RACE REPORT: 2014 OC INTERNATIONAL TRIATHLON

MY TWO YEAR TRIATHLON ANNIVERSARY !!

EVENT: OLYMPIC DISTANCE TRIATHLON  | OC INTERNATIONAL TRIATHLON
DATE: JUNE 1, 2014
LOCATION: Mission Viejo, CA
DISTANCES: Swim:  1500m/ Bike:  40km / Run:  10km
TIME / PACE /PLACE: 2:17:21 / 8th of 45 in age group (top 18%)  and 38th of 463 overall participants (top 8%).

Jim (me), Doug, and Michael in T1 just before the start

Jim (me), Doug, and Michael in T1 just before the start

Just as the subtitle suggested, this was the two year anniversary of my triathlon racing experience.  A lot has happened over the course of the last two years. Training and competition has become an important and daily aspect of my life. I have become faster, stronger, more fit, and that healthy lifestyle has spilled over into better food choices and all this has even change my social sphere. Just important is that I will more likely live longer and with a better understanding of myself.

This is the exact same course that I did that last two years. The first year included a too-fast swim start with comcomitant near-anxiety attack in the water. My time in 2012 was 2:30:50. Last year I completed the race 2 weeks prior to a schedule surgical repair of a torn left external oblique muscle. The running training was limited by pelvic pain, but still improve my time to 2:19:10. This year was even better, but there are some pretty damned fast guys in my age group. Despite being in an older age group and improved times, I’m no closer to seeing the podium.

THE SWIM | 20:39 | 3rd/45 in AG (top 6%) | 19th/463 OA (top 4%)
This is one of the first times my age group has been the first wave to start. I believe they combined the 45-49’s and the 50-54’s in that first wave. It was funny with all these older guys milling around at the start area, there was one young woman in her later 20’s with the same color cap starting with us. I asked her how she got in with us and she answered “I am the leader”. Huh? With clarification, I realized she said she was an elite competitor. I didn’t think about any further and tried to concentrate.

Fortunately the light fog lifted enough just before the start so we could see the first buoy.

Fortunately the light fog lifted enough just before the start so we could see the first buoy.

When the gun went off, I immediately ran to the left about 30yds to get away from the crown, and get a more direct line to the first buoy. I breath to the right and saw several very fast swimmers to my right with every breath. I am usually one of the faster swimmers and found myself already speeding up rather than keeping to my ideal plan of starting out slower and building speed in the swim. I was about 300 m along before it dawned on me that these were the probably the elite competitors. This years race time was about the same as last years and differed by only 4 seconds slower. That could simply be within the error of buoy placement

T1 Transition: pretty uneventful. Nothing special.

Lesson learned: Don’t try to keep up with the elites unless you can keep up with the elites.

THE BIKE | 1:09:32 (20.72 mph) | 11th/45 in AG (top 24%) | 51th/463 OA (top 11%)
Most of my training is done on the bike. I ride with two different clubs and do pretty well with them. The bike portion continues to be my weakest leg of the race. This race time was only 45 seconds faster than last year. There are just simply stronger guys out there. Bigger legs, more power, whatever. I’ll continue to work on it, possibly supplementing with kettlebell squats on a regular basis to beef up the power in the legs.

Lessons learned: Get stronger.

T2 Transition: pretty quick, nothing special to comment on.

Lessons learned: Get stronger.

THE RUN | 44:09 (7:06/mi pace) | 9th/45 in AG (top 20%) | 41th/463 OA (top 8%)
The run for this event is  pretty hilly with a few longer stretches of sustained climb. It begins fairly flat, and after a 3-4 cycling descent at the end of the bike ride and so it is easy and tempting to start out fast. After a couple of miles the ascents and descents begin. I had been doing a lot of trail running of between 8-14 miles the last couple of months and really prepared me. I never had to stop or walk up the steep areas, and had a strong last mile finish. Last years time was 45:40, so I improved about 1.5 minutes. Simply better preparation and more running over time.

SUMMARY: This is a popular and conveniently located local race and is well organized and run by the race manager. It does draw some very fast and accomplished competitors, especially in the 45-55 age range. For instance, although I finished 8th in my age division, I would have finished 4th have I competed in the elite division. That is how competitive these old guys are. Hats off to you men. Next year I’ll be nipping at your heels, though. Looking forward to it.

