Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Are you in good hands?

Note-this race report is full of bad puns, but before I get there, my friend needs a shout out.
Just a warning.

Greg, who I have mentioned several times before, just finished a half Ironman race in Muncie, Indiana. He finished as the second overall amateur, and 13th overall. This was his first attempt at the half ironman distance, and he destroyed it. His race report is here.

This past weekend, I did a "splash and dash" race down in Santa Cruz. One of the primary reasons why I wanted to do the race was it was an opportunity to finally meet my coach, Martin Spierings. He has been coaching me since the beginning of the year, but all of our interaction has taken place through email, gchatting, etc. So far I had been getting the esurance coaching plan, and I was looking  forward to meeting the man who was putting the details into my workouts.

Meeting the coach and one of his kids.

The race was also in the former home of my training buddy, Liz, and the splash and dash type of race is her speciality. She, her husband, and I all carpooled down the morning of the race. For the course, the race was a 1 mile swim (two laps around a set of buoys), and then a flat out and back 4 mile run.

When we got to the race site, the sky looked like this:
Super foggy. The sun did not make an appearance until well after the race was over.

It was colder than I anticipated on race morning. Temperatures were in the low 50s, with a water temperature around 56 degrees. If it were not for Liz mentioning to me a couple days before the race that she was borrowing a wetsuit, I might not have brought mine. Fortunately, I was prepared.

Pre-race, I grabbed my iphone and did a quick run to stretch out my legs. I had been training pretty hard the past two weeks (15 hours last week, and then 11 the week of the race), with a pretty hard run workout on Thursday morning. My legs felt super tight, and I found it difficult to find my rhythm for the first 10 minutes. Fortunately, my legs loosened up as my pump up music rattled through my head phones.
A lot of people are familiar with song "Remember the Name" by Fort Minor, but I like this one more. Note-uncensored.

I made my way back to the start and put on my wetsuit, made sure my stuff in transition was all together, and got some words of encouragement from my coach. Liz also provided some insight on the local competition, as she had raced against many of the competitors before. A few were fast swimmers, so don't expect to be in the lead after the swim was what I gathered from her information. I had also noticed a guy wearing a Flash t-shirt in the transition area, so I figured him to be quick.
If you ever want to make yourself a target before a race, wear this in the transition area.

At the race start line, a bunch of people got in the water to warm up. I knew that was a terrible idea. The water temperature and the air temperature meant that if I got in, I would have to get out and I would be freezing by the time the race started. I jumped around and waved my arms around in something that resembled circles to get my arms and legs race ready.

For the first time in my racing career, the swim started on land. This means that all the competitors were lined up on shore, and then had to run in and start swimming. This usually results in a higher number of crashes than a high school driver's ed course. People are running all over the place, some are running all out, some are jogging, and then when they hit the water, some start dolphin diving, others start swimming right away, and everyone just needs to switch to State Farm because after the end of the first 30 seconds, a fair number of athletes are going to need some body work done.
Here is a quick video on what dolphin diving is. With all the competitors doing it, it gets messy quickly.

When the gun went off, I took off, attempting to avoid the traffic mess that was sure to develop behind me. There a few others going out hard as well, and a leader group developed. One swimmer went out hard, and a triangle of other swimmers fell in behind. I was sitting in fourth, but on the outside of the group. I changed my angle a bit and "pushed" whoever was on the inside of me further in so that I could get in on the moving water. Note: I did not actually push, I just cut off. I am saving 15% or more with Geico.

The first few minutes of the swim were a little hectic. With the jostling for position, getting my body used to the cold water (if you haven't been in water below 60 degrees, it's cold). I forced a rhythm into my arms and stayed on the feet of the leaders.

The first lap I felt pretty solid, and stayed on the leaders' feet. The course was two laps, with a short run on to land to start the second lap. I figured that this would be to my advantage, as getting into and out of the water, I could dolphin dive. This is a skill that I regularly get to practice in lifeguard training. This was not the case though, as I was unfamiliar with the depth of the water coming into shore, and I started my dives to soon. This cost me about 10 seconds going into the second lap.

Going into the second lap, we were catching the second wave of swimmers who were sent off several minutes after my wave. The two swimmers who were in front of me went to the outside of the pack of swimmers; I decided to go through them. Why? The water was moving already, and if I was able to maneuver through the crowd, I would have more water moving in the right direction to drag me along. I hit some swimmers on the feet, but they were in good hands, and no major accidents occurred.

I hit the shore and got a shout out from my coach running into transition. I had two in front of me, one about 20 seconds, another about 30 seconds. I slipped out of my wetsuit as smoothly as I had in my races this season, and hit the run.

On the run, the two leaders were moving quickly. I realized that they were both identified to me pre race by Liz as being favorites to win. One was Pieter deHart, who has won his age group at the National Championships for Aquathlon (the technical name for a splash and dash) and was a silver medalist in his age group at the World Championships a few years ago (age group 30-34), and Yuta Sano, a former collegiate swimmer for UC Santa Cruz (mascot-the banana slugs). This information I did not have before the race started, but all I could hope for was that they fit the stereotype of swimmers being poor runners.

They most clearly did not. They took off on the run, and I started trucking after them. My legs felt great, and I knew that I was moving faster than I normally did. The time on the track was paying off. In the first mile, I had made up the ground on Yuta, but I had not made up any ground on Pieter. He was still in my sights, but I was getting frustrated that the gap wasn't closing.

At the turnaround, the gap between us was around 20 seconds. My first two miles were each about 6:10 pace, and I wasn't sure if I could push the pace anymore. On the way back, the other runners were encouraging me to catch him, which was a mental boost. I was unable to do my usual sharing of encouragement as I was putting everything I had into pulling the leader back.

Just after mile three, I had the gap down to 10 seconds. Martin was waiting just past the mile marker, and gave me a shout. From this point, I could see the finishing stretch. I pushed the tempo one more time and moved around Pieter. I kept the pace as high as I could, hoping that he didn't have the legs to go with me.

Behind by a few seconds...
Pushing to catch...
And finally, the catch.

Fortunately for me, he did not. I held on for the last half mile, checking over my shoulder a couple of times. I finished my run in 24:07, putting out ~6:02 miles for 4 miles. I walked up to where Martin was standing to cheer on Liz as she finished the course.

In the end, both Liz and I won the overall titles for the race, and we walked away with a coupon for a pair of sunglasses and some coupons for cash off future races with Finish Line Productions, who put on the race.
Potential savings with safe racing techniques.

1 comment:

  1. Great win! Back to esurance coaching.

    Couple of comments. 1) When swimming back to shore a good guide of when to start dolphining is when you can stretch and touch the sand with your hand.

    2) Your transition could be a fraction quicker if, once you have the wetsuit down past your knee, stomp on one leg while pulling out the other. Sometimes you still need to bend down and rip it off the ankle but sometimes it slips right off. Don't worry about stomping on the wetsuit and wrecking it. They never seem to tear once they're inside out.