Reston Triathlon RACE REPORT   September 10, 2006    

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Going Back
This is the race that started it all a couple years ago. So now I was going to go back, take all this new found knowledge and hard earned experience to the same course. No pressure. Except that looking back at my first take at it, well it wasn't bad. How did that happen? At the time I had a mere six weeks of swim training - not having a clue how long a mile was in the water, or that the zipper to a wetsuit goes in the back, or that I wouldn't be able to see in the water. I was running on the cheapest pair of running shoes Foot Locker sold- $29 on sale. My theory was that those shoes just had to last until I threw them away after the race. Since then I've completed another ten races, most of them half iron distance, so I should be able to crush this right? And that was the pressure I set up for myself.

I knew I had to balance the fact that I had been training to "go long" and this race, while it seemed like it was long two years ago, was so short that it would be hard to get into my groove to go the distance. I also told myself that I was in the midst of training for a marathon and the Half Ironman World Championships about 6 weeks out which had me doing a grueling 30 miles of running and 150 miles of biking in the past 7 days - the usual time to rest up or "taper" for a race. So I was going into this a bit tired and heavy. At the same time I hate making excuses and I wanted nothing more than to crush this race. But the margin was slim and I knew that from my calculated expectations. When I did the race two years ago my pace was a surprise and an unknown. Now I was fine tuning seconds here and there.

The first time out my results were a 2:26:30. More or less it was 32min swim, 61min bike, and 48min run. I was hoping to cut a few minutes off the swim and run and match my bike split.

The great thing about racing close to home is you can sleep/eat/prep at home. It takes a few more things out of the equation and less to figure out. It makes me a bit more relaxed and not as hyped up.

So the day before I went out for a quick spin and a short run- just to make sure I didn't forget how to run/bike. Kept loose and everything checked out. Before I knew it, it was already time for dinner. Bags were packed. No jitters yet which was a good sign.

The Race
Reston has two transition areas and it requires a little more mental energy to make sure you have the right stuff and the right place. We checked in at the second transition, got our chips and set up our run shoes etc. The racks didn't have any specific numbers (just sections) so we set up wherever we wanted. Since it was a big box and the IN/OUT were opposite each other there wasn't any real advantage for any spot. I counted out how many racks in and over (2nd row, 4th rack) so I knew exactly where to go after the bike.

Then we headed to the swim start with our bikes and gear -- the first transition area -- about a mile away. The sun hadn't risen yet and the ride over was as precarious as I had remembered. With trash bags full of gear, riding a bike in the dark, in the middle of the road- well it's funny to watch but not as much fun as you'd think. I got into to transition and was pointed to my bike rack- I had to look down at my bike number to make sure I was in the right place. The first rack out of the water? Second bike in? Yeah, I'll take that! This was the first time I wondered if I had enough time between the water and the bike spot- if I needed more time to get my goggles and cap off. I was literally set up about 10 yards from the waters edge.

I chatted it up for a while and then realized I should get a port-o-potty break in before the start. Unfortunately that was 15 minutes to start time and the line was pretty long. So I waited and with that I realized I really needed to go. It was a huge wait debating whether I would make it in time. And with a few minutes to spare I was out getting my wetsuit on. We were about to start.

Swim - 1m
I was in the second wave- 3 minutes after the first. It was cool out but not cold and I hadn't touched the water yet. We got in and waited for the gun to go off. We were off! The first couple minutes I went hard and tried to find a fast person to draft from. There weren't many people around and I assumed that most of them were behind. I new I would have to dial it down some but I would find my groove once things settled down.

Then about half way out to the turnaround I noticed that the field was pretty spread out and the buoy line was far left. We were on course to take a wide loop and I couldn't tell how much of an advantage or disadvantage it was. But at that point there was little I could do so I continued to track down some feet. My effort was definitely harder than in previous races and it was only until after the race that I realized my form was not as smooth as it should have been. I should have relaxed some and that could have helped me, not only in the swim but throughout the race.

On the way back my "line" was as off as it was on the way out. For some reason I was way wide and again I decided to do what I could to get to the last buoy. This meant making my own line - line of sight - and head there as quickly as I could. This wasn't as easy as you would think. Try picking out the swim exit in the masthead image. You get the idea.

