102 days: Redondo Beach Triathlon 2013 – race report

I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I run in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Under 15 weeks away! Raised so far: $5,997! Want to increase this total? Chip in a few bucks to one of our causes here, or participate in one of our upcoming fundraising events.

Suzanne and Tawnya are on the march! Follow along as they trek the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, “The Way of St James” – a 500 mile pilgrimage starting in southern France and across northern Spain. Can you believe it’s been over four weeks since they departed for their journey and they only have one week of walking left!? They have posted several interesting updates to their blog – fascinating reading!

Redondo Beach Triathlon 2013 – race report

By now my angst over the Redondo Beach Triathlon has been well documented. It is only a short sprint triathlon, so I had absolutely no worries about finishing. So what had me worried?

  • High expectations: last year I place second in my age group, and 28th overall. It would be a disappointment to not place well.
  • Though the Hermosa Beach Triathlon is technically closer to our house, the Redondo Beach Triathlon is technically  my hometown race. I need to represent! Redondo Beach in the house! I could feel the weight of the city on my shoulders… I had to show well for my city!
  • I am not a super fast swimmer, but I am a super fast cyclist and runner.
  • … and this race is dominated by the swim. Most sprint triathlons are 0.25/12/3 miles for the swim, bike, run. This race is 0.5/6/2 miles for each! Yikes! Double the swim, half the road!
  • Will I have enough time to overcome the big deficit from my swim to overtake them on the bike & run? In a 70.3, I have 56 miles of biking and 13.1 miles of running to reel them back in… but 6 miles and 2 miles? That’s not much!
  • Oh, and there have been several GREAT WHITE SHARKS caught in the area over the past year. Yep, sharky sharks that shark. That knowledge keeps me (irrationally) sharking scared!

So, how did race day go?

PRE-RACE has become a boring non-event for me now that I’m several years into this sport. There is no more angst or nervous energy when setting up my transition area – it is all very businesslike.

One of the funny things about this race, though, is that there are a lot of local participants and first-timers in the mix. When they walk up to the rack, the newbies tend to get a little freaked out when they get a glimpse of the bike…

Getting my space set up in transition at about 6am. I got a good spot near the end of the rack... and got to watch the bemused looks on the faces of the rookies as the saw that pile of carbon fiber sitting there...

Getting my space set up in transition at about 6am. I got a good spot near the end of the rack… and got to watch the bemused looks on the faces of the rookies as the saw that pile of carbon fiber sitting there…

The SWIM has been repeatedly established as my worst segment. Of course, there were high surf warnings through late Saturday night – great for surfers, bad for swimmers. Fortunately, by Sunday morning the waves were docile. That is the good part. The bad part: the LA County lifeguards were responsible for setting up the buoys… and they were late. Almost 600 racers stood on the beach, waiting for the boat to drop the buoys so we could start.

This year it appears that the race organizers decided to consolidate the race starts a bit in order to speed up the event. Instead of a dozen of swim start waves separated by a few minutes each, they opted for 4 waves spaced out by five minutes each. This is good in that the race is easier to manage… but bad in that you have more people starting the swim with you.

Wave 1 finally took off. We waited the 5 boring minutes, and then got our turn as Wave 2. We ran out into the water… and ran… and ran… they’ve been pumping sand into Redondo Beach the last while, so it took a while to reach swimmable depths. By then the crowd of guys in our wave had aggregated into a mob. With the larger swim waves there was an awful lot of jostling, getting kicked, swimming over, get swum over, collisions, etc. At one point, some guy and I hit each other so hard we were both startled – we stopped swimming, looked around to gather ourselves, and started again… only to smack into each other again… and then one more time, before I hit the “afterburners” (I wish I had those in the swim) to find some space.

Eventually, I settled into a groove after about 1/4 mile (seems to be the norm in my swim) and felt better as the swim progressed. Lesson learned from St. George: sight more often! I made sure to sight the next buoy about once every 4 strokes. I can guarantee my line was less Z-shaped this race! And before long I reached shore and began the long, long run up the hill into transition, passing a bunch of racers that were less enthusiastic about running in the sand and then up a hill.

Last year the zipper on my old wetsuit was stuck – I had to break the zipper in order to get out of the suit; this year it was a velcro issue with the zipper pull… bad luck in this race with wetsuit removal!

Exiting the water and starting the run up the hill toward transition. Last year my wetsuit zipper got stuck - I had to break the zipper in order to get out... this year the zipper pull got tangled up in the velcro in the neck area... ugh. Video of this is posted to http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10151537988594753

Exiting the water and starting the run up the hill toward transition. Last year my wetsuit zipper got stuck – I had to break the zipper in order to get out… this year the zipper pull got tangled up in the velcro in the neck area… ugh. Video of this is posted to http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10151537988594753

Entering T1, I was a bit shocked to see all of the bikes that remained in the transition area from the guys in my wave. Is it possible that I had a great swim? Could I REALLY be in the mix on this race?

