2016 Rumpus in Bumpass Olympic Triathlon
7/28 AG 53/320 Overall
April 30, 2016 – I haven’t tackled an Olympic distance triathlon since the culmination of my freshman tri season in 2014 at Richmond Rox. In that race I failed to fuel properly, which led to an almost-spectacular bonk in the final mile of the run. I managed to overcome it to a degree and run to the finish, but walking in the last mile of a 10k means that something didn’t quite go as planned.
In 2016 I was determined to right my past wrongs, but I was only a week out from the RTC Sprint Triathlon were I set PRs in the bike and run. The day after that race, Busher and I had taken part in a metric century ride in Powhatan, where we were both struggling in the final few miles due to the race the day before. Thus, I was hoping that my body was recovered and ready to take on a triathlon that was more than twice the distance of the one the week before.
Olympic races seem to be the least popular distance among non-professionals, and I liken them to a 10 or 15k in running. They’re short enough for most triathletes to tackle, but if done at maximum intensity they hurt…a lot. There’s a 1500 meter (.93 mile) swim, followed by a 40k (25 mile) bike and then a 10k (6.2) mile run.
In the 18 months since my first Olympic race I’d tackled several sprint triathlons, along with two Half-Iron distance races. I’d also learned a lot about proper fueling strategies, and my training volume and intensity had also increased significantly. Thus, I was looking to drop several minutes off of my 2014 time of 2:48:56.
The Rumpus in Bumpass is put on by the Virginia Maryland Triathlon Series, and the swim takes place in the “warm” side of Lake Anna. The bike course is two loops around the southern portion of the lake, and each loop takes you across four bridges. The run course climbs up away from the lake, and then is mostly flat with a few rolling hills. I had never really been to Lake Anna before, so this would be a new experience for me.
The race venue was the better part of two hours from my house, so I left home well before dawn. Upon arriving, I put on the rear disc wheel in the parking lot and the transition area was just opening by the time that I finished. Before I could go rack my bike though, I had to pick up my packet, which included a cool pair of Rumpus in Bumpass socks and a t-shirt. I still rock the blue socks, and I ended up wearing them in Ironman Maryland on the run.
From the registration tent, I made my way into transition and snagged the end of the bike rack. I still had plenty of time before transition closed, so I ended up going for a slow jog to loosen up. Due to the 60-something degree water temperature, this race was wetsuit legal, so I went ahead and squeezed into my wetsuit after hitting the porta potties one last time. Some people were pre-swimming, but after feeling the water temperature I decided against it. I didn’t feel like standing around wet on a cool morning, even in a wetsuit. I couldn’t imagine swimming in the cold water without a wetsuit, and I only saw a handful of people without them.
Eventually, it was time to get started so I made my way down to the swim start and waited for my swim wave.
Swim- 29:55 (2:00/100 m) 10/28 AG
I waded into the water a minute or two before my swim wave and was cold, even with the wetsuit. I should have done a quick pre-swim to acclimate to the water, but I’m a real sissy with cold water. Once the gun sounded for my swim wave I took off, and the cold water took my breath away as soon as I put my face in.
Nevertheless, after the first 30 seconds or so of swimming I warmed up and the water actually felt great the rest of the way. Still, I was getting jostled around a bit by the other swimmers in the first few hundred meters, so I moved over to the right to try to find some clean water. That left me out of the draft, but at that time, I really needed to try to get into a groove.
The swim course is basically a triangle, and I just couldn’t get going very well on the “out” portion of the triangle. The oddest part of the swim occurred in the “out” leg, when the water went from dark to light brown. At first I didn’t think too much of it, but after a minute or two the water seemed to look weird, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on. Eventually my fingers hit something, and I realized that I was touching the bottom of the lake, which must have been about two or three feet deep at that point. Since my swim was not going well at that point I considered getting up and running, but figured that doing so might be slightly against the rules, so I continued on. After another 100 meters or so the water turned dark again, so I must have gotten to a deeper part of the lake.
