Smith Point Race Report - A different perspective

I wasn’t sure if I would be writing another race report for 2012 after falling victim to babsiosis but here I am punching the keys to offer a unique insight into my race at the Smith Point Sprint Triathlon.

                                                       The Game Plan:

My Dad has been putting in some serious effort this season and has upped his commitment to the sport as well as his fitness. He has put in a serious amount of time on the bike and has dedicated himself to improving his run. His effort, understanding and purpose of training have given rise to his confidence as an athlete and having a very successful race season.

SWIM: Going into the race the game plan was to swim straight by utilizing his sighting ability and to be prepared for the typical disorientation encountered when emerging from the water. Time was not ever spoken about nor a concern because if he swam to his abilities and swam straight then his time would take care of it self.

BIKE: Hammer the bike. This is without question my Dad’s strength and he needed to capitalize on it. The plan for the first mile of the bike or the first 3 minutes was to establish a high cadence, regain a balanced breathing pattern and to get dialed in for the 10 miles ahead. After the first mile the plan was to build the highest possible, sustainable effort.

RUN: With the amount of time he has put into the run the game plan could be summed up with three letters, P.I.E. (Pace Is Everything) He needed to keep a steady and consistent pace throughout the entire run to ensure success.

                                                          The Race:

The swim was a counter-clockwise, 500 yards, salt-water swim. The air temperature was around 85 with matching humidity and the water temperature was very warm so we opted to not wear our wetsuits. We were the third wave out of 4. Because of the small number of waves there was a large number of athletes in each one. I would guess there were close to 70 people in our wave. As we waded out to the swim start I asked him where he felt comfortable to start. I suggested we either start to the far right and then work our way in or stay to the far left and keep a few rows back from the real swimmers. We ended up putting ourselves right in between as well as right on the line. As I looked back it appeared that a majority of the wave were taking their time getting ready and weren't really concerned with positioning themselves, at least not in the front. Realizing this I figured that we would have plenty of clean water to swim in. As our time to start approached I let my Dad know when there was 4 minutes remaining, then 2, and finally 1. The horned sounded and my Dad took two steps, dove in and went to work. I loved how he just went at it. He didn’t start to walk or look around he just went to work. That got me fired up. The normal early swim chaos commenced and my Dad looked calm and collected as if he was expecting the contact and chaos. I figured we would have clear water after the first turn and as we approached turn number one, I was wrong. Everyone in our wave was swimming all over the place. It must have appeared like a stream full of salmon trying to make it up stream. Every handful of strokes my Dad would pull up after making contact with another swimmer, which certainly made it difficult to establish any type of rhythm. Each time he stopped I assured him he was doing great and to keep it up. It really wasn’t until just past the mid-point that he was able to periodically settle into a rythm. When he was able to actually swim he looked great. His stroke has gotten stronger, his turnover has increased and his confidence in the open water has improved. He exited the water, with minimal disorientation (huge plus) between 18 and 19 minutes depending on what clock you look at. I’m sure that he wanted to swim faster and I can assure you with confidence that he can however it was a very tough and frustrating swim. On a side note the few times I pulled ahead of him in an attempt to “clear the way” my stroke felt very strong which made me very happy since I have been away from training for an extended period of time. I also remember looking back once as the sun came through the clouds creating a silhouette of the first turn buoy and the swimmers, it looked amazing, wish I had a camera.

T1. Transition was one aspect of triathlon that my Dad could certainly improve on, and he has! He cut his transition time in half, about 2.5 minutes. I’m sure that not feeling so disoriented coming out of the water played a huge factor that can only be attributed to his improvements as a triathlete and his ability to control his breathing and orientation. I believe he can knock even more time of transition by figuring out how to leave his shoes clipped on the bike and to avoid sitting down to put on socks. Of course that is just me nit picking. Cutting your transition time in half is unbelievable, nice work Dad!

