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The Day at the Beach Triathlon - TriathlonSprint

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Hermosa Beach, California
United States
Michael Epstein Sports Productions, Inc.
65F / 18C
Total Time = 59m 33s
Overall Rank = 61/779
Age Group = Men 50-54
Age Group Rank = 5/28
Pre-race routine:

This was my third year of doing this triathlon. It's the closest of the local races. Even though I live in Redondo Beach, this race is even closer to my house than the Redondo Beach Tri, just minutes away. Still, I was late in arriving and had to squeeze my bike into the last slot (barely half a slot) in the row, and set up my other gear underneath it.

Event warmup:

Got in a good swim out to the first buoy and back, then a few short fast swims to get me set for a fast start. Probably close to 300 yards of swimming altogether.
  • 06m 43s
  • 440 yards
  • 01m 32s / 100 yards

Since the swim is only a quarter mile, I wanted to get a good fast start and keep up the speed all the way through. And with a fast start, there would always be an opportunity to draft off the leaders, and get an even better swim split. As my wave, 45 and older, went off, I dashed down the sand berm and into the ocean, took a half dozen high stepping strides and dove forward into the water, came back up and continued dolphining just like the real triathletes. But I'm not a great dolphin'er, so soon I just settled into swimming. I ducked under a couple of incoming waves, and once past the breakers saw that there were an awful lot of people ahead of me. Some were so far ahead I knew I'd never catch them. So I just swam as hard as I could toward the first buoy, passing several swimmers on the way, then cut a right turn so close to the buoy I brushed up against it. On the northward stretch, parallel to the beach, I settled into a fast steady rhythm. As I progressed to the second buoy I passed several more people from my wave and some of the stragglers from the previous one. I was able to sight without any trouble and kept to a fairly straight course. Rounding that next buoy, I boosted my speed and made for the shore. I could feel the swells pulling me toward the beach and started looking for a wave to ride in on. Unfortunately, my timing was off and I missed my wave despite a good sprint on my part. I probably should have slowed down instead and caught the next one because by the time it rolled in, it was coming down right on top of me. I dove down as low as I could and it slammed me even further down, and then jerked me back and forth. As I broke the surface I had lost all my momentum and was almost vertical in the water. Right away I resumed swimming and soon got a little push from what was left of the next wave. I hit the shallow water, got to my feet and trotted out onto the beach. Once I was on the sand I increased my pace and ran up the berm as someone shouted to me that I was 6th in my wave. I looked down at my swim split and saw 6:43. Making the 200 yard run across the loose sand is always a struggle, but I was moving past a few people, with only one passing me. I passed under the nice shower, washing some of the sand off me as I came onto the Strand and soon was in the transition area at Pier Plaza, with a 7:48 split. A more than acceptable 18 second improvement from last year's 8:06. The official results show me as third in AG, 36th overall. So far so good.
What would you do differently?:

Try to get a better start, and a better finish. Need to work on getting through the water up to the breakers. Once I'm past there and swimming, I'm OK. I also need to be more patient about catching a wave to body surf in to the finish. Sometimes that is going to require slowing down to catch the wave, as it would have today. I'm a good body surfer, so I'll definitely make up the lost time, but while in the heat of the race, slowing down is so counter-intuitive that I find it very difficult to do so.
Transition 1
  • 02m 56s

T1 seemed to go better than usual, but I still can't jump out of a wetsuit like some of these guys. Being racked at the far end from the row exit, and with the transition area squeezed into the Hermosa Pier Plaza there was barley enough room between racks to get out. Especially since in the time it took me to change gear there were now a few others crowding the row. So I had to lift my bike up over various buckets of water and loose gear and carry it to the main aisle leading to the bike exit. My rack being near the far opposite end from the bike exit, it was a long run down a narrow pathway with too many people from previous waves in front of me to go fast. Finally, I was out with a 2:56 split for T1, 3 seconds slower than last year. Where did all that time go? There were twelve others in my AG faster; one guy did it in 1:30. I suspect he must have been on performance enhancing drugs.
What would you do differently?:

Practice changing from wetsuit to bike gear to cut off at least a minute in T1. Looking at the times of others in my AG and the race in general, this seems to be a very realistic accomplishment.
  • 25m 57s
  • 10 miles
  • 23.12 mile/hr

