Every race gives you the opportunity to gain experience and learn something. With triathlon, more than single sport events, there is more variability from venue to venue, making it all the more interesting. Sometimes that experience is really, really good ... other times, not so much. This past Sunday at The Great Six Flags Triathlon in Jackson, NJ, there was plenty of good happening.
|The Great American Scream Machine. Source: Wikipedia|
Early Sunday morning Emily and I rode over and had no problem getting into the park and setup in transition, which was located in the parking lot right next to a roller coaster. Being a second year race, I was impressed with the size and quality of the group racing. There were more than 400 people racing different race variations. Both Em and I raced the Olympic Distance.
The race was a fairly simple setup - swim in a small lake located inside GA, a 1/2 mile run to T1 (that is not a typo), a 40k ride through the NJ countryside, then a 2-loop, 10k run inside the park. There was no wave start but a self-seated rolling swim start that was effective.
My day started with a 1500M swim in 22:41, exiting the water in 13th place overall. After a long transition run I rode my way through the group, entering T2 in second place with 4 guys right behind me, and the fastest bike split of the day, riding the 40k in 1:03:48. After a quick change of shoes, I ran the 10k in 44:01, for a 2:17:00 finish time, 6th place overall and 2nd in the 40-44 age group.The race was fun and my overall my race results were very satisfying. Race results can be found here.
Looking back, I think I made a tactical mistake on the bike that might have cost me a few places. I passed a few guys around the three mile mark and another two between miles 10 and 12. At mile 18 I caught the front pack of 5 guys (the winner was up the road) and sat in for a few miles, taking a bit of a brake. All of us, BTW, riding legal. By mile 22 I had enough and put a small gap on the group. If I had it to do again, for better or worse, I would have rode through the group, either blowing by them or forcing whoever came with me to leave their comfort zone.
Beyond the tactical, there were a number of good lessons Sunday morning:
- You don't have to feel great to race well - Not great from beginning to end, but kept my head down, moving forward as fast as I could.
- Running 1/2 mile in a wetsuit kinda sucks - T1 felt like it took forever and my heart rate was redlining. Not. Fun.
- Racing at the front of the race is different than racing in a late wave - Because of my old age, a wave start generally means I am swimming, then riding through those who started ahead of me. Hitting T1 in 13th place I spent most of the day chasing, not passing. On the run, I ran most of the first loop alone.
- If you just keep running, sometimes you start to feel better and go faster - Spent some energy on the bike and struggled the first few miles of the run. Around the halfway mark my legs got some life and the pace picked up.
- Know the course you before you race - Looked at the profile online for the bike and run but they were totally different than what I expected. The bike was almost all rolling hills and a bit on the technical side. The run had a 1+ mile portion that was on a rocky trail. we also ran past the monkeys, so that was a pretty cool surprise.
- It is possible to race on very few calories - I took in maybe 50 calories on the bike. That's it.
- A steady set of feet to draft = good swim - Anyone who tells you that drafting isn't worth it is full of crap. Didn't feel great swimming, but that draft pulled me right along while conserving energy.
- My run is my weak link - Used to be my swim. Got some work to do.
- Competing in races not normally on the schedule is a good thing - There is something to be said for racing the familiar, but something different is a nice change of pace.
As for the Great Six Flags Triathlon, I would recommend it to anyone. The venue is nice and the race director did a good job of organization. Out on the bike there was a NJ State Trooper at every turn (and there were a lot of them) making sure traffic wasn't an issue while making sure we were staying on course. The run was well marked, but about a mile of each loop was on a very rocky trail. The only complaint I have is the finishers metals were really lame, and the awards were small, standard plaques. IMHO it would be easy to come up with something a bit different that connects the race and the theme park, much like the spikes that are given for the Saucon Valley Rail Trail 10k.
Stay focused. Train hard.