Monday, May 24, 2010

BlackBear Sprint

Saturday was my first tri of the season and the first time I have raced unprepared in years. There is too much going on to focus on anything but my family and job. With my back issues I was expecting nithing form this race except to finish and hopefully get excited about training for real this summer.

I had a difficult time finding the time to pack my things for the race. Softball and t-ball were every night last week. Being the head softball coach is a much bigger responsibility than I imagined, but worth it to see my daughter having such a great time playing the game. Anyway, I got home Friday night by 9:00 and was in bed by 10:15. Up at 4:30 and out the door by 5:30. Nice easy drive through the mountains to Beltzville State park. The weather was perfect and I was more calm than ever before a race. It felt like a training day. Got in, got my packet, set up in transition, and had about 45 minutes to chill out before swim warm-ups. Temp was 65 water temp in the shallows was the same. Not bad at all.

Got in the water 30 minutes before the start. A bit shocking when I put my head under but I got used to it in about 5 minutes. In fact, it felt good. It was surprising to me how many people would not warm up. Most would suffer at the start. There were a few people I met who were first timers. It felt good to talk to them and calm them down. A father and his daughter were both over the top nervous and I spent some time with them. I felt the same way my first time. I remained completely at ease as a swam around looking at the hills surrounding the lake. I continued to tell myself don't push it or your back is going to tighten up and you won't be able to run and that this is not a day to prove anything. Just be glad you can do this.

I was in the 2nd wave. I started in the back left and just took it nice and easy. Long strokes, smooth strokes, and deep breathes. After a minute I started to pass people. After another minute I started to feel like I was going too easy, so I picked it up. My back felt good. I swam faster. I continued to feel good so I kept the pace then picked it up after the last turn. I forgot about my back and felt energized. Swam 650 meters in 10 minutes. Not bad at all for me.

My transition was so bad it was embarrassing. I could not get my wetsuit off my right leg. The grass had been cut recently and it was all over my as well. Well over 3 minutes in a sprint is a terrible transition. There is a long run with the bike uphill through grass and and sand to the bike mount.

I got on the bike and sprinted the first 300 yards to try to get in front of as many people as I could before the 200 yard no pass zone. I could not get in front of the guy with the mt. bike and 3 full bottles of energy drink (it is an 11 mile bike). He was giving it his all but was very slow. Got out on the rolling and hilly course and decided to count all the people I passed just for something new. I stopped at 50 because it was becoming a dangerous day. There were no officials that I could see. The course was open to traffic and riders were not staying to the right. I passed multiple people who were cruising right next to the yellow lines. One rider was down with most of the skin on his shoulder gone. I never raced a course where the bike was less than 18 miles. 11 is too short but it is fun to go all out. oops. I wasn't supposed to be going all out but I felt that good. Zero back pain. The climds are tough when you are in shape and I wasn't. 3 rides outside all spring. Many on the trainer but that doesn't help on the hills. I took it easy and then attacked at the top. I did not get passed and ended up with the 8th fastest split of the day. 19.1 MPH on that course is great for me.

Into transition and out quickly. I took it easy at first and slowly started to feel good. I still stayed conservative and hit the 1 mile mark in 7:08. Better than I had hoped for. The oroblem was, now I could see who was in front of me. Not too many people. I saw a few bikes racked in the masters area so I knew a couple were in front of me. I knew I was just here to have fun and kick start my season. I also know I have not cared to much about times and going fast. Screw it! Catching and passing people seemed like the most fun way to spend the next 13 minutes so I did. One guy was a good quarter mile ahead of me approaching the 1.5 mile mark on the dam. I was going to catch him or puke trying. I felt like I was flying. I was hitting a 6:20 pace and my back was great on the flats. Uphill not so good and downhill was painful. Luckily most of the race was a flat dirt path. I caught him with a bit over a quarter mile to go and took it in hard. 20:21 5K. Sweet!

I finished 15th out of 321. 4th in my age group. 40 and ups dominated the top 20. I felt great after. Cruised home and got ready for my son's t-ball game. Now to rest my back for another week, make an appointment with a back specialist, and hopefully then it's time to actually start training.


  1. I live in NJ, and almost signed up for this race (it would have been my first). Right now, I'm scheduled to run the NJ State Tri as my first. I'm glad to hear that it went so well for you, even without your usual preparation. Perhaps I'll see you at the NJ State Tri. -- Richard

  2. Hi Garen,

    nice to see you back to racing. Sounds like you had fun during the race and it worked well for you. I love Black Bear, but since they eliminated the half I was down in Jersey racing the Jerseyman - well more like swimming and biking since I can not run for few more weeks. I bailed after the bike, but I had great time swimming and biking hard. In the end the injury helps me bring fun back into racing ;-).

    I hope to see you at Steelman later in the season. What other races are you doing?