[caption id="attachment_2181" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Siphiwe just before start of the Men's Elite Race at ITU San Diego"][/caption]
Greetings EFRT teammates and blog readers,
I am writing this race report while on the Prime Inc truck returning from the ITU San Diego Triathlon. We just made it to Denver and will be unloading bikes at the TriBella Multisport shop.
This was no ordinary race experience for me. I only had five days since returning from Ironman South Africa and the US Masters Swimming 2012 Spring Nationals (a week later) before my co-driver Mike picked me up near my home in Muncie, IN and we headed for Revolution Cycles in Crystal City, VA to pick up our first load of bicycles for the USAT San Diego or Bust tour. This was the first time so many bikes had been transported to a race fully assembled and race-ready. It was also the first time I had driven a truck in four months, and I feared I was a little rusty. With so many people depending on this, I felt a lot of pressure. Fortunately, Mike was up to the challenge and getting back on the truck was just like getting back on a bicycle! When we reached Revolution Cycles, we met up with Zane Schweer of Jack Kane Custom Racing Bikes. I chose Zane to be the "bike specialist" in charge of all things related to loading and unloading the bikes. I couldn't have made a better choice. The three of us became a well-oiled machine handling all the challenges of loading and transporting these bikes to San Diego. We loaded 51 bikes at Revolution Cycles, and 28 bikes at TriBella Multisport in Denver. Mike drove the night shifts, while a drove the day shifts and managed to squeak in some training, too.
[caption id="attachment_2183" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Zane loading bikes Its like a puzzle....and hard work"][/caption]
Once in San Diego, I felt all the excitement surrounding the Elite race that served as the Olympic qualifier for both the men and women. I am a big ITU fan and to arrive early and participate in all the setting up and preparations was motivating. Tim Yount of USAT met us and we parked the truck. USAT arranged for us to stay at the race hotel, the Bahia Resort, and we checked in. Unfortunately, our keys didn't work. Then, once we finally got in, the room only had one bed! Even though the three of us had lived together on the road for four days, we weren't that close. We got the hotel to get us a suite on the Presidential floor, which had a great view of the bay, a kitchen, and three beds! The catch? Room #666! Seriously!
On Thursday and Friday we spent all day unloading and reloading bikes. I did manage to make my way to the VIP tent to see the Women's swim and their finish. By then I had met up with Danny and Eric and EFRT teammate Diane Camet and we shot some funny EFRT outtakes. . . Later that night I checked in my bike.
[caption id="attachment_2185" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Siphiwe and Zane unloading bikes"][/caption]
My wave was the last and didn't start until 9:05 am. And since the transition area was only 50 yds from my hotel room, I was able to sleep in and have a relaxed morning. I ate a packet of oatmeal and some trailmix at about 6:30 am and drank some roobois tea. At around 7:15 am I went for a quick swim in the hotel pool, then went to set up transition at 8:00 am. I continue to have a problem with water retention prior to the race. Since I was peeing every 5 minutes, I took some salt stick capsules. By race start I was ok.
The swim was a 750 meter out-and back rectangle with a beach run start. From watching the earlier waves, I learned that instead of entering the water straight ahead, it was best to make a hard left and run up the beach about 15 meters to get a better "line". Those athletes that did this had a good 15 to 20 meters on those who didn't by the time they rounded the first buoy. So I chose to do this. Once again I lined up in the very front of my wave, and most of the guys with me also chose to make the hard left. I was about the fourth or fifth in my wave to hit the water. Since it was a sprint race and only 750 meters, I had to swim pretty hard, but I made a tactical decision not to take the lead. Instead, I drafted off the first three guys who were right in front of me. I did this around the first and second buoys. By this time, we had caught the wave ahead of us and it got very crowded and we were on our own. When I exited the water I figured I was about fourth in my wave. In fact, I had swum a quick 8:52. 2nd in my age group, and 15th fastest swim overall.
I continue to struggle with the first transition. running up the beach I was spent! When I got to my bike, I was out of breath and was getting light-headed. This hapened several times last season. I had to sit down to take off my wetsuit, figuring that would help me recover. It was a slow process, and I put on socks, too! I must get a pair of cycling shoes that I can wear barefoot if I am going to wint the USAT Age Group National Spring Championships. Shoes, helmet and glasses on, I "trotted" out of transistion. It was a long run out and I still had not recovered yet. An abysmal 2:51 T1!
[caption id="attachment_2186" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Siphiwe with Jack Kane Custom Racing Bicycle"][/caption]
Though I helped transport 81 bicycles to the race, ironically I couldn't bring my own bike! Fortunately, Zane let me race on his custom Jack Kane tri-bike, a very light, very fast bicycle with deep set wheels. Zane made a few adjustments to the seat and aerobars and I was good to go!
I rode the bike course on Friday and discovered the rough road conditions as well as the infamous "hill" everyone was talking about - an 800 ft climb over 2 miles with an 18% grade.
The bike is my weakest leg, but the one I enjoy most. Once out of transition, I found my groove and felt good. I was passing a lot of people and only a few people passed me in the first miles before the hill. Once we reached the hill, I, like all the rest, shifted to the lowest gear, and began my slog uphill. Only, I wasn't slogging. I'm pretty muscular and strong yet lightweight (140 lbs), and with this super light Jack Kane bicycle, I was a hill monster. I was passing heaps of people now. I managed 11.1 mph on the first mile uphill and 9.7 on the second mile uphill. Zane said that was pretty good for an 18% grade. The descent was the longest and fastest I have ever done, and I reached a max speed of 41.2 mph! And, I didn't brake! I finished the 17 mile bike in 53:39, 15th in my age group and 130th overall.
I came out of my shoes and then dismounted entering T2. I already had my race belt on so all I had to do was run through the long transition, rack the bike, remove helmet and glasses, slip on shoes, and go. Which I did. I was out of T2 in 1:18, 2nd fastest in my age group and 13th fastest overall.
My goal was to run a 6:00 mile pace. I was happy to have some warm weather to run in and a flat course. I ran the first mile in 6:13. Not bad, but I knew I didn't have much in the tank post Ironman, post Swimming Nationals, post driving cross country and not recovering/training properly. My second mile was 6:20. At this point in the run, I was leap-frogging with Sarah Schmidt whose bike I transported from Denver. Everytime I would catch her, she would speed up. Finally I passed her and thought I had dropped her, but no! Somehow whe caught and passed me. This went on for the second and third mile. The third mile I ran in 6:28. A tough competitor, Sarah took off towards the finish and crossed the line before me, but I had a faster run split :) With about a mile left, I also managed to catch up to teammate Diane, who started in the wave before me. She was having a great race (she beat me on the bike!) and I shouted out to her as I passed her on the run. Diane managed to finish 5th in her age group.
I finished the 13.4 mile run in 21:50, averaging 6:20 per mile. That was faster than any of my races last year, so I was satisfied. I had the 4th fastest run in my age group and 27th fastest run overall.
My final time of 1:28:28 was 8th fastest in the M40-44 age group and tied for 64th fastest overall. I was happy with this.
After the race I went to the trailer to help load bikes and then a few hours later I went back to the VIP tent and watched the entire Men's Elite race. The crowd in San Diego was weak compared to ITU crowds around the world, but I was able to get up close to the athletes. I got to talk with Jonathan Brownlee and Matt Chrabot. I really thought it was going to be Matt's race, but it didn't work out for him. It was a great race however, and a thrill to see Olympians.
[caption id="attachment_2188" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="The bikes unloaded and racked"][/caption]