Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2011 Nautica Olympic Triathlon Race Report (my first Olympic Tri)

Date:  April 10, 2011 (Sunday)
Location:  South Beach, Miami, Florida
Race Start Time:  6:59 A.M.
Weather:  85-90 degrees, near 100% humidity (it was 82 degrees at 4:45am)
Race Specs:  1.5k swim (about a mile in the Ocean along the beach), 40k bike (about 25 miles, flat except for bridges), 10k run (6.2 miles, flat along the Oceanside promenade)
Training Preparation:  I trained 10 weeks for this race, all with low intensity, no speed work (trying to get my knees, shins, and IT bands healthy).  Was training for 8-10 hours per week (3 runs, 3 rides, and 2 swims per week). 
Race Health:  100% healthy, didn't even think about my knees or shins the entire race.  Right knee and IT band was tight earlier in the week so I took the 2 days off before the race and was fine during the race.
Other Comments:  This was my first Olympic distance triathlon (I did 2 sprint triathlons in 2010).  This was the first time that I ever did an open water swim in the ocean and only the third time in my life that I did an open water swim (the other 2 times were in my races in 2010).

My day started at 4:35am.  I got up, ate a little bit, and walked about a mile with my bike and large duffle bag to bike transition area..  It was early Sunday morning and many people were still out partying from the night before.  It was pitch black.

The transition area opened at 530am and was crowded.  I racked my bike and set up all my gear (with a ton of extra beverages including water, gatorade, coke and mountain dew, which ended up really helping me recover after my swim).  The race director announced "the water temperature is 77 degrees and wet suits are legal".  All week, I struggled with whether or not to wear a wetsuit.  The West Side YMCA pool I swim in is usually 79-80 degrees, so 77 is not cold to me.  However, I'm not a strong swimmer and therefore I figured the wetsuit would help me from a buoyancy perspective.  I decided to wear my full body, fully armed wetsuit.

My friend CF was there doing the race too (his first tri and he did awesome).  He told me about the race, which is why I ended up doing it.  My family and I had dinner the night before (his dad came down also and it was great to meet him).  I walked over to CF's bike and we walked over to the swim start (about 3/4 of a mile walk), leaving the transition area at 6:20am.  It was still dark out, and the sun came up at about 6:50 (my wave started at 6:59am and CF's started at 6:56am).  Seeing the sun come up on the horizon was absolutely beautiful.  Somebody sang the National Anthem and the race was off with the professionals and elites (Andy Potts the top pro I think).

The race was well organized and went off without a hitch.  I ate one cliff strawberry gel right before the race (100 calories)

The Swim (if one can call what I did swimming)
My swim, the 40-44 year old males wave, began at 6:59am.  The swim course went out into the Ocean about 50 meters, then turned south for about a mile passing 6 large orange buoys, then went west about 50 meters onto the beach and into the transition area.  We arrived in Miami on Friday and spent most of our time on the beach.  On Saturday, I went out for a quick swim and realized that swimming in the ocean was going to be tougher than I thought.  I made it 2 minutes.  So, I decided that my strategy for the swim portion of the race would be to wade out as far as possible, then swim.  I did so, immediately falling to the back of my wave.  When I finally started swimming I was keeping up with the pack.  About 2 minutes into the swim, I was surprised how choppy the water was and how big the waves were.  I had my full wetsuit on which, when combined with the salt water, was incredibly bouyant.  About another 2 minutes later (4 minutes into a mile long swim), I felt sick to my stomach.  Uh oh, I think I'm seasick.  I get motion sickness when I am in tough car rides and this felt exactly the same.  I didn't expect to feel this way.  So, for the entire swim, I thought I was going to vomit.  Plus, I was boiling hot in my wetsuit.  So, I was miserable.  I swam for about 30 seconds, then doggy paddled for 20-30 seconds, then repeated this over and over.  At one point, I got into a swim groove (after the 2 swim waves behind me all passed by), only to realize that I was swimming out to the ocean.  One of the guys on the surf boards there to help swimmers said to me "you know, you are supposed to swim straight?" "No shit, sherlock", I thought to myself, "thanks for the tip". I felt way to sick to verbally come back with a witty response.  He asked if I was ok and I said "yes, I'm just taking my time".  In reality, I felt like death but I didn't want them to pull me out of the water, so I said I was ok.  The other problem I had during the swim was "sighting" - that being looking up every now and again to make sure that I was going straight.  My goggles were filthy dirty, which didn't help.  The bottom line is that I need more open water swim experience and I will work hard to get it.  During the entire swim, I kept saying to myself "how the heck am I going to do an Ironman swim?"  The reason I picked Ironman Canada is because the swim is in a lake and is said to be in clean, cold (68 degrees) water.  I wonder today if I can actually finish an Ironman swim (2.4 miles) within the required cut-off time of 2 hours and 2 minutes.   As I neared the end of my swim, I had to be one of the last in the water, I thought, as one of the people on the surf boards was yelling encouragement to the 10 or so swimmers still left in the water (me being one of them).  "You're almost there!"  "Keep going!"  That helped, but frankly I was more embarrased than anything else.  I'm not used to being all the way in the back an any athletic event, a very humbling experience.  When I made the turn to the beach, I kept trying to feel the ground so I could walk.  Every missed step was agony.  Finally, I could walk and did so, immediately pulling down my wetsuit to my waist.  This helped, but I felt horrible and questioned whether I would be able to continue the race.  It easily took me 5 minutes to walk out of the water.  When I finally reached the shore (with no other swimmer around me), I felt a little better, happy to be done.  I asked somebody, feebily, "what time is it exactly?"  Two people answered, one said 7:55 and the next said 7:53.   I did the quick math in my head.  Wow, the swim took me 56 minutes?  Just a bad day, flat out.  My previous two open water swims (both in a lake) were done at a 42 minute mile pace and I'm usually 38-40 minutes in a pool. 

