So….FINALLY….this past weekend I was able to kick off my racing season. Yes, I know….it’s August. Seems like a late start to the racing season. I was supposed to start racing back in April. It’s been a busy year.
Nevertheless, I was really stoked to get into the groove and actually enjoy a race.
First up: The Jacksonville Triathlon Sprint triathlon at Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, FL.
Exactly six years ago, this was my very first triathlon. The location was slightly different – the distances changed slightly – and the outcome was clearly different. All that said, it was a nice reunion of sorts.
My plan for Saturday’s race was simple: Enjoy myself the entire time. Swim relaxed. Don’t redline on the bike or run – just treat the entire race as a good, solid training day. Feel strong in all three aspects of the race, and use this as a springboard for the rest of my season.
As with many local races, my friend Martin did the race with me. The race venue was about an hour north of my house – so we were ”wheels up” at 5:30. I wanted to make sure that I got to the venue with time to set up transition, get in a little swim, and give myself a shot to get my normal pre-race jitters. Breakfast was a cup of coffee, a bottle of PowerBar Perform, two waffles, and a PowerBar Harvest Double Chocolate Crisp bar (talk about yummy – sort of like eating a candy bar for breakfast). After arriving at the venue, snagging a supreme parking spot, and doing the normal pre-transition stuff (grabbing a timing chip and getting marked), I headed in to set up my spot in transition. And….you guessed it. I was in the second to last row away from the swim & bike-in. At least I was literally 100 feet from the exit. That was a bonus. I picked an end-of-row spot, set up my gear and headed down to the water for a quick swim. We caught a few pre-race announcements, heard a Whitney Houston rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” and then headed down to the water’s edge to get our racin’ on!
Let me start this by saying: I HATE SWIMMING IN THE OCEAN. I do know that is probably blasphemous – especially given that I live relatively near the beach. But, if given the choice, I’d much rather do my open water swims in a lake or river than the ocean. I’m not a fan of waves. I hate the taste of salt water. I stink at dolphin diving – so I get creamed by breakers.
Now that’s off my chest – here’s the cool thing. This was a short race. 440 yards. This would take very little time to transact. I went in thinking I’d go about 8 minutes or so.
The current and wave action moved the buoys around a little. The first buoy was dragged in towards the shore some, and the far buoy was pulled down-current. I don’t think that the overall distance was compromised too badly – but the swim line was brought in closer to shore…meaning that we basically swam along the break. Joy. Nothing like getting caught in waves all the time. And to make matters worse, I breathe to the right. Exclusively.
The swim went quickly, and I felt really good about it. Officially, my time was 7:19. Just around 1:40 per 100 yards. Suprisingly, I came out of the water in the top 24th percentile for the entire race. That was cool – as I’m not normally even a “decent” swimmer.
Transition # 1:
If you’re been a reader of my blog for long, you know that transitions and I have a history. Basically, I am among the slowest, most sloth-like folks around when it comes to navigating my way through transition. How did it go this time, you might ask? MUCH BETTER. I got through T1 in :59 – by far a land-speed record for me. Since I don’t have tri-bike shoes yet, and still race in my normal bike shoes, I put those on in transition – surprisingly I didn’t have any issues getting my wet & sandy feet into my shoes. This was my first time racing in my aero helmet (courtesy of my Rev3 teammate Mike Hutto) – getting that on was a breeze.
Easy-peasy, 16 mile out and back race. The first eight miles were generally heading south along the coast. I got passed by more than a few folks pretty quickly out of transition – but again, going in to this race I had decided to not red-line or push too hard. I was ticking along right at 20mph and not working too hard. We went through three roundabouts, which added the only level of complexity to this ride…otherwise, it was head down, staring at the white line all day. Heading north after the turnaround was slightly more difficult – we had a moderate head-wind. Nothing too hard – just enough that you noticed it. My overall average according to my Garmin was just over 19mph - the race website had me at 18.7mph. As I pulled in towards transition, I got out of my shoes and readied myself for my dismount – which went swimmingly (or perhaps cyclingly).
Transition # 2:
Again, I had a speedy transition, at 1:07. Frankly, I’m a little surprised that T2 was slower than my T1….it felt faster, and I did less things while in transition. Basically, I just slipped on my PI iso-Transitions, grabbed a visor and my number belt and left. Either way, I’m really pretty happy with both of my transitions – they were much faster than normal for me….which is a cool development, especially given the fact that I haven’t really been practicing transitions all that much.
The run was a short and sweet three-mile run through a shady state park. I took off out of transition and got about a half mile in, and thought my heart was literally going to explode. My heart rate had to be north of 180 bpm. It was going so crazy that I had to walk about 1/10th of a mile to get it to calm down. After that, I approached the run as a steady pace effort. Again, I wasn’t trying to red-line, but I also was not trying to go too slowly. Overall, I did the run in :28:46…or about 9:35/mile.
A funny highlight: As I went through the aid station at mile 1, I grabbed a water, took a quick sip and then dumped the rest on my head. I grabbed a second cup, and did the same. Right as I was about to leave the aid station, I thought it would be good to douse myself once more – so I grabbed a cup, tossed it at my face – and TOTALLY MISSED. Well…I missed hitting me, but I did hit one of the volunteers. At least I did my part to keep her cool.
Well…I finished the race in 1:29 – literally dead on with what I wanted to do from a time perspective. I took 15th in my age group (which actually isn’t saying much) and was 141st overall (out of 302 racers). Middle of the pack – about what I’m used to.
All-in-all, it was a nice start to my season, and a good tune up for the races that I’ve got coming over the next 75 days. I was quite pleased with my swim – all things considered – and was not displeased with either my bike or run. I was completely stoked that I transitioned as well as I did. That, my friends, is good progress for me.
Big-time thanks to:
I really need to give proper accolades to my sponsors. I really loved wearing my incredibly comfortable Pearl Izumi Team Rev3 race kit and Iso-Transition flats. Thanks to PowerBar for fueling me well, to SBR Sports for keeping my goggles clear with Foggle, to Swiftwick for some of the most comfortable socks on the planet, and to NormaTec for helping me recover on Saturday afternoon.