Note – I blogged this on the airplane today on my iPad, so there are bound to be odd autocorrect items in here I haven’t found yet. Also I was so race-focused I took only one photo the entire day (which is below).
The Devilman Tri would be my first race of the 2013 season. The race also marks the first official race for my tri-team, the Delaware Swim and Fitness TriDawgs, and my first chance to put the “superman” suit on and sport my new team kit.
The race is interesting as an early season event, as the distances are odd, but in a cool kind of way. Their Sprint race is actually a bit of a sprint-and-a-half, and their longer distance event is called a “half-lite”. I opted for the Sprint, in that the slightly longer distances (.4mi swim, 21mi bike, 4mi run) would be a nice bridge to my first Olympic event in June (TriRock Philly).
Overall, I came into the race in decent shape, but perhaps a bit undertrained. I had made some significant gains in the water over the spring (swimming with the Dawgs on Saturday mornings and latching onto some harder workouts helped), my bike is lagging a bit due to weather and travel. My run is merely just OK and I have a lot of fitness left to build across my training, but I figured I would train up to and through this race just to see where I was.
The race was located over in South Jersey, so I woke early having packed the day before. Actually I spent lots of time during the week painstakingly preparing my lists for packing, as well as a comprehensive race plan that I hoped to follow to the letter. If you’re the type of person that craves structure and benefits from solid planning, you should take a look at this template that I found in Triathlete Magazine.
Aside from my transition bag the truck was already loaded with my bike gear, and my bike on the rack on the back of my SUV. There’s no way that fiddling with that in the cold dark would be fun. I woke, showered (something I HAVE TO do) and had a light bite of quinoa bread, almond butter, and banana with some water and a coffee. The coffee was purposely chosen to help speed digestion and clear out any unpleasantness that might haunt me on the racecourse. For the record, it worked and close to the race site I jumped into a Dunkin Donuts to take care of business.
Check in for the race was simple, however there was a lot of walking. I happened to park right next to two teammates which was nice, so we all headed over to check in and get bodymarked. I made it over into transition early and set up my patch. It was pretty chilly out (about 49 degrees) with a wind blowing about 15 mph. The water temp was rumored to be about 61 degrees, which confounds me how race organizers consistently publish “expected” temps that are completely unreasonable (pet peeve). There was supposed to be a swim warm up, but I didn’t see anyone partake.
It amazes me how the time runs away when waiting for the race. I went from too much time to kill to “Crap, need to get to the pre-race meeting!” I had actually put my wetsuit on early, figuring I could get used to the tightness a bit and stay warm (wise in hindsight).
I was to go off in the 2nd wave, and as the guys in the 1st entered the water, I could tell that the water was decidedly warmer than the air. At first this is a great thing, but 61 is still cold water, and while waiting to begin your body begins to lose heat rapidly – think of thawing frozen meat in your sink full of water rather than the countertop. The water was dark and muddy, and the much on the bottom was completely gross but warming on the toes at the same time! The one thing I sensed is my own reluctance to dig my head down into the murky water, and I knew that in order to swim fast today I would need to press the sternum down and “swim downhill” as much as possible (easier said than done).
I also knew we were in for some work when I saw 4-5 1st wave guys come out of the water before they made the first buoy!
At the gun, I tried to find rhythm and a clear path which wasn’t easy with the lack of vision and guys swimming and stopping every 10 strokes. I never had to break into breaststroke or flip onto my back, and I made my way around the counterclockwise box course and back to the exit. The run into T1 was pretty long, but I managed to pass a couple of caps from the first wave and certainly didn’t come out of the water at the tail end of my wave either, unlike my races last year. I was hoping to be clear from the water on the way to T1 in 15 minutes, and when I looked down at my Garmin I saw 12:00 and change so I was thrilled!
So into T1 I go, and I still see some bikes in my immediate vicinity so I’m feeling pretty good. The wetsuit came off and I skipped arm Warner’s and gloves, as well as socks and grabbed my nutrition, shades, and aero helmet and made for the bike out. The run to the road was over a road path of crushed stone, so in bare feet that sucked. The extra effort for a flying start was for naught anyway since I not only botched my mount but learned after the race ended that my beefy, unathletic leg swung low over my saddle and CRUNCHED my HydroTail carbon bottle wing! I didn’t even notice until after the race when I racked my bike on my truck. I had one bottle in the rear that held my repair kit, but I’m going to need to attend to that detail for longer races.
