Race Report: Valpo Tri 2013

With just four days notice, I decided to sign up for a local sprint triathlon. This event was my introduction to triathlon three years ago and I had it in the back of my head this summer as a maybe race. As in… maybe if my training is going well for the Olympic tri. Or maybe if the weather is going to be nice. The forecast was beautiful and with my recent case of burnout I decided a race was in order to liven things up around here.

Turns out racing a sprint a few weeks before the Olympic is also a great opportunity to practice a few things and run through transitions in a race environment. For those reasons alone, I’m glad I did this tri. I am much stronger than when I first started doing triathlons and this race was a good learning experience for me going into the Olympic tri in just three weeks.

The race is a small one and I decided to pick up my packet on race morning. I left in plenty of time just in case this was a bad decision that involved lines. Turns out, it was as easy as could be. I arrived at the park and within five minutes had all my tri gear in hand. Perfect. I took my time setting up my transition area. Scored a spot on the end of the rack with a curb for sitting on while changing shoes. Perfect. Talked to a couple of women who were doing their first tri and found a few familiar faces with whom to pass the time waiting for the start. It was an easy morning and I was itching to get started.

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The Swim
This is a straightforward swim course. Buoys on the right, turn at the triangle, swim back to the beach. It’s a .25 mile swim and I felt very confident about cruising through it. Yet I still hesitated to line up at the front of the pack in my wave and that was my downfall. The swim was so frustrating! I had a pack of women, four across in front of me and I couldn’t get around them. I would see an opening and as soon as I pulled even with them, they closed ranks. I even pushed one of the ladies and she didn’t scoot over. If I was more aggressive, I would have run them over. But I’m not – I know some people panic easily when swimming and I’d hate to make someone feel that way. So I’d catch up, pull up short, do the breaststroke, see an opening and get shut out. Finally at the halfway turn I was able to scoot/push my way on the inside and get past them. The last half of the swim was at my pace. I was angry though because I know I could have been out with the first handful of women.

Lesson learned for Oly: don’t be afraid to line up in the front for the swim.

T1
As I ran up the hill to the transition area I had a flashback of my first tri. I had legs like rubber then. I walked – slowly – up that hill then. This day though I charged up the hill and into my transition area. Dried off my feet, slipped on my bike shoes and took off. I set up my things a bit differently this time and I liked it – will definitely stick with it for the Oly.

The Bike
I was anxious to see how I’d do in this leg since I am borrowing a road bike this summer and have spent much more time on it than before any other triathlon. I’m happy to say that I felt fantastic. Usually I am passed by 12-15 people (or more) in this leg of the tri. This time I was passed by less than 10 and I even passed some people myself – a triathlon first for this age-grouper. The course has quite a few rolling hills and I felt strong on them. There is however one long (more than .5 a mile) steep incline that really slowed me down in mile 11. Before that hill I was averaging over 17mph which is right where I’d like to be for the Olympic.

Lesson learned for Oly: put the hammer down and pedal hard, I have the stamina to do it the whole time.

T2
No issues here. I pinned my bib to my Spibelt so all I had to do was change shoes, grab my belt and start running. I put the belt on as I ran out of the transition area.

The Run
It took me a while to settle in for the run. I purposely didn’t wear a watch so I wouldn’t get mad at myself if I needed to go slow or wouldn’t freak out if I felt like running fast. The course has a good half dozen or so rolling hills – nothing major but I did end up walking up two hills in mile 2. I just felt like I didn’t have good breath control and needed a short break. By the time I neared the end of mile 2 I finally felt in my groove. I finished the run strong, passed a few people and had a good kick at the end. I was no speed demon but it was nice to finish strong.

Lesson learned for Oly: I need to figure out how to pace myself for the longer run. I might actually try a run/walk strategy. I’ve never done that in a race before (expect my marathon) but I want to be at the point where I feel good running and that might be the trick. I’m going to try it next weekend on my last long brick workout. I’m also going to swap out my short interval rides for short runs these last three weeks of training. I think I need a bit more time on my feet so I can maintain a respectable pace.

I liked the way my transitions worked. I feel good about my race fuel choices and timing. I loved my new tri kit. The only logistic issue I still need to figure out is what to drink besides water while on the bike. I just lose so much salt when I sweat and it wasn’t even terribly hot today – upper 70s maybe 80 degrees with little humidity.

A nice perk to the day? I dropped a solid 15 minutes off my previous time in this event. I had improvement in the first two legs of the race and my transitions were shorter. Plus I still had energy in the tank which is good considering I have to go twice as long on Oly day (even longer than that in the swim). My finish time: 1:36.

All in all I’m very happy that I chose to do this race. It was a great mental boost as I enter the final weeks of Olympic triathlon training. I worked out a few kinks and definitely learned some things that will come in handy on August 4. I’m still going to be towards the back of the pack, but I’m going to finish strong. Olympic distance… here I come!

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9 thoughts on “Race Report: Valpo Tri 2013

  1. Sounds like a great race and even better learning opportunity for the Oly! I’d love to hear how you set up your transition area. Email me or text me? This is my first tri where I’m using different shoes for the bike/run. I loved last year just hopping off the bike and going. Changing shoes twice seems like it will take a ton of time.

    1. I was worried about it too but my transitions were shorter than before. Partly because I’m in better shape and could run in & out but I think my layout helped too. I’ll send you a picture.

  2. Love your recap and hearing how running through it was such a huge help. I’ve been reading a lot about salt sticks lately… do you think those would help with water with regard to the salt loss? Or maybe Nuun in a water bottle?

  3. Sounds like a great race! On the bike, I always drink Gatorade. I think anything but water (Nuun, etc) will give you the electrolytes you need. I’m curious about the changes you made to your transition area. What did you do differently?

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