I was late to the show to register and happened to get put on the waiting list for this race. A few days after joining the wait list, I got an email saying I would get a spot, so I quickly registered on short notice of around a week in advance. Now it was just the sprint distance, so nothing that required a large taper, but this race fell on July 10, yep... the week after the 4th of July. I had a very rough weekend of eating and consuming some adult beverages as well having just come off helping build a garage for 3 days and being away from training.
I snuck out on Monday the 5th to ride the course since I had the day off. I took my road bike and cruised on the course, dodging as many potholes as possible. This was easier said than done as there were some large holes, big enough to cause a disaster if you hit one of the 18 inchers. The course was flat for the most part with a few climbs here and there. most notably is "the hill" of the Twin Cities Marathon, which consists of a gradual climb over a few miles. I wanted to make sure I knew where the holes were in the situation they did not get through to patch before the race.
Based on the size of the event, there is no race-day packet pick-up. It was held downtown Minneapolis at the Convention Center. A quick stop in the sky-walk to shoot a few pictures:
I took a little bit of time off work to go down and enjoy the expo before traffic got bad leaving downtown. I walked around talking with many of the vendors. I enjoyed talking with the different vendors and walking around. Since this race is part of the Toyota Cup, Toyota had a large booth and had autographs with some of the professional triathletes throughout the afternoon. I arrived and was able to get in and talk with Hunter Kemper for a while and found the thing that drives both of us is the constant competition, not only versus the clock, but others as well. 10k times are getting lower and lower, and in order to be competitive, you have to improve, even if that discipline is your strong suit in the first place. This reminded me of a quote I have heard many times: "Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good is better your better is the best." A quick autograph towards the end, and I did a little more exploring.
I came back to the booth after a while and had an opportunity to meet Sarah Haskins. We talked about favorite venues and race styles as well as excelling in one sport versus being balanced in all. It was a great opportunity to talk to the person who would end up winning the Professional Female division the following day.
I headed home with a few autographed pictures and a bag full of materials. I also snagged some coupons, and the guy in the booth urged me to take more. I wish I would have taken even more in hindsight. The Jenny-O booth had 2 dollars off any package of turkey. Since we use ground turkey for almost everything, we will put them to good use!
I was up at 4:25 AM to eat a peanut butter and honey flat-bread along with some greek yogurt. I had packed everything into the car the night before, so I loaded up my water bottle for pre-race, and my bike bottle with Infinit and headed out. I got a pretty good parking spot, and by pretty good, I mean I still only had to walk like 3/4 of a mile or so to transition. What a great view of the lake as the sun was waking up:
When I arrived, they make you get body marked first before going to transition, ok fair enough. Here is where the fun begins.
I love the social nature of triathlon and enjoy talking with people before races. This day, I would get an opportunity to talk to a few people who would amaze me on two totally different levels. As I waited to get body marked, someone asked me a question about running tubeless tires and what you do if you get a flat. Not ever using tubeless tires before, I offered the best advise I could. I was not sure if the course offered a support cart that helped with flats or not, but I expected many people either DNF, and catch the sag wagon, or carry their own materials to change. I looked down at the wheels, they were Zipps, 440 or older 404 styles. Fair enough, many people bite on aero wheels, I am one of them. The next comment threw me for a bit of a loop when he said he just got them and has never ridden on them before. I am a firm believer of 'Nothing new on race day' but I reserved my comments to myself for this occasion.
Another question prompted following this comment, all this time we are getting passed by people getting body marked, and the mosquitoes were attacking in full force. His next question, valve extenders... and how to tell how much to pump up the tires. I responded with again, my best possible, "Sometimes extenders will show the readout, other times it won't but having an idea of how the tire feels when inflated is the best way to judge." We went on our ways to get body marked. As I looked over his direction when we were getting body marked... I saw his bike... Cervelo P4. Now I try not to judge, and everyone has their right to purchase what they please, but I will say that these were questions I would expect from someone with a little less vested interest in triathlon, something that does not typically go hand-in-hand with a P4.
I got body-marked and headed to my spot which was laid out by number. After a quick glance at the transition area map, I found my spot. I was about 4 bikes away from being the closest to the bike out as possible. Not a bad spot for luck of the draw. I setup my area and then walked around transition a little to understand the flow. With 3500 people, the area was large, and I had set goals for transition times, so I sure as heck did not want to wander around trying to find my stuff.
