Carlsbad Triathlon - TriathlonSprint

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Carlsbad, California
United States
City of Carlsbad
70F / 21C
Total Time = 1h 21m 58s
Overall Rank = 59/817
Age Group = Male Relay Div.
Age Group Rank = 3/13
Pre-race routine:

As far back as a year and a half ago Matt, one of my training buddies, and I have been talking about how much fun it might be to do one of these triathlons as a relay. Just think, only one leg of the race to deal with. Could be an almost "no-stress" race. But, there was always something getting in the way of following through with it. Such as... finding 3 people who would do a relay instead of the full tri, then getting them to agree on who does which leg, and then find a race one of them wasn't already signed up for, which wasn't too close to a race one of them was already signed up for.

So, as the Carlsbad Triathlon date (7/13/08) approaches, we start getting serious about forming a team. But we can't find a good runner to complement my swim and Matt's bike. Finally I talk my 17 year old son, Ryan, into anchoring the team. He runs on the Redondo Union High School cross country team, so the 5K race distance is something he's real familiar with.

We actually start feeling a little guilty for bring in a ringer to do the run. Usually these relay divisions are pretty average, with occasionally one person on the team being a standout athlete. And here, Matt, although a bit off his best bike fitness, is usually a podium placer in his 55-59 AG for a full tri, and is especially strong on the bike, and then me, pretty much the same in my 50-54 AG, with my strongest leg being the swim. So we're thinking with the addition of a fast high school cross country runner, we may well annihilate the other relay competition. Little did we know...

Event warmup:

During packet-pick up the day before the race, we were told that the bike person and the run person would have to stay in the transition area from the time it closed at 7:45 am until their part of the relay. Thinking about my son, who would normally run about 2 miles and do a few striders/sprints to warm up for a race, I asked if the runner could get out in order to do a proper warm up, and they said no, you must stay in the transition area by your bike rack position until it's time to run. I explained to the person in charge, that as a relay we were in the last wave, scheduled to start at 8:45 am, and between the swim and the bike portions, the runner would be waiting around for about another hour after that, making it a 2 hour wait in the transition area. Warming up prior to that would be a waste. I asked if there wasn't some way to plant a volunteer at a side gate to allow those relay runners that wanted to do some running as a warm up in & out? But it was still a firm "no". So I suggested they consider it for next year. After all, even though most people in this race are not doing a relay and are more than enough warmed up by the time they get to the run, the relay teams are starting cold. It would be a nice courtesy to figure out a way to accommodate this small group, and perhaps avoid some injuries.

After packet-pick up, we went over to check out the course. The bike racks in the transition area in the parking lot at Tamarack Surf Beach were already set up and marked for each wave. The relay wave was the last 2 rows, tucked away in the far southeast corner (next to the porta-johns). Then I noticed that right behind our rack was a stairway in the side of the hill leading from the back corner of the parking lot up the bluffs to Carlsbad Blvd. How easy it would be to allow the runners on the relay teams to go out the back of the transition area and up the steps to do their warm up.

The morning of the race, we arrived at the transition area and got our gear set up. Then one of the race officials came over to the relay area and announced a change in the procedure. They had decided to allow the runner on each team to leave the transition area by going out the back and up the steps to do their warm up along Carlsbad Blvd. Wow, I wonder where they got that idea?

So, Ryan was now happy that he was going to get in his normal warm up and promised us a nice fast time.

As the swimmer for this relay team, warm up for me consisted of lots of stretching, jogging from the transition area to the swim start, about 700 yards, then about 300 yards of swimming just before the Relay Wave (last of 10 waves - white caps) went off.
  • 14m 20s
  • 1094 yards
  • 01m 19s / 100 yards

There were 42 relay teams between the 3 categories; 13 men's, 7 women's and 22 coed. As I lined up for the swim start, I looked around at my competition and spotted several guys who looked dangerous. Although lots of swimmers weren't wearing wetsuits, due to the warm water no doubt, one in particular, wearing Speedo jammers, had that college-swimmer look about him. A couple others were possibly in that category too. On the bright side, there should be some good candidates for drafting in this bunch.

