Saturday, July 17, 2010

Door County Sprint Triathlon Race Report and results

On Friday morning I headed to Door County, Wisconsin for my first race since having surgery on April 27th. This race would be a test of where my fitness is currently at after three solid weeks of training. Jen and I decided a couple weeks ago we didn't want to take the entire family because it is nearly a seven hour drive and with 2 young kids that would be rough. I booked a hotel in Green Bay, which I thought was an hour from the race site. It was about 80 dollars a night cheaper than staying in Door County and with an 8:00 a.m. race time start I don't mind driving an hour the morning of a race. After arriving on Friday I checked out the only cool place I know of in Green Bay, Lambeau Field. Although I'm not a Packers fan it was cool to see their stadium. The town of Green Bay isn't very big. It was like driving through Davenport and then BANG...out of nowhere is this gigantic staidum.
My wake up call came at 4:15 this morning. I was hoping to eat a small breakfast and head out between 4:45 and 5:00, arriving at the race course around 6. I was not familiar with the course since I have never done this race and I still needed to pick up my race packet and take care of the million logistical things that need to be taken care of at a triathlon as well as getting in a really good warm up since a sprint race requires the body to be prepared to go fast from the beginning. The race was sold out with 1,000 entrants. After breakfast and packing the car I revved up the Corolla engine at exactly 5:00. I turned on the GPS since I had no idea how to get to the race site and my mouth dropped when I saw the estimated travel time at 2 hrs. 3 minutes!! That would put me there less than an hour before the race without a packet. I was in full panic mode as I followed the directions to the on ramp of the highway. Oh crap...the ramp was closed! The GPS did not comprehend that and the nice female voice kept telling me to "turn around when possible." I was really freaking out now. My estimated arrival time was now up to 7:15. I started thinking I may miss this race not knowing if they closed packet pickup at 7:00 or not. About 10 minutes later I found an alternative way to the highway and I started putting the pedal down, drafting behind every fast car that passed me. I watched the estimated arrival time begin to drop and realized the old GPS unit we have thought this 4 lane highway I was cruising on was only 2 lanes with a much slower speed limit than it actually was. I could tell the road was pretty new and thankfully the drive was MUCH quicker than my old GPS friend told me. I arrived in plenty of time at 6:20. It was quick to get my packet, rack my bike, change into my jersey and begin the warmup.
SWIM: I began the race in the elite wave and it was quite crowded since they let anyone who wanted race in that wave. There were about 60 of us on the start line. I walked my way up front so I wouldn't have to swim over people. The swim was only 450 yards but it would prove to be a unique challenge to me. The wind was blowing pretty hard into the shore of Green Bay and it created much bigger waves than I've ever swam in before during a triathlon. You could feel the waves pulling your body in and out with the tide. It also made it much more difficult to see up front. When the horn sounded I started swimming hard. I wanted to get out of the mess that big wave starts can be with people kicking and paddling all over each other. The first bouey was going to be toughest to get to because we were swimming directly into the waves. I saw one guy out to a big lead early and knew that must be defending champ Mark Hauser who is an outstanding swimmer. I was hoping to keep his gap to around 1 minute through the swim. After Mark I was with the chase pack. I was trying to get a draft but couldn't see anyone around me. Just before we went around the first bouey I turned to breath and got a huge mouth full of water due to the wave timing my breath to perfection. For the first time I can remember I panicked in the open water a bit. I reminded myself to calm down and get a few good breaths and started swimming steady again. After making the turn back towards shore the waves were less of an issue and I could see one guy about 10 yards ahead of me. I wanted to try to put in a surge and get on his feet to draft. I worked hard for a couple minutes and caught him but I was shot. I realized I had been pulling about 4 guys behind me and in the last 100 yards they all went by me. By my best guess I was 7th out of the water in my wave which was a great swim for me. The results haven't been posted on the website so I'm not sure what my overall swim ranking was but I felt good about it when scanning the top times after the race. I think I was just over 6 minutes. Mark Hauser was about 1:05 ahead of me through the swim. I had a great transition and was the 4th guy out on the bike.
