The Short Course Triathlon Thread

Yes! we need more women kicking our ass, congrats!

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Thanks. Run wasn’t too bad. My goal in training this off season was to work on running harder and trying to suffer more. I think my run was “ok” because I paced smarter on the bike. I still have some ways to go, and hope to continue to progress as the season goes on.

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I completed the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon today. This is an iconic race on many people’s “bucket list”. It’s near Olympic distance, with a somewhat longer swim and run. Given the circumstances, my day went well. But I can’t say I raced Alcatraz so much as experienced it.

Late last year, I discovered that the race was two days before a conference I planned to attend in the area. Unfortunately, I learned too late to join the standard entry lottery. But I was able to enter by committing to raise money for the Organization for Autism Research. OAR is definitely a great cause, and I thank my friends and family for donating to help make my experience happen.

I flew in on Friday so I could check in on Saturday. This was my first non-driving race, and I rented a bike rather than shipping or traveling with my own. That saved a lot of hassle, but it certainly affected my bike leg in the race. Check in was long, but smooth. I also got to see long-lost friends Friday and Saturday evening, which already made the trip worth it. With some trepidation, I saw that the forecast for Sunday was unseasonable rain.

Sunday morning started out quite nice, with moisture on the ground but nothing falling when I left at 4:30 am to walk to the race. I got a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge from transition. The swim start for this race is very unusual. A ferry takes all 2000 racers across San Francisco Bay to near Alcatraz Island, where they jump into the Bay. The swim is then south across the Bay, while a strong current pushes you west toward the Bridge and swim exit. Unfortunately, as the ferry was nearing Alcatraz the fog rolled in. The sighting landmarks were still somewhat visible, but the organizers must have been nervous about safety. So the ferry moved closer to the mainland and to the east, so the swim was similar in length to expected, but now we would swim with the current rather than across it.

Jumping in to the 59-degree water was shocking. My wetsuit and neoprene cap kept my core nice and warm, but my hands, feet, and face really felt it. This was my first significant ocean swim, and I was a bit nervous, but after 3ish minutes my extremities adjusted and I settled in. This was also the most congested swim I’ve ever been in. With 2000 athletes launching within a few minutes, with no sorting by expected speed, I was both swimming over people and being swum over myself. Someone got my shoulder pretty good with a strong breaststroke kick. The swim itself went smooth for me, though, with easy sighting and not many waves. The congestion got even worse as we neared the swim exit, but I was excited to finish. As a metric for the strength of the current, I typically swim a little less than two minutes per hundreds yards in a race, and this swim I did 1:14 / 100 yd!

There’s a long run on dirt and asphalt paths from the swim exit to transition. You can stage a bag at swim exit with junker shoes, but I didn’t want to pack my luggage even fuller. In retrospect, they would have been worth it. I took my transition slow, and I fought the congested mount line to head out on the bike.

By this point, it was drizzling steadily and the roads were wet and full of puddles. A major crash happened right behind me, and I heard of several others. The course is quite hilly with some steep uphills and downhills, often leading into sharp turns. And again congestion was major. Riding a rim-brake bike I was unfamiliar with, I biked very conservatively. I suspect I was sometimes slower going down the steep hills than up them, and my hands were sore from braking. This really drove home that I wasn’t racing for time, but just to enjoy the experience. So I put down by far my slowest bike segment in a tri ever, averaging 13.7 mph when I typically am at least 18 mph. At least the views were great, even with the fog.

After another slow purposeful transition, I was off on the run. The run course is really quite beautiful, but again very congested. Much of the course was narrow dirt paths with two-way traffic, so passing folks took care. The segment on the beach was great, although challenging through the churned up sand. And I enjoyed passing lots of folks climbing the infamous sand ladder. There was also an awesome tunnel to run through, and we got to pass directly under the Golden Gate twice. The first few miles I tried to dodge the puddles and mud, but by the end I was just plowing through most of them.

I cruised into the finishing chute, having never really pushed into a high heart rate, but glad I had gotten the experience of Alcatraz. It’s definitely a well-produced race, and the organizers manage the huge crowd well on the tight but beautiful course. I’m glad I did it, but I feel no need to come back again. The race is expensive, and even in good conditions the congestion would preclude racing for time and really pushing oneself, at least in the middle of the pack. Working with the OAR team was great. It was super fun to see folks in the same kit on course and cheer each other on.

