By Robert Clarence
Those who know me, know I was on a quest to win my age group in this race. I raced this event earlier this year and came in second; that motivated me to enter the race with the goal of actually winning. Normally I enter races with some sort of performance goal. Not necessarily a PR, but a substantially improvement or a new technique aimed at improving my racing in the long run. Here is a progress report on how my training went as I tried to claim first place.
After racing the NYC triathlon in July I took a week off. I was debating what to do with the remainder of the summer. Work was crazy and I had a plethora of family responsibilities, so I knew I couldn't attempt anything too grandiose. I thought maybe a 1/2 marathon or century, but I decided I wouldn't undertake any event that would necessitate needing to train more than 2 hours at any time. The week after NYC I got an email from the promoter who ran the Hagerstown duathlon series not to forget about the race coming later in the year. I remembered liking the first event and thinking this event is short enough (2 mile run, 10 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) that I could train for it and not severely impact the rest of my life. When I made the decision to try and win, however, this meant a lot more detailed work to get ready for the race.
When you are racing to win everything matters. All those thing that are normally overlooked must be scrutinized. Old habits need to be evaluated and tweaked or perhaps thrown out completely. Transitions need to actually be practiced! Race nutrition must be honed to a science. I even created a race day plan, documenting exactly what I should be doing right up until the race start. So I now find myself one week out from the race, here how its gone so far......
Week 0: Establish baselines before training starts.
So before I even started training for the race I did a few tests to see where I was and what I need to work on. I determine my lactate threshold wattage on the bike and my lactate threshold pace on the run. Next, I looked back at the race in which I came in second place. The guy who won, finished in 1:15:55, he beat me by about 2 minutes. So my first thought is, make 1:15:00 my goal in case that guy shows up again! Right there I know I need to lose roughly 3 minutes off my time of 1:18:11. So where can I get it? Well I know I was not at my best on the bike when I did this race so I will try and recoup 2 minutes on the bike and another minute over the 5 miles of running (which is about 12 seconds per mile faster). My transitions are generally pretty good but I figure with practice I can shave 10 seconds off each. So that's my game plan going in.
Week 1 - 5 See my previous post here.
Week 6 -10
Work has been extremely busy so I had a lot of late night workouts. Big thumbs up to @TheSufferfest for making my cycling training challenging. If you have to get on the trainer for any length of time, have a Sufferfest video ready!
My running was really nothing but interval work. I didn't have time to do many long runs but I made every run pretty intense. I was doing my interval work at 7:05 to 7:15 pace, well below what I ran in the first race. Training was brutal, but I could see the improvement, and despite a very harried last two weeks of training, I went in race ready.
I got to the race early, set up my transition area and started warming up. I was expecting rain for the race, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it reasonably dry and warm. Since I was racing to win, I started scoping the people in my age group. I started near the front of the pack so anyone running faster than me would have to run past me and I would see them. The race director started the countdown and then we were off! I noticed 1 guy in my age group immediately go to the front. He was running F*CKIN#& FAST! I didn't want to let him get too far ahead but when I looked down at my Garmin I was running at a 6:44 per mile pace! Way too fast! I slowed down to a more reasonable 7:15 pace only to watch 3 more guys in my age group go by me! Having never really raced a triathlon like this I made a decision that I would bank on my bike strength. I was not going to try and run these guys down only to blow up spectacularly. I zipped through transition with just one mistake, I left one bike shoe on the wrong side of my bike, that probably cost me 5 seconds.
I was riding my road bike in this race since that's what I had been training on. I have a Colnago Flight TT bike but I had been having trouble getting comfortable on it lately so I went with comfort at the expense of aerodynamics. I was moving quickly, but holding back just a bit as planned. Problem was, apparently no one told those 4 other guys to hold back. I watched as they pedaled away into the distance. I was using my power meeting to measure my effort and it worked out perfectly. At the end of the 10 miles my normalized power was dead on my lactate threshold power. My coach would be proud! I felt pretty good coming off the bike and zipped through transition in 1/2 a minute.
Coming out of transition my legs felt a bit heavy, but I knew from experience it takes me about 1/2 a mile for them to loosen up. I expected to run somewhat slower than the first run and I lived up to my expectations. I still felt strong and I felt even better as I passed a guy from my age group at the mile marker. This got the adrenaline pumping and I picked up the pace to slightly under 8 minutes per mile. I grabbed some water at the turn around and started trying to close on the nearest competitor I could see. It was a woman who had passed me on the bike just before coming into transition. I set my sites on running her down, but every time I closed just a little she would open up the gap back up ( I later found out I was chasing the woman who finished 3rd overall, yeah I didn't catch her). She turned out to be a good rabbit and I ended up with a very respectable 25:02 for the 5k run.
At the end of the day I ended up fourth in my age group. I can't complain though I annihilated my previous best time on the course. I dropped almost 6 minutes since my race in April. I ran over 30 seconds per mile better on each run and knocked 3 minutes of my bike as well as almost cutting my transitions in half. I think this course suits me, so I look forward to returning next year. Hope to see some you guys out there next year.
Keep training ......