Monday, 25 April 2016

2016 Season Starts with a Splash ('N Dash)

On Saturday, April 23rd, my 2016 multi-sport season officially kicked off.  And what a kick off it was!  But more on that later.

First a quick training update.

Over the winter, I continued to train, in the pool (Monday nights with the Seahiker Training Squad), at the track, and at Coach Powell's Indoor Cycling sessions. My swim stroke is much more efficient now than it has ever been.  I am able to maintain a faster pace with much less effort. My run is still stronger than it was, but I feel it has not kept up with the improvements I've made with my swim and bike.  I recently upgraded my bike (wheels, saddle, crankset, cassette, tires) and got a professional bike fit.  This, in addition to the 2 hour spin sessions a week over the whole winter, have really improved my bike speed, power, and endurance on the open road.  

The Delta Sprint Triathlon is one of the earliest local tris of the season. This year, due to road construction/improvements, race officials could not find a bike route they deemed safe.  But the race would live on in the 2016 Delta Splash 'N Dash.

Despite the lack of bike leg, I was sure to register.  In my mind, race experience is race experience.  The only thing that would be different is that the swim is a pool swim.  

The swim consists of a 600m 'circuit'.  I did some research and what little I could find on the swim made it seem like it was just laps in the pool.  This would be no problem because during the late fall, winter, and early spring, I swim at the Vancouver Aquatic Center, a 50 meter pool.  The pool at Delta was a 25 meter pool and kicking off is allowed.  I knew my average pace is a little over 60 seconds per 50 meters, so when I signed up for Delta, I listed my estimated swim time at 13 minutes. 

The week before the race, Andrew (Coach Powell) had a 600 meter Time Trial workout on my training schedule.  I finished the 600 meters in 12 minutes and 18 seconds (in a 50 meter pool).  This gave me a huge confidence boost.  If I could do close to 12 minutes in a 50 meter pool, I was sure to do better in a 25 meter pool!

The Friday night before the race, I drove down to Delta to pick up my race packet.  I signed my waiver, got my timing chip and bib, and proceeded to ask my question about the swim.  Before I could ask about the swim, the volunteer said, "Look at the board!  If you're name is on there, then you have won a prize bag!"

I looked, and sure enough my name was on the board.  I won a bag filled with water bottles and coupons. After taking stock of my newly won loot, I asked about the swim.

Turns out that the swim was not laps, not exactly.  The course consisted of two 300 meter 'loops'.  You would swim down the left side of a lane, turn at the wall, then swim back down the other side of the lane.  Once at the other side, you would drop under the lane divider, and do it again,  You would repeat this until you reached the other end of the pool.  Then you would climb out of the pool (via stairs) and run back to the start and repeat for another 300 meters.

While I was speaking with the volunteer, another participant listened in.  He had the same question.  When the volunteer asked me what time I had provided at registration, I told her 13:00-14.59.  The other participant let out a laugh. Then turned to me and said, "Really? That is half the time I can do it in!"  I tried to reassure him by telling him that he'd most likely pass me on the run.  When that did not work, I simply said, "Well you are out here doing it. That is way more than most people will be doing."

When I got home that night and had all my gear packed and ready, I setup a custom 'mode' on my watch.  I wanted to time each 300 meter and the 'Australian Exit' separately.  I named the new multi-sport mode "Delta".  It consisted of a Pool Swim, Transition, Pool Swim, Transition, and Run.
The next morning was race day.  Although my wave did not start until 9:07am, I still arrived early (7:30am).  After getting body marked, I made my way to transition.  The route from the swim to transition was a long paved walkway.  As I walked, I made small mental notes to myself.  Once in transition, I found a good spot to set up my run gear. The participant from the night before was there setting up his run gear as well.

After setting up my gear, I asked a volunteer where the exit to the run was.  Once she pointed it out, I went back to move my stuff.  The other participant asked me what I was doing.  I explained that I wanted to move my stuff to a spot closer to the exit.  He laughed and asked if I was a fast runner as well.  I said, not really, but I don't like to spend to alot of time in transition.

After reorganizing my transition area, I placed a towel over it, just in case it rained. 

I then went back inside, put the rest of my stuff in a locker, and found a good spot to watch the first few waves start.

