Monday, April 16, 2007

Tri America Series Clermont.

This was the inaugural race of Sommer Sport's new distance format: 2k Swim, 60k Bike and 15k Run, which for us Americans means a 2188 yd swim, 37.28 m bike and a 9.32m run. Held in Clermont, Florida on and around Lake Minneola, the topography is pretty hilly (ask someone who has done the Great Floridian Iron distance race). We had 1,553 ft of elevation gain on the bike, but the run was pretty flat with only 239 ft gain in elevation there. The water was cold enough for wetsuits - the lake is brown and murky so much so that you can't see your hands when you stroke. Close to the shore, the water was "take your breath away" cold, but about 150 - 200 yds out, it warmed up to comfortable wetsuit levels.

Sommer Sports runs a tight ship. This was my second TriAmerica race and it went off smoothly and on time. There was ample parking, registration was easy and the transition area was well marked. Perhaps because of the new format, or may be with the Escape from Fort Desoto race held the day before (a very popular event) - the Transition area was pretty small. Most likely, the weather kept quite a few people away. I've already posted on my pre-race activities and antics, so I'll not belabor my backwards wetsuit or poor eating habits anymore.

I might as well have had a calendar for my swim. Unbelievably, I did not come in last for the Clydesdales with my time of 52:54 or pace of 2:15 per 100yds. The old saying, "you can't win a race with a swim, but you can sure lose it" definitely holds true for me (thats the Jet coming out of the waterin 40 min - a screaming good swim time btw...). That put me 12 min behind 1st place, and 9 min behind 2nd, right out of the gate. Given the conditions were the same for everyone, I can only attest my time to crummy sighting. I'll work this week and next on sighting practice every time I swim. Lesson learned. Again.

I was good through T1 and on my way to the hilly Clermont bike course. Right out of T1 you are mashing up a 6% grade. I though I had it geared low enough, but I almost stalled halfway up the hill. Chalk it up to cold legs - the next lap up that hill went much smoother. Knowing full well that my swim was for crud, I was pedaling hard to catch up to Jetpack and Luke who where out there somewhere. I did the first lap (18.8 miles in 58:19) for an average speed of 19.3 mph - but the really bad weather hadn't kicked in yet. We had a couple of bouts of light rain to this point, and of course gusty wind, but the really hard stuff wasn't to come down until lap #2.

I can't really say if a disc would have been feasible for my 240 lbs in those conditions, but I would have been one of only 2 I saw that were brave enough to try to ride with one. I'm glad I erred on the side of caution - really, I just ran out of bike-prep time. The winds were 80% cross winds - with the disc and the Hed 90 - I would have been screaming fast! I saw both Luke and Jetpack out on their returns, about 2 miles ahead of me, so I didn't really have a shot of catching them, but I did try and make up some time and distance. Then, on lap 2, the bottom dropped out of the sky.

Between the gusts and the hail and the inch and a half of rain that fell I lost a half mile per hour on my average for lap #2. Still, it was good enough for 2nd best Clydesdale bike split, and allowed me to regain some of time that I lost on the swim. The kicker was in the T2. I thought I was in the center lane, but when I looked for my stuff, I couldn't find it. I went over to the next lane - but I definitely was not there. Back to the center lane I went, and lo and behold, there were my shoes. It seems that during the torrential downpour the Transition Area had filled up with water and lifted all the cut grass up and back down on top of our towels, shoes, hats, race numbers, gels and sunglasses. I racked my bike, dumped the water out of my running shoes, and donned my gear a minute and a half slower than the guy who took 2nd place. That minute and a half, swim time not withstanding, would come back to haunt me.

Out I went to the run course. Luke was done with the sprint race and cheered me on, telling me that Jetpack was a good 10 minutes ahead of me. The run course was an out and back 4.5 miler or so, with plenty of water and Gatorade on a nicely shaded, paved trail. Jetpack was running 8:50s and I was running 9:28s, so I harbored no delusions of catching him. It was the other Clydesdales up ahead of me that I was after. Because of the out and backs, I knew about where they were, and after each turn I could tell I was gaining. I paced myself a little slowly in the beginning due to the calf injury I was recovering from - I didn't want to push it on this "C" race.

