2008 Peachtree International Triathlon

All photo credits are due to Jennifer Bowie

Bill Ruhsam in Swim Cap before the beginning of the Peachtree International Triathlon. Photo credit to Jennifer Bowie of Screenspace.orgYesterday, I finished my second triathlon, the Peachtree International, which was an Olympic distance tri: 1500 meter swim, 40k bike, 10k run. For the metrically challenged amongst you, and there better not be too many of those reading my blog, that’s 0.93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike, and a 6.2 mile run. Amusingly (at least for me) the staff of the PIT seem to believe that metric is too much for their athletes and give all the distances in english units. The correct Olympic distances are as noted in Systeme International, though. 15:25 Update: I re-read this entry and realized that I sounded a bit snarky about the PIT staff, concerning the metric/english thing. Let me state for the record that I think the staff and volunteers of the race did a fabulous job and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this race to anyone and I’ll definitely be there again.

The race went well and I finished with a time of 2:54:36, just a hair slower than I had thought I would do. One thing I learned (again) was that open water swimming is really nothing like swimming in a lane in a pool. This is a lesson that was forced upon me during my first triathlon last year, but it was reiterated with a vengeance during the swim portion of this race.A view of the swim course of the Peachtree International Triathlon. Photo credit to Jennifer Bowie of Screenspace.org For one thing, 1500 meters, while not that far if you’re lap swimming, looks like a long way when you gaze out across the swim course1. This was disconcerting. For another, and again, I knew this already, swimming in open water involves things like waves and having to sight on the distant buoys. This means you have difficulty getting into a rythym with your stroke. I certainly did. It took me about 10 minutes before I felt comfortable. I need to swim in the lakes around here more often this summer plus I need to practice swimming in a straight line. I hook my stroke when I get fatigued.

Exiting the swim stage of the Peachtree International Triathlon. Photo credit to Jennifer Bowie of Screenspace.orgI came out of the water at 32:29, 2:29 behind when I thought I would. You can see me crossing the mind-control devices that they use to make sure you’re voting for the right candidate this fall.

First transition was quick and efficient. I have not graduated to the level of not wearing socks yet. Socks, of course, take time to put on, which adds 15-30 seconds to your final time. I’d tried running without my socks last week and it would have been major blister city if I didn’t wear any. Therefore: socks. You can see me sitting on my ass, hidden behind the dude in front, putting on socks and my bike shoes. I was very light headed and dizzy during this transition so sitting down seemed the easiest and quickest way to get things on my feet. My transition time was efficient and I don’t think I could have shaved more than a few seconds without going to socklessness.First Transition of the Peachtree International Triathlon.  I'm hidden behind the guy in front. Photo credit to Jennifer Bowie of Screenspace.org

The bike course was challenging but not crazy difficult. Jenn and I had driven the course the day before so I knew that I had to save energy for some long hills between miles 9 and 182. The hills were tough on the way up, but they were fun on the way down. I broke 40 mph on one of them. One of the nice things about triathlons is that you’re generally starting and ending in the same place ergo 0 net elevation change.

There was plenty of normal car traffic during the hilly part of the race; people who obviously didn’t realize that the yellow line down the middle of the road wasn’t going to puncture their tires. Hey! Drivers! Just freaking pass already! Having a minivan driving right behind and to my left is very annoying, plus at one point I had to hit my brakes to avoid passing another car on the right, which I didn’t feel was safe.

me coming into the second transition at the Peachtree International Triathlon. Photo credit to Jennifer Bowie of Screenspace.orgI completed the bike course faster than I expected with an average speed of 17.7 mph3. Initially, I was thinking 18 mph was going to be my speed, then I saw the hills. I’m satisifed with that pace. If there’s one thing I can do to improve my triathlon times, it’s work on my biking. Raw strength goes a long way on the bike.

The second transition was smooth and serene, the only hiccup was that I forgot to take off my bike gloves before getting off my bike, so that ate up maybe 10 seconds. I removed the bike shoes and helmet, yanked on the running shoes (conveniently laced with Yankz laces) and was off on my 10k run.

If you’ve never run a multiport race, you probably don’t realize just how hard it is to go from biking to running. Your legs are working in a different fashion when on a bicycle and the change to a running stride is uncomfortable at best and downright excrutiating at worst. Thankfully, this transition was closer to uncomfortable than excrutiating. Unfortunately, my nutrition plan wasn’t doing me wonders and I spent the first mile of the run beset by cramps and trying not to vomit. My first mile was about a 10:30 split and my finish split of the 6.2 miles being 56:43 should give you some indication of how much that first mile hurt. I think my final mile split was about 8:15. I wasn’t keeping track on my watch. Suffice to say, I need to do something different on my nutrition next time.

