>In what seems like a newfound tradition, I started off my 2011 triathlon season by running in State of Mind Sport’s Marineland Sprint Triathlon. The race was this past Sunday morning.
You can read last year’s race report here.
Coming into this year’s race, I felt pretty good about my training. My running base is much higher than last year, and both my swim and bike fitness seem to be ahead of where I was last year, too.
As an aside, if you’ve never heard of Marineland, you may want to check out their website, http://www.marineland.net/. Marineland started way back in 1938, and was originally used in the movie industry – filming underwater scenes for movies such as Tarzan, Revenge of the Creature, and more. It’s billed as the world’s first oceanarium – basically, what we know of today as an aquarium at places like the Smithsonian or Georgia Aquarium. Today, Marineland is home to dolphin – and offers dolphin encounters including the ability to swim along side them.
My friend Martin and I drove down to the race site – it’s about a 30 minute drive. I really like a couple of things about this race – first and foremost that it’s so close to home. We met at 6, drove down and were set up completely by 7am (including check-in and packet pick-up).
We bounced around some, got body marked, did the ritual bathroom visit, and walked down to feel the ocean. It was certainly a wetsuit swim!
The Marineland Sprint is run concurrently with an Olympic race and both a sprint and “intermediate” duathlon. All said, though, it’s a small race. There were only 62 folks in the sprint triathlon.
About 10 minutes until 8, we both slithered into our wetsuits and headed down to the beach for the start. I jumped in and did some quick strokes to get a little water in the wetsuit, feel how cold the water was going to be when it hit my face, and get a feel for the chop. When I exited, of course I told Martin that the real reason I went in the water was to warm up my suit :-).
As I noted, there were 62 folks entered in the sprint race. We all lined up behind a literal line in the sand (someone had drawn the line with their foot), heard the countdown and were off.
The swim was roughly the shape of a triangle. Straight out into the sun to the first bouy, turn left, swim three bouys, and turn left again – approaching the shore at a 45 degree angle (against the current and wave action). Wouldn’t you know it, just like last year, my swim totally sucked. There was a little bit more chop than I expected, but the real issue was that I just wasn’t used to swimming in a wetsuit – and that caused me more than a little discomfort. About half way through the swim, I looked up to sight and breathe, and took in a huge amount of salt water. I literally thought I was going to throw up right there in the water. I breaststroked for a minute to regain my composure and then set off again. I found some feet to pull me towards the last turn. The final stretch into the beach was difficult. As I said, we were heading in at a 45 degree angle to the shore…and the waves were coming in & out at a 90 degree angle to the shore….so every time a wave came through or the sea pulled out just prior to a wave, we were pulled slightly off line. I could not wait to get out of the water.
It was a 750 meter swim. My time was an abysmal 11:44. This was 90 seconds slower than my swim last year, and much slower than I’ve been going in the pool. I was really disappointed with my time in the water, but much to my amazement, I came out of the water in 16th place overall. Even more amazing is that I was tied for first in my age group coming out of the water!
Transition # 1
Upon exiting the water, we had a relatively short run out of the water, up and over a sand dune and into the parking lot where transition was set up. I was able to get my wetsuit down to my waist pretty effectively as I exited the ocean, and found my rack without any problems. I did struggle a little with my wetsuit, despite using vast amounts of Tri-Slide on my legs and on the outside of my suit. Actually, the struggling was more my fault – I pushed the wetsuit all the way down, and when I went to step on the right leg with my left, I lost my balance and almost fell over. I took a moment to dry my legs a little and wipe off the beach sand. I donned a pair of socks (I can’t run or ride without them), took a quick sip or two of EFS and bolted. My transition was slow, but I was OK with it. 3:06.
I like the bike course for this race. It’s a really simple down and back along historic highway A1A (if you’ve ever been to Key West, you’ve been on the far south end of A1A…this race was on the northern portion). It’s pancake flat (like almost everything here in Jacksonville). The only thing that can make the ride rough is wind. And with this being a road right on the beach, there’s always wind.
My ride started off hum-drum. I got passed very quickly by a guy in my age-group and then by an older guy. After the first two miles, though, I wasn’t passed again, and I was lucky enough to pass some folks who were faster at the swim or faster in transition (which wasn’t hard to be).
I hammered the out portion of the ride, keeping my average speed around 21 mph. I knew that I was going to lose ground on the way back because of what would be a headwind. I didn’t want to trash my legs too much, but I wanted to have an overall good ride, so on I pushed.
