Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Rock Hall Olympic Distance Triathlon Race Report

Last weekend, Jason and I headed over to Maryland’s Eastern Shore for a weekend of racing in Rock Hall, a tiny little town off the Chesapeake Bay. I signed up for the Saturday Olympic and the Sunday sprint, while he, more wisely, kept to the Sunday sprint. In the interest of keeping this post from turning into a dissertation-length monologue, I’ll just report on the Olympic distance race for now.

This was my first Olympic distance race in 10 months, and I was a little nervous about how I’d hold up on a 10k run off the bike, and how I’d hold up in the heat. It had been so long that I wasn’t sure I remembered how to deal with either, but better to deal with any issues now than at nationals in August. On the other hand, I’ve been putting out some good power numbers on the bike and run paces during brick workouts, so I was hopeful that I could post a PR, and estimated that if everything was absolutely perfect, I could post something around 2:30, which would be a nine-minute PR. With the mixed feelings in tow, we headed to the race site, where we discovered the water was above the wetsuit-legal temperatures. Strike one against a perfect day; this costs you a good 1.5-3 minutes on the swim at this distance. Nothing to do about that, so I got set up, warmed up and headed over to the brownish-brackish Chesapeake Bay waters to start the race.

Swim: 27:18 (1:33/100y), 2/35 AG, 11/196 women

A couple of women in our wave took off super fast at the start, almost everybody hung back, and within 30 seconds I was pretty much all by myself. The first two buoys were very easy to navigate, and I felt like I was holding a pretty good position, until I made the second turn and could NOT see a buoy because one of the race support kayakers was right on the buoy line. Allow me to showcase my superb illustration skills (my artist mother is disowning me as you read this).
Eventually, another support kayak flagged down me and about 20 men from earlier waves who I’d caught, and re-directed us. By the time I managed to find the buoy, I was pretty sure that I’d tacked on at least an extra 100 meters, so if you are keeping track, that is strike two against a perfect day. For about 5 seconds, I was ready to give up on having a decent race, placing, setting a PR, but then I realized that a 40k bike and a 10k run would give me a lot of time to make up for that error and got back to work.

When I came out of the water, I figured I must have been 20 women back or something like that given the misdirection. Turns out that almost every single woman in our wave, and the one after, had the same problem I did, so it’s a good thing I didn’t shut it down just 10 minutes into the day.

T1 2:04, 7/35 AG

This included a substantial run from the water. Not great, not bad.

Bike: 1:12:50 (20.5 mph), 6/35 AG, 28/196 women

Putting the swim behind me, I got on the bike and got to work making my watts so I could pass the slower men who got to start the race up to 12 minutes in front of me. 

I pushed right in the proper power range for the first 18 or so miles, and was going really, really fast. Like…almost 24 mph for the first half. It became pretty obvious to me that we had a substantial tailwind – I know what kind of speeds I hold on a flat bike course at a given power level, and for the watts I was producing, 24 mph did not match up. Even knowing that we had a tailwind, I was happy with the power I was holding, the dudes I was passing, and some of the fast women I was able to follow (at legal distance, of course).

Then we hit some chip seal roads, which ate into my power AND made holding onto the time trial position pretty uncomfortable. I was relieved to turn back onto smooth roads, until maybe a mile later, we made a turn that gave us MORE chip seal roads AND a headwind.

It quickly became apparent why I had been holding 24 mph before. Hmph.

We soon got to turn back onto some smoother roads, but by this point, my average power had dropped a bit, and I was having difficulty getting it back up. I think I may be due for a fit tweak, because even on chip seal roads, I shouldn’t be struggling to maintain power in the time trial position over just 40k of biking.

Overall, the bike was a huge success. It was a PR at the distance by almost four minutes, which is a gigantic amount of time to take off for a 40k bike.

T2: 1:38, 10/35 AG

As I was coming into transition, my coach yelled that I was 8th overall, which was a huge shock to me because I thought I was super behind in the swim, and at least two women had passed me on the bike. Interesting.

