Wednesday, May 9, 2012

STX 2012: Race Report! [UPDATED]

Webb: The season-opener is in the books. Elle and I competed in our first triathlon of the 2012 season and it was a doozy: short, hard and a fast field. This sprint is significantly different than most in that it does not award the top age groupers. It is man against man and woman against woman with prizes going to the top 5 overall. Looking at the top 5 times from the last five years, I thought I had a good chance. Rather than gun for it though (or get cocky), I came up with a race strategy and a goal time of 1:20:00.

Elle: Last year it was the same old story. I came in 6th for the run, 6th for the bike, but my horrid swim time pushed me out to 9th place. Except this past year I started taking my swim seriously, and actually trained in the pool. But I wasn't really planning on placing, I feel that I still have so much more work to do, that for this race, I took the pressure off myself and just went out there to have fun.

St. Croix Sprint Triathlon

Elle: We got up at 4am, and were out of the house by 5:30am, on our bikes, equipped with headlamps, making the 7-mile trek to the race start. It was raining. Our bike race numbers got soaked, and flew off. Damn. I decided to accept the fact that it was going to be a wet day.

Webb: Wet it was. The race marshals told us to forget about the bike numbers, as they weren't even going to bother with body marking.

The Swim: 750m ocean water.

Elle: I like this swim start, since you have to swim about 150M out to an island, where the swim start is. So you get a little swim warm up built in. Last year it was sunny and gorgeous. This year is was cold and cloudy. To keep warm (the water temp was warmer than the air temp) all the triathletes were huddled together in the water while our lips turned blue. Brrrrrrr....

Distances not to scale, or are they?
Webb: This course has to be one of the oddest shapes in competition. You swim back to the main island from whence you just came and take a looping left turn after about 30-50m, then swim out to sea until you take a right to head back to shore. Just before you reach the boardwalk you take another right and swim parallel to the shore for 150-200m, then turn left to access the boat ramp/swim exit. There are always two volunteers to yank you out of the water.

Elle: My swim time for the course last year was 23:58. This year my time was 20:15. That's almost a 4 minute difference. 4 minutes is a lot of time. Looks like 30 for 30, as well as a crap-load more time training in the pool actually worked.

Webb: I wanted a sub-15:00 swim. That should have been well within reach since my best mile (in a pond) is under 26:00. Last year the current and swells made the swim a bit of a battle of Man vs. Nature. This year the water was calm and easy. Things were working towards my plan. Still there is something funny about the St Croix waters. Last year when I swam the 2k for the 70.3, I came in 5:00 slower than expected - as did most everyone else. But, like I said, it was Man vs Nature out there. Still, none of the past swim times for the 750m were marvelous. The overall top 5 men usually swim around a 2:00/100m pace. Is it the course or the field? Who knows? Whatever it is I was surprised (but not disheartened) to see my watch read just under 17:00. Goal: 15:00. Actual: 17:00.

The Bike: 8 miles

Webb: The St Croix 70.3, akaThe Beauty and The Beast, is mostly known for its difficult bike course. The sprint's bike course while not difficult per se, is pretty damn hard for a local sprint. It is a series of rolling hills with a nasty bit of steepness here and there. Add to that some sketchy road conditions from the previous day's torrential-tropical downpours and you had the makings for generally slow bike times (especially for the 70.3's 56-miler). The island had lots of flooding so the roads were generally wet with some run-off debris here and there.

My goal was a 35:00 bike-split. That may seem like a lot of time for 8 miles. It is. In addition to the hills, your "bike" time includes your T1 and T2 times. I don't know why WTC cannot manage separate splits like all of our local race directors. Anyway, back to the ride. I tried to hammer it without hammering myself, caught 5 guys and was caught by one. Let's be honest. The guy who caught me cast me aside like a plaything. Man, was he moving. I tried to ride fearlessly knowing most people don't like wet roads. I ended up with a 30:00-31:00 T1-bike-T2 split. All of sudden my slow swim wasn't looking so bad ... wait, or was it looking worse? Race goal: 50:00. Actual: 48:00.

