The Day at the Beach Triathlon - TriathlonSprint

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Hermosa Beach, California
United States
Michael Epstein Sports Productions
60F / 16C
Total Time = 1h 00m 15s
Overall Rank = 32/1,000
Age Group = M50-54
Age Group Rank = 7/
Pre-race routine:

I started some easy stretching almost as soon as I was out of bed at 4:30. Had a bowl of oatmeal and went back to stretching, especially my right hamstring. I'd strained it pretty badly 2 weeks before the race and then aggravated it trying to run last Wednesday, just when it seemed to have recovered. This injury was going to be my main concern during the race.
Event warmup:

Walking across the beach to the ocean, my feet nearly froze. That was the coldest sand I've ever been barefoot in. Even though the water temperature was the coldest I've been in for several years, it actually felt better on my feet than that sand did. I only swam out almost parallel to the first buoy and back as it seemed like my wave (5th wave) was soon to go off. It was probably less than 150 yards, but good enough to loosen up and see that the surf was bigger and rougher than usual for Hermosa. Spent the time at the starting line continuing my stretching.
  • 09m 5s
  • 440 yards
  • 02m 04s / 100 yards

The start went well, I moved past the first breakers and began swimming, then hit the second breakers that were right behind them, followed closely by a third set. This last wave was curling up in front of me, but by this time I was swimming fast and smooth. I found myself swimming right up the face of the wave, then ducked through the top part just below the curl and came shooting out the backside almost airborne with my arms catching nothing but air. As I regained my contact with the water, I set my sights on catching those immediately ahead of me. As I look back now, the cold water was never on my mind. But the water was choppy, and I had my head out of the water much more than I wanted to, trying to stay on course. I rounded the first buoy wide to avoid the guy on the inside, then sighted the next one and took off. For the next 200 meters I slowly caught and passed several others from my wave, and a few stragglers from the previous one. The water was still pretty choppy and sometimes my form was thrown off. I felt fast but knew I wasn't swimming smooth enough to be as fast as I'd like. Rounding the last buoy, I could see 3 more people just in front of me. By the time I made it to the breakers they were behind me. I was glancing back with every stroke wondering if I should try body surfing one of these waves in. It would give me a nice boost and a huge advantage in the race, but could end badly if I got the timing wrong. Then one was right behind me, but it looked too big and in the wrong place for me to be confident it wouldn't slam me. So I pulled up and turned around to get a better look at it and assess my options when a nearby lifeguard calmly told me to just go under it. So I did. Then I swam like crazy for the shore. When I reached the shallow water I stood up and ran for the beach. Didn't even try to unzip my wetsuit until I was well up onto the sand. Then I remembered my injured hamstring and eased of the pace a little and began peeling of the neoprene. I had exited the water at 7:50, so the pace was much slower than last year when I hit T1 at 7:48. But this year's ocean conditions slowed everyone down and the 9:05 time at T1 this year was still good for second best in my age group.
What would you do differently?:

I think I should have focused on keeping my head in the water more. I wasn't having my usual navigation problems so I really didn't need to sight nearly so often.
Transition 1
  • 01m 48s

T1 was one of my real success stories of the day. I usually give up a couple of minutes, and sometimes a couple places to the competition with my slow transitions. This time I was well organized, and my wetsuit didn't get caught on my watch or my feet. It was off surprisingly fast. So much so that as I grabbed my bike off the rack and ran toward the exit I was doing a full inventory trying to find out if I'd forgotten anything. Even after having to slow down to run behind some guy who seemed to be taking his time (very narrow corridor down the middle of the bike racks, not enough room to pass safely), I still got out in 1:48, a minute and eight seconds faster than last year.
What would you do differently?:

Not sure what I could have done differently, but there's still room for improvement here.
  • 26m 15s
  • 10 miles
  • 22.86 mile/hr

Once on the bike and moving up the short hill that the bike course starts on, I was feeling really strong. At this point I'm usually still breathing hard and the legs aren't fully engaged yet. Even with the extra minute-plus of rest in T1. But this day I was eating up that stretch of Pier Ave, which represents the only real hill on the course, with ease.

Making the left turn onto Valley brought me my first near collision. It was with a rider from a previous wave completing his first lap. Once back up to speed I went down on my aerobars and proceeded to pass everyone I came across. Unfortunately the roads are narrow and the course keeps you in one lane. Much like the last two years, I pretty much had to warn everyone I passed that I was coming up on their left. Most slower riders quickly complied by moving over to the right. The right turn onto Gould, which quickly makes another right onto Ardmore, was very crowded and a bit scary. The trip south down Ardmore was OK until it crossed Pier and the lane we were supposed to stay in became narrower and more crowded. Now it wasn't so easy for slower riders to move to the right, as there was usually someone already there. The pace slowed at numerous such bottlenecks. The right turn onto 2nd Street was just as crowded as turning onto Gould, but the right turn onto Valley immediately following that was the worst. With 1,000 entries, this bike course is just too crowded to be safe. Of course the RD warned everyone before the start that this was a race specifically for beginners. So I slowed down as needed, didn't make any un-safe passes or turns, and stayed on the right half of the road even when going outside the orange cones looked like the only way around a bottleneck.

