Wednesday, October 27, 2010

2010 K-Swiss Hong Kong ITU Triathlon - Race Report

This is my first race report. After 2 years of competing in some amazing events around the globe, I decided it is time to jump on the race blog bandwagon and jot down down my experiences in the hopes of putting my readers to sleep.

K-Swiss HK ITU Triathlon (1500m Swim / 40K Bike / 10K Run) - October 24, 2010

Pre-Race: I felt physically prepared to at least complete the distance but was not in peak form. One week prior to the race and I was finally getting over a long three week bug/flu/cold--whatever you want to call it. My training volume was low and frequency sporadic. In the week before the race I decided it was probably best to spend more time doing open water swims in the morning. This would hopefully allow me to regain a feel for the water and boost confidence in order to minimize race day swim anxiety.

4 days to go and it starts to look as if the race will be canceled entirely. Typhoon Megi was predicted to make a turn and head straight for Hong Kong--ETA race day. As the hours rolled by the weather predictors seemed increasingly sure that Megi would hit Hong Kong and it would be one of the largest typhoons in this little island's history. I started to turn off the switch in my mind and think about what movies I would watch from the sofa while the storm blasted against my windows. Then came the news--the race is ON! Wooha. I had the damnedest time finding that switch to flick it back to game mode. The process of prepping my bike, race kit and nutrition helped to get my mind back into gear and come Saturday night I was pumped and ready for action.

Race Morning: I was up at 4:00am and out the door by 5:30 after a light breakfast and lots of coffee. I loaded my bike carefully into the back of a taxi for the 30 minute drive to HK Disneyland. On the drive over I looked out the window and saw a guy driving a convertible with his Cervelo P3 in the back seat. He had obviously noticed my aero bars and seat post hanging out of the back of the the taxi as he flashed a grin and gave me a thumbs up. It was an unspoken "yeah...we are on the road to battle mate" moment. Registration, numbering and transition prep went very smoothly. My fellow Hong Kong Dragon's Tri Club peeps were all over the place--good turnout.

Eventually I found my main rival JoggerJoel and he seemed full of energy. I couldn't help but start to doubt if I was going to be able to put in the work required to come out ahead at the end. Some background on this rivalry might be helpful. Joel kicks my butt in every running race we ever enter together. He finished over 10 minutes ahead of me in the 2009 HK Standard Chartered Marathon and more than an hour and a half ahead of me in this year's Solomon Two Peaks 21K Trail Race! On the bike we have more or less the same ability. The swim is the only place where I can do some damage. Mind you, I am a total mid-pack slow swimmer. Fortunately for me JoggerJoel swims at the speed of a starfish. For this race I was sure I would come out of the water with a significant gap but then I would be hunted down and reeled in over the next 50 Kilometers of biking and running.

The Swim (1,500m): 2 laps of a long rectangular 750m loop.

We were not given much time for a swim warm up. I think it was somewhere around five minutes. This was just enough time for me to do my good deed of the day and warm up the competitors around me with a healthy stream of caffeinated urine. My target was to avoid a repeat of a brutal swim start (hundreds of meters of arms, legs and white water) in an earlier race. I chose to start on the outside and closer toward the back. This way I could dodge the chaos and deftly work my way through the slower swimmers that went out at a speed much faster than they were capable of maintaining. The plan partially worked. I avoided the chaos of arms and legs and managed to stay calm and relaxed for the first few hundred meters but then when I decided to increase the pace to improve my position, battling through the field of slow and unpredictable swimmers proved to me more challenging that I had imagined. Swimmers toward the back tend to have a mixture of all the bad habits. They don't swim in a straight line, they have huge kicks in all directions and their speed is never constant. I would swim up to a group of 3 or four of these guys, have a quick sight and find my window and then go for it. The problem is that the window was no longer there by the time I arrived. I started to get a bit frustrated and recall even grunting as I twisted my torso to come around (or sometimes over) flappers but then realized I was expending a lot of energy with this aggressive swimming and decided to move to the extreme outside of the pack. This probably added another 50 or 60 meters to my total swim distance but it made for a much more enjoyable and controllable swim leg. When I turned the corner for the final 400 meters I saw there was a small pack of guys about 40meters ahead of me. Booya, time to hit the gas. I caught them well ahead of the finish and then remembered a quote from some running magazine or book I read, "pass with AUTHORITY." The idea is to demoralize the one you are passing and minimize the chance that they will try to up their pace to hang with you. And so I passed as if I was being chased by sharks. It worked. I exited the water with a comfortable lead on that group (but still mid-pack overall).

