Monday, May 18, 2015

Honolulu Triathlon Race Report

I want to take a moment this morning to reflect on yesterday's race. I plan on adding to this as time permits. The Honolulu Triathlon includes many event opportunities. This year I did the Olympic Triathlon.

The most significant thing about this race was the weather. It was a picture postcard perfect day. The bay was at mid-tide, flat as a lake, the water warm. So warm I was surprised it was ITU wetsuit legal, and that anyone would bother to wear one. Many did, mostly out of towners. There was some wind, but nothing like what Honolulu had been hit with all week. Air temp finally warmed up for the run, but then we were mostly in the shade so it hardly mattered.

My goal was to have a good time, and I did. To be more specific, I wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment after working so hard for so long. For me, that means getting close to my estimated times and not having to be carried off in a stretcher. Yes, there were swimmers in my heat who did not even make it to the turn around buoy and were hauled out on a jet ski, and Pattie saw a runner collapse at the finish line. I don't call that having a good time. Flatting on a bike segment is no fun either, but not so much a personal failure. I passed several folks with mechanicals, fortunately I was not one of them.

One thing that makes a race enjoyable is having friends there. Really great to hear people calling my name, and while running I could see faces well enough to recognize them. The only thing to top that is great sherpa service from your spouse, and my wife Pattie went above and beyond in that role. I can't imagine doing an event like this without her, but then I also want to do it together next year.

Now for the numbers. My estimates, as reported in my previous blog, were

Swim:  0:50
Bike:  1:45
Run:   1:30
Total: 4:05
(not including transitions)

My results:

Swim:  0:54
Bike:  1:12
Run:   1:36
Total: 3:52 (including transitions)

So, yeah, I am pleased.

I finished in 780th place. 820 started, 802 finished so I assume that is 780/820. The slowest finisher did 4:16. How did I do in my age group (65-69)? 10th place out of 12. About what I expected and better than I feared.

Yes, I had those thoughts we all have before the race. I did not want to be the last one out of the water, or the last one to finish, or the slowest in my AG. I forgive myself for worrying about such stupid, trivial things. It's normal. Thankfully I managed to avoid all of those, although I was one of the last out of the water -- I did not turn around to see how many were left.

Best time in my AG: 2:46
Worst time in my AG: 3:57

The swim was my most worrisome segment. Last year I did the sprint distance, 750M, and finished in 46min for a pace of 5:30/100yds. This year I did 1,500M in 54min for a pace of 3:36/100yds. Obviously I have improved. My sense is that much of that improvement has come in the last couple of months. In fact it was only two weeks ago that I found my two beat kick. Until then my right leg was doing all the work and my left just twitched to no effect. Until recently I had trouble swimming continuously at the start, running out of air and having to roll onto my back to recover. It was so common that on Thursday's pre-race swim I was surprised I did not need to resort to this tactic. Yesterday I took off fine and swam continuously for several hundred yards. Breathing not a problem. The only reason I stopped a few times later on was to get my head up to check my sight lines and see where other swimmers were. For the first 500 yards there was a guy beside me, where I could see him while I turned to breath, who swam all out like a sprinter then rolled onto his back, over and over. He looked genuinely unhappy. I felt fabulous.

I have reason to be concerned about my swim time. I was slowest in my AG. (My wave was the last Olympic distance group, so whoever finished the swim after me must have been struggling.) The next best swim time in my AG was 0:48. The result data does not sort by segment, but I did poke around the elderly age groups and spotted swim times longer than mine, so I was not dead last in the swim. But almost.

The reason this matters is that my goal is to do the Honu Ironman 70.3 next year, and Ironman events have cutoff times. I do not want to be greeted at the shoreline by the grim reaper (IM jargon for the official who informs participants their day is done).

At the 2014 Honu the cutoff time for the swim was 1:15 after the last wave. At that time there was much grumbling about the "last wave" part. Ironman events originally started all together, but recent changes to the rules were implemented to improve safety. A wave start such as is common in ITU events reduces the frenzy in the swim and spreads out the bikes, important because riding in a peloton and drafting are not allowed. Setting the cutoff time relative to the first wave seems unfair because 1) older agegroupers start later and are slower, and 2) women start after men, so they get less time than their male counterparts. The way Honu was run last year it would be possible for someone in an early wave with a swim time of 1:20 to be allowed to continue while someone in a later wave with the same time would be eliminated.

For now I will go with 1:15. Yesterday I did 1500M in 0:54. (Actually I went more than 1500 but they do not give credit for zig-zagging!) According to this on-line calculator that gives a pace of 3:36/100yds. That agrees with my recent swim test data which at my best puts me at or just under 3:00/100yds. The Ironman 70.3 swim is 1.2 miles (2112yds). To make the cutoff time my pace would have to be better than 3:53/100yds. Coming at it another way, if I did Honu today like I swam on Sunday, my time would be 1:16; too slow. Not sure why the two calculations don't reconcile, but the point is that I am too close to the cutoff time.

I have a year to get faster. It is hard to express numerically how much I have improved this year. I could argue that from last year I have improved my swim speed by 60% and if I do the same this year my pace should be around 2:06/100yds. That feels crazy fast to me, but I know that is a reasonable, achievable number for triathlon swimming.

For me the swim is the most critical segment, but I need to work hard on the run, too. Yesterday my run off the bike went exactly as expected and I was hitting and exceeding my plan. I really had to force myself to slow down. As it turned out, the last 3K were really hard. I had to slow down, and as much as I wanted to pick up the pace along the last half click my legs refused to go faster. I see lots more fast, short intervals in my future. On the positive side I had the endurance to finish. At no point did I feel cooked, no thought of quitting or walking it in. The endurance is there. All I need is speed.

I cannot finish without expressing my gratitude to all the coaches and trainers and friends who helped me achieve this.  At the risk of singling anyone out, I will mention Sonya, Dorian, and Suzanne, three wonderful people without whom I know I would not have made it to the starting line.

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