Reston Area Triathletes RATS.net Logo

Race Result

Racer: Steve Smith
Race: Reston Triathlon
Date: Sunday, September 8, 2002
Location: Reston, VA
Race Type: Triathlon - International Distance
Age Group: Male 30 - 34
Time: 1:59:52
Overall Place: 3
Comment: 8-minute PR! and 8 seconds from 2nd

Race Report:

It's strange writing a race report when many people already know the
outcome: 3rd overall, beat to the line by 8 seconds by fellow Restonian and uber-swimmer Mike Orton. Two minutes and thirty seconds behind Marek Dvorak, whom I had never heard of until I was scanning results at Nationals and saw some guy from McLean, Va, a minute ahead of me. Still, the race unfolded in an interesting way, and I had a few bumps in the road before I toed the line ... here's the *very* long-winded version. Congrats to everyone who raced and special thanks to the volunteers.

Pre Race

In the weeks before the race I thought I had a chance at winning this race, that, if nothing else, I could get close to Orton in the finish, whom I figured had the best shot at winning.

Lots of fast guys opted out this year: training buddies (and long-course
specialists) Dave Glover, Mark Lambrides, and Rich Gizzie were noticeably absent: Dave volunteered to run transitions, Mark couldn't get into the race*, so he decided to win the Lake Anna half-ironman instead, and Rich, battling knee problems, continued his life as a roadie with a couple of crits in Delaware. Super-fast short-course guys like pro and former Restonian Tim Morris (last year's winner) and umpteen-time winner Eric Sorenson were also absent. The cagey Green Hornet (Tom Crandall) hadn't raced much, so I'd keep an eye out for him as well. (* Shouldn't top ten in each gender get reserved entry for the following year?)

When I woke up Saturday morning I felt the best I'd felt since the day after the NYC Triathlon. Sure, I hadn't worked out much since that race on August 18, but I had a ton of base behind me, and five races over the last 10 weeks. The road rash (Tuesday accident after NYC) was all but healed, needing only strong sunscreen these days, and my sinus infection (Friday before Nationals) started to disappear Thursday evening, about four minutes before my doctor's appointment. With some antibiotics and a lot rest, I headed out the door to see what a two-week rest had done to my fitness.

A quick swim at the pool and a lap around the Reston bike course (on my road bike) with Jen Ragone confirmed that I was feeling good. I did another lap, solo, this time pushing bits here and there. The legs felt okay, but it was obvious that I hadn't ridden in a week.

Still, I wasn't quite sure how I would feel at race pace. To test this, I hit the South Lakes track. My plan was this: two 1600 repeats on 2:30 rest. Before NYC, I was running these repeats each week around 5:30 in sets of four on 3:00 rest. Sure, this wasn't the smartest workout before a race, but I had to know what top speed would feel like and, more importantly, if I could reach top speed. 5:21 and 5:26. Okay, let's race!

One more thing: I've learned that I bike best with two hours on the bike the day before, so I found Dave Glover and we arranged for a short ride after he finished setting up transitions. I finally re-assembled my Cervelo and we met up at 3 p.m. and biked west on the W&OD. We were out for 10 minutes before picking up James. We three biked out to Leesburg and back, with Dave and I hammering the return stretch between Belmont Ridge & Partlows. Zoooom. Dave is looking so strong! He should have a great race at the Duke Ironman this weekend.

Sunday morning came along, and I woke up feeling good! Fitness-wise I was probably 95% or better (how often is anyone at 100% for a race?), but, more importantly, I felt I could put 100% *effort* into the race, mentally (and damn near that physically) without fear of coughing up a lung.

Once at T1, I grabbed a good rack spot, biked up to T2 to drop off my racing flats, and rode around a bit before racking my bike in T1 and donning the training shoes for a 10-minute run. I was back in time for a 5-minute warmup swim and the start.

The Swim
One of the great things about Reston is that the 1-mile swim start is seeded by predicted swim time and overall time. It's almost guaranteed that the top ten finishers (and many more) will be racing head-to-head. However, it also means all the top swimmers start at once. I sorta forgot this part as I pushed as hard as I could from the start and couldn't break free of the washing machine. I soon lost my cap, and my goggles came off as well (Long ago, I read a tip that you should put your cap on over your goggles, to prevent them from being kicked off your head. Seemed to work for me). I'm not a great swimmer, but I'm not that bad either. When in age-group starts, I can dart ahead of the pack and let the top five or ten M30-34 guys pass me after 200m. Not so in Reston, I was fighting for a good 750m before I found a good rhythm. Even after the turn around, I kept banging into one guy who had settled into the same pace as I.

It was right around the turnaround that I first noticed the cramping in my hamstrings. Strange, I've never cramped there before. And it wasn't in my normal freestyle kick; it was only there when I slightly altered my kick. And it was BAD. Still, as long as I kicked normal freestyle, I was fine. That is, until I finished the swim and stood up. James was there assisting swimmers out of the water and when I went to stand I YELPED, my hamstrings just locking as I stood up. James made a funny face, and asked if I was okay ... I was. It was just the motion of standing up that killed me.

Overall, it was a decent swim for me. I certainly didn't take it easy, as I sometimes do swimming. I think my swimming was hurt the most in the downtime of recent weeks, and that's because swimming is more skill-oriented than fitness-oriented. Anyway, out of the water in 24:23, about 30 seconds faster than last year. A 1:06 transition put me out onto the bike course (apparently ahead of seven people who beat me out of the water), where my race really started.

