I ended this year's racing season with a new race, Treasure Island. I decided to do the sprint distance because it was so late in the year. This race had never been run before, and it had a few issues. I hope that these things can be worked out before next year, because overall it was an ideal way to end the year.
The first problem was that we were told that the roadways onto and off of the island would be closed during the race times. So we HAD to be there by 7:15am or we would not be allowed to rack. So I set my alarm clock for 4:30 am, arose in the pre-dawn darkness and stumbled about in a morning stupor. I arrived on the island just prior to 7am, racked my bike, and set up my transition area. At 7:15am the first wave started and I went down to the water's edge to spectate. After a couple hours I started to get very hungry, so I went back to transition to eat a powerbar and drink a quart of water. It was only around 9am at this point.
I wandered over to watch some of the bike course. The spot I happened to pick was just outside of the transition are, where the bikers entered the course and met the bikers coming in off of the loop. Just past this intersection (which was on a sharp corner) the bike course went down a road that had a surface that was less than smooth. In fact, there were several roots that had grown under the asphalt surface and presented nasty bumps that were al but invisible until you were on top of them. While I stood there for 20 minutes, I saw three people fall and many other come close to falling when they hit one specific root. It was such a large bump that it would literally launch them into the air, and then when they hit the ground, if their wheels were not perfectly straight, they would fall over. One guy left a lot of skin on the road. Another guy broke a front fork. After the broken fork, the race officials finally placed three cones on that root.
Around 10:30am I wandered back into transition to start getting suited up for my swim. As I was there putting my wetsuit, about ten racers came wandering in with their bikes and gear. Apparently the roads had NOT been closed and it was perfectly fine to show up later. So basically, I gave up four hours of sleep for no reason at all.
The sprint waves start a mere five minutes apart. This was an open-water start. So as soon as the first sprint wave started, they allowed us to get into the water. This short swim in the lagoon at Treasure Island was a chilly 58 degrees. Getting into cold water like that is always an adventure. I can't speak for others, but I always have trouble breathing when my body is shocked like that. And since we only had a few minutes to (ahem) "warm up", by the time we got the start horn, I was still not really ready to swim. I started slow, taking short strokes and breathing on every one.
By the time I reached the first bouy (150m) my breathing had settled down and I started to swim. Of course, it was at that same time that my trusty 2-year old goggles decided that they were done holding the water out and started leaking profusely. I had to stop every 50 meters and dump out the water since they were filling to about half full in that time. At the second bouy, some guy pummelled me in the back of the head so hard that I saw stars. He didn't even stop to say "Are you ok?" but just swam away as if I were just another piece of flotsam. I could see that if he were some super-fast competitive swimmer, but he wasn't. I passed him in the last 200 meters.
I finished about in the middle of the pack, with a swim time of 11:57, nearly 4 minutes slower than I was hoping for.
Transition one is typically VERY slow for me. This time was no exception. I really need to work on this. When I climb out of the water, I find that I am usually so out of breath that I simply cannot hurry in the first transition. Even though I can barely move enough to pull off my wetsuit and put on bike shoes, I don't have any problems jogging out of transition with my bike. I really need to work on this. Transition one was a slow 4:26. I really need to work on this.
The bike course was very flat on Treasure Island. It also had twenty 90-degree turns. There were several storm drain grates on the course that were uncovered and had straight metal slats spread far enough to swallow a roadbike tire. There was one offset turn (a hard left followed by a hard right) that was only ten feet wide, with a gutter full of slimey, algae grown water in it. I did not see anyone fall there, but it was a very slow turn.
The course was supposed to be three laps on the flat, ending with a left turn just before a 3km hilly section. I made my first lap in pretty good time (all things considered). On the second lap, I passed a guy early on in the course who had a bright red jersey. I remember it because it was a fight to get past him. His pace and mine were VERY close and since drafting is illegal, I had to basically "sneak" past him on a turn. On the straightaway just before the end of the second lap, the same guy in the red jersey passed me.
As I made the left turn to end the lap, there were several SFPD officers standing around. I specifically heard one speaking into his radio "They've got it covered." Little did I know....
Once we got past the transition merge, I put on the gas and passed the guy in the red jersey again. I vowed not to let him get past me again. I hammered away on that last lap.
Coming down that last straightaway on my third and final lap, the guy in the red jersey crept up aside me. Obviously he was determined to pass me, and I was determined not to let him. So we both were pulling hard. I was on the inside of the coming turn, and I was thinking that I might have to let him go just to avoid a crash at the sharp left turn. As we approached the last turn, there was a tri-california official with a bullhorn announcing "Sprint racers, go straight!" I was confused. My bike was done and they weren't letting me go into transition? I slowed down. The guy in the red jersey took off and started climbing the 3km hill. I stopped, looked right at the official and yelled "What happened to the sprint course?" He said that I was supposed to do two BIG laps and not three little ones. I yelled back that I had already DONE three little ones, but he was done talking to me. So I crossed the street and made my final left turn.
As I learned later, the SFPD had told tri-california that they had two choices: lose the left turn or stop the race. I suspect that next year the course will not have the left turn. The upshot of this turn of events was that depending on when you started/finished the sprint bike course you might have done 20km, 23km, 26 km, or even 30km! (The dude in the red jersey did at least 23km, the sucker!)
When I jogged back into transition, there were only three bikes on my whole row. Probably because most of them were doing the extra 3km ride. In any case, I was satisfied with my bike time of 40:39. Not overjoyed, but considering the difficulty of the course and the fiasco at the end, this was a decent time, with an average speed of 18.34 mph.
As always, transition is a tough spot for me. This time however, I was in and out very quickly. My rack location was almost perfect centered between the bike-in and run-out, but the total distance was a very long ways. I really wish that tri-california would place the timing mats at the actual entrance and exit to transition, and not a whole city block away. Regardless, my T2 time was respectable at 2:53 - still some room for improvement, but not shabby.
This run was a little longer than I was expecting. It was totally flat, but weighed in at 3.1 miles in length. I really had not prepared for the run and it showed. The only people I passed on the run were the TnT ladies. Meanwhile I was being passed by a ton of people. I know I can run reasonably fast, but this wasn't the day for that. With a total run time of 26:35, that works out to an average speed of 8:35 min/mi.
My overall time was 1:26:30. I was actually a bit surprised by this. My wave started at 3:50 on the clock. When I crossed the line, the clock showed just a hair over 5:00 - so I was expecting a total time of 1:10-ish, not nearly 15 minutes slower than that. Aside from the first-time race problems (getting there HOURS before I needed to and a "moving target" bike course) it was a fun little race. It highlighted my weak spots (swim speed, T1 time and run pace) and was a good close to the year.