Saturday, September 7, 2013

Playmakers Classic Triathlon Recap

I find waiting two weeks to blog about a race really insures the memories will be fresh in my mind. Also, my usual hilarity that entertains all of about three people is lacking because I'm the throes of my biannual sinus infection. Yay fall. 
I signed up for the Playmakers Classic Tri in order to have a second individual tri on my schedule for the season. Unlike a lot of tris, it was within a reasonable driving distance. It was also the last day before my semester started, so I thought it would be a fun way to end my summer. I was a little uneasy because the website lacked some information and was a little sketchy, but I hoped all would be well since it was sponsored by Playmakers.

Michael was tricked volunteered to come with, and we were out the door before 6. I also got to introduce to Michael my method of transporting my bike, which basically involves jamming it into the trunk until it can close. Not only will my next car have four doors, I will make sure it can handle a bike rack. 

The drive was sort of eerie, since we had to drive through cornfields before the sun was up. The race was at a relatively new county park. I'm not sure why they chose the location they did, but it is in the middle of nowhere. There would be no chance of finding of it without knowing where it was. 

Not pictured: anything.
The park was pretty nice: it had a lake (I assume man-made) and probably 30-40 picnic tables, each of which had their own grill. Playmakers had warned that parking was inadequate for the number of athletes coming (I said it was a bit shady), but we got there early enough that we didn't have a problem. People who came later were directed to park on the sides of the road along the course. Not well organized at all.

I had no problem with packet pick-up and went to transition. I'm not sure if this is common or not, but I thought it was clever that they used the helmet stickers to also mark our transition spots; once you racked your bike, you could take your helmet sticker with you. 

I then had about an hour to kill. I spent some time trying to scope out the competition (I'm hardcore like that). Last year, only two people were in my age group, so I was hoping I would be able to place. I spotted one girl body-marked as 20. (This fact is important for later.) Otherwise, I didn't see anyone. I almost got excited, but then I realized I probably would get second out of two, so I just let it go.

We had a brief, pre-race meeting, at which we were warned that we could not grab onto the boats if we needed assistance in the water. I was confused since that is against USAT policy, but apparently the stand-up paddleboarders on the course didn't want to be dumped in the water. This seemed incredibly selfish, and I felt uncomfortable that the RD was okay with this.
If the watercraft makes it hard to assist in the water, maybe you shouldn't use it. Pro tip.
I lined up with my wave three minutes before we went into the water, and it was surprisingly small. The one girl in my age group was also in the back of our wave, so I started to wonder if I had a slim chance of actually earning an AG award. 

I started out in the swim way too fast. I'm not sure why I thought I could magically sprint 600M, but obviously I cannot. I struggled to get into a rhythm and kept swallowing water. Eventually, I settled down, but our first swim leg was into the sun, which made sighting very difficult. I nearly took out a paddleboarder. (Question: Did I feel bad? Answer: Not at all.)

I was a little nervous not having a wet suit, but I was very comfortable. Another shady event happened when the RD kept emphasizing there would be no penalty for wearing a wetsuit, although the temperature was warm enough participants wearing them should have been excluded from AG awards.

I was surprised how slow the swim was when I started passing people. I thought maybe I had transported into an alternate reality. I know these people weren't exactly setting Olympic records at the speeds they were going, but it was a nice surprise confidence booster. 

Look, there are men behind me!
 Swim Time: 15:59 (avg. 2:40/100M)

I ran up the sand and grass to transition. This race was much better than the Oswego Tri, where my bike couldn't fit under the bike rack. I had plenty of room here, which saved me some time and energy. I took some extra time to clean and dry my feet, figuring preventing blisters would be worth it. 

T1 Time: 3:03

I then headed out for the out-and-back 18 mile bike course. It was on paved roads through the countryside, though I did not appreciate having the mount line part-way up a hill. I settled in for a steady diet of being passed by people 50 years older than me. Don't get me wrong, I think it's fantastic they're out there, but it stings a little when someone in their 70s tells you to keep up the good work as they blow your doors off. 

I felt like I was flashing back to Oswego, as I biked mostly through cornfields. The course was open, but there were volunteers at every intersection and all the cars were respectful. I also got to see some cool wildlife, including a hawk swooping right overhead and some turkeys that gobbled very angrily when I nearly ran them over.
You think it's not seasonally relevant, but I'm sure my Spartans will make me weep bitter tears soon.
I also got to check out an abandoned apple orchard. (It's for sale! I should make a bid. Forget accounting, I'll become Johnny Appleseed when I graduate.) There were also active mining sites, which made me feel uncomfortable. I don't know what there is to mine in Maple Rapids, but it's probably unhealthy to inhale.

There were also mile markers every five miles on the course, which was nice to compare my bike computer with. I also had a great volunteer moment, where I was told I was at mile nine when I was really almost at mile 10. I'm so glad I have a bike computer and a Garmin for these situations. I know it might seem petty, but it's really awful to be told you're in the wrong spot, especially by a whole mile.

The one thing I really noticed with this bike was how uncomfortable I got in the saddle after going for so (relatively) long. A few times near the end I coasted just to be able to stand up for a few moments. I also managed to wrangle my water bottle, which helped make it less miserable. I'm definitely jealous of the people with the front-mounted bottles with straws.

