Thursday, September 17, 2009

Final Preparations...

I'm now within 48 hours of the race and am just getting my ducks in a row at this point. I got the last bits that I needed at the Running Room shop after my group run yesterday, and have now tested the Tri shorts both in running and cycling with no issues. I was a bit concerned that the minuscule chamois would be an issue, but on my test ride it didn't really feel that much different than the big thick one in my normal cycling shorts. Naturally, that may be a different story on a longer ride, but fortunately the Triathlon only has a 20K leg so that shouldn't be an issue.

I picked up the wetsuit rental (Nineteen Pipeline) this morning and got walked through the process of putting it on and taking it off by the staff. While it is certainly tight it's a lot less restrictive than I thought it would be. It is obvious, however, that I'm going to need some help getting it on as I wasn't really able to contort my arms enough to pull the zipper up under my own power. Getting it up onto my legs was a bit difficult as well, especially as you have to kind of palm it up to avoid ripping the material. Fortunately, getting it off was no problem at all and that's largely the important part (as you can take as long as you want getting it on, but the clock is running when you're taking it off).

I was hoping to get a short open water swim in today, but my schedule didn't end up working well for that. I'm still hoping to get out tomorrow morning, but I'm not certain that that's going to be possible either. That means that the race will probably be my first experience swimming in a wetsuit which isn't ideal, but as I'm doing this race more to gain experience than to get a specific time I'm not too worried about it. I can always get some practice on Saturday morning when I warm up in the lake :oP

I'm still not sure what my bib number is as the organizer's web site doesn't seem to have any form of confirmation list that tells you these things. I did get a newsletter and it looks like I'll fall into the wave 2 start (three months too old to fit into wave 1), but outside of that I'll have to wait for race morning to get more information. They also don't really have any detailed diagrams illustrating how things will be laid out in the transition zone, so I'll have to do some scouting in the morning as well.

I am also taking the time to pour through the somewhat complex rules that govern these races, and it looks like passing on the bike leg will be a bit interesting. As drafting isn't permitted in Triathlons, there is an exclusion zone of 3x7m around other bikes that you can't enter under normal circumstances. When you are passing, you can enter this zone but you need to clear it in less than 15 seconds which pretty much means that any passing will have to be of the sprint variety. That shouldn't be an issue on the flats and on downhill segments, but on uphills that may be a bit annoying. With that said, I'm not sure how anal they are about enforcing these rules. I do most of my rides solo so I'm used to riding without a draft, but I tend to like to overtake in a more gradual manner ;)

Either way, the main challenge in this race is going to be the transitions as I have little to no experience with this. I've read through pretty much everything that I could find on the topic, and watched another Triathlon to get a feel for it, but knowing what to do and actually doing it are often different things. Aside from direct mistakes, one also has to worry about problems that neighbors create so there can be unanticipated issues that need to be dealt with. This is the big part that makes me wish I had done that Tri clinic, as getting some practice on this sort of thing would have been quite useful.

The other thing that may be a bit difficult will be pacing myself in the water. I've done enough in the pool over the last couple of weeks to be confident that I can comfortably cover the distance at a decent clip, but when one is in a group the vacuum effect can take over. Further, as I have no method of objectively monitoring my pace it will be difficult to gauge exactly how fast I am going, so there will be some recognition lag to deal with here. Unlike a pool, there are no walls to grab, so if I go out too fast and get tired part way through it could pose a problem. As such, I will have to be especially careful to be mindful of how hard I am pushing.

With all of that said, the next matter is figuring out my targets and how I intend to attack the race. I've managed to get myself to a point where I can comfortably cover much longer distances in each of the sports individually, however I'm not entirely sure what effects they will have on one another. As such, any targets that I have are going to have a pretty wide margin of error. If the stars align perfectly and I don't run into any issues, my best case scenario is a finish in about 1:10 (14m swim, 37min ride, 16min run and ~3min for transitions), but I'm likely going to run into some issues so that's unlikely. I've managed those paces continuously in longer sets for all three sports (4K, 80K and 5K respectively), but only in isolation. More realistically, I'm hoping to get in within 1:20 but I won't really be upset as long as I finish in under 1:30. Either way, the primary goal is to finish at this point so I'm not going to be too preoccupied with time (just wanted some ballpark numbers to aim for) ;)

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