Yesterday I tackled my first Olympic Distance Triathlon at the Finger Lakes Triathlon held in Canandaigua, NY in the heart of upstate’s beautiful Finger Lakes Region. An Olympic Distance Triathlon consists of: 1.5 k Swim (.93 miles), 40k Bike (24.8 miles), 10k Run (6.2 miles).
I’ve been focusing on a lot of really long, solo, offroad endurance efforts this year and that’s gone great, but there’s something really fun about doing a real, sanctioned road race every once-in-awhile! I did the FLT short Sprint format last fall (which got me totally hooked on Tri), so I thought the longer Olympic Distance format would be fun this year. It’s roughly a 3 hour race, which at this point isn’t that long an undertaking for me, so I thought it would be a nice race distance.
And it was – everything went really well! I was shooting for a finish time under the 3:20 mark, and came in at 3:14, so I was pretty satisfied! Granted, I’m not the guy out front winning the thing, but I hope the fact that I can find time to train and reasonably compete in these races while maintaining a busy family and work schedule is an inspiration for others to make it happen in their own lives. I think 3:14 is a respectable time.
We couldn’t have asked for a better morning. Getting there early (5:30am) to rack our bikes and lay out our gear in transition, it was crisp and cool in the high 50’s. We were treated to a stunning sunrise along the lake and clear blue skies.
Shortly before the 7:30am gun for the first swim wave (which I was in) a slight breeze kicked up which made the glassy lake a bit choppy. For those who hadn’t done open water swimming before the race I’m sure it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. The chop definitely slowed down the swim overall, but I’ll have the vision of yesterday’s gorgeous sunrise swim far out in Canandaigua Lake seared in my memory for years. Just beautiful! And my not-wearing-a-wetsuit gamble paid off as the water was a good 20 degrees warmer than the air. Really nice!
My swim time was around 42 minutes – which is my mile pace in a pool (I’m not the fastest swimmer yet – still working on that one). Given the choppy conditions and crowded waters I was pretty happy to keep my normal pool pace in open water.
After the run out of the lake into a 3 minute transition, I hopped on the bike and headed out for the 24.8 mile bike leg. I ride single speed mountain bikes all the time now – in fact I haven’t ridden a road bike since last year’s tri, so I was fortunate enough to have a good friend lend me his Specialized road bike for the weekend. Man, after single speed mtb’ing, hopping on that thing was like borrowing the Ferrari for the weekend! I hammered through the bike portion of the race at an 18 mph clip (coming in at 1:23 for the 25 mile bike leg). I’m sure that on a true Tri bike I could bang through even faster, but given the multiple hills (we were in the Finger Lakes after all) and head/cross winds I was very pleased with that speed and time – and I really enjoyed riding a road bike for once… fast = fun, fun, fun! Single speeding teaches you to spin and hammer and converting that to a road bike on pavement was such a blast! The course was just beautiful, traveling through the surrounding hills outside Canandaigua! I keep telling folks that the Finger Lakes is truly world class and it is.
The bike leg finished with a mostly downhill cruise for the last few miles into transition – really nice to enjoy the speed and spinning for the legs heading into the run portion of the race.
After my quick 3 minute transition into running shoes, I took off for the run. I’ve been hitting really good times on my runs lately and was planning to pound through the run portion at an 8-9 minute/mile pace. Unfortunately my body had other plans. The gamble of hammering the bike portion of a Tri is the question of whether or not your legs will carry you for the run portion. Granted, after 2 hours of racing, your body is going to be tired period, but my thighs started cramping pretty badly the first 2 miles of the 10k run portion – which I was not expecting. So I eased off the pace a bit, hoped the electrolyte intake would kick in (it did, thankfully!) and kept pushing. I made it through the run at a tolerable 10 minute/mile pace which is considerably slower than I’d been aiming for, but – you have to take what you get sometimes. The run along Canandaigua’s waterfront was really enjoyable and I can honestly say I didn’t leave anything out on the course in terms of effort.
For fueling I made sure I was extremely well-hydrated days before heading into the event. I’ve been vegetarian for a short time now and it’s made a big difference in my body’s alertness and intensity of training, so this race was a great test for my new nutrition. The day of race, I had my normal yogurt/granola/honey breakfast with lots of coffee and than stayed well-hydrated up to race time. I had a Clif Shot Gel about :40 before the race start, Hammer Endurolyte tabs at the bike transition, a second Gel part way through the bike, and Endurolytes at the run transition. Other than that I used ½ water, ½ Hammer Heed for fluid intake. Seemed to be a good balance – I was definitely happy with how it absorbed into my system throughout the race; not too little, not too much. And, given that I no longer have meat in my system, I wasn’t sure how my body would respond under pressure when I needed to dig deep, but this race only sealed the deal for me making the veg switch. My body responded exactly how I needed it to and I’m sold on the new nutrition approach.
I’d like to crack the 3 hour mark on an Olympic Distance Tri at some point – think that would be fun, but I’m happy with my time for now. I kept a respectable 1:30′s Sprint Tri pace for twice the distance, and, although I was tired, I’m not exhausted, so I’m pretty stoked!
What’s next? Back to the woods! I’ll definitely be tackling an Ironman distance one way or another next year; hopefully solo, off road depending on route reconnaissance, so that’s a major undertaking I’m training hard for even now.
Next month I’m leading a nice little 50 mile mountain bike ride called the Fifty For Uganda (click the link for more info). That should be a real nice, fun time. But I’m primarily focused on the 50k (31 miles) Trail Run Ultra in November – really looking forward to that one! That will be my last race for this year and my first serious foray into true endurance racing.
It was great having such a beautiful day for such a great race yesterday. There were lots of friends competing along with and also who came to watch that made this an amazing time to hang out, catch up, and have fun. Thanks to all of you!
In closing, if you’ve been considering a triathlon and can make it to the Finger Lakes area, I would highly recommend the Finger Lakes Triathlon. Beautiful setting, expertly organized, amazing volunteers – you just really could not ask for a better event!