2013 Cleveland Triathlon – What NOT to do in a Race

Doran | August 6th, 2013 - 9:04 pm
Bike racked in transition area with Rock'n'Roll HoF as backdrop

Bike racked in transition area with Rock’n’Roll HoF as backdrop

This won’t be my typical race report.  Because this was not my typical race.  Most of my results are very consistent and predictable.  I know exactly how I want the race to unfold and usually I can execute pretty well and get the best of my abilities on race day.  This was not the case at the Cleveland Triathlon.

As my A- Priority Race this season, I was super excited to race fast in front of my friends and family, and hopefully lower my PR to about 2:10 for the Olympic Distance.  I had a very focused taper the past few weeks and came into the race in fantastic shape.  Unfortunately, I had a very mediocre race (by my standards) due to a number of very basic mistakes (and a few not-so basic mistakes).  My fitness allowed me to hang on during the toughest 10k of my life by far (it felt more like the second half of a half ironman run), but it certainly wasn’t pretty.  Luckily, I had my wife, my dad, and Brian and his family there to support me, otherwise I may not have even finished.  The first part of this post is a list of the basic triathlon advice which I failed to follow, in the order of when I did it wrong.  I did have tons of great photos thanks to CJ and my dad, so then I kind of tell the story of the race in photos at the end.   Hopefully, others can learn from these mistakes, so here we go…

Swim

Pace yourself – don’t start too fast, build into each leg of the race

I started the swim with the front pack, hung onto them for at least 500m, but then realized the pace was too high and dropped back.  Came out of swim with super high heart rate, while its impossible to win  a race in the swim, it is possible to use way too much energy in the first twenty  minutes of a two hour race.  I should also add here I heard two young guys talking before the race, both were current high school swimmers with SUPER FAST TIMES (one dude went 1:48 in the 200 free), and I had no business trying to keep up with them.  So I knew in advance they’d set a blistering pace, and shouldn’t have followed.

Thats me on the far left, just after losing contact w front group of 4

Thats me on the far left, just after losing contact w front group of 4

T-1

Practice what you will do on race day

This was my first time racing in my new XTERRA Vector Pro full-sleeve wetsuit.  The day before I practiced taking it off and was worried about getting the sleeve off over Garmin 910XT watch.  So my “plan” was to take the watch off, hold it in my mouth, take off the wetsuit arms, then put the watch back on.  You try doing this after a 1000m swim, while jogging in transition, soaking wet, with a cap and goggles on.  Oh yeah, and your watch is covered in body glide…  it was a horrible fail.  Ultimately, it didn’t really cost me much time, but it was a huge pain in the butt, and I think I could have slid it off over my watch just like everyone else.

A sequence of me messing with the watch as I go thru T1....

A sequence of me messing with the watch as I go thru T1….

Know your transition area and first part of the bike course – and plan accordingly

Lately I have been going with the super fast, barefoot “bike shoes already on pedals” transition, which works great in most circumstances.  But in this case my bike rack was 15 feet from the bike exit (not much running in bike shoes) and the bike course started with a significant hill (hard to put your feet into shoes up the hill).  Luckily, I realized this midway through the super sprint race (watching someone else do it) and quickly changed my setup prior to my race.  I put my shoes on first then ran out of transition and clipped in.  It worked perfectly, but I should have thought of this BEFORE the other races started.

The view from transition, looking up the hill to start bike and run

The view from transition, looking up the hill to start bike and run

Bike

Pace yourself – don’t start too fast, build into each leg of the race

Coming out of the water, my heart rate was sky high (about 175, my max is around 182-185).  I was thrilled to be so far up the field and just kept my foot on the gas.  Early on, I heard CJ yell (with a hint of surprise in her voice) “You are in 6th place on the bike”.  And damnit, I wanted to stay there!  So I hammered it.  Hard.  I realized after the first of three laps that I was really overcooking this bike ride, and I eventually settled down a little bit.  Ultimately my average heart rate on the bike was 169 (6 bpm higher than Rev3 Triathlon, which was already pushing it right on my limit).