-Jim

 

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WILDFLOWER 70.3 TRIATHLON 2014

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”

EVENT: 70.3 TRIATHLON  | WILDFLOWER LONG COURSE
DATE: MAY 3, 2014
LOCATION: Lake San Antonio, Central California Coast
DISTANCES: Swim:  1.2 mi/ Run 2.1 /Bike:  56 mi. / Run:  11.0
TIME / PACE /PLACE: 6:05:35 / 22nd of 103 in age group  and 415th of 1398 overall participants

This year was unique for the Wildflower race. The lake was at 5% of capacity due to the ongoing drought in central California and there was NO water at the usual start/finish location. The organizers moved the swim start/finish 2.2 miles down the shoreline to the Harris Creek campground area/ So racers will do a Quad-athon instead. SWIM, then RUN 2 miles to the main transition area, then BIKE the full 56 mi. distance, then RUN the remaining 11 miles. A quadathlon.

Just a trickle of water near Lynch Hill, the traditional Start / Finish area.

Just a trickle of water near Lynch Hill, the traditional Start / Finish area.

 

This is the third 70.3 triathlon I’ve done in as many months. I have recovered fully from a several month pelvis injury, and my training has been consistent and appropriately distributed among the three disciplines. My first 70.3 (Bayshore 70.4) was a big learning experience for me. In short, there I rode too fast, didn’t drink enough and bonked the run. For Ironman California 70.3 a month later, I had a much smarter and better race. Controlled the bike, drank more fluids, and had a strong comfortable run. If the Ironman race was an “A” race, I thought the Wildflower long course triathlon would be my “A-plus” race.  Oh, how so very wrong I was.

The mileage and training was fine. I would not say that I over or under-trained. I the few weeks before I had taken to the local trails and did a few runs of 12 miles with about 2000 feet of elevation gain. Felt good and strong. Of the three main disciplines none were particularly weak or inordinately strong compared to the others. Where I failed was in preparation for the fourth discipline. The fourth discipline is not the transition as some will have you believe. Well possibly it is in the Sprint distance and has some influence in the Olympic distances. The fourth discipline in the longer distances has got to be a plan for fluids and nutrition. More about that later.

THE SWIM | 1.2 mile distance | 29:25 (1:31/100 pace) | 8th/103 in A.G. (top 8%)
I had done a reconnaissance swim the day before the race without the wetsuit. I found it chilly, in areas, but otherwise pretty comfortable. It was quite unlike me, but I chose to race without a wetsuit. I was the only doing so, racing in the singlet instead. I stand by that choice. I am a pool swimmer from way back, and I much prefer the feel and feedback of the water flowing across the body. I don’t feel the need for wetsuit for buoyancy, and although there are some other advantages to a wetsuit, it worked out fine. I made a sighting mistake about 2/3 in to the race. As a started to sight the last buoy, I put my head down for a while. The next time I looked up I started heading after the wrong one for a while. The boat had to come over and re-direct me. Oops. Amateur mistake. Lost a little time there. Swim otherwise felt good as it should be my strongest part of the race.

Wildflower T1a ramp

The T1a ramp. You can see how low the water level is, but this angle doesn’t really show how long and steep the ramp is.

THE RUN – PART I (T1a to T1b)
Coming out of the water was potentially utter confusion. There were hundreds and hundreds of similar looking white bags placed all over. You were supposed to run up the ramp, find your shoes, strip out of the wetsuit, place everything into your bag and then take off. The run started on trails, then dropped back down to the dry lake bed where we ran the 2 mile distance to the main transition area. I felt OK, held a decent pace and held back to allow my heart rate to come down under control. Transition to bike was uneventful.

THE BIKE | 56 mi. | 3:07:36 (17.9 mph ave. pace) | 22nd/103 in A.G. (top 21%)

Nothing was really wrong with the bike portion. I didn’t feel like I had much power for the first 10 miles or so, then I settled in to a comfortable pace. I never really was comfortable in aero position, or on the seat. I was up, then down in the aerobars, then up and all over the place. My tribike has been fitted by one of the best, but that doesn’t mean I can maintain that position. I was squirming all over trying to find a comfortable position.There is the ideal world, and then there is the world we actually live in. Everyone says nothing new on race day, but I had installed an aerobar-mounted hydration system (Profile Design).  It wasn’t in a convenient position, but I could have made it work, if I tried harder.

