Saturday, May 3, 2014

Race Report: Hammer Sprint Triathlon (April 27, 2014)

Last weekend I competed in my first triathlon.  I had spent the winter months preparing and I knew I needed an early season race to test out my winter training.  This one seemed like a good one.  The Hammer Sprint was a nice course in and along the Tellico lake in Lenoir City, TN.  It was relatively cheap and had gotten good reviews so I was looking forward to getting my feet wet (literally and figuratively) before XTerra Knoxville which would be my "A race" in June.

Race Weekend and Pre Race:

Race weekend finally arrived.  My prep week had been great.  My energy level felt high and I was full of confidence.  This being my first Triathlon, I really didn't know what to expect but I knew I'd trained well and that would show in my results.  As I said, this race was to be a trial run for my "A race" later in the year so I wasn't too worried about placing.  I just wanted to see how my body would react to the race and bring home some experience.

Wife was out of town Saturday and I was on my own.  I had planned Saturday to be a rest day so I didn't have much to do.  I met up with Phillip, a good friend of mine from Georgia, who came up for the race and got a nice little 2.25 mile run in to loosen up the legs.  The run felt really good.  We were chatting about life and the race, just generally catching up, but we still kept a respectable 8:43/mi average pace.  After that, it was back to the house to get the bike cleaned up for the race.   The weather was perfect and I enjoyed the time outside.  I had my Songza app streaming it's "80's Anger Management" station.  It was the perfect mix for my mood.  My work week had been rough and I needed this time alone to recharge.  Once my bike was clean, I did my penultimate pre-race inspection and tune up.  It was then I realized that my floor pump was no where to be found...  It then dawned on me that I must have left it at the mountain bike race I had done two weekends prior.  Oops.  I hung my bike back in it's place on my garage wall and decided that someone would have a pump at the race and that I would just use that one.

The rest of my day consisted of lunch at Panera with my parents for my birthday (did I mention it was my birthday?), some house work and a lot of not much else until packet pick up and race check in at 5:30 that evening.  This was a small race so packet pickup was a breeze.  After retrieving my packet and bag o' goodies, I stuck around for the race preview before heading toward home.  Of late, my pre-race dinner of choice has been Chicken Calhoun with extra rice from Calhoun's Restaurant.  It served me well before my last two half marathons and I saw no reason to change a proven routine.  It was getting a bit late so I opted for take-out.  I called in my order (and an order for Wife, who was on her way home as well) when I left the race site and it was ready when I got there.  I enjoyed a relaxing dinner in front of the TV with Wife (who had just gotten home), got my transition bag packed and off to bed I went.

Race Morning:

I started my race morning the same as I always do.  Wake up and make my breakfast of plain nonfat Greek yogurt with granola and honey.  I find this sits light on my stomach and gives me plenty of carbs, protein and sugar for fuel.  I try to eat between 2 and 3 hours before race time which gives me plenty of time to digest my breakfast and avoid "intestinal distress" during the race.  Breakfast consumed, I loaded up my gear, my bike, my nutrition and my sleepy wife and we headed to the race.  Transition opened at 5:30 and I wanted to get a good spot on the bike racks.

Loaded up and ready to head out.

 We pulled into the  race site around 6:15.  There were already some athletes there getting their transition set up but I still managed to snag a great rack space.  I unpacked, set up my transition and spent a few minutes visualizing my race.  I made a mental note of my bikes location and mentally stepped through my transitions.  Now, all that was left was to wait for the sun to come up and the gun to go off...

The early bird catches the good rack spot!

The Swim:

It was a brisk morning.  Ambient temperatures were somewhere near 60 degrees and water temperature around 67 degrees.  I was thankful that I had my wetsuit.  This would be only my second time in the open water and my second swim in my wetsuit.  As start time drew near, I waded into the water and made my way to the boom.  I hopped the boom and joined the small group of people already doing their warm up swim.  I did a quick 100m or so warm up before making my way back over the boom to wait for the start.  I found Phillip and we shared a few words and said our "good lucks."  I secured my goggles and set my sights on the first buoy. I knew the swim was my weakest leg so my strategy would be to wait several seconds and let the chaos subside before I took off.  However, as zero hour approached I found my self at the front of the wave (exactly where I didn't want to be).  It was then that I decided to change my strategy and try to stay out in front.  I would soon realize that was a terrible idea.

Before heading out for my practice swim.

