Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Race Preview: The Belews Lake International Triathlon

My first triathlon of 2016 will be a "tune-up" with a total of 34.1 miles of swimming, biking, and running. In other words, it matches my longest triathlon. I consider it a tune up because I'm training to do a 70.3-mile half-Ironman in June.

The Belews Lake Tri is known for having cold weather, a hilly but fair ride, and a tough run. This year, the weather is currently forecast at 47 degrees for the start, with a chance of rain. The organizers are concerned enough about the cold that they added a duathlon option -- run 5k, bike 27 miles, run another 5k -- in lieu of the full triathlon.

But 47 degrees doesn't strike me as awful. I'll be in a wetsuit for the swim so that will be fine, and on the bike I've been riding in much colder temperatures this winter. Conditions should be nearly perfect for running. The only downside is that there does look to be some wind.

So what's my plan for the race?

On the swim, this distance shouldn't be a problem for me. My training swims have been close to 3000 yards, so 1500 meters should be a relatively easy effort. I've done two open-water swims in the past week, and with my wetsuit, I'm comfortable swimming faster than 2:00 per 100 yards, which is much faster than I swam at last year's International tri. I think a stretch goal might be to swim 1:45/100, which works out to a sub-29-minute swim leg. For a B goal, 2:00/100, or 33:00. Both of these would be considerably faster than last year's 37:21 swim.

For T1, this will be the first time I have to remove a wetsuit. I don't have a lot of practice doing this but I've gotten some tips from fellow triathletes, so in the best case I think I can do it in 30 seconds. I will have to put on a little extra gear as well -- arm warmers and gloves, and a shirt -- so I'd be happy with a T1 under 3:00. (Compare to 1:51 last year)

On the ride, I'm actually glad that it starts with a gradual uphill. This will give me a good chance to warm up. Hopefully I can keep the pace in the 19 mph range here.

The second 5 miles are all downhill, so hopefully I can really crank things up and be solidly in the mid-20s here. Then the next 10 miles are mostly uphill, so once again probably 18-19 mph there, and finally a final 10 miles with only one big climb that should be really fast. From what I've read, keeping your heart rate in Zone 4 is a good plan for this distance. That seems pretty high to me though -- even riding in Zone 3 for 30 minutes takes a lot out of me. I might fudge this a bit and look to ride in Zone 4 for the climbs, letting it slide back to Z3 for the descents. A Goal for the ride: 21 mph, about 1:17. B Goal is 20 mph, 1:21.

T2 should be more straightforward, so I'll look to be sub-2:00.

The run is a notoriously hilly double-out-and-back. Even though Stumpy Creek was supposed to be a hilly run, this one will be hillier, with three big climbs and several smaller ones. That said, I felt very strong on the 8-mile brick run I completed last weekend, so I think a pretty quick pace will be warranted. My plan is to try to hold back to around an 8:00 pace for the first (uphill) mile, then pick up the pace, ideally averaging 7:30 for the whole run. If I did that, my time would be 46:36. B goal is 8:00 miles, or 50:00. But if I'm feeling good I might push the pace even more...we'll just have to wait and see!

After a very high workload last week, I'm on a cutback week now, and I can really feel my muscles settling into place after aching all week. It's giving me confidence that I can have a strong race.

To sum up:

A Goals:
Swim: 1:45/100y, 29:00
T1: 3:00
Bike: 21mph, 1:17
T2: 2:00
Run: 7:30/mi, 46:36
Total: 2:38

B Goals:
Swim: 2:00/100y, 33:00
T1: 4:00
Bike: 20mph, 1:21
T2: 2:00
Run: 8:00/mi, 49:43
Total: 2:50

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