The bike starts off with a short climb up Pier Ave. It starts steep but quickly levels off and soon turns left for 3 long-rectangular shaped laps around what were formerly railroad tracks, and is now part of a long narrow park (the Greenbelt Park). It basically goes up Valley and back on Ardmore. It's a seemingly flat-ish course that's actually a series of long gradual inclines/declines plus a couple rolling hills, and I'll bet it's a little short of the stated 10 miles. Once I was turning onto Valley, I took a split at 1:31, dropped down into aerobar position and headed north into a slight incline. The first right onto Gould is followed by the second right onto Ardmore a few seconds later and once over a small rise you're now on an extended slight downhill all the way back to Pier Ave. Even once past Pier, the rest of Ardmore is pretty flat, with one good drop down across a cross street, almost all the way to the southern end of the course. You can really pick up some excellent speed on this backside of the rectangle, but due to the sharp, and usually crowded, right turn onto 2nd Street, you have to really slow down a lot to make the turn safely. The very short stretch on 2nd Street is downhill and turns right onto Valley across a space of wet pavement. You have to negotiate this corner without turning too wide, as you're required to finish the turn in the right lane, as the left one isn't closed to traffic. It's scary, treacherous, and now the most dangerous part of the course due to the major changes the RD made for last year's race (at the vague and largely unexplained request of the Hermosa Beach Mayor). Or is the end of each lap on Valley, where you have to deal with riders coming onto and going off of the main course loop the most dangerous? Take your pick. Once around the 2nd Street corners and back onto Valley, it's over a small hill, then a flat to slightly uphill stretch back to Pier Ave. First lap split was 7:46. The second and third laps were much like the first; pushing the effort on the slight uphill going north, hammering the slight downhill when heading south, slowing dramatically on the crowded turns and all the while weaving through the slower traffic repeating the phrase, "On your left!" often enough for it to seem rhythmic. Second lap split was 7:50. Third lap split was 7:47. The final stretch back down Pier Ave was 1:03 going into T2. So my pace was pretty even throughout, and I remained down on the aerobars almost all the way, except for the turns, for which I went down into the drops. The total bike split was 25:57, for an average 23.1 mph, exactly 30 seconds slower than last year. The official results show me as being 7th in AG and 62nd overall.
What would you do differently?:

Due to the nature of the course, and they do advise you to take it easy since the race attracts a lot of newbies, how fast you can go really depends on getting onto the course before it loads up. Although I thought I was going faster than it turned out, I now have some lap splits to compare to as I do this race next year. So I'll at least have a better idea of where I am speed-wise next year.
Transition 2
  • 02m 17s

T2 was another disaster. First it was that long run down the crowded aisle to my rack, then squeezing past the others in my narrow row, plus hoisting my bike over the discarded wetsuits, left over buckets of water, etc to my end-of-rack position. During my change to bike gear, I pointed my toes to insert my right foot into my shoe and my calf cramped up. So I straightened out my foot, gave the calf a quick massage and it un-cramped. But it re-cramped as I tried to insert it into my shoe again. Back to the massaging. No luck. Every time I pointed my toes, my calf seized up. The bungee laces made the opening too small to comfortably slide my foot in. So I had to unlace the shoe enough to get my foot in without pointing my toes, then I pulled the bungee laces tight and locked them. Tying and double knotting regular shoelaces would have been far faster. But then I was up and running the short distance out of the T2 run exit, clocking a time of 2:30, just 13 seconds slower than last year. There were 24 in my AG faster, and one did it in 59 seconds. If it weren't for the leg cramp I would have had a much-improved T2. Maybe I'm getting the hang of this fast gear changing after all.
What would you do differently?:

Next year, no more cramping.

  • 20m 20s
  • 3 miles
  • 06m 47s  min/mile

I started the run up the Strand a little slow to make sure that calf muscle was going to stay put. I've cramped up on the run before in triathlons, and it really wrecks your day. So I kept my knees low and focused on getting a good core rotation to put the load on the hip flexors and minimize dependence on the calves. After about a half mile I was running well and my pace had steadily increased. I had been passed by several runners early on, but seemed to be holding the rest off for now. Crossing the 1 Mile mark/water station, and refusing to be slowed for water I didn't need, I clocked a split of 7:12. A good pace, but I felt I could go faster. My weekly tempo runs had been improving dramatically over the last four weeks and I knew the legs could handle a speedier turn over. As I approached the 1.5 mile turn-around point, I was relieved to see that they got the distance correct this year. Last year the 3 mile run was probably closer to a 5K. On the way back I steadily moved past others, and at the 2 Mile mark/water station (same place as the 1 Mile mark) I took a 6:50 mile split. Now with one mile to go and the Finish Line near the Hermosa Beach Pier in sight, I was telling myself that I needed to do one more 6:50 and I'd be done. So I increased my effort in order to counter the fatigue and kept at it. As I caught up with other runners I kept checking the back of each one's left calf for their age, but saw no one in my age group. With about a half mile to go the fatigue was really weighing me down, but I was almost there, so I pushed the pace all the harder, until my lungs were working overtime. Then with about 100 yards to go I thought I was close enough to go all out the rest of the way, so I just poured it on and blew past the last few people in front of me who hadn't already finished. I hit the loose sand that makes up the last 20 yards and felt like I was running in slow motion. Crossing the finish line, I stopped my watch and looked up to see Fory, from my Masters swim group, handing out the finisher's metals. Someone handed me the commemorative towel, soaked in ice water. I was done, and I was sure that any time now my lungs would realize it and slow down, but for now they were furiously sucking in air to pay off my huge oxygen debt. I looked down at my watch and saw my final mile split, 6:18. Wow. I don't think I've run a mile that fast since my 20's. My official run split was 20:20, 1:11 faster than last year, for 4th in my AG and 49th overall.

