Race Report: TCSD March Triathlon

Today, I executed a near-perfect race at TCSD’s first triathlon of the season. The event was situated at Fiesta Island, and consisted of (what would be) a 1000 yard (~0.57 mile) swim, a 20km (12.4 mile) cycle through the southern loop of the island, and a 4 mile run through the northern loop of the island. This was an excellent opportunity for me to redeem myself from a poor performance at last month’s Tritonman Triathlon (also located on Fiesta Island) where I nearly froze to death.

Pre-Race

I had the following goals going into the race:

  • Swim comfortably, focusing on conserving energy, sighting, and technique
  • Dip under 33:30 for the 20km cycle leg (average at least 22.2mph)
  • Go sub-25 for the 4-mile run off the bike (6:15/mile)

I woke up at 4:30am, and unfortunately had a VERY high blood-sugar (496 mg/dL). I took a dose of insulin for correction, and ate two bananas for breakfast (~200 kcal). We rolled onto the island at 6:35am: a little later than I would have liked. It felt my blood sugar was dropping, so I ate a third banana (another 100 kcal) before I slipped on my wetsuit and set up my transition area. I ran over to the swim start just as they finished up the course talk, so I didn’t have time for a warm up.

Swim

I wasn’t too concerned about my swim time, so I took about five seconds to let the faster guys go off the front. This allowed me to find some open water, and I had the most relaxed swim start I’ve ever experienced. My heart rate never seemed to spike, which made it very easy for me to get into a solid rhythm.

About three minutes into the swim, I began to hear some screaming from behind me. It was still occurring a minute later, so I stopped for a second to make sure that everyone was okay. It turns out the screaming was a result of some women behind me that kept running into jellyfish. Fortunately, I experienced this at the UCSD Tritonman Triathlon last month, so it wasn’t a big deal when I felt the odd sensation of jellyfish on my hands. At this point, the field started to spread out, and it became harder to find feet in front of me. I began sighting every four strokes, looking forward for a third of a second just before turning my head right for a breath. This was highly effective, giving me enough information for what direction to swim while still allowing me to keep moving forward.

I made a hard left at the first buoy without any difficultly, using my new sighting skills to direct myself through the course. It was absolutely incredible how comfortable I was. Quickly after the first turn, I came up to the second buoy, making a second left turn to head back to the swim start. Seeing the swim exit ahead made me a little overzealous, but I just put my head down and did the work, keeping sure to sight every four strokes. Before I knew it, my hands hit the ground, and I was running into transition.

Swim time: approximately 17:15 for 1000 yards (1:44/100y)

Transition #1

As I ran up to transition, I unstrapped my wetsuit and pulled it down to my waste. I also tried something new, shoving my swim cap and goggles into the one of the sleeves. Once I reached my bike, I ripped off my wetsuit in under five seconds (much faster than expected) and threw my helmet on. I slipped on my watch and sunglasses, and was on my way to the bike leg.

Cycle

The cycle course consisted of five 4km (2.5 miles) loops through the southern half of Fiesta Island. The loop was almost dead flat, although there were some very strong winds present today: each 2.5-mile loop contained one mile into a headwind, one half-mile into a crosswind, and the returning mile gave us a nice tailwind.

My blood sugar was low coming out of the water, so as soon as I got on my bike I immediately ate 33g of simple carbohydrate in the form of Cliff Shot Bloks (130 kcal). I also drank a good portion of my electrolyte drink (350mL of water mixed with one scoop of CytoMax) to get the taste of salt water out of my mouth. I rolled through the halfway point averaging 22.8 mph, and my legs definitely started to hurt. I think I was pushing myself just a little too much, so I decided to ease up a little bit.

The headwind in laps four and five were quite demoralizing, but I felt aero enough to slice through the wind without losing too much speed. I got passed by maybe four other athletes throughout the entire five-loop cycle leg, so I got to spend the rest of the time passing other athletes. This was mentally rewarding, and made me feel like I was flying. As I came up to the dismount line, I slipped out of my shoes and performed a flying dismount without any trouble. It turns out I averaged 22.0 mph for the second half of the course.

Bike time: 33:16 for 20km (22.4 mph)

Transition #2

Coming off the bike, my butt was REALLY sore. I absolutely hammered on the bike, and my body was clearly not prepared to run at a 6:00/mile pace through the transition area (but of course, I did it anyway). I racked my bike and removed my helmet before slipping on my racing flats, taking advantage of their elastic laces. I quickly darted out of the transition area to start the run.

Run

There was clearly a lot of lactic acid built up in my legs, so I took some time to get used to running. 6:10/mile seemed comfortably hard, so I stuck to that. Although this isn’t very fast relative to my open 5K or 10K pace, it was fast enough to fly by all the other athletes. I came through mile one in 6:08, and knew that I would be able to sustain this pace for another 20 minutes. Unfortunately, this fact didn’t make it any easier. I was competing at my absolute limit, and this pace was truly painful after hammering on the bike and completing that half-mile swim. I came through mile two in 6:09, beginning my second loop of the 4 mile run.

As per usual, the third quartile of the run was the most mentally difficult. I kept seeing my pace drop by just a tiny bit, so I decided to run this mile by feel instead of checking the pace on my watch. I was again blowing by my competition, who were not only running slower than me, but also appeared to be slowing down. I rolled through the third mile in 6:14, telling myself that I was almost there. I finally got my pace back down under 6:10/mile, and actually sped up near the second half of the final mile. I had the fortunate opportunity of running thru the finishing shoot without any other competitors nearby, completing the fourth and final mile in 6:05.

Run time: 24:37 for 4 miles (6:09/mile)

Conclusion

I was absolutely ecstatic with this performance. Almost everything went exactly to plan, and I knew that I had the best race that I possibly could. Although I would like to be even faster, I know that I did the absolute best with my current fitness on this day. With regards to speed, my combined bike and run time was 57:53: more than three minutes faster than my previous PR (1:00:55) on this course at the TCSD Duathlon from last October. I took 1:24 off my 20km cycle time and 1:38 off my 4-mile run time at this course and distance.

Perhaps the biggest success from today was my overwhelmingly comfortable swim performance. This provided a huge mental boost going into my final week of preparation for Ironman 70.3 Oceanside. The triathlon opens with a 1.2 mile ocean swim, which is the part I have been most unsure about. It seems that I am finally getting used to swimming in the open water, which will make my whole racing experience more enjoyable and successful.

Overall finish time [h:m:s]: 1:17:30

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