Once I rounded the first turn buoy things started to go a bit better, and by the time I rounded the second turn buoy to head back in, I was finally getting comfortable in the water. The “in” leg of the triangle went well, and I felt like I wasn’t ready for the swim to end since I’d finally gotten into rhythm. I wasn’t about to swim another loop for the fun of it, so I headed up the boat ramp into T1.
My T1 was a bit longer than normal since I had to take off my wetsuit and since there were no wetsuit strippers. I’d put Bodyglide on my wrists and ankles before donning my wetsuit, but removing a wetsuit isn’t a superfast process when doing it solo. After finally getting out of it, I had to fold it up and stash it in my transition bag, whereas the marshalls had warned us before the race that we’d keep our transition areas clean or get penalized. Once I was done with my wetsuit, on went the bike shoes and helmet, and then there was a long run to the “bike out” area.
Bike – 1:07:55 (20.9 mph) 7/28 AG
The first .3 miles were all uphill away from the lake, and then there was a two loop course with a little over 400 feet of elevation gain on each loop. That doesn’t seem like a lot in hindsight, but there didn’t seem to be many flat portions of the course, other than the four bridges that we had to cross on each loop. The fourth bridge was easily the longest, and was about a half-mile in length.
My conservative goal was to average at least 20 mph, whereas I’d averaged 19.04 mph in my first Olympic distance race in 2014. That had been on my old road bike, so I shouldn’t have too much trouble besting that on my new tri bike, especially with another 18 months of training under my belt.
The first 4.5 miles of the loop were primarily uphill, and I almost had an incident around the first mile marker when someone tried to back out of their driveway when me and four other racers were passing by. Tragedy was avoided, but there were some friendly gestures and suggestions for the impatient motorist as we dodged his SUV. Just before mile 5 the course headed back downhill towards the lake, and we crossed the first of the four bridges for the first time.
There was a right turn around mile 7, and police and paramedics sped past me just before I made it to the turn. Someone had apparently crashed, but the paramedics had stopped just beyond the turn and I couldn’t see what was going on. After making the right turn, the course was nothing but rollers until about mile 10, when it turned right again to go back across the lake towards the transition area. The half-mile bridge seemed to be slightly uphill and into the wind, and I noticed several grooves in the bridge that looked like crash hazards. I made a mental note to avoid them on the second loop.
After making a left turn after crossing the bridge and heading uphill, I passed the road leading back down to the transition area and started loop 2 of the bike course. It was at that point that I noticed the photographer, so I did my best to smile for the camera, even though the race was starting to get painful.
Loop 2 of the course consisted of me trying to increase my level of effort so that I could negative split the bike. Since I didn’t have a power meter I was riding by feel, while also using my GPS to check my speed and average pace. Due to the initial climb away from the lake, my average pace was constantly creeping up, and I felt ok after the first loop so I thought it was safe to work a little harder on loop 2.
Things went pretty smoothly until I got to the fourth and final bridge for the second time around mile 21.6. I had been overtaking more riders on the second loop, whereas there were people who had come out of the water after me and who were on their first bike loop. There were two people ahead of me on the bridge, so I moved to the left side of the lane to pass them. I passed without incident, but just as I went to move back to the right my front wheel sank into one of the grooves that I’d seen on the first loop.
Before I could react, I began sliding and my rear wheel began to come around to my right. I then had a major “Oh shit!” moment, which involved the puckering of a certain bodily orifice. Within the span of a second or two, my front tire came out of the groove and my bike righted itself. I wish I could say that my superior bike handling skills had something to do with it, but to honest, I really just got lucky. Had I crashed, the two riders that I’d just passed would have run me over and it would have been a very bad day for all of us.
After that incident, it was just a climb up away from the lake and then a left turn to head back towards the transition area. This time I didn’t have to go straight for another loop, and I got to turn left to head back downhill towards the lake. I was glad to be getting off the bike, and I coasted down the final hill to get ready for the 10k run.
T2 was quicker than T1, but still longer than normal since there was a fairly long way from the timing mat to the actual transition area. Running in cycling shoes is never easy, and running in soft grass might be more difficult than running on pavement. Once I got back to my bike I swapped out my gear and took off towards the “run out” area.
