Seafair Sprint Triathlon 2011 Race Report

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NOTE:  This is my third time doing the Seafair Sprint.  My first was in 2005 (my very first triathlon) and the second was last year (2010:  Read race report here).  Because it was my first triathlon, this race will always be one of my favorites.

Saturday, July 23, 2011:

Packet Pick-up day!  Why am I reporting on what happened on packet pick-up day?  Well, because I have this huge pet peeve and I want to get it off my chest.

You see, I live in Bremerton and the race is in Seattle.  That is an hour ferry ride away or 90 minute drive for me.  So, tell me why I would want to go all the way over there to pick up a packet that has my race bib and a T-shirt a bunch of useless promotional junk and then turn around and drive back over there in the morning to race.  I went straight over there on Saturday and came straight home with no extra stops and it took me 4 hours round trip.  4 hours of my day was wasted just to pick up that stuff that I could have picked up on race morning if they would have given the option….but they don’t give that option…you are required to be at the race expo to pick up your packet.

Why are you required to be there?  Why don’t they give the option to pick up your packet on race morning?  MONEY!  That is why!  Any of you race directors out there that do this, please let me know if I am wrong but that has got to be the reason. 

You see, they charge vendors a fee to have a booth at the race expo.  If they can’t guarantee that the people will come to the race expo then no one is going to want to purchase booth space.  I looked into getting a booth at the Seafair race last year…it was $795 to have a booth for the 5 hour race expo and packet pick-up event!  $795!….are you kidding me?  If I were a vendor, I suppose I would want a guarantee that all 1500 participants were going to be forced to come to the expo too.

I personally would be happy to pay a little extra to have the option to pick it up on race day (I have actually seen some races do this…VIP packet pick-up).  That way, if it is convenient and I want to go to the expo, I can…and if not, I just wait until race morning.  This race did not have that option.

There you go…my little rant on packet pick-up and race expo time wasters.

Sunday, July 24, 2011:

So, I had to leave ridiculously early for this race.  Why?…because they decided to add an Olympic distance to this race this year.  The Olympic distance was slated to start at 6:30 am and the Sprint was slated to start at 7:20am (I was in the first wave so I would go at 7:20am).  7:20am doesn’t seem too bad but the kicker is that they announced that they would be closing the transition area at 6am to make sure that it was clear for the Olympic racers and not full of a bunch of late arriving Sprint athletes.  Great…so now we have to be there just as early as the Oly racers and then get out of the transition area and stand around.  Some waves were going as late as 8am so they had to stand around for 2 hours.  Not the best way to organize a dual distance race but it was their first year and in the end they did pretty well with it.

Anyway, I planned to be there around 5:15 to give myself 45 minutes to get my transition area set up (more than enough time).  That meant that I had to leave the house around 3:45am to make the 90 minute drive.  Ouch!  I am used to getting up with the number “4” as the first number on the clock but “3” is just out of control…especially on a weekend.  Oh well…doing what I love, right?

I got up at 3:15 or so and had my normal Shakeology breakfast but I added a packet of Chocolate Generation UCAN to it.  The Shakeology did a good job of covering up the starch taste that I have complained about.  That gave me about 400 calories or so to start the day with.  I also took one bottle of Generation UCAN (Pom-Blueberry) mixed with some crystal light to have about 45 minutes before race start.  My plan was to have those two shakes and no calories during the actual race (it is only a little over an hour long so it should be fine…plus I knew the UCAN was some lasting stuff based on my last race and my training rides).

The drive took about 95 minutes actually and I found a pretty decent place to park about 3 minutes walk from the transition area.  I pumped the tires on the bike at the truck and grabbed my stuff and headed into the transition area.  I was checking into the transition area right around 5:25am.

Of course it always takes me way less time to set up my transition area than I usually give myself and then I end up with nothing to do.  Today was no exception…I was done setting up the transition area around 5:40am and now I had nothing to do but wait about an hour and 40 minutes for my race to start.

