The Stansbury triathlon, held near Tooele, Utah, marked the last event of the 2011 season for me, as well as the end of an experiment to see how fast I could get. Since getting into triathlon in 2007, I’ve focused exclusively on endurance, but this year I decided to focus on speed. I signed up for three sprint-distance triathlons and trained specifically to improve my speed, primarily in the run portion where I was the weakest. Things went well at the Park City and Scofield triathlons. No two triathlons are the same, so it’s difficult to compare, but I certainly did better at these triathlons than at any previous triathlon. I also felt that I did well compared to other people, placing 21st out of 102 at Park City, and 23rd out of 133 at Scofield. At Park City I was 7th out of 14 in my age group, and at Scofield I was also 7th out of 14…whoa, that’s kind of weird. I didn’t notice that before.
I was a bit worried about Stansbury for two reasons; 1) I strained the deltoid muscles in my right arm about two weeks before the race and my arm had been bothering me and had cut into my workouts, so I wasn’t sure how I would do on the swim, and 2) I went to a tradeshow for two days during the week prior to the race and ate too much good food, which resulted in my putting on a few pounds.
On the plus side, we were able to stay with some friends of ours who live less than a mile from the race, so we drove out last night to sleep at their house. We were treated with every measure of hospitality, but as we started going to bed, all heck broke loose. My 3 1/2 year old and 1 1/2 year old decided that 10:30 pm was a good time to hop on pop, and as I was trying to go to bed I was suddenly attacked by one kid and then the other. For the next 10 minutes as I lay there on the air mattress I was alternatively a horse, slide, car, beanbag, punching bag, and trampoline. I don’t think those triathletes who don’t have kids have any clue what it’s like to do triathlons with kids. Finally discipline was restored after I moved to the couch…well, a few minutes after I moved to the couch, and I settled in for the night.
I woke up before my alarm, which means I got a good night’s rest. Because the race area was so close, I was able to ride my bike there by myself and allow my wife and kids some time to sleep in.
I arrived around 7 am to find the transition area already filling up. It was open-racking, meaning no assigned spots, and that means people want to get there early to get a good spot. But the race was fairly small so almost any spot was a decent spot. I grabbed a good one on the perimeter, close enough to the bike exit so that I didn’t have to go far in my bike shoes on the way to the bike course nor on the way in from it.
I spotted Te Koi Smith, my friend who got me into triathlon, and he racked up next to me. I also happened to be right next to Justin and Michelle, a couple from our neighborhood who were both racing that day, she in the sprint and he in the olympic.
This race also marked the first time I went out swimming before the race. I find that I tend to get into my rhythm on the swim 5-10 minutes into it, but in a sprint race where the swim is only 12 minutes long, that means I get into my rhythm right at the end. This time I made sure I was in the water early and swam around for five minutes to get warmed up and my wetsuit adjusted. My injured arm felt good, so that was a relief.
At 8:15 am or so we were off. I’ve never been buffeted and banged about so much on the swim as in this race, which was strange since I’ve been in plenty of larger races. I just happened to get stuck in a cluster somehow. I didn’t get hurt at all, but I just couldn’t get through to the front of the pack and kept having to stop and try and find a way through or around, but it didn’t happen. I’d guess I lost perhaps a minute due to this, but no biggie.
The worst part of the swim was that after turning the second buoy, the sun was directly in our eyes. We couldn’t see anything other than the swimmers right around us. We were all swimming in a somewhat similar direction, but we had no idea until we were on top of the third buoy whether we were really going in the right direction. Somehow we made it there. Despite this, I felt like this was the best I had ever done at sighting and swimming straight during a triathlon. The only problem with swimming straight is that the people who aren’t swimming straight keep bumping into you. I got a lot of that in this race. It probably didn’t help that we started swimming just after the olympic racers passed us to start their second lap, and so we were having to swim through them. I think the race would have been better if they had either started us 15 minutes later, after all the olympic racers were well ahead of us or out of the water, or if they had just started us first.
I didn’t get too dizzy getting out of my wetsuit or into my bike shoes, which is a good thing. And I remembered my towel this time! Of course the one time I remember my towel, the sprinklers for a strip of lawn at the top of the transition area turned on, sending streams of water through the transition area, and my towel that was laid out for the purpose of drying my feet after the swim was completely soaked. Not just wet, but as wet as a towel could possible get. Gushing. My backpack was also soaking wet where it was laying on the pavement. Nice. Somebody please turn those off next year?
I had some trouble getting my shoes into my clips at the start. Sometimes your feet clip in immediately, no problem, and other times they keep slipping off. This time they kept slipping off. I probably lost 10-15 seconds there, so again, no biggie.