After my first full Ironman last year, I had resolved that this year was going to be cheaper and less intense racing. But the travel opportunity for Alcatraz was too good to pass up. So I accomplished less intense but definitely not cheaper. Next year my A race will be a nearby small-town 70.3, to get that local mountain feel again.

Swim: Activity | TrainingPeaks
T1: Activity | TrainingPeaks
Bike: Activity | TrainingPeaks
T2: Activity | TrainingPeaks
Run: Activity | TrainingPeaks

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Congrats Ryan. That’s one hell of a race to take off the bucket list.

I dunno though, the whole thing with congestion makes it a kind of a downer? I thought it was a badass race. Not a fan of crowded places, even when you’re just trying to enjoy the landscape.

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Looks like a great experience you’ve chalked up there, well done and thanks for sharing the race report :+1:

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Hard to say re: congestion. My brother-in-law did it a few years ago and didn’t find it too crowded, but he’s typically near the back of the pack. My whole attitude would likely be different if the weather hadn’t been so obnoxious. :slight_smile: (Particularly given that the day before and after were gorgeous.)

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Race report : Bouzigues Cross Triathlon (S : 700m / 15km MTB / 4.5km)

Short version : That went well, stinking hot, photos below.

Long version:

I really like cross triathlon. Especially at shorter distances it’s so much more fun to do a decent MTB loop on singletrack/doubletrack than to just go there and back on some dull road. As it’s a proper race, the bike and run courses I’ve done have never been super technical gnarr, as the organisers know that people will be going full pelt everywhere, which makes them a great option for people who want to have a go, and a really fun race.

One of our local clubs (Loupian Tri Nature) have organised cross tris and swim runs for a few years. The last two years were cancelled due to covid, and I didn’t do the year before (2019 - when the race was also the French Cross Triathlon Championships), so I was pretty happy that it ran this year, despite the numbers being quite low - 50-something people on the M and 81 on the S. Other years it’s been double that.

Bouzigues is quite a large, pretty village on the north side of the Etang de Thau, opposite the port of Séte on the Mediterrean coast. It’s really a fishing village, but dedicated almost entirely to oyster cultivation in the étang.

The structures you can just see are frames for oysters - they have a system where they raise and lower the oysters to mimic tides.

Anyway, I was signed up for the S - after doing an M at Salagou a few weeks before I didn’t feel like doing a long (for me race), especially as the extra loop on the MTB course didn’t add much interest, and the run would have been two loops. One and finish seemed much easier to handle after slogging round two at Salagou.

The M started at 9h, and the S at 9h30, with the same bike park opening time for both - this meant that after installing everything I had time to watch the M start and have a good swim warmup.

Bike:

Start beach and finish arch:

I managed to do a good warmup - starting steady and putting in some harder efforts. Despite it being a large lagoon, the water was really clear (not like the muddy étangs closer to Montpellier) , and very calm. No-one had said anything about temperature so I kept the wetsuit. I think it was around 23°C, but I need all the help I can get in the water.

The swm went very well. I’ve been working a lot on swimming more continuously, and stayed doing crawl for pretty much the whole 700m loop - only doing a bit of breaststroke around the first buoy to get my bearings on the second, and the shape of the hills behind for sighting. I’m really pleased with managing to swim so consistantly. It’s something that I think should be talked about more for relatively new swimmers like myself - the majority of training plans and coaching sessions are all interval based, which is superb for developing technique, but does not give experience in swimming continuously for longer distances in open water. There was a blog post from Swim SMooth (that seems to have vanished now) that talked about this, and gave a progression to build up, basically alternating sessions with more and more shorter intervals (50, 75, 100…) and then a session with fewer but longer intervals (200, 300, 400 … up to 1000m). This has been very useful for me. Watch time for the swim was just over 17 minutes - and it’s the first time I’ve done less than 2mins/100m in a race (1:59/100m !!).

That’s without a long run up the beach too. Here’s me stopping my watch

However, two unexpected side-effects of swimming better… It appears that I veer to the right quite a lot, so I need to work on sighting more than every 3/4 breaths and/or follow feet a bit more effectively… even though it’s much less stressful swimming to the side of the group the whole way. Also, I really felt the effects of a solid swim effort when coming into transition and starting the bike. Nothing startling, but I was very glad of the flat first couple of kms.