At the last turn, the Clydes were all lined up and in my sights. I passed two of the slower runners, and as I picked up the pace I ran by two more with about 2 miles to go. Then it hit. Left calf and hamstring cramp - subtle at first, then it got more and more painful. Definitely a lack of sodium. I should have drank more Gatorade! I stopped briefly to try and stretch it out and 2 Clydes re-passed. I got on the heels of one and tried to limp along with him - maybe the pain would go away, or he would break! The pain just got worse, and he didn't break. We ran hard all the way to the finish, with a run split of 1:30:55 or 9:45 min per mile pace, and placed 5th. Places 2 through 5 for the Clydesdales were within 55 seconds of each other. 55 freaking seconds! I left lots of "55 seconds" out there for sure. But, it was a "C" race after all, and hopefully I didn't do so much damage to my leg as I can't quickly recover and get in one more solid week of training before my St. Anthony/101 race tapers.

The race swag was pretty nice - the T-shirt is cool, the finisher's medal is one of the best I have, and 5th place got me a nifty mug for my efforts. For a budding 1/2 Ironman competitor or someone wanting to test themselves more than an Olympic distance event, this is a great race. At 4:30:48 I finished about 30 minutes shy of where I wanted to, but I identified some weaknesses that need a couple of tweaks prior to my "A" race, and, despite the weather, enjoyed the competition. Coming out of the water so late, I passed so many people on the bike that made it really fun (heck, out of 140 men that raced only 56 beat me on the bike), - even if a couple of them (only a few, actually) passed me on the run.

As far as improvement goes - I did the Tri America Clermont Olympic race last year and biked 16.87 mph average on an easier overall course, and ran 10:48 min/mile average for a shorter distance. So I can't hardly complain about 2 mph faster bike speed and a minute per mile faster run. I missed having Mrs. Bigun there to cheer me on - I'm sure with some pom-poms and a cowbell or two I would have done better - but the weather made spectating nearly impossible. This just means she'll be that much more rested and raring to go for St. Anthony's in 2 weeks!




13 comments:

Tri-Dummy said...

Great race report. I suffered through some leg cramps during a race my first year and I'm with you...they can be crippling. Mine were from a lack of electro's, too.

Those 55 secs can sting a little. Keep up the hard work, my brutha. Did you use the new race belt????

Curly Su said...

st. anthony's was my first tri...have a blast!

ShirleyPerly said...

As the thunder and lightening rolled through the skies that morning, I couldn't help but wonder about all you folks out there racing. Glad to hear you made it to the finish line safely.

Good luck at St. Anthony's & at 101!

Bolder said...

great race. great report!

Mmmmmmmmm, charts -- well done!!

IM Able said...

Great race report! I just love the rainfall graph -- they certainly did just open up! Congrats on the great improvement, too!

momo said...

way to go, bigun! personally, i think your 2 mph improvement on the bike is awesome with those terrible conditions. i bet given beautiful weather - you'd have been at 20!! challenge for st. anthony's?

Di aka "Mrs Bigun" said...

great report!! I feel almost like i was there!!

blink140pnt6 said...

Rain bad. Finishing good.

Comm's said...

the weather, the downpour and wind, the division, all remind me of a sprint I did a while back. It was like reading my own mind. Well done on 5th, on to the reinforced podium for you next time.

Duane said...

Very cool!

V-Sticks said...

Great race, all the preparation paid off, you improved your times with difficult conditions and cramps. Congrats, we're proud of ya. Cheering from NC.

White Salamander said...

great race report although my slow sluggish mind can't seem to comprehend the complexity of your charts.

tri-mama said...

Only 55 seconds for a "C" race! That's pretty cool if you ask me, and of course you didn't, but that never stops me from yammering on. Shrimp on all future pre race meals?