Monday, September 12, 2011

2011 Westport Kiwanus Triathlon Race Report

It wasn’t a bad weekend by any means save for the fact that my Tennessee Titans looked utterly inept.  As I noted on Saturday, we got home pretty early from swim lessons and shopping on Saturday afternoon, and I settled in to watch some pretty good college football.  I saw Army go down by three to San Diego State, and all things considered, that seemed like a moral victory.  Then the University of Tennessee laid the wood toCincinnati, setting up what looks like a pretty good game next weekend against the University of Florida.  I mean, Tennessee ain’t really Tennessee anymore, and I’m not sure how much Florida still looks like Florida, but the Vols’ QB and wide receivers looked pretty good Saturday—good enough to make me think that UT might actually be “Receiver U” again one of these days—and I don’t think I’m ready to buy into South Carolinajust yet.  So, bottom line, all predictions to the contrary, next week’s game might just be for the driver’s seat in the SEC East.  I know I’ll be pulling for the Vols with both hands. 

My parents and grandparents might be gone, but I can do at least that much to honor their memories.

Anyway, needless to say, I wound up downing that third beer Saturday afternoon.  Happily, I don’t think it affected me too much.


Tri season is over, and to tell the truth, it’s basically been over for me since Litchfield Hills.  Moreover, right after Litchfield Hills, Sally and I decided to start training for the Hartford Half-Marathon, which means that I haven’t been on my bike or in the pool much at all in the past few weeks.  I’ve been running a lot, so I don’t think I’ve lost any actual fitness, but form is always a concern, especially in swimming.  Moreover, I’m still commuting on my folding bike, so although I didn’t think my riding was gonna be sharp, I was more concerned about not having swum in a month, especially in a race that’s decidedly swim-heavy.  The Westport Tri is unique in that respect.  It’s a full half-mile swim, coupled to a tiny bike ride and a short run.  So, bottom line, it tends to bring out as many well-rounded swimmers as actual triathletes.  Considering the way I race, that’s a potential concern.

To deal with that, Sally and I swam a bit on Saturday, basically trying to work out the kinks in our strokes and get warmed up.  I wanted to do just enough Saturday morning that I’d be able to warm up quickly on Sunday pre-race.  After that, it was time to get out, hit the showers, and go one with our lives.  After we got the kids to bed Saturday night, we packed our bags, made our Gatorade, laid out our clothes, and then sat down to watch some TV.  We got the movie Limitless from Netflix on DVD, and I liked it a lot. 

Got up the next morning at five.  Loaded the car, grabbed the kids, kissed the dog, and off we went.  It was chilly and more than a little windy on Sunday morning, but check in and set-up went well, and I had plenty of time for pre-race yoga.  And by our appointed 7:30 race start time, the air was almost as warm as the water, so what do you want?


Like I said, it was windy.  Usually the Long Island Sound is glassy on summer mornings, but with the wind coming in, we had swells of about two feet by the time you got out to the first buoy.  I was in the first heat, and after we finally got pre-race instructions, they blew the air horn, and off we went.

I didn’t feel like I got a great start.  I was in maybe the second row back from the water when we started, and it took me maybe 150 yards to clear the pack and get into the open water.  Even then, I could tell that a few folks were ahead of me.  Moreover, it was hard to see—both competition and buoys—in the swell.  Between the waves and the people, I was on full burn all the way out to the first buoy, and when I turned, it was only with an effort of will that I was able to make myself calm down.  Even then, I still felt like I had to muscle the swim just to stay on course and firmly in control.

Well.  If it was hurting me, odds were it was hurting everyone else even more.

In any event, the swim felt long but wasn’t really.  After Hurricane Irene, the shape of Westport’s Compo Beach has changed, forcing a change to the swim route.  What was initially a 12-minute point-to-point half mile because a 10-minute out-turn-and-back rectangle.  Complete with rip currents.

Eh.  I checked my watch as I came out of the water.  10 minutes exactly.  Like I said, it felt like a lot, but really, it was nothing to complain about. 

It took me almost a full minute to run up through the loose sand to Transition.

Not-Quite a Half-Mile Swim: 10:51.1.  1/20 Age Group; 7/255 Overall.

As it turns out, I came out of the water somewhere between 3rd and 5th, I think.  So there were several folks in the following heats who would go on to beat my time in the water.  That’s kind of a lot for so small a race.


Crossed the mat into Transition, ran to my bike, flopped down, grabbed my spare water bottle, and sprayed the sand off my feet.  Then I carefully threw on my bike shoes—trying not to reapply the sand I’d just removed—before adding helmet, cycling jersey, and gloves.  All of that went well except the gloves, which had me fumbling like an idiot.  Some guy beat me out of T-1, but based on later placings, I think he might have actually come in before me on the swim.

