||ITU World Championship - Olympic Distance
||Sunday, October 9, 2005
||Triathlon - International Distance
||Male 35 - 39
||128 / 1739
|Age Group Place:
||24 / 124
||39 reasons to be ecstatic about this one
ITU JAL Age Group Triathlon World Championships
October 9, 2005 – Honolulu HI USA
Entry Fee: $200. USAT Fee: $100. Mandatory USA race uniform order: ~$85.
Lodging @ official race hotel: $109+taxes/night x 5 nights
White race t-shirt, bamboo beach mat, Gatorade water bottle, small tote bag. Pre-race carbo dinner and post-race awards dinner. Water/Bagels/Gatorade after race. Personal profile w/finish video to be posted online at www.triathlon.org. (No finisher’s medal, massage, or expo of significant size.)
(Similar to, if not exactly the same as, the JAL Honolulu Triathlon course)
SWIM: 1.5km ocean saltwater, two-lap course at Queen’s Beach. Very shallow and wavy. No wetsuits. [Original plan was for a one-lap swim at San Souci Beach…probably a much better swim course, but would have had a very long run to T1.] “Waves” of wave starts by age groups. Three waves start at 4-to-5 minute intervals, followed by a 25-30 minute break before the next group of three waves.
BIKE: 40km out-and-back, except for a pair of side loops, past Diamond Head to Hawaii Kai. Mostly flat, but with one steep climb and a few lesser climbs.
RUN: 10km completely flat two-lap course around Kapiolani Park, with an out-and-back along Waikiki’s main drag.
The opportunity to race at the Age Group World Championship came about as a result of the washout of the USAT Nationals in mid-August, and the subsequent decision to allow anyone who attended Nationals to race at Worlds. Given the facts that I was already going to Hawaii to race Ironman (on the weekend after Worlds), wouldn’t get a chance to do a Worlds race before moving to Greece, and needed an excuse to visit my legal team on Oahu, I happily forked over the insane amount of money to race against some of the world best triathletes.
Aside from some memorable moments on the flights from DC, the lead-up to this race was uneventful, and frankly somewhat disappointing. Although it is a world championship event, there wasn’t much attention or publicity associated with it. The following week’s event in Kona is much more hyped up and attention-getting. A couple of reasons for this, I suppose, were unique to this version of Worlds. First, it was separated from the other world championship events (elites, Under-23, and juniors) that were held earlier in Japan…something that was done for this year, and this year only. Second, the main U.S. organizer, Premier Events Management (producers of the Honolulu, New York City, and US Olympic Trials triathlons) is a New Orleans-based organization that was significantly impacted by the gulf hurricanes. Not unique to this worlds was the ultimate organization by the International Triathlon Union, which didn’t have a large presence in Honolulu and has few official sponsors. (Orca, the official outfitter of the ITU, was the only significant vendor at the “expo”.)
Nevertheless, nearly 2,000 competitors from around 25 countries came from across the world to compete in this high-level competition. (Future worlds will be in Lausanne, Switzerland (2006), Hamburg, Germany (2007) and Vancouver BC/Canada (2008)).
THE SWIM: (22:00)
This was the part of the race that scared me the most going in. My practice swims at the race venue were not fun, and I just hated the venue altogether. Much of the course was only a couple of feet deep, depending on tides and waves…and these shallow parts consisted of sharp coral, not sand. Fortunately, the organizers laid out a narrow course that kept the swimmers over the safest line in a “cove” between two breakwaters.
Nevertheless, the shallow water led to quite a bit of wave action (remember that Waikiki Beach is famous for surfing) that kept swim times slow. I actually thought that I had a great swim, and was surprised that my time was slower than it really was. Nevertheless, a 22-minute swim put me in a respectable 17th place in my age group coming out of the water.
TRANSITION #1: (1:20)
I had a great transition spot…under a large tree and at the end of a rack of bikes. This was a quick and uneventful transition. Due to a malfunction of the timing mat leaving T1, many people in my age group didn’t get a T1 split recorded. My 1:20, compared to those who did get a recorded time, was average.
THE BIKE: (1:01:26)
The plan here was just as it was for the swim…go hard. Outbound was expected to be slower due to headwinds and more climbing, and this proved to be true. I also correctly figured that there’d be quite a bit of passing action around me…either I’d pass faster swimmers and earlier age groups, or I’d be passed by ubercyclists.