What is the point of all these expensive gadgets and specific training if you just throw it all out the window on race day?  I should have seen my heart rate (10 beats per minute too high) and power output (20-30 watts too high) and slowed down during the early portions of the bike.  Instead I pushed hard up hills and into the wind.  These spikes in power ultimately did me in on the run.

Know the course

I had raced here before, and seemed to remember the course having gradually rolling hills.  Well, the hills were steeper, and there were a lot of them… and it was windy.  I was wholly unprepared for all of this.  I did not train on hills (difficult here anyway), nor did I plan a pacing strategy to stay within myself on the hills.

Don’t bite the lid off your waterbottle

This is kind of random, but at one point early on in the race, I pulled out my water bottle and tried to open the spout with my teeth, but instead I pulled so hard the entire lid came off.  There I was, riding 20 mph on rough pavement on a windy day, with the water bottle in one hand, water sloshing out everywhere, and the lid in my mouth.  Luckily, I was able to screw it back on without losing too much water.  It was at this point I knew that this was not my day…

Cruising past on the bike... pedaling too hard probably

Cruising past on the bike… pedaling too hard probably

T-2

Know your transition area and last part of the bike course – and plan accordingly

Coming into T2, I always undo the velcro straps on my bike shoes and slip my feet out of my shoes prior to getting off the bike.  That way I can hop off the bike barefoot, rack the bike, and quickly slip on my running shoes.  Well, as I was going down hill on the bumpy (freshly milled the day before, but not swept or re-paved) road into transition, I managed to ease my left foot out of the shoe.  As I pulled on my right foot, my hamstring immediately tightened to the point where I thought it might cramp.  Rapidly approaching the dismount line and requiring both hands to steer and brake, I decided to clip out of the pedal with the shoe still on my foot.  Into T2 I went, one shoe off, one shoe on.  Not a huge time penalty to take off a shoe (my T2 time was 41 seconds), but still, another small mistake and definitely embarrassing.

Run 

Be Flexible – be willing to adjust your plan as the race goes on (particularly important for long distance triathlon)

After a hard swim and hard hilly bike, I should have re-evaluated my pacing strategy for the run, to maximize what little energy I had left.  Instead, I just stayed with my plan of running 6:20 pace and hoping to crack a 40 minute 10k.  Not smart. I knew it wasn’t in the cards so I should have adjusted to 6:45 pace and hoped to hold it.  Instead, my miles ticked by at 6:30, 6:40, 6:35, 7:00, then I just tried to keep it together, limping home in 7:22 and 7:24.  Not exactly great pacing.  However, if I would have held back a bit early on, maybe I could have produced more even splits and ultimately faster run (I ended up averaging 6:58 per mile).

The run really hurt... very badly

The run really hurt… very badly

This picture describes my run in a nutshell.  I was in the hurtbox.

This picture describes my run in a nutshell. I was in the hurtbox.

 

Positives

I cant be totally negative here, so what positives will I take away from this race?

  • The full-sleeved XTERRA Vector Pro wetsuit is really really awesome and really really fast.  This will be subject of future gear review post.
  • I ride well with my head down.  The pictures confirm this is also a more aerodynamic position.  When I am really pushing hard this position feels great and also has aerodynamic benefits, as it lowers my head, putting it  basically right in front of my body, causing zero aerodynamic penalty and overall probably improves the shape of my front end (better to have a head with aero helmet breaking wind in front shaped like a bullet than the wind hit my chest, shaped like a parachute).
  • Front mounted water bottle does not eject over bumpy roads (small but important detail, as long as you dont rip the cap off your water bottle)
  • I finally managed to go too fast on the swim and bike.  My nature is to be  too conservative and I finally went over the line (which I straddled perfectly at Rev3 Williamsburg) and my run suffered as a result.  I wont wonder “what if I swam and biked faster?”
  • It was really awesome to race in front of CJ, my Dad, and some other friends.  With the three loop bike course and 2 loop run course, they were able to see me a lot and I got a ton of positive energy from their cheering.  They even ran up a hill with me towards the end of the race.  Normally, they wouldnt be able to keep up but on this day it wasnt much of a challenge.
Head down, looking really aero and feeling strong