I did have a little fun at one point on my last lap up Valley. As I approached a clump of a dozen or so slower riders spread out all over the lane, I yelled out, "You slower riders are supposed to be over on the right!" They all complied, quickly forming a single file line that I was able to move past with ease. Ah, the voice of authority.

On the first two laps of the three lap course, only a few riders passed me, mostly people more than a lap ahead of me. By the third lap I was now being passed by riders from my own wave and age group. One passed me early in the third lap. Then on that last short stretch down 2nd Street, several riders blew past me, including a couple more with 50 marked on their left calfs. It got me wondering what place I might be in by now. I knew there were at least three people ahead of me due to being passed on the bike, but I had no idea at the time if any were ahead of me from the swim.

The finish at the bottom of the hill on Pier Ave was thankfully uneventful as there was no crowd of riders trying to dismount and enter T2 together. My time of 26:15 was only a little slower than my 25:57 last year, but even further from my 2006 PR of 25:27. I’m in much better shape for a fast bike course like this than ever before, and was expecting to break 25:00. So I attribute the slower times to the increasingly crowded conditions each year. Still, my bike time was good for 8th in my AG.
What would you do differently?:

I don't know what I'd do differently as you can only go as fast as the crowded conditions will allow. Maybe petition MESP to change the course back to the 2 lap version they had three years ago when I first did this race.
Transition 2
  • 01m 57s

Having completed the bike course without being able to go all-out the whole way, which is my usual practice on such a short course, I was still relatively fresh. Inside the transition area I got caught behind someone who was barely trotting down the aisle. Fortunately he squeezed over and let me by.

I racked my bike and changed to running gear faster than ever before, slowed only by the need to pull a compression sleeve up onto my right thigh, in the hope that if I should have trouble from my hamstring strain, this would minimize it.

My self-timed 1:57 T2 split was a 23 second improvement over last year. Nice. I say self-timed because the official results show a T2 time of 46 seconds. Now I would love to think I could do a 46 second T2, but it just didn't happen. It probably took at least 46 seconds to push my bike from the T2 entrance to my rack, which was the very last one before the run exit. Anyway, they seem to have cut a minute and 11 seconds off my T2 time and added it to my run time. How the heck does that happen? See, always time yourself.
What would you do differently?:

A 1:57 T2 is good for me, but still below average. I need to continue working on making improvements here.
  • 21m 8s
  • 3 miles
  • 07m 02s  min/mile

The run began better than ever. Having only been able to put out an 85% effort on the bike, I was feeling energetic. I really hit the ground running (so to speak) without the usual dead, uncoordinated-legs effect from the bike. An insane number of bricks over the past 4 to 5 months, and almost no running the past two weeks were definitely giving me an advantage. Still, I held back a little not wanting to start too fast and risk re-straining my hamstring. My plan was to run easy and build up my pace over the first half mile. But that was not to happen as about three minutes into the run the back of my right leg began to tighten up. I immediately slowed down, but the process was irreversible. By 5 minutes into the run the hamie was seriously knotted up, and I was running much slower, and with a slight limp. Somehow I knew this was going to happen. Before the race I had already decided that I would run until it seized up on me completely, and then I would just walk the rest of the way... dragging my dead limb behind me, if need be. So while I was waiting for my leg to go out from under me, I tried to shift my running form to rely more on my hip flexors and body rotation. I was trying to figure out if it was possible to minimize the use of the hamstring muscles in running. Keeping my knees low, my stride short and doing all my pushing from my hips and hip flexor muscles seemed to be stalling the inevitable. I was actually running faster than a few minutes before. I surprised myself to see my 1 mile split as 7:35. So, I continued the short distance to the right turn in the Stand, up the stairs and headed into Manhattan Beach. The back of my leg was very painful, but it didn't seem to be any worse than it was a half mile earlier. My altered stride was apparently serving me well. But for how long? I kept reminding myself that I only needed to run 3 miles, and as long as it's not getting worse, I needed to keep running. Besides, I was passing people. I wanted to stretch out my stride a little, but feared the results, so I just tried to increase my cadence. Two more runners in my AG had now passed me so I was in 6th place at best, and out of the podium standings. At the turn-around point I decided to take some chances. My hamstring was hurting badly; it felt like there was a piece of metal embedded in the back of my leg. But I was breathing easy, and the rest of me wanted to run the way I had planned to during my training. No way that was going to happen, but since the hamie isn't getting any worse I made a deal with myself. I would increase the pace until it did get worse, then I'd back off. So off I went with half the run course to go.

