750 m Swim, 20 km Bike, 5 km Run
Des Moines, Iowa
August 31, 2014
You can look at it two ways: minus 4 minutes, 7 seconds or plus 12 seconds. The first was how much of a sprint course PR this was for me, the second how far out of qualification I landed for the 2015 5150 US Championship. I guess it is a glass half-full or half-empty proposition and mostly I’m choosing to feel glass half-full.
Friday night the decision was made to shorten the race from an Olympic to sprint distance race because of flooding on the bike course. I was very disappointed, but woke up with a better attitude about it Saturday morning. (All the quicker to that post-race beverage I say!) My boys and I did the whole packet pick-up, expo, and bike check-in routine together on Saturday, and then went to mass and finished at Wasabi Chi for some pre-race sushi. We ended the day with an early bed time. It was a very nice day to bond and spend together.
Hy-Vee Triathlon Race Day
Even though the race start was pushed back approximately one hour (about 9:00 a.m.) to clear the Elite Cup racers from the bike course, the transition still closed at the same time (6:45 a.m.). So, I was out of the house by 4:30 and at my bike in transition by 4:45. It made for a very easy, chilled-out transition setup. I did a little shake-out run then got out of the area before the energy picked up too much.
On my way over to the beach I passed the pro transition area and decided to stay to watch T1. It is very interesting to watch the best of the best do their thing. For the most part they are very smooth and organized, but you do see the same struggles we age groupers have in transition: fumbling with the helmet straps, indecision, little missteps. This morning the big question seemed to be sunglasses or no on the bike. It made me feel better about my own performance in transition. The one difference I noticed was that most of their bikes were set in a pretty big gear to start out. They must carry a lot of speed on to the bike as they mount.
I found the other side of the lake (swim start) was equally calm. I relaxed with some teammates, chatted up some other friends and took about 6 minutes to shake out the swim before the 5150 Championship waves went off.
The Hy-Vee Triathlon starts by age group in a time-trial format: 6 athletes run in the lake at a time. In theory this spaces out the start pretty well, but on the sprint course we quickly found we were in pretty tight traffic.
The actual layout of the course was nice: roughly a V shaped swim that didn’t have any big angles to negotiate. I navigated around the buoys well this time, feeling like I had picked pretty decent and straight lines.
Two issues I had with the swim: early my right goggle started to leak and I decided to just go with it, being a short course and all. Only after the race did I realize I had floated my right contact lens out early in the swim. The whole race I thought there was sweat in my eye! Second issue: When we got into about the last 250 yards the traffic really bunched up and I had to slow down (amazing, I know). I decided to follow coach Matt’s last minute advice to me before the race: relax on the swim. I could have fought the traffic, but nothing would have come of it.
I came out of the swim feeling good at 18:21 or 2:14/100. Garmin had me at a 1:59/100. Either is fine for me and I maintained a rate of 63 strokes per hundred yards which is exactly the kind of turnover I’ve been practicing. So, when I beat myself up for relatively slow swim times I have to remember that I am improving. It is just going to take time.
T1 was in at 1:51. Hy-Vee is a big transition area, but I feel like I navigated it well.
This adjusted course was just about as flat and fast as you could ask for: a double loop of a dogleg from Fleur Drive to MLK Jr. Parkway. These streets are 2–3 lanes wide and very smooth surfaces. The only slowing you needed to do was at the turnarounds (3) and occasionally when you crossed the railroad tracks which narrowed the course a bit.
Here’s a comparison of my ride at the Elkhart Time Trial August 14 and the Hy-Vee bike course. It kind of explains how fast this course was:
So, after 32:06 of near time trial output I was off the bike and feeling strong. One guy did pass me after the third turn, but I blew by him in transition (1:22).
Back to work on the run. I’d been really gearing for a strong 10K after what was a disappointing run for me at Bluff Creek. But a 5K pace hadn’t been anything I’d really been thinking about since mid-June. Before the race I saw coach Matt and he advised spinning the pedals out well in the last portion of the bike to set up the run.
That worked really well because I scorched the first mile at a 6:23 pace! Mile two was a 6:28 and three was a 6:30. I ended the last 0.15 mile at a 5:18 pace.
There were two men who challenged me on the run leg: both were relay runners, which is really not a fair fight, but I enjoy beating them nonetheless! The first guy, wearing a red t-shirt, I had contemplated holding just in front of me as a good pacer, but passed him allowing him to use me for the same purpose. The second guy was just on another level. He caught me and was easily doing a 5:30 pace. I didn’t even try because he wasn’t any competition—I was happy to see the "R" on his leg!
When we hit the blue carpet at the end of the race, red t-shirt guy, who’d been right on my heels for two miles, decided to make a move. I said to myself, "Puke or whatever you have to do, but don’t let him have the line!" I didn’t, but I was super gassed at the finish line. Sarah Cooper got a great shot of the scene: check the dejection in the posture of red t-shirt guy!
My run time was 20:09. Under a 6:30/mile pace is pretty incredible, but again the course was super-fast. My total time was 1:13:46 which yielded a division place of 16 (top 15 qualify for the US championship next year). Overall place was 69. Yes, coach I did get chicked, but really only in the swim. I had a solid bike (71 overall/15 division) and a great run (46 overall/10 division). I do think I had a shot to climb up the rankings had we raced an Olympic course, but there will be other days. For now I’ll enjoy this one as a great day!
Thanks to my sponsors: Kyle’s Bikes and Discount Tri Supply and my coaches Julie Kirkpatrick and Matt Zepeda at Zoom Performance. This has been an amazing year of triathlon and I’m so glad I have had the opportunity to work with all of you!
Christian uses his triathlon training to encourage charitable contributions. "My charity for this race’s matching gift is the Special Olympics of Iowa. Just thinking how wonderful healthy athletic competition makes me feel makes me realize how important the opportunity is for all people, regardless of ability. Please consider joining me in making a gift to the Special Olympics."
Full results from the Hy-Vee Triathlon are online at hy-veetriathlon.com.