The bad mount was all on me – a combo of a brand new foreign bike and new hydration system that hasn’t been tested enough outdoors in brick workouts. I’ve only ridden the Slice outside twice before the race, favoring the trainer throughout the rainy cold springtime. Surprisingly I felt like I rode pretty well, and while I’m still not fit enough to stay in aero the entire time, I made certain to get as low as I could in moments of big headwinds. And there were winds!
Another glitch – I somehow messed up my Garmin in Multisport mode and I had no data on the bike beyond HR. I really wanted to be as close to 20 mph as possible, but with my bike time coming in a little longer than an hour I was a bit under that. Considering the winds I will take it.
T2 was a snap and I was able to get in and out pretty fast. The one thing that shocked me last year was my transition times – I felt Ike I was quick, but then I would look at the splits and see I weighed anchor for 4.5 minutes! I was determined to be fast here, and I think my total transition time for the race barely exceeded 5 minutes. I reset my Garmin for run metrics and off I went.
Almost immediately I was hit with cramping. I felt like my power was good through the day and my HR was really steady and actually a bit lower than I thought at moments. For nutrition I did take a gel on the bike and the run about half way through each leg, but I took a full serving of 30 EnergyBits prior to the race, and 45 min into the bike leg and I felt as if I had more gas in the tank. In fact I would guess that if I were tracking power numbers on the bike, that ride was my strongest sustained effort. I’m not sure if the cramps were over exertion, or maybe just a freak thing but I rarely get them in training at all. I was hydrating on the bike with a mix of Herbalife24 Hydrate and Prolong and I certainly wasn’t losing a lot of fluid due to the relative temperature of the day. I did take two quick stops on the run to stretch my quads and calves, but I still managed to finish strong and was able to pick off several folks on the run. I’m still a glacial-paced runner, but I’m starting to see splits come down.
My team had set up a tailgate near to the finish line, so I got a good ice in the last 100 yards or so. I was shooting for a total overall time in the neighborhood of 2:35, figuring that I’d be suffering a bit due to lack of training. I made my way over to the screens to see my time, but they were not serving yet, so I peeked at the collection of LED clocks by the finish. From what I could gather it looked like I broke 2:20, which made me happy, but upon further review my actual chip time was 2:08. It’s tough to estimate time passing in the fog of post-race euphoria I suppose!
I raced at 221 pounds, and could have raced as a Clydesdale like I did last year. I figured on losing more weight than I have so I registered as a 40-44 instead. It turns out I would have placed 2nd as a Clydesdale!
Key Takeaways from the Race:
- Bike fitness needs to be better. Now that the weather is better I should be able to get outside more and push my limits.
- I need to be bricking more frequently.
- Open Water Swim sessions on Wednesday nights with my team are going to be very helpful. I’m going to be attending these more once my travel calms down.
- I fought calf and low back tightness the week leading up to the race, but surprisingly they didn’t impact me raceday. I’m wondering if something in my stride or alignment “created” my quad cramps – my chiro and PT friends subscribe to the theory that an injury in one area can “trickle down” to other supporting areas.
- EnergyBits work – flat out. No Joking. I felt as if my body was able to deliver higher levels of O2 to muscles, and my heart rate was a touch lower throughout the race, which shocked me. I was pushing it too.
The post race tailgate was excellent. I learned that the team took several podium spots in the sprint events as well as the longer race. Apparently we have a group of teens that knock it out of the park in the 0-19 group. I was disappointed to learn that a friend of mine DNF due to back spasms on the bike, and another teammate went over his bars due to a bad bottle handoff exchange (note to race organizer – do not let 9 year olds hand out bottles!). He’s a surgeon and sustained serious finger tendon damage, and we are all praying he’s ok.
All in all, and excellent day. I felt as if there as more I could have done in prep, however life and family play big parts in our daily schedules. I need to find that balance again as best I can.