tube and CO2 to inflate it. After putting the chain back on and turning my right hand black, off came the front wheel and my tube changing skills were put to the test. I’m not the fastest at changing a flat, but I had practiced, and could to it all in 10 minutes or so. Out came the old tube, on went the new, and then all I needed to do was inflate it. I had never used a C02 cartridge, but once you open the valve, it comes out QUICKLY.
I managed to get the C02 working, and the tire inflated in a matter of seconds. Soon enough, I was back on the bike and on my way. About 15 seconds into my renewed ride, however, I felt a horrible vibration from the front tire. I stopped once again and saw that a one inch section of my front tire had popped out of the rim. This was caused by over inflation, and there was no way to get the tire back into the rim without deflating it again. That was not a problem….BUT….I did not have another CO2 cartridge to reinflate the tube once I put the tire back in the rim. At that point, my only option was to push my bike BACK to the transition area.
For those who have never worn cycling shoes and cleats, I’ll just say that walking/running in them is not fun. Thus, it was a long 2 – 2.5 mile walk/run back down Ironbridge Road in my cycling shoes with my bike in tow. I was really hoping to catch a ride with a race official, but none were to be found. By the time that I got back to the transition area, more than 55 minutes had passed since I left, and approximately 48 of those had been spent dealing with my flat and pushing the bike back.
By that point, I seriously considered calling it a day, but I had paid for the race, and I at least wanted to get in a good run. Thus, I walked my bike back to the rack, put on my running gear and headed out to try to salvage a decent run.
Run: 23:16 (7:29 min/mile)
The run is a two-loop course, which circles around the soccer fields at Ukrop Park. Its very flat, but there is one small incline once you get back to the Collegiate Aquatic Center. By the time that I got onto the run course, all of the faster competitors had already finished. Thereby, I actually passed a ton of people on the run. Even though I had only biked 2.5 miles or so of the 12.5 mile bike course, I was a bit winded when I got back to transition from running my bike back in cycling shoes. Still, I felt like I had a pretty good run. There was also the fact that I was pretty pissed off by that point, so I was running angry, even though I had nothing to run for, as far as AG placing went.
The last 100 meters of the run is all downhill to the finish line, so I turned on whatever jets I have to finish fast.
Upon “finishing,” I did tell a race official that I was a DNF, but that message apparently never made it up the chain of command, whereas they did assign me a “finishing” time. No worries though, since I was at the rear of my AG, and I didn’t mess up anyone else’s placing. I actually wish they had formally DNF’ed me since my “finish” time lowered my average Par score for the year.
After the race, I partook in the post-race food and commiserated with my grade school friend Andy Allen who was also in my AG, and who also blew a tire during the race. Like me, he pushed his bike back to transition and then completed the run.
Even though bad races and mechanical difficulties are inevitable, I was particularly disappointed with my outcome since I was racing so close to home. My parents had come to the race, along with my wife and kids, so I was hoping to put on a good show. This was also my first race of the season, and I was really hoping to see the gains that I had made over the Winter. Alas, it was not meant to be, so I would have to wait a few weeks for the Groundforce IT Sprint Triathlon to measure those gains. Thankfully, that race would be the exact opposite of the RTC Sprint, with every facet of my race going as well as I could hope or expect. My result in that race would also show me that a podium finish was getting within reach.