As our wave took off, one guy bolted ahead of everyone and was 20 yards out to sea before the rest of us hit the water. The surf was light so getting past the breakers was easy, and then I got serious about getting my speed up. At this point there were about 10 or 12 people ahead of me, but I was soon passing a few of them. Some woman swam up on my left and slowly pulled ahead of me. I'd found someone to draft off of already. She pulled me along for about 80 yards, but then got away from me. As I rounded the first buoy, I could see about 6 or 7 white swim caps ahead of me. But there were also lots of pink caps (Women 40 & Over, plus the 5 Athenas) from the wave before us just up ahead. Once I caught up with the pink caps, they were so thick; it was like swimming through an obstacle course. After another 150 yards or so I discovered that I'd drifted a little wide and was pretty much swimming to the right of them. I decided to stay on the outside so I could swim in more of a straight line.

As I mentioned in the Swim Course Description, the two turn-buoys had big red balloons hovering over them, so sighting was never so easy. Plus the line of big yellow buoys between them helped too.

Drafting was no longer an option, so I just tried to swim as fast as I could reminding myself that the race would be all over for me in a matter of minutes. There seemed to be some current going against me, but I kind of expected it with the southward direction of the swim. As I approached the final turn I was passing the stragglers from 2 waves in front of me (Women 30 to 39), making the turn a little crowded. I was passing some men too, so that would put them at least 4 waves ahead of my start.

Once around the last buoy, I spotted the woman I'd caught that short draft off of earlier. She was a few yards to my left and about even with me. I hadn't noticed catching up with her, or anyone else from our wave since the first turn. I had to assume there were still 6 or 7 swimmers ahead of me. So I just went all out for the final 200 meters, occasionally sighting the beach exit, and trying to keep an eye on that woman, the only other white cap in sight.

As I reached the shallow water, I stood up and ran. I clicked a 14:10 split on my watch as I hit the sand, about a minute slower than I’d expected. The white-cap-woman was almost 15 yards ahead of me now. I was determined to pass her on the run to the timing mat, even though she wasn’t even in my relay division. The loose sand was frustrating to run on, but even worse, only seconds out of the water, I was beginning to feel the heat building up inside my wetsuit. My plan was to not waste time unzipping it on the run since I wasn’t transitioning to the bike. But about a half a minute later, when I reached the parking lot/transition area, it was very uncomfortable, and literally getting worse by the second.

Now all that was left was about 120 yards straight down the side of the parking lot/transition area to the timing mat, then another 20 yards to our team’s bike rack. The white-cap-woman was less than 10 yards away. I broke into a full on sprint and accelerated past her in short order, plus about 5 or 6 others, the whole while feeling like a chicken potpie in a microwave oven.
What would you do differently?:

Not sure what I could have done differently, but my time was slower than I had anticipated. There's no telling how the various environmental factors will effect one's time in an ocean swim. I may have lost my focus on keeping my speed up during the crowded swim through the stragglers from the previous waves. I think moving to the outside served me well, and it may be why I was able to catch up with white-cap-woman even thought she seemed to out swim me whenever I was near her. It may also explain why I finished 4th in my wave (3rd in my relay division) when I thought I was in 6th or 7th. Nevertheless, when all you have is a 14 minute swim and 1 minute run you really can’t afford to ease up on the pace.

So, what would I do differently? Stay focused.

And one other bit of advice, never, ever run in the hot sun in a fully zipped up wetsuit!
Transition 1
  • 00m 57s

One big advantage to being racked with the relay teams, in the far corner of the back of the transition area, was that it was almost the closest racks to the place where the swimmers enter the transition area. And since I was being cooked alive in my wetsuit, I really couldn't run much farther anyway.

