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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 Treeathlon Recap

It's been a colder than normal winter here in Northern California.  We've regularly gotten temperatures in the thirties and recently some of the local mountains got a little overnight snow dusting.  So training has been problematic.  It's just not much fun to run when the temperature drops; the early sunsets make most weekday bike rides unsafe; and it's always hard to make it to the pool.  I did buy a Kurt Kinetic bike trainer, though, and that has become my go-to workout.

I scheduled the Stanford Treeathlon, really as a training milestone.  It's a basic sprint tri and I felt like finishing would not be an issue no matter how poorly my training went.  Then the weather disrupted things.  The water in SF Bay near Redwood City has been in the high forties.  My understanding is that 55 degree water is the edge of safety for large events.  Most people are fine and handle it fine.  But when you're running an event, you have to consider the most marginal swimmers.  48 degree water would put some of those swimmers at risk.  The organizers rightfully canceled the swim portion and replaced it with a run, making the event a duathlon.  They considered making the event a 5-20-5 duathlon, but apparently got feedback that several participants lacked the fitness for such a challenge.  So they made it a 2-20-5 duathlon.

2-20-5 is a strange duathlon.  Two kilometers is such a short run that most participants probably wouldn't even start sweating.  I personally had no idea how fast I should run such a short distance.  My training has been pretty unstructured to this date -- I basically just go out and exercise without much thought.  I vary the route to affect the amount of climbing I do.  So, the day before the Treeathlon, I decided I would just simulate the whole race.  I reasoned that the Treeathlon was just a training event and if I cooked my legs, it didn't matter.  The terrain around my house is less flat than where the race would be, but I'd get an idea of how I should actually do the race.

I did the 2 km with an 8:36 pace.  This surprised the hell out of me.  I never try to run that fast.  When I do a 10 km training run, I'll run close to 9s at the end to get my overall pace below 10, but I didn't realize I could push out an 8:36 pace for more than a mile.  Then I hopped on my bike and went for 20 km around Sunnyvale and part of Cupertino.  I was warm so I didn't wear my jacket.  And I forgot my gloves.  That was a bad idea.  Anyway, the course I took has a pretty steady climb in the beginning.  I noticed that the spinning on the trainer really helped as I took this ascent pretty easily with a high cadence.  I got delayed for several minutes at Remington and Mary as a driver was on the far left side of the right turn lane when she wanted to go straight.  So the signal never changed until more cars came to go straight. (If you have to know it was an East Asian female driver whose looked only straight forward.  I tried to get her attention so she would move.)  Anyway, I ended up on the bike for 48 minutes with a lot of stopping for red lights.  So I got home, got back in the running shoes and went running for five kilometers.  The course I laid out starts out with about 200 feet of climbing over the first mile or so.  My legs were dead.  My pulse was good, though, as it stayed in the low 160s.  After I got through the first mile in something like 10:50, I decided to kick it up.  My legs were back under me and I thought I could push myself to maybe a 30:30 or 31:00 minute time.  I came in at 29:54.  I felt pretty good.  If I hadn't cooked my legs, I thought my times the next day would make me happy.

I got to the event later than planned, but was happy to see bike racks were assigned.  Of course, I had to squeeze in on my rack and as luck would have it, it was a short rack.  This would prove to be a big problem for me.  I couldn't get my bike on the rack without some vertical manipulation.  The top of the rack was lower than my seat and handle bars.  Anyway, I got settled in and got ready to go.  In my haste, I forgot my Garmin at home.  I felt a bit naked.

I met a couple of people I've met from other triathlons and waited for my wave to start.  My wave was supposed to start 10 minutes after the first wave, but that seemed off.  Also, the waves were too large for a narrow beginning run.  Anyway, my wave (under 39, non-college men) started.  I know my run times are slow so I put myself towards the back and just tried to run politely.  I probably went out a little too hard -- the adrenaline and seeing everyone else leaving you behind is a real test of discipline.  I never really settled into any kind of groove.  I did the leg in 9:24.  I think the distance was probably a little bit shy of 2 km, but that's still much faster than I anticipated.  I was planning on a 10:00 time.  Transition killed me as I had a hard time getting my bike off the rack.  I spent 2:08.7 in T1 meaning I was basically a minute slower than average.  Onto the bike and I found a comfort zone pretty quickly.  Since I lacked my Garmin, I don't know what my cadence was like.  I suspect it was a bit slower than ideal implying I was in the wrong gear.  Anyway, it was 3x lollipop course so it was pretty crowded the whole way.  I just tried to stay comfortable and keep a good cadence.  The course was very flat, so I did very little shifting.  My legs felt a little cooked -- I was definitely stronger on Saturday.  I came into T2 and that was a disaster.  I had a very difficult time securing my bike and I ended up spending 2:44 in T2.  I got onto the run and just tried to keep it together.  My legs were definitely in worse shape than Saturday.  The first mile was really hard, but it always is.  I got passed by a couple of guys there and I was tempted to chase them.  I just said to myself that I was here to run my own race.  I'm really not used to running without a heart rate monitor.  I have no idea what my exertion or pace was like at this point.  My legs were definitely feeling it, though.  The Saturday simulation certainly emptied my tank a bit.  I picked it up a little bit after the aid station and passed some of the slower college women.  The course was an out and back so I saw some people in pure misery once I made the turn.  I tried to give some encouragement.  I think I told one guy in obvious pain that there was glory at the end.  That's pretty silly now that I think about it.  But the last part of the race is about psyching yourself out.  When I got to maybe half or 3/4 a mile left I passed a really tall guy and there was no one else I'd be able to pass.  I thought about trying to kick it and made a half-hearted effort for maybe 200 m.  I had no idea on my metrics so I kind of gave up and just cruised in.  The guy I passed ended up finishing 18 seconds behind me, so I think he may have made an effort to catch me.  I was shocked to see I ran a 29:06 on the final leg.  I don't know if it was a true 5 km.  If so, my time is really shocking.

My transitions really killed my time.  If I had done them just average, I would have been probably 2:15 faster.  This would have put me basically even with the next guy in my wave.  Then the competitive aspect kicks in.  The next age group guy would have been about a minute ahead of me -- close enough for me to see and chase down in the last two miles.  I probably would have knocked another 60 to 120 seconds off my final run.  The time doesn't really matter to me.  This difference would have made the last two miles more fun.  After I chased the tall guy down without changing my pace, the finish was kind of boring.

Let's back up, though.  The Treeathlon was an event for me to measure my fitness.  I'm a little bit ahead of where I planned to be.  The Tierra Bella 200 km Bicycle Tour is six weeks from now.  I'm in a good position to be ready for that.  Mission accomplished.