The hills and climbs were not as bad as I anticipated. Nasty Grade was not as bad as I was led to believe. I prefer climbing to the long flat straightaways. I don’t have the leg power that some guys have and I have to helplessly watch them power by me on the long flat stretches.

THE RUN (combined) | 2 + 11.1 miles | 2:20:42 | 32nd of 103 in A.G (top 31%)
The problems with the run can only be understood in light of the fourth discipline, Fluids and Nutrition…

FLUIDS AND NUTRITION | 700 TOTAL RACE CALORIES | 3X24 oz. WATER
As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. This could not be more true in my case. I very simply had no plan for nutrition. I had some gel with me, but did not take in enough. For the shorter distance races like Sprint, Olympic Tri’s and even the marathon, the amount of calorie intake has not seemed to be all that important. Take in some, there should be plenty of sugar and glycogen available to finish strong. For races over 5, 6, or more hours, the intake needs to be taken rigorously and part of a plan even if it needs to be written down and taped to your bike frame. I did not do so, and I suffered because of it.

When I ride, I do not appear to sweat much, and more importantly, I just don’t feel thirsty. Maybe it is the elevated heart rate, but I just seem like I am forcing fluids when I am not thirsty. It is even more so with gels and other sources of calories. All told, I consumed about 1/3 of the calories I should have been maintaining, and a lot less fluids. I am not sure how much less. When running, I stopped at every support station and drank something, but by that time I was already low. Even then I wasn’t making up for the calorie deficit.

I bonked. Big time.

I thought the first 2 miles was just uncomfortable from the transition off the bike. I stopped right there at Harris Creek (our camp ground). After the first “stop and walk” it gets a little easier each time, and the walks become longer and longer.  Maybe it was a little easier seeing so many others walking. The heat and the steep hills had a lot to do with it for sure.

After the finish, I sat in the shade, but my head was spinning. This is what the beginning of a diabetic coma must feel like. I soon went to the festival area to find some shade and laid down for awhile. Probably slept. Later I met up with some other members of the club and proceeded to boorishly expound on my little pity party of disappointment. Only later did I have the sense to realize that everybody suffered throughout the day with variation on the same theme. My story was not particularly unique. Anyone who finishes this race should be proud, regardless of the time it took.

THINGS I LEARNED FROM THIS RACE

  • If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I had no plan for fluids and calories. Both components were on my person or accessible, but I did not take in enough of either.
  • I do not have much experience in longer events. There is a big difference between 2-3 hour events and 5-6 hour races.  You can fake it for the Olympic and Sprint races, and the body will do OK. You can not just “wing it” for the longer events. Although I had previously completed two other 70.3 races, I have not learned the valuable lessons yet.
  • You can’t always predict your better races. I thought the Oceanside 70.3 race was an “A” race, but I was expecting Wildflower to be an “A-plus” race. Wrong. Some days are better than others. Sometimes, for no predictable reason, you feel better or worse than anticipated. Not every race can be a PR. Deal with it.
  • I may not be ready for a longer distance race. After a successful Oceanside race, I started mulling over the idea of a full 140.6 distance race. I may have the physical capacity to endure it, but I don’t yet have the discipline and experience to do it right. I don’t want to feel the way I felt on the run portion of Wildflower ever again. There are some things I need to figure out first.
  • I need a plan and I need to write it down and tape it to my bike frame if that is what it takes. It is simple. I need to drink more and before I am thirsty, and take in calories even if I am feeling OK at the time.
  • Change of attitude. Instead of the pity party because I did not meet my expectations, I should be celebrating. Celebrating that I am healthy, doing what I enjoy doing, and that I have found a really nice group of people who share this interest in sports and healthy lifestyle.

Next up: OC Triathlon, Lake Mission Viejo

Pretending to look good for the camera. Probably resumed walking immediately afterwards.

Pretending to look good for the camera. Probably resumed walking immediately afterwards.

