||St. Anthony's Triathlon
||Sunday, April 24, 2005
||St. Petersburg, FL
||Triathlon - International Distance
||Male 35 - 39
||54 / 3138
|Age Group Place:
||3 / 309
||Getting faster with age...barely
ST. ANTHONY’S TRIATHLON
St. Petersburg FL
Sunday, April 24, 2005 / Sun with occasional clouds / 65F / N wind 6 mph
THE COURSE (Identical to 2004)
Swim – 1.5k counter-clockwise three legs of a rectangle. Start was at/near low tide. Official temperature 72.1F.
Bike – 40k flat urban course with 30+ turns of 90-degrees or more.
Run – 10k flat course, partly shaded, out-back in residential area.
Costs: Entry Fee $125. Auto Train one-way w/sleeper car room $280. Shared lodging (Hotel Ponce De Leon) $130/night. Box seat @ Boston Red Sox vs. TB Devil Rays game $45. Repairs to a 10-year-old car damaged by contaminated gasoline having a fuel pump no longer stocked by parts stores ~$1300. Airfare ATL-DCA roundtrip to abandon, then retreive, car $275.
Benefits (Participation): A nice (non-white) race t-shirt, various swag-in-a-bag items (water bottle, hand towel, Hammer Gel/Endurolytes, Triathlete and Inside Triathlon magazines, and a can of Michelob Ultra), finsher’s medal, post-race massage, pre-race reception and post-race food/beer, large triathlon expo.
Benefits (Awards): Framed, limited-edition print of the race poster with placement bar.
Charity Tie-in: St. Anthony's Health Care sponsors and produces the triathlon. It is a private, not-for-profit health care organization that is a ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany.
I had plenty of good things to say about St. Anthony’s Triathlon when I participated last year, and my experience this year was at least as good. Its popularity stems, for the most part, from its professional, participant-friendly organization and service. This is one of the few races that treats the participant in a first-class manner is almost every way. It is like an M-Dot race in terms of service and benefits, just scaled down to the Olympic distance. The event's destination location, flat course, and deep professional field do not hurt either. Its field of well over 3,000 individuals and relay teams was filled on the day that registration opened, December 1. (On-line registration always opens Dec. 1, and the race date is always the last Sunday in April.)
This year’s race had some welcome improvements based in some measure from participant feedback. The increased size of the field swelled the number of waves from 20 to 25, but included in the new arrangement was the creation of novice-friendly waves at the end of the start sequence. This year’s race was not a special Clydesdale championship event, which allowed the Clydesdale waves to be moved from the beginning (behind the pros) to the middle of the sequence, allowing the speedy 20- and 30-something men to go early. To accommodate the new start sequence, the first wave of pros splashed in at 7:00, three minutes after sunrise.
I had a few changes of a personal nature. My Marine Corps nemesis, Jason “Dizzy” Schuette (Prowler pilot and US Naval Academy Class of 1990+2), came alone from California for this trip, as his wife stayed home to finalize the family’s impending move to the Virginia Tidewater. This presented an opportunity for a mutually beneficial arrangement for the weekend…I provide the ground transportation and Dizzy provides the convenient accommodations a short walk from the race site. This gave both of us the giant luxury of coming back to the hotel on race morning to avoid the dreaded portajohn lines.
I have done many triathlons through the years (60+?), but thanks to the Navy, I have rarely done the same race or course more than once (only five courses have seen me twice, with mixed results). Last year, I was 2:07:32 here for 49th overall and 5th in my age group. I was hoping to significantly improve on that, which might be asking a bit much at my age, especially since my race last year went nearly perfectly. I had no reason to deviate from the strategy that I employed last year.
SWIM (22:20, +0:30 from 2004, 9th in AG, 4th in wave)
The 35-39 men’s age group was again split by surname; Last names starting A-K went first, followed by L-Z in the next wave five minutes back. All the good swimmers last year seemed to be in the L-Z group, which didn’t bother me at all.
I had another good start, but found more than just one swimmer alongside early. The swells were much more gentle this year than last, but now they were drawing the swimmers southward instead of northward. The front of my wave started to make contact with the preceding wave approaching the first turn, and like last year, the leaders split apart once we meshed into traffic.
I was able to jump on the high-speed lane on the second, short leg, feeling the forward current of the swimmers in front. Making the turn for home, I again angled outside initially to ride the surface swell and have a good angle to the swim finish. In retrospect, this may have been an error because I probably would have better downrange speed by staying in the high-speed lane longer. I was still passing swimmers, but not as fast.
