Monday, June 27, 2016

Tri Louisville Race Report

This past Sunday I toed the line in my first triathlon of the season - the Olympic Distance at Tri Louisville. I competed in this event last year under a different name - Race the Bridge - and had a blast. This year was even better as the race organizers took a lot of the comments from last year and changed things up for the better. I had a good day and a great experience overall - now on to the recap!

Leading up to the race I'd been feeling pretty crappy. I was stuck somewhere between a cold and allergies. The usual cast of characters (itchy throat, sinus drainage, sinus pressure, watery eyes) had plagued me all week and I'd been pretty much sidelined. Add to that a bad reaction to some allergy medication and I wasn't feeling hopeful about the race. I'd seriously considered scratching all together and then thought about just dropping down to the sprint.

Eventually I decided to stick with the Olympic. The main reason was my friend Jessie; she finished a 2 mile swim Saturday and was dead last. Talking to her about it she was sort of bummed about her finish, but based on where she started with swimming it was a huge accomplishment to finish at all. I figure if she can have the guts to get in the water knowing she might be last and do it anyway, then I could do the same with the Olympic. Tri Louisville has no cutoffs since the bike and run are just loops so I figured I could coast through an Olympic - even if I was dead last.

Saturday night I got all of my race gear out and began assembly. I secretly love packing my race bag. It's heaven for a type-a person I think. Lists, check boxes, neatly organized piles. Ahh, bliss. It was my first time traveling with my new Blue Seventy bag and I was excited to see if it all fit. Sure enough, I was organized and all packed into my bag in no time.
Step 1 - put all Tri stuff in one place
Step 2 - separate all the 'stuff' by discipline and put in piles
Bike stuff all piled up - don't forget nutrition!

Step 3 - Pack into your bag, put it by the door and you're done!
Race Morning the alarm went off at 5:00am. Hubz was sleeping elsewhere due to his constant coughing so I could get up gradually. I sat in bed for a little bit watching netflix before finally getting up. For me it's not about the amount of time it takes to actually get ready, but more about the amount of time I need for my "system" (i.e. digestive) to wake up so I can take care of business before I leave.  I pulled on my new Coeur kit, grabbed my bag and headed downstairs. I'd already frozen my waterbottles so I filled them, ate some toast with almond butter, and headed out.

The race venue was only a few miles from my house. I thought I'd gotten there early enough but parking was already swamped. I got there around 6:15 and transition closed at 7 - plenty of time I'd thought. As I stood in line to pay for parking I started to get a little antsy about it. Luckily my friend Connie was parked right next to me so seeing her and having someone else to navigate the situation with definitely helped.
Transition was small and sort of tight. The racks for the bikes weren't high enough for most of the bikes and it lead to a lot of bikes slipping as people were trying to cram in anywhere. I was on a rack with mostly older guys (weird...). These space hogs had already set up their big towels and thrown their bags under the racks so there wasn't much room left for me. I squeezed in, set up my towel and found a spot to throw my bike on the fence line.

After that I was just a trip to the port-a-potty and a short walk away from the swim start!

The Swim
So the swim was a 1500 meter open water swim in the Ohio. There's this nifty little canal that was perfect for this event. Everybody started from the same place, a nice quiet and isolated dock east of transition, but then the Olympic went out and around the island whereas the sprint went straight down the channel.
I was in the third wave so we got moving pretty quickly. We jumped in and had to stand in 4.5' or so of pretty gross water. It reeked of gasoline and the bottom was at least a foot of mud. Those were the longest 75 seconds of the entire race. Once the gun went off my wave darted out towards the first buoy. One of the kayaks warned us that the current off of the channel was really strong and he was right. I had to swim hard to my right to avoid getting pushed into the island. Once I made the left turn around the island though it was smooth swimming. It was obvious I was out of practice in my wetsuit and my swim wasn't as strong, but I felt pretty good. Sighting was pretty crappy though. I wore my tinted goggles and in retrospect I probably could've done without. Whether it was the tint or just my bad eyesight I couldn't see the buoys for anything. Luckily, I knew it was a straight shot west and there are two big bridges that direction so I sighted on those. Once you make the turn back towards transition though it was a little more difficult. I couldn't find the buoy and then once I did, I couldn't see where the exit was. There is a big brightly colored building that I knew was in front of transition. I just set my sights on it and swam until I got close enough to figure it out. By then my triceps were screaming and I was about ready to be done with the whole swimming thing.

