Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Sandringham XOSIZE Tri Series Sprint Triathlon

I don't normally wake up at 5.20am on a Sunday morning and feel excited about it but on Sunday morning I was participating in my 2nd XOSIZE Tri Series Sprint Triathlon down at Sandringham so I woke up buzzing and full of nervous energy. The XOSIZE Tri Series Triathlon's are very well run and organised by the fantastic people at Start To Finish. They provide a Mini category for beginners and a Sprint category for more serious competitors and the competition does get pretty serious! The Mini category starts with a 300m swim followed by a 10km bike ride and finished off with a 2km run. So it's definitely an event someone with a basic level of fitness can complete and is a good taste sampler of what a tri event is like. By the time I got into triathlon I already had quite a high level of fitness and endurance and went straight to the Sprint category which begins with a 750m swim, followed by a 20km bike ride and ending with a 5km run.

The first triathlon I took part in was the Elwood Sprint in January and I enjoyed it so much that now I feel I'm hooked. Elwood was all about setting a baseline for my performance and getting some competition experience. I finished in a time of 1:32:48 which placed me 51st out of 53 in my age group of 30-34. My swim leg killed me in that event and I was determined to improve all my splits at Sandringham but in particular my swim leg. The Sandringham course is slightly more difficult than Elwood due to a more rolling terrain and also due to the 400m odd metres you have to run after the swim to get to your bike in the transition area. This run is all up hill and is the longest distance between the beach and the transition area for any tri event in Victoria! But I had been training heavily for the month since Elwood and I was determined to see my times improve significantly.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I tend to agree. I never skip breakfast but on the morning of an event I usually have a lighter breakfast to avoid any stomach trouble during the event. Being a Weetbix kid, I had a light breakfast of a single Weetbix and a banana (full of good stuff for your muscles like potassium!), a combination which always seems to be able to release my bowels and get me on my way!

After a quick shower, I liberally applied some Body Glide in all the right places to avoid chaffing, pulled on my 2XU tri suite, packed my bike, towels, runners and goggles and then drove off into the dark morning. The only good thing about going anywhere at 6am is the lack of traffic. From my house to Sandringham is not a short drive but I managed it in less than 40mins. Finding parking was a bit more of an issue and after a few minutes of driving around some side streets I found a spot in a side street off Hampton St.

My bicycle weapon of choice is my trusty commuter, my Reid Cycles Harrier. The Harrier is a steel framed single speed flat bar bike with standard foot pedals and weighs in at 10.5kg. Not exactly a speed merchant when compared to the time trial bikes the more serious competitors have but I figure I should give my competition a chance! No, the truth is that once upon a time I had a beautiful Felt road bike with Ultegra componentry which got written off when I was knocked off my bike by a careless driver who didn't see me going through a roundabout. At the time I was using my bike mainly for commuting so instead of getting another training bike I decided to get a cool single speed. A new competition bike is definitely on the cards for next season, but for now it's fun seeing people's faces when they get passed by a steel frame single speed!

My bicycle weapon of choice, my Reid Harrier single speed.

I rode Harrier to the transition area at Trevor Barker Beach Oval on the Sandringham foreshore. By now Beach Rd was closed to traffic and there was a steady stream of competitors and onlookers walking through to the transition area.

I had not actually registered yet so that was my first priority. Those participating in the sprint event can register up until 7am on the day of the event but you pay a $10 premium for on the day registration. I payed my $95 and got my pack including green swim cap for the age 30-34 group and race number of 2428. Next I had to get my race number written on my upper right arm and above the knee on my left leg and my age group, K, written on my right calf. This is so you can be identified in case you break any rules during the event and makes you look like a real pro!

Unfortunately I left my phone in my car and so didn't get to take any photos to show you (I promise to take some at the next event in Brighton!) but the transition area before a tri series event is a scene of organised chaos with people busily walking around everywhere including lots of spectators there to watch family members or friends participate. Loud house music was blaring from a DJ tent in the middle of the oval and sponsor and club tents surrounded the oval. Participants were either busy racking their bikes and setting up all their equipment for transition or making their way to the beach for the start.

I racked my bike on the "on the day" entrants rack and set up the area around my bike with my helmet, sunglasses and runners. After setting up your transition area, the next most important thing to do before an event start is to empty your bladder! You don't want to be thinking about having to go while you're running or on the bike! Unfortunately for me, everyone else seemed to have the same idea so I joined the long queues for the available toilets.

Once the call of nature was satisfied I found my workmate, Adam, who was also doing the sprint but in the 40-44 age category. He had brought along his mate Dave who was visiting from England and who had brought his camera with him. He managed to take an awesome shot of me hitting my stride while running to transition after the swim. Thanks Dave, great action photography!

We headed off to the beach for the start of the event. Walking down Jetty Road to the swim start you appreciate the difficulty you will have when you make the reverse journey after the swim. It's steep!

