Saturday, May 8, 2010

Race Report: Polarbear Sprint

Triathlon is like a box of chocolates- you never know what you're going to get until you bite into one.

The season got underway today with the Polarbear at Bowdoin College. It's always great to see all of the familiar faces you haven't seen since last fall. And it's funny how, even after all of the races we've done over the years, the butterflies were very apparent for everyone. Everyone else looks to be in great shape and we hear training has been going well. So even with a short race like this, you know it's going to hurt. If you don't turn yourself inside out, you can easily lose a bunch of places.

One of the big stories for me today was all of the mistakes I made. First, I got up plenty early this morning, but was late picking up Nick, who slept over at a friend's house last night. So that put me about 20 minutes behind where I wanted to be and caused me to limit my warmup. Second, I was late getting down to the pool, and ended up in the very first lane, against the wall. Knucklehead. I hate swimming against a wall, and having someone in the other half of the lane made it even worse. And third, I racked my bike on the wrong side. I started out on the correct side, but it seemed a bit crowded. The other side was wide open, so I swapped over. Idiot. When I came out of the pool and into T1, I couldn't find my bike- it seemed like an eternity to find it in it's correct spot, but in reality was probably just 10 seconds or so.

Now to the race- The swim almost seemed too comfortable. Was I working hard enough? Am I just slow today and there isn't much I can do about it? Is my day over? Dealing with the side wall was a pain. I didn't want to get too close, but had to look out for the other guy in my lane, even though I lapped him around the 300 ys mark. It seemed like every turn was awkward. Sighting the end was also difficult. Even though the Bowdoin pool isn't 50 meters long the other way, they have lanes painted on the bottom with crosses to mark where turns would be. I was swimming directly over the crosses, and for some odd reason, they threw me for a loop. Anyway, I just tried to stay smooth. I had no idea where others were because I was so focused on all of the walls around me. I also lost count at about 200 yds. Then probably around 400, I saw Mike C, who was on the far side of the next lane, coming into the wall as I was pushing off. He easily leads me in practice these days unless it's a real sprint set. I figured he was about to lap me, which would have confirmed a really lousy swim. Instead, he was actually just behind me, which I discovered as I entered T1. Good stuff.

After the above noted terrible transition, I set out on the bike and actually felt pretty smooth. The watts were there- I seemed to be around 280 to 310 most of the time, which I was pleased with. I also was able to put in extra power coming out of corners or up the shallow hills without it wearing on me. The bike is about 11 miles. Early on, I thought I easily passed Catherine Sterling. She's one of the real hot shots around here, and our times are generally pretty close. So I was pleased. I also knew I was chasing Jeff Small who's been working real hard at IMLP training and is a very strong swimmer. I kept looking and looking, but didn't see him until somewhere in the middle. When I caught him, I wanted to put him away so he wouldn't have a chance of catching me on the run. Remember, he ran away from me a couple of months ago in a 5K. As I passed, I saw the real Catherine, and knew at that point I might see her again later in the race. Boy, was I right. Doug Welling passed me, and I did a pretty good job staying with him for a good 5 miles or so. Then Brett Hellstedt passed me and they took off.

As I was slipping on my sneakers in T2, Jeff Fisher racked his bike just opposite me. This guy has had a great winter of training. Even though the focus has been on the bike, he recently went under 19 for a 5K. Knowing this meant a tough run, I said, "Oh Jeff, why do you have to do this to me?" I ran out of T2 and caught up with a guy (Ted Mitchell) I didn't recognize. He was 39, looked fit, and was obviously on my level when you combine the swim and bike. I didn't force the run like I usually do and instead tried to stay smooth. The turnover was pretty good, and although I was working hard, it felt reasonably comfortable. I figured I would really need something in reserve for when Jeff came up. I stayed on Ted's shoulder for about a 1/2 mile, then took the lead. He stayed right on my shoulder, until just before we entered the woods when he passed. Soon into the woods, Jeff passed us and looked really strong. He put about 10 yards on Ted, who had about 5 yards on me. We exited the woods (we're a bit past 1/2 way), and Ted took some water. At the same time, he slowed a bit, and I thought he might be suffering too much. I closed the gap, and stayed just a couple of yards behind him for a while.

As we entered the woods again, which is a sweeping 180 degree turn, I saw Catherine just behind. Damn. Damn. Damn. Then the psychoanalysis started. Wow, she's running well. I've outrun her before, so do it again. She must be in good shape. Can't be girled. You know, there's no shame in losing to her- she's one of the best around. That chatter continued the length of the woods, and I thought I started hearing her behind me. When we came out of the woods for the final time, with just 200 yards left, I peeked and saw I had about 8 yards on her. Fine. I'll go. I put in a surge for about 15 seconds, peeked again, saw she wasn't any closer, so I kept up the speed and finished six seconds ahead of her.

At this point, the results seem to have many errors- too many to list here. I realize triathlons involve many logistics, and things can go wrong, but it sure is frustrating when the timing is wrong- especially when we had chips on! I think I ended up 8th OA and 1st in AG. I feel good about the effort and execution, other than the stupid mistakes I already mentioned. Strangely, the one word I would use to describe it is smooth. The effort was very even, and I think fast enough given where I am in training.

The next race is in two weeks- Crank the Kanc TT. Then the next day is the Freeport TT which I'll do with Nick. The following weekend, the Sunday of Memorial Day, we will both do the Cape TT at 7:30, then I'll drive back to Falmouth to do a 4 mi road race at 10. The next week is a biggie- Mooseman, the only Oly distance I'll do other than Worlds.

It's good to be underway again.


  1. Congrats on a good performance in spite of all the small mistakes you made! Being able to put them aside and keep your focus on the end goal is always a good sign.

  2. Great job out there Steve!!!! So glad you took her down for me. :) She's tough! you're right and it's ok to be girled... :o)
    but you got her.
    So fun to get the blood moving again in the races. great to see you and look forward to cruisin' up the kanc in a few weeks!

  3. Congrats, Steve! It sounds like you had a very solid race despite the little mishaps. (and yes, there is NO SHAME in losing to CS!!! But you didn't. )