Saturday was the Beaver Freezer sprint triathlon, in Corvallis, Oregon. I’ve done it as a relay twice before (5K in 2006 and bike in 2011) and this would be my second solo run at it (first was 2013). I’ve been looking forward to this race since last year, and I had high hopes of crushing last years’ time.
The race itself is a 500yd swim, 12 mile bike, and 5K run. The swim is indoor (pool), the ride course is mostly flat (a couple long ascents, nothing major), and a looping 5K (with an ugly hill each lap). The OSU Triathlon Club puts on the race, and this year they had a new race directory, Blair Bronson. Blair is a great guy, and runs Best in the West Events. He knows tri and he knows how to run a helluva race. I was super excited to hear that he’d taken over as RD this year…and it showed in the coordination of the volunteers, traffic control, and the whole event.
I got to campus at about 7:20am, parked the truck, rounded up my gear, and made the short walk over to transition. I made the mistake of gabbing with the volunteer doing the body marking, so she got my number wrong initially, but we laughed it off and she fixed it well. Found the rack for my wave (Wave 4) and setup my gear. I didn’t use mah bucket this time, but instead confined myself to a duffel and backpack. The ground had mostly dried from the previous nights’ rain, so I didn’t worry about plastic bags…I was crossing my fingers that the weather would behave for the rest of the event (or at least as long as I was on course).
Once I had everything situated, I still had an hour before my heat started, so I chatted with the guys around me; turns out, Blair’s dad, Ken Bronson, racked his bike right next to me! That was pretty cool; we chatted for a bit, and wished each other luck (turns out I would only come in a few minutes behind Ken in the end).
I headed into Dixon at about 8:00am to watch the other waves start and see how the pool setup was done. Everything was moving well, and very well organized. I headed into the locker room and dropped the rest of my gear and was back on deck by about 8:35am. The volunteer in charge of the pool area called my wave together and went over how things were going to work…all very thorough. Headed to my lane and got ready to start.
I was with other 11:00 guys, four of us to a lane. We chatted a bit before our start, seemed like we were all in about the same skill level, so we figured there may be a little passing.
The gun goes off at 8:45am sharp, and we’re off. I was first out, with the second guy five seconds behind me, and another guy every five seconds after that, until all four of us were off the wall. I started my pace quick, but not overly fast (remember, I’m not a great swimmer). Within two lengths, I got tapped to be passed, so I hung at the wall and let a couple guys pass me. I started swimming again, and realized I was running up on the guy in front of me…who was in turn running into the guy in front of him. So I had to switch to breaststroke for several lengths before my tapping resulted in me passing.
I finally get passed the other guys, and I’m way out in front (I took a couple glances over my shoulder, to make sure I wasn’t going to get run over, trying to be a good lane-mate). I finally get told I’m on my last length, and look back to see the closest guy a full length behind me. I sped up a little bit, made it to the wall, and popped out. I hit the Lap button on my 910 as I hit the chip mat, and briefly saw 10-something before running into transition (I figured this had to be wrong, since I know the distance it recorded was wrong, due to changing strokes mid-length a couple times).
Transition is always tough…there’s just no getting around it. You come out of water, your disoriented, and then you have to run to your gear and attempt to get it all on…in order (this is key). Socks went on ok, shoes too. Sunglasses and helmet next. Opted for the road vest, since it was still a bit cool (see more on that in “what didn’t work” below). Skipped the gloves, because of time; also left my race belt behind (I’d planned to put it on for the bike so I wouldn’t have to worry about it in T2…next time).
Trotted out of transition and mounted my bike; locked in my right shoe on the second rotation, left on the third. Stood up and put some distance between myself and transition as quick as I could.
Left on Campus Way, right on 35th, left on Harrison. Shifted to my big ring and got down to brass tacks. Took my Gu packet a couple miles out, per my plan; I wanted it post-swim, but didn’t want to do it until I was on a flat/straight section. Turned right on 53rd and maintained my speed pretty well, passed a couple people, got passed by a couple, too (mostly very tall guys with long legs…bastards…:)). About halfway up 53rd, I decided to drop to my small ring to save some energy; I decided the speed sacrifice was worth it…I wanted something left for the run later, and I knew that I’d have two downhill sections to make up some time.
