Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tugaloo Olympic Triathlon, September 13, 2008

Tugaloo is one of the hardest Olympic distance triathlons in the circuit. Guess that’s why they make it the Georgia State Championship. Since I’m a SC resident, I was an interloper from across the northern border. I was not eligible for the GA state championship awards, but sometimes I feel like all those speedy whippersnappers from Atlanta and Georgia don’t like me crashing their party when I’m fighting for a top spot with them. I love this race since it’s close to my home in Greenville, SC.

This was not an A priority race for me, just a good speed workout race prep for the 2 half Ironmans I have coming up in the next month. I had a pretty good race. My time this year was actually over 2 minutes faster (2:24:10) than my 2007 time (2:26:43), so I guess I’m getting faster. Sometimes it’s misleading to compare times year to year since conditions change, wind, heat, current, etc. The real comparison is how you finish in the field each year since everyone faces the same conditions. This year I finished 24th out of 487, better than my 37th overall last year, so I guess I was faster. However, even though I went 2 minutes faster, and moved up 10 places overall, I finished off the podium 4th in my age group this year, when I was on the podium 3rd last year. Guess a couple of fast guys jumped in my age group this year.

Lake Hartwell looks like it is going dry like most of upstate SC and Georgia. It really was sad to see almost 200 yards of sand and dirt that used to be covered by water. The swim is in a narrow channel that was even more narrow with the drought. Next year there may be no water to swim in at all. Time trial start. I started 120th out of 487. I kind of like starting behind my competition in open water swims so I can sneak up on them and they never see me coming. I had a good swim, 11th out of 56 in my age group, almost 90 seconds faster than last year, so that was good. The air was extremely foggy over the water, so foggy I could not see past 20 feet in front of me. Good thing the guys in front were going the right way because I could not see any buoys until I was right on them.

The bike was the same course as last year. Hilly and hard for an Olympic distance. I started pretty aggressive, but not redlining it. As usual for the first 2 -3 miles a few guys starting the bike near me were going hard, passing me, then I’d pass them, but that happens in most races where guys go charging out of transition like someone set their ego on fire . . . and then suddenly hit the wall after about 5 minutes of lactic acid boiling in their legs. I left them at about mile 3 and started picking people off one by one. No one passed me for 26 miles so I knew I was keeping a good pace. I tried to stay on the fine line of pushing hard as I could, but not going over the edge and blowing up. Because of the hills, this year I decided to ride a rear spoked race wheel rather than my disk and I think it was faster. I finished this hilly beast in 1:09:16, averaging 22.6 mph, 2nd fastest out of 56 in my age group and 18th fastest overall.

I came into T2 knowing I’d passed around 100 people on the swim and bike and was probably somewhere near the top 20 now. My plan was to hit the run as hard as possible right from the start and hope I could hold it. I know this run course and it’s hilly and tight, with lots of turns and blind corners, so athletes in front would never see me coming, but I’d also not see those gaining on me. I kept a steady pace between 6:30 and 7:00 minute miles, feeling like my eyes were about to pop out of my skull, but that’s a good feeling when you keep passing people and no one passes you. The trick is to look like you’re not hurting at all when your whole body feels like its about to burst into flames. You don’t want anyone thinking they can surge and catch you.

At mile 2 a guy passes me and I see the age marked on his calf is in my age group. Not good. I was about at my max pace, so I tried to stay steady and hope he would fade a bit. I set out chasing him for 4 miles with him hovering about 50 meters in front of me the whole time. I tried surging several times to see if I could narrow the gap, but could not close it. I had a feeling he and I were fighting for a spot on the podium and I was right. He got the final spot on the podium (3rd) in our age group, 58 seconds in front of me. I had the 4th fastest run in the age group, he had the 2nd.

I finished feeling pretty happy about the speed workout, and pleased that I was over 2 minutes faster than last year. That hopefully is a good sign for the South Carolina Half Ironman in 2 weeks on September 28 and the USAT Long Course National Championship in Nevada, October 18. See you then!

Note: Since it was a short Olympic distance, I never tested my blood sugar during the race. At the end it was a little higher than I wanted, but that’s always due to the adrenaline of such a hard, short race. My Omnipod Insulin pump and One Touch Ultra blood sugar meter both worked perfect!

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