BIKE: I knew from my 4 mile warm up ride that the bike ride would be really fast. The wind off the lake was pretty well blocked by trees the entire way and the road was nearly dead flat and it was out and back with the only turn being at the turnaround. It was an 18 mile ride with the turnaround 1/2 way into that. I started putting power into the pedals early on hoping to bring the top 3 guys back to me. At one point I could faintly see the lead car. At about mile 4 I passed a guy to move into 3rd place. I could see 2nd but not 1st. 2nd was riding really tough and I was not gaining at all. The gap stayed pretty even until about mile 6 when I decided I needed to move up the effort and really work as hard as I could to pull him back. I kept telling myself if I can pull him back I'll sit 10 meters back and recover with the slight draft you get at that distance. The legal draft distance is 7 meters and I do not race inside that but beyond that is not only legal but smart because there is still a slight benefit. I caught him just before the turnaround at mile 9 and I sat back 10-15 meters. It wasn't as much of a recovery as I hoped as he kept the pace really high. At one point he slowed down and I passed him and he rode behind me for about 2 miles. He also stayed well out of the draft zone. He went back by me around mile 14 and I was content to sit back and let him have the lead into T2. We were slowly pulling back multi-time defending champ Mark Hauser. We entered the transition area nearly dead even. Mark's lead was down to about 7 seconds on us and I felt good about my chances on the run. When I saw the results after the race I found out I had the fastest bike split and my computer had my average speed at 26.3 mph which would be the fastest I've ever ridden a course. I rode the Zipp 1080 front wheel and the Zipp Sub-9 disc on the rear. The combination proved to ride extremely smooth and fast. I can really tell a huge difference at high speeds when it feels like the bike has a motor on it. I'm glad to be rolling on Zipps!
Transition 2: I typically don't make a seperate section for transitions but this is where things began to fall apart for me. Immediately after getting off the bike I got 2 GIGANTIC simultaneous cramps in both hamstrings. I hobbled to my rack and put my bike up knowing this was not going to be good unless the cramps went away quickly. I bent over to get my shoes and I got another huge cramp in my lower ab muscle...oh crap. I quickly stood up tall and leaned back to get that cramp to subside. I slowly bent back over praying it would not return. It did not and I got my shoes on but my hamstrings were still really angry with me. I began to shuffle like a 90 year old who was missing his walker towards the transition exit but I was in major pain. I thought about the time I had hamstring cramps in my first ever olympic distance race and Jen was outside transition yelling at me to quit being a baby. I knew from that experience I had to keep going in hopes they would go away. I finally got out of Transition 2 and onto the run but damage in the race had begun in what is now my worst transition ever.
RUN: After hobbling onto the run course I began to think I may not be able to finish. My legs were screaming at me to stop. I was determined to finish even if it meant crawling along at this 20:00/mile pace. My good friend Stephan Marsh who is doing the 1/2 Ironman tomorrow was watching and he asked me if I was okay. He was worried about my achilles tendon but that was not my concern at the moment. I stopped and stretched my hamstrings. It was the only thing I could think might make things better. After stretching them I began shuffling along and it didn't take more than a few tenths of a mile before the cramps started subsiding and I began feeling like a runner. By 1/2 mile in my cramps were totally gone and my legs felt good. It's amazing how quickly you can turn around something like that. Along with the cramps being gone were also the chances of winning the race. I looked up once I started getting into a running rhythm and I was at least a minute behind the top two guys, probably more like a 1:30. I had on the GPS watch and I was able to run about 5:55 pace the rest of the way. I finished 3rd overall which I feel pretty good about. If not for the cramping I would have had a chance for a great running battle with those guys and it would have been fun. I can't say I would have won but it certainly would have been fun to have the chance to race with them. Complete results with splits can be found at Fellow Team Tri-Fit member Jason Gravert had his best race ever and I was really excited for him. After arriving back in Green Bay I treated myself with my favorite post-race treat...the Dairy Queen hot fudge/peanut butter sundae! Tomorrow morning I'm headed back to Door County to do the swim and bike portions of the 1/2 Ironman Race. I debated afterwards about just going to watch Stephan but I need the training and experience. I am undecided how much, if any, of the run I'm going to do. It depends a little on how my achilles feels in the morning. It was very minimal discomfort today and never got worse. If I do some of the run I have no plans of running the entire 13.1 miles. I wouldn't mind getting my weekly long run in which is supposed to be 7 miles this week. The comeback has begun...Thanks for reading! DREAM BIG!


LeeAnn H. said...

Great story...and well written too. My palms are sweating and I was on the edge of my seat. Sorry about the cramps but WOW what a comeback!

Jeff Paul said...

Thanks LeeAnn! I'm looking forward to seeing the awesome progress you make at Crossroads! Keep working hard.