Run- 48:33 (7:48 min/mile) 12/28 AG
In 2014 I’d run a 52:48 10k, which included some walking in the last mile due to my fueling failure. This time I’d made sure to fill my water bottle on the bike with Gatorade Endurance, which was supplemented by a couple of gels as well. I was determined to run a sub 50-minute 10k this time around, and I hoped that I’d taken in enough calories on the bike to get me to the finish line without walking.
My plan was to run 8 minute miles for the first half of the race and then to push the pace when I knew that a bonk was probably out of the equation. The first quarter mile or so away from the lake was all uphill on a dirt trail, which slowed me considerably. When I finally got to the top of the hill, there was a gravel trail leading out to the paved road. The run course was an out and back on the paved road, with a short run to a turnaround cone that was on the gravel trail. After hitting the turnaround cone, you had to do the out and back on the paved road once again, and then you could head back down to the lake and the finish line.
The run up away from the lake was tough, especially since there had been some rain recently, so the ground was fairly soft. It was about half a mile to the paved road, and it took me that long to begin settling into the run. Once I hit the pavement, however, the course seemed to be nothing but rolling hills. There wasn’t anything as steep as the climb away from the lake, but there weren’t many flat portions either. I probably over-ran the first mile, because I was seven seconds under my goal pace even though it had been mostly uphill to the first mile marker.
It seemed to take forever to get to the turnaround point at the 1.7 mile mark, and while I was feeling relatively good, fatigue was beginning to set in. I retraced my steps to the turnaround cone at mile 3 back on the gravel trail, and then set off on my second loop. It was at that point that a guy in my age group ran by me, and I was determined to stay on his heels as long as possible to see if I could try to pass him near the end.
The second loop of the run was much more painful than the first, but I was able to stay within ten yards of my age grouper until we neared the 5 mile mark. He sped up or I slowed down (or both) and he gradually began to pull away from me. I hated to let him go, but based upon his body language, he had more left in the tank than I did.
At mile 5.6 I made the turn back onto the gravel road, and I knew that the remaining portion of the run was primarily downhill. I increased my pace, and as I neared the finish line there was some much needed assistance from gravity. The last bit of the run course was on the grass near the lake, and there was a long sprint through the finishing corral up to the finish line. My total time for the run was 48:33 – which was comfortably inside my 50 minute time goal. My GPS had the run course at 6.1 instead of 6.2, but even if the course was a tenth of a mile longer, I still would have been inside 50 minutes.
After the race I pretty much collapsed in the grass near the lake for a few minutes and then got my free pizza from the Papa John’s stand. I was very pleased with my race, and finished my second Olympic distance triathlon more than 17 minutes faster than my first. Granted, the courses were different, but they were similar enough to provide somewhat of an “apples to apples” comparison.
In looking back at my performance, the only area that I felt like I had underperformed was the swim. It took me two-thirds of the swim to really get comfortable, but I think that was still due to my lack of open water swimming experience. Swimming in a lake or river is markedly different from following a lane line in a pool, and I was still not fully comfortable. I was pleased with my bike and very excited about my run. I’d run an 8:31/mile pace in 2014 and a 7:48/mile pace in 2016 (7:58/mile if the course was really 6.1 instead of 6.2 miles). Some of that gain was due to proper fueling, but my overall fitness had improved as well.
So…I was two races into the 2016 season and had already seen nice gains in my bike and run splits. I knew that my swim fitness had improved as well, but I had not yet been able to put that on display in those two races. I was happy with my age group finish of 7/28, but on the downside, I was more than 14 minutes off the podium. There were some seriously good athletes in my age group at this race, and I could train for several more years and still not be able to shave that much time.
As I packed up and headed back to Chesterfield I was already thinking of my next race, which was the Groundforce IT Powersprint triathlon in May. Everything had gone right for me at that race in 2015, but I hadn’t been fast enough to make the podium. Perhaps an additional year’s worth of training would change things this time around.