 

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BAYSHORE 70.4 TRIATHLON

…apparently because 70.3 is just not enough of a challenge

EVENT: 70.4 Triathlon  | Bayshore 70.4
DATE: March 8, 2014
LOCATION: Long Beach, CA
DISTANCES: Swim:  1.3 mi./ Bike:  56 mi / Run:  13.1 mi.
TIME / PACE /PLACE: 5:06:12  / 1st of 14 in over-50 age group and 14th of 91 overall participants.

Bayshore 70.4

This was my first foray in longer distance triathlons. The 70.4 distance probably just rhymes with “Bayshore” which might explain that distance. It started out in 2011 as a training event by a few pals in the Long Beach area who were training for IM Arizona. That first year there weren’t even any finishers times. In just a couple years it has grown a little from this grass roots event. The organizer help us out by keeping the entry fees very reasonable, and use existing and available routes without having to hire police to block off traffic and all the other headaches (and expenses) race organizers must contend with.

THE PREPARATION
This was my first longer distance triathlon. I am signed up for Ironman California 70.3 at the end of this same month. I thought this would be a good opportunity to assess my fitness for a longer event and work on nutrition and fluid strategies. I am so glad I did this race as I definitely made some mistakes and hopefully I will be able to show the self-discipline to correct them in the Ironman-branded race.

The beginning of a long morning 06.19.41

THE SWIM | Time 28:42  | 4th overall
The swim is in a protected bay. The water was in the low 60’s and actually felt just right. I followed my newer strategy which is to get a decent warm up,  stay wide of the group and not to rush the start. I am a strong swimmer, but previous mistakes in races have involved starting out too fast or being so nervous and excited to race that I had major bowel urgency issues while swimming. So I kept to the plan. I swim efficiently and reach long. I felt great and never felt out of breath. It was out and back, run up on the sand and round the cone in the sand and then repeat.

THE BIKE | Time 2:37:56 | Ave. Pace 21.4 mph | 12th overall
The bike course rides a mile or two on public roads (with light traffic, but we are on our honor to follow the laws…) and then continues on the San Gabriel River Trail all the way up to just past the Interstate 10 freeway then return. We are riding among the public also enjoying the unseasonably warm weather, so we had to be vigilant. The river has a very slight elevation gain going out (and very slight Santa Ana headwinds) but the opposite to our advantage on return. I felt good. A little too good perhaps. It took a few miles to warm up (it almost always does) but I just kept a strong pressure on the pedals. Throughout the entire ride I was passed by only a few riders (they were about 15-20 years younger so I should feel too bad, but damn them, I still think I can keep up with the kids. I kept over 18mph going out and about 21mph or faster on return.  The sustained speed coming back was probably the first mistake, and the other was not taking in enough calories or fluids. I drank only 32 oz. of Cytomax the whole ride. I ate two gels and two fig newtons cookies. I don’t sweat much (and it’s hard to tell on the bike anyways) and I usually don’t feel very thirsty and often do not drink enough. This was a problem that would become manifest in the ensuing run.

THE RUN | time 1:56:29 (includes T2) | 8:54 pace | 31st overall
My best time previously for a standalone half marathon is 1:31. The run portion of this race exposes my poor pacing, nutrition, and fluid intake in the preceding cycling leg of the race more than poor physical preparation. I was just depleted. No cramping, no side-ache, no bowel issues, and no pain. I just didn’t have the energy. I did stop once for a quick pit stop, but mostly it was the walking that really slowed me down.

SUMMARY AND NOTES TO MY FUTURE SELF

  • Preparation and taper were pretty good leading up to the race.
  • No bowel issues so pre-race meals were fine
  • Swim was excellent. I am starting to solve the previous swim issues that plagued me in my first few races. Keys: good warm up and start slow and even and pick up the ace. I am at my fastest when smooth and long in the stroke. Find better anti-fog solution for goggles.
  • Bike needs to be slower. This was my fastest ride ever. This is a very even flat and fast course, so I know I wouldn’t be able to duplicate this pace on a hilly course even if I wanted to. I would much rather have a slower bike ride if my run would be faster and feel stronger even if the overall time was about the same. Definitely need to force more fluids even if not thirsty. More calories as well.  Gels packets are inconvenient. I’ll try something different next race.
  • Run. Well if I can fix the problems in the bike, I think the run will automatically be better. Next race well tell.

