The fall race season is always a fun one. I had come off a summer where I had done three Ironmans and had raced Zurich Ironman on Sunday. Then on Monday waking up at 4 am to drive over to the airport for a trans Atlantic flight, actually Vienna, then to Washington DC, followed by a 6 hour drive to the Outer Banks in North Carolina to meet up with the family for beach week. I really don't like to travel and if given a choice I think that I would stay in my chalet for the rest of my life, but I do like to concoct crazy travel plans that revolve around racing.
|Big jet plane takes me places|
I had made good progress on the Ironmans. I had taken nearly two hours off my Zurich time and in my second year of competing in them felt that I was on the right track. My summer vacation ended the first week in August. I was back to work at Leysin American School. The first few weeks are not very intense because the students have yet to arrive but I am back to work and my activities become a weekend pursuit as oppose to my life. Because of all of my physical activity I feel super human in the fall. I have such a base built up from the summer that I usually crush the events that I enter.
|Finishing Zurich Ironman 2014|
Being back at work meant that I was back among my racing colleagues. Two in particular, Finn and Stephanie, both were game for some triathlons. They are both new to triathlons so they were more interested in the shorter sprint distances, which is 500 meters swimming, 20 km bike, and a 5 km run. I have only done one sprint tri in my life and I was curious how my body would adapt to short and fast after doing such long events all summer.
First up was the Lausanne triathlon. I had done this one a few years ago but the Olympic distance, 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, and 10 km run. It is nice that it is so close and in a short 45 minute drive we are there. We are all in different waves, Finn first in the junior wave, me next in the men's, and Stephanie last in the women's.
It is a good event for me since the biking is extremely hilly. The swim is in Lake Geneva. They start you off in the water off a dock so there are 300 people crammed together. I have adopted a new swim strategy. I wait 30 seconds until everyone is past and then start. I need a good 100 meters to ease into the swim. The strategy works to perfection. My swim has gotten better and after a slow start I hit a steady rhythm and settle into a pack.
|Packed swim start|
In biking you can draft off the rider in front of you and this gives you a huge advantage. They block the wind and since you are in their slipstream it is much easier for you. This principal holds true in swimming and I am trying to learn to find feet to follow. If I swim right behind someone then I draft off them. I found a few feet to follow and I think this helped me have a good swim. I exited the water roughly two thirds in the wave, which is good for me. The swim takes all of 17 minutes.
|Drafting in a bike race|
The bike is 3 laps. But first is a never ending run around the transition area. It was at least a half kilometer of running in the wetsuit to get to the bike. The worst part is that you are in bare feet on the pavement and my feet got chewed up from that jaunt. The bike is great because immediately you start climbing.
|Powering up the hills|
Lausanne is a hilly city. The course takes you up to the Zenith. I had remember the course from previous years so I knew to go easy on the first lap. Even so living in Leysin has made me a good hill climber and I streaked by most people on the climb. After the limb is a nerve wracking curves descent. I really pushed it on the descent but I am sure one day my aggressive riding will lead to a spectacular crash.
After the descent the is a few km of flat and then repeat. With each lap I tried to get a touch faster. It is so hard to gauge yourself against others since there are different waves on different laps. It is futile and you are never sure if the person trying to burn you is just starting or finishing.
|Racers on undetermined laps|
The bike ended quickly and I was back to the infinitely long transition area. Usually I get my feet out of my bike shoes while they are on the bike engaged in my clip less pedals. Not this time. I wasn't going to torture my feet so after the dismount I kept my cycling shoes on and ran it in with them. Running in cycling shoes is awkward at best and I wobbled along in essentially reverse high heels.
|Heading to the transition from the swim|
The run is only 5 km which seems incredibly short. It is 2 laps. Again you are in this tangle of people and have no idea who you place compared to them. I pushed it as hard as I could. I felt good and caught a lot of people. The best was just at the end. I had tracked down a few people and just a few 100 meters from the finish saw two guys ahead of me. I sprinted the final bit and passed them. I love ending in a sprint and it always feels good to catch a few people.
|Sprint to the finish|
My final time was 1:16 which was a personal record in sprint triathlon for me. I was which is top quarter. I was happy with my result but could tell that I am not really a sprint triathlon. I don't really train for such a distance and it takes me nearly an hour to get into the groove. It is hard to just explode into such a fast pace. It is a lot of fun though. It makes you really focus on the transition. Usually I like to take my time as I change from one discipline to another but in the sprint you really need to be dialed in and change fast because it really effects your time.
A week later I was back at it with my team. I usually compete and travel alone. I must admit to being somewhat of a loner. I like the uncompromising nature of traveling by yourself. You never have to negotiate decisions or plans you just do what you want. But the team aspect is also pretty fun. It is nice to have someone to talk to as wait in the dossard (French for bib) line and to relive the race with after it is over. So the team and I went down to Vevey, which is even closer than Lausanne for the next race. This is a sprint plus. It is not really a regulation race and each discipline is a bit longer than a regular sprint.
I was determined to have a record setting swim. We were there early enough that I could get a good swim warm up in. Usually if I start too fast in the swim I get this horrible out of breath asphyxiation which causes me to nearly drown. I thought by warming up hard I could get this out of my system. So there I was at the front of the pack readying to go. The gun went off and I charged out. Big mistake. The horrible asphyxiation grabbed me after about 30 seconds. I had to go into full on dog paddle as the pack swam around me. It took me a few minutes to regain my composure. I was in tough shape. I managed to at least swim properly and thankfully it is a short swim so my suffering ended mercifully quickly.
|Pack of swimmers|
Almost all triathlons it is illegal to draft on the bike. For some reason this one is draft legal. It starts off with the mandatory Swiss triathlon huge hill. Then it is totally flat. My strategy was to go hard on the hill and then find some speed demons to for a pack with. I blasted up the hill and right near the top two guys absolutely flew by me. I put it in high gear and caught them on the descent.
|Racers hanging on to my wheel|
I have never been on such an intense pace line. We started out as about 7 but these two guys would absolutely hammer in front. When someone else took a turn to pull if they didn't go fast enough these two guys yelled at them. At one point frustrated with our pack the two of time out on a big time acceleration and burned everyone in the pack but me. It was the three of us. So as not to incur their wrath on my pulls all out sprinted.
|Drafting can be miserable on a rainy day|
I was hanging on for dear life. These two guys were hauling. All I could do was stare at the ground and pedal as hard as possible. We blazed by other packs going so fast that no one could jump on with us. We got to the turn around and zipped back to Vevey. It was exhausting. Rarely does my heart rate go above 145 on the bike but it was well above 160 the entire time. We caught two other guys who were moving fast too and luckily they joined our pack. This meant we had 5 to share the work which saved me.
|The bike is always painful|
With 1 km left I was destroyed from the effort. So I eased up a bit to try for a quick recovery before the run. The run was another flat 6 km loop. I felt good on it and tried to keep my pace high. I caught my usually number of people and it seemed that it was a solid run especially considering my effort on the bike.
|Trying to keep the pace high|
I finished 6 minutes quicker than last year. Mostly thanks to the bike. My average speed was 36 km/hr which considering the big climb is fast. Again I was in the top quarter which is a good place for me. I don't expect too much more than that. The pacing was super fun. You think that it should have been easier but really it was the hardest that I have ever worked on a bike. Keeping our pace so high and then just staying up even in the draft required incredible energy.