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Lake Geneva Race Report

September 16, 2012

Yesterday’s race day started with probably my earliest wake up call ever for a race (for a former collegiate rower, that’s saying a lot — although I guess that depends how you count my marathon that started at midnight). I had to get up at 2:30 AM! That was the tradeoff for sleeping at home and not paying for a hotel. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, is about 80 miles from Chicago. Fortunately, the race had organized a packet pickup in Chicago on the Thursday before the race, a god-send for all of those athletes in Chicago who were doing the race and wanted to just make a long day-trip of it. After packing my bike into the car, I was pulling out on the road by 3:30. Google maps said the trip could take 2 hours, but fortunately I could make good time on the highways at that hour. I pulled into the race parking lot just after 5. Plenty of time to get my transition area setup by the time transition closed at 6:00.

It was really cold when I got there, probably just below 50 degrees. At least it was supposed to warm up later. The bike racks in transition were pretty cool. Instead of the classic bars to hang the bike by the seat from, they had individual racks that held each bike by the tire, with everyone’s spot specifically marked. Not only no fighting for a space, but no fighting other athletes who might try to take more room than they should! As I was slowly setting my stuff up, I overheard another athlete asking a friend if he had body glide. His friend didn’t, but I offered to let him use mine. Maybe that will get me good race karma? Around 5:45, I finally had my gear set and finally shed off my sweats to face the cold air. Normally I wait to pull on my wetsuit until right before the race, since you can quickly overheat in a wetsuit on land. Today I pulled it on immediately after my quick bathroom pit-stop. I needed the warmth! They were distributing time chips on race morning, so I had to wait in a long line for that. (What a log-jam, I don’t know why they didn’t just distribute those along with our packets, like most races do!)

And then we all got to stand around on the beach and wait for the fog to clear over the water. We watched the sun rise and all shuffled around trying to keep warm. The announcer kept telling us they expected to be able to get started soon. They wanted to make sure the lifeguards could see us in the water. At least the delay meant it would be a little warmer by the time we got out of the water. After what seemed like forever, but was really closer to 40 minutes, they finally announced that we were going to be able to start. The fog had cleared enough to go. I reminded myself that my goal was consistency on the swim and then to push as hard as I could on the bike and run. I had been sick most of the week (see my last post about that). I felt healthy now, but wasn’t sure how I was going to do.

The water felt nice and warm after standing around in cold air for so long. What a relief. And then we were off. I settled into a nice rhythm, but my goggles kept filling with water. I had to keep stopping to empty them. A couple times I tried adjusting them. I’ve had goggle problems off and on, so I’ll need to play with them some more to try to resolve that before the Ironman! Except for the goggle issues, my pace felt decent. I was able to keep pace with several other athletes swimming around me, which was nice (of course, I specifically started at the back of the pack, so I was keeping pace with the slower swimmers, but that’s fine). I didn’t feel like I was tiring at all towards the end. I did have a couple sighting issues, but overall did okay with that. I finished the swim in 44:13. Not quite as fast as I hoped, but that pace would put me finishing the Ironman swim in 1:54:00, 26 minutes to spare on the cutoff. I might be one of the slower swimmers out there, but considering I couldn’t swim further than 25 yards non-stop in January, I’ve made tons of progress!

My first transition was really slow (6:01). I still need to work on that a lot. I put a honey stinger gel in my tri jersey to consume as I exit the water, but I forgot about that until I was back in transition, so that took some extra time. Then I struggled with my wetsuit. And then I struggled to pull arm warmers up my wet arms (at least I hope I won’t have that issue in Arizona, where it should be warm enough to not need those!). I also can do better at streamlining my process of pulling on socks, shoes, garmin, sunglasses, and gloves. Considering the cold threw my transition process off a bit, I guess my transition time wasn’t that bad. And I haven’t emphasized transition time in my training as much because I’m training for a longer race where it’s less important.

I felt really good on the bike. About 1/2 mile out of transition was a long uphill (by long I mean maybe 1/3-1/2 mile, so not really that long) where I pushed past many other athletes. Then the course settled into a pattern of rolling hills. Enough hills to not be a fast course, but none so bad to seriously impede cycling. The “olympic / intermediate” distance that I was doing had a 28 mile bike instead of the actual olympic distance of about 25 miles. I felt more comfortable staying in aero for most of this race. And on the uphills, I pushed hard, around 85-90% effort. I always felt like I had power left to push when uphills came, so I was pacing well. My nutrition plan also seemed to work well. I had half a clif bar at 20 minutes, the other half at 50 minutes, and a honey stinger energy gel at 80 minutes, near the end of the bike. A lot of the course was on beautiful back country roads, and save for the occasional athlete that rode in the way of traffic, it was a very good race.