Coming out of the swim there was less traffic than I had expected - read: I was slower than most racers on my rack. Good news was I was cleared to transition fast.
Swim - 32:33, avg HR 149, 1:50/100yds

Out of the water and right in front of me is my bike. This will never happen again- not unless I go pro. Roight, never again. This quick transition included me putting my swim gear and towel into the trash bag (with my number marked) so it could be transported to the finish. As I headed out I see Tim just in front of me!
T1 - 1:25

Bike - 22.5m
Clip in! Sure there was a bit of friendly competition- Tim was just ahead of me and knowing his weakness is the swim I knew we were closely matched. I tried to focus on my race and my pace. And as soon as I passed him I wondered if I was going to hard. Was I giving him more incentive to up the ante? And slowly I pushed those thoughts out of my head and gained perspective on my nutrition and cadence. It wasn't easy though.

The course was three laps (minus a mile on the last lap). So they were short loops. Even though it's rolling hills all the way around it tends to be more up the first half and more down the second half of each loop. This wasn't apparent from driving the course the day before but as soon as I completed the first loop I knew what I was dealing with. This would work well with the final lap coming in for the run, allowing me a few miles to spin more and get ready mentally.

Since it was a three loop course there was a big mix of people all over the place. Passing some at lightning speed and just creeping up on others. By my count- although I can't be sure - I was passed once and played cat and mouse with a couple others. I was likely just maintaining my position within my AG but they had finished the swim faster. I felt strong most of the time but knew I wasn't 100%. The previous week worth of workouts were still affecting me.

My hour goal was in sight and I cruised into the parking lot with two riders on my heels. Other than that it seemed empty. Hardly any bikes on the racks- that was encouraging.
Bike - 59:41, avg HR 153, 22.6 mph, avg Cadence 76

Super fast - in and out. It was a matter of racking my bike, dropping my helmet and shoes, getting my run shoes on and off with my race number and visor. This was my best event - 2nd in my age group. A small victory but nice to see I have this worked out.
T2 - :43

Run - 6.2m
I came out of the gate fast and my plan was to keep on going. Within the first 100 yards I passed the #3 women racer. My gut was telling me I was going too fast too early and she'd be passing me later on. But I felt good and I headed out into the hilly and twisting course. I didn't see one racer for the next mile of the out and back course. At times i was hoping I was still on course. It was quiet and shaded and I ran right down the middle of the path. How nice it must be as a pro to get this calm racing conditions all the time- leading out ahead of the crowds.

I kept on cruising although I could feel myself wearing down with each rise and sharp turn. I tried to keep my focus on the distance and that once I hit the half way mark I would be on cruise control. Then I saw the lead racer on his return - we exchanged some words as if we were out training - and kept on going. Soon I saw the 2nd and 3rd racer. Shortly after that, when I was close to my third mile it wasn't so quiet anymore. Even though it wasn't packed by any means, I regained the sense that I was in a race, there's actually others out here in the woods.

The turnaround could not come soon enough. I was searching for it down the path. And when I got there my energy surged. I was headed back and the course did tend to go downhill more in that direction. I passed only a couple people on the way back but held off anyone that might have been on my heels. The course was now full and it was entertaining to see and cheer them on as they made their way up and out. I took advantage of the down rollers and figured I had enough in me to last until the end.

I started to hear the cheers through the woods from the track at the finish line. I knew I was close and promised myself to push hard all the way through. That was until I came upon the last hill up to the track that slowed me down- I got my breath and re-grouped enough to take a shot at passing one more runner on the track. With one full loop I knew I had a chance at catching up with one of the two runners ahead of me. My speed intensified and they didn't get much closer. It was the last tenth of a mile and we were all pushing - that was clear. With about 50 yards to make up on them I was at full speed with not enough track left- but I got within seconds to them and finished strong.
Run - 45:05, avg HR 159, 7:16mm

Swim 1m 32:33 1:50 149 25
T1   1:25   148 8
Bike 22.5m 59:41 22.6 153 8
T2   :43   152 2
Run 6.2m 45:05 7:16 159 11
Total   2.19:25   154 11

*Rank listed is within AG 35-39. 11/62 total.
Final time: 41st male, 43rd overall, 481 participants.

I was greeted by some DC Tri Clubbers and the prospect of getting some brunch soon. I was glad to see- relieved really- I had improved in the past two years. About seven minutes. But the biggest change was not in the numbers- it was being more fit overall. This time around I wasn't hurting after the race- I took stairs without even noticing them. I was walking around like any other day, a stark difference to 2004. There were other changes too- I was able to enjoy it more this time. Less anxiety of drowning, fewer pre race bathroom stops, being able to breathe at the finish line, and shout out to all the friends racing and cheering.

Waffles and bacon- load them up! We enjoyed a full brunch at Kelly's place and told our own versions of the race. It was a good day to take it easy. Only later did we realize that Kelly had won 1st place in the Athena category! the celebration continued and we smoothed into the day with some mimosas as well.


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