Disclaimer: Blinding hazard! You may want to wear your darkest sunglasses when reading this report. Due to the early-season nature of this race, there are pictures of severly untanned skin ahead:
The triathlon season kicked off for me last month with the Downtown Columbia Triathlon, which is a short and very popular (400 entries sold out) sprint race (500m, 10mile, 5k). I was the defending champ but didn't have a lot of confidence that I could come back with another win as I was just coming back from some run injuries and feelinig fairly slow with my training emphasis on preparing for ironman. Being a early season race, this is an indoor swim hosted in the USC Blatt PE Center’s 50 meter pool. The transition area is in the Blatt’s parking lot on Wheat St. and the bike course, which was changed from year’s past, was a 3 loop affair from Wheat St. to Main St. to Pendleton St. to Bull St. to Gervais St. to Harden St. to Blossom St. to Pickens St. then back onto Wheat St. There’s a bit of climbing (up Wheat St. and Main Street) but for the most part it is fast with a lot of turns, traffic, and pedestrians to navigate while at full gas in your aerobars! The run is just as complicated as the bike as it involves running on roads, sidewalks, multiple foot bridges, up flights of stairs and through narrow fenced construction areas. It’s really more triathlon’s version of an urban assault! This year the race was held at 1:30 in the afternoon (which added to the traffic problems) amid intermittent rain showers and temperatures in the high 40s (felt colder on the bike, wet from the swim).
The swim: It seems I may have made a stragic error here. I was seeded in the same lane as my friend Chris. Chris always out-swims me, usually by 1min in a ½ ironman and 20 or so seconds in a Sprint. But I’ve only ever raced him in open water events. I offered him the inside of the lane thinking that he would swim a slightly faster pace than me and I would draft him for a faster swim time. Well, I did draft off him the whole way but I was thinking, “Man, this feels too easy … should I pass? Na, save your energy, it just feels easy cause I’m drafting”. Well it turns out we weren’t going that fast. By the time we crossed the timing mat at T1 I was like 0:15 secs behind last year’s time where I didn’t draft. Talking with Chris after the race he mentioned that he felt like he couldn't get going in the water. But it didn't stop him from getting the win!!
T1 was slow. Getting bike shoes on was not smooth. I was trying to go too fast which made me clumsy. I blame it on not having raced a tri since last september.
Out on the bike it was cold but I was able to ride hard (but not hard enough) and stay out of trouble. This was the first year where I wasn’t almost hit by a car at this race (although I just about ran over a pedestrian that walked across the road into the course without looking). Unfortunately when I came onto Pendleton on my second lap I say a tt bike against a tree with and a few cars and ambulance tending to an athlete that had been hit by one of the cars. By the time the second lap had passed and I still hadn’t caught Woody (he started 15 seconds ahead on the swim), I knew I wasn’t in as good of a position as last year. Last year I passed him for the lead before the end of the first lap and never looked back. But once again the Scott treated me well delivering me to the 2nd fastest bike split of the day behind Chris, my lane mate from the swim. As I arrived at T2 Chris was leaving and Woody was also just arriving. Looking at my HR data from the race I can see that I didn't push hard enough for a sprint race; I must not have been in the right mindset to really suffer.
T2 was slow also. Having gotten out of my bike shoes before the dismount I slipped when me bare feet hit the wet timing mat and nearly wiped out badly. I got my balance back and proceed to get my run gear on. I had a hard time unfastening my helmet strap since my fingers were totally numb. The numb fingers also prevented me from fastening my bib number belt around my waist … I eventually just tucked the ends into the back of my shorts which worked fine.
Off on the run I had no feeling in my feet. I remember listening to the pat-pat-pat of my feet as they struck the ground but with no feeling with each thud … strange sensation. With no feedback on toe-off, foot strike, etc, I just concentrated on keeping my turnover quick and my aerobic effort high and closing the gap to Mark (he got out of transition way before me and put in about a 25-30 second gap). By the turnaround I’d closed the gap to Marc down to about 15 seconds, which put us dead even. Once Marc saw the gap at the turnaround he surged and opened it back up. At that point I was on the rivet so to speak and couldn’t respond to his surge.
Chris went on to win the race with Mark coming across the line next then me. One of the college team guys (Clemson I think) was able to beat both Mark and myself but due to the TT start neither of us had him on our radars during the race. It was a really fun local race and I look forward to getting back in short course shape next year after I live out some ironman dreams this year! Now with 5 local short course races (DT Cola, Lake Murray, Tri Midlands, Tom Hoskins, Dam Tri) I’ll have a goal of winning several of them in 2012. For this year they’ll just have to be hard training days with the ultimate goal of being long-course fast for Ironman St. George and Kona or Rev3 Anderson / Beach 2 Battleship if I don’t go to Kona.