Friday, July 17, 2009

Random thoughts for next weekend's race

Word on the street (i.e. Triathlete L.'s report on the Brooklyn triathlete rumor mill!) is that the swim will be much slower this year than last - currents have apparently been much weaker, and there is a possibility it will be much more like a "straight" swim and not so much of the magical assist last year (I think my time last year was something like 21 minutes!). Doesn't much affect me one way or the other, I like the swim and am happy to have it lengthened (when it's so short, it's difficult to get into the groove before it's suddenly over), but worth keeping in mind.

I am hoping to go quite a bit faster on the bike leg than last year (will do a set of comparisons afterwards on the numbers), but it's a crowded course and there are definitely points where speed has to be sacrificed for safety. That said, I think I am in a better position than last year to ride with my cohort, as it were - my goal for the whole thing is to finish "middle of the pack" in my age group, and my bike goal is not to lose a lot of places on the bike versus where I was at the end of the swim!

(My mental comfort levels are pretty much exponentially higher than they were last year, so that's very good. The transition from swim to bike is quite long, so there is no way of shaving a ton of time off there.)

There's no scenario where my run is much faster than last year. I haven't been running a lot, and the run at the Olympic distance is tough (hilly Central Park course, too). This, of course, is fairly weather-dependent; last year it really was terribly hot and humid by mid-morning, so if it's less humid, it will be easier (i.e. I might come in a couple minutes under an hour rather than a couple minutes over). I will stay better hydrated and fueled on the bike this year, and it should be less stressful, but I don't really see myself in this case doing faster than 10:00 miles, though ultimately I should be able to do more like 9:00 in this race/on this course (my fastest open 10K run pace was something like 8:15 on pretty much the same course - can't remember now whether it was clock- or counter-clockwise, though - but I'm definitely not in as good running shape right now as I was when I ran that time a year and a half ago). I am prepared to walk the uphills if my HR is through the roof already - I did this last year, and it did not affect my splits as much as I feared, though it is certainly bad for the morale...

My main strategy change from last year involves post-race choices. I felt pretty tolerable when I crossed the finish line last year, but I made a bad choice that involved putting "getting out of the crowds" at a premium over "most direct route back to where the hell I'm going." It's over a mile from race finish back to transition, and I accidentally last year (because I have a truly awful sense of direction, and because Central Park is landscaped in a way that takes one willy-nilly along certain routes) ended up walking all the way down to the south end of the park (i.e. at least an extra mile) before finding my way back up to Tavern on the Green and thence to Riverside Park - it was truly a nightmare. I drank a couple bottles of fluids during the first part of the walk, but by the time I made it back to Riverside Park, I was well and truly overheated and underfueled and dehydrated. They wouldn't let us in to transition right away (I think that because they have so many waves, they only let 10 racers at a time back into transition until everyone is back in off the bike course), it was quite a long wait with no fluids or food ready to hand, and by the time I got home (probably about 2 hours after race finish) I felt mentally and physically very awful, mentally more so.

(Here was my lengthy screed of a race report!)

So this year I am going to make it a priority to really and properly rehydrate, refuel and cool down in the shade before making my way back to transition and thence home - even in best-case scenario, it's half an hour from race finish to transition, after that only a 4-mile or so bike ride home through the park, but I need to be in better train before I undertake this logistically challenging feat (i.e. packing up sensibly, stowing stuff, etc.) which certainly will take at least an hour! The brain fog that comes from really having used up one's fuel does not ease this sort of procedure, and I have a feeling my time will be better spent taking care of myself first and then taking care of business.

For some reason I got a free ticket to the Accenture VIP tent - either the Ps are not actually VI, or else it is because I am registered as a member of the Columbia Triathlon Club & participating in the so-called "Ivy League Challenge" - so I am going to go there and stay there for at least 15-20 minutes, eat whatever they have on offer, drink a couple bottles of stuff and take another with me to consume on the walk back. One does not need a tent, of course, to do this, but there is no doubt that the chaos is slightly overwhelming (it's a multi-thousand-person race, with TONS of spectators), so I think the crucial thing is to have a concrete plan that can be executed even in conditions of mental fog.

All right, that's enough time wasted online - now to WORK!


Wendy said...

I'm with you on the swim leg -- 20 minutes = a warm-up!

You have made excellent progress on the bike, and it is not just about times and placings -- it is about that intangible feeling of control.

And now, we will hope the weather gods cooperate!

Leah said...

Sounds like a good race plan. Take advantage of the VIP tent! It will remove you from the chaos so you can refuel and get your bearings.

Brent Buckner said...

Good plan!

With less favourable swim conditions, I expect you'll outpace more swimmers this year. I wonder whether you'll then have more people passing you on the bike than last year, even though you'll be going faster.