Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lake Royale Sprint Triathlon Race Report

When my plans to race the Outer Banks Olympic Tri fell through because of a scheduling conflict I got a little "itchy" because I have raced fewer times than usual this year and I wanted to get in at least one more "practice race" before Beach-to-Battleship 70.3 at the end of the month. While the Lake Royale Sprint is obviously nowhere near the same distance, it is relatively local and well-timed at three weeks before B-2-B so, after checking with the Coachman, I signed-up.

In 2010 this was the second triathlon I ever did so I thought that it would be fun to compare performances. The race takes place in the Lake Royale development (resort community?) just outside Louisburg, NC - a nice 40 minute or so drive from home. It's organized by FS Series and I remembered it being a nice, friendly event.

The logistics of the race mean that you have to drop your bike and gear at the transition area before driving a couple of miles to the parking area and taking a shuttle beack to the start, so I knew that I wanted to get there early. I woke before my alarm (as usual) and took my time over coffee and a bagel. I had packed my gear into the car and loaded The Slut the night before, so it was then just a case of jump in and drive.

The dark drive along Route 98 through Wake Forest was pretty cool - it certainly had a good "Halloween Vibe" as the car head lights illuminated the fog banks.

Pretty soon I arrived at Lake Royale, took the long drive down to the lake and off-loaded my gear and bike. I was pleased to see that my race number (90) put me right at the bike exit from transition and I was early enough to get the first slot on the rack. After parking and waiting quite a while for the shuttle back to the start the sun finally emerged from behind the trees and the transition area started to fill....
The ubiquitous shot of The Slut wearing her Zipp 808 race wheels (and my "yard sale" of gear and clothing!)

Frantic preparations.

After collecting my timing chip and getting "body marked" I had plenty of time for warm-ups and so took The Slut for a four mile spin before slipping on my running shoes and running for a while on the first part of the run course. I was pleased I did this as it quickly reminded me of how hilly the run course and the first part of the bike course are - I made sure that The Slut was left in a low gear when I re-racked her! Finally it was time to go for a warm-up swim and get ready for the start.

Sun emerging over the swim start.

While listening to the race briefing I ran into fellow One Step Beyond Athlete Erin Cutrell who had signed-up for the race at the last minute and after a fist pump I was called down to the men's start....

Swim: 500 M.
The water in the lake was pleasantly warm, but still cool enough for the race to be declared "wet suit legal". I decided that, given that I hadn't swum in a wetsuit for months and that a wet suit is compulsory for Beach-to-Battleship, I would wear mine. Only a short swim, but I figured that the time lost taking it off in transition would probably be balanced out by the added buoyancy that a wetsuit provides during the swim. For this race there were two mass starts - first all men and then all women three minutes later. The course was roughly an clockwise elongated triangle. I lined-up on the right as it seemed a better angle towards the turn buoy, but it ultimately turned out to be somewhat of a mistake.... This was definitely one of the rougher swims that I have been in - there was a LOT of contact and I took several good blows from arms and legs (and, I think, delivered a few too!). Never-the-less, I felt pretty good on the first leg - until, that is, I approached the turn buoy. Holy crap - what a scrum! As I positioned myself to round the buoy, dozens of swimmers who had started further left started to squeeze over. I was pretty much pressed right up against the buoy and had to switch to breaststroke and basically fight my way around. As I came out the other side into the second (longest) swim leg, I felt unsettled and that all-too-familiar panicky constricted feeling - why, oh why, did I wear that darned wetsuit? I told myself to slow down and breathe, did a little side stroke and managed to find some open water by deliberately swimming a little to the right. Thankfully I was soon back to freestyle and finished reasonably well. Ultimately it was a good lesson for Beach-to-Battleship (I don't do well in scrums!) and on reflection I can be pleased with the way I handled it and recovered.

Time: 09:31. 1:54 per 100M. My target was "sub 9" but the scrum incident obviously messed that up! [My 2010 time was 11:19]. Somewhat surprised to be 29th male out of the water!

T1: The first transition was uneventful. I had sprayed PAM on the ankles of my wetsuit before the race and it worked like a charm as my ankles slipped out of the legs without me having to look as if I was fighting a sea lion! 01:14

Bike: 15 miles.
The out-and-back course features two very distinct sections. The section leaving and returning through the Lake Royale community is extremely technical, with hills and a lot of very tight turns. Once out onto public roads the course is (relatively) flat through farm land, but the road surface is a little rough in places.

During the race there were at least two crashes. Thankfully these two were not too seriously hurt and managed to smile about it afterwards. The young lady broke the forks on her bike and got nasty road rash, but still managed to go on to finish the run - Bad Ass! :-)

My ride was pretty uneventful apart from at the tight turnaround point where I went in a little fast and skidded the back wheel. Thankfully my cat like agility (yeah right!) saved me and I just managed to keep things upright! Erin cruised past me a few miles in and was obviously going very well as first lady on the course. I feel that I kept things going pretty well - maintained aero position and kept a good cadence. Geared well on the hills and cornered well too.

Time: 48:15. 19.1 mph average. I was targeting 20 mph, but must admit that I had completely forgotten how hilly and twisty the Lake Royale community section was - I'll take it! [2010: 54:13]

T2: Uneventful. 00:36

Run: 5k (3.1 miles). My run was really a tale of two halves. Off the bike I really struggled to get my legs moving. This wasn't helped by the hill straight out of transition, but it wasn't the usual "rubbery legs" syndrome - I just couldn't seem to get any stride length and felt as if I was shuffling along. I focused on keeping my run cadence up but it took the first mile before I really started to feel as if I was running, but when I finally got things going I felt great! (even with all of the hills - this must be one of the hilliest 5k courses around). Despite being slow out of transition this has me feeling strangely confident about B2B.

Time: 28:26 9:10/mile (I didn't wear my Garmin, but I would estimate 11 min/mile to start and 7:##/mile at the finish. I definitely did a very significant reverse split!). [2010: 31:51]

Overall: 01:28:05. 4th in Age Group; 44th male and 52nd overall.

There were some smokin' fast people out there on a difficult course. The guy who won overall took 01:05:12 and the winner of my age group came home in 01:13:24 (7th overall). Best of all Erin was first place overall lady in 01:16:42 (12th overall). Rockin!

A happy Erin after the race.

Very pleased that I decided to do this one. A good little warm-up for B2B and a few good reminders. I think that ultimately my two "problem areas" during the race turned into the biggest positive takeaways: I overcame the minor "panic" during the swim and finished it well and once I finally got my legs under me in the run I felt very strong.

Beach-to-Battleship here I come!

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