Monday, July 23, 2018

Brief Race Recap: Lake Hickory Triathlon

After spending the first half of the year focusing on ultras, for next season I've decided to get back to my strength: shorter running races and duathlons. So naturally that meant the first race I signed up for after the Amalfi Positano Ultratrail was the Lake Hickory TRIathlon. I mean, my friend Rob needed to do his first tri, and the swim was only 400 yards, so it was almost like doing a duathlon, right?

In the spirit of mastering shorter races, I had spent some time over the past month practicing transitions. My goal was to get my transitions under 1 minute, and I mastered the half-flying mount, putting and taking off my bike shoes while riding, and doing a full flying dismount. Then I got a look at the Lake Hickory bike course and had second thoughts about putting my shoes on during the ride. It proceeded gradually uphill from the transition zone for about a quarter mile, then hit a STEEP uphill. If I couldn't get my shoes on before then, I'd be riding barefoot for nearly the first mile. Since my bike was only about 30 feet from the bike exit, I decided I'd be better off putting on my shoes at the bike, and then mounting at the line. Here's my setup in the transition zone:

As minimal as I dared!

I went out for a quick warmup ride and run, then headed to the start, where I posed for a photo with my novice buddy Rob:

Rob may be a novice triathlete, but he's got me beat in posing for race photos! Thanks to Nicole for the photo!

I was in the second start wave, and I decided to hang back a bit since I'm a relatively slow swimmer. This turned out to be a bit of a bad idea, because I spent most of the swim trying and failing to pass other swimmers. While the race website listed the swim as 400 yards, my watch recorded 565 yards. It sure seemed farther than 400 yards! Needless to say, my swim time of 10:55 was a bit disappointing, and it placed me in sixth place out of seven in my age group. I'm hoping the course really was long, because I don't want to believe I can only swim 400 yards at a rate of 2:44/100! Here I am exiting the swim.

Mainly glad I'm finished with the swim! Nicole van Baelen photo

The first transition was definitely not going to be under one minute, not so much because of my lack of skills, but the fact that the swim exit was about 500 feet from the transition zone. I got to the bike as quickly as possible, slipped on my shoes, and ran to the mount line where I executed a perfect half-flying mount. My 1:36 T1 ranked me second in my group. Much better!

The ride was a challenging one: A double loop with over 1,000 feet of climbing in just 16 miles. I made it past the steep ascent out of the transition area and then focused on picking off all those faster swimmers ahead of me. One by one I zipped by them, my average speed climbing from 18 to 19 to 21+ miles per hour. The course included lots of long, gradual ups, with few flat sections, and steep, relatively technical downhills. Every downhill seemed to have a sharp turn at the bottom, so it was difficult to carry speed onto the uphill sections. Still, I was definitely doing better than most riders. No one passed me on the ride, and I passed dozens, including many who were wearing my age group number.

Finally I was on the steep downhill to the finish. I had taken care to remove my shoes before I got to this section, so I could concentrate on controlling my speed and dismounting at the proper spot. Final pace for the ride: 21.3 mph, the 10th fastest bike leg in the entire field and 2nd in my age group. I nailed the flying dismount and scooted to my rack, where I quickly slipped on my shoes. I did have to take a moment to wipe the gravel off my feet, but I still made it to the run start in 56 seconds, just under my 1 minute goal. Here I am starting the run:

Ready to pound the pavement.

The 5k run started up the same steep hill as the ride, and I accelerated as quickly as I could up the hill, picking off a couple of runners as I went. My target pace for the run was sub-7:00 per mile, but these hills were making that pace a challenge. The first mile featured 108 feet of climbing, and the best I could manage was a 7:36. Mile 2 offered some relief, but there was still 56 feet of climbing. I ran down a hill to an out-and-back, which meant I had to run up the same hill. On the way down I saw a guy walking up; surely I'd be able to pass him at some point. I let that be my motivation as I churned back up the hill.

Unfortunately, after climbing out of the dead-end, we were turned down yet another downhill out-and-back! I chugged back up this second hill, clicking off a 7:22 Mile 2. There was yet more uphill in store in Mile 3, but here at least I finally caught up to Walking Guy, who was telling another runner he had severe stomach cramps. Thanks, dude, you just ruined my killer instinct by making me feel sorry for you! Not sorry enough to stop and help or anything, but sorry nonetheless. Finally I rounded the last corner and was able to head downhill toward the finish line! I finished Mile 3 in 7:20. Within sight of the finish line, I picked it up to 6:34 for the final 0.2 miles; my watch had the course a bit long, so my overall time for the run was 23:38; not bad but not the 21 and change I was hoping for. Again that was the second-fastest in my age group. Here's a shot of me crossing the finish line:

Fortunately the ambulance would prove unnecessary!

As you might guess, the two second-place finishes on the ride and run put me second overall in my age group. Even without the poor swim, I would have finished second to the winner, Frederic Six, who was first in all three disciplines! Fellow DARTers Rob and Glenn finished soon after, in their first and second triathlons respectively. Rob ended up getting second in his division (Masters Novice), and Glenn was happy with his result as well. Here I am on the podium with my award and the other winners:

Congrats to all! Rob Marcus photo.

No race is complete without a post-race meal, and Rob and I were able to find a good one in a local diner on the way home. Fabulous burger and tater tots! Eat all the calories! Even if it's just a sprint!

Details of my race are below.

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