Saturday 16 March 2013

XOSIZE Sprint Tri Series Race 5 Brighton

Melbourne's recent dry spell ensured beautiful conditions for the 5th and final triathlon in the XOSIZE Tri Series at Brighton Beach last Sunday. I was still sporting a black eye from my commuting accident last Tuesday morning but the swelling had gone down enough that there was no pain when wearing my swimming goggles and my right upper arm and shoulder were no longer sore. So I was right to go, but, thanks to the accident, I hadn't done much training during the week and my preparation was not ideal. Even so, with a combination of rest, ice packs and Nurofen I had recovered well and I was confident of another PB especially given the perfect conditions and the seemingly easier course on offer at Brighton Beach.

My wife was keen to come and see me in action and she brought along our SLR camera to document the event. She did an amazing job of running all over the course to get photos of me and despite not being a morning person, she enjoyed watching the event and loved the energy of the race village. Knowing that she was watching definitely gave me extra incentive to perform my best. You can see all the photos from the day here.

Competitors prepare within the event village, with the inspiring war memorial at its centre.

The transition area and race facilities at Brighton were a lot more compact than at Elwood or Sandringham, and having the large war memorial in the middle of the race village was certainly inspirational. The transition area was in the beach car park and had a great view overlooking the bay. This time around it would be a very short sprint from the beach into transition, unlike the difficult climb we suffered last time at Sandringham.

Rows of bikes racked in the transition area, overlooking the bay.
Harrier racked in transition and ready for action!

After racking trusty Harrier in transition I met up with my mate Adam. We had both resolved that being the last race for the season we would give this our all and leave nothing in the tank at the end. We both planned to go as hard as we could the whole way and we were determined to post personal bests in all three legs. My ambition had certainly grown since my first triathlon when simply finishing was the goal!

Brighton Beach just before the sprint waves begin.
Competitors wait on the beach for their wave to start.

We made our way to the beach where there was quite a large crowd of competitors and spectators gathered. Just like at Sandringham two weeks earlier, the water temperature was warm enough that the elites were not allowed to wear wetsuites. Most of the amateur competitors swim with wetsuites regardless of the water temperature because of the extra buoyancy they give, allowing them a more streamlined position in the water. However wet suites also make you hot and to keep cool as the air temperature approached a warm 24°C, many of those in wet suites waited in the water for their turn to start.

Keeping cool in the water.
My competition all lined up and ready to go. You can se me in the blue suite in the middle.

My wave, which included 53 other competitors, took off into the water for the 750m swim at 8.07am. As per usual I started off the swim leg from the back. No point in getting in the faster swimmers way! I was really happy with my start. My rhythem felt comfortable and I felt like I could give more so I pushed myself harder. I was keeping pace with the last 4 or 5 in my wave when, just before we turned the first bouy, we were caught by the next wave of competitors.

And they're off!
Hitting the water with 750m ahead of me.

My arms started to tire a bit between the two buoys and I lost track of the other guys in my wave. I decided to really go for it on the way back into the shore. Unfortunately my efforts were wasted because I kept drifting off course, probably due to currents. At one point I was a good 20 metres to the left of most of the other competitors. This triathlon was going to present a lot of lessons for me and this would be the first. I need to learn how to swim straight in open water before next season if I really want to improve my swim times. I'm handicapping myself when I'm already a slow swimmer!

Out of the water. The woman in front of me was competitor 37 and I used her swim time to work out my own.

I came into the shore as quickly as I could and looked for my wife amoung the spectators. She was there cheering me on and taking photos as I ran up to transition. I didn't know it at the time but I had lost my timing band in the water. If you look at the photos of me running up the beach you can see my ankles are bare. I must not have put it on tight enough so my second lesson to come from the day was make sure the timing band is on securely!

Running towards transition after a disappointing swim.

Luckily I was able to work out the split for my swim leg based on the time for the woman in the blue 2XU tri suite who came out of the water in front of me. You can see her number 37 above her left knee. She had a pink swim cap so she was in the female 30-34 wave which started 4 minutes behind my wave. She had a time of 18:42 so I figure I got a time of 22:43 which is 36 seconds slower than my Sandringham swim. Disappointing, especially considering I put a lot more into this swim. However at least this time I was not dead last in my age group. There was actually another green cap somewhere in the water about 40 seconds behind me!

The curious onlookers on the fence must be thinking I'm crazy riding a single speed!