One big disadvantage to being racked with the relay teams was that the bike and run members of the team were required to stay with their team's bike, and sure enough, that's were they were when I came across the timing mat. They were all crowded around the entrance to the bike racks completely obscuring the racks themselves. My team was in the second rack, but I couldn't see where that was. Matt, our bike guy, apparently could see that I was becoming disoriented, so he began shouting my name. I followed the sound though the bodies and found him. I ripped off my timing chip and passed it on to him, and off he went.

Now all that mattered was getting that wetsuit off.
What would you do differently?:

This is my first experience with doing a triathlon as a relay. There are some things that are different than just doing the whole thing by yourself. If I do this again, and I expect that I will, I'll plan for situations such as what happened here. If you know that you may not be able to see where your teammate is for the chip hand-off, you can plan for him to be yelling out your name so you can find him. Or maybe float a big helium balloon from the rack over your bike position, like they did on the swim course buoys.
  • 48m 19s
  • 15.53 miles
  • 19.29 mile/hr

Matt took the timing chip hand-off, slapped the Velcro strap onto his ankle, and took off running with his bike. By the time I got my wetsuit off (with the help of my son, as I was starting to get queasy), made my way out the back side of the transition area and up the steps to Carlsbad Blvd, Matt had already biked past that point. I looked south along the bike route and could see the long steady incline that he would have to finish on. By now, there was a continual stream of activity along the road. On the west side of the divide, there were bikes just starting out, heading south, and bikes nearing T2 heading north. On the east side of the road there were runners just starting out, heading south, and runners nearing the finish heading north for the final 200 yards.

By now, I figured I had at least 40-45 more minutes until our bike-man came back past me. So I took a seat on the guardrail and watched the parade. Soon I got a chance to see what was probably the first place finisher in the Elite Women's division. At the time, she was definitely moving faster than all those around her - a good strong finish.

As I watched the bikes go by, about a hundred yards from the drop into T2, I noticed that almost all of them were moving pretty slowly. That long uphill finish was definitely having an effect on them. Then as the first of the Women's Age Group divisions started going by, the pace of the leaders was much faster, as one might expect from the more serious (and youthful) competitors.

From my vantage point up on the bluffs above the beach I could see that the last of the swimmers were coming in, and soon the last of the bikes were going out. I could look south and see bikes and runners going all the way to the horizon. I could look north and see runners streaming into the finish arch. I though to myself, normally I'm still out there, among them, trying my hardest to gain on whoever might be in front of me. How odd it feels to be sitting here watching it like this, doing nothing more than working on my suntan. The thought of dashing out into the street and commandeering some poor dude's bike and getting back in the race kept tempting me. But the details of such a move would surely prove prohibitive. Getting the bike would be one thing, but then I'd also have to pull their shoes off. And then they'd have to be the correct size. No, it's best I say right here on the guardrail. Maybe just do a little stretching while I wait.

Well 45 minutes came and went and there was no sign of Matt. What could be taking him so long? Flat tire? Crash? Speeding ticket? Then I looked down the hill into the transition area where, just a few minutes before, I'd seen Ryan, doing wind-sprints up and down the length of the parking lot as he was finishing his warm up. But I couldn't find him. I looked all over the transition area, and finally saw him. He was heading out onto the run course. Somehow I'd missed Matt going by me and he was already done. I hurried down to the racks and congratulated him for making it through his leg. Apparently I missed him because in the rush to get started, he forgot to take off his warm-up shirt, and wound up doing the whole thing in a big, over-sized sweatshirt, modified to short sleeves by having torn them off. He said he was most of the way through the race before he noticed that something was flapping around like crazy. Yeah, I'd been looking for a guy in a tri-suit, not a big floppy gray sweatshirt.

Anyway, we were wondering what place we were in by now, but Matt assured me we weren't in first. He commented that while he was waiting for me to finish the swim, one of the guys who took off before him had been warming up on bike trainer he'd set up next to the racks. Crap, that sounds like a roadie. So someone else brought a ringer too. First Speedo-jammer-guy in the swim turns out the 4th fastest swim time of the day at 12:42, then bike-trainer-guy turns out the fastest bike time of the day by 44 seconds with a 36:11 - not bad for 25K. At least they were on separate teams.