Post Swim Condition: I felt pretty strong coming out of the swim. My HR was hanging around 150bpm. I had a bit of friction rash in the armpits but not enough to break my concentration. I think I was probably smiling and happy to have the most nerve racking part of the race behind me.

T1: We had a 900m jog from the water to the transition area. This wasn't ideal but not the end of the world either. I was quite happy with the whole transition. Threw down the swim cap and goggles, race belt on, goggles on, helmet on, bike off the rack and GO. At the mount line I was happy to have done a bit of practice in advance because I passed about 5 guys that were at full stop trying to clip into their pedals. My shoes were already clipped in and rubber banded to the frame so I went from running barefoot with the bike to riding without the slightest slowing of pace.

Bike (40K): Hammer time. This was a drafting-legal race. In other words, fast and fun. It felt like 40 kilometers of high speed train hopping. From the start I was on the hunt for a wheel to suck. I had to gun it full effort for a few kilometers to catch the back end of what seemed to be a fast pack of local cyclists. "Seemed to be fast" is the operative phrase here. Learning from past mistakes, I consistently kept an eye out for a passing pack of riders on the right. At the last race I failed to pay attention and missed many opportunities to jump on to faster groups of riders. Not again. For the first half of the bike leg I was bouncing from pack to pack and not feeling guilty for letting the other guys do the work at the front. The second half was different. I just barely caught the wheel of a group of 5 extremely fast British riders. I could tell right away that these guys were not going to fade and if I could hang on with them to the finish I would have a great bike time. Since I was to be more than a passing tourist wheel sucker, I felt obliged to share some of the work at the front. When the rotation brought me to the front I put my head down and pushed like hell with everything I had until the lactic acid began to eat away at my speed. My decline was quickly noticed by the next in rotation and someone else would assume the lead. This only left me with a handful of seconds to recover before having to dig in again to catch the last wheel. The cruise into T2 was relatively uneventful. I let the group of riders I linked to go as they seemed to be flying almost dangerously through the final technical section. We had to slow the pace a bit to navigate a twisting path around Disney's Inspiration Lake but, honestly, my legs were thankful for it!

Post Bike Condition: My lunges were in good shape and HR was averaging 145bpm over the bike leg. In fact, I noticed that MY HR was 5bpm higher throughout T2 than on the bike! My legs felt a little wobbly at first but I didn't let myself worry about it too much as I was expecting my "running legs" to kick in after about a kilometer into the run.

Run (10K): I was expecting that my legs would start to feel better after a few minutes of running. At least this is the phenomenon accounted for in numerous other triathletes blogs. Oddly enough, I felt strong from the first step out of T2. The only way I can make sense of this is to assume that it was mainly psychological. (1) I was glad to have the swim, bike and two transitions behind me and only the finish line ahead and (2) I estimated from seeing my rival JoggerJoel on a couple of loops of the bike course that I had about a six to eight minute lead. I told myself that all I needed to do was to run steady kilometer splits under 5:15 and JoggerJoel would have to run a 10K PB to catch me at the line. After the first Kilometer my Garmin 310XT beeped at me and I glanced at the screen to see my first split: 4:56. I couldn't help but smile because that was much faster than perceived effort. At only 1K I knew I had the rivalry race bagged and I felt like I had a marathon left in my legs. The run course was 4 loops with 2 aid stations on each loop. This was a bit overkill but nice to have anyway. At each station I grabbed two cups--one dumped over the head and the other down the pipe. Over the last few kilometers of the run I let my mind drift to the Phuket, Thailand IM 70.3 coming on December 5th. Oh its on, its soo soo ON.

Post Race Condition: I finished feeling like I had a strong race but not like I left everything on the course. This race served as a good confidence builder for Phuket. I have some doubts about how strong I will perform against JoggerJoel in Phuket as the bike course is extremely hilly. Hills and I do not get along as I just don't have the power to drive my 195lb ass up long climbs. After the hills, I may find my experience on the run to be totally different and could end up jelly-legging the entire half marathon with speedy JoggerJoel chomping up the gap. Its going to be an interesting battle worthy of listing on

Swim: 36:42
T1: 8:09 (including the 900m run from water to bike)
Bike: 1:12:36
T2: 3:29
Run: 48:56
Total: 2:49:50
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