I tried to power until the end, but I just wanted off.
Bike Time: 1:20:18 (avg. 13.4 mph)

I then ran down the hill with bike back to transition. I think it must be a secret USAT rule that transition must be at the bottom of hill so that there can be a fun suicide run on bike legs.

I took some fluids and ran out. It was a little unclear where to go since I shifted so far back in the pack on the bike, but I found it.

T2 Time: 1:17

The run was five miles total, mostly on gravel roads, with the final mile on grass. (I can't escape this new found running friend, it seems.) Again, the course was open, but the volunteers had everything under control. I was just happy to be off the bike and out running. Just like Oswego, even though I did approximately zero bricks, I felt fine taking off on the run. I felt a little blah, but I think that was mostly heat-related.

I pushed myself to run until the first mile marker and then assess. I was pleased with my pace but felt strange on the different running surface, so I just focused on passing other runners one person at a time. I felt especially vindicated when I passed a guy wearing cargo shorts that I remembered from the bike because of his BMX-style helmet.
This is what the Tour de France actually looks like.

Then, to my total amazement, I spotted the other person I knew was in my age group.  I lost her on the swim and had almost forgotten about her. She was walking, but I wasn't sure if this was part of a planned strategy or not. I debated drafting her until the end and trying to fly under the radar, but I felt surprisingly good, so I went for it. Shortly after I made my move a volunteer asked her how she was doing, and her response was pretty garbled. I checked her results afterwards, and she might have walked the last three miles, I felt pretty sorry for her.

Obviously, I don't think I'm some amazing athlete for passing her, but I've never overtaken someone in my age group before and held a lead for a substantial period of time. The shot of adrenaline felt great, and it made me feel good about how my speed has really improved over the last year.

The turnaround was staffed by angels who gave me a cold towel. It was into the 80's at this point, without shade, and I really was able to keep pushing with their help. I didn't know what to do with it, so I ran with it in my tri top for awhile, before dumping it in a pile of towels along the road.

A little after four miles I hit the grassy section.

Off to the magical land of pain!
To my great surprise and joy, the grass was much more hard-packed dirt and singletrack type running than deep grass. I passed a few more people on this stretch and felt strong. We looped around the lake, and when I looked back, the girl from my age group was nowhere to be seen. It hurt, but I pushed myself to the end.

I know running through this was probably supposed to be fun, but it just stressed me out because I didn't know what to do with my tiny arms.
Run Time: 48:17 (avg. 9:40 min/mile)

Overall Time: 2:28:52

Little did I know, it was time for the culmination of the shady events. I checked the results and saw one person kicked my butt placed ahead of me, so I would be second of three. If there are only three people in my age group, I hate being last because accepting the "award" feels so lame. I enjoyed my banana and tiny cup of water with ease. (Yet another major oversight - I can't believe there were no water bottles at the end of the race.)

In any event, the awards began shortly thereafter. The third place finisher from the females 14-19 was still on the course, but I didn't think anything of it. While they were announcing the males 20-24, the girl I passed went up the RD. I rolled my eyes, thinking she had finished and was too antsy to realize they hadn't done our age group yet.
Her parents went with her, too.
But then she got a glass. Because she was third for females 14-19.

My head nearly exploded. She was clearly body-marked as 20. I had totally cleaned her clock on the run, but I wasn't going to get credit for it. I lamely took my glass, but it felt embarrassing.

I tried to give Playmakers the benefit of the doubt at first, even though they had already messed up other basic USAT rules. However, I checked my age on the results, and I was listed as 20, even though my racing age is 21. I'm obviously aware of the rule, so I would've put 21 for my age during registration. However, we must have entered our birthdays instead, which mean Playmakers messed up and used our race-day ages, not our racing ages. In the case of someone bridging to the next age group, this actually makes an important difference.

I know I can get arbitrarily angry at times, but there's absolutely zero excuse for an athletic store that sponsors their own tri team to completely miss the boat on racing age.
Nice to meet you, I'm Playmakers.
I would not recommend this race at all. While it was their first year in this location, it was their fourth year organizing it. These rookie mistakes shouldn't happen. It makes me sad to give it two thumbs down because I love Playmakers, but this was just a bad bad experience.

The swag was at least nice. Most comfortable shirt ever.
I'm glad did this race, though. It was nice to round out my tri "schedule". It showed me I really need to work on my swim. Over the winter I'm going to go through the next five swim plans in my tri training book. I know swimming twice a week won't significantly increase my speed, but I'm hoping I can go into next season without needing to rest in a sprint or maybe even Olympic distance tri. (And unless someone gifts me a tri bike, I'm not going further than Olympic. It would just be no fun.)

I'm also happy with my results. My swim time was a tad bit faster, I did not spend an hour in T2, and my run pace was the same, even though the race was longer. My bike technically looks slower, but my bike computer registered the course as almost a mile long, so I believe my speed was actually better.

I'm really glad I added tris to my racing schedule. I like having a set plan for my cross-training, and the upper body strength makes a difference on my runs. I've only done two, but I think they'll push me out of my comfort zone for awhile yet.
Drown, ache, gasp for air.
The good news is that my first marathon is my next race, so I have nowhere to sublimate my worry anymore. One week until taper!

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