Something that screwed with my head on the run portion: Between miles two and three, I had a person behind me clopping along like a clydesdale with a turnover (step frequency) just a tiny bit faster than mine. You wouldn’t think it (I certainly didn’t) but this really screwed with my pacing. I kept locking into his turnover, realizing it was too fast, going back to mine, then popping back into his due to the loudness of his footsteps. It messed with my breathing and my pace. I guess that is something I need to work on mentally for next time.

Finish line at the Peachtree International Triathlon. Photo credit to Jennifer Bowie of Screenspace.org

That’s me crossing the finish line. I finished strong without collapsing. Overall I felt good when I was done, but didn’t think I could go any farther. Today, I’m sore, but not devastatingly so. I’ll be fine tomorrow.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Body Glide on the armpits if I’m wearing a sleveless shirt. I’ve got a bit of a chaff mark on my left armpit
  2. Olympic Distance Triathletes are a lot more serious than sprint-distance. The average bike is a serious tri-bike and the average athlete really means it. Sprint distance has a lot more people who are just there for the hell of it.
  3. Bring warmup sweats for cool mornings. The picture of me in my swim cap at the top shows me wearing my rain shell. That was a last minute addition, and thankfully I brought it along, because it was 55 degrees that morning.

List of stuff I brought:

  • Bike w/ attached tool and tire repair kit
  • Pump
  • Toolkit with rags and lube and pedal wrench
  • 2 water bottles
  • Towel to layout transition stuff
  • Helmet
  • Bike Computer
  • Flip Flops (to wear ’til just before the swim entry. Cheap and disposable in case someone runs off with them)
  • Bike Shoes
  • Running Shoes
  • Race number belt
  • Bike Gloves (I’ll have to start training without these so that I can dispose of them on this list)
  • Socks (I seem to do ok without socks in my bike shoes, but I still blister up in my running shoes. Have to work on that in order to get rid of socks)
  • Swim Goggles
  • Sun glasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Morning of race, Breakfast (Luna Bar)
  • Nutrition (4 Gu Packs)
  • 1 Grocery bag to haul stuff to the race
  • Flashlight, in case it’s dark when you pump your tires (need to be able to read the pressure gauge)

List of Stuff I forgot:

  • Chapstick
  • USAT Card
  • Red Gatorade for after the race (the yellow lemon/lime stuff makes my teeth hurt)
  • 1 more grocery bag because all of my stuff didn’t fit into just one bag. Maybe use my backpack?
  • Warm up clothes to wear before the race begins
  • Body Glide

I’m getting better at this triathlon thing. Another time or two and I should have the list of stuff to bring refined down to its core elements.

My Times:
Swim – 32:29 (20/39 in my age group) 2:10 per 100 m pace
T1 – 2:04 (13/39)
Bike – 1:22:16 (31/39)
T2 – 1:07 (11/39)
Run – 56:43 (30/39)
Total – 2:54:36 (26/39)

I placed 163/302 overall. Not bad.

Some interesting analysis of the results (all within my age group, here):

  • My quick transition times were the difference between placing 26th in my age group and 28th.
  • The guy who came in front of me was 6 minutes behind me on the swim and 4! minutes behind me on the T1 transition, but he spanked me on the bike and the run. Looks like I know what needs improving
  • If I were a woman, I would have placed 5th in my age group.
  • The guy who came out of the water after me, about 40 seconds behind, took 1:09 to do T1. I’m betting he RAN through T1 and had his shoes already on his clips. That’s fast. It probably takes 45 seconds just to get from the swim exit to the T1 exit. Wow. He only beat me by 17 seconds in T2 (0:50 compared to 1:07) which further makes me think he’s a shoe-on-bike GO GO GO kind of person
  • If I want to be competitive in my age group, I need to drop my 10k to 45 minutes (7:15 pace) and get my biking speed up to 20 mph. Then I can start being in the top 10. I have no real desire to do what needs to be done to place in the top 3.

1A guy I was standing next to in the line for the porta-potties remarked to me, “I hear the swim in just less than a mile! [ed: it is]” to which my unspoken response was, “you mean you didn’t check to see how far we’re swimming?” That was weird.

2Yes, I know it’s hypocritical to chastise people for depending on english units and then turning around and using them for my race evaluation, but most courses are marked by mile and not by kilometer and that’s how we train and think. Still, it doesn’t absolve people of knowing kilometer to mile conversions.

3the race results are lying to you. I’m not sure what they’re measuring in order to calculate the average bike speed, but the difference between 18.2 mph (results) and 17.7 mph (my bike computer) is 2.3 minutes. That’s a big difference, one that is difficult to write off due to small measurement anomalies. I’m sticking with my bike computer.

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