What would you do differently?:

I probably wouldn't do anything differently, but then I wasn't doing the bike leg, so that doesn't count. As far as Matt's concerned, he might want to loose the sweatshirt before he un-racks his bike. Although I'm certain the time difference wouldn't have impacted our finishing place, I would expect that it did add time to his split. If not, then we are all definitely paying way too much for our sleek, wind-resistant tri-suits.

Transition 2
  • 00m 40s

With less competitors hanging around the racks, the transition for bike to runner went more smoothly. Ryan met Matt at the end of our rack, made a quick transfer of the timing chip, and was off and running in 40 seconds.
What would you do differently?:

  • 16m 49s
  • 3.11 miles
  • 05m 25s  min/mile

Ryan disappeared down the boardwalk, and Matt changed out of his bike shoes. Then Matt and I made our way out the back of the transition area and up the steps to Carlsbad Blvd. Once up above the beach area, we could see that they were already taking the swim course apart. We made a quick dash across the road to the east side and headed north to get as far up to course as we could to meet our runner as soon as possible.

We ran into him sooner than I'd expected. Matt and I had only gotten about half a block from Tamerack Ave when he flew by. I figured he was just short of 1.5 miles into the course, and although I didn't get a split time as he started his leg, I estimated that he was close to 8 minutes by now. He was passing the other runners like they were standing still. People along the route were cheering for him.

Matt and I continued northward toward the finish arch, as we wanted to get a good spot to see our teammate come in. The way the finish area was set up, was such that the runners would come through a chute, give up their timing chip, and then proceed to the post race food area which was cordoned off from the general public. So that's what we were missing, the food. Matt and I made our way through security, who checked our body markings, and proceeded to sample the goodies; strawberries supplemented the usual banana pieces and bagel chunks. Not the variety of most triathlon spreads, but there was plenty of it, and lots of volunteers to serve you. The big surprise was that there were bags of ice all around (I guess incase you needed to ice your sore parts -there have been plenty of races where I've finished injured and ice would sure have been nice). But the best surprise was that there were lots of coolers filled with ice, keeping the bottled water nice and cold. Why can't all triathlons do this? Nothing like a warm bottle of water after you've just dehydrated yourself over the past hour or more. Tasty.

Anyway, we continued south through the food area to be on the west side of the finish line, but when we got there, the view of anyone finishing was completely obscured by the various tents for the timing equipment, first aid, etc. And there was a surly volunteer who looked like he was long since tired of telling people that you can't come through here.

So we worked our way back north through the crowd, back through the food area, out the back exit and then headed southward back toward the finish line. Just before we got there, I spotted Ryan. He had just crossed the finish line and was walking up the chute. I didn't get a split on him, and he forgot to stop his watch as he finished, but he did get his time as he crossed the 3 mile mark at 16:16. A couple days later, when the official results were posted, we found out that he'd run a 16:49 for the full 5K. That's about 5:25 per mile pace. His time was good for the second fastest run time of the day, behind a 16:35 by one the guys in the Elite Male division. The third fastest time was 17:00. Yes, we did indeed bring our own ringer.

So, even though we now knew he had turned in a great run time, we still had no idea how the relay team had done. Ryan told us that two other teams (with the other ringers) had sent their runners off way ahead of him, so unless their runner's abilities were considerably behind that of their swimmers and cyclists, there was no realistic hope that even his fast run caught up with them.

When the preliminary results were posted, we found out that we'd come in third in the Male Relay Division, some 5 1/2 minutes behind second place, and almost 12 minutes behind first. At least we beat 4th place by almost 2 minutes, although one of the coed teams was just 13 seconds behind us. Ryan must have only passed them in the final 100 yards.
What would you do differently?:

I can't see how changing anything here could have impacted the final results of the run, or even the triathlon as a whole.

