First Tri Down
The weather was perfect. Warm and sunny, a light wind and the bay was nice and still. I felt relaxed during the morning preparations. The little things of setting up transition, walking/running through the entries and exits, tire pressures, race briefing and even getting into the wetsuit all felt second nature.
The Washing Machine
I lined up behind the first row at the race start. I know my swimming is still well down on what it used to be. Then it was on. Down the sand and into the water. It was a very short wade, only two dolphin dives required as the sea floor fell away quickly. The first 50m were great. Except for the real guns, I was able to pull ahead into a good position and making a good line to the first buoy. Then the guy to my left somehow turned at right angles and swam over the top of my head and over the person to my right. I was expecting a few arm clashes and colliding bodies, but that was a bit strange. The rest of the way to the first buoy was just a matter of trying to assert my position while swimmers on both sides tried to fill the space I was already occupying. Things spread out at the first turn, and I enjoyed a relatively comfortable swim all the way back to land.
During the swim I made a concerted effort to make sure I maintained the important open water race skills. These included:
- Keeping sighting as part of the swim stroke (no prolonged period of holding the head up)
- Keeping calm and focused on my stroke despite the interruptions
- Taking a tight inside line around the turn buoys
- Following a draft when appropriate
- Not relying on the person I am drafting off to do all the sighting
- Using dolphin dives and proper wading at the correct depths during the exit
- Keeping the goggles on and wetsuit zipped up until after I have the water
By following the above list, I observed that I gained a few places over those that weren't. To me is free speed.
I hit the sand running hard. Through the chute I pulled down my wetsuit and then straight to my bike. Wetsuit dropped down to below my knees. Glasses and helmet on as I pulled the last bit of the wetty off using my feet. Another sprint out to the mounting line and I was feeling great.
On the road it was a three lap circuit. With the different wave starts it was almost a revolving pace line. This is something I took advantage of, using the slingshot technique. This simply involves riding up behind the rider in front, using their draft to accelerate just before pulling to the side and passing them. It fits within the rules, as it takes you are always moving faster, but it just allows a little bit of extra speed for the same effort level.
After my last duathlon where I noticed my cornering skills were down, I decided to hit the turns hard today. My goal was to go into the corners a fair bit faster than I was comfortable with. I achieved this on 3 of the 6 hairpins (the others I was held up by slower riders). On the first turn I thought I was going to lose some skin... which didn't end up being the case. It was just about the right speed to hit the turn.
Coming into the last few hundred metres, my legs felt completely toasted. The burn was extreme and they were now seriously fighting my mind's desire to keep turning the cranks. For a sprint race, this was probably just right. A quick flick of velcro and I had my feet out of the shoes. One last turn and into a running dismount I was now where I feel comfortable.
For some reason I nearly took a wrong turn. Why I tried to run through some orange cones I don't know, but I didn't really lose any time. Along the chute, through the racks, throw my bike onto its rack. Unclip the helmet, letting it fall as I bend over to put on my shoes. A brief moment of admiration for the sleek look of my new race flats flashed across my mind. Time to ease into the run... wrong... I was feeling good, so I thought I'd see what would happen if I sprinted out of transition. I hammered it, aiming to put in a stupidly fast 200m.
When 5km Is Not That Far
With the initial sprint, I found my legs were ticking over at a great cadence. No heaviness seemed to carry over from the bike. I got it into my head just to focus on two things until the turn around:
- A relaxed but upright posture
- Extra fast cadence even if this meant a shorter stride
The result was that I felt fast and seemed to pass a good number of people. Flicking round the turn point I opened it up a bit more, allowing my stride to lengthen out. My legs felt great, but now my breathing was through the roof, my head was screaming and shoulders were thinking enough is enough. Soon enough I was within in sight of finish area. In fact, it felt too soon. I knew I was running well and had felt great for most of the race, but I was surprised to be at the finish already.
I crossed the line a thought I was going to see breakfast again. I managed to keep my stomach contents in. Checked my watch and discovered sub 15 minutes for the run. Definitely well short of the advertised 5km. That aside, I raced hard and fast. Discovered that my swimming fitness is still down, my bike is gradually coming up and my run is nearly back at its best. Bring on Shepparton next week.