Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Welcome to Miami, where the heat is on

I'm in South Carolina now, mostly relaxing after an eventful weekend in Miami.  I went down for the Nautica South Beach Triathlon held Sunday.  After getting a bit sick early in the week (bad timing...) I was feeling good except for a lingering cough.  Now I've done many triathlons but this one was unique in many ways.  For example, have you ever been on your warmup run at 5:30am race morning while music is still blaring from some clubs and there are more intoxicated people walking around than triathletes?  Driving into South Beach at 4:30am it was like rush hour traffic with all the people leaving after a long Saturday night of partying.

South Beach was a great venue for the race.  The ocean, while choppy with large swells the day before, was almost completely calm on race morning.  I actually was hoping for more chop, since it doesn't bother me one bit swimming in 4 foot swells while many of my competitors can't say the same.  We swam a point to point course, which ended up being either long or against a current, as my time of 25min is well off of my usual 19-20.  I know it wasn't a bad swim though, because even Cam Dye and Javier Gomez were over 20min, and I came out of the water 7th Elite Amateur, which is a few spots higher than I usually am at a race of this caliber.  However, I was nowhere near 7th out of the water in my wave because for the first time I've ever seen or heard of, they started us in the same wave as the pros.  While good for me as I got to do some drafting with the slower pros, I would've been a bit upset if I were racing for the $40k prize purse and had to cut through the amateur athletes.

T1 was slow... I was quick at the rack but it was a long run on the sand which tired me out, so I used the run to my bike as recovery time.  I performed a flawless mount (or so I thought at first) and was off riding.  Energized to hear from Summer and my mom, who came to watch the race that I was in 7th, I was excited to try to pull some spots back on the bike which I've worked so hard on this off season.

At first I felt good, we were only on the island for a minute or two before getting on the long bridge to Miami.  This is where the hills were, and where I caught my first two riders.  I passed them without much effort.  I was really making a conscious effort to hold back the first 5-10min of the ride since that's when I tend to overdo it.  The effort felt reasonable and I made the passes fast and put them behind me.  As I crested the first hill I got back in aero and that's when I felt like something was off.  My shoulders were really tense.. did I really swim that hard?  I'm in an aggressive position, but I can usually just relax my upper body.  It took me a few minutes to realize that my shoulders were tensing up because they were trying to stop my hips from sliding forward on my saddle, which was tilted much too far down.  My best guess is that it slipped down on the mount.  Wish that would've happened in one of the many practice mounts I did in the preceding days so I could've known the bolt had loosened.

I gave the nose a tug upwards but it didn't do anything noticeable.  After the second hill I was off the bridge and riding the flats of Miami to the second bridge back to the island.  Here I started struggling more.  I think the nose was continuing to drop over time because it was feeling worse.  Not only were my shoulders trying to keep my body up but I had to use my pedal strokes to push back on the seat.  I just wasn't getting much leverage anymore and a couple other guys caught and passed me in this stretch. They disappeared up the road and I started pushing harder.  Coming off the second bridge both hip flexors suddenly cramped (never has happened before) and I had to coast for awhile to work them out.  This was about 20k in, and it was apparent that there was no way I could continue riding hard like this.  So I got my butt off the seat and pulled up on it as hard as I could.  I was ready to stop and fix it if possible if this didn't work.  Luckily it did (mostly) and I was able to ride normally the second half.  Unfortunately my legs felt a lot worse than they should've by this point and a couple more guys came by, although I kept them in sight for much longer.

Even though I knew I was slipping down the ranks, I kept telling myself to keep pushing because you never know what might happen up the road.  I came into T2 and got some encouraging news... even though I had fallen to 11th I was still only ~3min out of 3rd.  So I ran as hard as I thought I might be able to sustain out of T2.  I was immediately passed by a guy who was seemingly sprinting full out off the bike.  The funny thing was that he was in running shorts, no shirt and I would've thought he was a relay participant if not for the fact that they didn't start till the end and he had an "E" on his calf, signifying that he started in my wave.  Figuring there's no way I could run that pace and wondering who the heck this guy is, I just forgot about him.  At least until we were 200m into the run and he started coming back.  I caught him by 400m and then the strangest thing that's ever happened to me during a race occurred.  He starts talking to me... "Ok, let's work together.  We'll trade leads, 30 seconds on, 30 off"  I'm breathing too hard to talk but even if I could I wouldn't know what to say.  So he takes off again, though not as fast this time.  He puts about 20m on me and then starts coming back. "We're going to catch a lot of guys at this pace, you're up".  I just keep running my pace and I think he realizes I'm not going to play his game so he "pulls" again.  Another 20m and 30 seconds and I'm back on his shoulder.  Another pull, he gets 10m up on me and suddenly stops, bends over clutching his knees and I run past him.  That's the last I see of him, but I make a mental note to do some more research on interval racing and drafting during the run.. perhaps it would be in my benefit to keep my aero helmet on next time...

Just when I think the distractions are over, the course changes to wet boardwalk where I can feel a little slip under each step.  Also, while the bike course had lanes closed for us, the run course did not.  On the boardwalk it was an obstacle course with all the people out for a Sunday morning jog/walk/stand/skateboard/bike/piss you off.  At mile ~1.5 I saw 3 people running at me on the other side... a woman pushing a stroller, an older guy with headphones in, and Javier Gomez running about a 5minute mile cutting through them.  The one thing I said all race was "Go Javier!" as he ran by, while realizing that the World Champion has put almost 20 minutes on me as we started together.  Wow.  It was odd seeing a world class race going through basically a busy, public area.  I'm sure there will be complaints about this.

Despite the distractions, I was running well and making up ground.  The turnaround was slippery, and I saw one guy eat it and heard of more.  Coming back I started to fade a little bit in the last mile, but overall I ran very steady.  I ran into a girl who tried to cross the path without looking.  She had her ipod in so didn't hear me yell to move.  I think she stayed upright but there was only a half mile left so I didn't look back.  I finished in 8th, and held about he same distance from the top guys as I had at the end of the bike.  My 10k was in the 38's which isn't good for me but considering 4miles were spent slipping around and dodging people on the boardwalk I'll take it.  I had a friend running ~15-20 seconds per mile slower on the boardwalks according to her garmin.

Overall I'm happy with my performance.  I felt like my fitness was there and I felt strong on the swim and run, although my legs were definitely more fatigued than they should've been on the run.  I raced well and didn't make any mistakes.  I just hate the feeling of knowing it could've been better if not for factors out of my control.  Now lots of mechanical problems are failures to prepare, or lack of knowledge about the bike, but Summer and my mom can both confirm that I had checked, double checked and tested everything multiple times so my bike was in perfect working order when the race started.  Getting my bike out of transition, I noticed that the front brake was rubbing the wheel.  I have no idea when this happened... it was either in T1 if someone knocked it accidentally while trying to head out on the bike or it was back in T2 or after the race.  I may have been riding the brake slightly the whole time, but I'll never know.  The aero drink was in the way and I couldn't hear anything.  While happy with a top 10 finish early in the season, being just over 3 minutes off 3rd is frustrating, because I have no idea how much time the mechanicals cost me.  Maybe it was only a minute.  But maybe not, could've been more.  I hate to say what I would've/could've done so I'll just save it for the next race.  There's always another...