First corner after the mount line:

No other bike photos, but course maps are here if you’re interested

This was just before 10h, and it was already touching 30°C. I’d taken one big bottle (counting on about an hours bike) and seen that the course alternated singletrack and doubletrack all the way round… but the majority of doubletrack wasn’t quite the smooth fireroads I was expecting. I managed to eat a gel at around 7km as planned, but did not manage to drink as often as hoped - I only went through 360ml of a 610ml bottle. Despite this, I mananged to keep the effort pretty constant, and stay focused enough to dodge the bigger rocks. The course really was good,. Fast, rocky natural trails. A few of the M riders overtook on the final parts - blowing past at about twice my speed.

I suspect it’s a lot harder to control effort on the MTB - there’s a minimum speed you need to carry to keep going over rocky sections, and a lot more spikes in effort, unlike road bike tris where you can choose your power output a lot more and ride much more smoothly. This, and the heat (now up to about 35/36°C), might explain why I was a bit cooked coming into T2. I definitly took my time a bit more than usual (a few seconds anyway) and made an error in taking off without the small soft flask of water that I’d left ready. Fortunately there were two aid stations on the 4.5km loop where I drank water and threw some over my head. I don’t usually like to do this, as I hate getting salt washed into my eyes, but I was so hot that I think it evaporated pretty much instantly and I didnt get any on my face!

The first 2km were a real slog, and the short trail climb to the 2nd aid station nearly broke me. An older guy who left T2 at the same time as me asked if I wanted to pass on the climb and I politely declined… then cooled off with water and started to feel better. The second half was mostly downhill or flat and I finished feeling pretty good. Even managed to finish with a smile :

Official results show me as 47/81 - nearly in the top 50%! Gained a few places on the bike, lost a few places in T2 and on the run, but overall really happy with how it went.

Also gave me the chance to use Strava’s new offroad categories to generate 3D pics
image
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Leading up to this I’ve been on the LV Offroad Tri plan. Frequency of workouts has been good, but I’m not sure I’ve been hitting the kind of bike efforts that really match our local MTB terrain.

Time off and holidays now - there aren’t really any more races that inspire me until next summer, so I’ll do some gravel, mix it up with some outdoor TrainNow workouts, run and swim a bit and in a few weeks put a training plan back into place. I feel like I should at least maintain my swim frequency, and sometime before next spring fit in a couple of dedicated swim and run blocks.

Oh, nearly forgot - the big advantage of doing short course races in fiushing villages is being able to make the most of the lunch opportunities (Alas no oyster photo, but they were excellent too!)

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Thanks for sharing! Nice to see you had an enjoyable day out there. Were you using plan builder? Since i think i remember there being an off road tri option in there but i don’t see one listed in the training plans.

I really don’t like plan builder though, as it didn’t really want to work with my weekly and vacation schedule.

Looks like you had a lot of fun, great write up!

Thanks both, don’t be fooled by the finish line smile… I certainly didn’t look like that at the start of the run!

@Bioteknik , yes using Plan Builder. The Low Volume “Offroad Triathlon” plan gives two rides, two runs, two swims per week (with an occasional extra run as brick session). I shift everything two days back to have Sat/Sun mostly free, and managed to be pretty consistent for doing workouts, with some extra rides. I doubled up quite a few days commuting when I did a TR outside workout on the way to work, then loaded up a Recovery/Endurance ride to keep it calm on the way home.
I folllowed the run workouts, but not the swim ones (ramping up distance as described above on Mondays, and swimming with a local club session on Thursdays).

Hmm - just seen that everyone on Strava (including me) recorded 900m for the 700m swim course… even more pleased with the swim now!

I just finished the Bozeman Triathlon, Olympic distance. It’s my first triathlon ever and my B event prior to Ironman 70.3 Arizona in October. It went better than expected, I finished 4th in my age group and 23rd overall:

Here’s my brief race report:

The race took place at Glen Lake Rotary Park in Bozeman, which includes a gravel pit turned into a pond. The weather was pretty overcast, with storms on the forecast in the afternoon; temperature was about 55°F, and water 62°F according to the race director. Prior to this I had only done a handful of open water swims (albeit in colder water, so the water temperature was actually pleasant), but I hadn’t done the full Olympic distance continuously, so I went in not feeling super confident that I could actually finish. The swim consisted of two laps with a short run on the beach to get back to the start for the second lap. During warmup I noticed that the water was so murky, as soon as I got waist deep I could no longer see my feet, which I think actually helped me; I didn’t feel any anxiety being in open water. I took on a Maurten caf gel during the race briefing, 15 minutes before the start.