Transition closes as 6:30 initially, and 6:45 officially, so I had a bit of a predicament. Being in the sprint, meant I went after all international distance racers, and being 27, put me towards the end of the sprint. With 3000+ participants and time trial starts, you can see my issue building. Yes I would be waiting a long time before I could start. I wanted to get on the bike and do a warm-up so my legs remember what it feels like. I get my shoes and helmet on and head out. When I climbed on the bike, sure enough I look to my left and its Craig Alexander getting on his bike right next to me. I surely would not pass up an opportunity to say hello and wish him a good race. We ended up biking together for a while as he spun his legs up. What a great guy, although only a couple of miles of riding, I was happy to have gotten the opportunity to talk with him since I missed him at the expo the day before.
I settled things back to transition and took my things with me. At this point I would normally leave my Zoots in the transition area and go barefoot, but since I had 2+ hours to wait, I brought a second pair of shoes and shorts and Marathon bar shirt to sport as I waited along with my water bottle to keep hydrated as it warmed up.
I watched the professional men start and sat around for what seemed like ages, passing out some Marathon bars and talking to other racers. I talked with Minneapolis local Steve Sander whom I had raced with in Alexandria and Waconia. He is a down to earth guy racing in the Elite division, a guy I look up to and hopefully get to race against, although I have some work to do in order to get to his level! I caught up with my wife after watching the men head out on the bikes. We killed some time watching people go out, and then eventually come back in off the bike. We even saw the professional women come in.
I decided to do my run warm-up and headed out on the path for a while, getting my legs under me, but not burning out. Shortly after that, I headed to the water. Since the water was 82, wetsuits were not allowed if you wanted to compete, so this would officially be my first OWS without a wetsuit. The water was perfect, and I would have roasted in a wetsuit. A bit more time passed and I got in line to head out.
The course is a .4 mile, 704 yard, rectangleish circle, if that is what you want to call it. Maybe this picture will help. This was from my Garmin 310xt in my swim cap using the quick release kit. For the second race in a row, I forgot to start it, coincidence it was also another TT start that I forgot? I remembered it shortly after I did my dolphin dive in and a few strokes later, so I reached up and poked it through my swim cap and continued on almost in one fluid motion.
I started strong, heading straight for the first small buoy and moving past people with very little contact. I was on a good line, and ready to move. In hindsight, I may have taken a different line to lower the amount of distance by a bit, but that is in the past now. So I look at this graphed our distance, and see where I started in the water, and then as I approach the turn buoy, I deviate a little, otherwise I am doing well sighting. I felt good, only getting kicked one time, will blame it on someone not being able to swim straight as they came wildly in front of me nearly perpendicular to how the course was supposed to go.
I made the turn and kept on passing people, occasionally seeing a Silver swim cap, but I was not sure if they were guys from my division or the 30-35 AG that was 2 groups ahead of my starting range of numbers. Regardless, I pressed on, feeling great in the water. I was amazed at how efficiently I felt like I was moving through the water especially without a wetsuit, it almost felt like I was in salt water, my legs were in a good position and I was doing well. Rounding the final turn, I headed in, what a line to the shore! Before I knew it my fingers touched sand, and I was up and running out of the water. Oddly enough for as quick as the water dropped off on the start side, the end part of the beach was shallow for quite a ways. I ran into transition and clicked the Garmin at some point, not really sure where the timing mat was located.
The biggest downside on the swim was my time, significantly slower than expected, but I guess understandable for non wetsuit. I could have pushed it a bit harder at the start/middle. Tinted goggles made a huge difference, man was that a good choice today.
Remember how I said I had Transition goals, well I knew my route and stuck to it, getting to my bike effortlessly, loving the barefoot feel, I got in my shoes and helmet/sunglasses on, and out I went. The only mistake I can find here was that I had clipped my Garmin into the wrist strap, forgetting it went on the bike, but I resolved that while running, so no time lost there. Overall, quite happy with this performance.
Next area of improvement, getting on the bike with shoes clipped in already.
I was out and after a little issue getting both feet clipped in, I was off and moving quickly. Since the roads were closed for the race, people biked in the whole road, making passing sometimes difficult, but I managed to escape the bottle neck and start picking people off. I passed one, then two, then saw lucky number three in my age group. Not sure how many were ahead of me, my goal was hunt them down so I know if I get passed later, I can keep track of how many are ahead of me. While not a perfect strategy, it was good enough for me.