As I watched, I made small mental notes about the swim.  Swimming down the left side of the lane would feel weird given that one usually swims to the right. However, there was a line at the bottom of the pool to give me a good sight line.  A luxury not available on open water swims.

There were several other participants watching the first few waves and soon we all began to chat with one another.  We chatted about strategy, races, training, and the like.

As I watched, I wanted to shout at the swimmers.  "Why are you taking such long breaks at the wall!?" "Why are you walking the exit!?" "You are wasting so much time!" But I had to remind myself.  Most of these participants were most likely new to this or just starting out.  I doubt many of them were even concerned with time or pacing. 

One gentleman next to me was cheering on his wife, who was doing very well in the pool.  He informed me that they just started swimming in January.  I complemented them both.

As I continued to watch, one thing became very clear.  Every person that stopped at the wall for a mini-break had a smile on their face.  These athletes were less concerned about making good time and more focused on having a good time.  Just another reason I love this sport.

Then the announcement for my wave was made.  We lined up in a small corral as the volunteer explained the course.  Once he was done, he asked us to arrange ourselves in order of our times, fastest first.  I placed myself at the head of the group.  As people asked me my expected time, I told them, "Right at 13."  Soon it became apparent that the 4 of us in front all had the same strategy.  We could all swim faster than 13 minutes, but we did want to be at the end of the next wave.  We felt it was better to be at the front of this wave.  Once we figured out that we were all faster than 13, we arranged ourselves accordingly, with me in the front.

As we lined up on the pool deck, the 2 volunteers at the entrance greeted us.  My nerves were begging to get jumpy, so in an attempt to convert anxiety into excitement, I began to jump a little while slapping my quads.

The volunteer took down my number and explained that she would let me start on the 30 second mark.

"Thigh slapping 1840 looks ready to go!"

The Swim

Then I was off.  While watching the first few waves, I tried to figure out the best way to enter the pool.  When it was my turn, I didn't even think about it.  I let my body do what it needed. I still don't remember how I got in.

As I started down the first 25 meters, I could feel my heart rate begin to climb.  I focused on my stroke and staying relaxed and it soon came back down.

As I continued to swim, I saw the edge of the pool.  Already? That felt short, but it was a 25 meter pool.  I looked again and realized that it was not the wall, but a drop off.  Half the pool was for diving.  The sharp drop off made it look as if the pool was coming to an end. I kept swimming until I actually made to the wall.

I grabbed the wall and immediately kicked off.  I did not want to waste time there.  The fact that it was the deep end aided in that idea.

As I approached the other end, I saw the next swimmer in the other lane. He was about 25 meters behind me. I reached the wall and went under the lane rope.

I mistimed it.  I ended up swallowing a mouthful of water.

I surfaced, coughed, and forced myself to push off and keep going.  Very soon after that, I was in the zone again.  My stroke felt long, smooth, and powerful. My heart rate was relaxed and steady.  I had figured out how to drop under the lane ropes without swallowing water or missing a breathe.

As I continued through the winding lanes, I noticed that the swimmer behind me had been passed. The girl who started third was now 25 meter behind me.

As I got close to the second to last lane, I noticed that there was a man standing in the next lane.  He was walking the shallow end and swimming the deep end.  We were told not to pass, except at the wall.  If this guy was walking, I was not going to wait until the wall.  Luckily, when I caught up with him, he had stopped at the wall to let me pass him.  I gave him a quick thanks and kept going.

I made it to the 300 meter mark, touched the wall, hit lap on my watch (to time the exit), went up the steps, and ran back to the start.

As I got to the start, I heard the volunteer say, "Wow! First swimmer of this wave."  There were still about 10 people on the pool deck waiting to start.

One again I got in the pool and once again, I could not tell you how I did it.  I did not think about it.  I just trusted my body to know what needed to be done.

I stayed in the zone, kept roughly the same pace, and kept with my rhythm of ducking under the ropes. Halfway though the second circuit, I noticed that the girl behind me had been passed by the very same swimmer she passed.  He was still about 25 meter behind me.

I passed one swimmer at the wall with 25 meters to go, made it to the last wall, then began the second exit.

