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Race Result

Racer: Steve Smith
Race: Diamond In The Rough
Date: Saturday, July 12, 2003
Location: Perryville, MD
Race Type: Triathlon - International Distance
Age Group: Male 30 - 34
Time: 2:10:12
Overall Place: 4

Race Report:

Short Version:

Beautiful race venue, decent swim (improved!), great bike, okay run for 2:10:12, 4th OA. Like most of the guys in the first two waves, I went off course. Unlike most of the guys in the first two waves, I had no excuse. In the end, I think it all washed out for the FOP gang. It was great to see all the RATS running around, to meet some new faces (Wayne, Corey, Brian), and to see lots of old friends; For those looking for the RATS banner, I apologize for leaving it at home.

Long Version:

Pre Race
I left work early to take care of some errands, and hit 495 by 4:00 p.m. I arrived at registration by 7:00 (accident on 495). Grabbing my schwag I headed out to drive the bike course. And thus begins The Debacle. Short version: There is a mistake on the website; the third point should read "Turn Right onto ROUNDHOUSE" not Frenchtown. After driving up-and-down Main Street for 10 minutes, I gave up and picked up the race route on 222 (main road into Perryville). From there the directions were spot on and brought me back into town on Frenchtown Road, which, by the way, magically turns into Roundhouse just before getting into downtown Perryville. A-ha I thought, I see the problem.

I stayed at the Crystal Inn one exit north of I-95 from Perryville; I was too late to get a room at Comfort Inn. Besides, paying a little more for a hotel room I assumed I'd get OLN and a rare treat to a TdF stage. Nope, just AMC and "Young Guns" (that movie was so much better in the 80s). I packed my own dinner of grilled chicken breast over gnocchi & marinara, topped off with a fine IPA.

Saturday morning I arrived nice & early. I got in a great r-b-s warm-up for once, and reveled in the beautiful weather we had for racing. I was loose, feeling good, and looking forward to the start.

Looking at the registered racers, I figured the race was between Christopher Martin and Anthony Van Lierop, both 25-29. Martin pulled out a couple of 4:11 half Ironmans at Blackwater and Tupper Lake this year. Van Lierop is great swim/biker who stomped me several times last year by a few minutes (Colonial Beach, Wilkes-Barre, Nationals). I saw that Troy Jacobson & Eric Sorensen had registered as well, both in my age group. I was pretty sure both of these guys are rusty, so I wouldn't get totally stomped. When fully trained, however, these guys are some of the best in the nation. Then again, I'm not fully trained yet myself ... either way, I was looking forward to having some competition in my wave.

The swim was in the Susquehanna River ... but it looked the size of a bay, and a wee bit choppy. I was in the second wave, three-minutes behind the M25-29. Water temperature was 78-degrees, and I wave happy that I'd brought the sleeveless options for my wetsuit (one of the nice things about the Desoto 2-piece is you can swap out tops).

The 1-mile swim (same distance as Reston) was fairly uneventful. I was swimming 25km weeks from November until April, when I fell off the wagon and struggled to get 8km. Just in the last two weeks have I gotten back into serious swimming, and even that little bit helped. I positioned myself at the front of the wave and sprinted out ahead of the group for the first 150m. Niiiice. No banging, no smacking. From there I eased into a more reasonable race pace and picked up some fast feet until first buoy. There we hit the tail end of the first wave, and I couldn't find those feet. I had one of my best races in terms of sighting and finished in 22:05 (16th OA, 1st=18:13). The finish takes you to a dock with a re-enforced, rubber-covered plywood ramp that descends into the water. Getting out was pretty easy if you used all four limbs.

I was really happy with my swim. I saw Sorensen leaving transition about 10 seconds ahead of me, and he's a pretty good swimmer (21:52). Van Lierop beat me out of the water at Wilkes-Barre and Nationals by 4:00 and 3:00 respectively. I was within 1:30 of him here. Still, my goal for this year was to not lose more than 2:30 to the winning swim time, so there's more work to do. Fortunately, I think there's room for improvement if I keep up the swim volume.

The swim timing mats are closer to the water than they are to the bike racks, which is a good thing since the bike racks are like 800m away! Mostly nice grassy surface for the longish run. I am no longer going to use the pre-clipped-shoe transition trick, especially if I have a wetsuit on (I have to sit to get out of my wetsuit, so why not throw on the shoes?). As I headed out of transition, I passed FOUR guys in less than 200m, all of 'em dorking around with getting their feet into their shoes. Two of 'em nearly crashed mid-dork. One of these nearly took me out. If you're gonna pull this trick, practice practice practice. Don't endanger yourself or, worse, others.

So I hit the main road thru Perryville, in the midst of the first wave. I'm cruising by lots of guys. Ahead of me there are 5, now 8, now 10 guys missing the Roundhouse turn. No one takes it. WTF? I think? Did I NOT figure this out? Did I scope out the wrong route? I look down Roundhouse. No one is in sight. I look down the main road. Twelve bikers. I go straight. In 20 seconds, I know it's a mistake. We cruise on, I start to soft-pedal a bit. But wait, there's a cop! Maybe this is it.

"Err, I dunno, there's a red line painted THAT WAY," I hear the cop holler. Obviously, this is the run marker. I'd pre-run the some of the run course, and the arrows point into the gravel road.

<EXPLETIVES> ... I'm at a dead stop, looking around with a six other guys. After about 10 seconds, I say, "Forget this! I know how to get to the course." An take off like a mad man. I probably hit the highest flat-road speed I've ever hit in my life as I headed back to the turn (37 mph). I couldn't hold it that long, but it helped work out the frustration. Luckily, I entered the bike course at the same point I left it, so there would be no penalty (not that there was anyone there to see, or even to direct us on to the course ...)