At one point about 15km out, I caught up to my first “group”, four cyclists who were in single-file, wheel-to-wheel with each other. I had enough strength to pass them, but wasn’t sure how long that would last with more headwinds to come. About two miles later, the course makes a tight left turn at the intersection closest to where I had my near-fatal collision over two years ago. I looked behind me just before making this turn to see that the group of four had unsurprisingly snowballed into a thick gang of nearly a dozen. I knew immediately that I’d get swallowed up by this tsunami of riders at some point…but wasn’t sure at this moment how I’d deal with it.
I allowed myself to get overtaken just before the base of the steepest climb. The climb immediately became very crowded as the tsunami continued to gain more cyclists and overtake the slower traffic farther up the hill. It was at this moment that the first draft marshal finally appeared. I decided that I should at least act as if I was aggressively avoiding the pack…so I charged hard on the climb and briefly escaped the pack. From thenceforth, the strategy became something that I learned from watching too much OLN in July…if you’re going to be in a peloton, at least be at or near the front to take out the risk of something bad happening behind you. For the most part, the lead of my group alternated between myself, three other Americans, and few peers from other nationalities. The fact that I was now riding with a tailwind gave me extra incentive to create some space from the main pack. I felt pretty strong coming off the bike, and seemingly still in a decent position, although there was no way to tell with the blending of the waves along the bike course.
TRANSITION #2: (1:03)
The downside to my transition spot under the tree was that it was on dirt, not grass. I did not use a towel or mat at my spot for this race, so my T2 here was slightly different than my usual plan. Usually, the shoes go on first and the race belt & hat are put on running out the door. Here, I had to put on belt and hat at the bike rack, carry shoes to a grassy area, and then put on the shoes. This added time to my T2 and made it one of the slower ones (the fastest T2 in my AG was 0:44, but most everyone was in the 50s.).
I left T2 in 16th place in my AG…with two other peers +/- a second.
THE RUN: (39:21)
This was the success story of the day.
My form felt pretty good in practice and, here in the race, felt good at the start. Again, the only strategy was to go max-blast, and my only worry was that I wasn’t sure if I could hold the form, at this fast pace, for the entire 10km.
The weather here was a mix. Sunny one moment, cloudy the next, brief shower after that, then in the shade, and repeat the cycle.
I reached the 2km sign in 7:45, feeling good that the first digit on the stopwatch was less than 8. This was the first time that I contemplated the possibility of splitting the run in under 40 minutes. The significance of this can not be understated…I have never run an official 10km, either in a triathlon or a stand-alone running race, in under 40 minutes. At this point, given how I felt and the prevailing weather and the flat course, I though my chances of going under 40 were fair.
Another good feeling was that there wasn’t much passing action on the first lap of the run. Everyone was moving pretty fast, including the spry 60+ seniors and the athletes with disabilities. I did come through my troublesome third mile getting passed by a couple American peers, but it wasn’t the usual flood of fleet runners going by. I went by the finish line at the end of my first lap, exactly 20 minutes into the run.
Things were still going remarkably well, and when I again reached the 2km sign, now with 3km left to run, I was on the right side of the 28-minute point. The odds of going under 40 were improving as the distance to go dwindled…but it would be close.
Turning onto the final out-and-back on Waikiki’s main drag, roughly abeam the finish line, my watch showed 32:17. The form was still holding up, but at some point I expected to need the afterburners to make the sub-40. This is where I see and cross paths with Alex Rochette returning from the turnaround. Alex started in the wave 4-5 minutes in front of me, so I'm thinking that he's about to finish and is just having a race for the ages. (Turns out later that I had actually passed Alex in the water, and that he was headed for his second run lap.)
I was fairly isolated from my AG competition at this point, so the only thing at stake was to finish with a notable finish time and run split. I gained a very strong sense of urgency when I made the last U-turn at 36 minutes flat.
I started to tap the afterburners, and run a little “ugly” with respect to form, two minutes later. The final stretch is a little bit of a chicane, so you don’t get to see the finish line until you are nearly at it. So, I was somewhat relieved as my HR was reaching new maximums that a volunteered told me that I was only 100 yards from the finish. Thankfully, he was right…and I had the finish chute to myself. I wasn’t especially photogenic at the finish, but I couldn’t help feel satisfied that I had just had a career day.
My 43rd place (in AG) run meant that I was passed by nine peers, and that I had passed one, resulting in the 24th place AG finish.
...and then, there was one race left in the season...
Thanks for reading, and God Bless,