Head down, looking really aero and feeling strong

Overall

What can I say about this race?  I made a lot of mistakes, which ultimately manifested themselves in the run.  I am capable of running a 40 minute 10k, and indeed ran 40:45 just two months ago at Rev3 after a fairly hard bike.   Instead, I went out too hard on the swim, rode way too hard on the bike, and then had a very slow and painful 44 minute 10k.  If I had maybe just been a bit more composed and paced the bike 2 minutes slower, I probably would have run 3-4 minutes faster and ultimately finished several places higher.  Instead, I was passed by 3 people in the last mile as the wheels were falling off (dropping from 7th to 10th place overall).  This is the worst possible way to finish a race.

Cleveland Triathlon (final results)

  • Swim – 950m: 14:01 (shortened due to coast guard issues – 1:32 per 100 meter pace)
  • T1: 1:10 
  • Bike – 24 miles:  1:08:18 (21.3mph avg)
  • T2: 0:41
  • Run – 10k (6.2 miles): 44:07 (7:07 per mile pace for split, 6:58 by GPS – course was a bit long)
  • Total: 2:08:18 (10th overall of 93 and 2nd in Age Group, I would say this is equivalent to 2:15-2:17 without shortened swim)

Below are more great pictures from the race, thanks again to my wife CJ and dad for these incredible photos.  The two of them took about 500 pictures, so here are the top few, which I’ll use to illustrate and narrate my race.

Pre-Race. Yes, we are wearing many layers  of clothing.  Chilly for August!

Pre-Race. Yes, we are wearing many layers of clothing. Chilly for August!

Getting set up in the morning.  You know, tweeting & stuff.

Getting set up in the morning. You know, tweeting & stuff.

I was the first to jump in for the deep water start.  Nice view of wetsuit.

I was the first to jump in for the deep water start. Nice view of wetsuit.

And they're off!  Did a good bit of jostling at the start.  I love it.

And they’re off! Did a good bit of jostling at the start. I love it.

View of the scenic swim course, with views of Rock N Roll HOF & Stadium

View of the scenic swim course, with views of Rock N Roll HOF & Stadium

Swimming on my own now

Swimming on my own now

Getting out of the water

Getting out of the water.  Breathing hard but in very good position.

 

With watch (mostly) sorted out & shoes on, its time to ride

With watch (mostly) sorted out & shoes on, its time to ride

Getting ready to come off the bike... legs toasted

Getting ready to come off the bike… legs toasted

My Dad, positioned to get the right shot.  Safety first.  Kinda.

My Dad, positioned to get the right shot. Safety first. Kinda.

Coming out of transition and  up the hill

Coming out of transition and up the hill

Early in the run. Me in 6th place, chasing 5th with 7th behind me.

Early in the run. Me in 6th place, chasing 5th with 7th behind me.

Later in the run.  Already a beaten man.  Clearly not moving rapidly.

Later in the run.  Already a beaten man. Clearly not moving rapidly.

Finally.  The finish line.  An end to the pain and suffering.

Finally. The finish line. An end to the pain and suffering.

Cooling off my brain, which was clearly overwhelmed today.

Cooling off my brain, which was clearly overwhelmed today.

Receiving expert medical care after the race.

Receiving expert medical care after the race.

Trying to explain the calamity of errors that comprised my race.

Trying to explain the calamity of errors that comprised my race.

Great picture in front of Rock N Roll Hall of Fame

Great picture in front of Rock N Roll Hall of Fame

An awesome group came to cheer on Brian and I.

An awesome group came to cheer on Brian and I.