I seeded myself in the slowest group since I didn’t have a good idea of what my pace would be; I was in no rush and just walked into the water after everyone else got in. However, once I started swimming I quickly caught up with the rest of the group and got to experience that old Clif Bar commercial first hand. After that, I overtook a few folks and just tried to get out of the way as much as I could. About halfway through the first lap, I started feeling some muscle burn in my arms and shoulders and I started to worry I may not have it in me to do two laps. Thankfully, after a while I settled into a rhythm; I tried to focus just on the next buoy, and then it was smooth sailing from there. I ended up with a finish time of 39:46 and 1,633 m in total (including the walk on the beach between laps), for a pace of 2:26/100m. Looking at the GPS track, I think I did a decent job of sighting, I only went slightly off-track once.

I had very little practice with transitions, so I took my time in T1 to make sure I didn’t forget anything, plus I felt very wobbly after the swim (sidenote: that happens to me after every open water swim, does that ever go away?). I took on a regular Maurten gel before leaving, ended up taking 6:05 there. Biggest lesson: I’m never wearing socks again. The time it took me to put them on wet feet felt eternal.

The bike route went through some of Bozeman’s backroads, along farms and very fancy houses. Beautiful ride, with two laps, rolling hills through Montana grasslands, one slightly steep ascent, and very little wind. Overall it was pretty uneventful; I felt pretty strong the entire way. I think I could have gone a little harder; I was shooting for around 0.85 IF, ended up at 0.79, and finished in 1:16:39. Nutrition was a bottle of Gatorade endurance, although I didn’t finish it. Honestly, I loved the bike leg, I wish it would have gone on longer.

T2 was faster, 2:37, but still took my time and didn’t rush it. Racked the bike, switched shoes, got my belt on, took on a regular Maurten gel with some water, and left.

I did the run at a comfortable pace; the Stryd app recommended I did it at 244 W, but I don’t think it takes into account the swim and the bike, plus I didn’t want to risk an injury, so I aimed for no more than 230 W (which is what it recommends for half-marathon pace), and ended up at 220 W average power. I’m a little annoyed the route was slightly short of 10K, at that pace (5:42/km) it would have probably been a PR for me. I had one more Maurten caf gel with some water at the aid station before starting the second lap. In any case, finished in 53:02, for a total time of 2:58:09. Almost as soon as I picked up my things from transition, the thunderstorm that was forecast started rolling through, so I left soon after.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the results, especially for my first race, and more importantly, I loved every minute of it. Can’t wait to do this again in October, I’m officially hooked.

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Nice work and great report! Good luck for your A.

Do you use earplugs when you swim? I have found that cold (i.e., < or = 60ish) water in my ear drives the instability, so I use Mack’s silicone earplugs. They seal well and are easy to put on under a swim cap; just don’t insert them into the ear canal.

I haven’t gotten the wobbles since I made that change.

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:partying_face:

Thanks for the tip, I’ll give them a try this week.

I’ve not been overly worried about feeling wobbly after the swim as I pretty much expect it. Sometimes its worse, like if the sea is really rough, sometimes it’s hardly noticeable like in a short pool swim. I always jog in T1 so I’m a lot slower than people coming out of the water with me I suppose.

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Great race! Sounds like a lot of fun and good luck in October!

There’s a trick to putting on socks in T1 (or T2 for that matter). If you turn them almost completely inside out except for the last ~2 inches of the toes, you can slip the toes in easily and then roll the the socks up your foot. That way the sock isn’t sliding against wet skin and it generally hits where it needs to go the first time. It’s also how I put on arm sleeves (inside out and then roll up the arm).

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This past weekend was my first race of the season and an “Aish” race. I only use “TrainNow” and hadn’t planned a full taper. However, life forced a 2-week taper on me, so there you go, it’s officially an A race.

I did this race three years ago and ran across the finish line with my 3-year-old son. After we finished, he looked at me and said, “dad, did you win?” I answered that triathlons weren’t all about winning and that dad was out there to have fun and get a good workout, but his question stuck with me. I had done a few tris in the past, but I had never really “raced,” and I decided I wanted to finish faster than mid-AG at 1:21:45. Fast forward through three years of reasonably consistent training, two of which were with TR and two COVID cancellations of this race, and I was excited to see my progression from 2019.

Swim (0.25 mi) + T1: I was aiming for around 7 minutes after a 7:45 swim in 2019 and ended at 7:17. My exit from the water was slow, so I lost some time, but I had a fast T1 (1:36). I felt good about my position in the AG getting out on the bike.