I was out of the transition area easily before 6 am and I took a trip to the port-a-potty and then headed to the beach and swim start area.  At this point, I did not have my wetsuit on because it was just too early.  I just hung out on the beach and watched the Olympic athletes warming up out in the water.  It was actually a nice time to relax and get ready for the race.

They actually ended up letting people stay in the transition area after 6 am and never really completely closed it.  I thought it was actually a pretty good strategy to tell everyone that it was going to close at 6am and then never really close it.  That got most of the people to get there early and get set up and get out of the transition area and left only a few stragglers.  Then they announced that people could go in and get stuff but they requested that they be aware and courteous of the racers that may be coming into the transition area.  Brilliant.

The Swim:

OK, so since they had an Olympic and a Sprint this year, the swim was pretty interesting.  Instead of doing what most race seem to do (have an Olympic length swim course with an early turnaround for the sprint distance), they had a half mile loop (counter clockwise square) and the Olympic athletes just had to do it twice by making a turn around a floating dock instead of heading in to the beach on the first lap.  It seems easy enough and the announcer went through the course like 4 times…to the point where you got tired of it…surely everyone understands by now, right?  Nope…the first wave for the Olympic went off and one of the athletes ran right up into transition after the first lap.  Turns out that he was a sprint athlete and was only supposed to go one lap but he just heard the age group called out and thought it was his and didn’t realize it was the same age group but for the Olympic race.  I am not sure how you get that wrong…they did announce the time of your race start and his was at least an hour away still.  I believe they ended up letting him race in his age group but he had to do the swim over obviously.

So, shortly after the Olympic race started, I had my UCAN drink and put my wetsuit on and waited for my wave.  My wave was the first of the sprint group and I was starting to worry that there were going to be way too many of the slower Olympic athletes still out on the race course and we were going to be swimming through a lot of people.

About 10 minutes before my wave started, I headed out into the water and did some warmup swimming out of the way of the course.  I had recently done some lake swimming with my Tempo Trainer and decided to use that in the race for the first time ever.  So, I set it at 1.00 sec/stroke (a tempo that I had worked with a little in practice and felt would be sustainable for this distance) and warmed up with it.

When it was time for my wave to go, I got up at the front of the pack (as I normally do…you are going to have to swim over me if you are faster…I am not going to swim over you).  For the first 100 yds or so, I ignored the tempo trainer and pushed the pace to stay in front during the initial surge and then I settled in to match the tempo trainer.  About half way through the race, I realized I was swimming right next to a guy at basically the same speed…so I pulled in behind him and did some drafting.  I was able to stay right on this guy’s heels all the way to the swim exit where I passed him when he stood up too early.  That is a big mistake that I see tons of people making…they stand up as soon as they can touch bottom basically and then they trudge through the water.  I always swim until my fingers are touching the bottom in my normal swim stroke and then basically do a pushup to my feet.  It is amazing how many people I have passed in those final 20 yards because they stand up too early.

Anyway, I came out of the water feeling amazing in 10:55 (a PR ½ mile swim) and my concerns about too many slow Olympic athletes turned out not to be a problem after all.

Turns out that I came out of the water 3rd in my age group.

T1:

I went sockless again for this race and had a pretty decent T1.  It was not as fast as Ocean Shores but I think that was because the transition area was larger and my rack was almost as far away from the “bike out” as you could be…so the run from the rack to the mount line was farther than Ocean Shores

My T1 time was a 2:02.  I think I could better this time by a little if I would work on having my shoes already clipped in to my pedals, running barefoot to the mount line and then putting my shoes on while riding my bike.  I just haven’t seen the need to work on that yet because transition times have not been the limiter to placing in my age group or getting that next higher spot.  Now that I am starting to get more competitive in my age group, it might be time to start making those little tweaks.  I highly recommend taking things in stages like that.  Don’t try to jump into triathlon and learn how to put your shoes on while riding your bike like the pros do if you are just starting out…there are plenty of other things to focus and improve on first.

