Win at Ft. Richie

This past weekend I managed to win the challenging Olympic distance race in Ft. Richie, distancing the opposition by more than four minutes.

The race took place in Ft. Richie, MD, in the very hilly border area to Pennsylvania. It was raining, at times fairly heavily, up to the race start. The race started nice and “late” with the duathlons and sprint triathlon starting around 8am, with the Olympic race getting going around 20 minutes later.

Of course, there had to be a bit of last minute stress. With about 4 minutes to race start, the sleeve of my wetsuit ripped, so had to take it off and swim in just my tri suit. The water was a balmy 74 degrees (it felt even warmer), so it was no problem. As the race got started, I had a bit of competition, which I am not that to, and turned the first buoy second. By the time we reached the second buoy, I had found my stride, and taken the lead. I must have veered to right a bit, and got too close to the shore in a very shallow part of the lake. Trying to maneuver through the seaweed and mud, I also started overtaking some the participants from the first wave.

Halfway through the swim, you had to exit the water, run along the beach and out onto a pier, from which you would jump in to start round two. It took a little while to get the groove back, but at least I knew my way around now. I adjusted my stroke a bit to keep a bit more to the left, and this time I did a much better straight line. Halfway through the lap, I hit the back end of the group, so it was a bit of navigation the rest of the way. However, people were well behaved, and I had not problems getting by.

Not using the wetsuit might have costs a bit on the swim speed, but it definitely sped up the transition, and I got a hold of the bike very fast. On the way out, I saw the next racer coming in, just about 10 seconds later – the first of the women, Megan Martin. I swam with her a long time ago, and she also made a post collegiate transition to triathlon.

The bike course started out rough, with a climb right out of T1. I had to use a false flat to put my shoes on, and then keep chucking away. Several of the earlier racers had to walk up the hill, which at parts was well over 6% incline. It then went up and down for a while, with some pretty technical sections on the wet roads. Thankfully, I didn’t hear of any serious crashes, although I did see some road rash.

The reward then came with a six mile fast descend on wide roads, where it was just a question of putting as much power on as possible. However, at the bottom of the hill, was a sharp right turn, going for a loop through the country side. That’s when I had the biggest scare of the day, with a big SUV coming towards me on my side of the narrow road. He was trying to pass a biker, crossing the full double lines on a blind turn! I managed to sneak by, but it definitely cost a slightly elevated heart rate.

The reward mentioned above came at a price – we also had to ascend the same hill. Depending on where you look, it could be categorized as a cat 3 or 4 climb, with the first 3 miles at almost 4%, and the next 3 miles flattening out a bit around 2%. I managed to get up in the smallest gear possible, but contemplated the value of getting a more climbing friendly gearing if I do this race again. Overall, I averaged about 26mph on the hill – 40 on the way down, and 12 on the way up…  At a turnaround before the hill, I could see I had a gap of 2-3 minutes to the next couple of competitors, but at the snail speed I was going, I almost expected someone to race by me at any point. That didn’t happen, but I had no idea how close they had gotten.

The bike ended with a short, steep descend into T2, and then onto the run course, which consisted of two 5k loops. The description said “some hills, but not a difficult run”. I guess that depends on where you are from. The first mile was mostly uphill, the second was undulating, and the last one downhill. The splits told the facts, with more than a minute difference between the first and third miles.

I had been battling a bout of back spasms in the two weeks leading up to the race, so I hadn’t been able to run much at all. Unsure of my ability, I had planned on a steady and moderate run, maybe dropping out after the first lap. However, I felt pretty good, and could see I had at least a two minute advantage after the first 5k. And you don’t drop out if you’re in the lead! I pushed on, and ended with a run just over 40 minutes, which given the conditions was very acceptable.

In the end, I won the race by over four minutes, not losing too much time on the run. I had the fastest swim, T1 and T2, third fastest bike and fifth fastest run, so a solid all round performance. Congratulations to Megan Martin, who used her strong swim to win the women’s race.

