Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Race Report: Buzzards Bay Sprint Triathlon

RACE REPORT: Buzzards Bay Sprint Triathlon

Swim: 1/3 mile ocean swim
Bike: 15 miles
Run: 3.1 miles

Elle: I have to admit, I wasn't crazy about doing this race. I hadn't been working out, and I was feeling burnt out, mentally and physically. But we signed up, so we were doing it. I had been watching the weather, now that fall is here, I was nervous about facing cold, possibly nasty weather conditions. But we woke up race morning, although a bit chilly, no clouds, no wind, and a sunny forecast. Alright then! We packed up the car and headed to Buzzard's Bay. Something that we've been doing is making race CD's to listen to on race morning, which I'm loving. The music gets me all revved up, and then I have good tunes going through my head for the bike and run. And I have to admit, this most recent mix I made is a gooooooood one.

Webb: I was ambivalent about doing this race. For two years I have been dealing with a nagging hip/glute injury. This is going to be my off-season of finally giving it the attention it deserves and I wanted to start right away. On the other hand, this is a beautiful course by our favorite race director. As a bonus, this was Elle's first race in 2009. It would be fun to compare her results.

Elle: As usual, Max Performance put on a well organized race, so check-in, body marking, and transition area were all organized and efficient. The sun was out and shining, and as I set up my transition area, the vibe all around was pretty chill and friendly, everyone chatting and happy to be there. And of course I ran into Beth, winner of races, and, more importantly, in my age group. It's always good to see Beth. Even though I know she's going to beat me handily, her smiling face and friendly personality always put me at ease. Her cool, calm demeanor totally belies her kick-ass race performance. But that's one of the things I like about triathletes, they're a friendly bunch.

Webb: We also ran into our friend Ed who was on his way to buy a race belt. I usually have two race belts and two pairs of goggles. I loaned him one my belts, cuz that's how we triathletes do. Like us, he had not done much since his last race, also a month ago, when he had a good day at the inaugural Ironman Mont Tremblant.

Elle: I had been on a swim low, but as we were standing in our waves, waiting to head into the water, I overheard a girl behind me saying how she was a swimmer, not a triathlete, and she was just here for the swim. I turned to her and said, "I'm the worst swimmer here, do you have any tips for me?"
She thought for a second and said, "Don't lift your head."
And I'm telling you, as I swam, I thought about that. A lot. And I think it really helped! I knew that, but to have her remind me right before the start seemed to make a difference. I didn't end up having a stellar swim, but I felt good about it, and that's a big plus for me.

Webb: Meanwhile, my swim times over the past three years have consistently improved. It was time for a new mindset, so I planned to swim hard. I positioned myself on the inside just after the first third. When the air horn sounded I jumped in behind a fast group and tried to stay in the slipstream. That worked until the right side of my goggle filled with water. I tried to ignore it but I kept drinking seawater when the waves would hit my face on the left side. Not being able to breathe to the right side compounded the problem. Twice I stopped to empty my goggles and twice I failed. This was the first time this had happened to me so I doubt I exhibited any clear thinking or grace in my attempts. At any rate, I swam through it and took in a bit more of the  salty Atlantic Ocean.

Elle: I'm always happy to be on the bike, because it means the swim is over. I passed a bunch of people, which I have to do in order to make up for my poor swim performance. And the bike was fun - a scenic route with a couple of hills thrown in.

Webb: I finally got to the shore and started working my wetsuit off. This season I have made significant reductions in my T1 times. Still, I felt like I was moving in slow motion. No matter what I was trying to do it felt slow and awkward. Once on the bike I started out and up the hill that greets you after exiting the transition area. Immediately I played leap frog with a guy in the 50-54 age group (damn him for passing me in the swim!).  I moved past him and moments later was passed by someone in my age-group. He was going too fast to try to keep up. But then a few minutes later I saw him up ahead; I was gaining ever-so-slowly on him. I picked up the pace a bit and kept my effort steady. In a couple of minutes I was on him and passing him. For the next mile or so, I could hear him behind me (far enough not to be drafting). He then overtook me and I fought to keep him in sight. We would replay this for the next 10 miles, pushing each other.