The Bike
Veronica was volunteered to stand guard at the first turn of the 22.5-mile bike and call out splits. As I caught my breath and readied to hammer I heard: "Fifteenth" ... ahh, yeah! 15th out of the water, I can live wit--- "5:43" ... Huhwhaa? She didn't just say 5:43, did she? DAMN!!! I knew Orton was fast ... CRAP!!! In retrospect, that bit of news probably helped, 'cause sometimes it takes me a few minutes to get to top speed on the bike. Motivated, I overtook the first group of six bikers (two women) before the next turn onto Soapstone and pushed up the low grade on Lawyers when I saw the Green Hornet on the side of the road dismantling his front tire. Too bad Tommy ... maybe next year.

The two other folks I was looking for, and soon, were Brian Daum and Dave Cascio, both appreciably better swimmers than I and guys I knew I had to beat off the bike if I was going to catch Orton. I don't remember exactly where I passed Brian, but he cheered me on as I passed. I passed Dave (he's a little easier to find :-) on the second loop. I didn't recognize another bike until I finished my three loops and saw Orton's Litespeed in T2 ... and who's orange Orbea is that? While my 54:35 bike split is listed as the 2nd best on the day, I'm pretty sure the 49:07 of the 119th finisher was due to a 2-loop bike ride. I felt strong throughout the bike, taking 5:30 off my time from last year, and gaining back 3:30 of time I lost to Orton and 1:30 that I lost to Dvorak in the swim/T1.

As I bent down to get into my running shoes I SCREECHED an obscenity at the top of my lungs as, once again, my hamstrings locked. Keep those kids out of the transitions area when I'm racing. Holy cow! That hurt but, again, it didn't affect me once I'd straightened up completely and hit the run course after a :38 transition. In all, I took 1 minute out of my transitions from last year!

The Run
Heading out of T2, someone called out "they're two minutes ahead of you." Hmmm, this may be doable I thought. I've had problems all year getting my HR up to race pace. I am not quite sure why this is, surely part of it is due to my focus on the bicycling. At Nationals, I got much closer, but I took off the chest strap once I eyed a pack of guys in my age group. Heading out to the turn-around point, I watched the HRM as it climbed. I hit my 10K race-pace HR about 1/2-mile from the turn-around, so I lowered the chest strap, knowing I'd soon see Orton & Dvorak. Once I saw those guys, it would be a race from the gut, not some electronic gadget.

As I approached the turn-around, I would eyeball every twist in the trail ... still no sight. The closer I got to the turn-around the better I felt ... still no sight of them. When I finally saw them I had already gone through the Pinecrest tunnel. First Dvorak. And then about 40 seconds back, Orton. We high-fived as we passed, and I cheered him on. I hit the turn-around about 40 seconds later, with mixed emotions. I might catch them, but I was beginning to doubt it. Once I'd hit the turn around, I started getting light-headed. There was no doubt about it, I was going getting close to 100% effort. I felt as though I should be moving faster than I was. No matter, I couldn't work harder.

Not long after the turn around I saw Dave Cascio, with Daniel Labarca in the chase. Dave looked really strong, and, even before the race, I was a little worried he might run me down if I did not put enough time on him during the bike. He came close, clocking the best run of the day at 37:50 to finish within a minute for fourth place.

I finally caught Orton around mile 4. He was obviously having a bad run (his run split was 3:00 slower than last year). I was breathing hard and he had to hear me coming.

"Come on!" I gasped, "Let's go get that guy!"

And off I went. Never look back, that's always been my rule in running. I pushed on, thinking maybe I could catch this Dvorak guy. But I didn't, couldn't really go much faster than I was already going, and Orton caught a second wind 'cause I could hear him on that nasty nasty hill just before we return to the high school. The hill killed me. I was really light-headed now. As the path ducked behind the bleachers, Orton passed me (out of view from most everyone, how sporting :-) and we approached the track within 10 feet of one another. People were cheering everywhere ... two Restonians duking it out for the hometown ... well, 2nd place. But still :-)

We hit the track for the 300m finish. And Mike just had more left than I did. I was running 100% from that hill, and if I pushed any harder I would have fell over right there, and that would be bad form for a race that my parents chose as their first to watch. I think we both gutted it out there at the end. Orton kept going and I hit a ceiling. I was seeing stars. For the first time ever, I looked back. No one there (phewww, Cascio didn't catch us). And I backed it off, just a smidge. Hammering, all out, I would have finished 3 to 5 seconds behind Orton. As it was, I was 8 seconds back. I was never so happy to hit a finish line, 'cause all the pain stopped. There is a picture of me a friend took, right after the finish line. It's bad, but it's good. It's a picture of someone with nothing left to give.

Cascio said something about training long and the pain of short-course racing ... Trust me Dave, training short doesn't make it any less painful. While Orton I talked after the race I learned he'd been doing this for 10 years! He's only 19! I felt better as I've only been racing for two years. If I don't beat him next year, I never will. His biking is sure to come around, and I bet he gets faster in the water.

This was the year of the bike. Starting next week, it's serious pool time (2 hours every morning?! We'll see if I can handle it) and more consistent running. While I think I can knock out a 36-mid on this run course, I don't know if I'll ever be within 2-minutes of Orton and the other fish out of the water, and that's what it'll take to win this thing, IMHO. But it'll be fun trying.

Holy cow, you're still reading? Thanks for making it to the end.

The Numbers

3rd Overall: 1:59:52 (winner 1:57:23)
22nd Swim: 24:23 (fastest 19:24, winner (2) 20:29)
1st Bike: 54:35 (24.7 mph, winner (2) 55:31)
4th Run: 39:10 (fastest 37:10, winner (3) 39:01)

8 minutes faster than last year (1 minute each in transition and on the run, 5:30 better on the bike, and :30 better on the swim).