The race was very well organized. It was smooth all the way from sign in to finish. They tested a new prototype bike rack in the transition called T Blocks, which eliminated the standard metal racks that just don’t work well for a tall guy like me. I hope to see them at more races in the future.

Another up and coming business using the event for promotion was 5th Quarter Fresh, which supplied post race chocolate milk. I am a huge chocolate fan, so it worked out great for me. Nice guys with a good product.

Thanks to Ken Racine at Racine Multisport for putting on a great race, and I will definitely keep the race in mind for next season.

#racinemultisport #ftrichietri #tblocks #5thquarterfresh #rockcreektriclub

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Race review – Westfields Sprint Triathlon, Chantilly, VA.

I started out the 2014 season on a high note, taking a victory at the Westfields Sprint Triathlon. Below is a little recap of my experience at the race;

The race started at the crack of dawn, with a short pool swim of 275 yards, snaking our way through the 11 lengths of the pool at the Cub Run RECenter in Chantilly. The 127 participants started 5-10 seconds apart, seeded based on an entry time for a 50 (maybe not the best measuring stick for a bunch of slow twitch triathletes). I was fortunate enough to start first, so I escaped all the traffic behind me. After about the first four lengths I was able to open up a lead, and extended it through the rest of the swim to about 30 seconds.

After exciting the pool, it was a quick run on the fairly cold asphalt (it was in the low 40s at the start) up a slight hill to the transition zone, laid out in the middle of a parking lot. The rows were clearly marked, so it was easy to find the bike. I had a fast transition, and ran out to begin the bike segment. The route consisted of two loops, for a total of about 12 miles. However, this is where it was somewhat visible that it is still a young race, as the guidance on the turns was a bit below par (a couple of places, they were not quite ready, and were still moving the cones when I came by). The second lap was a lot better, and I don’t think most of the participants noticed this. I guess that is one of the things you must be prepared for when taking on the race from the lead. I had a great bike leg, with my fastest ever average speed (a new bike, and a very focused preseason paid off), but slightly frozen toes, as I had forgotten my toe warmers.

Heading into the second transition, it was pretty hard to spot the dismount line, which was just a chalk line on the ground. I then made the mistake to try to put socks on my frozen toes, so I had a pretty slow transition. The run was mostly on paths and sidewalk, and well marked. There was a well positioned water station, which we passed three times on the 5k run. The night before, a heavy rain storm had challenged the organizers a little, but with a few spare garden tiles the path was passable, although still a little soft. This could have been an issue if there was a lot of traffic, but the field was pretty stretched out at that point. I did not have much feeling with where the nearest competitors were, until the first off two turnarounds. I had a solid lead, but could also feel that I had not done much training at race speed, and really needed to dig deep to keep the lead. At the next turnaround, with about 1 mile to go, I could see I had maintained the lead, and got re-energized for the last push for the finish.

The finishing stretch was a bit uphill, making you work all the way to the finish line. After catching my breath, I could celebrate the victory, as the next finisher came in 35 seconds later. Unfortunately the timing system was not fully set up to capture the second transition and run time (just have a total) for the first three racers – it was fixed for the rest of the racers – so I am not quite sure about my run time. However, I believe it to be just under 20 minutes, which isn’t too bad based almost completely on endurance training over the winter.

From a personal perspective, this race was a really nice confirmation that I am on the right track for the rest of the season, and the next races that are coming up. I know what to work on, and I hope to be a lot sharper on the run next time around.

This race is great for beginners, as the swim is fairly short, the course is flat, and the competition focused on a friendly atmosphere. It is also good for more experienced racers, to get the season going in a relaxed setting. The major drawback that would keep me from coming back, is the lack of same day race packet pick up, which will limit the interest from anyone outside of the local area. That said, I plan on coming back next year, especially if the pre-race logistics are improved.