Let me first lead off by thanking my sponsors and supporters: Team Ossenbrink, Sugoi, CycleOps, Speed Theory, TELUS, and (most importantly) my wife Jenny & son Eli. You all helped get me to the start line and through the finish chute.
The timing of my first Triathlon of the year, the Olympic-distance race (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) at the Suburu Vancouver International Triathlon, was chosen as it's a good time to test my physical and mental fitness to see where it is strong, progressing, and where it needs some work. When you race to your true current ability (not what you wish it to be, and to the max that it is), you get a good lesson from a ruthless, honest teacher: Reality.
I'm a time-crunched Triathlete; so much so that there was a whole issue of Triathlete magazine last month dedicated to the "time-crunched Triathlete" that I haven't had time to read yet. I make a point to keep my cycling fitness progressing, but if I have to drop a workout, the swim or the run go first. I sneak in short workouts in the morning, mid-length workouts at lunch, and sneak out early or negotiate with Jen for an after-work session. But none of these blocks are consistent. I work out when I can and do a workout that will maximize the time I have or tend to the sport where I'm slipping the most. It's these thoughts that are running through my mind as I drive to beautiful Jericho Beach in Vancouver, BC.
The forecast was for a perfect race temperature. Cool (but not too cool) ocean temps, low 20s on the bike, and mid 20s on the run. Perfect for me, though I do like a cooler run as I tend to get cramped legs at higher temps. Parking was a mess as all the half-ironman athletes and supporters arrived early and took the good spots. I spent way too much time finding parking and walking 2km to transition. I had a good spot in transition that allowed me to spread my stuff out. I'm pretty minimal with my setup but, nevertheless, I do like some real-estate to spread out on. I started to get my wetsuit on, then... of course... my metabolism advises me to make a detour. "Less than 10 minutes until start" rings the speaker system as I'm standing in line to obey my metabolism. That's always a tough call - stay in line and take whatever comes, knowing you'll have to stop again later, or suck it up. I always choose the former. Morale of this graphic story is that one should show up as early as possible to a race site.
Race - Swim:
The gun goes off... and I'm running to the beach. I get to the beach and realize I'm on the wrong part of the beach. I trek over to the correct part of the beach and bolt into the water, in last place. The leaders are half-way to the first turn, at least 200m up. I'm not swimming THAT bad these days so figure I can hit the first turn by the time the back of the pack gets there, then they'll spread out. I surprised myself and caught the pack sooner than I thought, which meant a melee at the first turn as the slower swimmers gasped and grabbed through the first turn. Because I caught the pack so soon, it meant I had to swim around people for the rest of the leg, dodging and weaving. I hit the shore of the second lap at over 31:00; I usually do this distance in a race under 25:00. Still, I was frustrated but I wasn't discouraged. I still had two legs to go.
Race - Bike:
Not my fastest transition but it's a longer run to my station and I wasn't trying to blaze through T1 and get onto the bike. I moved with purpose and got suited and ready to ride. I knew what I had to do on the bike; pass people. A lot of people.
It was now time to test my bike fitness. I had a hard week of training, but felt I could go out and push. Right out of the gate I was passing people. Then a bunch more people. Once I got to the hill at Spanish Banks, I eyeballed up the hill to see who I'd pass next. My voice was hoarse from yelling "ON THE LEFT!!!" by the time I got through wreck beach. Literally I think I got passed 5 times the whole bike leg, by the eventual winners of the waves that went after mine. I had a good confidence-boosting ride overall. I hit a bit of a blip about 2/3 the way through the ride and I just couldn't control my heart-rate and wattage, but once I got to the Jericho hill downhill, it was back to business. It does help that it's a section of the course that, if you've passed a bunch of people, doesn't have too many riders on it. And there's a lot of people cheering and it's an opportunity to show strength at the end of a tough bike ride to both the crowd (they're cheering for your strength, after all) and the final people you pass (intimidation is a good race tactic). Unfortunately for me, that strength would be bested.
Race - Run:
The reality was simple: I knew my run fitness is not where it should be and it would be tested today. I transitioned quickly and though my legs were like logs, I was spry for the first 2km. Once the course got technical and had some ascents/descents, I started to hurt and knew I'd be hanging on for another 8km. The frustrating part is that I've held a faster pace on much longer courses in the past. It's a piece of humble pie when you have to accept the result of the amount of work you've been able to put in.
Did I mention that I really don't like loose gravel-packed run courses? It's like running in quicksand.
The 2km to 8km in the run was non-eventful in the fact that nothing changed: I was not enjoying running. I got proper nutrition at each aid station to stave off a cramping calf muscle that was bugging my for the last two weeks and that I tore at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in 2010.
The last 2km I tried to summon what I could and shave a few seconds off my eventual finish time of 2:31 and change. I have to admit that I didn't push those last 2km as hard as I could, since it wouldn't have mattered that much on the finish time.
I did get a fun 'celebrity' moment after finishing when the announcer who blurts out your name as you cross the line remarked "I always love the 'other hobbies' information our athletes provide. It says here that Jared cures and smokes his own Bacon". I was greeted with a roar of cheers and applause from spectators and volunteers. A few athletes afterwords asked if I was "the Bacon Guy" and asked if it's less-fatty/gluten-free/organic/100-mile etc. Of course I said yes to all of it cuz hey, I'm "The Bacon Guy".
Here's what I learned this race:
- The next 7 weeks need to summon my best effort at being a less time-constrained Triathlete
- I need to get to the race site earlier to get to the race line on time
- I need to focus on the first 200m to 400m of the swim and get in with a group and have them drag me around the course
- I need to keep pushing my bike fitness - it's my strength and makes up the majority of the race
- I need to do more mid-distance high-intensity bricks off the bike. I need to remain strong for the first 5km
- I need to practice mentally "hanging on" during the last half of the run
- I need to add a bit of core and strength work right now to stave off fatigue during the bike and run
- On poor terrain, I need to shorten my stride and up my turnover rate.
- I need to trust my nutrition plan to do what it needs to (that was probably the flawless thing about my race)
- I need to eat a bit less bacon and drop 5 lbs
Happy racing everyone. See you at the next one: Point Grey Triathlon!