EVENT: USAT Western Regional Championships Sprint Triathlon
DATE: September 9th, 2012
LOCATION: Crystal Cove State Beach near Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, CA
DISTANCES: 1/2 mi. swim, 13 mi. bike, 3 mi. run. Wave starts by age/gender groups

It was a gorgeous September morning here in Southern California. It was warm but not hot. The water temperature was about 68 to 70° and low humidity. They could not have planned for a more perfect day.

My experience with triathlons is limited, this being my 3rd race, but I am steep on the learning curve. In my first triathlon I choked the swim and got all panicky and short of breath from taking off too fast. I have adapted to open water swim’s a bit since then by looking at it as just a warm-up for the rest of the event. I am trying to avoid that jackrabbit start when the gun goes off with your heart beating out of your chest with excitement.

The preparation for this event had really suffered over the last several weeks. I diligently log my exercise using SportsTracker on the iPhone. Due to many different circumstances with relationship, professional, and financial challenges and obligations, my exercise and training dropped precipitously over what was hopefully going to be a peak throughout the summer. As many of you know, life often gets in the way of the multisport lifestyle. but since I am not a professional athlete and my livelihood does not depend on my performance, I had to let much of it go and do the best I could under the circumstances. Most notably, my workout time on the bike had dropped to nearly 1/2 or one third of what I was doing in the winter months. Instead, I have been working more on the running with both endurance as well as tempo and speed work so I have seen some improvements there.
I also did something really stupid four days prior to the event. I went on a long run. Actually my longest, ever. This run consisted of 16 miles at a 7:42/mile pace. This was not a long and slow run, this was my potential race pace. It was my longest run ever, and I could barely walk the next day. Fortunately, by race day I felt reasonably recovered with some spring back in my step.

As I have never done this race before, I really did not know what to expect as far as the times for the particular distances involved. I figured the race would be somewhere between one hour and 15 min. to one hour and 20 min. or so. There really is no need to carbo-load for a race of that short duration. In fact in some ways, it is probably best to eat less rather than more the evening before. I had a healthy dinner the night before and then minimized the fiber in my diet until after the race. I have been helping my wife with a e-commerce website the night before and found myself up past midnight prior to the race. I also had to get up and quiet the dogs because they were barking at 3:30 the morning! So while I was up, I drank and Ensure drink and settle back to bed for another hour and a half. I had prepacked everything the night before and the race is only about 15 min. away by car. I had heard that parking was going to be limited to carpools, and so I parked about 3 miles away, donned the backpack and cycled in the dark to the race location. It worked out quite nice and I got a nice warm up for my legs.
I found a great spot for my bike in the transition zone quite near the bike exit and entry point. for this race I pre-mounted my bike shoes on the petals and use just one band of blue paper painters tape binding the right crank to the right rear chain stay. I had not really tested this out but it seemed to work well in my head. It should hold the cranks in place and horizontal fashion and stably enough until you step into the first shoe where it should just tear away. Mostly I just did not want my expensive bike shoes to be catching on the concrete and getting scuffed and scratched up in the process. The tape works pretty well going out, and of course had no effect running the bike in after the ride with the shoes catching on the ground here and there.

THE SWIM: SWIM RESULTS: 10:09. 2nd in my age group. 3rd overall.
the swim was a 1/2 mile destination swim in the ocean that started about a half-mile down the beach. I was in the fifth wave of 45 to 55-year-old males. It was a group of about 75 to 80 men. Because of my past experience and a recent open water race sanctioned by the United States Masters Swim Association, my inclination was to hang back a bit so as not to feel the pressure to race too fast at the beginning of the swim. Well I chucked that idea to the wind and stepped up to the front middle of the pack. When the gun went off I just worked my way out and tried to find a good comfortable pace as a “warm up”. I got on the feet of the leading swimmer and we both rounded the first duly in first and second place. Unfortunately, I continued to follow him him going in towards the shore instead of out towards the second, smaller less noticeable buoy. When I finally looked up and around I saw the lifeguards on their paddle boards yelling and waving at us to go left. Once we redirected our course we got into a good groove and I lost track of him at some point. I passed many of the younger males in the previous wave that had gone off about 4 min. before us. Of interest, there where some large and dense pacific kelp beds you had to swim through. There was no avoiding them. I hoped it freaked others out and slowed them down. I figured “what the hell”, its just a plant and “climbed over them”!  As I rounded the last buoy and made my way in I had absolutely no idea where I was in relationship to the other people in my wave, although I did not see any other white swim caps in my immediate area. After running up the sand, there was a very steep ramp leading up to the top of the Bluffs. These ramps going up can not be comfortably run and so a brisk walk is in better order to keep the heart rate in a reasonable area. As I trotted back to the transition area I saw only one swimmer ahead of me and he was sitting down and putting on his shoes. I ran past him to where my bike was and wasted no time putting on my helmet and number belt and off I went.