I sprinted to my bike in transition, got my shoes on quickly with my new elastic laces and started running out towards the bike leg start on beach road. Somehow my wife managed to run from the beach and make it to the transition exit in time to take a photo of me as I ran out with my bike. I was impressed with her fleet footedness!

I lost a few seconds in the bike mounting area when my shoes slipped off the bike pedals as I tried to mount the bike but once I was on I quickly got up to a good speed. The bike leg was again two laps of 10km each. The course started off going north along Beach Rd for about 500m before turning back south at Kinane St. You then had to ride all the way down to Red Bluff St in Black Rock before turning back north.

In full flight along Beach Rd.

The course was actually more difficult than I anticipated. There was a bit of a breeze going but it was more the slightly rolling terrain that I struggled with. It wasn't an ideal course for my trusty single speed Reid Cycles Harrier, but I think there was a lot of guys struggling out there with bikes much better than mine. I was still managing to pass a lot of cyclists, especially on some of the slight inclines where I really pushed the pedals hard.

My wife was having an amazing day out as a triathlon photographer and managed to get a few snaps of me from a traffic island on Beach Rd as I passed through my first lap. By then my quads were screaming as I pushed through determined to make up for what I was sure was a poor swim. The only time I wasn't turning the pedals was when I was taking on Powerade. The second lap was tough but I didn't let up. I came back into transition happy that I had given everything I could on the bike.

Pushing hard at the start of my second lap.

Unfortunately, due to losing my timing band I don't know what my bike split was and it was only when I racked my bike in transition that I finally noticed it had disappeared from my ankle. Obviously, after all that effort on the bike, this left me rather deflated. I ran out of transition towards the running course and stopped at one point to mention something to one of the race volunteers about my missing timing band. I probably lost about 15 seconds before I switched on and thought I better forget the band and just get on with the run. At the start of the running path alongside the beach, there was my wife again taking photos. She was doing an amazing job getting in all the right places!

At the start of my run.

My legs felt ok for about the first 1.5km of the 5km run. Then they started to stiffen from the effort of the bike and the remaining 3.5km was all about pushing myself past the pain and willing myself not to stop. The running course went 2.5km south to Sandringham before turning back and returning north to the finish at the event village. About 100m before turning back for the run home, my mate Adam ran past me in the opposite direction and we gave each other a high five. His wave had started 7 minutes after mine and he was now well ahead of me on the run and looking strong.

It was just after seeing Adam that I started to get stomach cramp, probably because I took on a whole bottle of Powerade on the bike. Third lesson for the day, don't drink too much on the bike leg! That meant I had to slow down while I massaged it out and I didn't get rid of it until about a kilometre from the finish.

With a few hundred metres to go I passed a woman who looked beaten and was walking. I yelled out "Don't stop now, only a few hundred to go!" and that seemed to wake her up and get her into gear. She started running again and then actually caught me and passed me! I tried to sprint and pip her to the finish line but I didn't have enough left and she easily beat me across. In the end I was just happy that I didn't stop.

Finished! Coming through at 1:49:01 on the sprint clock giving me a time of 1:27:01.

My wife was there at the finish and luckily got a photo of me crossing the line with the timing clock above me. My time was 1:49:01 on the sprint clock, and given my wave start time was 22 minutes after the first wave, that meant I got a time of 1:27:01 which was 30 seconds slower than Sandringham. That was disappointing but in light of my bad swim and cramp on the run it was still a good result. I found Adam collapsed on the ground near the finish. It was obvious that he had given it everything!

Race completed and time to replenish those electrolytes!

So that was my third and final triathlon this season. Now that I've had a week to look back on it, I'm happy with my performance. My time placed me 41st out of 54 guys in my age group and 370th out of 516 sprint competitors overall which wasn't bad. I guess I need to think of it in the context that this was only my third triathlon. My third in two months in fact. As Sunday showed, I've still got a lot to learn and a lot of potential improvement. If I can right my swim technique over winter and learn to swim straight then I'll be taking giant leaps in the right direction. I've pushed my bike performance to its absolute limit without upgrading my equipment, so, as much as I love the feeling of passing other competitors on Harrier, if I want to drop time on the bike leg then I'm going to need some gears. That means splashing out some cash on a decent road bike. I'm also confident my running will improve with the volume of competitive running I'm planning to do over the off season, culminating in the Melbourne Marathon in October.

With my introduction to triathlon over, next season I'll be gunning for big improvement. I can't wait for November to come around. See you at race 1!