Greater Cleveland “Triathlon” 2008

Sunday was the Greater Cleveland Triathlon. The race was on my list for the summer, but my training schedule hasn’t been strong (exercising: yes; training: um…), so I hadn’t signed up. But, as racing is more fun than not racing, I stopped by Headlands Beach Saturday to sign my waivers, join USAT for one day and admire the whitecaps on Lake Erie.

At six o’clock Sunday morning I arrived at the race and admired the same waves on the same lake. It didn’t take long for the race organizer to note that the local Coast Guard couldn’t find a calm place to park to oversee the swimmers, so the Tri was rearranged into a Dualthlon, with a 1+ mile (foot) sprint to the bike racks replacing the swim leg. Running a mile certainly isn’t as tiring as swimming, but it does use a remarkably similar muscle set as the biking and, well, running portions.

I entered the Olympic-distance race. (Had I known that the swim would be cancelled, I would have tried the half-iron bike+run; please don’t tell any of the real triathletes that I’m swim-limited.) The start times were all pushed back a bit to account for reorganization; the half-distance (twice the Oly) started at 7:30; we at 8:00 or so. I kept a good pace for the opening run, middle-of-the-pack -ish at 8:13 (m:ss). My transition to the bike was fair, at 1:21. I managed to keep a clear head and get my helmet and sunglasses on, switch shoes and jog out of transition. I was near the back of transition (furthest from the bike entrance/exit), but I think if there’s a separate split for running on cleats while pushing a bicycle, I would have been in the top 3. A la Gazelle.

The bike course had some medium-frequency undulations, but overall was 2/3 uphill followed by 1/3 downhill, with a couple of long, drawn-out bumps in the middle. I did more passing than being passed, but for the most part played tag with the same few riders throughout. There were a number of right-angle turns, guarded by the local PD and littered with cones, that I executed well, winning several positions by exiting them quickly (credit: my high-speed commute route through Cleveland Heights). I was also surprised how much passing I did on the downhill sections, considering that I ride road bars, but I did make an effort to push on the downhills to keep momentum through the rolling sections. The strategy was successful in getting to an occupied train track for a 3-minute stretch break while the gravel express rolled by. (The stop time was noted by race officials, who subtracted it at the end. Classy.) I thought it would be bright to change to a lower gear while stopped, and was still turning the crank with my hand trying to get it to shift when the train cleared. Oops.

The end of the bike was a big, clumpy mess. The ride back up route 44 to the beach is downhill and smooth, but all three race routes converged, and there wasn’t enough room to ride quickly or keep four bike-lengths (the no-drafting distance rule). Probably out of fear of drafting, slow riders weren’t pulling back right after passing, nor riding quickly enough to pass effectively. I spent some time outside the cones, in the car-traffic lane, and passed gobs of folks (the slow end of the sprint race, I’ll bet). 1:14:28 for 23 miles.

For the first time, I successfully removed my feet from my shoes while coasting and semi-elegantly hopped off my bike for the run into transition. Yet, somehow, I spent 2:12 in T2. Did I stop to read the paper?

The run went as expected. The first mile was painful, and interrupted briefly by a bathroom break (beginning of the run course next to the big public park restrooms? Brilliant!). I walked through the first water stop for a chug of classic lemon-lime, but ran the rest, taking advantage in several cases of very steady runners moving just a bit too fast for my comfort. As I ran, my comfort increased, and I passed most of them. By mile 4 I was ready to run and upped the pace a bit (I guessed at the time, from 8:30 to about 7:50) and ran in moderate exhaustion through the end. I attacked the downhills well (the last a little too aggressively, which is why my foot is up today in hamstring-extension mode). I actually let up a bit at the end to let a woman who’d unknowingly helped pace me through the end of the run finish ahead; but, as it turned it didn’t matter in the standings, since my train-waiting time would be subtracted. I’ll keep that in mind next time: always beat women. Upon looking at the results, I thought I had actually beaten the women, but I hadn’t noticed the top 3 finishers listed separately, each of whom handily smoked me. Run: 10k at 51:12, an 8:14/mi pace.

Thus ends a long race report for a small race.
2:17:26; Placed 41/109 overall and 3/6 in my age group.

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