“Short but sweet for certain…”
2016 Groundforce IT Powersprint Triathlon
2/7 AG 15/190 Overall
May 22, 2016 – Its been three weeks since my Olympic distance race at the Rumpus in Bumpass, where I had a good showing, but was still three spots off the podium. The Powersprint Triathlon is held at the Shady Grove YMCA, and has a 300 meter pool swim, a 12 mile bike and a 5k run. Jackson and Jillian had competed in the Powerkids Triathon there the day before, but the bike leg had been cancelled due to heavy rains and severe flooding. In fact, there had been so much rain that the registration table had knee deep water around it since it was sitting in a small depression behind the YMCA. The weather for my race was better, but it was still unseasonably cool with some wind. The high was supposed to be 60 degrees, but it was closer to 50 degrees at race time.
I arrived at the Shady Grove YMCA pretty early, and was bundled up well due to the temperature. The wind wasn’t terrible, but it was blowing enough to create some wind chill on what was already a cool morning. After racking my bike and setting up my transition spot I went for a short run. Since I didn’t feel like standing around in the cold, I grabbed my swim cap and goggles and headed into the nice heated building to warm up in the pool.
Once the start time neared, they ended the swimming warmups and moved us back outside for some race announcements. At that point I was only wearing my trisuit, which was still wet from my pre-swim, so I was FREEZING outside in the wind. It seemed like we had to stand outside for quite a long time, and then we were allowed to line up numerically by bib number to get ready for the start. I was bib 39, so I was starting near the front and got to move back inside the YMCA. The higher numbers were still outside in the cold due to the long line, and I felt sorry for the people near the back since I was already shaking once I got back inside the building.
The bib numbers were based upon your estimated swim time, and the faster swimmers get to start first. I think I had put myself down for a 5:15 swim since I’d done the swim in 5:24 the year before. I was hoping to do better than 5:15, but I didn’t want to “overseed” myself and then hold up a faster swimmer. Each swimmer started when the person before them made it half way down the first length of the pool, so I didn’t have to wait too long to start once the race began.
Athlete Guide with course maps
Swim- 5:07 (1:42/100 m) (1/7 AG)
The 300 meter swim was 12 lengths of the pool, and there were timing mats a few feet from the start and finish on the pool deck. I do much better swimming in a pool than I do in open water, whereas I just don’t have enough experience swimming in open water to feel completely comfortable. When it was time to start, I crossed the timing mat and jumped into the pool (no diving allowed).
I got into a good rhythm pretty quickly and I was hoping that the swimmers ahead and behind me had seeded themselves properly so we wouldn’t get bunched up in the pool. Passing is difficult with people swimming in both directions of each lane, and thankfully, the self-seeding worked great – I didn’t have to pass anyone and no one passed me. I felt good from start to finish, and this was probably my best swim since getting into triathlon two years prior.
On the 5th and 6th laps, I increased my pace as much as I felt comfortable, but I didn’t want to go all out and burn too many matches in the pool with two disciplines left. I was pretty winded by the time that I finished the swim, but I climbed out quickly and ran across the timing mat in a time of 5:07. That was 17 seconds better than my 2015 time, and good enough for 1/7 in my age group.
This was kind of a watershed moment for me since I couldn’t swim freestyle AT ALL when I got into triathlon in 2014. Granted, a 1:42/100m pace over 300 meters is not exactly world class, but it was good enough on this day to best the other six guys in my age group. It was also good enough for the 19th fastest swim of 190 athletes. There was still a lot of room for improvement, but at least I had some level of confirmation that my early mornings spent at the Collegiate Aquatic Center were paying dividends. To put my improvement into perspective, it took me over 8 minutes to do the 300 meter pre-swim before my first triathlon in 2014.
I was pretty dizzy when I got out of the pool, so I did my best to stay upright as I ran though the kiddie pool area and out the back door of the YMCA. There was then a long run to the transition area, and once I got to my bike, I donned my helmet and shoes and took off for the “bike out” area. I noticed that the timing mat was about 20 feet prior to the mounting line, so that had a small impact on my bike split. It obviously affected everyone the same, but in 2015 the timing mat was very close to the mounting line, which led to faster bike splits.
Bike – 33:52 (21.3 mph) (2/7 AG)
I completed the bike course in 33:32 in 2015, and under similar conditions I should have beaten that time in 2016. I had another year of training under my belt and I also had a rear disc cover for better aerodynamics. Nevertheless, due to the cool/dense air and the windier conditions, this was a slower bike than the year before. I discussed this issue with some of the ProK guys who had raced in 2015 and 2016, and they confirmed that their bike splits were slower in 2016.
As I took off onto the bike course I began to catch a few people who had started the swim before me. Not a ton, but probably three or four in the first few miles. I was only passed by one cyclist on the entire ride, and he was really moving. I tried to ease myself into the ride to keep my heart rate from spiking, but I was also cognizant of the fact that in a sprint distance race, there’s not a whole lot of time to ease into anything if you want to try to make the podium.