The Bayshore 70.4 is highly recommended. It is low-key, very affordable, and a great early season race especially if it is the first at this long course distance. Glad I did it.

Bayshore Swim Course

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SURF CITY HALF MARATHON 2014

EVENT: Half Marathon  | Surf City Marathon and Half Marathon
DATE: February 2 , 2014
LOCATION: Huntington Beach, CA
DISTANCES: 13.1 miles
TIME / PACE /PLACE: 1:31:06 (PR) / 6:56/mi. pace / 6th of 641 in age group and  227th out of 15447 overall runners
SPLITS: 7:01 / 6:53 / 6:48 / 7:06 (hill) / 6:52 / 6:47 / 6:48 / 6:46 / 6:54 / 7:11 / 7:16 / 7:00 / 7:06

About 16,000 of my runner friends showed up.

About 16,000 of my runner friends showed up.

This is a pretty big turnout, I think, for a smaller beach city. I figured parking was going to be a problem, so I parked about a mile away and rode my bike right up to the start. I started out with the first group/wave of about 1000. The weather was perfect. Cool in the upper 40’s to very low 50’s. No wind at first, but there was a noticeable head wind on the straightaway in the last 4-5 miles. There was only one “hill”, not much to be concerned about.

Overall, a good race for me. Much better pacing than me half marathon a few weeks ago. Still didn’t have the endurance near the end like I had last year and faded a bit in the last couple of miles.

ScreenCapture-50

Note to future self: need more miles and longer runs in preparation. Some speed work and HIITs as well.

 

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ATHLETIC HERNIA and OSTEITIS PUBIS as RUNNING INJURIES

All throughout the running and sports medicine blogospheres, both professional and amateur, there is a plethora of information and comments on the common running injuries. Runner’s world names these seven as the most common:  Runner’s knee, Achilles tendonitis, Hamstring issues, Plantar fasciitis, Shinsplints, IT band syndrome, and stress fractures.

I had none of that.

Last February (2013) I ran my first Marathon at Surf City Huntington Beach. It was awesome and hard and I ran my perfect race with a negative split pace. I suffered the usual post race pain in the quads especially and had difficulty going up and down stairs and getting up from a sitting position. That was expected. All was fine until about a month later, during a training run, that a felt some acute pain in the front of my pelvis. I hadn’t any problem with cycling, but the quick change in direction  of the leg from its most posterior position to accelerate it forward brought on a most unusual pain. Like my pelvis was unstable. It was worst at the beginning of this run and seemed to loosen up a little later, a couple of miles in. Over the next few months, with less running, it was not getitng better, but instead worse. It was also very difficult and painful the first thing in the morning after a run the previous day. The pain radiated into the medial adductors (groin muscles) and it was intense.

As a doctor, I am reluctant to visit other doctors and do so only reluctantly. I did visit the local hernia specialist after I “self-diagnosed athletic pubalgia or “athletic hernia” (AH). The AH is not listed as common running injury.

Here is a good summary:

A sports hernia is a tear to the oblique abdominal muscles in the pelvic region of the abdomen. Unlike other hernias, the sports hernia has no visible bulge under the skin. The pain associated with a sports hernia resembles a groin strain, but doesn’t respond as well to rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications. The pain tends to return with a vengeance once the athlete returns to the sport.
A sports hernia occurs with the weakening of the muscles or tendons in a thin region of the lower abdominal wall. Once overexerted, a muscle tear occurs inside the groin. The oblique muscles attach at the top of the pubic bone while stronger hip muscles attach to the bottom of the pelvic bone. When both contract simultaneously and with a lot of force, a tug-of-war of the pelvis ensues.

Because the thigh muscles tend to be stronger than trunk, the weaker abdominal oblique muscles tear, resulting in a sports hernia. Sports hernias occur most commonly among football, hockey, soccer and tennis players. However, weekend warriors and athletes making extreme and repeated twisting-and-turning movements are also susceptible.
(http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc/Preventing-the-dreaded-sports-hernia.html#fdMkSxw2xjCxz9Fd.99)

So in June, I had (essentially) a hernia operation to repair a torn left external oblique muscle attachment to my pelvis. Recovery was about as expected, but after several weeks, the pain in both the medial groin muscles did not seem to abate.  I gave it more time and nearly stopped running or competing all through the Spring and Summer months, unfortunately. Biking and swimming, no problem, so I continued trying to stay fit, just not with triathlons or racing.

