Monday, September 21, 2009

Race Report: Santa Cruz Triathlon (Olympic)

I'm so glad I decided to register and race the Santa Cruz Triathlon as part of SVTC's push to win the Southwest Club Championship again (we won). It was great to end the season with a PR at the international distance.

I wasn't sure just how well I'd do, given all my jet lag issues and lack of training the week leading up (I was on a business trip to Kenya from Sept 10 to Sept 17 and only did three 5km runs around the hotel property in Kenya in the "taper" leading up to the race). Hell, I wasn't sure I'd be able to break the 3:00 mark as I was hoping after seeing my progress during the club's training day on the Santa Cruz course back at the end of August.

No better way to find out than just doing the damn thing, so here's how it went down:

Woke up super early after about 5 hours sleep and made the drive down to the transition area across from the Dream Inn and got there just as it opened. Great spot near the bike out/in, just where I wanted it. Over the next hour, TONS of SVTC folks showed up for the day, so was in good company.

Lucky me, I'd done all my packing the night before, so I wasn't missing anything on my transition mat (unlike forgetting my Gu for Vineman). Got my wetsuit on and walked down to the beach with the 1000 other folks. We started waaaay off down the beach toward the roller coaster in a "swim pen" which I think shortened the course a little (?) but then they had buoys we had to stay outside away from the pier which probably made up for the off-angled start.

The water was smooth and the visibility was good (no fog). I was in the fifth wave, taking off at 8:20am, twenty minutes after the clock started. I felt good swimming in the pack, and it wasn't long before we were all strung out with lots of room between us. Yet, I couldn't quite repeat the form of the training day, and I kept drifting to the left, which meant I was drifting away from the pier, adding distance to the swim.

Nevertheless, I rounded the end of the pier faster than I expected to get there (took it wide, tho) and before I knew it, I was stripping off the top of my wetsuit running up the hill to transition. Seemed like I was in the back of my wave, but hadn't been overtaken by too many folks in the wave following, so felt ok going into T1.

My swim time was 34:19 (ugh!) ranking me in the bottom quartile of the race

T1 went smoothly (only 3:55 including the run up the hill) and I hopped on the bike and hammered through town, knowing this was my time to shine. I wanted to at least average 19mph to set me up with a cushion on the run should my wheels fall off from fatigue. As usual, I passed many more on the bike than I got passed by, and the 20 or so who passed me were all on tricked-out tri bikes, so I felt good at my pace/progress. By the time I got back to T2, I'd only spent 1:11:19 on the bike, for a pace of 20.8mph! (305th overall on the bike).

I made it through T2 as quick as I could (putting on socks this time!) but still managed to lose 3:08 in transition and then it was on to the run.

Unlike the weather on training day which started off with a foggy swim and then a hot run, the clouds never lifted during the race, so it was nice and cool the whole time, and was I grateful for that on the run.

My goal: don't get caught on someone else's faster pace on the way out. Then don't stop, don't walk: just push through. And with the exception of pausing to slam down gatorade and water at the aid stations, I didn't stop! Mind over matter brought me in with a 56:16 run time (9:04 pace).

I can't tell you how thrilled I was to approach the finish line at a sprint seeing that I could nip the race clock before it clicked over to 3:09:00 and I caught it just before it did, finishing in 2:48:57! (77th in my AG, 397th male, 500th overall)

Totally smoked my goal of 3 hours and couldn't be happier with the outcome. I'm already looking at where I can gain time next year. I'm pretty sure I can take at least 4 minutes off the swim, another 3 minutes off the bike and 3 minutes off the run.

And if I can recapture a minute from the transitions, I'll be breaking 2:40 next year :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Garmin Forerunner 310XT swim accuracy

I've owned my Garmin Forerunner 310XT for just over a month now, and the thing that has frustrated me most has been the accuracy of the 310XT on the swim.

See, I'd owned the Garmin Forerunner 305 for a year and really enjoyed using it to track my on-land legs of triathlon training and racing.

So when I saw the 310XT coming out, I knew I had to have it, even though the 305 was still functioning just fin. Imagine, I thought, with the 310XT I could track just how much I drifted off-line in the open water swims!

So, imagine my dismay when I wore my 310XT for the whole race in a sprint triathlon, and the map at right is how the 400m swim looked when uploaded to Garmin Connect. (click it to get to the activity details on GC)

Say what? I know for a fact I didn't do any loop-dee-loops on the swim course, and while my sighting is bad at times, there's no way I'm that jagged in a swim. And a half mile course? I don't think so.


So I gave the 310XT another try on an open water swim training over in Redwood Shores that I knew to be one mile long. As you see in the map at left, the jaggies were back, and while the time was good (just over 30 minutes), the distance was incorrectly logged at 2.15 miles. Again, click the map to get the activity details on GC.


So, before participating in the Silicon Valley Tri Club's practice session for the upcoming Santa Cruz Triathlon, I decided to consult the internet to see how to make the 310XT more reliable on the swim.

The verdict? Tuck the 310XT under your swim cap. Not at the top of your head, but at the back of your head, so when you're looking down in the water, the GPS unit is facing up. And lo and behold, it works!

Take a look at the map on the right, and you'll see just how smooth the path is (yes, I'm proud of my sight lines) and the distance accuracy is so very close to perfect as well! (with 10% which is a great improvement over the +100% accuracy of wearing it on my wrist).

By tucking the 310XT under your cap, the timing of the distance is a little longer than it should be what with turning it on before putting your cap on, but the accuracy of both distance and path can't be beat.

I'm now pleased as punch that I can more accurately track my sighting abilities on my open water swims using the 310XT.

Next thing to conquer? Getting the damn thing to pair to my Garmin Heart Rate Monitor that I've been using with my 305. Always something to tinker with!