On Saturday, July 31st, I participated in my first ever Olympic distance Tri, the Federal Escape. This was my first Olympic distance event ever and I must say that it was a stretch. I feel about like I did the first time I did after my first sprint distance in ’07: quite sore and very satisfied that I left everything out on the course. My race style is best described as “freight barge”: I am very slow and deliberate but once I get up to speed I will finish the race.
I woke up at 4am race day which is very unusual for me. I’m usually sleeping like a rock and my wife has to almost push me out of bed to make it on time but not today. For some reason I woke up before my alarm and had butterflies in my stomach (also very uncharacteristic). Breakfast was a simple course of oatmeal (no milk) and soy nuts. I picked up some muffins the day before to eat in transit but for some reason I just wasn’t hungry. I arrived at 5-Mile Lake Park with time to spare so I liesurely set up my transition area.
At the pre-race meeting the race organizer with the bull horn caused a lot of confusion as he was describing the course: he kept getting the number of laps wrong for each leg of the race. I’m surprised he didn’t tell us to go through T1 twice before going out on the bike.
Swim – 52:09
Water temp: approx. 75F. I almost didn’t wear my wetsuit. Overall I don’t think it was necessary at all. The air temp was quite cool (55F) with a bit of wind so, if anything, it helped keep me warm waiting for the race to begin. The water was so much warmer than the air that it caused a lot of fog with wisps of steam coming off the lake. This created a quiet, almost serene environment as the race started.
The swim area had some rocks but the best part was the plastic toy speed boat filled with pebbles.
One of the guys I warmed up with grew up in that area. They used to call 5-Mile Lake the “Root Beer Lake” because the water is so cloudy and red/orange in color. Underwater visibility was very poor, limited to about 3 feet. It was weird to look out underwater and see your skin colored red. As a result of the limited visibility there were a LOT of collisions at the start and until the pack thinned out around the first buoy. I think I kicked someone in the face but that’s the extent of incidents where I was involved. One other recommendation: don’t wear tinted goggles unless the sun is really, really bright. My slightly tinted goggles decreased underwater visibility quite a bit due to the water color.
In my training I never did work up to 1500m so this was the furthest I have ever swam since I was a teenager. Several of us were about the same speed and swam as a small group at the back of the pack but really thinned out on the second lap. There was one guy who paced me about 20-50m behind for the entire race. With about 300m to go he turned on the jets and came up to pass me. I used this as an incentive to also turn up my speed but he was just too fast. At 50m left he passed me and kept up his speed right up until he got out of the water where he walked the 50m or so into T1. Since I was so close behind him it was very easy to pass him by jogging into transition. Sorry dude, you passed me on the swim but I got the faster swim time. }B^)
I do vividly remember being passed by Chris Tremonte: I estimated that he was doing more than twice my speed which makes sense when you look at the race results (actually 2.35x faster).
My slower swim time put me squarely in the back of the pack which led to some lonely times out on the course later on...
T1 – 2:59
Lots of people standing around. It was weird to dodge and duck people getting set for the sprint race. Some of the folks were slowly stripping off their wetsuits so they must have been in the Oly. This was one of my better T1 splits even though I forgot my body glide.
Bike – 1:18:27
Avg. speed: 17.82 MPH
Lots and lots of turns and rollers! The course was easy and best classified as an urban road race. The rollers and frequent turns (4 laps on the Oly) made it hard to get into a rhythm but I was still able to average almost 18 MPH. This was greatly improved over 2 years ago where I averaged 15.5 MPH during my 3rd sprint tri.
The temp at the beginning of the bike was still in the high 50’s so the first couple of miles were a little chilly as I dried out.
I’ve never seen so many drafters in a triathlon! On 3 of the 4 laps there was someone close enough behind me as I finished the lap that a race official would scream, “NO DRAFTING!” I didn’t see anyone handing out penalties: did anyone actually get one?
As usual I found myself in a group of 3-4 riders who ride the same pace and play tag for 20 miles. It was fun to “reel them in” on the down-hills (my weight allows me to go a little faster on the down side) and then try to keep them behind you on the short climbs. They all went into T2 after 3 of my laps since they no doubt swam 15-20 minutes faster than I did, which left me pedaling my last lap virtually alone. It was weird to be biking along at race pace with no one in sight behind or in front of you.
My only complaint: who the @#$! was running the high-frequency noise generator at around mile 4 on the bike course? Other than being very annoying it did serve to get me out of my seat and sprinting to get away from the ear splitting tone. I’m sure some senior citizen installed it to keep away those meddlin’ kids.
T2 – 1:11
No crash this time. In ’08, while doing the sprint tri, I crashed during my dismount when my failed to unclip as I stopped. I ended up sliding on the rough pavement. Both gloves were shredded and my left leg and arm had a bit of road rash. Nothing of note this time. I changed my shoes, ditched my helmet and gloves, and off I went on the run course.
Run – 59:33
The run wasn’t bad. The rolling hills were tolerable and my legs held my expected pace. I had to walk a couple of times to get my heart rate under control (up in the 160-165 BPM range) but other than that the run was almost enjoyable. Several people who passed me (sprint runners) gave me encouraging words. The 22-year-old who won the sprint gave me a hearty pat on the back when he passed (I was walking at the time) and I could have sworn that someone said my name when they passed. Of course it doesn’t help to have a suffix for a name.
The second lap was somewhat easier with more folks on the course from the Sprint race. My stomach started to rebel with about 2 miles left but, thankfully, nothing came up. I can usually gauge the amount of energy I have expended during a race by the amount of speed I have left in the last 200 yards: if I can sprint in the last part of the race I know that I left some gas in the tank. Not this time. I was able to hold my speed through the finish but in the end my tank was empty.
Total time: 3:14:16 AG: 12/14, OA: 83/88
SWAG celebration! Started with the bread with jelly, fresh fruit (plums, bananas, and oranges), protein and lara bars, and top it off with soap and shampoo. Too much stuff.
Overall it was a great experience. My first Oly went off without a hitch and almost exactly in line with my time estimates. I’ll probably do this race again in 2011.
Would I recommend this race? Yes: the course is relatively easy, race is well run, and not crowded at all.