So I went back to Google to try t5o make sense of my continued pain and difficulty and then came across another, related diagnosis that just hit the nail on the head, Osteitis Pubis (OP). OP is a chronic inflammation and/or weakening of the pubic symphysis joint, the non-articulating , ligamentous joint that holds the two halves of the pelvic bones together up front. This area seems to be the “core of the core”. It is where many important core stabilizing muscles all come together as opposing vector forces.

Pelvic muscle attachments

Pelvic muscle attachments

There really doesn’t appear to be much in the way of surgical intervention, and I wasn’t to keen on having another surgery. So I waited it out. I kept the aggravating activities (well, running) to am minimum and tried to be patient. I mean, hey, I’m not a professional and my livelihood does not depend on competition and I could still bike and swim, so who am I to complain. Well that patience lasted a few months and I decided for another visit to an orthopaedic specialist in LA known to specialize in non-surgical intervention. After a couple of minutes of telling him what I thought I had, he agreed to do a steroid anti-inflammatory injection. He injected dexamethasone into the adductor muscle attachments and home I went. Honestly, I didn’t really notice much of a difference at all.

Withing a few weeks I had a patient of my own (I am an eye doctor) who was telling me about his treatment for his shoulder problems with prolotherapy. Now prolotherapy is pretty much the opposite of steroids. With steroids, you assume the primary problem is inflammation that needs treatment. With prolotherapy, you make the assumption that the connective tissues need healing by strengthening them. The problem with ligaments and tendons is that they are not very vascular and just don’t recover very quickly from injury. There are essentially two approaches to prolotherapy, 1) Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), and 2) the cheaper stuff.  PRP involves drawing the patient’s blood, spinning it down in a centrifuge to separate out the components, and then re-injecting the plasma (rich with platelets) into the area of interest. The poor man’s version is simply a mixture of a hypertonic solutions that causes some of the locale cells to be injured (or dies) with the activation of the release of local growth and regenerative factors.

With the previous injection, I had to take a half day off, and drive to LA to get the injection. The doctor-patient interaction was less than impressive and the previous treatment didn’t work. In addition, the office billed my insurance over $900 for 25 cents worth of medicine, of which I had to contribute about $225.

Screw that. Doctor, heal thyself.

I ordered dextrose solution, already had lidocaine, and started doing my own injections right into the symphysis pubic joint. I have done 5 injections, about 2 weeks apart. Other than the very slight pinch on breaking the skin, the injections are painless. I calculated that, with injection supplies, the injections are costing me less than 5 cents per treatment. Money well spent, because I estimate to be about 95% recovered. I can run without pain during or afterwards, and other than a little “awareness” , this injury is not holding me back at all, even when racing.

Overall, I am still pretty new to running and I was sedentary for many years. I think that my muscles adapted to the many new stresses of regular, vigorous exercise, but the ligaments and tendons just hadn’t had the years and years of thickening and strengthening and general adaptation to the chronic and acute stresses. It is just one of those things. I’m no spring chicken, but now…

aging-grouper

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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HALF MARATHON 2014

EVENT: Half Marathon  | Kaiser Permanente Southern California Half Marathon
DATE: January 11, 2014
LOCATION: Irvine, CA
DISTANCES: 13.1 mi. run
TIME / PACE /PLACE: 1:31:58 / 7:01/mi. pace / 7th of 93in age group  and 132nd of 4352 overall participants

Southern California Half Marathon

This is my first time back to racing after several months off after “athletic hernia” surgical repair and slow recovery from a pelvic structural instability and inflammation problem. (More about that problem in another post).

I was just glad to be running pain-free, but I wasn’t to very please with my pacing. Started out feeling too good and because of my overall endurance racing inexperience, had some slowdown in the last few miles. Last year when doing this race, I started out much slower, but really picked it up and did a negative split. This year, not so much and about 24 seconds overall slower than last year. Not too bad considering the amount of time I took off from running this year for injury recovery.

