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Pacific Open Water Challenge - Aquathlon - Biathlon (swim/run)

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Long Beach, California
United States
International City Racing
Total Time = 37m 31s
Overall Rank = 11/80
Age Group = 55-59 Male
Age Group Rank = 1/3
Event warmup:

I did some stretching, jogged about a half mile, and swam about 200 yards.

As I was finishing my warm-up swim, I realized everyone was already in the starting chute. This was a deepwater swim start, with the 1/2 Mile Swim event going off in wave #1, five minutes before the Aquathlon start in wave #2. So I swam over to the chute and asked if I was in the right place and if we need to hang back until the 1/2 Mile race starts. A woman said, "They already started a few minutes ago". Next thing I know the starter is doing the countdown, and I'm still at the back of the pack. So, I starting swimming through the crowd, trying to get to the front before the race start. Only made it about half way.
  • 13m 12s
  • 880 yards
  • 01m 30s / 100 yards

First let me say, the water was just the right temperature for a wetsuit. It was also much cleaner than I expected. I could see my feet as I wadded out into the water up to my chest, before I started my swim warm-up. And the water was completely flat, just like a small lake or a large pool, but unlike a lake it had that familiar saltwater buoyancy. Absolutely no waves, no chop, and no current. In other words, this is a very fast swim venue.

As I began to explain in the warm-up description, I was wholly unprepared for the start of the race. As the gun went off I was still frantically working my way through the crowd in the start chute, doing a head-above-water swim toward the starting line. As the race began, I just put my head down and sprinted through most of the rest of the slow starters and was pretty much clear of the close-packed thrashing in about 30 or 40 yards.

As I settled in to a smooth stroke with a more sustainable pace, I easily moved past lots of swimmers and fell in behind someone who was passing me for a nice draft. As we approached the first buoy, I could see a dozen or so green swim caps headed right for us. Swimmers from the 1/2 mile race that went off five minutes before us where about to swim right into us. I cut to the left, and lost my draft, but was able to avoid crashing into anyone. As I approached the first buoy, I could see the last stragglers from the previous wave going around it from both directions.

Since I was already to the left of it, I rounded the buoy to the right, and swam into a group of people trying to go the opposite way. As I cleared the crowd, I again settled into a good strong pace and soon discovered I was passing the guy I'd been drafting off of earlier. Before long I had passed a couple others and couldn't see anyone ahead of me. Was I in front of the wave at the halfway point? No. As it turns out there were still several people ahead of me, some quite a bit ahead of me. But one turned out to be only a little bit ahead as I followed him around the second buoy. When I came up alongside of him, he got all competitive on me and surged ahead. The best I could do was draft behind him. But he was getting tired and as he slowed near the finish I started to move to the right to pass him. But then he moved to the right and blocked me. Probably just a coincidence, but as we approached the finish chute he had veered almost all the way to the right side, pushing me onto a path that would miss the chute. I had to slow down and get behind him again as we came across the finish line.

The timing system for the swim segment was a chip on our wrists which triggered the swim split from a sensor bar a few feet above the water. We were supposed to raise the arm with the wrist-chip as we crossed under the finish line. I actually touched the bar with my hand to make sure I triggered a split time. Fortunately I also took my own split on my watch, as there was no swim split for me in the official results. Wonderful technology. My unofficial swim split was 13:12, which put me in ninth place so far.

Once across the swim finish, you had to turn left and swim to the shore, run up a few yards of beach, then about 30 more yards along the side of the transition area to enter from the far side. (Hey RD, why not have the swim exit even with the entrance to T1? Poor planning, that's why.)
What would you do differently?:

1) Finish my warm-up sooner and be in the starting chute to get a good position before the start of the race.
2) Pass on the left.

Transition 1
  • 01m 56s

I'm still kinda slow and awkward in the transition, however I did somehow manage to move up from ninth to seventh place here. But the big mistake this time was forgetting to bring my race number belt. So I had to pin my number onto my shirt. As a result, I didn't wear the shirt under my wetsuit. When I finished getting out of my wetsuit and putting on my shoes, I grabbed my shirt and ran out onto the run course as I was tying to put it on. But still being wet from the swim, it got all bunched up and hung up under my arms and even when I finally got the front pulled down, the back was still rolled up across my shoulder blade area. It took almost 2 minutes to get it pulled down all the way, during which time I considered just pulling it back up over my head and tossing it aside. In the process, I tore the race number off all but one safety pin, so now it was flapping around as I ran.

What would you do differently?:

1) Bring my race number belt.
2) Wear my shirt under my wetsuit (which I normally do).
  • 22m 23s
  • 3.11 miles
  • 07m 12s  min/mile

As I mentioned in the T1 comments, I had difficulty pulling my shirt on over my wet body and wasted plenty of time and energy on something I kept thinking I was about to resolve, but just couldn't seem to. I did keep focused on holding a fast pace, but I'm sure it cost me some time off my finish.

Once past my stupid shirt problem, I was determined to hold as fast a pace as possible. A couple guys passed me right out of transition, but were moving too fast to try to pace off of. I came through the first mile in 7:15, but it felt faster. Soon thereafter I was passed again. The second mile was getting to be painful. I was thinking I'd gone out too fast and now I was having trouble holding the pace. I came through mile two with a 7:28 split, which was encouraging since it felt slower. The third mile was really wearing me down, so I just focused on holding my form and maintaining my tempo. I was certain that I was loosing speed.