Towards the last third of the bike course, the intermediate course met back up with the sprint course, but now all the sprint distance athletes were out on the course as well. So there was more bike traffic, more people cycling much slower, and more traffic, but for the most part people made room for faster cyclists. I miscalculated the distance to the end of the bike and was surprised when it came up about half a mile sooner than I expected. I let myself slow down quickly as I glided towards the finish and unstrapped my feet from my bike shoes, pulling my feet out of my shoes. I thought I had my feet securely on top of my shoes, but as I started to pedal the last bit to the finish, one of my shoes knocked the ground hard and nearly knocked me off my bike. Fortunately the shoe stuck on the cleat, so I didn’t need to stop to grab a shoe! At the dismount line, I hopped off my bike, leaving my shoes attached to the pedals, and ran back to my rack space. I finished the bike in 1:27:49, with an average speed around 19 mph. Slightly slower than my average speed in the Chicago Triathlon a few weeks ago, but on a much more challenging course. I’ll take it. My second transition time was also a lot better at 2:37. Still over a minute slower than the top athletes, but part of that is because I put patella braces on for my run, which takes some extra time.

First thing after leaving transition on the run, I stopped at the line of port-a-pottys. I had been needing that for the last several miles of the bike and there was no way I would make it through the run without! Once back running, the course almost immediately started up hill. There were several challenging hills on the run. I just kept reminding myself: hips forward, core firm, shoulders relaxed, cadence up. My slowest half mile was at a 9:55 mile pace, but most of the run I was going a lot faster. My average, including the time to stop for the toilet, was an 8:37 mile pace. I was just 20 seconds slower than in the Chicago triathlon, but on a much more challenging run course!

The run was an out and back course, which meant I passed my teammates as I headed out and they headed towards the finish line. I felt really strong and consistent on the first half, so as I turned around I knew I should have a good run back. It was mostly uphill out, which meant no more climbing. Of course, running downhill is pretty hard on the legs. All the volunteers kept saying “it’s all downhill from here” and I wanted to scream at them “downhill is not always easier!” Actually, at least half the course was flat, and another good chunk was on mild hills, so it was a challenging course, but it wasn’t all hill.

Thankfully it had warmed up during the race to the mid 70s. I was a little warm at the very end of the bike, and comfortable without the arm warmers by the run. Relaxing post-race is much better when it’s warm and sunny out! I grabbed some energy bar samples to snack on while we waited for the last team member to finish, then everyone on my team packed up our stuff and headed back to the cars. We tried driving into Lake Geneva to get a team meal, but traffic was insane and there was no way we were going to all find parking. But we found a grill just outside town where we could at least get some bar food and all relax and talk about the race. And then eventually it was back on the road to head home. The drive took probably 45 minutes longer on the way home when I had to face actual traffic! By the time I got home around 4:45, I was exhausted but happy after a good day.

Overall, I’m very happy with my race, especially considering I was sick earlier in the week and just back to working out. But some lessons learned from this race. I need to work out my goggle issues most importantly. I got through the swim okay, but that took too much time. I also need to remember to think about length and consistency when I’m swimming. My swim speed feels pretty good when I think abou that. If I just think about speed, I get rushed and choppy, and off balance, and end up slow and just spending energy. I also need to spend more time visualizing my transitions and actually practicing them. As I’ve noted before, I’m not terribly concerned with this. For the Ironman, taking a little more time to pull on all the appropriate gear makes sense for a non-elite athlete like me. Still, I can streamline it a little more. I also felt really good on this run, I think partially because I was really focusing on my form. I need to keep that mental focus there, because I know good form makes me faster with less energy spent. And my nutrition plan worked well, but I need to think about what exactly I’m doing for the Ironman.

63 days till Ironman Arizona!

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2 Comments
  1. re: Arm warmers. Roll them up like a condom and just slip them onto your wrists. You can unroll them later when you are on the bike and getting settled in. Or you can leave them rolled up and placed on your aero bars to put on and unroll when you are on the bike and your arms are dry.
    re: Goggle problems. Use antifog drops and let it dry completely before using. Put them on the goggles the night before. I make my own with just a few drops of dish soap or Johnson’s no tears shampoo in a 1-2 oz bottle. Also, if filling with water, use of the antichafing lubricant/stick around your forehead and nose and points of contact with goggles. It may help with the watertight seal. As with everything, try it out first before race day. Cheers, Dr. J

    • Jeff Kosbie permalink

      Rolling up the arm warmers makes total sense. I already do that with my socks, like most people who choose to wear socks. Hopefully I don’t need that trick again this season, but good to know for if I do. I’ll have to try the body glide on the forehead and nose. Sometimes I get no water in my goggles and sometimes they fill up, so that might be just the trick. Of course, will try it in practice first!

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