Anyway, soon enough I was out on the road.

T-1: 1:37.9.  5/20 AG; 31/255 Overall.


The ride out of T-1 was a little more than a mile and a half of straightaway—straight into the morning’s wind.  I got down in the drops and felt okay, but I didn’t have quite the pop I’d’ve needed to really lay the law on a super-short ride.  At the end of the straightaway, there was a little climb into a left-hand turn, and a guy passed me on a very nice time trial bike.  No biggie; at this point I think I was in 6th.  The next piece was rolling, into a little left-hand turn that led downhill, and then we were onto the flats.  By this time, we were three miles in, and I was starting to feel a little better.  With ten more miles, I’d have turned in a nice ride.  Anyway, we turned right into a golf course, and I gunned it, chasing down a 14-year-old kid—obviously one of those well-rounded high school swimmers I alluded to in the opening—and found myself alone on the open road. 

Unfortunately by the time I felt strong on the bike, there was only about a mile and a half left to ride.  I chased down one more guy, catching him just as we dismounted into T-2.  By the time I entered T-2, I think I was 4th.

5.5-mile ride: 15:56.5 (18.7 mph according to my bike computer).  7/20 AG.  26/255 Overall.


Racked my bike, quickly but carefully changed shoes (yeah speed laces!), and dropped my helmet and shades.  I ran out of T-2 pulling off my gloves and stowed them in my jersey pocket.  Y’know, I actually planned that.

T-2: :50.7.  11/20 AG; 60/255 Overall.


I came out of T-2 even with the 14-year-old high school swimmer that I’d passed on the bike.  That kid was having a good race, and I told him so.  His answer was dismissive: he put on a burst of speed and tried to drop me.  I let him.  In fact, I slid in behind him and let him pull.  I’m not sure how much drafting helps in running, but we were running into a headwind, and I try not to be any stupider than necessary when I’m racing.  I felt strong, and folks cheering on the sidelines called out that we were in 3rd and 4th overall respectively.  That worked for me.

It worked even better when it turned out that the kid had shot his wad trying to drop me right out of T-2.  I passed him about ¾ of a mile into the run, this time for good.  At this point, I was in 3rd overall and starting to dream of glory.

See, this is why I hate running.  Yes, I’ve been running more.  Yes, I felt strong and actually passed somebody on the run.  No, I’ve not been running enough to hold serve against real runners of my own age and ability at the end of a triathlon. 

They finally caught me with about ½ mile to go.  Maybe five guys, all running decisively enough that I could tell right away that I wasn’t gonna have the burst to hold them off, especially when we made it to the final turn and started running in loose sand.  Agh!  That sucked!  Whatever dreams I had of sprinting to the end died in the quagmire right then and there.

2.2-mile run: 16:10.3 (7:20.9/mile).  12/20 AG; 48/255 Overall.

2011 Westport Kiwanus Triathlon: 45:26.6.  3/20 AG; 11/255 Overall.

I crossed the line in 8th, but of course, there were two more heats behind me, and it looks like three of the guys back there were faster than I was.  Well, there are some really good 40-something triathletes in Connecticut; finding that out does not constitute learning.  Still, I finished in the Top 3 in my age group, and that’s cool, and if you discount the one relay finisher ahead of me, I was in the Top 10 overall.  Nothing to complain about there. 

The course was substantially different this year than last year, so I don’t know how much there is to be gained by comparing the two races, but on the one part of the race that was the same—the bike—I was about 30-seconds faster than last year.  Like I said, that ain’t bad.

Sally’s Race

You might remember that this was Sally’s first open water triathlon.  I’ve been working with her on her swimming for the past six months or so, and I was anxious to see what she could do here.  Still, I’ll admit I was nervous when I saw the size of the swells Sunday morning.  I thought it was tough; I was afraid Sally was gonna panic.

Well, Sally came through in fine fashion.  She even said she didn’t think it was all that hard. 

If you’re wondering, Sally finished the swim in just over 21-minutes; rode the bike course in 18:48, and ran right at 20-minutes even.  She said she must’ve passed fifty people on the run, and frankly, I don’t doubt it.  She’s a fantastic runner.  Her total time was 1:00:47, putting her 10/27 in her Age Group and 155/255 Overall.

That ain’t bad at all.

Next Up: Hartford Half

And that’s all for the season. 

We switched over to a pure runner’s workout schedule two weeks ago, and as I said earlier, the Hartford Half is our next thing (hopefully), coming in mid-October.  Personally, I hope that putting in a full season of pure running work will show up a bit next year, but that, of course, relies on my being able to stay healthy, which is something that I’ve not been able to do for that past two off-seasons.  I keep having knee, back, or hip problems. 

Hopefully yoga and a focus on running form will help this time.  I guess we’ll see.

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