A little kiss and going home with CJ makes it all ok.

My favorite part of the day. A little kiss and going home with CJ makes it all ok.

Triathlon Tip-of-the-Week #4: Race Belts

Doran | September 8th, 2011 - 12:17 pm

Today’s Triathlon Tip of the Week relates to a relatively inexpensive and very simple peice of gear that every triathlete should own: a race belt.  This is a simple band that clips around your waist and holds your race bib / race number.  In triathlons, race numbers are always required to be worn for the run, but not usually the bike or swim (make sure you know the rules for your specific race).  This allows you to clip it on quickly in T2 and get moving. There is nothing worse than being out of breath, wet, sweaty, and in a hurry while struggling to put on a t-shirt in the middle of a race.  Avoid this hassle and enjoy a faster transition! You can pick one up for $5-$10 at running stores, a triathlon expo, or online.  For a few bucks, they provide several important benefits:

– No need to mess with (or remember) safety pins before a race

– No need to wear a specific piece of clothing to which you have affixed your race number (greater flexibility in rainy/cold/hot weather)

– Faster transitions: Grab the belt and go, instead of putting on the shirt with your race number pinned on

– Can easily put on at any stage in race depending on preference.  Some wear them under the wetsuit and leave on for the full race, some put on in T1, I prefer to clip it on in T2 (only for the run).

– Comfort: Slide the bib number around back during most of the run so it doesnt get in the way, and only display the number in front during the finish (as required at most races).

Typical Race Belt - also happens to be the model I own

 

Three happy guys... what do they have in common? Race Belts

Triathlon Tip-of-the-Week #3: Tapering

Doran | September 2nd, 2011 - 6:14 pm

With the season coming to an end, and my own A Priority Race coming up (Nations Triathlon on September 11th), I thought this would be a good time to discuss tapering.  Also known as “Peak Period”, this is usually the 2-3 weeks leading up to an A Priority Race in which an athlete reduces volume and increases the specificity of training based on the A Priority Race course and pacing.  Much has been written about it and I’ll try to keep this post to a few of the main tenants of tapering for peak performance.  The objectives of the peak period are to:

–          Reduce long-term training fatigue

–          Make your key workouts more race-like (usually brick workouts with race-pace intervals)

–          Recover between sessions with very easy workouts (mostly swim and bike)

The first two weeks should gradually reduce the volume of training by 20%-30% each week.  Run volume is the most important to reduce, as it causes the most stress.  Conversely, swimming can usually be held fairly steady.  Training sessions will fall into two categories: recovery or race simulation.   The recovery workouts should consist of easy swims and bicycling, at a reduced duration and intensity compared to normal training.  The race simulation workouts are usually swim workouts or bike-run bricks with intervals at race pace.  These sessions should be performed using the same equipment and nutrition as race day.   Race simulation sessions can be performed 2-3 times per week and will not be the full race distance, rather simulate race intensity and conditions.  Leave two to three days between these simulations for a full recovery and easy training.   The week before the race will usually have a day or two of full rest (no workouts) and a few days training two or even all three disciplines (if possible), but for very short distances.  Again, intensity should be race pace.   The combination feeling very fresh and worrying if you have put in enough training will make you want to train more than  you should.  Do not fall into this trap!  In the last few weeks you cannot gain more fitness, but you can turn up to the race too tired.  Try and hold back when these feelings creep in.

The taper weeks, are also a good time for:

–          Finalizing Race Plan (wake up time, nutrition before and during the race, pacing, time goals)

–          Practicing Transitions (this is the easiest way to save time!)

–          Minimize Life Stress; focus on relaxing and resting

It is getting towards the end of the season, if you are racing within the next few weeks, good luck!

Taper swims with Fred prior Ironman Florida are some of my best triathlon memories.

Running was fun too. Everything feels great when you are rested. But remember, SAVE IT FOR RACE DAY!

Triathlon Tip-of-the-Week #2: Lube Your Chain!

