Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Guntersville Triathlon Festival

Guntersville Triathlon Festival(is)(er)(ish)
Short Story:  Had a good race and took third in my age group with an Olympic distance PR of 2:25:48.  Had a good Team TT 10 mile race taking 2nd overall.

Long Story:  Day one - Olympic distance triathlons are not my thing.  It is no secret that my weakness on any triathlon is the swim with a mad dash to catch the fast guys on the bike and run.  Because the Olympic distance swim is longer in comparison to a sprint or half distance triathlons bike/run there is really not a chance to catch up.

Race day started well.  Early morning wake up and a quick breakfast of toast and coffee.  Drove all the way from HSV over to Guntersville so there was a lot of time to go over transition key items and listen to Amanda talk about how she was going destroy her age group.  (6:20 AM) Made it to parking with plenty of time to get a prime transition spot near the bike in and bike out area.  Got transition set up after a few trips to the truck and then got to hang out for about the next hour or so.  Also had time to catch an intimate moment with Mark Freeman.  Lucky for me Gregg Gelmis was around to make sure no moment went un-captured.  Thanks Gregg!

"Oh Alex your eyes look so pretty this morning...."
-as captioned by Jeff and captured by Gregg
With 20 minutes to race start (7:40 AM) I got the wet suit on and headed out for a warm up swim.  Water had to be above 70 degrees and felt great.  Lake was calm and the sun was high enough that sighting from place to place would be easy.  After a quick swim I grabbed a gel and began the race start waiting game.

Swim was an age group wave start with all men 0-39.  It was a big group of people bobbing in the water which made me a little nervous.  The idea was to stick to an even pace swim, try to find feet to draft behind, and don’t die.  Good news was I could clearly identify Eric Broyles, Donnie Homes and Karen Paulukaitis’s canoe as targets for drafting the first 30ft of the swim.

Swim started promptly at 8:00 AM with the sound of a horn.  The first 100-200 yards were pretty tough as the larger swim group tried to find their pace.  I took a few hits in the water from the side but nothing that would of misplaced my goggles or leave a mark.  After about 5 minutes of swimming I started to use my sighting stroke to locate other swimmers around me.  I had to do some work but was able to catch the next guy in front of me and get in the draft.  Not sure if I swam harder to keep him in sight or if the draft helped but I was out of the water an on the beach in 35:10.  A PR Olympic distance swim by over 17 minutes!  Felt great and was ready to get on with the fun stuff!
Last moments in the water.  Fresh enough to act serious for
a picture. - Captured by Gregg

I didn’t dwell on my recent time victory because I assumed the course was short and Eric was already 10 minutes in front of me.  Blasted through T1 in 43 seconds with a time hit of jumping back to get my race number for the bike.  (Some confusion as to if we needed the number on the bike or not) I opted to keep my shoes on the bike for T1 using the rubber band trick to keep the bike shoes upright.  Everything worked great but for some reason I had trouble jamming my left foot in my shoe.  I recall a volunteer yelling at me to ‘Watch out for the fence!’ as I was swerving and screwing with my bike shoe.

Once I got out on the bike course I decided to set my effort level to a little under threshold and hold an average power of around 220W.  Guntersville is a course filled with rolling hills that made real time power updates valuable.  Huge effort was made to drink as much of the nutrition I had on the bike as possible.  I felt good through the about mile 23 when I started heading back into the State Park.  The last two miles of the ride shared a portion of the run course with the bike course and it was a little unnerving at the number of people who were already out ahead of me! 

Blasting into T2 - Captured by Gregg
I got to catch a glimpse of Eric about a mile into his run (at least 10 minutes ahead) and Donnie and Jeff Schertz moving out pretty fast.  As I was rolling into T2 I saw Chuck Branson blazing out of transition at least 5 minutes ahead of me.  I had my fingers crossed that my arch nemesis (Eric) would fall apart on the run and give me the satisfaction of passing him in a sprint at the finish line.  Just the motivation I needed to push on harder.  All was not lost.  Finished the bike in 1:09:14 at 22.1 MPH.  Not bad but I could not process the numbers on the spot.