After I hit the turn, I went about 3/4 mile before I saw another cyclist ahead of me. At the next turn (before a mother of a hill), I stopped and, as calmly as I could, said "You really need to get someone at the top of this street. DOZENS of people are going right by it." The volunteers nodded ... I thanked them and, with that, I clipped in and pedaled up the nasty little hill.

Now, back in race mode, I started passing by people from the third wave. The bike course is spectacular, and it has a little bit of everything: two juicy climbs (one early on and one MONSTER toward the very end), rollers, flats. At 27 miles it's a long course, but it is a "natural" loop course and worth the extra effort. Previewing the course the night before, I was a little worried about traffic. But Saturday morning the roads were nearly empty. The road surface was nearly perfect except for the flat stretch that followed the river into the town of Port Deposit. In Port Deposit a nasty little utility hole tried to swallow my race wheels, but I saved the day with a quick bunny hop. Oh, the cramps! from landing.

I passed a two more guys in Port Deposit before hitting The Hill. This is a bugger of a climb, especially if you haven't seen it before. The meat of the climb is about one-half mile long, but after it evens out a bit it kicks and keeps going and going before you finally turn off. If you do this race in the future, don't check out of this climb mentally until you make the turn.

Earlier in the bike I was questioning my selection of a 12-25 cogset (700 wheels); I found myself between gears quite a bit on the flats. Once I hit the hill I was pretty happy to have the 25. That is, until, in desperation, I hit the lever looking for more gear ... and found one! I'd been in my 23 for the majority of the climb. I think most folks would do very well to have a 25 for this course, but if you're strong and in shape (i.e. Dave Glover) then a 23 is probably sufficient.

I felt great on the bike; I haven't done much biking in the last month, at least not for me. On the bike I consumed one water bottle and one bottle of Carbo Pro. Usually I have about half a bottle of liquid carbs left over with this setup, but not today.

I raced about 6 beats lower than my racing heart rate last year, and that seems about right. I'm generally stronger than last year, and I can get those six beats back once I start speed training. I just cannot tolerate the sustained hard stuff right now. The good news is that my fast-aerobic pace is damn close to my sustained hard pace from last year! Yay! One interesting note: average RPM was 106. I'm not sure where I picked up this habit of high cadence, but I felt slow at anything less than 100 RPM. One good thing about a high cadence is that I have more room within a gear. That is, on the flats or uphills, if I want more power, I can push harder and drop the cadence down to 90 or less, without having to shift.

I finished the bike, officially in 1:14:48/21.7 mph (1st=1:12:55). By my odometer, I traveled 30.2 miles/24.3 mph. In talking with the first 7 or 8 guys across the line, pretty much everyone went off course, some people twice. In the end, I think it was pretty much a wash. Oh well.

The run is pancake flat, an out-and-back along the riverside and then into a small community of townhouses. There was a gravel section about one-half mile out from the park. There's also some sections of sidewalk that were a wee-bit narrow, but not horrible. The run course had some shade and some sun, but it seemed like more sun that shade.

Heading out to the turn around I saw Martin & Van Lierop (or so I thought) running neck-and-neck. I got a little excited when I saw a cone up ahead. Holy ???!!! I'm within a minute or so?! When I hit the cone I realized I wasn't near the turn-around at all. Oh well, it was a fun thought. After the turn-around I saw Eric and then Troy trucking along, which I think helped me to push the pace up a bit. It was getting hot, and I wanted to finish. When I hit the gravel road I dropped the hammer ... much further away from the finish line than I thought, but that was probably a good thing, because I kept that pace almost the whole way in for a time of 31:10 (1st=28:30). I think the run was a bit long ... That was the longest .5 mile from 2.0 to the turn around.

Dunno what happened up front ... I think Van Lierop broke and this guy Chris Crosby had a smoking run (I thought I would be within 3 minutes of him and take third). It was an exciting finish ... I wish I could have been there. My fitness wasn't sufficient to get me to the front of the first wave, but if I'd trusted myself, my preparation might have put at least close enough to see the finish. Oh well. It's just a race, it was a beautiful day, and a great course.

Lessons Learned
I wasn't the strongest athlete there, but I was the best prepared. Just because everyone else jumps off a bridge doesn't mean I have to. I have to learn to trust myself.

I tried something new ... there's an old mantra: Never try anything new on race day. Well, it should be, Never try anything new on an A-race day. Diamond was a solid B-race for me, so I tried to race without sunscreen. The thinking was that a) I would be done by 10 a.m. and b) sunscreen inhibits natural cooling mechanisms. During the bike I was a little concerned, feeling a bit cooked. However, it worked for me, but on a bike course with more sun I would have chose differently.

Trust yourself, a different way ... I did my traditional pre- race-day bike with mostly easy miles punctuated with some hard 5-minute pushes. Whoa, I was floored at how well I was biking after taking most of June off, including two weeks of nearly zero training.

Putting shoes on, then clipping in, is superior to all but the most perfect pre-clipping of shoes. Even then, I would say the difference is minimal.

This is a great race venue. Given it's the first incarnation of the race, I'm willing to give the Race Director the time to better coordinate his volunteers. With that, it will be a classic; the venue is just perfect. To all those people who were complaining about the bike course (no RATS, mind you, nor any of the top finishers I talked to) all I have to say is this: if it is important enough to yell at someone, then it is important enough to take responsibility for yourself. I've never had sympathy for people who go off-course and, now having fallen prey to the situation myself, I still do not.