My finishing time was 59:33, good for 5th in my AG (and a spot on the podium), and 61st overall. That's exactly 30 seconds faster than last year, but two places lower in the AG results. Actually, with the shorter, more accurate run course this year, my total time is probably about equal to last year. It was certainly a much more competitive field, with much faster times, regardless of this year's shorter run course. The guy who won my AG, 50-54, was the same guy who won the whole thing two years ago. Rats, now he's 50. This year he finished even faster, but only took 6th overall. The second place guy in my AG was 7th overall. Some of these old dudes are getting a little too good.
What would you do differently?:

I really can't complain about the run. I did far better than I expected, with each mile getting significantly faster. Perhaps I should have increased the pace sooner in the first half mile, but I didn't want to stress my troublesome calf muscle. I guess I could have pushed the pace on the middle mile more.
Post race
Warm down:

Just lots of walking and some stretching.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

I really should have had a faster bike split, and maybe if I'd caught a wave at the end of the swim I could have cut at least 20 seconds off the swim time. But I'm just kidding myself to look for a few seconds here and there in the swim, bike and run. The real limiter for me in this, and most races, is my horribly slow transitions. I will be working on them over the next year, and refining the process of changing gear, so that I'll be at least 2 minutes faster due to better transitions alone.

Event comments:

Overall, I'm very happy with my race, but especially so with the run. After enduring a string of lower leg injuries all summer, that kept me out of my A race this year, it is very satisfying to have regained my running fitness, and apparently surpassed it, in the nine weeks I've been back to running. Actually my swim split into T1 may have been faster than last year largely due to a strong run from the ocean to the transition area. My bike time was slower this year, and I've been thinking I've been in denial lately about having lost some of the edge I had in late August/early September, which may indicate that I may have peaked about that time. As usual, the race was well organized, with plenty of volunteers beefed up by the North Torrance High School Cross Country team. This was a great race to finish up the 2007 season.

Last updated: 2007-10-19 12:00 AM
00:06:43 | 440 yards | 01m 32s / 100yards
Age Group: 3/28
Overall: 36/779
Performance: Good
Suit: xterra VectorPro 2
Course: Quarter mile ocean swim: About a 100 meters out, about 200 meters north, parallel to the beach, then about 100 meters back to shore, ending with about a 200 meter run across the beach in mostly loose sand to Pier Plaza.
Start type: Run Plus: Waves
Water temp: 62F / 17C Current: Low
200M Perf. Average Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Bad
Waves: Bad Navigation: Good
Rounding: Good
Time: 02:56
Performance: Bad
Cap removal: Below average Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Yes Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: Yes
Getting up to speed: Average
00:25:57 | 10 miles | 23.12 mile/hr
Age Group: 7/28
Overall: 28/779
Performance: Average
Wind: None
Course: A short uphill ride from T1 to the main bike loop. Three laps on the loop and then back down the hill to T2. Mostly gradual long uphill and downhill stretches, with a couple small rollers. Only one lane closed to traffic. The course becomes more and more crowded on each lap as more people come onto the bike course. Not a venue conducive to fast times, but Hermosa Beach is very small, and this course runs the full north/south length of the city. There's really nowhere else to put it. Unless they go back to the two lap course they used to have that extended south into Redondo Beach... Hey, now there's an idea...
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence:
Turns: Below average Cornering: Average
Gear changes: Good Hills: Good
Race pace: Hard Drinks: Not enough
Time: 02:17
Overall: Bad
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike Average
Running with bike Average
Racking bike Below average
Shoe and helmet removal Good
00:20:20 | 03 miles | 06m 47s  min/mile
Age Group: 4/28
Overall: 49/779
Performance: Good
Course: A simple out and back from the transition area on the Hermosa Beach Pier Plaza, north on the Strand, up a short flight of stairs just past the one mile mark and into Manhattan Beach for the turn-around just past the public restrooms. The second half of the course back-tracks to just before Pier Plaza where it cuts to the right and onto the loose beach sand for the final 20 yards to the finish.
Keeping cool Good Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
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] 4

2007-10-19 5:45 PM

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Redondo Beach, CA
Subject: The Day at the Beach Triathlon

2007-10-20 12:27 AM
in reply to: #1016477

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Subject: RE: The Day at the Beach Triathlon

Great report Doug!  Congrats on the podium finish.  I know I've probably seen you walk right by me, and didn't realize it, although I think I remember seeing you up there (they oughta do a DNA test on Brian Fong, he looks 20.....)

I've done this race three years, and agree completely with everything you say about it.   I even emailed the RD last year and asked whether he meant to do a 3 mi run or a 5K.  he said 3 miles....  Glad to hear you say it was actually 3 miles.  I as wondering if it was short this year.

And yes, they should return to the 2 lap format, even though it goes into Hermosa.

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