Sunday, June 10, 2012

Latta: The [Charlotte] World Championships – A race, A results.

Chad’s Recap:

In addition to being a big race in the Charlotte scene, this would be the first time that we had raced a course that we had raced previously and an excellent opportunity to measure our progress.

Danielle’s goals:
(1) Improve all splits
(2) Sub 1:31
(3) Beat Chad’s 2011 Latta bike time
(4) Place in age group

Chad’s goals:
(1) Improve all splits, especially bike and swim
(2) Improve age group ranking
(3) Respectable bike
(4) Sub 1:21
(5) #1 run

Because I didn’t get to see a lot of Danielle’s race I will give you the numbers compared to 2011. In 2011 she finished 32nd overall and 5th in her age group. This year she did considerably better on ostensibly the same course. Swim: improved 1:40, T1 improved :11, Bike improved 2:08, T2 improved :22, Run improved 1:17. Her 2012 finish time was 1:29:09 shattering her goal #2 and a total one year, same course improvement of 5 minutes and 38 seconds. She improved every single split and went from 32nd overall to 11th. Her super secret goal was to beat Jackie Savage (1:31:54 in 2011) and win her age group, but Jackie bettered her 2011 result by 3:25 to hold of Danielle’s hard charging run. Still, second place in a very competitive age group is an excellent result and Danielle is very excited by her progress. For the record, she did hit all of her official goals, including beating my 2011 bike split (and she was on a road bike w/o aero bars).

My race: triathlons are still very new to me and I have a love/hate relationship with the anxiety that I feel before the swim start, it still seems like such a foreign and absurd way to start a race. In any event, I placed myself near my One2Tri Racing teammates, Ross TJ and Story, all of whom are stronger swimmers than I. I thought I got out well and this was confirmed when I noticed Story’s speedo’ed backside alongside me about 100m into the swim. Knowing he is a good swimmer I just stuck we him and relaxed and let him lead me to the first turn. I lost him somewhere between the first and second turns and made the turn home alone. The second half of the swim was much worse as the sun made sighting very difficult and I had to swim through slowing people from my own wave and the slow swimmers from the preceding wave. It is a great feeling to be back on land knowing you didn’t make any major mistakes. I heard people cheering for me as I made my way up toward transition. What a boost it gives you to hear people cheering for you by name (especially coming out so early in the morning!). I notice Dalena in particular and did my best to smile as she snapped a picture, thanks DMC!

I had an efficient T1 and made my way onto the bike where I had my first little snafu. As I went to tighten my shoes I had a massive cramp in my abdomen, it made getting the shoes just about impossible, but they eventually went on and I didn’t hurt in the aero position so off I went down Sample Road. I made it all the way off of Sample before Chris came flying by me per usual. I tried to keep him in sight for as long as possible but it wasn’t long before he was gone and I settled into a rhythm on the bike. I can’t overemphasize how great it was knowing the course. It is well known that I am not a very strong biker so knowing where the tricky or difficult portions of the course were, how long they would last and where I was relative to the finish of the bike course were HUGE helps for me mentally. Also, riding a little faster and being in the second age group wave meant that there were more people around me to focus on and pass or try to catch. There were two other guys in tri suits that were near me much of the first half; they were a good gauge and remainder not to let up, eventually I pulled away from then in the second half (a new experience for me!).

In the second half the Referee on the back of a motorcycle went by me and I watched him sit in and watch another competitor up ahead. I didn’t get a great look at the riders but he was definitely giving out a drafting penalty and pulled alongside after watching for about a minute, wrote down the number and then drove away. As I caught the rider in question, and saw that it was Adam who exclaimed, “I just got a drafting penalty” and I responded, “yeah ya did!” I tried to pull away from Adam, but I just couldn’t shake him (must have been drafting…jk.) He passed me back on the downhill before the turn back onto Beatties Ford Rd and I thought I dropped him for good on the incline after the turn onto Beatties Ford Road. I finished up back onto Sample Rd. and pushed toward the park feeling good about my ride, but then snafu #2. As I reached for my shoes I got a horrible abdominal cramp once again that nearly knocked me off my bike. I went from cruising 20+ MPH to alternating between trying to ride doubled over and standing up to workout whatever the heck was going on. A quarter mile from the finish Adam cruised back by me, and gave me a look that confirmed how ridiculous I must look. I struggled to the dismount line, got my bike in without further incident, grabbed my shoes and number efficiently and took off on the run.

Although I am getting more comfortable in the water and on the bike, it is such a relief to come out of t2 and start cranking. Everyone seems to hate the Latta run course, but there are some things I like about it. (1) the two turn points allowed me so see where I stood with the competition and my progress toward them; (2) early hills play to my run strength, (3) the things everyone else hates about it slows them down more than it slows me down.

Heading into the trail portion of the run I saw James coming home strong with another win in hand. I tried to settle in and set to a good hard pace. I had no idea where I stood in the age group but I knew if I had a good race I could be competitive, although I knew Story, Chris and Patrick Armeen were all in my age group and out in front of me. I had an easy/taper week going into Latta and my legs were repaying me, I felt strong and was moving by people. I noticed Story and Ross coming back from the first turnaround nearly together, both looking very strong and well out of reach for me as expected. They finished 6th and 7th respectively and each made HUGE improvements from the previous year. I didn’t notice Patrick before the first turnaround, but I did see Chris and he said something about me coming after him. I hope I replied, but at that point I was very focused on getting to the turnaround so I could get an estimate of how far back I was. Once I finally got there it seemed I was quite a ways back, but it is hard to tell exactly.

Coming into this race I thought I might have an outside shot at an age group award but with Story, Patrick and Chris all racing in my age group I figured I was racing for fourth. That is until I was approaching the second turnaround, this time I looked for Patrick and saw him, with Chris not too far behind. I had closed the gap considerable and while I wasn’t sure how much race was left I knew it was at least possible to catch someone. Coming out of the trails I caught and passed Chris with maybe a quarter mile to go. Passing him was a weird feeling; he has helped me so much in my transition to the sport of triathlon. I remain a neophyte on the bike but he has helped my biking immensely saving me from having to learn a lot of lessons the hard way. Thanks to his help I am probably a year ahead of where I would be otherwise (and thus in a position to pass him). But such is the way with competition, I expect that it will fuel him and I fully expect him to come back and try and stomp me at Stumpy.

I wasn’t able to get Patrick, but from Jetton to Latta I closed the gap from a minute to 20 seconds. I may not always get there on the run, but they know I am coming…

The numbers:
1:19:48 Finish time, 12th overall, 3rd age group.
Swim: 13:39 (1:49/100m) 35th
T1: 1:46
Bike: 45:43 (22.3mph) 61st
T2: 1:32
Run: 17:10 (5:32/mile) 1st

*distances are approximate as is the norm with triathlons
From 2011 I improved by 4:46, went from 41st overall to

I improved all my splits (except T2), my bike improvement was by far the largest which it needed to be. I am still looking for more from the swim, but sub 1:50 pace with the run up is not bad. I would say my bike is much more respectable now, although 61st is nothing to get excited about. I crushed my sub 1:21 projection and I had the number 1 run, I will take it and call that a very successful day. The best part is finishing up and heading back to cheer Danielle in. I was so excited to see what a great race she had as well, her ceiling in this sport is very high!

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