Doran | August 25th, 2011 - 12:54 am

One activity that the everyday triathlete often neglects (besides strength training) is bicycle maintenance.  Between a busy schedule that includes running, riding, and swimming in addition to work, family, and social obligations, we often neglect our most expensive piece of equipment.  If you are riding between 2-5 times a week, you should clean and lube the chain on a weekly basis.  This simple maintenance activity only takes 5 minutes and can greatly prolong the life of the bicycle chain and gears.  Lubrication prevents friction, corrosion, and rust.  Without cleaning, the accumulation of dirt and grime will wear down the chain and teeth over time, eventually requiring replacement.  In addition, lubrication will improve shifting performance and reduce friction, and therefore increase overal performance of the bicycle. Cleaning and lubricating the chain is simple: 

–          Work an old towel, t-shirt, brush, or gear comb in between the rear cassette and front crank, in order to clean off excess dirt and old lubricant. 

–          Use the towel or cloth to clean the excess grease and dirt from the chain.  Hold the towel in your hand and run the chain through the towel.

–           If you’d like a really clean chain, I recommend the Park Tool Cyclone Chain Scrubber (in picture).  I recently began using this device and it really makes a huge difference.  I’ve never had such a spotless chain or noticeably smooth ride.  

–          With all of the excess grit and grime removed, it is time to add lubricant.  My bike shop recommends Rock’n’Roll Gold (Tri-Flow is popular as well).  Squirt the oil onto the chain as you are spinning the pedals. 

–          Shift through all the gears in order to spread the lubricant across all of the components. 

–          Lastly, use the towel to wipe the excess lubricant from the chain. 

–          Take it out for a spin and feel the difference!

All you really need is an old shirt and some lube, but the Park Tools Cyclone is great!

Park Tool Cyclone Chain Scrubber in position to clean the chain

Triathlon Tip-of-the-Week #1: Lose The Shoe Laces

Doran | August 16th, 2011 - 5:09 pm

Today’s Triathlon Tip-of-the-Week is for faster transitions.  Specifically, T2, from bike to run.  A vast majority of triathletes use their everyday running shoes or some form of racing flat for the run leg of a triathlon.  However, there is a cheap and simple way to reduce the time it takes to lace up your running shoes.  Rather than typical shoe laces, purchase the Yankz! Sure Lace System or Sure Lock.  There are also similar products out there, such as XLaces and others.  The principal behind all of these is the same, quicker transition times by not actually tying your shoes.  These elastic laces replace your normal shoe laces and allow you to just slip on the shoe, pull the laces tight, and get off on the run.   You can purchase Yankz! for less than $10 and easily cut 20-30 seconds off of any triathlon time.  They are available at most running stores.  I have some examples of the evolution of my personal racing shoes in the photo.  The first is the slowest, regular running shoes worn with socks.  The second is slightly faster, regular running shoes with socks and Yankz!  The yellow Zoot Ultra’s are the fastest, with a quick pull lacing system and sockless use.  Of course, you can run without socks in a normal pair of running shoes (equipped with your chosen speed lacing system); you don’t need special triathlon shoes.  However, practice running sockless first.  It takes a few sessions to adjust, and nobody wants painful blisters on race day.

Shoe selections, from slowest (in the foreground) to fastest

I just so happen to have some Yankz! laying around the house...

Yankz! on a pair of running shoes. Much faster than lacing up in T2

A Triathlete's Motto: Never tie laces again!

Coming Soon: Triathlon Tip-of-the-Week

Doran | August 10th, 2011 - 12:34 am

Qwickness proudly introduces the Triathlon Tip-of-the-Week!  For the next several weeks of the race season, we hope to provide a helpful tip to the everyday age grouper.  After all, the whole point of the blog is to share experiences and hopefully pass on knowledge or at least create some discussion.  We’d love to hear if any of our readers either have a great tip or have an area they’d like to learn more about.  Feel free to email Qwickness or leave a reply below…