If T1 felt slow, T2 took an eternity. My shoes were difficult to get on because my calves gave every indication they were waiting for the slightest provocation to cramp up. Through all of this one thought was ever-present: Elle was still in front of me.

Elle had started in the swim wave before me and it was well possible that we would come out of the water at the same time. I didn't see her on the bike course but that did not mean much. I could have passed her in the water. Or she was kicking ass on the bike. Yep, she was kicking ass on the bike. As I jogged my bike to my rack I saw her bike and knew she was out on the run course.

Elle: I rode into T2 feeling good, and headed out for the run - the course out of transition starts with a pretty gnarly hill. And wouldn't you know it, at the top, I got a side stitch that pretty much spelled out 'no run PR today' for me. Oh well. I still passed a good amount of people, but not enough to make my way onto the podium. Which, by the way, was super competitive today! Even on a good day, I don't think I would have had a chance. Beth, who usually comes in first, even came in second. It was rough out there. But what can you do - it was a gorgeous day of racing, I had a good time and I was glad that we signed up for it. I had been feeling down about racing, and today's triathlon rejuvenated me. And even though we have a much needed recovery month ahead of us, I'm excited about next year's race plan.

Webb: The run course follows the bike route for 1.55 miles before it turns around and heads back. That hill you run out of transition? Yeah, you get that going back down into the finish. My strategy was to run the first  2.5 miles of the 5k hard and let the hill deliver me to the finish line.

The guy I had ridden with passed me going up the hill and left me behind. I let him go with hopes I would catch him like I did on the bike. Even though my plan was to run hard, there was no reason to blow up before I arrived at the top of the hill. By the time I reached the top the sun was out and on the cusp of being too warm for my tastes. My breathing became rapid and had no discernible rhythm. I calmed my breathing while keeping my pace fast and steady and then began looking for Elle on the other side of the road. I finally saw her near the 1.5 mile mark. She had maybe 400m on me.

After the turnaround I really let myself have it. I had no way of knowing what my pace was. It didn't matter. My effort was going to be the same no matter what. I needed to give the hardest I could for 1 more mile before the big descent. Every time I felt like slowing down I forced myself to run harder. Most times I would focus on my foot turnover. Other times I would think about driving my feet through the pavement. I knew if I could just get to that downhill, I could let gravity take over and fall down the hill if I needed.

Finally I made it and let myself go, thinking of the Road Runner's feet as I flew down the hill. Halfway down I began hurting badly. I didn't care. Sure I misjudged how easy the downhill would make it, but hey it was going to hurt no matter what.  I decided to get it over with and kicked it up a notch. At the bottom of the hill I took the right turn to the finishing arch and kicked again.

As soon as my timing chip was off, I was sitting down with my feet in a kiddie pool of ice cold water. I sat there for several minutes catching my breath, cooling down. Meanwhile, Elle was standing nearby looking as fresh as ever chatting it up with Jorge and some others. I looked and felt like death. She looked like a fitness model on a photo shoot.

Elle: Watching Webb try to collect himself after a super hard effort just reminded me of how I don't push hard enough. Although today I really couldn't, due to the cramping, but still, this is something I've struggled with for awhile. So in 2013 I need to make a change - I'm really going to start working on giving it all I've got, I need to look like Webb did today at the end of all of my races next year.

Webb: Overall I had a faster time in 2012 than I did in 2009, but not by much. My swim time was slower - that can't be only because of my goggle problems. My T1 time had a big improvement, as did my run. T2 was about the same. I was shocked to see that my bike time was only slightly faster. I had expectations of taking minutes off my 2009 time. Since I am undoubtedly a better cyclist than I was three years ago, I'm not going to read too much into it. I'm ready for the off-season.

Race Report: Marsh Post Marathon (5.2 miles)

Webb: It has been a little more than a month since Timberman 70.3. A month of mostly eating, drinking, sleeping, working and not much exercise. This was our time to be a little lazy and try to accomplish some deep recovery. That was the plan anyway. And we nearly made it too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids who cajoled us into two more races.