BIKE: I jumped on my bike right out of transition and began to slide into my shoes when my Dad flies past me. I immediately said, WTF? And realized I needed to pick up my game. Of course I then had a hell of a time sliding into my shoes. That’s what I get for not practicing transition with a new set of shoes. I was able to catch up to my Dad within a minute or two and reminded him of his bike goals; take the first mile to warm up and then build the effort until the finish. As soon as we completed the first mile I turned my head and told him it was, “go time.” Once again I began to do my job and started to “clear the way”. I settled into a comfortable cadence and the repeatedly checked to make sure my Dad was right behind me. For the first 2 miles he was sitting upright and I continually reminded him to get aero ASAP. I figured he was still getting his bearings and would settle into aero as soon as he was ready. Before I knew it he was right on my rear wheel, in aero, and looking great. I began to pick up my pace so we wouldn’t get pegged for drafting. As I picked up my pace, my Dad did also. At times he almost had to pass me because I was going too slow! On our way out to the turn around we averaged just under 20 MPH, we were moving. At the 180-degree turn-around we were greeted with a solid head wind. We both got out of our saddles and powered our way out of the turn. Once again I got fired up that my Dad got out of his saddle to push it through the turn. He had to be feeling good, only 5 miles left on the bike, let’s see how hard he can work. As soon as we exited the turn I told him to stay as aero for as long as possible to cut through as much wind as possible. My Dad was an absolute beast for the next 5 miles. I was very impressed with his effort and cadence on our return trip over the bridge. As we neared transition I turned to tell him to start slipping off his shoes, he was already doing that. Obviously, why would I have to remind him to do that? I also reminded him to check his speed before he dismounted. He had a flawless running dismount. Damn he is good.

T2: I pointed out his rack and then made my way to mine. By the time I made it to the end of my rack he was already making his way toward me, how did he just transition faster than me? We gathered ourselves and quickly reviewed his run goals as we walked out of transition. I managed to get my watch on and start it right as we crossed the timing mat and no sooner did he hear the beep of my watch he started to run. So impressed.

The Run: I carried a full water bottle because I knew it would be hot on the run and I pocketed a couple of gels also. The only hill on the course was a little more than a quarter mile into the course and it was over the bridge. As we began our ascent on the bridge I reminded him to forget about pace and to just focus on maintaining his cadence and effort level. We made it up and over the bridge with great form. I noticed his breathing was becoming heavier so I suggested we walk for a minute to lower his heart rate and to avoid going anaerobic. During our minute walk he took down half of a gel and I poured some water over his head. We proceeded at a steady and consistent pace until the turnaround. There we walked through the aid station. He took down one cup of Gatorade and one cup of water and the remaining half of gel. The walk through transition lasted no longer than 1:30 and we were off again. He was doing amazing. At the rate he was going he would negative split his run, un – freaking – believable. On the way back we received a lot of support from other athletes and volunteers. I know my Dad was enjoying himself when he began interacting with the volunteers. As we neared the bridge I suggested we walk up to the crest of the bridge then make our no-stop, assault on the finish. At the top of the bridge I pointed out the finish and reminded him of all the hard work he had put into this season. I reminded him of his sacrifices, the cold winter rides, the hours on the trainer, the time spent in chlorine, the loss of sleep, the miles pounded out on the pavement. He was looking great. His posture was strong and I was 100% confident that he would push through the finish without stopping. As we neared the finish we were greeted and cheered on by Matt. We made one last right hand turn through a tunnel, up a small bend and across the finish line, hands raised, mission accomplished! My Dad managed to average just above a 13-minute mile. I have a feeling he is slightly disappointed by his run pace but no sooner than we crossed the finish line he admitted that he had pushed a little too hard on the bike. This guy surprises me all the time. We hadn’t completed the race more than a minute ago and he was already reflecting and critiquing his race. He also emphatically said he wants to make huge improvements on his run? Seriously? My 62-year-old father wants to improve on his run! Truly inspirational and motivating. I guess the 2013 season can’t come soon enough.

The next adventure for TEAM MATSUI is a self supported Century Ride in October.


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