Sunday, April 29, 2007

Race Report: CSULB

Today's race was a quick and dirty sprint in Long Beach, and the last race of our collegiate season, which means my last race with my team. We met to depart campus at 5:30, but had a couple of oversleepers, so we didn't leave until 6:15. Arrived around 6:45. Wheeled ourselves over to transition.

Now, a word about the race itself. It was small. The field was less than 200 people. But there was definitely competition, as UCSB and UCLA both brought some of their top competitors. No timing chips, no swim caps, no little stickers for our helmets. The race had a very grassroots feel, with a wide variety of competitors. The distances were 3.5 mile run, 12 mile bike, 400 M swim (yeah, a reverse sprint).

Coming into the race, I felt a little out of it, and I wasn't the only one. On the drive over, Renee and I were chatting. Neither of us got much sleep last night; our brains were too full. I have to admit, my preparation wasn't the greatest. By which I mean I went to a friend's birthday party last night and stayed out until 1 a.m. When I finally got into bed (about 1:15), I had trouble falling asleep. I think I only got two hours of sleep last night, and not particularly quality hours at that.

And the season has been long. Renee has raced pretty much every weekend for the past couple months, and I've been out every other week or so. It's exhausting; it's been a long haul; and today, in the face of all that work and achievement and disappointment, this little bitty sprint tri just didn't seem to matter that much. It seemed more like an extended workout with a little transition work thrown in.

But as the seconds ticked away, as I warmed up my legs with a short jog, as I pulled off my warm-ups and hit the bathroom for the last time, my mind somehow worked itself into race mode. In short, I couldn't wait to get out on the course and see what I could do this time.

The run began in the middle of an athletic field. All 200 competitors started at once in a mass sprint to get out onto the course. Last time I competed in one of these reverse sprints (at UCLA), I laid back on the first quarter mile, instead of sprinting all out with the rest of the field; I chose to try to run the whole run leg at the same pace. This time, I went all out on that first little sprint. I don't know if that was necessarily a better choice; I think that it was slightly better. It meant that I got passed by many more people than would normally pass me (because normally all the people who are faster than me are ahead of me at the very beginning), and I suppose that being passed by a couple dozen runners could be detrimental to my mental game. But because I was so fresh, I felt that I could handle that passing early on.

The run was challenging, with a large number of stairs, by which I mean eight to ten flights, gradually leading up to CSULB's upper campus. I worked very hard to hold off a few competitors who were right on my tail, put some space between them and me, and stay far in front of them. I also reeled in a few guys in the last mile or so, which gave me a nice boost of confidence. I don't know my official splits (or if they'll be available for this race, since there were no timing chips), but I estimate that I did the run in 30 minutes, which is a 8:34 mile, yo! That is, once again, a personal best. I don't think I've ever run a sub-9-minute mile!

My transition didn't go as well as I would have liked; it just felt slow. And I had trouble getting my shoes clipped in, which cost me more time at the mount line. Once I was out on the bike, it took me about half a mile to get up to a respectable speed (about 15 MPH), but from there I was able to bulid speed consistently. I tried to stay over 16 MPH on this short course (3 miles x 4 loops around campus, all closed course), and was often much faster than that. The course had one short hill that took about 1 minute to climb, but which slowed me down to 10 MPH even as I pushed myself really hard. My slowest was 9 MPH, right at the crest of that one hill, and my top speed was 30 MPH on one of the downhill. All-in-all, I felt very good about my bike; I estimate my split was 40 minutes, which means I averaged just under 18 MPH for the 12 miles.

The second transition I did quickly, efficiently, and quite well. I was very fatigued as I hopped into the pool, though. I tried to get good pushes off the wall and focus on smooth and efficient strokes. But, honestly, my swim was pretty weak. I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to my swim split, since at that point all I wanted to do was pass whomever I could and finish. But I estimate that I took 10-12 minutes to finish. Which means that I was swimming a 3:00 minute 100. Yikes. I am not, by any means, a fast swimmer, but 3:00/100 M in a pool is just sad. But beyond the actual time, I remember thinking at one point in my swim that it was so much harder to push myself, which tells me that I did not push myself; I coasted. And that is disappointing to me, even considering my fatigue and the fact that the sprint was reverse.

My final time was 1:25:23 (although that's probably a few seconds slower than I actually raced). My goal was to finish under 1:30. Also, as a bonus, I beat Anthony for the first time ever (he passed me on the bike, but I passed him on the swim). I don't feel like this race was as much of a breakthrough as UCSB was, but I definitely felt like I pushed myself and gave 95% of what I had today. I feel good about ending the collegiate season on this note, and I'm very ready to train hard for my next race, which is the Shawnee Mission Triathlon on July 8.

Edit:: My total split was 1:24:21, #88 out of 157.

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