The spring is finally here, and with it, the Triathlon season is really kicking into gear. Last weekend was a feast for tri-geeks (or is that freaks!?): Wildflower, St Croix, Rev3 in Knoxville I think, and the Napa Valley Half. This next weekend is the ITU World Championship in San Diego. Where to go for all this fun?
I love Wildflower, but this year, I decided to stay local and race the Enviro Sports Napa Valley Half Ironman. I have done this race before, both at the current location and at a previous location along the Lake Berryessa in Napa. They both have small lakeside campgrounds, but the course varied slightly over the last two or three years.
Excited to race after nursing a calf injury the last couple of months, I casually arrived for race registration, which only takes place on race morning for this particular event. The casualness of it is only good if you know the course and do not need to do a course preview. The starting race gun only goes off at 8:00 am - late by many standards... yet very welcome. What's the rush with all these 7AM starts, anyway? By definition, Triathletes are always cold! Just allow the sun to get out before we have to scramble in our transition set-up and keep us happy.
Anyway, when the gun did go off, or rather the powerful countdown and yell from the always entertaining race director, Dave Horning, the water was a little agitated around me for a few minutes, and then things settled down. It was a double loop, triangular shaped swim. Just when I got around the first buoy, I got passed by a big guy. Of course, my draft alert bell was triggered! So I pretty much latched onto his feet for the rest of the swim. He was navigating well, and was swimming a good pace. I checked my Heart rate a few times, and it was where it needed to be. Yes, I can check my heart rate while I’m swimming in a race! Telemetry is my game! I was struggling a bit with my shoulders, as I had not swum with my wetsuit all year yet (“Do as I say, not as I do”), but still feeling good with the pull I was getting by drafting. It is important when you draft, not to annoy the lead swimmer. If I touched his feet at all, I made sure not to drag his legs down, just a little bump from my fingers into his soles, if anything it is like bump drafting. Just towards the end, he increased the pace a little, but still comfortable in the draft.
I came out of the water, had a decent T1 (transition from Swim to Bike), and jumped on my Felt B2. Out of the lake, I took it easy to get the legs going. My Polar Power Meter and Hear Rate monitor are very helpful in keeping me on pace because it is so easy to get going too hard right away. I settled into a nice rhythm. I have been working on improving my cadence, and that has made a big difference, mostly on the flats and small hills. The difference is not as apparent on bigger hills because you are relying more on the torque, even when you spin.
Anyway, I had a great bike despite crazy winds along most of the course. Oh, and by the way, what's up with that? The last few races I’ve done, it is always mega windy! Wildflower and Palm Springs last year and now here. Wind always makes it harder, but also more dangerous. I actually kept thinking that I should have kept my training front wheel rather than my HED tri-spoke wheel. The rear HED disc is fine, but the front end getting moved around is what requires a lot of attention. You can give it more power and that stabilizes the bike, but then you are leaving more out on the course than you might have planned to do. Personally, I have seen enough wind tunnel data to realize how a few more miles-per-hour change the wind angle, and make your wheels, bike, and position more efficient. Although at that point you are now pushing more air, and thus yielding diminishing returns. Go figure!
So, after 56 miles and 2:48 hours, I came off the bike. The T2 (transition from Bike to Run) was good and I had a smooth start to the run. With my limited training due to my calf injury over the last couple of months, I knew that I wasn't going to run fast, but did hope for a solid effort. It started really well, my cadence was where it needed to be (there I go again with my telemetry) just my stride was a little short. Also, without the wind speed from the bike, I was now noticing the heat and that also drives your pace down. Almost to the yard, when I went past the 7th mile marker, I had to stop. I was completely spent! Guess what, my longest run this season has been exactly 7 miles. I had been slowly rebuilding the distance as my calf heeled and so 7 miles was all my body could recall for the reserves. It is funny right? That training thing does work!!! I always hear, and agree that the long run and long ride are so key to your training. Guess what? When you don't do them, things just don’t tie up together as nicely as you’d like. So from mile 7onward, I walked to complete the half marathon I started. First the stride was slow, then a little bit faster, and eventually I started jogging again at around mile 11. I was also somewhat recovered with the aid of the good Hammer nutrition stuff I was getting in. Today it was obvious I had not done the training needed, but my base saved the day.
All said and done, here are the splits : 1.2 mi swim: 34'56" Good enough for 36th overall, followed by a 3'25" T1 23rd position, then a 2h48'42" 56mi bike, 8th overall, then a 1'20" T2 good enough for 9th, and then a 2h32'33" 13.1 mi. I don't know the ranking on that... but it is not impressive! Total time was 6h00'57". 45th overall and 7th in my age group! Thanks to all the fast people down at Wildflower that allowed saving a little face with these results.
Nevertheless, I was pleased with the result, foremost my calf held up, and I really think it is now strong for good. I knew that I hadn't put in the training, but I planned on using this race for a fun training day. I got caught in the competitive spirit, particularly when I realized how strongly my bike was coming along. I was counting the leaders at the turn- arounds and there weren't many. They gradually became fewer at each turnaround on the bike, but then I had to watch them all pass me again on the run. But truly, I'm confident that even if I had really eased off on the bike, I wouldn't have run much better, so no regrets! It was a fun, hot, hard day doing my swim, bike and run and loving it!