Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How the Triathlon Went Down

Thought I'd detail out what was going through my head during this weekend's olympic distance triathlon in Pacific Grove, CA, and some items that I felt helped me out during the training and race periods.

When the horn gave us the go signal, I started running, mid pack in my wetsuit down the sand and dove into the water. The water was quite cold and I immediately felt its chill on my feet. My goal for the swim was to maintain impeccable form and save my energy for the run/bike. I remembered what my instructors at Total Immersion swim clinics told us. High elbow, spear the water. Use your opposite foot to initiate the thrust of your hand into the water. Front quadrant hand positioning. Truthfully I wasn't really thinking that, I was just doing. I had updated my swim practice to be less about fitness, and more about form by doing drills nonstop. This paid off as I finished the 1 mile swim not tired at all, at about 31 minutes. Not as fast as I wanted, but with plenty of energy to spare.

As I ran up the steps out of the water and to my bike, I realize I had made a critical error in preparation. I didn't mentally rehearse my transition so I'd be figuring out where to run with my bike after I changed out of my wetsuit. This was inexcusable for me, since I'm accustomed to mentally playing through songs on the violin before the bow hit the string. And so yes, I made a wrong turn out of the transition area, probably costing me 30 or so seconds. Hopping onto the bike, I paid attention to two things while I pedaled which would be displayed through my Garmin 310XT training computer. That my pedaling rate or cadence would be around 90 RPM, and my heart rate would be around 168 BPM on flats or downhills. 168 BPM appears to be a sweet spot for me, for races like this. I know that at 170 BPM, my body goes anaerobic and my time is therefore limited before I begin to fatigue. My plan was to stay aerobic, manage my energy accordingly, and reassess on the run.

During the last quarter mile of the bike portion, I changed gears to increase my pedaling cadence, and loosen myself up for the run. After hopping into my running shoes and taking off, I aimed to keep my running cadence, through the sensor in my shoes, also at 90 RPM. With 6 miles to go, the first two miles would be held at a heart rate of 168 BPM, to see how I felt. After which I would decide to increase heart rate, or maintain at 168. According to the Garmin, my first two mile splits were sub 8 mins/mile, and I decided to increase to 172-175 BPM. The last two miles were spent at near max heart rate ~185 as a broke out in a sprint for the last half mile. I wanted to be completely spent by the time I crossed the finish line. I was pleased at my performance, and also had plenty of information on what needed to be improved. I finished 24th out of 68 competitors in my gender and age group.

If I had to detail what I felt helped me out the most, obviously still being a beginner, here they are in no particular order:
Racing with the intent of performing for your friends and supporters
Digital monitoring of your heart rate, location, performance (Garmin 310XT)
Online records of your training progress (Garmin Connect, and Training Peaks)
Some kind of vain motivation (I wanted my six pack back)
A real training plan (Joe Friel's 12 week Olympic distance plan)
A well organized bag (Zoot tri bag)
Technical swim training (Total Immersion)
Social media (I've gotten a lot of help through friends on facebook)
Friends who support you and love what you're doing (Thank you all)

That completes my 3 month foray into triathlons, and hopefully becomes something I continue to love doing.

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