Another guy eased by me, but I was already going as fast as I could so I couldn't respond and he got away. With about a half mile to go I passed someone, and from that point onward I was preoccupied with the thought that he might still catch me again. I hit the three mile mark with a 6:59 split which was much faster than I'd expected.

Just before the last turn-around I could hear the guy I'd passed coming up behind me, so I re-doubled my efforts. As that runner went by me anyway, it turned out to be someone else. Once around the cone, I could see the guy I was focused on. He was now two places back, and looked as bad as I felt. Now it was time to forget about the pain and kick. I went to 100% effort and seemed to be gaining a little on the last one to pass me, but he was already too far ahead for me to realistically expect to catch him. The last .11 mile split was 41 seconds.

My run time was 22:23, and my finish time for the full aquathlon was 37:31, good for eleventh place over all, and first in my AG.
What would you do differently?:

I'd bring my race belt, or spend less time trying to fix my shirt problems. I suppose I should have just tucked the shirt into the back of my shorts and forgot about it.
Post race
Warm down:

Did some stretching and walking. I planned to do a warm-down jog of about a mile, but only got about 500 yards or so before my calves and lower leg muscles tightened up and I had to stop. So I stretched some more, massaged my lower legs and walked around for about ten minutes to finish loosening up.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Needed a better starting position for the swim, and a smoother start on the run. Of course, I could always use a faster transition.

Event comments:

Good points:

- A great morning full of open water swim events, augmented with a 5K run and an aquathlon.

- Good race venue for fast times.

Bad points:

- Poor planning and course design. They really need to look at the bottlenecks and fiascos that could have been easily avoided with some forethought, or for next year's events, with some hindsight and reflection.

- No water stations on the 5K run. Never a problem for me on a run this short, but a big problem for most. Fortunately it was overcast and comfortable, but it could have been very uncomfortable for many runners if it had been hot and sunny (which one would expect in the third week of August, right?).

- No food or drink provided by the event itself after the races. The vendors were giving away samples of their drinks or energy/fuel foods, but it was not the usual mini-feast one sees at most triathlons. Maybe this is how open water swim meets do it?

- The awards presentation was very informal and anti-climatic. Easily the worst and least inspired awards ceremony I've ever seen. Actually there was nothing ceremonial about it. The race announcer, who had been up in a scaffolding-type tower the whole morning, only announced (from up in his tower) the results of the top finishers in each race. There was no podium for the race winners to stand on, nor did they even attempt to keep them together for a group photo. Someone just individually handed them their medal and told them to pick up a winner's goodie-bag at one of the vendors. As for the age-groupers, the announcer mumbled something about going over to the packet pick-up tent to get your medal. They had a box of un-engraved medals under the table to hand out to those that could actually figure out where the AG medals were being handed out. They could have had a sign up, or at least had the medals out on top of the table so you could see where to go.

A final comment:
The swim finish in the chute may be how these kinds of events are done, but it was so much less exciting to watch them swim into the chute then hang out in the water, only to exit at some later time. It was very anonymous. The last two years, the swim races finished with a run from the water's edge to the finish line on the beach and made for some exciting finishing efforts. You can see who is finishing and who is out sprinting someone else. With an in-the-water finish you're not sure who just came in, male, female, your friend, some kid? Just a swim cap bobbing around soon to be lost in and among the other caps of the recent finishers. Unfortunately, I believe this is just how it goes in these kinds of swim races.

Despite my negative comments, I expect to continue doing this event as I have for three years now. This is a relatively new event and a new kind of sport for this company. I'm sure they will improve.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2009-08-28 12:00 AM
00:13:12 | 880 yards | 01m 30s / 100yards
Age Group: 1/3
Overall: 9/80
Performance: Good
Suit: xTerra VectorPro 2
Course: The event web site says the swim course is rectangular, but it didn't work that way in the heat of the race. Basically, the starting chute is in the middle of the "rectangle", and you swim northwest to the first buoy and make a hairpin turn to the right. You then swim southeast back the opposite way, passing the start chute which is on your right, and on to the second buoy and make another hairpin turn to the right. Next you swim northwest again to the finish chute, which is to the left of the start chute. This makes a complete circuit of the 1/2 mile course. A better idea would have been to put two buoys about 20 yards apart at each end of the course, forcing everyone to make the turn-around in the same direction. Due to poor pre-race instruction and the fact that the swimmers had fanned out across about 30 yards from one side of the pack to the other, some made the turn to the left and others to the right and so everyone was swimming toward oncoming traffic no matter from which side they approached the first buoy.
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Waves
Water temp: 68F / 20C Current:
200M Perf. Below average Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Good
Waves: Navigation: Below average
Rounding: Average
Time:  01:56
Overall: Below average
Removing cap, goggles and wetsuit: Average
Getting into shoes: Average
00:22:23 | 03.11 miles | 07m 12s  min/mile
Age Group: 1/3
Overall: 0/80
Performance: Good
Course: The run follows a basically horseshoe-shaped out-and-back course around Marine Stadium, which needed a little more space to make the full 5K. So they extended it past the finish line to a turn-around just short of 200 yards further down, for an additional out-and-back section. This course is completely flat, not even so much as the slightest incline. The first turnaround consists of two left turns to get you turned around and heading back on a parallel road. The final turn-around is a sharp U-turn around a cone. So, except for that speed-reducing last turn-around, this is a nice, fast run course.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? No
Events on-time? No
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? No
Post race activities: Bad
Race evaluation [1-5] 2

2009-09-03 12:13 AM

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Redondo Beach, CA
Subject: Pacific Open Water Challenge - Aquathlon
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