I celebrated that news by turning in my worst ranking of the day in T2 because stupid running shoes are stupid.

Run: 51:08 (8:13/mi), 7/35 AG, 36/196 women

Strike three for perfect conditions was in full force on the run course – it was hot and humid, with almost all of the run taking place on unshaded blacktop. I do much, much better in cold conditions than in hot conditions, but I’d thought ahead and had frozen a small waterbottle overnight to grab in transition. I read somewhere (probably slowtwitch) that holding something cold during the run can help with heat tolerance. It seemed to do the trick, until the ice finished melting around the end of the first lap.
I held 8 min/mi flat during the entire first loop, and was feeling pretty good despite the conditions. No feeling of overheating/GI distress/etc, and I was holding off most of the women behind me, except those who blew past at sub-7 pace because I just can’t run that fast. The second loop, on the other hand, was tougher, as the sun was getting higher in the sky and my core temperature was starting to climb. I grabbed water to pour on my head at each aid station, which helped for probably 400-600 meters, and tried to hold pace as best I could, but I slowed a good 20 seconds per mile by the time I was finished.

The run, too, was a huge PR for an Olympic distance run – almost three minutes – and isn’t too far off my standalone 10k PR run. My goal for the season is to get my Olympic distance run pace under 8 minutes per mile, and 8:13 is getting pretty close to that, so I was pleased.

Total time: 2:34:56, 4/35 AG, 18/196 women

I knew I was obviously NOT in contention for any top overall spots, but thought maybe I’d lucked out and made the podium for my age group. Close, but not quite. I was moderately annoyed, but 3rd place was 1:50 in front of me, so it’s not like I could have easily made that up out on the course. Still, I was pretty happy with the day overall, and I managed a 4+ minute PR at this distance. I had figured a 2:30 under perfect conditions, and it definitely wasn't perfect - instead, it was hot, humid and windy, and I held up against them to stay as competitive against the (not small and fairly fast) field as I could. I logged big time drops on the bike and run, and possibly most importantly, finally proved to myself that I CAN run in the heat, and only sacrifice a small amount of time.

Besides, being happy with the race was the best way to prepare for the sprint the next day...


  1. Congrats on the great finish despite imperfect-at-best conditions! Your illustration of the swim it pretty much how I feel during every OWS, for the record ...

    1. Yeah, pretty much, though, this was especially bad with the kayaker totally blocking our view. Oh well.

  2. Your artist mother was wondering how you did that illustration, I need to learn how to do that sort of thing.

  3. First, your illustration--complete with a Smashfestqueen kit--is amazing. And day you can lock down two PRs across the disciplines (four minutes on the bike = SO MANY WATTS!) is a solid, solid day. You've got the right mentality too: this is all in preparation for #Hammerfest2015! Keep up the good work!

  4. Well done for smashing your PR despite the tough conditions! I love your illustrations as always ~ I can only aspire to your level of greatness with MS Paint!

    1. You can do real art, though! And beautiful paintings and drawings.

  5. Sounds like the cool thing about tris is that you can set multiple PRs in one day.

    Nice point about not giving up when it looks like the race has screwed you over. You never know if everyone else has been screwed too.

    1. It is true - you can set a lot of PRs, and on a rough day, you can usually find something you did well, even if it's just the swim-bike transition.

  6. I am giggling at your drawing. My coach and several of my teammates competed there and also had the swim issue. Very frustrating. Nice work on a hot day! I was cycling in a 40K time trial in Cambridge, MD and it was hot and windy (my speeds at the same power output ranged from 18-25mph). I will be competing on this course for Waterman's Olympic in October. I assume it is the same course, anyway. First time Waterman's has offered the Olympic. Should be more my kind of weather then. I love running in the cooler temps.

    1. I think it will b e the same course, yes. And I love seeing speed variability vs. constant power output. Makes me glad I have a powermeter to guide my effort level.