Tuesday, May 3, 2011

St. Anthony's Triathlon Race Report

St. Anthony's Triathlon
St. Petersburg, FL
May 1st, 2011
1000m swim, 40K bike, 10K run

For those of you who aren't interested in reading a novel describing the race, here are the important stats:
Swim:  15:43 (1:35/100m)
T1: 5:00
Bike:  1:11:17 (20.9 mph)
T2:  1:49
Run:  45:11 (7:17 pace)
Total:  2:19:00

Placement:  6/104 (W25-29)
                  50/995 (Overall)

I initially signed up for this race more than 6 months ago.  I always hear so much about it each year, but haven't been able to take the time away from school to race here in the past.  Since I'm graduating from medical school in less than 48 hours, however, I had nothing but time on my hands to travel and race this year.  My trip to St. Pete started Friday with the 7+ hour drive from Atlanta with my coach.  It was nice to share the long drive with someone else and the time passed fairly quickly between talking, eating, and multiple potty breaks (evidence that we were very well hydrated and prepared for the Florida heat!).  We arrived in perfect time to check in, pick up race packets, and wander thru the race expo.  The expo is definitely my favorite part of these larger races.  In addition to all the great tri gear, nutrition products, and clothes for sale, there's always tons of great swag.  What can I say, I'm a very poor medical student (guess I can only say the student part for 40 more hours!!) and am easily excited by free t-shirts, socks, and nutrition!  Then we made our way to dinner, where I enjoyed a tasty Ahi Tuna Sandwich and steamed veggies.  And finally, enjoyed the perfect Florida sunset along the water with a delicious cup of Salted Caramel Gelato - it was amazing!
Please note how calm and peaceful the water is.  Race morning was a totally different story!
Saturday morning started with the usual pre-race short and easy swim/bike/run.  As we made our way to the beach for the swim, the calmness of the water the  night before was a long-lost memory.  This was my first race with an ocean swim, and needless to say, this was the exact nightmare I'd been experiencing since registering.  I'd guess seas were close to 2 feet.  I hate going out on the boat with rough seas, nonetheless having to swim in them.  Very few people were in the water and the majority stood on the beach sharing their concerns and potential that the swim would be cancelled come race morning.  After much thought and consideration to turning around and bailing on the practice swim, I decided to suck it up and conquer my fear.  The result - it really wasn't even close to as bad as I expected!  Sure,  I swallowed a lot of salt water, felt a little nauseous, and was slowed down by the waves, but I survived the 10 minute swim.  SUCCESS!!  At least now I knew that if I faced similar conditions on race morning, I wouldn't die!  The rest of Saturday was spent enjoying downtown St. Pete - the farmer's market, waterfront, race expo, and pool - and then checking my bike.  Saturday night's dinner was lots of bread with an amazing rosemary butter and pistachio-crusted salmon over a spinach salad.

Race morning came bright and early with a 4AM wake up call.  Breakfast was my usual - two pieces of cinnamon chip toast smothered in peanut butter and topped with sliced banana.  Our hotel was within walking distance of the race site, but we spared our legs and made the short drive to transition.  As we walked towards transition I was immediately struck by the howling winds.  After my heart rate spiked and my stomach did a little flip-flop, I was relieved when the race director announced the swim had been moved to a more sheltered area and shortened to 1000 meters due to the rough seas.  Body marking and transition set-up took little time and then I spent 45 minutes jamming to my ipod, focusing on my race plan, and trying to stay warm.  The walk to the new swim start proved to be longer than I expected - just over a half mile.  One complaint about this particular race is that the swim start times are spread over 2.5 hours to accommodate the 4000 participants.  Fortunately, I was lucky and started at 7:08am, just 18 minutes after the pros.
Race morning transition with 4000 of my closest friends.
The swim started with a 200 yard run from the beach to the water.  Elbows were flying and the girls all took off in a sprint.  Once we hit the water there was a short swim to the first turn buoy and it was every bit of a washing machine for those first 200 meters.  Once we made the turn I settled into a rhythm, found some open water, and tried to focus on maintaining my stroke and minimizing the amount of salt-water swallowing.  This was the first swim I'd done without my Garmin so I had no idea of my finishing time.

T1 was long and ugly - as you may have guessed by my time of 5 minutes.  After exiting the water we made a half-mile run on cement sidewalks  back to our bikes.  In my rush to get out of transition and onto my bike, I made the stupid mistake of running halfway out of transition before realized I still had my swim speed suit on.  After fixing that little problem, I was on my bike and away.

I've struggled with a hamstring/knee injury for the past 2 weeks and my bike and run training has been minimal. I was feeling pretty good in the days leading up to the race, but wasn't sure how it would respond to race pace efforts.  After making my way over the perilous cobblestone path that is the first 1/4 mile of the bike, I settled into aero and focused on maintaining a consistently hard effort and taking my nutrition at regular intervals.  The course is flat and fast with lots of turns.  I could have been more aggressive in the turns and seen a faster bike split, but I opted for the conservative approach in favor of staying upright.  My HR averaged 165 (low zone 4) for the 40k and I was happy with the split - my fastest average (21mph per Garmin) to date.

T2 was uneventful and I was quickly on my way out onto the run.

The sun was coming out and the course was heating up quickly.  The first mile of the run I focused on getting into a rhythm and shaking out the heaviness of the legs.  I took two cups of water each mile - one over the head and one to drink, and took a Gu at mile 3.  Miles 2 and 3 were the toughest both mentally and physically.  I was so jealous of everyone who was running the opposite direction and already passing mile 4.  My Sport Factory teammates were looking strong out there and that motivated me to keep pushing hard.  After holding my own for the majority of the run, a girl in my age group passed me with less than 1/2 mile to go.  She was flying and I didn't have anything left to respond.  Definitely frustrating to drop a position at the very end, but I felt like I gave it everything I had and was happy with the effort.  7:17 pace with HR average 169 (zone 4).

Typical post-race activities commenced - water, cool-down, massage, packing up, making the long walk back to the hotel in the heat, shower, and finally, enjoying some food.  I hung around for the award ceremony since they were recognizing placements 10 deep in each age group.  I didn't realize the age group athletes in the top 10 qualified for HyVee in September, so that came as a surprise.  At the end of the day I was mostly happy with my race. As one of my coaches would say, however, I definitely have several areas of opportunity to work on if I want to step it up and be more competitive in these strong and deep fields.

Pros - survived the swim and actually had a respectable time, consistent effort on the bike from start to finish
Cons - transitions (this is a trend - must fix this!), shy of the 7min/mi run pace that I had planned

Big thanks to Coaches Matt and Jennifer at The Sport Factory for continuing to push me to become a better athlete, Curtis at Cannon Cyclery for keeping my bike in race shape, and all our great sponsors (Mix1, Roswell Bikes).  And huge congrats to all of the Sport Factory athletes who had some amazing races this weekend!

Wow, that really did turn into a novel.  If you're still reading this - CONGRATS! - you have finally reached the end.


  1. Good job Crystal! Congrats on your graduation as well.

  2. x2 what Brett said! You've been juggling a lot.

    A very solid race at the beginning of the season. Keep up the good work!