Saturday, August 26, 2006

My 2nd Triathlon Relay Report

This morning I competed in a triathlon for the second time as part of a three-person relay team. My neighbor and his wife were my teammates: she did the 500 meter swim, I did the 16-mile bike ride, and he did the 5K run. There were approximately 400 entrants with 99% of the athletes being from North Carolina. Although there were a few "serious looking" guys out there, this is clearly a local event and is by no means one that caters to professionals. (The awards were hats, not cash.) Still, it was a chance to set a fitness goal to work toward and it gave me a chance to gauge my cycling progress this summer.

On Thursday my neighbor and I rode the bike course together to get a feel for the terrain and the difficulty of the hills. It's certainly not a flat course but the climbs are manageable (with an average of about 50 feet of climbing per mile over 16.15 miles). There were a few patches of rough road and some sharp turns so it was really good to get a feel for when I would need to slow down. We went around once together at a leisurely pace and then I went around again solo at just under my threshold speed level. I set my Garmin to not show speed or distance; I simply wanted to focus on staying fluid and pushing at just below my limit. When I got done, I was surprised to see that my time for the 2nd loop was 41:35 which would have been a few seconds faster than the best bike split posted last year (by the overall winner). Of course, relay people don't count and it's not fair to compare my bike time with someone who has to dismount and run 3.1 miles, but I was happy nonetheless.

My goal for the race would be to have the best bike time of anyone in the field. For this race, I used my new road bike with aero bars, an aero helmet, a skinsuit, and booties. In other words, I decided to pull out all the stops in an effort to break 40:00 of bike time (plus a few seconds of mount and dismount at the start/end in that twighlight zone between the official chip transition and the place where you're allowed to mount your bike).

In the end, my biking time was about 40:35 with another 40 seconds of running time for an official time of 41:14. A good effort, but unfortunately this year's top ten finishers' combined times were about 5 minutes faster than last year's (I'm not sure why... the total times looking farther down the list are very similar) and the best cyclist--a 50 year old man who finished 2nd overall--finished with bike split of 40:14. Wow, that means I potentially have 15 more years to improve!!

Our relay team's time of 1:12:35 would have finished "first" in the individual field last year (I know I'm comparing apples to oranges here) but would have been good for only 6th place this year. Nonetheless, our group managed to pull out the relay team victory again so I'm happy about that. I'll probably never wear the hat and I really wish I could have posted the best bike time, but I'm happy nonetheless. Once again, it was a lot of fun but it left me feeling like I need to get over my phobia of swim breathing (I can't seem to blow out underwater) and take some swim lessons so I can do an entire triathlon myself. I just have to buckle down and do that this winter during my cycling "off" season.


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