Pittsburgh Triathlon RACE REPORT   August 6, 2006    

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Go DC Tri!
This race was the 2006 Mid Atlantic Club Championship race so DC Tri Club showed up in force and ready to keep the title we got last year. Every where you turned the DC Tri logo was proudly representing and it was a thrill to be in the midst of so many friends while racing. Even though we were no where near DC it felt like we were in our own back yard.

Getting to Pittsburgh
The drive up was smooth- direct and flying fast. It was an awesome day and going up the day before the race we were on track to get there and go right to packet pick up. No stops. And when we came into Pittsburgh it felt quiet, calm, and relaxing. First stop was bike check, that's where half the club stood in line in the mid day heat for hours on end as the two bike mechanics gave full work-ups on every bike. It seems they were servicing each component. It was brutal but at least we had company. Thanks to the 20+ people from the club that "saved" my spot in line I was spared from starting at the back. I guess being club champs does have some perks.

After getting all the pre race materials squared away it was off to the race hotel - just a little ways through downtown. And even though we followed someone with directions, after the fourth highway we got on it was time to take our own route! We did get to see part of the city though- the only benefit to getting lost. Ironically, once we got into our room at the hotel you could clearly see the race start- what appeared to be 7 or 8 blocks away.

Instead of going to the pre-race banquet (which ran out of food!) Kelly and I lucked out and went over to her friends house for dinner. They had just moved in weeks prior, yet from the looks of it they had been there for years in a nice neighborhood not too far from downtown. Eric & Kim kept serving me wine and I kept accepting. About 4 glasses of wine I think. What a great dinner and a good opportunity to relax outside race central.

I was feeling well rested and not terribly anxious, after all I had the great excuse that I had just completed my first Ironman two weeks before. But since then I hadn't done any training and my mind began to wonder - can I still run? Am I going to be stiff? What about the crazy heart rate everyone talks about? Oh well I kept thinking, only one way to find out. But to put some perspective on it - I went from doing about 20 hours of training a week to zero. That's a big switch- and two weeks of nothing made me feel like I was slacking and maybe even out of shape. But rest and recovery is important.

Race morning I woke up and was on autopilot. This was certainly nothing new and with each race I could sense the comfort in knowing how much more I knew since the last time. Each experience builds on the foundation and at this point it was like a training day. Well not really, but we'll say so. I rode my bike down to the start- it was the fastest way to get there and this time I knew exactly how to get there. So now I had a ton of time to waste.

The Race
Before the race the transition area was filled with familiar faces. I was relaxed, set up, and chatting it up. Took a quick look at this river, asked about the transition IN/OUT, and got my required port-o-potty stop in. I was ready. I didn't really know the course but soon enough that would all change.

Swim - 1m
Each wave shuffled into the river down a ramp and waited for the GO! Then 3 minutes later the next wave would head off. Not fast since it was up river for the first third of the course. After that you turned across the river and down fro about two thirds. It seemed like a very casual start. I was getting in and it only took them about 10 seconds before giving us the go ahead. That came up on me faster than I thought. But it also left less to think about.

My wave was pretty spread out and it was difficult to find someone to draft off but I kept shifting trying to make something work. And after about 100 yards I was still trying to figure out what buoy I was really supposed to be aiming for. All the swimmers were spread out and while you should race your own race it always helps if you can follow someone so you know were you're headed. I knew as we churned farther it would become more apparent but saving any distance in this current would be a great advantage.

And then I had a run in with someone that was intent on winning the battle. My goggles got completely knocked off- and how exactly was it that on my next stroke they landed in my hand I don't know. But that was a good thing. All I could think was that there were maybe 25 people in my wave and just to weeks before I swan with like 2200 people. And NOW I get my goggles knocked off? And did my contacts stay in? No time to worry about that - they're either in or not.

At the turn there were two buoys about 100 yards apart- which meant that we were going to be getting a cross current for that portion. It was hard to tell what the speed of the current was but it seemed to me the further we went out into the middle of the river it could potentially pick up. And before you knew it there was a group of racers swimming back up river to make it around the next buoy before headed down river. Completely inefficient, yet almost unavoidable. As soon as I made my first turn I swam at about a 30 degree angle - it was almost comical. Was this really going to work? Apparently it worked great because as most people were fighting in the pack to get back up to the buoy I just skimmed across the top. But I can't say if it was faster or not.

And now it was time cruise down river. And I waited but the easy part didn't seem as easy as it should have. Actually it felt like a regular swim- slow and steady and I really didn't feel any current, yet I knew there had to be some since I was fighting it at the beginning.

