Olympic distance PR was a 2:45:13 at the flat 2010 Nation’s Triathlon. I was 205 lbs at that time. Yesterday, at my first Columbia, I came in at a much leaner 192 lbs (bye-bye Clydesdale!) but was nursing a recently pulled set of Achilles. So, facing a significally hilly Columbia course I just settled on finishing... with a “secret” desire to go sub-3 hours.
I had not donned a wetsuit for 8 months, so as I put it on prior to my wave (7; Yellow Capper) I began to freak out a bit. In spite of my weight loss it was damn tight... and I wondered how much time I would lose in T1 struggling to get the thing off. On a positive note, my training had gone well over the Winter. Some perspective:
• 1500M PR of 32:10 (Nation’s, September 2009)
• 1500M PR of 28:31 (Nation’s, September 2010). Wore wetsuit for the first time.
Last Winter, I began consulting with “Coach YouTube” to study proper swimming techniques. Entering Columbia, I was popping 27-minute non-wetsuit 1500s, so I was pretty confident that I could get a much-desired 26-minute swim.
At the start, I lined up out front (never tried this before) to minimize getting hit. But at the “whistle”, I found myself getting clobbered and run over even though I was taking it out fast. This heavy jostling continued for about a third the course and I began to think that I was out of my league... then, I noticed that many Yellow Cappers were coming back to me even though my pace had not changed. When a trickle of Green Cappers (Wave 6; 8-minutes ahead) became more steady I began to think I had a good swim going on. Exited the water and checked the watch. Did double-take. Watch must be off. Nope. 35th of 181 in age group out of the water.
Trotted to transition testing both my Achilles. So far so good. I noticed a sea of age group bikes in my area. Stop at my bike... whoa! A bit dizzy. As I change, other age groupers arrive... and go... and they go... Man am I slow (49th out of 181) but it was the quickest I could manage.
Laugh did not last long. In the bike mounting area, I had some problems with my clips. I guess my old bike shoes are worn enough that they would not “snap” into position. I had to get off the bike twice, but 1:07 later I was off. There was no panic over the issue... because I have never ridden this course, and have so much respect for its challenges, I just decided to ride at the maximum of my aerobic level (no heavy breathing) to save something for the run. I had fun out on the course... too much fun. I was eating/drinking properly, talking to competitors, thanking course volunteers, and yelling “Go!” to any person wearing MMTC gear. A club member said that he heard me chatting as I came up the road, and as I passed, he playfully scolded me by saying “Shut up and ride!” I just felt that good. T2 came up very quick and I stopped my watch at 1:09:06 (22.1 mph); however, when I saw the official stats (1:10:13; 21.7 mph) I was reminded of my earlier “equipment failure”. No worries. I know in my heart what my real time was. I entered T2 having moved up into 15th place of 181 (cumulative time 1:37:47).
As I ran with my bike, I noticed that the racks were largely bare. Cool. I must be doing well. However, dreading the run, I just took my time... sat down to put on socks, make sure my shoes were properly laced, but bib on correctly (etc.). In the meantime age group guys were flying in and out. Man, have I got to get this transition stuff down better. My 2:21 was 109th out of 181. Yikes!
Perspective: My triathlon 10K PR (1:01:58) was done at the flat Nation’s course in 2010.
I plod out of T2 and quickly adopt a flat-footed (mid-foot) gait. It helps minimize Achilles stress for me. I laughed though because it is not exactly the best course to test a beat-up set of Achilles. When the expected “parade” of athletes began to pass I again assumed the role of unofficial “cheerleader”, yapping it up with fellow athletes and cheering MMTC’ers. Just kept it aerobic and focused on form to avoid injury. I finally saw a mile marked at Mile 4... and when I looked at my watch saw 37-something. What? Can’t be right. It was. Run highlight: having two kids spray me down with their water guns; lowlight: taking “water” from a kid (looked less than 10), and after dumping it on my head I realized that it was Gatorade. Next mile was kinda sticky. I finished the run averaging 9:09/mile, 5-minutes faster than my 2010 Nation’s PR and faster than any flat surface 10K I have completed in 9 years! (91st out of 181; lost 21 places on the run)
Closing thoughts: I am ecstatic with my performance. I would not change anything even if I could. However, it is clearly evident that the run is my Achilles Heel (pun intended). Of the 35 guys in my age group that placed ahead of me, 8 ran 6-minute miles; 22 ran 7-minute miles; and 5 ran 8-minute miles. Even looking at other age groups I lose count of the guys that I cleanly beat to T2 only to have them trot by on the run. Clearly, this is where I shall focus the bulk of my training for next year. I will have “aged up” to the 50-54 group and will finally be able to lay down a strong, balanced performance.