Sunday, June 26, 2011

Whately Police Triathlon...

Bouncing back from the Mooseman debacle took a little longer than I expected mentally and I was looking for a solid return to form at the Whately Police Triathlon Saturday morning. With the odd melding of that most absurd form of craziness the last week of school brings combined with terrible weather I had not really put much thought into the race. I knew it was a sprint with a fast run course and that is about where my knowledge of the race ended. Mostly I was just looking to regain the confidence from last fall that had me convinced that I could excel at this incredible sport.

Mary and I have been dog sitting at a friends house all week so my morning routine was in shambles. First off I messed up setting my alarm and woke up thirty minutes later than planned. Luckily all of my race gear was ready to go but a much more pressing and dire concern became immediately apparent, coffee! Being in Swanzey I knew that stopping anywhere reliable was out of the question so I just had to make the best of a bad situation and man up and drink some poor quality K-cup concoction. Despite leaving late I was able to make up some time on the highway while keeping my average mpg over fifty in the Prius.

Upon arrival I knew that things were going to be very crunched. Had Mary not attended the race I am certain that I would not have gotten set-up and warmed-up in time. My parents were also taking in their first ever triathlon so I was pretty excited to share this new chapter in my life with them. As is always the case my Mom had a million questions about anything and everything. She even got asked to help zip-up an older women's wetsuit. The transition area was a disaster. With all of the recent rain there was standing water everywhere so there was no chance of running or cycling with dry feet. I did my best to make a dry area with a big garbage bag and some towels but it was a futile attempt in retrospect.

The rains played another part in the race on the swim leg. The water was so murky that if a river monster of any sort was in the area that we would have all been easy pickings. The start was mush more chaotic than that of any other Tri that I have done so far. Lots of kicking, pushing, and pulling. With the cloudy water it made finding space nearly impossible. It was my impression heading into the race that we were swimming five hundred meters but the reality was that we were swimming a half mile. I think that I'm still at the point where it really does not make a difference because I swim the same speed all the time. According to the results I exited the water in twelfth and proceeded to have a terrible transition. I could not get my zipper in hand which added precious seconds to my time. As I was getting ready to go some of the murky pond water that I had consumed during the race tried to make a quick exit. I had a quick flash back to Mooseman but immediately shook it off and got to work on the bike.

I knew right away that the Mooseman was a fluke because I felt fantastic on the bike. I caught a few guys in the first stretch and set my mind to the task of riding as many guys down as possible. On one of the first long straits I could see a "group" of four or five riders forty five seconds up the road. I really locked in and started taking substantial amounts of time back over the next couple of miles. My lack of race preparation gave me a nice treat over the next few miles, hills! At the base of the first hill I consumed two riders so quickly that I could not even hear them exhale. I kept working very hard and the time margins on everyone turned to dust. By mile seven I was beginning to pay a little for the early pace and my lack of preparation was getting ready to show its ugly face again. I could only see one rider about twenty seconds up the road and I had a very difficult time catching up. I had been mentally prepared for a twelve mile effort but would later see that the bike leg was fourteen miles. Looking back it is not a huge difference but maybe I would not have started out at such a frantic pace. Coming into the transition I was surprised to see Greg Shea heading out on the run. A fellow Mohawk alum we had just met for the first time that morning. Seeing Greg on the run made me realize that he was out of sight on the bike and I worried for a second that there may have been others.

My bike to run transition was my best ever and I slogged out onto the run course in fifth place according to the race announcer. I caught one guy right away and could see two more coming back with every step. One of the guys looked so fit and really seemed like a good runner. I caught both guys in the first half mile and went to work hammering to try and run down Greg. Approaching the turnaround I saw Greg headed back and knew I was going to have my work cut out for me if I wanted to pick up the win. Greg would later say that when he saw me coming that he found an extra gear because he knew what he was up against. I finished very strong but still came up thirty-six seconds short of the victory. My 15:47 closing leg was leaps and bounds faster than anyone and I managed to take back over two minutes on the leader so I have to be pleased. Again after the race everyone (with the exception on the third place finisher) was so positive and nice. Everyone was so quick to share tips and advice about how to race better. I love that triathlon seems to be a bit of an older more mellow crowd. There is so much less macho bravado and much more focus on community, relationships, and healthy living. I love this sport.

As has been the case with each triathlon I feel like I am taking away a lot of positive experiences that will make me a better racer. Number one I have to become a faster swimmer. I plan on fixing that starting this week at 6:00 am at the KSC pool with my new masters swim team. I met with the coach last week and she is very confident that she can make me a fast swimmer. Next I need to practice my transitions. I think that being athletic and coordinated is a good start but looking at my splits, my first transition alone cost me this race. Greg was in T1 for 30 seconds, I was in Ti for 1:10, game, set, match. Mary made a great point after the race and said that a race is ten percent logistical preparation. My lack of preparation and sloppy transitions really cost me! I also experimented with a lower bar set up for this race. I never got comfortable and my shoulders got pretty sore as the ride progressed. I think if I re-raise my bars and pull my aero bars back a bit that I will be in a better and more comfortable position. I also need to pony up and buy a set of carbon aero wheels. If I was out climbing guys riding 404s and 808s on aluminum rims I can only imagine what I can do on a carbon wheelset. Time to start saving. Do any readers have a wheel hook-up?

Lastly I find myself walking away from this race feeling very grateful. This is going to sound really bizarre but I'm a little glad that I have not picked up my first win yet. Every race that I don't win makes me more excited and hungry about the sport. I realize how much work needs to go into a solid performance and how much consistency it takes to be the top guy. I am also realizing that there are some incredible athletes at the front of these races. I have really been forced to think about how hard they must be working every day to be where they are. It is incredible to think about all of the different angles we all come from to end up in the some crucible on race day. Hopefully with a few solid weeks of Summer of Mark style training I will be ready for my next race at the Black Fly Tri race where I will try to become the Lord of the Flies over three days.



    1     2 Gregory Shea         SHELBURNE FALLS    1:07:57   1/11   M3539     5   11:08    0:28    1   37:59    0:32    4   17:53              2    88 Mark Miller          KEENE              1:08:33   1/10   M3034    12   12:12    1:10    2   38:41    0:44    1   15:47              3     4 Matthew Musiak       EASTHAMPTON        1:09:34   1/3    M2529     3    9:46    1:06    6   41:03    0:44    2   16:57         


  1. Hey Mark, nice race. I don't have any wheel hook-ups, but I do have a coffee tip. Get, or make a double espresso the night before. In the morning, turn the kettle on, add hot water to the espresso, and in two minutes you have a decent Americano. No fuss, no cleanup, and it's almost as fast as your first transition. Kidding. Great job.

  2. James, I will keep that in mind but I should have been better prepared! It is such a ritual that I did not put any thought into the situation. I'm thinking 4x1200 Wednesday if your interested.

  3. I'll be there. I was thinking of doing some shorter stuff to get ready for the 4 on the 4th, so maybe I'll try to keep up with you on the 1st & 3rd laps. That's been a good workout for me in the past. See ya then.