School Of Hard Knocks

Lifetime Fitness Triathlon
2008.07.12 – Minneapolis, MN

To make a long story short, I got schooled. There were some small highlights though. First and foremost, my best friend and training partner Mr. SQW won the race with a brilliant all around performance, including an awesome run. So congratulations to him. Secondly, I think I had a good swim. It wasn’t a great swim, which is a good enough way to segway into the race itself. I was just off the pack (which was made up of very, very good swimmers) rounding the first buoy about 450m in or so. Rounding the buoy, I was just off the pack, and just a few feet off the feet of Simon Thompson. Unfortunately, during the middle 600m, it was choppy with wind and the gaps just seemed to grow. This was where, in retrospect, I should have gotten onto Simon Thompson’s feet earlier. He came out 40 seconds or so ahead of me, and that (I think) could have made a big difference in my race.

I ended up just under two minutes down on the main pack, which means less than 8 seconds per 100m, which is great. Considering a half-ironman swim is only 1900m, this was definitely an improvement on my swims earlier this year, especially considering no wetsuit. Unfortunately, I still ended up swimming too much of the swim on my own, especially considering how close some good feet were.

I came out of the water just ahead of David Thompson, and we left transition together. I thought this was as pretty good sign. David knows the course very well and has had the fastest bike split here in the past. As a local, David trains on the course all the time, so he knows all the nuances of the very tricky first section. So I thought I’d let him set the pace through the first half of the course. I kept myself about triple the legal distance behind, just to be extra careful. The first section of the course is quite technical, so it’s hard to really evaluate pace. You are on and off all the power all the time, and that means it’s quite different than most of the half-ironman races, where the courses are much more steady, and you can really go by the powermeter.

I thought I was in good shape, racing with David, who has a lot more experience on this course and also in short course races in general. Unfortunately, when we hit the back half of the course, which is much less technical, I found out we hadn’t made up really any time at all. I was more comfortable on this section of the course, which was a lot more of the head-down-and-hammer type of riding that I like. So I moved ahead of David, and it was clear at that point that he had really not been feeling his best, something that was confirmed when he dropped out at T2. I wish David a speedy recovery. He’s a great competitor, and I love racing him when he is at his best. On the back half of the course, I tried to keep the pace up, but unfortunately, this is definitely a bit of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind type of course. It’s hard to race guys who are racing each other, when you have nothing but empty road in front of you. I finally rolled into transition having given up about a minute to the group at the front of about ten or so. I want to emphasize that there were plenty of referees on the course. I do not think there was any drafting or anything like that. When you have a good group of swimmers coming out together, the stagger rule is the only option, and it’s just hard to compete against top athletes who are competing against each other. Just want to clear that up. I think it was a fair race. I just wish it was a race that I had been a part of, since as it was, I felt like I was basically just out there doing a workout on my own.

Out onto the run, I was really happy with the shoes Simon gave me – the Nike Katana Rac3rs. I love these shoes. Best racing flats I’ve ever worn. I tried to keep a good turnover going, but here, as on the bike, it was didn’t really feel like much of a race. I was running hard, but it’s just so different when you have people to run against. I ended up crossing the line in 14th.

Complete results are HERE, so you can get a feel for my splits relative to everyone else. I ended up beating all amateurs (who swam in wetsuits) and all the pro women, which is sort of a good minimum standard. I wouldn’t say it was a great race. A lot of it felt like a half-ironman, which was good in that I went fast for that pace, but which was bad in that it was an Olympic distance race, and that pace wasn’t nearly enough. I’m looking forward to racing in NY, where the course plays out a little better for me. It was a good learning experience, and a reminder about why I set out to do these races in the first place – to work on that top end speed and to really get a feel for racing other people, something that I was hoping I’d get to do more of today. Anyway, for a first go in a long time at short course, I thought it was an okay race. Hopefully they’ll have me back next year. It was really a first rate race. Plus it was pretty awesome to get a swim cap with your name on it.

T2 © Hector Fernandez (ST’s own hectorguatemala)

2 thoughts on “School Of Hard Knocks

  1. I wasn’t the strongest rider today. Until my swimming improves some more, I’m not sure I’ll really get to know if I’m the strongest rider or not at a race like this. And even in that case, the cheetahs always will have an advantage in that you need to be strong enough to put in an advantage they can’t run down. I’m just not sure there is anyone that can really do that anymore in short course racing. But certainly don’t underestimate how good as riders some of those “run specialists” are.

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