The trip back down the Strand to the stairs went quickly. I went down those stairs very carefully and made the turn back onto Hermosa Beach. I passed the 2 mile sign with a 7:10 split. Yes, I was running faster and the pain was still the same. Maybe even just a little less. So I took it up another notch. Under the improved circumstances I was now hoping to break 7:00 for the last mile, and not have to walk at all. I was encouraged to think that I could still salvage a 21:35 or :40 3 mile run.

Passing the restrooms off 22nd Street, I knew I had only a half mile to go. I looked at my watch and saw a 3:15 split since the 2 mile mark. I thought that was much faster than I could have covered a half mile, so maybe those restrooms are further out than I thought. On the other hand, maybe I had indeed picked up the pace considerably, since physical exhaustion was now becoming a factor. It was real hard to keep the legs turning over fast enough to maintain the pace. I caught myself easing off the effort and slowing. I started trying to convince myself that I wasn't finished yet, that I couldn't be as tired as I seemed. I reminded myself that I had trained with the idea of finishing with a fast 19 minute run, and so the strength was there, the money was in the bank and it hadn't been spent yet. I pushed the pace and focused on the runner in front of me. I had to pass him. When I did, I set a new goal to pass the next guy. I focused on the goal and tried not to be distracted by the injury pain or even the pain from just running. I told myself to forget the hamstring, it's not going to get any worse, so just run until you pass the next guy. This went on for what seemed like a long time, but then the finish line was in sight. I was sure I was keeping up my pace, but a couple runners I'd passed a few hundred yards back were now moving past me. I realized that those who had something left were now using it. With about 150 yards to go I set my last goal, to pass those two guys back. I dug down for whatever I had left and moved up behind them. One guy took off and sprinted to the finish, neck and neck with a runner he was trying to pass. The other one was mine. I accelerated past him with 75 yards to go and held him off through the sandpit finish.

After crossing the finish line, receiving my finisher's metal and removing my chip, I looked at my watch to see my final mile split displaying a 6:22.58. Now that was something to be happy about. A 6:22 on a gimp leg! Last year I had a strong finish on healthy legs and did a 6:18 last mile, so this was an incredible finish. My 3 mile total time of 21:08 was 48 seconds slower than last year's 20:20, which I had planned to surpass before my injury. But, a 7th best AG run time contributed to a 7th place Age Group finish with a total race time of 1:00:15.

What would you do differently?:

It would be nice not to have to race with an injury.
Post race
Warm down:

There was not much use in trying to run or even jog for a warm down. That hamstring knotted up completely as soon as I stopped running. I guess the continual movement was all that was keeping it stretched out and functioning. I did try to walk around for about 20 minutes and did some stretching, but that baby was shot.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

On the swim, the choppy water, but I have no complaints.

On the bike, the poor inconsiderate course layout, and that this race allows too many entrants for it to be safe at a true 10 mile flat course speed.

On the run, the above, frequently mentioned hamstring.

Event comments:

Despite my criticism of the bike course, this is actually a great event to end my season with. It's very close to home and the venue is very familiar to me. They always have plenty of volunteers and a lot of locals jump into this just for the fun of it. Still, it’s probably the most competitive race I do all year, as my AG seems to attract some really fast 50-54 year olds every year.

Last updated: 2008-10-12 12:00 AM
00:09:05 | 440 yards | 02m 04s / 100yards
Age Group: 2/
Overall: 18/1,000
Performance: Average
Suit: xterra Vortex 2
Course: Swim 100 meters out, 200 meters north, 100 meters to the shore, and then run about 200 meters across the beach to T1.
Start type: Run Plus: Waves
Water temp: 61F / 16C Current: Medium
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Average
Breathing: Good Drafting:
Waves: Bad Navigation: Good
Rounding: Good
Time: 01:48
Performance: Good
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed:
00:26:15 | 10 miles | 22.86 mile/hr
Age Group: 8/
Overall: 0/1,000
Performance: Good
Wind: None
Course: From T1 up a short but noticeable hill on Pier Ave to the 3 lap rectangular loop comprised of a left turn to go north on Valley, right for a few seconds on Gould, right and south on Ardmore for the longest stretch of the course, then right again on for a short ride downhill on 2nd Street, then a final right to go north on Valley passing Pier to start the next lap. On last lap, you turn left on Pier and go back down the hill to T2.
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence:
Turns: Average Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Good Hills: Good
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Time: 01:57
Overall: Good
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike Average
Running with bike Average
Racking bike Good
Shoe and helmet removal Good
00:21:08 | 03 miles | 07m 02s  min/mile
Age Group: 7/
Overall: 0/1,000
Performance: Average
Course: A simple out and back course on the Strand, no getting lost here. The stairs just past the 1 mile marker are perhaps a classical reference to the quirkiness of the old Hermosa. Can't beat the ocean view.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Ok
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 3