Monday, July 16, 2012

Colonial Beach Triathlon race report -- 7/15/12


2:29:47. 2/13 AG (M50-54), 36/156 OA Male

Long Report:

I've always enjoyed the Colonial Beach tri. It's got a nice run and bike course, and I like the funky vibe of Colonial Beach, sort of a mini-beach town on the south bank of the Potomac. Debi, my coach, lives nearby in King George and is always a gracious host.  It's fun to hang out at her house with her and other triathletes the night before the race. I arrived late Saturday afternoon, had a delicious dinner (grilled chicken, asparagus, salad and pasta) with her family and friends before turning in around 930.

Up and at it early on Sunday, we drove down to the race site, where I scored a perfect parking spot abut 50 yards from transition (love these small-town races). Racked the bike, set up transition, and fired down a caffeinated gel about 20 minutes before the race, washed down with the remains of my morning bottle of Ironman Perform. It was going to be a hot one, so I'd been hydrating consistently all morning and the evening before. Then it was time to hit the beach for a quick warm up in the warm, 84-degree water.


My wave was third to go on the rectangular course. The course went straight out from shore for a couple of hundred yards, then turned right for a downstream leg. Another right, then a short leg towards the shore, where there was another right. Then back up against the current, and a left turn back to the shore to finish.

I could see from the first waves that the current was an issue, flowing steadily from left to right. I lined up on the left and hit the first buoy in pretty good shape, probably around the middle of the wave. After the turn the crowd thinned out and I had clear water downstream to the second turn. This longer leg flew by, so I knew it might take a while to take it back upstream. After rounding the next two buoys I started back up the course. This was the time to concentrate on the things I'd been working on with my stroke -- head down, core firm, rotate around the hips to engage the larger muscles. I was glad I'd been doing a fair amount of long-course swimming this summer to build my endurance.

My concentration on stying in control seemed to be working, as I caught a fair number of my wave who were fading. Finally it was time to turn for shore, and I swam it in until my hands hit bottom. Across the beach for a straight shot into transition.

Time: 35:45. 3/13 AG, 67/156 OA Male. Not good time-wise, but all the swim times were slowed by the current. I was satisfied overall. Sighting had been good and I felt strong and in control the whole time. Plenty of energy left as I came out of the water. My swim's improving, I think.


"Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast." I put my cycling shoes because of a fairly long run up a gravel path to the mount line. Solid transition.

Time: 1:25. 1/13 AG, 19/156 OA.


I'd been looking forward to the bike. I've done so much Z1 riding this summer I was ready to let it rip. The course at Colonial Beach is a fun out-and-back, with smooth roads, a few rollers and a couple of hills. Nothing too extreme, but a little taxing at times.

I had smooth sailing for the most part, with a fair amount of room around me. The other cyclists were behaving themselves so I could concentrate on hunkering down and pushing the pedals. My powermeter was my friend -- I used it to encourage myself to push bigger gears and keep the watts up. It was a delight to power up the small hills of this course after numerous Saturdays grinding my way to the end of 4-5 mile climbs on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive. This was fun, and I even caught myself letting out a couple of "whoops!" as I rounded some of the corners at speed.

I hit the turnaround at 33 minutes, and knew the return leg was a net downhill, so I cranked up the intensity a bit more. My recent bike fit seemed spot on -- I was comfortable in the cockpit the entire time. I kicked my feet out of the shoes and executed a smooth flying dismount at the line, running the bike up the grass margin on the side of the gravel. I felt great and was ready to rock the run.

Time: 1:05:01. 3/13 AG, 34/156 OA Male.


Took the time to slip on socks, since I hadn't run any significant amount without socks in these shoes. Not a big time killer, though.

Time: 1:05. 1/13 AG, 18/156 OA Male.


By now the sun was burning through the morning clouds and the temperatures were climbing fast. While the run course at Colonial Beach is almost pancake flat, the out-and-back is wide open for miles 1-2 and 5-6. I took out the first couple miles at a slightly restrained pace, concentrating on good form and quick turnover. I started picking off a fair share of younger runners from the previous waves, while taking fluid at every water stop. A few stops had ice, and I dumped a cup down the back of my tri-top at every opportunity. Believe me, a lump of ice at the base of your spine will do wonders to cool you off.

As I came to the turn around I was feeling good, holding 7:25-7:30 miles consistently. I took the opportunity to check out any competition and spied a 54-year old heading the other way. I figured I had to catch him to have any chance in my AG. As I turned I could see him at least 300 yards ahead. Based on how he was running, I thought I had a good chance if I didn't slow down.

The last 2-3 miles are where an international distance race gets tough. The legs are tired, and you're starting to run out of energy. I'd handled the energy end of things OK, I thought, with a full bottle of Ironman Perform and a gel on the bike, plus two endurolytes, a gel, and alternating water and Heed on the run course. I wasn't going to bonk, but I could feel the reserves starting to run down a bit.

At mile 4 I'd made up a lot of ground, but had slowed my pace slightly. Now it was time to dig in. I focused my eyes on the ground about 10 feet ahead and started counting left foot falls to 100. "Don't look up until you get to 100," I told myself. "Focus on your form. Smooth. Relaxed."

After several rounds of this I was close to my competition. Now was the time to make a move. As we passed through the water stop I plowed ahead and picked up the pace just a notch. "Do 100 steps at this pace, then another 100 a little faster. Don't look back -- he won't be able to hold on if I keep it up."

I could hear and feel my rival pick up his pace, but slowly the sound receded. I stuck to plan, and even put in a few little digs as I rounded some corners. This was hurting. I finally snuck a look back -- no one in sight. And here was the final turn to the finish. Across the line....whew.

I waited a few moments for my 54-year old competitor to cross  the line and shook his hand to congratulate him on a good race. Then I noticed his age marking said 57, not 54. Oh well -- even if it didn't change my AG finish I still owed a lot to him.

Time: 46:33. 4/13 AG, 41/156 OA Male.

Summary: One of my best races ever at this distance, and with a more normal swim time it would have been a big PR. Every part of the race clicked in nicely, and I could feel the benefit of all the long aerobic training I've been doing this summer. An important reminder that there's no substitute for putting in the miles. Build the base and the rest will follow.

2:29:47. 2/13 AG (M50-54), 36/156 OA Male


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