Elle: Jorge Martinez of E3 Training Solutions and BTT convinced me we should do the Max Performance Buzzard Bay Sprint Tri (a separate race report). Even though we did take it easy, we also made sure to fit in some workouts, like bike-hill-repeats up Arlington Heights and a Walden Pond swim with BTT followed by a bike workout on the Charlie Baker TT route. But we worked out sparingly. I could almost feel my fitness slipping away.

Webb: About the same time, our friend Craig told us about a race he was timing/directing for his run group. Even though I was well into Sloth and Gluttony, I agreed. Here is the thing: Craig cares about racing. The little things that annoy you at a race probably drive him insane. So even though this was to be an informal gathering of runners, I knew the distance would be accurate and timing done right. I've really wanted to do one of his races and with no real priorities out there it wasn't going to interfere with the overall training plan.

RACE REPORT: Marsh Post 5.2 Mile Road Race

Webb: As I understand it, Craig and a bunch of his usual crew have a 2.6 mile looped course they run regularly. He/They got in their minds that it would be cool to run it as a marathon (10-laps plus 285 yards). It would also allow people to run other distances. There were six races: 2 loops (5.2 miles), 3 loops (7.8 miles), 4 loops (10.4 miles), half-marathon (13.1 miles), 7 loops (18.2 miles) and the marathon (26.2 miles). We all started at the same time, so the half-marathon group was .1 miles behind us and the marathoners another .1 miles behind them.

Elle: We woke up to a cloudy, dreary morning, and I have to admit, I wasn't super psyched about hauling my slower and slightly heavier butt out of bed. But we wanted to support Craig, so we got our butts in gear and headed out to Cambridge. When we got to the 'race site' we saw that is was going to be a fairly small affair, just a handful of runners out for the fun of it. Craig has a couple of tables set up with nourishment - snacks & drinks, and a big race clock. People slowly showed up, and before too long, it was time to start the race. Craig led the marathoners out to their start line, the half-marathoners to theirs, and so on.

Running Craig's race in Cambridge
Webb: We stepped to the line to await Craig's command. I wasn't feeling great but I wasn't feeling terrible either. Mostly, I was unsettled by the half-marathoners and marathoners starting behind us. I definitely felt like the rabbit that leads out greyhounds. At the signal I took off way too fast. I kept telling myself to calm down and ease into the pace. Then I would tell myself, "don't get caught until the 1-mile mark," then it became the 1.5-mile mark, etc. After my first lap I still had not been caught by anyone. This motivated me to keep the gas pedal down. The odds simply were not in my favor not to get caught. I pushed on until somewhere between the 3 and 3.5 mile mark. I had given into the idea these guys would catch me so I dialed it back to collect myself for a final push in the last mile. At the 4-mile mark I was still alone out front.

Elle: I was surprised how fast Webb started out of the gate, and I struggled to keep up with him. I was definitely feeling the loss of fitness! But I trailed him for most of the race and was able to keep him close enough.

Webb: This was definitely a new experience for me. Once again came to me: "Everybody Hurts." I dug into my suitcase of pain and crossed the finish line without being caught. Success! I looked back to see where Elle and others were. The top marathon men were not far behind me. I think if it had been a 5.3-mile race they would have caught me.

Winning in our age group and setting
course records is easy when you're
the only one in the category...
Elle: About a quarter of a mile from the finish Webb got away from me, and the top 2 marathoners passed me. Holy crap, they're fast! I just didn't have it today. But I felt that I got a good workout in, and I pushed it. Just not hard enough.

Webb: Um, it was hard enough to win first place and set a course record.

Elle: Yeah, because we were the only ones racing in the first year it was held.

Webb: I had a great time. From now on, this is how I want to race. First, the entire crew, the competitors, non-running runners, their friends and families, all of them, were just a great group of people. They set up a table at the finish that allowed those runners doing the longer distances to have special needs items available. Plus, there was a ton of extra food that they offered to all the Bostonians and Cantabrigians who were out running that day. Second, I ran much harder than I would have predicted. There was something about the small size of the field and the informal nature that motivated me to run hard. It seemed to have more value. And the trophies prove it.