Sunday, June 27, 2010
Ventura Breath of Life Olympic Triathlon
Course & Weather: 1500m swim in Ventura Harbor water temp at 60F, 40k bike 3-loop flat course on roads slightly long at 26 miles, and 10k run 2-loop flat course on roads slightly long at 6.6 miles. Overcast outside temp at start 60F and at finish 63F. Perfect racing conditions.
Now running 11 years and competing in triathlons for 2 years, there is still something to be learned about each race done because it is not only a reflection of what training has been effective or not but also what race strategy proved to be effective on that race day or not. Naturally, a competing athlete looks to improve whether someone is watching or not or whether there is a medal in place to commemorate the accomplishment or not. For myself, I have always searched to push just a little more to see what I can personally achieve for personal satisfaction in several areas of my life. There comes a great feeling of happiness living in that temporary pursuit of pain. It is the good pain. That pain has taught me more about myself than any other feeling. It has been said: Suffering is the ultimate form of consciousness. This can mean several things for many people, athlete or not. For instance, mothers describe childbirth to be the most painful experience in their lives but the most beautiful that brings tears to their soul. Likewise, I have been brought to tears in many instances as I approach a finish line because it symbolized a form of accomplishment for me. For example, when for the first time I finally ran a sub-3:30 marathon in Philadelphia in November 2009 after trying for 10 years since high school. I crossed that finish line extremely exhausted and tested to my physical limit but I ran a 3:29. An arbitrary number to most, but it meant the world to me. It meant that I could break barriers. I could push beyond a limit that was drowning me in despair. Interestingly, I have run several sub-3:30 marathons since then so was that barrier only a mental constrain? Recently, I have been finding myself brought to tears in training. During long bike rides or long runs, can I complete an Ironman? I sure can but how much pain am I willing to sustain is the better question.
Woken up by an alarm at 4am seems now very regular so it was not out of the ordinary to wake up that early for my 4th Olympic triathlon. My family was there to support my first. Now, I decided to go to my race alone. It did feel very lonely to arrive to the transition area, set up my bike, and get dressed down to a bathing suit in the crisp air of the morning at 6am. It reminded me the importance of family. Just having them there gives me strength. On this day, I needed to search for that focus and determination elsewhere. Below are my splits for each segment for my four different Olympic triathlons.
The 1.5KSwim - Location & Time:
Mission Viejo 31:03
San Luis Obispo 35:36
What have I learned? First, warming up or training in cold water is key because the shock to the face and chest can cost you the race as I learned in San Luis Obispo. I was not slow because lack of training, I just had not done a triathlon all winter long and was shocked cold in the water for several minutes trying to catch my breath before I could resume. Second, speedwork and strength training the upper body helped me shave off 3 minutes from my 1.5K swim PR! It was a thrill to come out of the water with the front swimmers of my heat at Ventura.
The 40K Bike - Location & Time:
Mission Viejo 1:32:10
San Luis Obispo 1:42:33
What have I learned? First, speedwork and long rides are needed just as much for improving bike speed just as much as speedwork and long runs are needed for improving running speed. I expected to complete the 40K course in less than 1 hr and 20 minutes for another PR but I made a mistake to push the pace too fast in the beginning causing severe lactic acid build up in my hamstrings forcing me to take down my 20mph speed to 17mph. It was disappointing to complete it in 1:32:05 but it was a grim reminder to not push harder than what our bodies may be prepared for.
The 10K Run - Location & Time:
Mission Viejo 48:04
San Luis Obispo 47:51
The most enjoyable part for me in a triathlon: the run no matter what the distance. With speedwork of 400m repeats to mile repeats, I have been able to improve my triathlon 10K time from a 7:45min/mile pace to a 6:58. It wasn’t easy but it sure did feel good to make my heart feel like it wanted to jump out of my chest. I wonder, can I break a 40min 10K in a triathlon? Only one way to find out. Train smarter.
Take home message from all this: Smart training and a refined racing strategy can accomplish the desired results. Accepting and taking a personal challenge makes the whole journey worth every minute of breath.