Friday, October 18, 2013

Cedar Beach Triathlon - Oh, Mother Nature!

A great end to the comeback season. Now some rest, relaxation and other activities during off-season...
Good old mother nature can sure make events more difficult and give event directors fits.
Those events that deal well and play the hand dealt are few. The Cedar Beach Triathlon crew and volunteers did an exceptional job dealing with some rough water and high winds on Saturday.
I was impressed with the event the Competitive Events Group put on in flawless conditions with the Deep Pond Triathlon and now it is good to see they can handle less then perfect conditions.

Sign-up/Price:  Easy sign-up. Fair price for a professionally run triathlon.
Pre-Event Communication:  Very good email communication from the event group with a detailed event guide delivered via email the week of the event. The only comment I have is the lack of clarity on if packet pick up would be available the morning of the race for participants unable to make it to one of the early times/locations. The race group responded quickly to my question when I sent them a note via Facebook on the subject.
Packet Pick-Up:  As mentioned above, it was unclear about race morning pick up, but with that cleared up the process was simple and straight forward at the event site on race morning.
Goodie Bag:  Above average, much the same as the prior event. Nice fabric 'backpack' bag. Very nice long-sleeve t-shirt. Assorted inserts.
Venue:  Nice. Fairly easy to find, good parking and gorgeous.
Course:  Nice course. With the swim shortened due to current and surf that was a bummer. Pretty, hilly and somewhat technical two loop bike course. Run was two loops as well and mostly along a path and road with less views, flat and fast.
Course Markings & Volunteers:  Fair. The weather conditions presented a real challenge for any markings on the swim. No clear start line, many waves were well down beach before horn sounded and tough communication organization from race director at start with the howling wind. They could have used a few more staff/volunteers to corral participants and create a more organized/fair start line. A good presence of lifeguards and water safety personnel. Transition 'in's & out's' were a little off with all bike & run entrances/exits on one side. Bike course markings pretty good, (could have been a few more signs in high speed/technical areas) and a good number of volunteers/police stationed in good places. I would have liked to see volunteers more vocal and assertive at intersections to feel safer when going through fast/technical intersections. The run course had good markings with two aid stations and easy to see mile markers. Good finish area and PA announcer, lacking a clock (maybe due to wind).
Finisher Medals: Great quality. Better than most.

Post Race Food:  Much better than the Deep Pond Triathlons. A well done catered affair from a local restaurant, very good food and plenty of options.
Medical:  I saw a number of medical volunteers and the med tent. Since I had no need for it I assume it was adequate.
Race Photos: The organizer used the same group as the Deep Pond event and again the results are poor at best. I'm all for purchasing my event photos to support the photographers and event if they are professional, just as I did for the Tri One On event. I would hope next year the Competitive Events Group would contract a better event photo provider.

Post- Event Communication: An email of thanks four days after the event, but no offer or incentive to drive me to register for future events.
It is nice to get a thanks/congratulations email in the days after an event. It is also a good marketing tool to promote your other events and offer an incentive to sign up for next year. Does not impact my willingness to the event again, but misses the opportunity to capture registration while people are still in the 'after glow' of this year's event.

OVERALL: I give this a race an excellent mark and I look forward to doing it again when mother nature cooperates.

Coming off the Deep Pond Triathlon and needing to shut down my running to let my foot recover and heal, I was unsure how long I would be out and unable to maintain running fitness. I would have no problem keeping up some pool sessions and getting miles in on the bike, but wanting redemption on the run, I knew I might have to wait until 2014.

I took a complete month off from running and started to feel my foot getting better. On my first run, in September, I was so happy to have little pain and/or post-run effects, but certainly felt the loss of run fitness after a complete month away.

I had targeted the Cedar Beach Triathlon as a potential final race of 2013 if I could go in with some decent run fitness. I had a month to get some of it back and I charted a course to make it happen barring any recurrence of tendonitis.