I’ve never had so many people pass me within the first five minutes of getting on the bike. My theory for this is that whereas I’m relatively good on the swim compared to the bike and run, most other people are relatively bad. Thus I was early out of the water, but then these super fast guys were zipping by me on the bike. I mean, there was no way I could keep up with these guys on the bike, although evidently I had on the swim just fine. Luckily I was seeing a few O’s on legs, which meant some of the people passing me were doing the olympic distance, and while that meant they were already twice as tired as me yet still going faster, it also meant I wasn’t really racing against them.
This course had more sharp turns and less straightaway than any other course I’ve been on, but it wasn’t too bad. It was very, very flat. Not a hill to speak of. I’d guess the total elevation change was less than 25 feet.
I made sure not to step on my sopping wet towel as I got into my running shoes. Other than that, everything went smoothly and I was off on the run.
“Alrighty, this is it,” I thought. “The last part of the last triathlon of the season.” I’ve never gone all out on the run, because I’ve got it stuck in my head that I have to pace myself to not wear out. But this time I wanted to push it, so instead of doing 8:00 miles, which is still pushing it but doable for me, I tried to maintain a pace around 7:30 or so.
The course stayed on one road for the first .75 miles, and as I passed that I thought “Ok, on the way back this is where I’ll start sprinting.”
The run went onto an island in the middle of the lake we had swam in, and as I neared the halfway point I saw the leader coming back. He didn’t seem to be all that far ahead of me, but he did look like he was going quite a bit faster. I saw Te Koi in 5th place, not too far behind.
As I ran, I tried to focus on the next guy in front of me and pass him. I’m not competitive, really, but it gave me something to shoot for. Once I passed one guy, I’d focus on the next one. I think I passed 3-4 guys, and nobody passed me, so I was making my way up in the overall rankings.
I passed a guy just before the .75 mark, and started pushing it quite a bit more, getting my pace up under 7:00. I don’t know how much I held to that, especially because there were some slight uphill portions on the return, but every time I looked down at my watch I was hitting 6:40 or 6:50 it seemed. I knew I was certainly pushing it more than I ever had before for this long of a distance.
There was just one guy I could see in front of me, and I made it my goal to pass him before the finish. I was running as hard as I could at that point, my breathing being the primary bottleneck. My legs felt great, I just couldn’t get enough air into my lungs.
About .3 before the finish, I passed the guy I had targeted, and then started going up a slight incline. I didn’t want a repeat of Park City where some guy zoomed past me right at the finish line, so I kept up the sprinting, imagining some guy trying to catch up with me. I started to wonder if I was going to pass out at the end, because I had never run like this before, but as I passed the finish line I felt pretty good. Out of breath, but overall pretty good.
Te Koi came in 2nd in his age group…which is the same age group as me. He actually was awarded 1st place in our age group, because the guy who got 1st came in 3rd overall, which means they don’t count him for awards. I came in 6th (or 5th, if they gave awards beyond 3rd place), about 6:20 behind him. I came in 14th overall with a total time of 1:16:32. The first place guy came in at 1:07:38. They haven’t posted complete results yet, so I don’t know exactly what my splits are, but I’ll post those once I get them. I’m eager to see how my swim compares to the other two, as well as my run. The bike is impossible to compare, but it’s easier with those other two events. No matter what, I know I put more into it, and I’m sure I went faster on the run than I ever have before. And it’s a relief just to have actually made it to every race I signed up for this season and to have not had any flats, injuries, etc. that would have really put a damper on a race.
It has been fun to actually feel slightly competitive in these events. It’s not about beating the other guys, but it’s fun to realize I’m within striking distance. The 3rd place guy in my age group had a time of 1:12:07, just four and a half minutes ahead of me. If I could have swam a minute faster, biked 2-3 minutes faster, and have ran a minute faster, I could have had a podium finish. That doesn’t seem like that much to shave off each event. And when you figure that guy probably weighs in at 160 and has 3% body fat, whereas I’m weighing in at 195 lbs, I feel pretty good about where I’m at. I bet if you strapped 35 lbs on that guy’s back he’d lose at least four minutes on his time.
Ok, final results are in:
Bike: 34:52 – Pace: 19.3 mph
Run: 23:27 – Pace: 7:34
Interesting, my swim time was 1-1.5 minutes longer than my other two races, so my estimate that getting caught behind people cost me a minute sounds about right.
My run time seems slower than what it felt like, let me tell you. But it sounds about right for the first 2.25 miles.
Here were the winner’s times:
Bike: 32:02 – Pace: 21.0 mph
Run: 19:26 – Pace: 6:16
I just need to shave 9 minutes off. No problem
I’m not sure. Ironman at some point, but probably not next year. I wouldn’t mind training for the Las Vegas marathon this December. It seems like it would be fairly easy to fit into my schedule, but we’ll see. I’ll think about it next week after I take a little nap.