Sunday, July 12, 2009

Training Tri Race Report: Plus ça change ...

(Now with table fixed!) Last Sunday (wow, it seems so long ago!) was my first D.C. Tri training tri of the season. D.C. Tri's training tris are legendary. $5, limited to 120 people, they take place at evil (or delightful, depends) Haine's Point, in the Haine's Point 50 m pool, 3 long loops around the point on the bike (16.8 miles) and a 5k run. It's a great event, run entirely by volunteers, held early in the a.m. to beat the traffic since roads are not closed. Transition takes place on the grassy median strip, where bikes are laid down (chainring side UP please!)

So it's also a terrific way to judge your level of fitness from year to year, since the only (external) thing that changes is the weather. Internal changes, on the other hand...

Oh let's cut to the chase. This year versus last year looks like this:

July 12, 2009July 13, 2008
swim 400 yards 10:34 (2:39/100m)11:11 (2:48/100m)
t1 4:053:47
bike 16.8 miles 1:04:58 (15.52mph)1:04:51 (15.54 mph)
t2 1:321:24
run 5k38:37 (12:27 min/mile)36:50 (11:53 min/mile)
Total 1:59:461:58:03

Well, on the one hand I had high hopes this year of crushing last year's time. On the other, I thought: What better time and place to experiment?? So my first big experiment was using all the skills that have been beaten into me by the swim nazi. The swim works like this: the field is divided in half; people start in the middle lanes and work their way up 50 meters using one side of the lane, back 50 meters on the other side of the same lane, under the rope, and etc., to the end like this:

You give your 100m time to the folks at the sign-up table, and get seeded accordingly. So I said "2:30", meaning that people who swim say, 2:20, would be in front of me. Theoretically. If they actually, you know, tell the truth. Well, I happened to overhear a few (two) little birdies give their estimated swim times, and let's just say that I had my doubts about said times, which of course I voiced. Why does this matter, you ask? Because, if you are slower than you say you are, well, the people behind you are not going to be happy. It's not terrifically easy (see technical diagram) to swim around people, since other peeps are coming right towards you, in the other half of the lane.

So all I'm saying is: I could SOOOOO have knocked another 15 seconds off my swim time except for the person in front of me, for whom I had to actually STOP swimming, cuz I couldn't pass him! FIFTEEN SECONDS! (Not that it matters.) When I got to 200 meters, I asked him if I could cut ahead. Cuz I was brought up polite like that.

Even so, the swim was my one bright spot over last year. Well, ok, I did shave I meant ADD 7 seconds off to my bike. And it's entirely possible that I was a wee bit too laid back during transitions.

My bike "experiment" I learned from watching the Tour. Turns out those dudes? When they want to go faster? They use bigger gears! WHO. FREAKING. KNEW. Since Haine's Point is flat as a pancake, I tried to stay in my big giant gear, and push as hard as I could. I'm actually happy with my bike time because a) it practically killed me (always a good thing, right?), and 2) last year I did not use the Big Girl gear AT ALL, NEVER. (I'm not totally sure what that means in terms of performance, or smartness. Bike people, weigh in please.)

And then there's the run. I have no idea what happened because 1) I did not walk (I know, hard to believe, right?) and b) I did not give up nor did I feel like giving up. This is big progress people! Going from T2 into the run was way tougher than I remember from last year, and way way tougher than it was during the ITU sprint just four weeks ago, when my 5k time was 35:32 (11:28 min./mile).

So, with all that in mind, and the Nation's Tri (Olympic) the only thing left on my dance card this season on Sept. 13, over which I am already freaked, and which sounded just tough enough, I did the only thing I know how to do: When I heard that the MidAtlantic Regional Club Championship, the North East Triathlon on August 16th, had some extra spots open for DC Tri peeps, I took the plunge and signed up.

As someone told me at the track tonight: "Just think of it as a great big party."

Or a wake.


21stCenturyMom said...

No - not a wake. You tried new stuff and you got the same result so you NEED the other tri to figure this out, right? Right!

Just keep doing brick workouts and every time you ride the bike have at least a 10 minute run off. Your legs will thank you.

I'm not sure about 'the big girl gear' but I am learning that an easier gear with a faster cadence is faster for the most part than a harder gear with a lower cadence. Ladies such as ourselves just don't have the power in our quads to make that big gear stuff work that well.

Petraruns said...

Jeanne - another great go at it. I just can't get over the fiddliness of triathlons - changing equipment, outfits etc - I really really take my hat (helmet?) off to you. THat swimming setup - thanks for the helpful image - seems tough and I do know how awful it is when people aren't honest about their times. Jeez Louise folks - you're going to be found out!

Anyway - it's too early for me to get agitated on your behalf. You are totally a rockstar for signing up for another one. And a bit mad as well.

Lesser is More said...

Here's the one piece of advice I have for use of the "big girl gear" (to me known as the Hairy Man Chest Gear) - use it at least on the downhills, if nothing else. Higher cadence is good for spinning away (assuming you do feel some tension)and keeping your legs from getting too tight with lactic acid. If your legs are too sore by the end of a flat course while spinning in the big gear, you may want to keep it in an easier gear that allows you a higher cadence.

But when you are on a downhill, no gear combination in the little gears will give you any ability to force a faster speed. As a whole, you can continue to spin away on a downhill in your big gear until you've hit about 30 mph. At that point, it costs you more energy to push the harder gear than the benefit you'd receive from the increased speed.

So here's the challenge for Northeast, since it has some good hills: use the big gear on the downhills! Once you've built up enough speed to shift into the big gear, keep spinning until you get into the next hill, you hit 30 mph, or until your cadence forces you to shift into your easier gears. See how that works out and let's re-evaluate.

Anne said...

I can so relate to the logjam from people who are clueless like that slower swimmer. Maybe you should put in a third category for handicaps since you seemed to have enough of one this time around.

Dori said...

Well, at least you TRIed. We can't always do better than last year. And I give you HUGE credit for running without walking. I once went for a run after a 20 mile bike ride and could only laugh because of the Gumby legs.

peter said...

It looks like the trainingcycle was good if you were able to experiment with techniques and feel good about the results. I'm glad you menioned when he Nation's Tri is so I'll be sure to stay out of town that day.

Jade Lady said...

Big girl gear...oh...gees..I've been ignoring that too! Thanks for the tip.

ShirleyPerly said...

I actually rarely use the big gear unless I'm going downhills. It just wears me out too much so that I have no legs left for the run (which may be what happened to you).

But these training tris are great low key events for figuring out what works and what doesn't. You are so lucky to have them in your area!