Splits: 6:47, 6:56, 6:56, 7:05, 6:47, 7:06, 6:56, 6:59, 7:14, 7:14, 7:18, 7:28, 7:30

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WILDFLOWER TRIATHLON RECAP AND REVIEW (OLYMPIC DIST.)

EVENT:  Wildflower Triathlon  | Olympic Distance
DATE: May 5th, 2013
LOCATION: Lake San Antonio [near Paso Robles, CA]
DISTANCES:
Swim 1.5km |24:28 (102nd/1883)
Bike 40 km | 1:19:15 (18.7 mph | 109th/1883)
Run 10 km | 45:17 (7:18/mi. | 259th/1883)
TIME /PLACE: 2:33:23 | 3rd of 91 in age group (3rd percentile) and 56th of 1883 overall participants (3rd percentile)

Wildflower-2

The Bike Transporter

Wildflower-1The Wildflower Triathlon Weekend is described as “The one and only” or maybe more accurately as “The Woodstock of Triathlons”. This was my first time at this event and I have to say that it was awesome. Lake San Antonio is located about 10 miles away from one of California’s famed “other wine country” Paso Robles. I drove up on Friday and joined several others from the OC Tri Club already there at the campgrounds. Lake San Antonio doesn’t have any developed hotels or other shopping or developments in the immediate area so most of the participants camp there for the weekend. There were tents and campers and motor homes all over the place when I arrived Friday afternoon. It was hot and dry on arrival.

Tri California Events, which sponsors the event did an amazing job. For its size, everything is so well organized. There are sponsor booths, food vendors, beer and wine tasting. The local University, Cal Poly San Luis Obisbo provides hundreds of the most enthusiastic volunteers. I mean it really looks like they are having fun. The students have their own Beach at night with a DJ and are camping and partying too.

Wildflower-8

The expo grounds where spectators can hang out, eat something, and listen to some live entertainment

I joined the OC Tri Club group at a second, quieter campground about 1.5 miles away from the main camp. It was further, but quieter, I’m sure.

We had a potluck on Friday and the group racing the long course (Half Iron distance) the following morning prepared for their race. I chose to race the shorter Olympic distance on Sunday, so I had all Saturday to watch and observe and just enjoy the setting. Saturday was hot and dry as well. The swim was pretty flat as is usually the case, but the bike course was quite hilly and challenging or so I heard. I was back at the campground to cheer on the racers who were then not quite 2 miles into the race. I didn’t see the elites zip by, but the age groupers did NOT look like they were  enjoying it. To be fair, it was still early in the run and they probably hadn’t quite their running legs back, but it looked more like the Bataan Death March rather than an event that people voluntarily paid money to participate in.

With the Long course event completed, I enjoyed an afternoon swim with a few others competing in the Olympic distance race on Saturday. The lake was really pretty warm at about 68 degrees. I started considering swimming without a wetsuit. I have found that most triathletes without a swimming background look forward to racing in a wetsuit (not necessarily looking forward to the swim, though) because of the extra buoyancy. I have a competitive swimming background and train and prefer to swim without one. I like the feel of the water as feedback and do not like the perceived restriction of movement in the shoulders. That said, I am also a wimp when it comes to cold water. So I thought about it, but didn’t commit to it.

The evening before the race I enjoyed listening to the survivors of the long course event regale in their hard fought victory over heat, dehydration, and gravity. I also enjoyed watching them drink their well deserved beers – with unusual restraint and notable envy (for the beer, not for the race). I worried that there might be late night celebration interfering with my sleep before the race. No worries, though. At 9pm, it was dark and everyone was so exhausted tat everyone crawled into their tens to crash. I hunkered down, read a little bit, and fell asleep a little after 9pm. That is notable for me as I usually have the worst sleep the night before a race. I slept 10 hours! It was awesome. I race didn’t start until 10 am, so the morning was unhurried and enjoyable. Unfortunately, or fortunately the temperature had dropped about 25 degrees overnight. Sunday morning was cold and blustery, a complete turnaround from the days before. The decision was made for me – I’ll swim with a wetsuit.

There were about 2000 competitors in the Olympic distance race. There was a lot of carbon “bling” in the transition zone:

Transition before...