There were words through a megaphone, then a horn and before I new it I was over the boom and headed for the first buoy.  I immediately realized the error of my new found strategy.  The cold water jolted my system every time my face hit the water.  My breathing got shallow and I couldn't find any sort of rhythm.  I pulled a quick forward glance and realized I was veering heavily to the right and off course.  I got myself corrected and by then was solidly in the middle of the pack.  I rounded the first buoy and headed for the second.  I still couldn't find any sort of rhythm.  My breathing was rapid and my heart rate was sky high.  I muscled my way around the second buoy and headed for dry land.  I had faded to the back of the pack by this time and just caveman'd my way ungracefully to the beach.  I couldn't really have asked for a worse start to my first race, but I knew I would be strong on the bike and the run and could make up some time there.  My hand grazed the beach and I pulled myself up and trotted disgustedly out of the water toward transition.

The Bike:

My transition practice paid dividends.  Before I knew it, I was running my bike down out of transition toward the mounting area.  Somewhere between then and now, I stripped off my wetsuit, didn't fall over, put on my socks, didn't fall over, put on my shoes, didn't fall over, and put on my sunglasses and my helmet.  I'd call that success.

Me in T1.

I mounted my bike and set out on the bike course ready to make up for the horrible swim with a heroic ride.  Things didn't start very well, however.  After turning onto the main course, I pulled the bottle from my frame cage and took in some liquid fuel.  I then promptly dropped my bottle trying to replace it in it's cage.  Damn wet hands.  Thankfully, I had thought ahead enough to bring two bottles (just in case!).  I situated myself on the bike, moved into position on my aero bars and settled in to a nice cadence.  I was feeling fast.  The course was a rolling 16 mile out and back with a nice stair-stepped climb halfway through.  I was already starting to overtake other riders as we made our way over the rollers.  I had scouted the course the weekend prior and knew that once we turned off the main road, the climb proper would begin.  As we neared the turn off, I took in a gel and then swung around the corner onto the climb.  I could see ahead of me, riders were already sitting up.  I put my head down and kept pushing my big ring.  Occasionally looking down I would catch a glimpse of the decal on my top tube "SHUT UP LEGS!".  They didn't listen, but I ignored them.  As I crested the top of the climb I was still feeling good.  I had managed to put quite a few riders behind me but knew I had to keep pushing.  I grabbed another hit off my bottle (without dropping it this time) and tucked into go fast mode for the down hill.  The descent was over far too quickly and we swung back onto the main road for the trip back to transition.  I kept my cadence up and head down and just kept trying to put other riders behind me.  I got passed by a 16 year old. He was fast.  He was also not in my age group.  I let him go.  Not long after that I swung back into the race site and came up on dismount.  I had already gotten my feet out of my shoes, now I just needed to get off my bike without falling.  I swung my leg over.  Don't fall... don't fall... my foot hit the ground... don't fall.... don't fall.. other foot hit the ground... MOVE LEGS!... legs obliged and we made it successfully back to transition.

The Run:

I had a bit of brain difficulty in T2.  I actually had a great time in and out, until I realized my Garmin was still on my bike.  CRAP!  I spun around and ran back to my bike to grab it (why? I don't know).  My friend passed me.  He looked bewildered.  Apparently, I managed to overtake him somewhere on the bike course.  No matter, I grabbed my Garmin from my bike and headed out on the run.  I was wearing a brand new pair of Hoka One One maximalist shoes for the race.  Yes, I know one should never try out new gear on race day but I had been having some problems with my other shoes and wanted to give these a shot.  It was only a 5k anyway.  My legs were feeling pretty good after the bike.  I was a bit afraid that I had pushed too hard on the bike but so far my legs were adjusting well.  I passed the first water station.  It was getting warmer outside now.  I grabbed a cup of water, took a sip and poured the rest down my neck.  It felt great.  The Garmin is set to alert me every mile.  It beeped.  I looked down, 8:06.  Perfect.  My heart rate was right where I wanted it and my pace was solid.  Next water station, another beep.  8:09. Perfect.  I knew I had some left in the tank.  I pushed my legs to go faster.  I was on the final stretch by now.  I had passed my Georgia buddy on the turn and knew he wasn't that far ahead of me.  I rounded the last turn and saw the finish.  SHUT UP LEGS! I hammered the last half mile and crossed the line with  a total race time of 1:22:54.  Good enough for 3rd place in my age group and only 2:30 or so behind my buddy who took 2nd!

From left: David, Me, Philip

Final Thoughts:

I had a great time at this race.  Racing with friends makes everything more fun and I had two friends racing with me.  Along with Phillip, another good friend, David, was competing in the duathlon (his first) and brought home a 2nd place age group finish!  The race organizers did a fantastic job putting everything together and keeping everything well in hand.  This race was exactly what I needed to help me focus my training for my next race and I walked away with some hardware for my efforts!


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