This was the hardest course I have raced on this year. The swim was longer than usual, the bike was hillier than normal, and even the run had a couple small inclines and declines. Despite this, the results were pretty favorable. The race took place in Clinton Township, NJ at Spruce Run State Park and was a Sprint distance.
Prep for this race was pretty simple. I had pasta and some beet salad for dinner the night before. Then it was just a matter of putting all my stuff together, wrapping up my wetsuit, and then just getting to sleep at a good time to wake up in the morning. I ended up getting to bed a bit later than I expected, and I also got out of bed half an hour later than I wanted. Breakfast consisted of a Clif Bar, a small glass of water, and then my mandarin orange HEED when I got to the transition area. I got myself bodymarked first. This was just a Sharpie-marked race. No race number tattoos this time. There were also no helmet numbers.
I sucked down an Apple Cinnamon Hammer Gel, washed it down with some of my HEED, and at 8:05 the Pre-Race meeting was held by the flag pole. A lot of good information was missing such as the bike and run out locations (the signage could have been a bit clearer for that too). Near the end the announcer told us we couldn’t go in the water before the race because it would delay things. Funny thing about that is we ended up standing around for an extra 10 minutes or so because the buoys would not stay in place. I actually had time to go back for one more bathroom break. When I was coming back apparently they were giving up and said to try to use the boats (which were also drifting a bit) to sight and just make sure you go around the last yellow buoy before returning to shore.
The Swim (800m)
Swim time: 24:22
The water temperature was expected to be in the mid to upper 60’s, and it turned out to be 72 on race morning which was quite favorable. The air was pretty chilly before the sun really started to work, but the water felt good. This was a wetsuit legal race, so I suited up before the pre-race meeting. The swim was a half mile, or 800 meter, out and back course. Like I said, the buoys were not staying in place, and we didn’t get to do any practice swimming before the start (although we had plenty of time to). Some tried to sneak in and get water into their wetsuits, myself included. Standing around had me starting to bake in the thing.
I was in the first wave. The race director finally had us move over the timing mat to check in and we stood on the edge of the water waiting for the 60 second countdown. At the yelling of, “Go,” I started my watch and went in a bit slow. As I started to swim, I felt a bit of pain in the left side of my chest and had to stop to hold onto a boat for about 15 seconds. I told her, “I’m not quitting,” and finally let go to continue on. I used backstroke to start off and just get myself moving. I was hoping I wasn’t getting a case of SIPE, but I was able to breathe and there was no pink foam coming out of my mouth so I just ignored the feeling, tried to regulate my breathing and continue on.
The wind was coming towards our faces from the right a bit, and I had a few good gulps of water when I didn’t expect it. It was like that for pretty much the whole way out. Breathing to the left was a bit difficult because the sun was glaring right into your eyes. It wasn’t so bad going towards the beach. I spent a lot of the last half of the swim on my back since it was just so darn long and I hadn’t trained for an 800m swim. As I neared the beach I made my best attempt to do a bit faster freestyle just so I could end that hell of a swim. The swim exit went as I planned. I was able to get my watch off, and I held it in my teeth like I told myself after last race. I unzipped, got my swim gear into one hand and was able successfully peel my wetsuit off my arms and stash the stuff in the right arm. Hearing that timing mat beep was music to everyone’s ears.
What I learned from this: Try to breathe in the same direction the wind is going, if possible, to avoid drinking it.
T1 Time: 3:44
This transition wasn’t too bad. It was a long run to the transition area. I had put BodyGlide on my hands and arms before the race hoping it would help get my arms out of the wetsuit faster. Well, I’m not convinced it really works. Despite that, the arms unrolled pretty well on their own thanks to the the bit of water still on the surface of the suit. I can’t remember exactly when I put my watch back on – either during the run to the transition area or just before I took my wetsuit off. Anyways… I made sure to only dip my feet in the bucket once each before putting my socks and bike shoes on. It worked out OK. Getting the bottom of the wetsuit off wasn’t too bad. My T1 time was lower than usual.
What I learned from this: I really need to work on getting sockless tri cycling shoes. That will bring T1 down at least another 20 seconds.
The Bike (13.6mi)
Bike Time: 53:58
It didn’t matter much if you had a Tri bike on this course. It was a very technical rolling course and it felt very slow. In fact, I had heard beforehand that there was a series of climbs known as “The Hill”. It was a three-tier hill that seemed to go on forever especially after an 800m swim.
Once those hills came up, it was hell. Everybody was tired and some tried to kind of slalom their way up to go a bit faster. I was so happy to be 3/4 through the first one that I powered the last few pedal strokes. This may have been a mistake. I suddenly felt dizzy and weak. I stopped at the side of the road and felt my stomach start to churn. I told myself at first, “No no no, not gonna get sick,” but thought for a second and decided, “Yes, I’m gonna get sick.” And off went my stomach contents – three times – to the curbside. I felt bad afterwards that people had to see that. I had no idea who was around me – those couple of minutes put me in my own little bubble, but a couple mentioned it to me after the race. After that incident, I just sat on my top tube for a couple minutes to calm down since vomiting is always pretty exhausting.