The BIKE is where I get to turn it on. The motto for the Redondo Beach Triathlon is “Show Us Your Speed” – this is where I get to start doing exactly that. I stripped off the wetsuit, threw on the helmet, grabbed the bike, and took off. When I got to the mount line I jumped on the bike and started mashing the pedals. In sprint races, from this point on, I do not get passed. Let me reiterate that: I DO NOT GET PASSED. As I was still getting up to speed when I got on the course, though, a couple of guys from Wave 1 already on their second lap whizzed by… but not for long. They were soon caught looking around wondering what happened as I got up to speed and blurred by them.

The ride is quick, mostly flat (except for a weird turnabout near the pier), and just long enough to count as a typical warmup for most rides. It is along a stretch of beach I ride several times per week; it was sure nice to be able to ignore the stop signs this time! I was gunning down racers left and right; it always feels fantastic to ride the bike in raceday mode, and this day was no exception. I was pushing it pretty hard, but making sure to leave enough in the tank for the run. The bike finished off without issue, I jumped off the bike near the dismount line at running speed (with the nifty leg over the top bar maneuver), and entered T2. Nobody had passed me… and I passed a whole ton of folks. Mission accomplished.

The bike. I love the bike. It is fast... and where I get to bring down the hammer. Video posted at http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10151537991159753

The bike. I love the bike. It is fast… and where I get to bring down the hammer. Video posted at http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10151537991159753

A quick transition, and I was off on the RUN. As the morning had a little June gloom going on, I opted to not throw on the visor and sunglasses… which was weird… as I ALWAYS race in my bright yellow Livestrong visor. But I didn’t need it today, and I needed every precious second.

I took off like a shot out of transition, and started running fast. Too fast. Lots of people have a problem finding their running legs coming out of T2. Perhaps it’s because I don’t push myself hard enough on the bike, but I always start the run too fast. After the first few hundred yards I looked at the Garmin and noticed I was pulling a 5:30min/mile pace – I knew I probably couldn’t keep that up for long, so I notched it back to about 6:00min/mile  and kept the pace moderate, but manageable. I was taking down runners left and right… but heard this steadily louder “tap tap tap tap” behind me. About 1/4 mile into the run a 22-year old girl (your age is written on your leg) passed me by – the lead female racer. And she was moving. Fast. And I wasn’t going to be able to pass her back. She was the only person to pass me after the swim that I wasn’t able to reel back in. [Note: she did end up taking first place female]. No shame in getting passed by her. Amazing athlete.

I paced off her the rest of the morning. We were flying by everybody, nailed in to a solid pace. The course zig-zags through the Redondo Beach Pier, making the miles go by quickly. A quick run up a flight of stairs, a quick downhill with a hard turn at the bottom, hit the roundabout, up a quick hill… and then the finish line is in sight! I turned on the jets and gunned down some unsuspecting souls while in a full sprint down the chute… just barely passing some guy mere meters in front of the finish line.

Blasting down the finishing chute, right before I passed a guy to take the win in my age group. Video posted at http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10151538015269753

Blasting down the finishing chute, right before I passed a guy to take the win in my age group. Video posted at http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10151538015269753

Glad I did that… as he was previously the lead racer in my age group.

1st place M40-44 age group (by one second!). 30th overall.

The view from the top of the podium - I've taken first place in my age group once before... but never on the top step of an actual podium (that race didn't have a podium, and other races with an actual podium I scored 2nd or 3rd place).

The view from the top of the podium – I’ve taken first place in my age group once before… but never on the top step of an actual podium (that race didn’t have a podium, and other races with an actual podium I scored 2nd or 3rd place).

So… the race splits tell the story.

Swim: 16:53. Good for 152nd best out of the 578 finishers… but only 90th best out of the top 100 race finishers. A good 5+ minutes slower than the fast swimmers. Yeah… I know, I know… I REALLY need to do some work on this!

Bike: 15:51 (about 23mph average). This is where I put the smack down. 10th best bike time of the day. I moved up from 152nd place overall to 58th place thanks to the bike.

Run: 12:55 (my Garmin clocked it at 2.1 miles, not 2, for an average pace of 6:08/mile). I did the rest of the reeling in here, as I put down the 13th fastest run of the day, advancing from 58th place to 30th place overall.

Transitions: T1 at 2:20 (thanks to the hill off the beach) and T2 at 0:57. Pretty happy with these.

Overall time: 48:58. A minute better than my previous course PR (from 2012). 30th overall.

Note: Though I am currently 39, the age group for triathlons is based on your age at the end of the calendar year. Yep… I turn the big Four Zero in a couple of months, placing me in the M40-44 class. This worked in my favor this year, since I would have placed 5th if I were still in the M35-39 age group… getting older DOES have the occasional privilege!

Summary

The day was a surprising success. It turns out that I do still have some speed in these legs, but I still really need to improve on the swim. This was all done on just 3 weeks of serious training. Give me some better swim/bike/run distance ratios… 15 more weeks of training… and I have the potential to be in the mix when the big race day arrives on Sept. 22!

As always, much love and thanks goes out to my race sherpa. Lauren is a trooper. Not many people would get up at 4am to stand around for hours in the cold and dark, take pictures/videos while trying to differentiate me from the rest of us that all look alike in spandex, run from odd location to the next, and wait around 2 hours for the medal ceremony. Love ya!

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