Friday, August 14, 2009

9 Days to Go...

I'm now just a little over a week away from my first triathlon, and starting to get a little nervous at this point ;) Running races are relatively simple affairs, the complexity comes in the training that you do to prepare for that race. With triathlons, however, there is a whole lot of logistical complexity in getting to the start and setting everything up. Further adding to this complexity is that the legs of the Try-a-Tri distance are so short that the time spent in transitions will be extremely significant so every little detail has to be carefully worked out.

At this point I'm kind of kicking myself for not signing up for that Running Room Triathlon clinic. My main reason for not doing it was that the talks were on Saturday mornings and conflicted with my existing cycling group, however due to weather and scheduling issues we really haven't met up all that much in the last little while and I've done most of my long rides solo. As such, I could have easily gotten my mileage in by riding up to the shop (~30K), attending the talk and doing the group session then ride back home and got roughly the same mileage in.

Had I gone down that route, I would have been able to get some proper open-water swim training in as well as decent practice with my transition technique. Those two aspects are likely to be the biggest issues that I'll face in this race, as the run and cycle legs are trivial distances given my training and I've gotten reasonably comfortable swimming the required distance (375m). I've pieced together some information from various sources on these topics, but it's apparent that having face-to-face instruction on these aspects would have been a significant benefit at this point.

Either way, hindsight is 20-20 and it's easy to look back and see what one should have done but it's impossible to work around that. As such, there are a few details that I have to work out within the next little while:
  • Whether or not to use a wetsuit for the race. While there are significant benefits to using one (insulation from the cold water, buoyancy, etc.), I havn't had the opportunity to swim in one before and I'm a little retiscent to try something new on race day. Further, having to strip off the wetsuit will take some technique, and may erase any gains by increasing the transition time. I had the opportunity to do some open water swimming in Lake Erie a few weeks ago and was comfortable in just a swimsuit, however I'm not sure what the water temperature in Lake Couchiching will be next week (the current heat wave may help on that front).
  • Whether or not to mess around with socks. Many triathletes skip putting on socks after the swim as they can be difficult to slip into with wet feet. Without them, however, there is the risk of getting blisters in the cycle and run legs of the race, which could potentially harm my training beyond this event. I could split the difference by getting a pair of triathlon shoes for the bike leg (they have more padding than road shoes, and generally a simpler fastening mechanism) and then slip the socks on in T2 when my feet have dried out.
  • Whether to stick with my existing shoelaces, or switch to elastic laces common to this sport. The elastic laces allow you to quickly slip into the shoes without a shoehorn and save you from having to tie them in transition. The downside, however, is that they aren't as firm as conventional laces so the shoes will move around a bit and can throw off one's gait. The run leg is only 2.5K, so I'll likely be running near a 4:00/km pace for that leg and any little issue could become a significant problem. At the same time, however, the ~30 seconds it takes to tie shoelaces translates into 12 seconds per kilometer ;)
  • When to put the heart rate monitor on during the race. I could start off with everything on before the swim, however the HRM strap may move around with the arm motion and the altimeter port on the wrist unit will likely get clogged up with water. Naturally, it would be functionally better to put them on in T1, however that eats away valueable time during the race itself. The easy answer would be to just forget about it, but if I want to do more of these races in the future it's important for me to have as much data as possible so that I can improve in later races.
  • The logsitical details of getting up to the race site, what I need to bring and how I'm going to set it all up. Fortunately, the try-a-tri race starts at 11am so there is a good ammount of time to get up there early and make sure everything is in place. Ideally, I'd like to get up early enough to watch the longer races that go on before to get an idea of how the more experienced triathletes deal with the specific setup of this race site.
  • Finnally, I have to figure out how hard I want to push for this race. This is my first shot at the Triathlon, so my primary goal is just to finish. At the same time, however, I do want to challenge myself and see how well the body deals with the rigors of all three sports in rapid succession. Looking at the results from last year, if I don't seriously mess up the transitions I have the potential to get within the top 10 at a race like this, but whether I want to push that hard is the main question.
With all of that said, the other option that I do have is to fall back to the Guelph race to buy myself a couple of additional weeks to prepare. I selected Orillia largely because it gave me enough time to train and fell on a recovery week in my marathon training (for a pseudo-taper), but part of me would like to have the extra time right now to work out the details. Physically I think I'm ready for the race, but I am a little concerned about the logistics at this point :oP

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