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Columbia Triathlon - TriathlonOlympic

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Ellicott City, Maryland
United States
Columbia Triathlon Association
70F / 21C
Total Time = 2h 23m 45s
Overall Rank = 104/1696
Age Group = M40-44
Age Group Rank = 20/233
Pre-race routine:

I was tempted to pull out of this race, due to my patchy preparation and injuries. But I really wanted to do it, especially after the DC Tri was canceled, leaving me no other early season triathlons this year. The race also has sentimental value, as it was my first tri when I did it last year. This race report may sound like it's full of excuses, but really I'm thrilled with the outcome, and there's no way that I thought I would beat least year's time by 7 minutes, with faster splits on all parts of the race. Although I have gone 2 minutes faster for an Oly, I feel like this was a PR for me, as the faster time came on a pan-flat course with a net helpful swim current. Columbia has a tough 41k bike course, and the hills on the run course are brutal. I love it!
Event warmup:

Up at 3am, forced some coffee down, to jump-start the digestive system. Left home at 4:10, made it to Columbia by 4:45. Love the pre-race atmosphere in the dark. Enjoyed the ease of setting up my transition area from the new transition bag that I got at the race expo yesterday. No real warm-up for the race, other than splashing around a little before the swim start, to remind myself what OWS felt like.

  • 28m 20s
  • 1640 yards
  • 01m 44s / 100 yards

Last year 28:57, so I was :37 faster this year, though my AG position was similarly poor (113th; 677th overall). I have only been to the pool 4 times in the past few months, mostly in the last couple of weeks, due to time constraints. But I have been doing quite a lot of swim cord workouts at home as a partial substitute. That has given me the strength needed to maintain better form for a bit longer. But it's still an understatement that I have a long way to go in the swim. Under the circumstances, the goal for today was to just get through the swim without too much damage. I was able to find clear water for most of the swim, but was less bothered by traffic then in the past. I set a pace that seemed conservative, as I wasn't sure how well I'd handle the distance. Fortunately the swim seemed to go by fairly quickly.
What would you do differently?:

I could perhaps have pushed a little harder. But I was happy with the outcome, given my paltry preparation.
Transition 1
  • 03m 40s

4:01 last year, improved to 3:40 this year. Long run in from the lake. Little difficulty getting the wetsuit off, and I felt unhurried in getting the socks, shoes, race-belt, and helmet fixed.
What would you do differently?:

Need to practice this.
  • 1h 08m 43s
  • 25.47 miles
  • 22.24 mile/hr

Last year 1:14:02/56th in AG; this year 1:08:43, 13th in AG, 67th overall, for a hilly 41k. This was the part I had been looking forward to, as unlike the swim and run, I've had a good winter of bike training (all indoors, though, for efficiency and control over workouts; 1 outdoor ride in past 7 months). The time difference over last year also owes a lot to the fact that I rode a TT bike this year. I enjoyed the ride a lot. Thanks to my poor swim, I got to pass loads of people, especially on the many climbs. As far as I could tell the only people passing me were the half dozen leading riders in M45-49, which had started a few minutes after my wave. I pushed hard in the approach to each climb, so that momentum would help to get me much of the way up. I knew that I should be eating a little and drinking more than a little, but I didn't really feel like it. I managed to force down a PowerBar, but I couldn't say that I enjoyed it. I didn't bother to pay too much attention to the data on my Garmin or my bike computer, and was mostly riding by feel. The Garmin data shows that my HR was characteristically very high early in the ride (180+), but then gradually fell over the course of the ride, getting into the 150s by the later part of the ride. Based on that, I wonder if I was holding back a little more than I should have. Overall, pretty happy with the ride. It was right around where I wanted it to be.
What would you do differently?:

Very little. Perhaps try to eat something more appetizing.
Transition 2
  • 01m 36s

Last year 1:40, this year 1:36, so not much change. This almost seemed too easy, and I felt that I was standing there thinking: "surely I must be missing something". 609th overall.
What would you do differently?:

I could probably shave off some time if I practiced.
  • 41m 28s
  • 6.21 miles
  • 06m 41s  min/mile

Last year 42:53/12th, this year 41:28/6th. 59th overall. This was the wild card, and it was what almost made me a DNS. Running is my strength, and I had some really good winter training, but I have barely done any run training at all since the start of March, and hadn't run close to 10k since the start of April. This was due to an achilles injury that has subsided somewhat, but that still demands a lot of respect. I had no idea what to expect, but decided that I would set out at a comfortable pace and simply hope for the best. My hope was to squeeze under 7 min/mile. The Columbia run course is brutal, with about 7 serious hills, and a host of smaller inclines to deal with. The plan worked out much better than expected. By setting out in an unhurried fashion I was able to get comfortable quite quickly. I'm not sure that I felt any of the normal 'bike legs' feeling. The hills were always tough, but they seemed to be tougher on everybody else. I think I was passed by one person on the run (the winner of M20-24), and reeled in many in my AG. I was surprised how easy 6:45 felt in the first mile, especially given the steep climb, and then was even more surprised that I mostly felt better as the run progressed. The pace fluctuated a bit based on elevation, but the death march feeling that I had last year never set in. It was only in the last couple of miles that it dawned on me that I might actually beat last year's run split. The last mile is all downhill or flat (well, almost all), and I really enjoyed it. In the last half mile I spotted a couple of runners some distance ahead, and thought I wouldn't manage to catch them. But then I made out a "43" on the leg of one of them, and this motivated me to pick up the pace further, bringing it home at sub-6 pace. At the finish I was certainly quite tired, but also felt pumped at how much better the morning had gone than expected. And just as excited that my body wasn't instantly tight and cramping, as had happened in most of my other races this year.
What would you do differently?:

Train. Not be injured for 3 months preceding the race.
Post race
Warm down:

Wandered around, streched, refueled a little, but I wasn't really ready to eat and so the bagel tasted horrible. Waited around for a free massage, which turned out to be really not worth waiting for.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

I'll start by saying that this race re-kindled my enthusiasm for triathlon, which I had been starting to doubt. I love biking, and I really love running, but swimming is a taste that I'm still in the process of acquiring, and tri events are logistically so much more complex than single-sport events. But this event reminded me why tris are a different kind of fun, especially with all of the different details to geek out about. With that in mind, there are a bunch of things that I could do to improve.

-- Swim. I need to not be so pathetic in the water. I give up so much time. If I was merely moderately ok in the swim, I'd make up a bunch of places. That would require actually going to the pool, and perhaps even getting some decent technique instruction. But I'm sold on also continuing the regular dry-land swimming, as a way of getting additional swim fitness in less time.
-- Transitions. Oh yeah, I should actually practice.
-- Bike. training is going well. A couple of minutes could probably be had via continued training plus some efficient aero investment (e.g., wheel covers?).
-- Run. I just need to get un-injured, so that I can actually get back into training again. And work on losing the few pounds that I put on while sidelined from running.

Event comments:

This is a race that I hope to come back to every year. Fantastic organization. Tough course that brings out a really strong AG field. There's a good reason that it has been going strong for almost 30 years now.

Last updated: 2011-10-19 12:00 AM
00:28:20 | 1640 yards | 01m 44s / 100yards
Age Group: 113/233
Overall: 0/1696
Performance: Average
Suit: Xterra Vortex
Course: Smooth lake swim
Start type: Deep Water Plus: Waves
Water temp: 71F / 22C Current: Low
200M Perf. Average Remainder: Average
Breathing: Average Drafting: Bad
Waves: Navigation: Average
Rounding: Average
Time: 03:40
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Yes Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed:
01:08:43 | 25.47 miles | 22.24 mile/hr
Age Group: 13/233
Overall: 84/1696
Performance: Good
Wind: Little
Course: Hilly. 1800' of climbing.
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence:
Turns: Average Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Good Hills: Good
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Not enough
Time: 01:36
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike Average
Racking bike Average
Shoe and helmet removal Average
00:41:28 | 06.21 miles | 06m 41s  min/mile
Age Group: 6/233
Overall: 57/1696
Performance: Good
Course: Very hilly. At least 7 non-trivial hills, plus a bunch of smaller rises.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2012-05-20 2:32 PM

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University Park, MD
Subject: Columbia Triathlon

2012-05-20 3:48 PM
in reply to: #4219146

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Falls Church, VA
Subject: RE: Columbia Triathlon
Great job on a tough bike course!
2012-05-20 7:59 PM
in reply to: #4219146

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Gloucestershire, England
Subject: RE: Columbia Triathlon

Good job !  If I were staying another year I'd suggest that I'll do the swim and the transitions and you can do the bike and run .... sound like a 'Team Brit' plan ?

Enjoy the rest of the season.


2012-05-20 8:13 PM
in reply to: #4219545

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University Park, MD
Subject: RE: Columbia Triathlon
adrian_md - 2012-05-20 8:59 PM

Good job !  If I were staying another year I'd suggest that I'll do the swim and the transitions and you can do the bike and run .... sound like a 'Team Brit' plan ?

Enjoy the rest of the season.


Indeed. You smoked me on the swim/T1/T2. In fact, by the end of T1 you had almost caught up with me, despite my 8 minute head start. I didn't realize that I had got to within a minute of you by the end of the race. So close, yet ...

Enjoy your return to the UK. This afternoon I was scoping out races that I might try when I'm there for a couple of weeks later in the summer. I noticed that one advantage of a more temperate climate is that they have civilized things like 1pm race starts.

2012-05-22 7:36 AM
in reply to: #4219146

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Malvern, PA
Subject: RE: Columbia Triathlon
Great race!  Your race reports always make me chuckle a bit, when you talk about your worry and lack of run training ... and then throw down a 41-minute 10k on one of the toughest run courses in triathlon.  One day I will figure out how you people blowing by me on the run appear to be weightless while my legs feel so damn heavy.
2012-05-22 12:13 PM
in reply to: #4219146

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Olney, MD
Subject: RE: Columbia Triathlon
Great job! Excellent bike and run! I do most of my bike training indoors too. I'll have to pick your brain for your secrets! I was hoping to hit 20mph this year, but didn't quite make it.

2012-05-28 6:15 PM
in reply to: #4219146

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Whispering Pines, North Carolina
Subject: RE: Columbia Triathlon
wow, you threw down some very solid times and didn't break the top 100! very nice job overall! definitely rocked this race!
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