Swim Time:  52:21 - 655 out of 670 people. I beat 15 people, YES!!  Given how horrible I felt, I was happy to finish it and keep going

Transition 1 (T1) - 5:01
There were showers at the top of the beach and I stood under one to cool down for at least 2 minutes, maybe 3.  I realized at that point that I was extremely overheated from my wetsuit, which helped me feel crappy.  I walked briskly to my bike (which was a very long walk) and pulled off my wetsuit from the waist down.  The water trapped in my lower body felt like it was 110 degrees!  As I walked to my bike, I took a quick count of the number of bikes still in the transition area.  I counted 8.  Yes, I thought to myself, 8.  How embarrasing!  I drank some Mountain Dew, which gave me a jolt and made me feel better.  I took a powergel and walked my bike toward the bike start.  I was determined to catch up to others.  The announcer said "we are at the one hour point of the tri".  "damn", I thought.  My stretch goal of 3 hours was out of range already.  I drank about 1/5th of a bottle of mountain dew (60 calories) and the powergel was 100 calories - total calories in transition - 170

The bike start begins with a large patch of rough grass that you have to walk your bike through.  I was still a little wobbly when I got to the street (not from swimming hard but from still feeling sick), so I had to be careful not to fall when clipping in.  I took me at least 1 minute, maybe 90 seconds to get going.  Once I did, I felt suprisingly rejuvenated.  I drank a little water and gatorade and quickly got into a groove.  I looked down at my garmin (which I decided to mount on my bike and therefore I didn't wear durng the swim) and it said I was doing 22 to 23 mph.  I didn't feel like I was working that hard, but I was cruising and passing people.  I thought "man, this is much easier than my bike trainer at home", and for for the first time, I realized that training on a bike trainer actually helped me a lot.  I started passing some people and really enjoyed the ride.  It was basically flat except for the bridges, which were steep but manageable.  The time went by quickly and I never went all out.  By the end of my ride, my watch said I averaged 19.1 mph, which I was very pleased with given I went at about 80% effort.  I decided not to push harder because it was just too hot and I wanted to save myself a little for the run, knowing that I greatly struggle running in hot weather and humidity.  At the end of the bike ride, my family was waiting for me.  They were right by the transition area, so I dismounted, stopped, and gave both of my kids a big hug and kiss.  That was totally awesome.  This was the first time they saw me in a triathlon.  I ate one Cliff Stawberry gel during the ride (100 calories), a large water bottle, and about 165 calories of gatorade - total calories consumed on the bike - 265

Overall offical bike time:  1 hour 19 minutes 3 seconds, good for 457th place out of 670 people (average mph 18.8).  I was pleased with my ride but thought my place would be higher.  I definitely have room to improve here and am excited about doing so in the future. 

Garmin file from my bike ride.  Click here

Transition 2 (T2) - 3 minutes 40 seconds
Felt good coming off the bike, legs were not fatigued at all.  This was good because I didn't run one brick my entire 10 week training session.  I racked my bike and waived to my family (they followed me over to my bike outside of the transition area).  I forgot my watch on the bike so I had to run back, which cost me 45 seconds or so.  I drank a little coke and this gave me a little jolt (probably 30-40 calories worth)

The RunMy goal for the run was to not walk (same goal I have when I run a marathon).  As I started the run, it was extremely hot!!  probably around 90 degrees with near 100% humidity.  I felt ok running and started off around 8:30 per mile.  Training in hilly central park really helped here, as this run course was pancake flat, so holding this pace felt ok.  Many athletes were walking or stopped at this point, it was just too hot.  My heart rate was in the 150s, which was great for me in the heat.  I poured water over my head every mile.  I kept pushing, stopped to get some water, kept going.  At about 5.5 miles I saw a finisher with a medal on.  I forgot that we get a medal!  This pumped me up and I pushed a little harder, running the last quarter mile at around 7:31 pace.  I got to the finish line, put up my arms, and finished my first Olympic distance triathlon!

Run time:  53:51 (8:41 pace) - 279 out of 670.  Garmin file from my run.  Click here

Overall time - 3:13:58 - 523 out of 670

 Some pictures:

 My daughter Mikayla (4) after the race in the transition area
 Transition area at 545am
 Me and my friend CF before the race
 Transition area

My Bike

 Finish on the beach - taken the day before the race - the ocean in the background
 Outside of the bike transition area
 Bike start
 A view from our hotel room - we stayed at the Royal Palm - great location, huge 2 bedroom suite!

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