The last turn towards the shore was the last laugh that river had for us. Again with the cross current, as if we were swimming back up river to the finish line. I was in full sprint mode to get this part of the race done. And it was clear from my high heart rate.
Swim - 30:21, avg HR 154, 1:43/100yds
(2 mins actually part of T1. 1:37/100yds "in-water" time)

As soon as I got out of the water my HR was at 160. What was going on here is all I could think. And we raced up hill to T1 for what seemed like a half mile which didn't help my HR "settle" any. The timing mat was at the transition area so this mini run was considered as part of your swim time. Surely any down current advantage was being used up. I was ready to roll shortly after getting up there.
T1 - 2:03

Bike - 25m
Basically it's all up hill out of town on a two loop course. The route took us directly onto the highway HOV lanes. I thought this was going to be a fast ride and for the most part it was. But the road surface was less than desirable, concrete sections with grooves and cracks. And I though the roads in St Croix were bad. My main concern was the road debris and shattered glass. Getting a flat was almost expected. I rode carefully as far out onto the main lane as I could without being in the passing lane. And going up hill I was passing a considerable amount of people so that made it easier to stay on the clean road surface.

The downhill was going to such a sweet reward. And two loops- going into T2 off a huge downhill would be a great break. But that theory evaporated quickly when I noticed the reason I was cruising up hill was in part due to the tailwind- which as I turned around to descend was a head wind. And then the pavement got worse. Not by a little bit but closely resembling some nasty sections of road in the Arizona desert- sun baked and cracked every two feet. I was debating the amount of impact my rims could handle. But what could I do?

I cheered people on and got some "GO DC Tri!" screams out my way. This was going to be a fast ride and before I knew it I was in the home stretch. At this point I was playing cat and mouse with a few cyclists and it was fun to veer slightly off race plan and push here and there. But I also reeled it in at times to conserve some for the run. And I rolled into T2 without getting a flat or breaking a wheel- a silent victory.
Bike - 1.11:00, avg HR 147, 21 mph, Avg Cadence 77

Quick - in and out. I almost wanted to stall so i could catch my breath but I was off before I knew it.
T2 - 1:12

Run - 6.2m
As soon as I headed out into the run I met up with Kirsten which I knew was similarly paced from previous races. My only concern was that I had been running my heart rate at a higher level than I had been used to. From my training I was in tune with longer distance that require more endurance and less intensity. If that's even a fair assessment- the idea is that I was sprinting compared to pacing myself here. So the first turn only yards always took us up and over a bridge to cross the river. The crossing ramp that switched back and forth to reach the height of the bridge took a bit out of me- more than I wanted to leave behind.

I kept at it and tried to pace myself back into a rhythm - and this was only a quarter mile into the course! I kept Kirsten in my sights as an incentive to make some ground - slowly. And that seemed to work. And then we crossed back over another bridge, one of about four bridges that quickly changed your pacing.But the rest was relatively flat and shaded.

With so many DC Tri jerseys out there it was hard to make out who was who. Unless they were already on the return trip in which case you could see their face smiling all the way past you. I came upon Amy after chasing her down for about a half mile - only gaining about 50 yards in that span. It was a another bridge crossing when I finally caught up. Talk about focus. I said 'hey' and ran next to her for about 30 seconds before she turned and said, "Oh hey it's you!" I laughed and then she pulled me along for another couple miles.

Why was everyone going so fast? Or are we? The course was not marked so I really had no idea what mile we were at and what pace I was keeping. I mean, I had hopes and guesses of where I was but that's not very accurate. And maybe that's why I ran harder and kept pushing more and more. I kept looking for the yellow steel bridge that was near the race finish. I should be able to recognize that and I noted at the start of the swim that it was only a short distance to the finish line from there. But all these bridges were yellow and I was ready to sprint to the finish. From what I could tell the last half mile I was flying and well above any heart rate zone I had trained in. I saw the arch and didn't look back.
Run - 45:30, avg HR 160, 7:20mm

Swim 1m 30:21
T1   2:03
Bike 25m 1.11:00
T2   1:12
Run 6.2m 45:30
Total   2.30:05

Beer? Yep, they had beer at the post race tent and took off like wildfire. We hung out cheering DC Tri racers across the finish and basking in the sun. It was still early in the day and we were done.

Shortly after packing up and taking off we made a pit stop for sandwiches at Primanti Brothers - this place was highly recommended and it didn't disappoint- we were all starved. Huge servings with extra fries to boot. That didn't stop us from making another pit stop at Dairy Queen in Breezewood on the ride back to DC. Large oreo blizzard. The inherent pleasure of being a triathlete. I don't think we made it out of the parking lot before it was close to gone. The rest of the 8 hour drive (which should only take 4) was as slow as swimming up river.

Special thanks to Brent and Mark for transporting my bike to/from the race!


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