All was good leading into the race, I was about 90% on my run fitness and achilles health as little signs of tendonitis were creeping in as I attempted some speed work. The concern the week of the race now was the weather and the potential of a cold, wet and windy day.

Race day came with little rain but some serious wind. Driving to the race site we hit a huge downpour but luckily that seemed to be moving away from where we were headed. Arriving at the race site the wind was whipping and the water in Long Island Sound was rough.

Checked in and gear in transition we retreated to the car for some respite from the howling wind and cool air. From the looks of things, I was anticipating the swim being cancelled and this turning into a duathlon, but as race time approached the announcement was made that the swim would happen on a shorter course due to the surf and strong current.

I got ready and headed down the beach with the rest of the participants, I quickly jumped in the water for a few strokes to 'warm up' but proved useless other than proving that this would be one challenging swim.

The race director did the best he could to corral people and waves to get them started, but the wind and lack of official starting line markers created some drift and odd starting positions.

When our wave, the 3rd wave, was called up I was focused on just trying to get out through the crashing surf waves and then attempting to ride them and the current down shore to the exit. The horn sounded and it seemed as though half the pack was already swimming half way down the shore. I tried to find some sort of stroke or way to battle the heavy surf and odd angle of the current trying to push everyone on shore. I felt like I was in a very dirty, salty washing machine being tossed around, pulled in one direction while trying to sight, swim and navigate to a point down the beach. It was a bit like a boxing match with the ocean. All I remember telling myself was 'power through, just get past this!'

Finally exiting the water, I had swallowed my fair share of salt water and completely disoriented, I could not feel my numb feet. A quick run to transition into the stiff wind while stripping my wetsuit. A solid transition and quickly out on to the bike.

Poor anticipation of what the cold water would do to my feet, I had my shoes already clipped into my pedals, I could not get the feel to slide my feet in easily with the numbness. After struggling with reaching down and getting my feet secured into the shoes I was set to pedal hard in pursuit of whomever exited the water before me. I felt something wrong with my bike and a rubbing sound was coming from my front wheel. I looked down to see my brake had shifted to one side and had a pad rubbing the rim. I reached down to disengage the brake only to find it was already let all the way out. Quick slow down and dismount, adjust the brake back to center and, now, I was off.

This bike course was hillier than I expected and somewhat technical. I tried to get my legs warmed up and burn out the stiffness that came with a cold swim and cold wind. I settled in and just rode hard. I was happy to have a bottle on board to wash out the salt water from my mouth but could not stem the discharge from my nose.  I was picking people off unconcerned with my position among the age markings on calves, I just wanted to make as much headway as possible. Toward the end of the bike I was seeing less and less people and passed a guy from my wave with the age 51 on his calf, wow, nice! I hope I'm that fit and fast at 51. Unfortunately, after I passed him, he thought it might be cool to sit on my wheel and draft...oh, that is how you got up the course so far...Luckily, the course had some technical sections in the final miles and I took the opportunity and risks to hammer away from my trailer.

Fast dismount into transition and ready to test the run legs. I forgot to loosen the speed laces on my racing flats after last race and found shoving my foot into them to be tricky. Not too much time lost I was off on the run.

I started out at a good clip and hit the first mile marker feeling some fatigue, but mostly feeling the salt water and fluids sloshing around in my stomach. I said to myself  'only two more miles of hard effort and its over'. I felt like I was running hard, not as fast as I've gone in the past but doing a good job of getting all I could out of my body.

I hammered to the finish line and got a face full of the finishing tape (see above). Because of the odd swim start, looped course and various waves I had no idea of my finishing position overall and within my age group, but by the lack of finishers hanging around the finish area I seemed to have done pretty well.
I got changed, wait for my friend to finish and got a look at the results sheet when first posted.

My first reaction was; Wow, the youngsters were blazing today.

Happy with my position and age group win, happier that I had a decent run, I head into the off season looking forward to getting back to 100% health and optimistic for 2014 race planning.


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