Elle: This is the toughest sprint bike course I've ever done. Even though it sounds easy, since it is just 8 miles, as Webb explained, it's 8 miles of hills, hills, and some steeper hills. With the unusual amount of rain that the island has been getting, there was one spot on the course that I'm referring to as 'The Lake' that I think must have been 6 inches deep, I felt like I took a bath in it. It was a wet day.

The Run: 4miles

Webb: Pretty easy description here: 1.75 miles out and back with a .5 mile fast section tacked on the end to bring you home. Oh yeah, and more hills. Not really the kind that loom above you and make you gulp, but the kind you think you can overcome up to the point where you are about to overcome them, then you think you just might not make it after all.

I dry-heaved pretty much the first 3.5 miles. I made no attempt to hide or even control them. The aid station volunteers must have been horrified by my spastic, body convulsions as I ran up and down the hills. I can honestly say it did not affect my performance. I really believe I was just going so far above threshold for so long, my body was in physical revolt. So I compromised with myself, I could go ahead and dry-heave or vomit all I wanted, but I was not going to stop or slow down until I crossed the finish line.

Meanwhile, I began counting the men as they doubled-back towards the finish line. One (Ok, that is an impossible lead). Two. (Is he old enough to race?) Three. (Uh-oh, there are at least three more guys on my side of the road.) Turns out there were five more in front of me who had not yet made the turnaround. I pulled the throttle back a bit with hopes I could keep everyone in striking distance for a final push. At the turnaround, I checked my watch: 1:01, one-minute ahead of pace. I had my eye on Mr. Currently-5th and his high-visibility yellow shirt. He was maybe :30 seconds in front of me, with 6th, 7th and 8th in a steady line. By mile 2.5, I began ramping my speed up again. And so did the other guys. By the time I was ready to put the big push on Mr. Currently-5th was simply too far out in front. I passed one guy to finish in 8th. Damn that swim. Race goal: 1:20:00. Actual: 1:18:44.

The good news: I beat my goal time. The bad news: My race time would have put me in 2d place the previous three years. That is not so bad. As Joe Friel writes, your goals should be things under your control. Who shows up at a race is not one of those things. I was not racing the 2009-2011 field, I was racing the 2012 field. I raced hard, gave everything I had and beat my goal by more than a minute. That is success. Well, until I get fast enough to compete with anyone.

Elle: The run is always my favorite part because, whew, I'm finally on the run! The swim and bike are over, woohoo! The upside of the nasty weather was that it made the run much nicer than last year, when the red-hot sun was beating down on us like it was 2-feet away. This year the cloud cover helped to alleviate the heat. But not completely, it was still pretty hot, low 80's at least. After the first mile or so I had passed a bunch of people, so I decided to look down at my Garmin. 6:47! 

"Whoa, gotta slow down. Damn, I forgot to have my gel at T2. Oh well, I'll just run hard and see what happens. Hmmmmm, I'm pretty thirsty. I probably should have had a drink at T1. Or on the bike. Oh well, I'll just keep running hard."

I tried to count the other women on the course to get an idea of where I was in the line-up. I wasn't planning on getting on the podium, but I was still interested. I passed a bunch of people, men and women, and lost track of how many. As I was coming down the final stretch, I did a move that made me feel like a 'real' athlete. I was going pretty hard at this point (I love a big finish), and I just had to know if I was in danger of being caught, so I did the big 'look behind' to see who was back there. No one. Woohoo! I launched into a sprint and crossed the finish, where Webb was waiting. He snatched me up immediately into a bear hug. I think the other people around thought it was cute. Meanwhile, I literally couldn't breathe. But I put on a big smile. I felt good about my race.

Elle's trophy

UPDATED with Official Results:
Webb: S-16:55 (16th Overall, 12th Men), B-30:34 (7th Overall, 6th Men), R-31:20 (13th Overall, 11th Men) Total: 1:18:48 (9th Overall, 8th Male)

Elle: S- 21:19 (55th Overall, 24th Women), B-32:30 (16th Overall, 3rd Women), R-31:39 (15th Overall, 3rd Women) Total: 1:25:27 (17th Overall, 5th Women - podium!)

Next Post: The Pros!

*As of time of publishing, the official results have not been posted. The numbers above are based on the unofficial numbers and estimates that most closely match-up to our data.

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