I lapped my watch to start the transition and ran outside.  I had noticed from watching the first few waves that there was not a timing matte for transition, but a table with 2 volunteers.  If they could not read the race number on the athletes arms, they asked the athlete.  This caused the athlete to stop momentarily.  As I ran past the table, I continually shouted my number.  No stopping or me.

I rounded the corner and began my jog into transition.


I ran to my spot and put my swim cap and goggles in the towel.  My socks went on, then my shoes.

This race was the debut of my new shoe laces.  I was testing out the Speed Laces system.  My shoes slipped right on and tightening them was super fast.  I clipped my race belt on and was ready to go.  It was a cool day so I had a long sleeve race shirt to put over my tri suit.  Wet torso and arms plus long sleeve tech shirt equals Joe struggling with sleeves the whole run out of transition.

Later that day was the Kids of Steel Triathlon which also served as a qualifier for the BC Summer games.  I noticed a few kids watching the athletes in transition.  Smart kids.  Glean what tips and tricks you can by watching other athletes. 

While in transition, only 1 person from my wave start passed me.

The Run

The run started out on the road in front of the pool and led to a track.  As I ran on the road, I checked my pace and realized I was going to fast.   I made an effort to slow down and relax by the time I got to the track.

It was 5 laps around the track before heading right back the way I came.  It felt like I was dong a workout at the Tuesday night tracks sessions.

A quarter of the way around the first lap, I stopped for a bit to grab some water.  On this lap, 2 more people from my wave start passed me.  They said a few encouraging words as they did so. I simply said, "See! Told you that you'd pass me on the run!"

At lap 2, more athletes began to pour into the track.  I one again grabbed some water.  I know that 5 laps would start to get boring, so I made an extra effort to focus on breathing.  I had a nice little 'step-step-exhale step-step-inhale' rhythm going.

At lap 3, there were some spectators along the track.  They shouted words of encouragement to all the runners who went by.  One of the runners who passed me on lap 2 passed me again.  I began to feel discouraged.  But then I realized that I had not been lapped, she was just ahead of me.  The multi-lap course made me feel like she was further ahead than she was.

A lap 4, I was passed by someone in my wave start again.  But then I realized, that he was a full lap behind me.  I was on lap 4 and he was on lap 3.  I wondered how many people would be thrown by the 5 lap section.

On the last lap I stopped for some water.  I began to feel very tired halfway through and wanted to walk.  I leaned forward (at the ankles) a bit more and concentrated on breathing.  I pushed though.  As I passed the spectators one last time, I heard one of them say, "Great pacing!"

I made a left turn and then another.  Then I was out of the track and on the road to the finish line..... literally.  Ahead I saw a boy yelling "Take him! You are almost there!"  Then, another boy passed me.  I recognized him from my wave start.

I continued down the road and to the finish line.

I heard my name, crossed the line, stopped my watch, and got my medal.  The few people from my wave start ahead of me congratulated me and we spoke about the race.  A few more crossed and we in turn congratulated them.

I grabbed some Gatorade and a bagel and started heading back toward transition to get my stuff.  As I walked, I could see the last wave (the elite athletes) come flying down the walkway out of the pool.

I made sure no athletes were entering transition before I went in.  As I was grabbing my gear, I took a quick look at some of the road bikes lined up for the BC Summer Games qualifier. Some of these kid's bikes were nicer than mine.  My road bike of course, not my TT bike.

I thanked the volunteers for a great race and made my way back inside.

The race was offering free massages so I took advantage.  While getting worked on I overhead the other people in the room talking about their races and goals.  The girl to my right was in my start wave and only did sprint distance races.  She started racing 2 years ago and had podiumed several times.  The gentleman to my left had dropped over 50 lbs, stopped smoking, and was training for more tris and a marathon.  I told my story and they asked what was next.  There were several 'Ooos' and 'Aaaahs' as I told them about Escape From Alcatraz.

After a well deserved massage, I changed clothes, drove to Iona Beach, and went for a short bike ride.

I was very happy with my times.  My swim was way under what I was expecting, including the Australian Exit in the middle.  My run was very good as well, keeping a very good pace even after such a fast swim.

I try not to do the same race at the distance more than once, but hopefully by next year the road construction will be done and the bike course will be back.  Then it won't be the same race.  And I'll definitely be there!

Thanks for taking the time to read this race report.  This year will be full of big things for me so stay on the look out for more entries!!

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