My second Olympic-length triathlon of the season was the Silicon Valley International Triathlon held at San Jose’s Lake Almaden. Teammate Bingels and I did the Olympic-length tri on Sunday after his wife Jingels did her first sprint triathlon the day before. I had an okay swim, fast bike, and started the run with stomach cramps. I ended up finishing 11 minutes shy of my 2:30 goal. Bummer dude.
Race: Silicon Valley International Triathlon
Course: 1.5km (0.93mi) swim, 40km (24.9mi) bike, 10km (6.2mi) run
Overall: 2:41:21, 261st/726 racers (64th percentile)
Swim: 29:42, 287th place (60th percentile)
T1: 2:41, 335th place (54th percentile)
Bike: 1:12:29, 142nd place (80th percentile)
T2: 1:43, 288th place (60th percentile)
Run: 54:47, 424th place (42nd percentile)
After the Wildflower I was totally psyched about my next triathlon. I had suffered a number of setbacks like not defogging my goggles and swimming around like a drunk trying to stumble a straight line, not drinking enough before the start and cramping my left leg in the swim, and sucking pretty hard on the run. Even with these challenges I finished in 2:57, just under my three-hour goal.
The Silicon Valley course is supposed to be super fast, so I set an aggressive 2:30 goal. I figured if I could improve my swim by five minutes, my bike by 10 minutes, and my run by 10 minutes, while also shaving off some time in the transitions, I might be able to break 2:30. It sounded like a good plan: get faster in all disciplines and generally perform at a higher level. Awesomeness here I come! The bike was advertised as “one of the fastest courses available”, so sure, no problem, sign me up for a 29-minute reduction in my times.
I met Bingels and Jingels in San Jose and we drove the bike section of the course and it looked pretty flat. I mean, the Prius had no problems with any of the hills. Even with three people inside! We ignored the one monster hill and the long gently-upward-sloping 10 miles before the hill. Lots of nice downhill to finish up the ride. Funny how there seemed to be more downhill than uphill.
We had a great homemade dinner with the Ingel’s friends Kevin and Shannon. It was so yummy I had two gigantic plates of pasta. Brad was drinking a whole bunch of beer and I was so totally enjoying the thought of him throwing it up the next day that I forgot that I shouldn’t be jamming as much pasta down my gullet as possible. I didn’t get the memo until later, but it turns out that scientific research has totally debunked the awesomeness of the carbo-loading process. It turns out eating 3.5lbs of pasta isn’t necessary for a short little Olympic tri. It’s not necessary for anything. It just makes you fatter and heavier and slower and crampier.
Bingels insisted on getting up at like 4AM. For a 7AM start. When we were staying only 15 minutes from the start. Jenni agreed to the plan but then refused to get up, so I tormented her by going in and out of the hotel room about a million times while we loaded Brad’s truck. I didn’t bring a room key with me so I would bang on the door each time. Hahaha. Even with an hour of dilly-dallying we were fifth or sixth in line at the pits when they opened at 5:30AM.
We setup our pits and I need put in a shout-out to my awesome teammate who had totally scoped out the situation the day before and figured out the ideal pit location that would minimize unnecessary running back-and-forth. The SVIT pit arrangement includes one-way sections that are a little confusing. We racked up our bikes, laid out our shoes, and chilled for another hour and a half. I’m not so pleased at my over-eager teammate who had us getting ready so early.
Bingels also convinced me to have a caffeine pill. I think the only reason he succeeded in getting me to try something new – ON RACE DAY – is because I was totally tired and full of pasta. Trying a new fueling strategy on race day is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. It’s something that everyone knows not to do. Why would you change your routine on the day your performance will be tested? Dumb dumb dumb.
Making matters worse is that I don’t drink coffee or tea and rarely drink caffeinated pop drinks. Oh, plus Bingels took all my non-caffeinated Gu and left me eating more and more caffeine. So I’m pretty sure the nervous eye twitch and uncontrollably-racing heart-rate may have negatively affected my performance.
Eventually the sun came up and we meandered down to the Lake Almaden beach-front start. It’s a beautiful place, wonderful golf-course-like grass with smooth fine sand leading to the crap-filled Mercury-laden soupy water. I didn’t realize the water was so bad until everyone in my start was talking about Mercury poisoning and goose poo.
The pros set off and were already around the first buoy before Brad’s second wave started. They got the gun and were off. Well, most of them were off. Bingels didn’t want to get punched or kicked so waited a minute for everyone else to swim off ahead of him. Interesting strategy in a race. I was hoping to bump into him on the swim so I could give him a good luck punch or kick.
I positioned myself at the right pin end and got a good start, much less panicky than my performance at Wildflower. I was bumped, punched and kicked a few times, but I held my rhythm and managed to get through the worst of it without freaking out. I settled down and started working on twisting my hips, reaching further forward, and bending my wrists sharply to propel myself through the water faster. I think I need to keep working on this because whenever my mind would wander, which, frankly, is often, I would find myself flapping around ineffectually.
I think I’m getting better at swimming in a straight line. I used the same sun-angle-on-my-goggles trick I discovered at the Wildflower, but I noticed I was making fewer course corrections. I even cut back on spending time looking where I was going and spent more time just swimming away.
