I just got back from a solid performance at my second pre-season race: Tri for Fun #2 in Pleasanton, CA. This is the exact same race/course that I did in June, so I was very familiar with the 400 yard fresh-water swim. 10.5 mile bike, and 5K run.
I came into the race with an ambitious (but realistic) goal of breaking the 1 hour mark, which would give me a 7+ minute improvement on last month’s effort. My preparation for this event was much more substantial than the last: I spent a lot of time training at race pace/effort (across all three sports), I’ve been doing open water swim training, and I did a solid session of transition drills last night. And of course, I have MUCH more fitness now than I did five weeks ago.
I woke up at 4:15am, ate a quick breakfast (peanut butter sandwich, bagel, banana, coffee), and drove to the race site. I arrived just after 5am, so I had a solid amount of time to kill for the 7am start. I decided to do an 8 mile bike warmup with 4 x 1 minute intervals at race wattage (93% of FTP) with the rest just easy spinning. Then, I registered for the event, setup my transition area, and did a quick swim warmup (400 yards with a few short, hard efforts) before the start of the event.
I was in the first wave, Men 17-39 (i.e. most of the overall competition). I’ve gotten significantly more comfortable in the open water over the last 5 weeks, so I made sure to be at the front line (in-water start), even though it meant I would probably experience some physical contact. I went off pretty hard for the first 50 yards and seemed to hold onto the lead guys before I settled into a more realistic pace. I found some feet early on and followed them through the first turn buoy, taking advantage of both sighting and energy conservation benefits.
I made A LOT of contact with other swimmers coming around the first buoy, where about 10 guys were all bunched up making the turn. It took a few seconds to get back into my rhythm, but I eventually found myself in empty water and thus I went on at my own pace. Sighting was quite easy (thanks to all the practice I’ve been doing), and I kept making sure not to exert myself too much, especially in my legs. Before I knew it, I was making the second and final turn to finish the swim. I put it in quick burst for the last 30 yards before coming out of the water in the 14th position of my wave.
- 400 yards in 6:35 (1:39/100y); an improvement of 3:39 from last month’s event.
- 31st fastest swim
In contrast to last month’s race, I was able to put out race wattage (93% of FTP) right at the start of the bike! I built up a bit of speed before quickly slipping into my cycling shoes, and then I just sat in my aerobars through the first segment. I passed ~10 guys pretty quickly before we made the first turn, although I didn’t know my overall place in the wave. As we approached the turnaround point, I could see the guys infront of me, and I was very pleased to see that I was currently in 4th place for my wave.
Around the halfway point, a pack of three guys blew by me that were blatantly drafting. Not surprisingly, one of the guys could not handle the pace and dropped off pretty quickly. When he tried to suck on my wheel, I made a couple 30-second bursts at 105% of my FTP and dropped him in no more than two minutes. Next, I caught back up to the group of two, and eventually me and one of the guys took off. We made a bit of distance throughout the rest of the course, and I ended up rolling into transition in 5th place for my wave. My normalized power was 223 watts.
- 10.3 miles in 28:37 (21.6mph); an improvement of 1:14 from last month’s event.
- 9th fastest cycle
I made a quick pass at the start of the run and found myself in 4th position, although the guy in third place was pretty far ahead. I settled into a 6:30/mile pace right from the start, and I actually felt pretty decent! After running through a couple of rolling hills, I came through the first mile in 6:40. I was running pretty much alone, as the guy in 5th place was pretty far back (though he was still visible). By the halfway point, my stomach started to cramp up and the pace became a little more difficult to sustain. Nonetheless, I came through mile two in 6:48, and was on pace to finish the race in under an hour!
Around the start of the third mile, I made the conscious decision to hold back slightly on the run in an effort to save my legs for further training this weekend (as opposed to risking injury to run 30-40 seconds faster without changing my overall placement). I knew it would be possible to do this without changing my position in the race, though I kept checking behind myself to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake. I came through the final mile in 7:06, and ended up finishing solidly under the hour mark.
- 3.2 miles in 22:00 (6:51/mile); an improvement of 2:19 from last month’s event.
- 5th fastest run
- Final time: 58:38; an improvement of 8:24 from last month’s event
- Final position: 5th overall (4th in my wave) out of 166; link to results
Overall, I was very pleased with my performance! First, my swim absolutely exceeded expectations. I’ve never imagined swimming this fast comfortably in the open water and still being able to put out a good bike/run afterwards. Next up, my transitions were very solid! I actually had the second-fasted combined transition time (1:26) of anyone at the race, 13 seconds slower than the overall winner. This definitely gives some credibility to the 1-2 hours I spent last night doing transition drills. My improvements on the bike were more or less expected (due to my 15% increase in FTP) although I’m eager to see how fast I can go on a full TT setup (as opposed to my road bike with clip-on aerobars) with race wheels. In terms of the run, it’s evident I’m making consistent gains in my fitness, and although I’m still running 1:00+ mins/mile slower than I’d like to be come my competitive races, it’s very nice to see my run split dropping.
Next month I will be participating in the third and final Tri for Fun event of the summer, and as it will be my final pre-season triathlon, I should be in solid shape. Thus, I’m making it a goal to get on the podium at next months event; For reference, I would’ve had to go exactly three minutes faster today to make it on the podium. I’ll likely find this time (and hopefully more) through improved aerodynamics (changing my bike into a time-trial setup, hopefully with race wheels) and running speed, though I would also like to see improvements on my swim/bike fitness as well as my transitions.