Thursday, July 31, 2014

Couples Triathlon

I recently did the Couples Triathlon my second time, and cut 9 minutes off of last year's race. This time the race was two weeks after Ironman Coeur d'Alene and further proves that it's better to train for swimming, biking, and running than just being at altitude (having been hiking at 20,320 feet 9 days before the race last year). This time I paired up with a friend of a friend for the "couple" aspect; we finished fourth in our category (of 23) but would have been second (of 2) in the "mostly strangers" category if we had gone for that category instead of "friends (co-ed)." Of particular note is that this is the first race of the season I've averaged less than 2 minutes per 100 meters in the swim. The previous 4 (from 300 meters to 3800 meters), I've averaged around 2:10. This swim may have been shorter than the advertised 800 meters, but even for 750 meters my average was just under 2 minutes per hundred. Perhaps most interesting, to me any way, is that I set a PR on the Strava segment that makes up the bike course, a course I have ridden many times, most recently during the Rookie Tri.

I was feeling pretty good going into this race. I was feeling reasonably well rested and recovered from Ironman. I had been doing some swimming, biking, and running. Nothing too hard or long. My legs were still feeling kind of heavy, particularly on the run. The main reason I didn't hook up with a partner earlier is because I didn't know how I would feel after Coeur d'Alene and didn't want to hold someone else back because I was broken. When it seemed to me like I would be reasonably competitive, I put out a call to my Facebook friends if they knew anyone looking for a partner. My teammate Erin hooked me up with a woman she knows whose usual partner couldn't do this race. Other than an email exchange, I didn't meet Cornelia until race morning in transition. I left the decision on our category up to her- "mostly strangers" would give us a better chance at making the podium, but "friends" would allow us to start 20 minutes earlier. After consulting the weather forecast, she went with "friends." I came up with our team name "Beef Nuts" as a combination of our respective teams, Team Beef and Big Pistachio (our slogan being "Nut Up"). When I picked up my packet Friday evening, I had a different bib number than originally assigned, so that the two of us would have consecutive numbers.

The race start was time-trial style, sending one couple every 5 seconds. I didn't have a strong preference on the swim, so we went with Cornelia's preference to be near the start of our wave (third after friends- male and friends- female) and her be to my left. A couple minutes before we entered the start chute, she told me she used to be a competitive swimmer, which definitely had an effect on my opening pace (way too fast for me). Since I breathe to my left, I saw Cornelia for a few strokes after the run into the water (her non-standard-issue swim cap helped distinguish her) before she left me in her wake. After winding myself swimming too fast for the first 200 meters, I had to slow down, recover, and find a sustainable pace. Even with the early-ish time trial start, there were a lot of bodies in the water to work around. My swim time of 14:26 was almost 3 minutes behind Cornelia's 11:49. The next challenge was to run up the hill to transition. While there seemed to be fewer sticker burrs than last time, I still managed to get a couple lodged into my feet. I had to take a moment to pull one out before getting my bike.

The bike went well. I pushed it a little, but it didn't feel like a PR effort. As usual, I passed a lot of bikes. One of the few that passed me was my friend Michael right at the last turn before the finish. The worst part of the race (at least up to that point) was T2. I had trouble finding my spot because my gear had been knocked astray, and then my neighbor had done a very poor job of racking, halfway into my area. When I put my bike up I knocked his bike down. Frankly I didn't think this was my problem, and called to a volunteer to pick it up while I ran off. My bike time was 31:29, Cornelia's was 36:48; I passed her somewhere around mile 6.

I started the run much too fast, right around 7-minute pace. I hadn't run 3 miles straight since the Ironman (well, before, really), so I clearly wasn't thinking going off at that pace. That lasted maybe 200 meters before it all clicked together and I slowed to more like an 8-minute pace, though even that was not sustainable. It actually wasn't going that badly until just before the 2-mile marker. There was definitely a psychological component, but the heat, the fatigue, etc. hit me and I walked the water stop. My darm moment was underscored by my teammate Matt shouting encouragement from the other side of the fence as he was finishing the bike course. I resumed running after ~150 meters just a touch slower, then slowed down as the course turned up "quadzilla." I slowed way down for a few steps before convincing myself to try a slow run (~10-minute pace). That lasted about 10 strides before I was all but ready to quit and walk it out. As I was walking up the hill, Michael was coming up behind me and shouted encouragement/taunts, which switched me on and I ran for all I was worth. Once I crested the hill and was on the flat asphalt I steadily sped up to a 6:45 pace for the last 200 meters. My final time was 1:14:06, with a average run pace of 8:22; Cornelia came in a few minutes later at 1:17:04.

I hung around the finish line to cheer in some of my many friends racing, notably Laurie and Jennifer who also did Coeur d'Alene. I hung around for a while, but awards were truncated due to some timing issue.

No comments: