Thursday, August 13, 2015

Race Report - 11th Annual Steelman Triathlon

There are some races that end up as a one-off event, either because it is a destination race or the race just sucked and you don't want to go back. Others appear on your race schedule year after year. For me, there are a number of races I do most every year because I like the event or I like the cause. Thanksgiving morning I am usually in Nazareth, PA for the annual Pumpkin Pie 5k. A lot of my friends are there and it raises a fair sum of money for the Nazareth YMCA. There may be consumption of the complimentary donuts as well.

The Steelman Triathlon is different. Held at Lake Nockamixon in Quakertown, PA, it is close to home on roads and trials I like. I have done this race every year I have been involved with triathlon except for 2006 and 2011 when I raced Ironman Lake Placid just two weeks prior. If Steelman were about going out and just "having fun" I would have been there those years as well. Steelman, for me anyway, is an opportunity to throw down and see what I have in me. Steelman is a chance to compete in a familiar setting on a course that is consistent from year to year.

This year's race was this past weekend on Sunday August 9th. With my previous two races being defined by horrible weather and weather-related changes made to the race course, it was nice to get a nice day with no unexpected surprises.


If you are going to race here you have to get up early. Start time is 7 am but due to limited parking (due to the approx. 1,000 competitors), you either show up early or you park on the other side of the park. So wake up for The Queen and I came at 4:30 am with a departure from home just after 5 am. The ride down Rt. 412 was quite. Much to my surprise, parking turned out to be just perfect this year. For some reason, even with my relatively late arrival (and cars being parked in the upper lots) I scored a spot at the marina. No post-race hill climb back to the car this year!!!

Dale offers race-day packet pickup, a very nice luxury, which is as easy as it gets. Thank you for that Dale!!! From there I got my transition area set up, took care of the port-o-john business, then hung around till my 7:10 start time.

Swim: 1500M 22:55

Strava File

Last year I had close to a perfect swim that I did not expect to repeat. My goal in the water was simply to swim smart, draft as much as possible, and exit the water at the front of my swim wave.

Fortunately this is exactly what happened. After taking off hard I found a set of slightly faster feet within the first 150 meters. The quick start had me anaerobic, but the draft allowed me to dial back to a sustainable effort.

My lead out was a good swimmer, easily maneuvering the back of the waves in front of us while getting around the first two turns efficiently. One problem I tend to have is passing whomever I am drafting on the turns, but not this time around.

Unfortunately, on the back side of the swim the person I was drafting started to swim off course. I quickly found another set of feet to sit on, finishing the swim without having to burn any matches, in an official time of 22:55.

T1: 2:33

Last year I had trouble getting my wetsuit off. This year ... I had trouble getting my wetsuit off. In fact, I would guess I lost a good minute fooling around with it. The biggest problem I had was the left leg got caught on the huge timing chip I had around my left ankle. (Note to LinMark - invest some money in modern equipment and get rid of the timing chips that were new technology 10+ years ago.)

Basically, any chance I had of a PR disappeared the moment I had to sit down to remove that damn wetsuit.

Bike: 40K 1:04:09

Strava File

The course profile is one that plays to my strengths. I find a flat course to be rather boring and enjoy the challenge of dealing with varying terrain. Here you get a bit of everything. The race starts with a short, steep climb right out of transition, follows that with two loops of various types of rolling terrain, and concludes with a short, steep downhill back into transition. If there were any course I feel comfortable on, this would be it.

So after a very short flat section I dropped into my 39 CR and comfortably headed up the first climb and through the park, using the 1.5 miles in the park to get myself situated. Once onto the two loops on route 563 it was game on.

My first loop I passed a good number of people from the waves in front of me, including both Lauren and Cassie who had started in the wave just prior to mine, as well as the two guys in my age group who out swam me. I had a feeling this would not be the last I would see the ladies as they are both great cyclists as well as more fleet footed than I am. While I wanted to put as big a gap as possible between me and my age group competitors, I also wanted to finish the race in front of these two very fast ladies, even with the 5 minute head start they received.

The start of the second loop is where things can/have gotten interesting. By the time the Olympic distance racers get around to the park entrance the Sprint distance people are flowing onto the bike course. It can be good for the psyche to pass a lot of people. But it can be hard to deal with a crowded course, especially at the two turnaround points. Fortunately there were no issues.

I felt better on lap number two and pushed the pace all the way in. I hit the timing mat in 1:04:09 for the 3rd fastest bike split of the day and 49 seconds faster than I rode in 2014.

T2: 1:00

Smooth and without issue. Nine seconds faster than last year.

Run: 10k (really 6 miles) 44:41

Strava File

Heading out onto the run I felt pretty good but knew that I just do not have the run miles in this year. I have been running between 15 and 20 miles each week, not the 35-40 miles I have done in years past. It is a non-Ironman year. I have made a conscious decision to not beat my run legs up with high mileage in 2015. I'm not a kid anymore and I know I have issues that could someday come to the surface. Not making any excuses, just putting it out there.

One more important thing: this is NOT a full 10k run course, but a 6 mile run. Always has been. If you don't believe me just check out the Strava file, then ask yourself when is the last time your Garmin shorted you distance on a race course. The answer is never. If anything your Garmin will measure a bit longer. I say this to make sure it is very clear when looking at my run time exactly what I ran. That extra .2 miles would have added another 90 seconds to my overall run time. People can fool themselves into thinking they are faster than they are. I may be a fool but I prefer to not fool myself into thinking I am better than I really am.

Anyway, my run started out just fine running a "comfortably hard" 7:10-7:15 for the first 4 miles. It was here that my lack of muscular endurance came into play. And by came into play I mean I simply didn't have the legs to hold pace. My heart rate was fine but the legs were just done. Last two miles I ran 8s and called it a day.

To be clear, I do not believe that my not-what-I-wanted-it-to-be-run is a result of over-biking. Been there, done that on many occasions and know exactly what that feels like. If I came out running a 7:35 first mile feeling like I wanted to die ... that's a bike induced implosion. And if I blew myself up I would just say it.

Anyway, what I did get to see out on the two-loop run was a battle for top overall female between Lauren and Cassie. These two young ladies are incredible athletes who came to throw down and they did. At the end Cassie did squeak out a small victory but they were both winners on the day. Danielle came in not very far behind as fifth overall woman and first in her age group while Alison won her age group and KT set a nice PR in his race.

Overall: 2:15:15 M 45-49 1/34, Overall 13/328

Racing a new venue is fun and challenging, but so is racing the familiar. With my last two races being disasters (here and here) it was good for the psyche to race well.

Steelman Triathlon - Quakertown, PA
First Place AG 45-49
Steelman Triathlon
Lots of hardware among this crew.
Women's Overall with Cassie and Lauren going 1-2

How Could I have Raced Better?

More run training, which just isn't/wasn't in the cards for 2015. With my overall mileage way down from where it has been in the past my fear has been not having the muscular endurance to run to my capabilities. I have always responded well to volume. I will continue to experiment with my training to get this right.

Overall Impressions of the Race

I am a personal fan of this course. The lake is a nice place to swim, the bike course is challenging, and the run is on a shaded trail. The trail does get tight when both the Olympic and the Sprint athletes are all out there, but it really isn't that bad if you pay attention to your surroundings. Dale does a great job as the race director.

The only real complaint I have is with the big hacking timing chips provided by Lin-Mark. Seriously, you spent the money to redo your website and get the ChronoTrack System. Couldn't you now upgrade your timing chips to something a little more modern and smaller? Please?

Full results can be found here.

Up Next: Not much racing for a while. On September 13th I will be a part of The Queen's relay team at the Via Marathon right here in the Lehigh Valley and then on September 26th I will be back down in Quakertown, PA to race the Quakerman Triathlon (Olympic distance).

Thanks for reading.

Train hard. Stay focused.