I passed the second place guy in my age group during transition and headed out on the bike in second place.  At the time, I had no idea what place I was in.

The Bike:

This is always one of my favorite parts.  I like to hammer on the bike and this was no exception.  This is a pretty flat course, so maintaining a speed above 20mph is certainly achievable.

This was my second race with the new bike, the race wheels, and the aero helmet and they all performed flawlessly.

Unfortunately, about 3 miles into the bike I was passed by someone in my age group.  Turns out that it was not the guy who came out of the water 2nd that I passed in transition but rather it was the 4th guy out of the water and he was quite a good rider.  It probably helped my overall time because I turned it up a little to keep him in site.  I rode the rest of the bike course with him between 50 and 100 yards ahead of me.  At this point, I knew we were both very high in our age group because we had not seen anyone at the turnaround that looked very fast.  I figured that meant that all of the people we were passing were the slower Olympic athletes.

The only thing I did for nutrition on the bike was drink about 20 ounces of water from my aero bottle.

I ended up with a 32:06 bike split (22.4 mph).  My pace last year was right around 20 mph so I am pretty happy with that split…especially given my lack of bike training (it seems to be the hardest one to get time to do with weather in this area and the fact that bike workouts are usually longer than the other two).

So, I finished the bike in third place in my age group but I never did catch a glimpse of the guy in first place while we were on the bike so I didn’t know what place I was in still.

T2:

I had a pretty uneventful T2.  I went sockless again in the Newtons and had a time of 1:24.  I could still see the guy that passed me on the bike but I had no idea if anyone was behind me.  I am not the fastest runner (relatively speaking) so I am always afraid of losing places on the run.

The Run:

At this point I was still feeling amazing and did not feel the need for any fuel (I love this UCAN stuff).

I ran the first mile at a 6:30 pace (which I knew I wouldn’t be able to make for the second mile because of the hill).  The second mile was around 7:45 or 7:50 because of the hill and the last was around 6:30 or so again.  The course is a loop with a little out and back up a big hill that starts around mile 1.5, goes up to mile 2.1 and then back down to 2.8 or so.  During this little out and back, you get a great view of the people behind you to see if anyone is gaining.  To my surprise, as I came back down the hill, I didn’t see any sprint athletes for at least 2 minutes and we only had a half mile or so to go.  I could still see the guy in front of me and had no one in striking distance behind me…not bad. 

My run split ended up being 21:13 (6:49 pace).

When I was about to cross the finish line I heard them announce that the second sprint finisher had just crossed the line (that was the guy that passed me on the bike and I kept in my sights for the rest of the race).  It was only then that I knew that I was going to be third in my age group.  It immediately made me wonder why I had not seen the first place guy all day.  Later, I found out that he was the overall winner and had smoked the second place guy in our age group by over 5min and me by over 6min.  So, I probably just missed him on the bike and he had probably done the entire out and back on the run and was back on the loop before I got there.  That is smokin’ fast.

My final time was 1:07:41 and winner’s time was 1:01:38.  I am very happy with my time given that I shaved about 7 minutes off of last year’s time and over 33 minutes off from 2005!

Special Thanks:

Thank you to my sponsor De Soto Sport.  The wetsuit and trisuit performed flawlessly.

Thank you to Total Immersion coach Dave Cameron for the swim training that he put me through earlier in the year that I believe helped me achieve a PR in this race.

Final Thoughts:

1)      I don’t know how it was for the later sprint waves but having the Olympic athletes on the course didn’t seem to affect my race at all.  I thought they did a good job of running both races together and would be willing to do either race next year.  I certainly had my concerns about adding the Olympic this year but they pulled it off nicely.

2)      Note:  They do not do age group awards at this race.  I stayed for the awards because I placed in my age group only to find out that they only did overall awards.

3)      UCAN is amazing.  Go get some and learn how to use it.

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