Well race day had other plans for me. I have been using a bottle mounted horizontally on my aero bars with a standard cage. I love the setup for easy access, and one bottle is all I need on my race distances especially. About mile two something, I hit a bump and pop goes the bottle, flying off my handlebars, and to the road. In a flash I had a few thoughts cross my mind, the first being "Crap" I knew I would want liquid, and being a USAT event, I knew I could get penalized for leaving equipment on the course, so I got on the brakes, and clipped out as I stopped, I laid my bike on the grass and trotted back in my bike shoes to get the water bottle, having to wait for some bikers to pass to get to the right side of the road, I snagged the bottle and trotted back. My HR was up from this excitement, and I was quickly back on the bike. Somehow I seemed to have lost my legs since it took another couple of miles to get my bike legs back under me.
The bike continued to be an interesting journey, ups and downs, fast and slow, hills and flats. As I came back towards transition, all I could think is thank goodness that is done.
I need some work on mental toughness on the bike, while it wasn't a flat, I struggled after this and never got into it. This hurts the race because normally I pick up some good time on the bike.
I made a decision on my way into the park to try and take my feet out of my shoes and keep them on the bike, something I have not practiced. Luckily, this went off without a hitch, and I think I benefit from this decision. I felt very in tune running back to the opposite side of transition with my bike barefoot. I slipped on my Zoots as the helmet went to the ground trying not to scuff it up on the asphalt, snagged my race belt on the way out and away I went. I purposely did not tighten my Zoots, as it worked the last time I forgot to tighten and resulted in no blisters or discomfort, I figured why not.
I headed out and knew that the run would need to be strong, stronger than my goal said if I wanted any shot of my goal time, which at this point was pretty unrealistic. I took off quickly forgetting that goal time, and focusing on the run goal time, sub 21. I saw Garmin say 6:10 miles, and then 6:28s, and all sorts of numbers, but I kept focus, dodging people on the narrow path, and moving forward. I passed a few more age groupers, and kept moving. The run is mostly flat, with the exception when you have to run up a road for a turn around, it happens to be a bridge going up and over the lake, so nothing extreme, just enough to play with your mind. Water stop number two was right after the turn around, so a quick sip and a dribble on my head, I kept moving forward. I felt good and knew I was around 7 minute miles or so. I saw my times start going on the plus side and would do a lot of loping around that 7 minute mark. It was steamy outside which did not help, but my lungs were not burning too terribly bad, I was just slightly uncomfortable, something I was shooting to feel.
A quick grab of water at mile 2, I knew I was about a mile away from being done, 7 minutes or less of this effort. At 2.4 according to Garmin, I hit a mental hurdle. We were across the lake from the start, I could see where we started, and it looked much longer than .6 miles away, so I doubted the course distances. This prevented me from picking up the pace as planned for the last half mile. I got passed by one person up until this point, and shortly after a second came by me. He was right next to me and was not moving much faster, but just enough to push me. I quickly commented that I liked his pace and kept with him knowing the end was near, I wanted to hurt in a good way, and he was my ticket home. Seeing his number I realized he was on the International distance course, but stuck with him anyway, we would end in the same spot. The final turn came for the home stretch, and away we went. I took the lead, dropping in to the 5 minute range, and before I knew it he flew past me like I was standing still. I finished strong, remembering one moment I thought "If one muscle decides to stop for the day, you can basically slide through the finish line with your momentum." I am glad I did not test this theory, but I was floored at the end.
My goals going into the race were as follows:
-Sub 11 swim
-Under 2:30 T1
-Bike under 40 minutes
-T2 under 1:30
-Run better than 21 minutes
-Giving an overall time 1:16, really shooting for under 1:15
Swim: 11:36 (1:48/100m) 4/33 AG, 34 Overall
T1: 1:51 5/33 AG, 18 Overall
Bike: 42:06 (21.4 MPH, 216 Watts) 3/33 AG, 31 Overall
T2: 1:19 9/33 AG, 28 Overall
Run: 20:48 (6:56 / mile) AG 5/33, 20 Overall
Totals: 1:17:42 2nd in Age Group, 12/753 Overall
The bike mishap hurt me mentally, overall I am happy with the results, my wattage was low on the bike, but probably about right based on how little I had prepped on the bike. The run victory was huge for me, sub 7 minute miles is a HUGE mental barrier for me. As I was writing this post, I was thinking I needed to find a 5k so I can push to break 20 minutes which will be a huge mental barrier I need to accomplish to continue to grow my run. Things work in amazing ways, and I got an email saying I can register for the Torchlight 5k next Wednesday evening. This was just recently featured in Runner's World, so I am going to give it a shot.
Next race: 1st Annual Camp Courageous Sprint near my hometown in Iowa on August 1.