Luckily the weather God's were smiling on all the participants this morning. Not only did we have a clear blue sky but the air temperature was already around 20C and the water temperature was even warmer meaning no wet suites allowed for the elite category competitors. In the spirit of the elites I chose not to wear a wet suite, although not owning a wet suite made that decision pretty easy for me! There was a slight SE sea breeze and the water was as flat as at your local swimming pool. Based on the conditions there was no excuse for not bettering my time today!

The first of the sprint waves started off into the water at 7.30am with my sprint wave the 4th one out at 7.36am. I'd been working on my swim technique for the last month and was confident of a better showing than my time of 24:09 last time around in Elwood. The horn blared for the start of my wave and I hit the water at the back of the field, purposely avoiding the clamour for position at the front. The water felt beautiful and I settled into a nice easy rhythm, saving my energy to ensure I would comfortably make the distance. I had a decent start and managed to keep up with the competitors at the back of the field up until the first turning buoy. By then some competitors from the 5th and 6th waves had caught us and by the time I got to the second turning buoy for the swim home I was the lone green cap in the area. With 200m to go I felt good and felt like my arms could give more so I went for it and powered home. It felt awesome when I finally hit the shore and ran across the timing matt and up towards Jetty Road to the transition area.

I managed to pass a few guys from another wave before I entered transition. It was certainly a long, tough run and I got to my bike gasping for air. I made sure to follow the rules and put on my helmet before touching my bike and then quickly slipped on my runners. Tieing my laces was not as easy as it should have been due to the adrenalin in my body and I think for the next event I'll invest in some elastic laces.

Hitting my stride running into transition after my swim leg. Thanks to Dave for the photo!

I was happy once I was out of transition and flying along Beach Rd on my trusty Harrier. The bike leg is 2 laps of 10km each. After coming out of Jetty Road you head north on Beach Road until South Road in Brighton and then turn back southbound until Bent Parade in Black Rock. With the SE breeze at my back I flew until South Road and could have done with a higher gear to take advantage of the power I was generating. On the journey south to Bent Parade it was hard work, especially on the inclines where I couldn't shift down a gear. I guess that's why serious triathletes invest heavily in their bikes! Even with these problems I seemed to manage to pass more competitors than I was passed by. My legs were hurting on the second lap but I didn't let up. I buried myself on the bike and there were moments where I was flying past guys on equipment which cost thousands of dollars more than my Harrier. It felt amazing and when I headed back into transition after finishing the 2nd lap, I knew I had completed a really good bike split.

On the final transition I had a distinct advantage over most other guys because I was already in my running shoes. I just had to rack my bike, take off my helmet and start running whereas most of the other guys had to change from their cycling shoes to their runners. I bolted out of transition and immediately I knew I was going to suffer on the run due to how much effort I put into the bike. I kept looking out for the 1km marker and when it finally came it felt like I had already run 2km! I kept a steady pace and tried to block out the pain in my tired legs. I slowly knocked off each kilometre and kept telling myself that I couldn't stop. After 2.5km the course turned around and headed south back to the transition area. At the turn I was caught by a guy who was running at a pace slightly faster than my own and I decided to try and use him to pace me in. My legs were hurting so much by now that I thought about stopping and walking a number of times but having that guy in front of me gave me a target and kept me going. With 500m to go I tried to will my legs to give me more and sprint me home but all they managed was a slight increase in speed.

I finally made it across the finish line with my hands in the air in triumph and with the time on the clock at 1:32:32. Taking into account my wave started 6mins after the first sprint wave this meant my total time was around 1:26:00. I was rapped! I was completely knackered but ecstatic with my performance. It's an unbelievable feeling when you realise all the hard work you put into training has paid off!

It wasn't until around lunch that day that I got my official time of 1:26:32, an improvement of 6:16 over my Elwood time! My split times all showed significant improvement. For the swim I got 22:07, 2:02 faster than my Elwood swim split but still the slowest in my age group by 94 seconds. That placed me 500 out of 512 sprint competitors for the swim leaving plenty of work to be done on my swim leg! I knew I had done well on the bike but I was surprised by how well. I got 35:55, more than 4mins faster than my Elwood split which I had also done on trusty Harrier! Finally I had also improved my run split, getting 24:30 which was 32 seconds faster than at Elwood. All this placed me 35 out of 44 in my age group and 357 out of 512 competitors overall. Great results for only my second triathlon!

Unfortunately the tri season is almost over with the final event in the XOSIZE Tri Series for 2012/2013 at Brighton on the 10th of March. I'm hoping to compete on that Sunday and further improve my split times but it will be weather dependant, especially due to my lack of a wet suite and my fear of riding Harrier in the wet! Hopefully it's a dry and warm March morning and I can see you there!