Dashed into T2 after a flying dismount carrying my bike to prevent losing a shoe if it flopped on the ground.  Had some time savings with already having a race number on and made quick work of cramming my shoes on and getting a visor over my head.  NO SOCKS.  I was out and on the run in 35 seconds.

From previous races I had an expectation of running the 10k course at a 6:10 pace with a kick at the end.  After cresting the first hill out of transition it became pretty obvious that I better back off if I wanted to finish at all.  I made the decision to chill out, eat a gel, and hop on a 6:30-6:40 pace with increased effort each mile.  (Run course had 500' of elevation change!) The patience paid off when I was at about mile 3 and recognized Donnie and Jeff in the distance heading up the largest hill on the run course.  Happy as I was to catch the pair and exchange ‘Good Jobs’ I noticed that I was closing in on Chuck and really wanted to at least watch him finish.

Heading uphill to catch Chuck
-Captured by Gregg
Around mile 4 I caught a quick glimpse of Eric strolling out from the trail portion of the run and heading toward the road.  Probably a solid ¾ mile ahead of me and not blowing up the way I hoped he would.  Maybe next time...  As I ran back down the gravel path onto the pavement section I was only 100 yards behind Chuck and decided to put the work into catching up where he could at least laugh at me and run on.  Pushing into mile 6 my average run pace was no longer the 6:30 I had been at but was not pushing to 6:00 flat with elevating heart rate.  Was able to get on Chuck’s side at the crest of the next hill and have a brief conversation about how it was hot, we were tired and that we would both take it easy on the way to the race finish.  Right. Easy.

Pace continued to accelerate until we were at a dead sprint from the top parking lot all the way down through the finish line.  5:12 pace and 105% heart rate.  Chuck got me at the finish line (plus he already had 5 minutes on me) but I was happy to squeeze out a 39:59 10k effort.  Eric destroyed me as usual but needed a PR Olympic Tri to do it.

Super race for me.  Basically everything went right.  Swim coaching and workout expertise paid off big time after 4 months of hard work.  Thanks to Parker for hosting a great race, Lisi Bratcher for the coaching and of course to Amanda for embracing the triathlons by racing with me (She beasted third in her age group just like she said she would on the way to the race).  Can’t forget Casey Fritz for handing me my post-race beer.

Rolling Start - Captured by KB
Day two – Team Dead Legs (Donnie, Eric and I) went out to crush our competition at the Team 10 Mile TT.  At the start of the race it was becoming increasingly obvious that Team Dead Legs in fact had dead legs.  Eric and Donnie were crazy enough to do every single event at the Triathlon Festival where slackers like me went home to eat cookie cake and eat macaroni covered hot dogs.  Like everything else nothing worth having is easy to get so we might as well go all out!  The good news was that Suzanne Erickson was skillfully operating the beer keg at home base so we had an incentive to still come back after our competition passes us.

Competition was stiff with our main rivals composed of a team with Jeff, Chuck, Eric Doorman and one other fast looking bike guy.  Parker executed an advanced torn cup throw to select which team would kick off the event and of course it was our lucky day.  The TT allowed for a rolling start so the trio headed out to get going and discuss our strategy for pulls and rotations.  It was decided that 1:00 pulls would work with some communication to indicate the pull was over and that the last rider got back into the draft.

First 5 miles was FAST.  Slightly downhill but still had some rollers and what felt like a tiny head wind.  We had great teamwork keeping the rotation going with strong pulls but I could tell my heart rate was staring to rise.  The turn back is where Team Dead Legs became Team Legs Blew up.  Donnie was the first casualty of accumulated race fatigue and 2 minute rest intervals that were still 95% power.  Eric and I worked to help Donnie recover a little longer by taking extra pulls but we were also starting to fade from our own accumulated race fatigue.  Rollers were relentless but we were able to finish strong as a team.  Took second place out of 4 contenders as an excellent end to a weekend of racing.

Awesome weekend.  Super fun.  Would do it every weekend if I thought I would survive.
Group picture of all the Team TT teams. - Captured KB

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