Transition before…

Transition after set up

Transition after set up

THE SWIM 1.5KM:  24:28 (4th in age group | 92/1883 overall (5th percentile))
There was no opportunity to do a good swim warmup prior to the race. Wave starts were every 5 minutes starting at 9am with my wave starting at 10:00. Prior to each wave there was about 4 minutes to get into the water and get warmed up. Starting with about 4 waves prior to my group, I would get in and swim a little, get out, then repeat again with the next wave. This was a reasonable compromise. I positioned myself about 1/3 of the way in the pack and tried to hold back at the start.
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It is a tight channel initially and there is a little jostling for position, but not too rough. It still took me about 300 meters to finally get into a more comfortable breathing groove and getting my heart rate down. Going out it was pretty choppy and the wind was blowing the chop right into my (exclusively) right-sided-breathing-mouth. On the way back, there was no such issue and I found a comfortable pace and rhythm. The way back up to the transition area was long and inclined. I thought I was going to be “tender-footing” it over the rough concrete surface, but I jogged up pretty comfortable and got ready to bike.
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THE BIKE 40KM:  1:19:15,  18.7mph (6th in AG | 109/1883 overall (6th percentile))
My T1 transition left some room for improvement. I did roll on some socks and did a quick towel dry of my hair and shoulders but really that’s about 30 seconds maybe? My T1 was 14th in my age group at 3:07. At least is wasn’t the slowest (at over 12 minutes)! The ride was windy, cool, and quite hilly starting right out of the bike exit. I’m estimating about a 400 meter climb for the first 1.5 miles and lots of hills following. Tough, but gravity and wind affect everyone the same. I felt really good for the ride. I was only passed by two cyclists. I enjoyed passing lots of young dudes. Very satisfying. I chose to ride my Colnago road bike instead of my triathlon bike. My Tri bike is custom fitted for optimal output, but I have to say the Colnago just fit more comfortably. I thought it might be better because of all the hills. I passed a lot of triathlon bike with expensive carbon fiber wheels. I’m glad I tried my road bike. It’s tempting to geek out on all the gadgets and expensive equipment but sometimes you can do well with your road bike as well.
My T2 transition was quick and second fastest in my age group. I was out of my cycling shoes just before dismount, dropped off the bike, slipped into my elastic-laced running shoes and off I went.

THE RUN 10KM: 45:17,  7:18/mi. pace (5th in AG | 251/183 overall (13th percentile))
I had been suffering a groin muscle strain (L. leg Adductors plus a lower rectus abdominus strain) (update: a more significant pelvis inflammatory condition) for several weeks prior it is particularly tight and painful coming off a bike ride while hunched over. It never bothers me while riding, though. I wasn’t sure what to expect getting off the bike. I actually felt really good during the run. I quickly found a good pace and tried to hold it consistently. The cooler weather really helped. I never felt overheated or dehydrated. Okay so this may also be a little geeky, but I did the wildflower run using an electronic runner’s metronome. I had the volume turned down as low as possible but still made a distinctive electronic “Click-Clack” sound. I had it set for a cadence of 178/min. When I was passing from other runners they would sometimes look at me quizzically wondering what that noise was. If it got their attention, and while I was passing them, I told them it was my heart pacemaker’s low battery warning. It was good for a few chuckles along the way.

SUMMARY AND NOTES TO MY FUTURE SELF
First of all, thanks to all the organizers of the race and park personnel for putting on such a great event. Thanks especially for the spectators for cheering us on and especially to the student volunteers. They make it happen and their enthusiasm was refreshing. As their shirt says, “Volunteers make the difference”.
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As far as my performance, well there is always room for improvement in all disciplines. I don’t think I have one stand out part of the event or one particularly weak portion. I tend to place in about the 3-5th percentile in each category except for rankings in running when compared to all age groups (13th percentile). I’m OK with that since I don’t have a running background and really just started running about 1.5 years ago. My joints are “young” and fresh and I think they still have a lot of miles left on them and lots of room for improvement

I wouldn’t really change much of anything. I’d like to come back again next year and perhaps to the long course event instead. I will highly recommend this event to anyone looking for a great weekend shared with lots of enthusiastic endurance athletes of all ages.

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