TRANSITION T1: Time 3:04 (7th in age group)
7th isn’t too bad, but the 1st place winner was still a full minute faster. He must have run up that steep ramp from the beach to the transition area. I was the first out of T-1 for my wave.

BIKE: 36:25 minutes. Average speed:19.8 mph. 9th/50 in age group. 70th overall
The bike course was two laps back and forth along the Pacific Coast Highway. After coming out transition you would head south towards the Laguna Beach City limits, make a U-turn and ride north towards the Corona Del Mar city limits, and U-turn back south towards the race location and then repeat that a second time. There were some gentle rollers up and down. There were a couple of opportunities to get out of the seat for a little extra power but my speed rarely dropped below about 15 miles an hour with the peak of around 35 miles an hour on the downhill. I passed many, many of the younger participants from earlier waves. I have to say that I do like seeing the contestant’s age written on their left calf. There is a sense of satisfaction in passing some of these guys in their 20s and 30s on my bike. Unfortunately, it works both ways. I was passed by several men in their 40s and 50s that just smoked me. I have to say, they were pretty awesome. I do sometimes suffer from male calf envy, and fully appreciate the strength that these guys can generate on the bike. My skinny chicken legs hold up pretty well, though, and I know what I will be working on this winter- leg strength. This is my second race on my Blue Competition triathlon bike that have been custom fitted. I drank very little – just not thirsty. Tried to down a gel, but only got down about half. I really didn’t need it and I don’t like taking the time to swallow when I could be breathing instead. I had a pretty nice ride, overall.

Transition T2. 0:37 seconds. Third fastest in age group.
What is there to say. No frills. Rack the bike, slip on the shoes and go. One phrase here: “elastic speed laces”.

THE RUN: TIME 20:09. Ave. 6:43 min/mile. Ranked 4th in aged group & 24th overall.
Most of my interest and emphasis on improvement over the last couple of months has been with the running. I knew this was an area that needed improvement the most but also had the most room for improvement. The first and second place finishers in my age group finished a full 3 min. and 1 min.ahead of me for this run. The first-place finisher is really in a whole another category of experience, I’m sure.
Overall I felt really comfortable all throughout. My heart rate was hovering between 160 and 163 which is right at my lactic acid threshold point, I have estimated. It did peak at around 170. The run included running north along PCH along the bike path and then heading down with an approximate three-quarter mile run along the hardpacked wet sand. the toughest part of the run was climbing up a very steep concrete path leading up to top the Bluffs, again. There was no way to run this path without burning all your matches and going into severe lactic acid debt. I did a fast walk bent over and using the palms of my hand on my knees to help push them and assist them up this ramp. It may have looked really odd, but I swear it worked. When I got to the top I was quickly back up to my normal running pace. Speaking of pace, I used a small Electronic metronome clipped on to my triathlon tank top.

To those of you that I was running past, I apologize for the annoying “chip-chirp-chip-chirp” sound. I had it pre-set for a 178 step per minute cadence and I stayed with that the entire run. It is probably the most effective training and racing aid that can be bought for five dollars. Now if I could find one in carbon fiber, I could shave about 1-2 grams off the weight!

I could not stick around for the post race presentations and didn’t even know my official time for the race. I was so surprised the following day to see the results posted. I missed my one opportunity for an awards podium picture! I’ll see if I can at least get my awards plaque. Pretty happy with the result considering I just started running 8 months ago. I really look forward to another race here next year. I’ll be competing in the older age group next year. Maybe next year I will have another opportunity for a podium finish if all goes well.
Cheers, J

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4 Responses to RACE REPORT: PACIFIC COAST TRIATHLON (Sprint Distance)

  1. Lana Koplien says:

    Well done! 🏊🚲🏃

  2. Jack Eberly says:

    Nice job, Jim. You’re on your way to first-place age-group finishes. Your reported 16 mile training run shows you’re getting ready for a marathon.

  3. fitfunmom says:

    Congratulations on a great race! I envy your open water swimming speed.

  4. I predict more podium finishes in your future. And I LOVE the old school bike pic that kicks off the post! –K-go

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