The only real 'oh crap' moment I had in the entire race was the swim exit. As I approached I saw the dock and I saw people getting out of the water. I just kept swimming, waiting for my fingers to drag the bottom but they never did. There was no bottom here. There was just a platform that went about a foot into the water. It's hard to describe how this screwed up the exit but it effectively meant there was nothing to push up and off of to get onto the dock. I felt like a beached seal. There were volunteers helping people out but I was essentially 175 pounds of dead weight. I pushed myself up on to the dock and my arms felt like useless limp noodles. I used my hips to scoot up enough so that I could get to my knees before a volunteer pulled me up. Poor guy, I don't think he was expecting my...heft.

Once I was out, a kind gentlemen kindly helped me unzip my wetsuit and then it was up some steps and into transition.

Garmin Stats: 1.25 miles, 25:55 minutes
*The race did not have a split for my swim. This seems like a FAST swim and a long swim, so I wish I had something to compare it to!

The Bike
 The Swim to bike transition is always a little harrowing for me. My heartrate is through the roof, i'm a little disoriented, and it always seems so fucking far. From swim out to my bike it was .18 miles, which feels far to me. So I walked. I focused on taking my time, catching my breath and getting my heartrate down. I got to my bike and got my bike garmin on and got my equipment on no problem. Then it was an easy out onto the road.

The course was pretty much the same as last year: 4 loops of a flat course with one little pitch up. There were some key differences in that it was entirely closed to traffic (and actually monitored by volunteers) and the turnarounds were MUCH much wider than last year. These little changes made for a much more enjoyable bike. Of course I heard "on your left" more than I'd like to admit but I made a plan to take the first lap easy. The first 6 mile loop I focused on high cadence and getting comfortable. I opted to take extra time and wear my cycling gloves and I'm glad I did - I think they're more comfortable and they make me feel safer if I were to bite the dust. So the first few miles were a little slower but that was the plan: get comfortable, figure out the course, and keep cadence up.

Each consecutive lap I worked on pushing it a little bit harder. And then it was done. I drank and I ate some honey stinger chews at one of the turnarounds. In retrospect I didn't eat enough. I really need to work on that on the bike.

It's been difficult not to compare this year to last year. I keep reminding myself I'm 4 weeks behind where I was last year, so it's not really fair to myself to compare the two. Still, I averaged 14.5mph on the course this year and 15.0 on an almost identical course last year. That's actually not a bad place to be right now.

By the time I hit the final turnaround I was ready to be off the bike. I pulled into transition and found my rack. Unfortunately my rack was a mess. The speedy dudes ahead of me had just thrown their bikes up and knocked my stuff all over the place in the process. The low racks made it hard for me to get my bike up without tipping over others. I ended up setting my bike up by the handlebars, which wasn't ideal. I put on my shoes, visor, and race number, grabbed a huma gel and headed out on the run

The Run
The run was 2 loops of a winding course for the Olympic. Luckily there was some cloud cover because it was starting to get hot. I opted not to get water at the first aid station and immediately regretted it. I started out run/walking about a 3/2 pace. This was slower than I would've liked but I really wanted to run more on the back half. The run was pretty uneventful. There were some subtle 'hills' (it's really pathetic to call them that...probably better to just call them inclines) and I walked most of those. I had some unexpected trouble with my shoes. I upgraded to the Adrenaline 18's and was in between an 8.5 and a 9. I really didn't like my 15s in the 9 but loved my 14s in the 8.5, so I went with the 8.5. I'd finally gotten them stretched out a little bit and Saturday night I added my bungee laces. Well this definitely made them too tight. For the first two miles or so my feet felt trapped. It was no bueno. I'm still working on it but it's definitely an adjustment. All in all I was ok with the run but there's definitely a lot of room for improvement. 

Total Finish Time: 3:26:22
*This would totally be a PR EXCEPT I think the course was short. While the swim was way long the run was only 5.80 and the bike was almost a mile short. So I'm not going to count it as a PR.

It was, however, a great learning experience and a great first race of the season! I definitely have a long way to go on the bike before I'm Ohio Ready and my run could use a lot of work but we'll get there...soon. With all of the improvements from last year I'll be heading back to Tri Louisville again next year!

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