Monday, July 01, 2013

2012 Airwaves Hong Kong Triathlon Challenge - Race Report

September 23, 2012

As far as I can tell, this is the longest (distance) sanctioned triathlon ever held in Hong Kong--1.9K Swim, 60K Bike, 15K Run (The distances were drastically off in reality but I'll come back to that later.)  I entered this as a bit of a tune-up 3 weeks out from Ironman Hawaii.

My alarm went of at 4:00am and I was on my bike riding toward the start line by 4:20.  Its about 20K from home to the race venue so I figured this would be a decent warm-up.  If this were an "A race" on my calendar then I would have driven or taken a taxi.

Upon arrival I quickly went through registration and body marking then set my bike and run gear up in transition.  The numbers on the bike-rack-bars were so close together that handlebars were overlapping on both sides.  Sportsoho Fail #1.  As such, I decided not to balance my helmet, race number and glasses on the bars and opted to fasten them completely.  I might lose a few seconds in unclasping during T1 but I figured that would be better than having to hunt around the ground for my helmet after it was knocked lose by an adjacent competitor.

I headed down to the water before sunrise and stood at the edge listening to a few guys exchange their guesses about the direction we were going to be swimming.  It was clear that none of us had a clue.  There was, however, one thing that was crystal clear:  the smell of fresh sewage--lovely.  I tried my best to forget about E.-coli, donned my goggles and plunged into the smelly darkness.  I did a 5 minute warm-up swim, came out for the race briefing and then jumped back in the water for the start.

The Swim 1,900m  (actually 2,400m)

The starting horn went off and I set out swimming very relaxed toward the back.  Within 500 or so meters I had worked my way up into my usual "back of the middle of the pack" spot.  After getting away from the shoreline, I didn't notice the horrible smell so much.  I'm not sure if this is because the water was getting cleaner or I was just getting acclimated to the funk.  Anyhow, it seemed like I was swimming decently but about halfway through the first of the 2-lap course, I felt chaffing on my neck.  This wasn't coming from friction against my tri-suit but rather was just the folds of skin on my neck converging as I rotated my head to breathe.  I don't know how many times I must chafe myself into a bloody mess before I learn to take 2 minutes aside with some Vaseline before the race.

For the most part, the swim was strung-out so I didn't have much collision or jostling to deal with.  I climbed out of the water, glanced at my watch and was shocked to see 51:08.  I had a similar post-swim reaction as in the 2011 IM 70.3 Singapore.  I had to let it go and focus on the rest of the race.  Only afterward did I figure out that the course was 500 meters longer than it was supposed to be.  Sportsoho Fail #2

The Bike - 60K (Actually 57K)

Since my legs were still carrying soreness from cycling 120K just 2 days prior, I made sure my bike was fully loaded with nutrition.  I had two full bottles of Nuun enhanced water and 6 SIS gels.  The bike leg consisted of 4 out and back loops on reasonably hilly terrain. As usual, I was making up quite a bit of ground passing the fast swimmers / crappy cyclists and having a blast.  About halfway into the second lap, I realized that I had already killed half of my water supply and was becoming increasingly thirsty.  Also, I had noticed that there was no aid station on the course so this meant I would have to ration what water I had left until I made it onto the run. Sportsoho Fail #3.  The further I got into the bike leg the more difficult it became to conserve water.  Finally, on my 3rd lap, someone realized that not having water on the course was health hazard (I'm assuming this was their conclusion) and they brought out a few cases of bottled water to be grabbed on the go.  The volunteer wasn't particularly wise about the spot he chose to hand over water as it was just a few meters in front of 2 timing-mat speed bumps.  I heard that this caused a couple of crashes since inexperienced cyclists were not able to navigate the speed bumps while holding a bottle of water at the same time.  Why the volunteer just didn't walk 10 meters down the road beyond the speed bumps to hand out water is beyond me.  My rant aside, I do appreciate his presence because without his help I would have been racing with cotton
mouth thirst.

In general, I raced the bike portion very hard as I planned on taking it easy on the run to avoid any chance of injury leading into Kona. I am pretty happy with how things went on this leg.  For the most part I wasn't able to catch any decent drafts and rode solo into the wind.  Anyhow, just a training race.

The Run - 15K (Actually 19K)

I finished the bike basically neck and neck with JoggerJoel and briefly, consider having a go at him on the run.  I stuck on his heels for the first kilometer but then decided to ease off and save myself for Kona.  It them just became a long slog to the finish--much longer and harder than I could have imagined.  The organizers botched up the course design and unknowingly added 4 kilometers to the route.  If that weren't enough, they didn't arrange to have enough water at the aid stations to support the race.  So after about 5K, I was running "dry" in blistering heat.  People were dropping out left and right.  What a sad display from a reasonably well known organizer (SportsSoho).  Anyhow, I ran and walked and hobbled on through to the finish.  Lame race but a good training day in the heat.

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