The wind wasn’t whipping, but it seemed to be pretty steady at 10-15 miles per hour. I felt like I was pushing hard, but I just couldn’t get my average speed to creep up to my 2015 level of 21.6 mph. It was particularly bad after turning right onto Pouncey Tract Road, since there was a direct headwind and no protection from it. After turning right onto Ashland Road things got a little bit better, but the dense air still made it feel like I was pedaling through Jello.
The bike course is pretty flat overall, but there are a couple of hills in the last few miles. I pushed it hard on the uphill portions to try to make up some time, but the ride just felt slow. After a few more turns it was finally over, and I shifted my thoughts to having a good run split. In hindsight, I still managed to have the second fastest bike split in my age group, so I guess I did better than my GPS was leading me to believe during the ride. The conditions were tough, and I guess I was putting too much emphasis on my 2015 bike split. It just wasn’t an “apples to apples” comparison between 2015 and 2016 due to the weather differences.
T2 was pretty quick, with the most difficult part being the dismount of my bike. My old road bike had been a few inches shorter, which made it easy to fling one leg over at the dismount line. My new tri bike was tall enough to test the limits of my leg flexibility, so I had to be a bit slower and more methodical. After pushing my bike back to the rack, I changed my gear quickly and then set out for the “run out” area. My only hiccup was stopping briefly to adjust the tension of the Lock Laces on my right shoe since it seemed to be looser than I remembered. T2 was still done in under a minute, so I’d consider it a successful transition.
Run- 23:01 (7:25 min/mile) (3/7 AG)
The run is slightly uphill on the out portion and then slightly downhill coming back in. As bib number 39 there were not that many runners out on the course ahead of me. I had ultimately passed about 8-10 people on the bike course and I may have passed a person or two in each transition. Thus, there were probably only about 15-20 people ahead of me coming out of T2. I wanted to negative split the run, particularly due to the elevation change being favorable on the second half, so I made sure to go out relatively conservatively.
Mile 1 (7:35)
The first mile went by pretty quickly, and my legs adjusted off the bike well. Due to the weather, there weren’t any spectators outside of the YMCA property, and I focused on keeping my breathing under control. There was a left turn onto Twin Hickory from Shady Grove Road just past the half-mile mark, with a water stop shortly thereafter. I bypassed the water station, not wanting to slow down, but thanked the volunteers nonetheless. The first mile passed by in 7:35, and I felt like my pacing was were it needed to be.
Mile 2 (7:33)
Things started to hurt a lot more in the second mile, and I knew from prior experience that the turnaround cone would be farther down Twin Hickory than expected. Twin Hickory is a fairly straight road, but there is enough of a right meandering bend that you can’t see the turnaround point until you are within a couple hundred yards of it. You keep thinking that you have to be at the midpoint, but the freaking turnaround cone just doesn’t appear, which is a bit demoralizing.
After finally seeing and rounding the cone I checked my GPS and saw that I was just under 12 minutes – pretty similar to my mid-point split in 2015. This time, however, I felt like I had a little more left in the tank and I headed back in the direction that I’d just come. Even though my legs and lungs had started to burn, I felt encouraged by the fact that it was going to be slightly downhill going back to the YMCA
Mile 3 (7:23)
The third mile of the run in sprint triathlons is a balance of the pain from over an hour of racing and the euphoria of knowing that the end is near. Its also the time when you learn a little about your personal fortitude and your willingness to embrace the pain. This run was no different, and I was talking to myself in my head a lot as I headed back down Shady Grove Road towards the YMCA.
As in 2015, there were about 30 spectators at the edge of the YMCA property, where you turn right and head into the finishing chute. I could hear them making noise for the runners as I was about a quarter of a mile out, which gave me some additional motivation. I picked up the pace as much as I could as I neared the YMCA, and turned it into a quasi-sprint as I entered the finishing chute. After crossing the finish line I got my medal and a bottle of water, and then laid in the grass for a bit while I waited for the results to be posted. I felt like I’d had a strong race and figured that I might be in contention for a podium spot. I’d completed the run in 23:01, which was 35 seconds faster than the year before.
After rehydrating and taking in a few pieces of Papa John’s pizza, I figured that enough results were in to make it meaningful to check the standings. I saw that I had finished second in my age group, so I was excited to have made my second ever triathlon podium. Granted, my age group only had seven guys in it, but I had also come in 15/190 overall. I’m not going to be in contention for a Kona slot anytime soon, but it was nice to see that my training was paying off. My swimming and biking had really improved after two full seasons of training and racing, and if I could get to where I was running sub-7 minute miles off the bike, maybe I’d have a chance of standing atop a podium at some point. For now though, second place would have to do.