I wasn’t checking my splits on my watch, thankfully, for I would have been pretty dismayed to see something in the 22s. I had expected to swim almost two minutes faster, and at least as fast as last year.
[With limited exceptions, most returning participants swam slower this year, and many were at least one minute slower.]
T1 (1:21, -0:39)
I did not have a great transition spot. It was good insofar (for me) that it was at the back of the transition area near the exit. It was bad insofar that I was at the outside end of a long row, and with no clear outside path, had to backtrack to the main aisle after each stop at my spot.
Nonetheless, I made up a bunch of time by wearing a new one-piece wetsuit that I practically had off upon reaching the bicycle, instead of waiting to arrive before performing the agonizing Houdini escape. (Fastest in AG was 1:12)
BIKE (1:00:50, -0:08, 8th in AG, 2nd in wave)
This was where the move from Wave 16 last year to Wave 5 became very apparent. Last year, I estimated that I passed over 1,500 triathletes during the course of the race. This year, I went stretches of many miles and minutes without making a pass. Yet, I was positioned like the last time to pass and not be passed. I caught my wave’s swim leader by the seventh mile and just steadily pulled away. I tried to ride with discipline, meaning that I was resisting the urge to drive huge gears and instead opting for higher cadence.
I wasn’t really bothered by last year’s heavy bike traffic, and the near-identical bike split would appear to confirm that.
My wave seemed to have nothing but either great swimmers who were slow cyclists, or great cyclists who were rocks in the water. I went from 2:03 behind the swim leader at the fish ladder to a 2:17 lead at the gates of T2.
T2 (1:09, -0:02)
It didn’t get much faster than that. (Fastest in the AG was 1:00)
RUN (41:30, -0:05, 20th in AG, 9th in wave)
The tired legs, like last year, felt a little heavy at the start…and just like Lynchburg, the heels of the feet wanted to lead instead of the fore/midfoot. This took a bit of discipline to correct, too. After a short time, I was running the way I had been training to run this winter.
Now, that didn’t mean that I was running faster. I did feel like I was running on lighter feet and it made miles 2-4 feel more “comfortable”, but the splits weren’t anything special, good or bad.
Compared to last year, my run was very lonely. The two runners who last year blasted past me (coming from the L-Z wave) on the third mile did so again, although I had held one of them off until the fourth mile. They would be the only people that exchanged positions (pass or passed) with me on the run course. I also was farther in front of Dizzy returning from the turnaround, though I noted that he was running much better now than last time, when he faded under the heat to fall out of the AG’s top ten. I didn’t spend time to worry about him catching me, though perhaps I should have. He ended up storming through the run with the AG's second fastest split to move up from out of the top ten to finishing fifth, only a net 43 seconds behind me.
I had thought that it would be nice to break 2:05 here, but knew in the last couple of miles that it wouldn’t be achievable this day. In fact, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that I didn’t get enough out of the afterburners to get under 2:07. I don’t know why I allowed myself to feel disappointment over that, because I otherwise had a great effort and still showed at least some improvement, plus I “won” my wave.
A few years ago, I mentioned to Dizzy that I never expected to beat him again. That was before I beat him in two races last year (St. A’s and Kona). I had to contain my confidence, though, and it was good to see him storm through the run and nearly run me down. It was hard to break to him the news that I barely edged him by seconds. I’m sure that’s just going to motivate him to try harder…or at least to splurge on a disc wheel.
Some things aren’t what they seem. Dizzy and I were surprised when the placings and splits came out, though perhaps we shouldn’t have been. I was surprised by my swim split, but realized that I might’ve gone faster with more effort and better strategy. Both of us, upon seeing ourselves in third and fifth places in the AG, though that we must have been a “weak age group” this year. In reality, the 35-39 men were one of the toughest age groups at the top-10 level (only the 10th place 40-44 man was faster among all 10th place finishers). Of the top-10 finishers in last year’s 35-39, eight returned and all eight finished in the top-10 again (two had aged up to 40-44).
The only partly-negative aspect of the whole St. Anthony’s event was waiting for the transition area to reopen to retrieve bicycles and gear. It wasn’t until 11:30, almost 4 ½ hours after race start, that the transition was available to small groups of 20-25 at a time every few minutes…a process regulated by a person who became affectionately known as the “Transition Nazi” ala Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. Even after an announcement was made that the transition area was “open”, entry was still regulated until around 12:30 when the last known bicyclist arrived, even though (1) the run course was slated to close at 1PM and (2) there were still at least a couple stragglers still cycling. That, however, was just a minor blip on an otherwise outstanding event.