After I got that over with I felt much better and did my best through the second part of “the hill”. Right when you hoped it was over, another one just as steep came along to smack you in the face. There were a couple more smaller inclines before the downhill areas which were a great relief. The coolest part is that a major downhill was on NJ Highway 173, parallel to I-78/US-22 and it was very fast. You didn’t even need to pedal and I was able to maintain over 30mph for almost a full 4 minutes. I was a bit nervous going that fast for that long though while trying to maintain an aero tuck on a road bike. My back and neck felt sore. I also felt a pull on the inside of my left thigh in the last couple miles.
My favorite part of the bike course was the end. It was long and hilly and according my watch, it consisted of 984 feet of climbing. I was so glad to see the transition area again for T2.
What I learned from this: Having too much fluid in your stomach is very bad for hard exertions. Either that or something really bad was in the lake water. Also – need more bike training. Haven’t been on the bike virtually at all before or in between the last two races. A carbon fiber frame may have made it slightly easier to get up the hills.
T2 Time: 53 Seconds
I wasted no time on this one. Unclipped, dismounted at the line, fast walk to the rack (with bike shoes still on). Racked the bike, helmet off, shoes switched, grabbed my number and headed off for the timing mat while putting my race belt – already clipped – on over my head. Beep. 53 seconds and that was it. Didn’t feel any cramps in my legs besides the small knot in my left calf from my brick workout a couple days before – maybe that actually helped? Or maybe it was the lack of overhydration after losing all of it on the bike?
What I learned from this: A better dismount practice, and removing the fear of running asphalt\gravel, will lower this transition time a bit.
The Run (5k)
Run Time: 26:11 PR – Beat TriRock Asbury Park 2013 run by 7 sec
The run started off strong. I had no cramps going into it despite feeling a slight twinge in my hamstrings for a short moment on the bike. I’m not sure why I had no cramps. It could have either been the climbing from the bike, the loss of fluids from getting sick, or maybe the workout I did a couple days before. Or maybe it was the beets I had with my dinner on Saturday night?
For most of the run I felt pretty good. I did still walk here and there to lower my heart rate. I had some pain in the side of my chest again, but this time it just felt like side cramps. My abs were fatigued and they hurt a little too, but the legs were working for the most part. I did stop to stretch my hamstrings at one point as a precaution. When I walked and people passed me they encouraged me to keep going. One said, “You can do this.” And I repeated that quote to myself for the the second 1/3 of the run. After the turnaround I thought of a way I could get myself to move faster. For a moment Paul McCartney’s new single “New” popped into my head, but then the channel in my head changed to Daft Punk. I was mixing various Daft Punk songs in my head like a crazy dance club DJ. Despite that, in the last 6 minutes or so I slowed down twice briefly due to cars that were coming towards us on their way to the marina which was the turnaround point.
When we started getting back towards the parking lot and transition area, I tried to pick up my pace a bit but wasn’t able to get a sprint going like I did at TriRock. There was one little parking lot divider that I slowed down around just to lower my heart rate for a moment, then sent my heart rate to 192bpm to the finish line with a moderate 6:34 pace (or about 9.1mph). I heard the final timing mat beep, I got my finisher medal, and they took my chip strap and the race was over.
Post-Race and Other Thoughts
I figured there was no way in hell that I won any awards on such a slow course. I went over to find my parents who had my protein drink that I mixed the night before. I decided to wait before having that and chomped on a couple orange slices for some Vitamin C. I had some of the buffet food (which consisted of hot dogs, sauerkraut, pierogies, onions for the pierogies, and some salad and pasta salad). I kept it light with just some of the pierogies and pasta salad. I didn’t feel like I could stomach solid food, but I did manage to down the protein drink. I found a small group of people gathering by a trailer near the announcer, behind the podium. I noticed pages taped on the side so I knew the results were up. I went to read them. I was on the third page. I looked across at the times and figured I was below average especially with such a long overall time. Then I got to the DIV column. There was a number 2 there. I thought it was a typo. No, I even looked with one of my other Central Jersey Tri Club members who was also doing the race. It definitely said 2. I think I had an advantage with a small field in my age group. The guy in first in the 20-24 group was on page 1, so I got really lucky. I sprinted over to where my parents were and told them, “Stay for the awards – I may have placed second.”
Indeed I did. My first podium finish. I’m sure if there were more people in my age group that I wouldn’t have made it, but I was pretty happy with the fact that despite how much slower I was, I still was fast enough to get second place in the 20-24 age group males. That was very exciting for me. I won a crystal engraved trophy and $50 Gift Certificate for a future race which is pretty nice. Another cool thing about this race is that the race photos were provided, except they were not tagged by race number. Participants were responsible for finding their own photos on a Dropbox folder. They were well organized at least and I was able to find 11 photos, whether I was the direct subject or not.
Out Of: 172
First Name: PAUL
Last Name: LASKO
Winning Time for Your Division 1:30:20