However, from a spectator's point of view, we should have checked out the finish area before hand and determined where the best place was to watch the end of the race.
Post race
Warm down:

My warm down from the swim consisted of stretching while walking around trying to watch the race in general and my teammates in particular.

Matt's warm down from the bike was walking from the back of the transition area to the post race food area and then around about as we looked for a good place to watch the finish.

Ryan's warm down from the run was to run another 3 miles and do some stretching. Well, at least someone knows what he's doing.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Matt and I were the major limitations to Ryan winning this relay. With a couple teammates more of his caliber, he would have been awarded a metal with a blue ribbon instead of the white one we got for third place.

Event comments:

My overall evaluation of this event is that it was one of the best I've ever been to. There were several exceedingly good points to compliment, and a few bad ones that could easily be addressed in time for next year's race:

* Very responsive decision making by the event management, evidenced by the change in the requirement to keep the relay teams at their bike racks, thus allowing the runners to get out of the transition area to do a proper warm up.

* Big red helium balloons tethered above the corner buoys on the swim course made sighting a straight course as easy as can be. Why have I never seen such a simple solution to the biggest problem plaguing swim courses put into practice?

* Lots of helpful volunteers.

* Sacks of ice lying on the ground to be used as need for injuries and such. Why have I never seen this before? And believe me I've looked, as I've finished several triathlons with serious lower-leg muscle strains.

* COLD BOTTLED WATER... in ice filled coolers. Is warm drinking water a tradition at triathlons? The only thing better than cold water would be cold beer.

* Poor consideration of spectators by obscuring the view of the finish area from the west side by the unnecessary placement of event tents.

* Not enough porta-johns. The line was unnecessarily long. I've seen much smaller events with more facilities. And of course, the usual problem, TP runs out long before the first wave goes off.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2008-07-15 12:00 AM
00:14:20 | 1094 yards | 01m 19s / 100yards
Age Group: 3/13
Overall: 61/817
Performance: Good
Suit: Xterra VectorPro2
Course: Out 200 meters, south 600 meters, then 200 meters back to the shore. Then the usual run across the loose sand beach, followed by about a 120 yard run down the full length of the parking lot that's the transition area, to the first timing mat. Great course! This is the best-marked swim course I have ever seen. They had large yellow buoys at the turns and several more in between along the 600 meter southward stretch. But the best thing was that the 2 corner buoys had large red helium balloons tethered to them and floating above, making for the easiest buoy sighting ever. Race Directors, pay attention here, this solves my biggest complaint with swim courses, being able to easily sight the next turn.
Start type: Run Plus: Waves
Water temp: 0F / 0C Current: Low
200M Perf. Average Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Below average
Waves: Bad Navigation: Good
Rounding: Good
Time: 00:57
Performance: Good
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike: Yes
Jump on bike: Yes
Getting up to speed:
00:48:19 | 15.53 miles | 19.29 mile/hr
Age Group: 5/13
Overall: 0/817
Performance: Good
Wind: Little
Course: A steep climb out of the transition area, then along Carlsbad Blvd to the far-point turn-around, then back north about half-way back to another turn-around which sends you south to the far-point turn-around again. The final leg returns the full distance back to the transition area, including the steep decline to the dismount line. Pretty much gentle gradual rollers all the way, ending in a long gradual incline.
Road: Smooth Dry Cadence:
Turns: Good Cornering: Good
Gear changes: Good Hills: Good
Race pace: Hard Drinks: Just right
Time: 00:40
Overall: Good
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike Good
Running with bike Good
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
00:16:49 | 03.11 miles | 05m 25s  min/mile
Age Group: 1/13
Overall: 2/817
Performance: Good
Course: The run course starts at the southwest corner and then travels the full length of the transition area before entering a concrete bike path/board walk that takes the runners north at beach level. A steep incline up to Carlsbad Blvd at 3/4 of a mile into the course sends them up the bluffs and onto the main route of the course, now heading south, past the eventual finish line and almost all the way to the power plant before turning around for the final stretch back up Carlsbad Blvd to the finish.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5