Remember the sea water I was fortunate enough to drink during the swim? Well, so do I. About 4 miles or so on the bike, as I’m really hammering, I felt the need to burp. Not a big deal, right? Well, if said burp hadn’t been paired with a mouthful of Atlantic Ocean and EFS drink, it would have been better. While I didn’t pull off an exorcist-style barf-o-rama, upchucking while in full aero is not a fun sight…sort of like having a giant snot rocket, just more of it, and tastier too.
Two things happened after the turnaround that stood out in my mind: I saw blatant cheating, and I became a murderer (more on that in a second). First, the cheating. As I was cruising north, I noticed a pack of riders – six of them – clearly in a pace group. It looked just like they were out on a Sunday morning group ride. I pushed harder to catch up and then pass them – I didn’t want to get caught by a marshal and implicated as a drafter. That said nothing chaps me like a group working together in a triathlon. Unfortunately, I see it in almost every race I do. It’s a shame. Not long after dropping the six-pack, I came across a hapless little squirrel. He was just sitting on the shoulder of the road, all cute and everything. All of the sudden, he started doing the squirrel version of the Macarana. You know, jogging left, jogging right. Sort of looking like an NFL running back trying to fake out a linebacker. I rode past. Suddenly, I felt – and heard – a crunch. I looked back and the poor little guy was on his back, flailing his little squirrel arms and screaming. Poor guy. I just put my head down and motored on. I’m sure that I was featured in the Squirrel Times as that drive-by-biker-dude that killed the mayor of Squirrelville.
I finished up my ride feeling pretty strong. I rode the 12.4 miles in 38:45 (19.24 mph), and had the 13th fastest bike time overall. I had the 2nd fastest bike split in my age-group, and entered T2 in second place. The guy who was in the lead of my age group at T2 had the fastest bike split of the day at 31:50 (23.42 mph).
In the last 200 yards prior to transition, I took my feet out of my shoes and pedaled with my feet just sitting on top of them. I haven’t mastered a flying dismount yet, so I just stopped, hopped off and ran over to my rack. I had no issues getting in and racked, took another sip of EFS drink, flipped my race number around, grabbed my Team Trakkers visor and took off. 1:59. Not near as fast a transition as I would have liked, but it was OK. I exited T2 still in 2nd place in my age group…
…and was promptly passed by one guy in my age group within 200 yards from exiting transition. I went out fairly quick, and saw my heart rate spike. I slowed down a bit to try to get it to drop, but it wouldn’t. There was a water station at mile 1, and I actually walked through it to see if I could get my rate down. It subsided, so I settled back into a solid pace. Just before the turn, a fellow in my AG passed me. Not knowing exactly where I was in terms of my group, but knowing he was the second dude to pass me, I decided I’d hang with him and try to out-kick him at the finish. Well, I only ended up running with him for half a mile or so. Turns out he was running quite a bit faster than I was, and I just couldn’t hang on. I ended up finishing the 5k in 27:32 (8:52 pace). Certainly not my fastest 5k ever, but it’s on par with what I’ve been doing my stand-alone training runs in, so I didn’t feel so bad about the run.
Overall Results + The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
I crossed the finish line in 1:23:06. This was a full two minutes slower than last year, and yet I felt pretty good about the race. I ended up finishing 28th overall, and was the 24th male. I placed 4th in my age group, which I was pretty happy about. I spent Sunday evening lounging and recovering in my Recovery Pump sleeves – compression never felt so good!
The good: Actually, there are a few things that I thought were “good” about this race. First & foremost, it’s a small race and the folks are nice. I felt really good about my bike leg.
The bad: Transitions. I was slow in both; turtlishly slow in T1. Must work on my transitions prior to my next race.
The ugly: Without a doubt, the swim. I’m not a huge fan of ocean swims to begin with, but this one just sucked. In all honesty though, it was my first open-water swim of the year, so I probably brought it on myself.
All in all, I feel that this past weekend’s race was an acceptable start to my 2011 triathlon season. I clearly have some areas to focus on in prior to my next race – but that’s good. I like having something to really target.
My next race is coming up in just under 4 weeks in the mountains of eastern Tennessee at the Rev3 Olympic in Knoxville.
Big time thanks go out to my sponsors, including Team Trakkers, First Endurance, Avia and Recovery Pump. You guys are the best, and really make racing much more enjoyable!