Got to the turn around (after passing more riders) and put it back into the big ring. My five-mile notice buzzed on my Garmin and said I was 17:19 in at that point; not bad. Turned right on Harrison/Oak Creek and headed west. Dropped into the small ring about a mile in, to save energy again. Steady climb west continued on Oak Creek to the turnaround at Tanager (complete with the ugly little stand-up-in-your-pedals hills). Got some good speed heading back east, climbed the last rise on Oak Creek, and got into the big ring again. Shifted up and went into my drops to get more aero.
Crossed 53rd at a good speed, because traffic was actually being stopped very effectively by the volunteers (THANK YOU!). It was at this point that I realized I was feeling quite a bit of drag and realized that my wind vest had become a drag-chute. Kept my speed up on the way in (best I could with said parachute), only got passed by one person (who I had passed on an earlier climb). Right on 35th, left on Campus Way, right on 26th (watching out for squirrels…damn near hit one in 2011). Dismounted, headed into transition.
This is where I didn’t hit my Lap button, apparently; thought I felt the confirming vibration, but apparently not. Clip-clop (cycling shoes on asphalt sounds exactly like horseshoes on cobble stones) ran to my spot and racked my bike. The wind vest had rebelled and unzipped from the bottom at this point, so I tore it off at that point (I was irritated). Helmet and bike shoes off, running shoes on (single knot), race belt on, ran towards the timing mat.
Hit my Lap button to start the run, realized it was showing as Transition still, so I hit it again just after I crossed the mat to get in Run mode. Grrrr. Up to Jefferson, left at the cones, right on 26th. They had a lane established for the runners to keep them the hell away from the bikes. Wound up running next to a lady I ran with last year (she recognized my tri suit). We wished each other luck, and I pulled ahead. At this point I was still really tight from the bike and running about 8:20ish. Right on Campus Way, right on 15th (had a couple volunteers cheering me on…”the chess guy!”), right on Jefferson, up that damn hill in front of the library. Mile one came out to 8:21 per my Garmin.
Rinse and repeat…lost some speed on mile two for some reason (I vaguely remember slowing down); came out to 8:25. I decided to drop the hammer on mile three and steadily increased my speed. Mile three was 7:58, and the last .1 mile was 6:35 as I sprinted to the finish.
Now for the “tough love” section of this report!
What went right
1. I beat last year’s time by 17 minutes; 2013 was 1:41, this year 1:24. 19/37 in my age group. Works for me. Room for improvement, but still awesome. Here’s a little comparison between 2013 and 2014:
2. Garmin Forerunner 910XT. This was my first race with this watch, and it worked great. If I’d been able to swim more consistently (see above), it would have recorded the strokes and distance perfectly. Everything else was spot-on, and only operator-error was a concern.
3. My gear transport. As I mentioned above, I didn’t use the bucket this time, but a duffel and backpack. While that worked well, it would have been nice to only have one bag to worry about. I’m either going to look at getting a TYR Convoy Transition backpack, or a large ALICE pack.
4. Nutrition on-course. Only needed one Gu packet, but had three. Felt really good from a no-bonk standpoint.
5. Other gear: this was my first race with my new road shoes, and they were awesome (with the caveat below). Running shoes were likewise fantastic. Tri kit was great as well. Bike handled fine, though I did discover a bulge in my tire afterward…glad that didn’t go while I was on-course…
What went wrong
There were several things that were less than awesome during this race…
1. Bike shoes…took longer than I would have liked to put them on in transition
2. Wind vest on the ride…turned into a goddamn parachute on the return ride; while it may not have impacted my time beyond a few seconds, it was annoying
3. Lap button after the bike…didn’t hit my Lap button fully when I entered T2, so I recorded a seven second transition as I entered the run
4. Legs were really sluggish coming off the bike onto the run…felt heavier than usual
5. The weather…
What I can do about it
1. I’m going to try training with my shoes on my pedals during transition and velcro-ing them up after mounting my bike; we’ll see how it goes…
2. I’m going to see about getting a long-sleeve jersey, or arm warmers, that match my tri kit, so that I have something more form-fitting when it gets cool
3. This is just practice; this was my first race with the 910XT, and as I mentioned above, it handled admirably…no complaints beyond user-error
4. More brick workouts. I only did one (last Sunday) since XTERRA Portland last August. This was a bad idea. I’ll be doing several more prior to Heart of the Valley at the end of May
5. Not a darn thing; part of racing and training in the Pacific Northwest is dealing with wind, snow, rain, etc.
All-in-all, this was a fantastic season opener race. I’m thrilled with my time, and have some things to work on before my next tri at the end of May.