Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Race preview: Stumpy Creek International Triathlon

Triathlons are incredibly complicated events. There are five separate timed components. There are three different sets of equipment. There are complicated fueling plans.

On the other hand, they are pretty simple things as well. You swim, you bike, you run. It's not like a football game, with dozens of complicated plays and thousands of rules.

Stumpy Creek International has been the focus of my training since I decided to do a triathlon a few months ago. For the past several months, I've been spending 10 to 14 hours a week swimming, biking, running, and lifting weights, and now it will come down to three hours or so of focused effort.

The swim course follows a basic rectangle, 1500 meters in total.

Not much to it!
Swimmers start in the water in waves but the waves are larger than what I experienced in Charleston. There are four groups, spaced three minutes apart, with around 100 people in each. Contrast that to the 15 or so swimmers who started with me in Charleston. It's still going to be nothing like the sea of humanity you see in mass Ironman starts, but there will surely be more bumping and jockeying for position than what I'm used to. Lately I've been hitting speeds of about 2:15 per 100 yards during my swim workouts, so my B goal will be to duplicate that, and my A goal will be a bit faster:

B Goal: 2:15/100 yards = 37 minutes
A Goal: 2:04/100 yards = 34 minutes

To do this I just need to focus on keeping a steady kick, keep my breathing easy, and make sure to sight regularly so I don't swim off course.

Transition 1
You exit the swim right up a paved boat ramp so this shouldn't be too difficult. The big difference from Charleston is that I have a new bike and new shoes. I'm still planning on sitting down to put my shoes on, then running to the start with the bike. The new shoes have bulkier cleats so I'll need to be careful or I could end up on my ass. This transition area is fairly long and uphill, so I'm giving myself a little more time than the 1:22 I did in Charleston:

B Goal: 2 minutes
A Goal: 1:30

The ride is 27 miles, and according to this Map My Ride of the route, there are about 1,000 feet of climbing. This makes it fairly typical for this part of North Carolina. Therefore I'm pretty confident that I should be able to do at least what I've done in some recent training rides around here, maybe 19 mph on average. Taking a closer look at the course, you can see from this elevation profile that the hills are mainly located at the start and finish of the ride:

Hills are scarier when they are red!
So the strategy will be to try not to kill myself on the first set of hills, then pick things up around Mile 5 when things flatten out. There's another big climb in Mile 8-9, then it's flat to downhill for 10 miles, so this section of the course will be when I can really just start cruising. The downhill finish should allow me to relax a bit and get ready for the run.

It's also going to be important to consume fuel during the ride. I'm planning on carrying four GUs on the ride, and I'll try to consume them all, along with plenty of water. There is a water stop at Mile 14, so I will carry one bottle and try to finish it before the water stop, then discard that bottle and finish the bottle provided before the end of the ride.

B Goal: 19 mph = 85 minutes
A Goal: 20 mph = 81 minutes

Transition 2
Once again I won't be trying anything fancy here, just stop the bike safely and carefully run (shoes on) to the bike rack. This time the run is downhill and the run exit is on the downhill side of the transition zone, so I think I should be able to match my Charleston time of 1:29.

B Goal: 1:30
A Goal: 1:15

This is supposed to be the easy part for me, but lately my runs haven't been going great. It's probably partly due to the heat, but it's also that I still have lingering pain from my injury. The fact that I'll be well-warmed up from the ride should help me on the run. I previewed the course last week and it's definitely tough. It will be doubly tough in the heat, later in the morning between 9 and 10 am. Here's the elevation profile:

Okay, green hills are scary too...
I recorded a cumulative elevation gain of 476 feet over 10k, which is considerably hillier than most routes I train on. The 6-mile DART loop, for comparison, is about 300 feet of climbing.

The route is two similar 5K loops. As you can see they repeat the same hill near the end. It climbs about 100 feet over a half mile -- at least it's over quickly, and there's a fairly steady downhill afterward for recovery, so it's safe to push pretty hard on the hill, even on the first loop. Based on my recent runs I think I should be able to manage an 8:00 pace on this course.

B Goal: 8:00/mi = 49 minutes
A Goal: 7:30/mi = 46 minutes

Here's what all that adds up to:

B Goal: 2:54:30 (Let's make that a nice, round sub-3 hour time)
A Goal: 2:43:45 (Again, how about we round that to 2:45:00)

Side Bet
My friend Chas is running Grandfather Mountain Marathon the same morning, starting a bit earlier at 6:30. So we have a friendly wager on who will be finished first. Chas, here's what you are shooting for:

A Goal: 9:54 a.m. (2:45 after my 7:09 start -- that would be a 3:24 marathon for Chas)
B Goal: 10:09 a.m. (3:00 after my 7:09 start -- that would be a 3:39 marathon for Chas)

I completed GMM in 3:42, so if Chas wants to beat my B Goal, he'll have to do better than that. Of course, his marathon PR is about 18 minutes faster than mine, so I'd say he has a decent shot. Interestingly, that 18-minute difference would give him a 3:24 time, just what he needs to match my A Goal. Should make for an interesting race!

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