Sunday, August 25, 2013

Race report - Sprint Triathlon in North Park, Pittsburgh (Janney and YMCA)

On August 11, 2013 I raced Sprint Triathlon in North Park. This is only 15 minutes from my home and back in 2011 this was my first ever triathlon race (photos here). I could not wait to see how much have I improved (hopefully) over the past 2 years as the course is exactly the same and represents a perfect way to measure progress. I won in my 40-44 age group (37 participants) and went faster than the first place in 35-39 age group (29 participants), which was a nice bonus. I was 14th overall out of 365 competitors. The official results can be found here:

Comparing 2013 results to my 2011 race, here are the differences:

2011 2013 2 year improvement
Swim (700 yards)   00:18:21 00:13:48 25% (4m 33s)
Bike (12.5 miles) 00:33:17 00:32:59 1% (18s)
Run (3.1 miles) 00:23:04 00:21:42 6% (1m 22s)
Total 01:14:42
01:08:29 8% (6m 13s)

I am quite happy with the result, however one major thing that needs improvement is the control of pre-race anxiety. We had a fun outdoor party in the backyard of our house the day before the race and the last guest left at about midnight. I went to bed at 30 min past midnight, but unfortunately I could not get any sleep that night. I may have slept for about 30 minutes total, but most of the time I just laid there with my eyes shut in bed and was thinking about the race, etc. This indeed is very annoying as usually I am a very good sleeper and it takes me two minutes to fall asleep on a normal night. The funny thing is that I do not normally get nervous before any of my customer meetings or other big events, except for races. I did not sleep at all before the Half-Ironman race back in June and now this repeated all over again. Must do some research and learn how to control my pre-race nerves - warm milk, boring book, meditation, may be even some mild pills? This has got to be solvable. Right after the gun goes off at the start of the race I am having a lot of fun and am loving it, but those nasty 15 to 20 hours before the race start are the worst part of triathlon - for me anyway...


We swam 700 yards in the outdoor 50 yards swimming pool in North Park. Had two swimmers on each end of the lane going counterclockwise. Total of 4 people in each lane. The faster swimmer goes first and the slower swimmer goes right after him. As time goes by, all 4 people swim in the same direction keeping to the right of the swim lane and passing slower swimmers on the left. I was passed twice by two faster guys, one of whom was Drew Sapp - the overall winner of the previous Sprint race where I was second overall. What are the chances of that happening that we both will be in the same lane on the same end of the pool?? Wow!! The water was cold and the swim was wetsuite legal. I decided to take my wetsuite the last second before I left home and was I glad I did! Not because the water was too cold, but because it helped me be so much faster in the pool. I may have lost only 10 seconds for taking the wetsuit off at the T1 transition, but I am sure it was more than offset by the speed benefit I got from wearing it. Lesson I learned from other folks - ALWAYS take your wetsuite with you no matter the race. I did not push all out on the swim since it gives me very little extra speed, but takes disproportionally more energy, so I swam with moderate pace treating it almost like a warmup. Perhaps when I swim better I can race swim part of the triathlon, for now it is a warmup for me and I do not feel I am racing it.

Speaking of warmup - because I did arrive at about 6am and was almost the first athlete to arrive, I had run easy 1 mile warmup. This was the first time I had ever done any kind of warmup before the race. I think this was well worth it and need to do it more. However I only swam 100 meters warmup in the pool and I do need to increase that part of the warmup.


On the bike we did 12.5 miles - 5 loops in North Park around baseball fields with one seep hill and few rolling hills. I pushed almost all out on the bike, except this time I did not go all out on the big hill. I still pushed it, but saved energy for rolling hills. Biking felt good and I passed few people, however few people passed me - those must have been some of the folks from the top 14 group. Since I do not train with short distance intensity on the bike, I did not expect to have the best bike split anyway. What I got is pretty reasonable, however I was surprised that my bike split improvement over 2011 was only 1%. I was hoping it would be more.


The run was 3,1 miles - almost all of it on the trail under the shade of trees with rolling hills and about 3 relatively steep hills.The run was pretty challenging and I pushed as hard as I could and kept thinking that I need to maintain high cadence. I did try to save some energy for the last mile and started increasing my pace towards the end and ran completely all out effort in the last few hundred yards. Nothing gives me more motivation than hearing finish line sounds or seeing it. One thing I need to learn better is pacing and more intensity in workouts. In training several times I did up to 7 x 800 yard repeats at about 6 to 6:30 pace with 400 yards recovery at 8:30 pace. Perhaps need to do longer tempo work. I only did a handful tempo run workouts this summer - for instance 5 miles at 7:30 pace. Need to improve pace on those and may be do 3 mile tempo runs?


Since this was a Sprint race I did not eat nor drink during the race, but had plenty of fruit and rice the day before. On the morning of the race I had a banana, orange, bread with peanut butter and 15 minutes before start ate 1 GU gel (100cal). This worked well.


Great race, loved it and it is always nice to win in my age group and some :-). Met my PTC friends and got more race experience. At the finish line I was nicely surprised that my wife came to meet me there - I did not know she was coming to the race and it was such a nice end of the race! I remember in 2011 when my whole family was cheering I pushed very hard on the bike - every time I passed by the place they were sitting and I think that really contributed to my fast bike split in 2011. This year with no "personal cheerleaders" I just went with whatever intensity I felt, except for those last 50 yards at the finish. Here are photos right after the finish.

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