I had fewer ‘oh crap I’m never going to finish’ thoughts and I have to say that I felt pretty good. I had enough left in the tank on the final leg of the swim to dig a little deeper and push hard to the finish. I don’t know if it helped me go any faster, but it sure helped me get my I’m-in-pain face on. Check it out.
I was in and out of T1 in 2:41. It felt like a long time. I think I need to investigate a sock-less bike shoe strategy. Except my feet get cold, so maybe I’ll just train putting socks on faster. I just bought an awesome new aero helmet, you can kinda see it in this picture.
I came out of the pits FAST. I looked down half a mile into the ride and was riding at 28mph with a 26mph average! Uhoh, that’s not sustainable. I backed off a little and tried to pace myself at 25mph on the flat section. I found myself passing other riders with an awesome regularity.
Opponents would appear on the horizon and I would hit them with the tractor beam, eat up the distance between us, and hit them with a decisive pass. I always like to push a little extra hard during a pass to break the will of anyone who might want to keep up. I was passed by two or three guys on the 15 miles before Bailey Hill. In each case I tried to stick with them for a while (outside the draft zone, of course) but was eventually unsuccessful.
Bailey Hill started very quickly. Maybe riding it beforehand had psyched me out, but I found myself spinning my granny gear right away and was passed by four guys who booted it uphill like they were on fire. They were hopping in and out of the saddle and were quickly out of sight. I kept my cadence up and slowly but surely spun my way up the hill. It wasn’t too steep or too long, maybe I could have pushed a lot harder here.
At the top of the hill was the SVIT-advertised water station. Whew, I was looking forward to getting some water! But wait. It wasn’t a water station. It was a table with several hundred Aquafina water bottles on it. There was no one there. Water bottles had been knocked off the table and littered the ground around the table. I tried to thread the dangerous landmine bottles and grab some water at the same time but at the last minute chose to abort my grab rather than crash and eat asphalt.
It kinda sucked. Come on, SVIT couldn’t get one wonderful volunteer to work the ONLY water station on the course? With the $160 fees we’re paying to race I want some well-paid scantily-clad coed handing me ice cold pre-opened water bottles! Self-serve water? On a 25-mile all-out bike race? Crazy.
I hammered the downhill and saw speeds up to 40mph on some sections. It took me almost 15 minutes of tractor beaming but I caught and passed one of the guys who had passed me earlier in the race, which I felt good about, and I rocketed into T2 on totally worn-out legs. I finished the 24.9 mile course in 1 hour, 12 minutes, and 29 seconds, which puts me at an average pace of 20.63m/h. Yes, I suppose this is a little faster than Wildflower, but I would not characterize this as a super fast course. There’s gotta be something flatter.
Time to run, bitches! Despite my mental commands I knew I was in for a world of hurt when my legs refused to obey my orders and I barely managed to unclip from the bike. I almost fell into the dude working the bike in section. I hobbled back to the pit.
My T2 time was okay but I wasn’t feeling great. I had eaten another caffeinated Gu just before coming into the transition and it was sitting in my stomach funny. I drank some sugar-water and tried to stretch my feet apart as I ran out of the pits. Amelia and Andy were there cheering me on with cowbells as I went out the chute. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have someone cheering for you – especially when they’ve also got cowbells!
I made it around the next corner and my stomach shut me down. I was cramping and hurting pretty badly. I’m not sure if I could have pushed through it if I had dug deeper, but it doesn’t matter because I didn’t dig deeper, I gave up and started walking.
I hate walking. As soon as you walk once you’re screwed. Your brain figures out it can make the hurt stop, and so it then becomes harder and harder to run without walking. I try to force myself to walk for only ten paces before starting to run again, or I’ll do little tricks like trying to jog-walk instead of just walking.
The hurt was definitely in my gut. My legs weren’t feeling great but they had something left. I didn’t have a stitch, I felt bloated and crampy. It sucked. I started running again but I was super slow and totally discouraged.
The mental aspect of defeat was eating at me and I was in a pretty miserable place. Other racers were streaming past me, probably laughing to themselves about how the fast bike guy bonked on the run. I was passed by fast guys and girls, medium guys and girls, and one or two really slowpokes lumbered by me. It sucked. It wasn’t until the third mile that I started to recover. By this point I had walked three times, once for almost a minute.
I dunno but suddenly something good happened. I just started running faster and my stomach stopped bothering me. Let’s be serious here, I was still running pretty slowly, but I was feeling soooo much better. I was powerful. Invincible, maybe.
The heat was also starting to affect me. I was now splashing more water than drinking it in the excellent aid stations. I pushed on.
The last few miles felt pretty good. My legs were feeling better and my gut was pain-free. I finished with a nice sprint.
My run time was 54:47, which really sucked. I can run a 10k ten minutes faster without trying too hard! My time works out just faster than 9-minute miles! If we assume that I was running super-sucky 10-minute miles for the first three miles, my comeback in the second half would be something like 7.5-minute miles. Now that’s not good, but it’s better.
I finished the triathlon in 2:41:21, which was 11 minutes and 21 seconds slower than my goal of 2:30. I know what I need to do before the next race: get faster. I’m going to work the run, this is clearly where I am weakest and I have the most to gain. Plus this is where Bingels says he’s eventually going to beat me (he didn’t meet his 3:00 goal either, but he improved much more than I did versus the Wildflower).