Bike (12.3 mi): in 2019, I biked the course in 40:35 without a power meter. I am currently 3.6 watts/ kg (FTP 262) and was aiming for an intensity factor of ~0.95. NP on the day was 241, so the actual IF was 0.92 with a final time of 33:23. I did upgrade my bike since the last race, so it is not exactly apples to apples to 2019, but it is still an endurance bike. I think that power and positional (+ kit) changes account for most of the time gains.

Drilling into my power data, I did spend ~25% of my time above my threshold (14% 269-306 watts; 11% > 307 watts). It’s a rolling course (~640 ft ascent), and I started in wave #6, so there were a lot of VO2 and anaerobic punches along the way. If I can find my VI in Garmin connect, I will add it.

T2: T2 was a bit of a cluster for me. I didn’t rack my bike correctly but managed to grab it before hitting the ground. Then, I had trouble getting my shoes on cleanly. I got the tongue caught and had to put my right shoe on twice. The final time in T2 was 2:06. I felt like I threw 30-40 seconds down the drain fumbling around. I am unsure if I will ever be near 1 minute because I like to run in socks, but my T2 should be at least as fast as T1…

Run (3.4 mi): I had trouble finding my legs on the run. During training, I had been feeling good on 1.5-2 mile brick repeat runs at <6:50 / mile pace. My goal was <23:00, but I landed at 24:25 (7:15 / mile). Although it was a hot day, run splits were similar to past years, so I don’t think it was the heat. My best guess is that all the little punches on the bike took their toll. My brick workouts were usually trainer rides at SS or threshold with no VO2, so my heavy legs make sense in that context. Does this seem right like the right read to you all?

Overall: 1:08:30, 31/ 613 overall, 9/66 in my AG. There was no elite category this year, so there were some real hitters in the eight guys ahead of me. My goal coming in was <1:09:00, with a stretch target of <1:06:00.

Despite the poor road surface, the race was well run with a great atmosphere; the post-race grilled cheese truck was [chef’s kiss].

Positives:
- 13+ min faster than 2019; feels like a solid improvement over three years
- I finished in my target range the for time
- Swim and T1 felt good; my cleanest T1 ever
- It was a solid bike split, near the IF target
- I didn’t let my HR change the race plan; it was > 170 for most of the race, and that didn’t get in my head
- I feel like I can see a path to <1:06:00
- I felt like I pushed myself on the day and had a good time

Takeaways and questions for this crew:
- I need to work on applying consistent power even on rolling hills terrain. I think there was a TR podcast about this at some point. I will go back into the archive. Any other advice here?
- If I want to train for this race, should I incorporate over-unders, either threshold or VO2, for the bike segments in my brick workouts? Or should I just focus on solving power consistency.
- I should try to shorten bike to run transitions in brick training; I need to treat these more like race day sims
- Sockless runs… I did this once and ended up with blisters that set my run training back.

Good luck to everybody for the rest of the season.

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Great job, well raced and a huge improvement!
A consistent power output would be preferable to training for big fluctuations IMO. Part of that is just experience and using a PM on your race bike can definetly help if that’s available for you, but a few other little things;

  • Ride the bike course ahead of time, so you can anticipate any corners, false flats that might tempt you into going a bit too hard, and downhills where you might be able to pick up some time by holding your power where others might let theirs drop. A short 5-10 min brick run after can give you an idea of if your effort is sustainable and/or what to expect.
  • If you have any similar terrain near you it’s worth practising on that for your more race-specific sessions, particularly if you’re more uaed to doing those indoors.
  • Being comfortable at a wide range of cadences can also help, if you aren’t already.
  • Doesn’t need to be every brick, but occasionally doing them off harder sessions can help prepare you for those races where your run legs aren’t 100% (for whatever reason :yum:)
  • Last but not least, don’t let people around you dictate your effort- in any race there’s usually a bunch of people surging all over the place, and trying to follow that won’t do you any favours.
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If A race then not worried about training impact traight afterwards anyway…and if only 5k ish run (said 23-24 mins then unlikely blisters going to be big issue (for longer distances then sure)

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650’ over 12 miles is a pretty hilly course for triathlon. There is some skill to riding rollers. Generally speaking, the fastest way to the finish line is going above target uphill when speeds are slow, continuing to pedal over the top and into the downhill and then reducing power when speeds are high. Only once you’re up to 35+ mph should you consider tucking and coasting. Increase your power on when it turns into potential energy, not rolling resistance. On hilly courses, you need to throw the 1.05 VI target out the window, it’s just not possible. Also if you’re targeting 0.95 IF, you can’t help but spend significant time above threshold.

As far as training, over-unders aren’t going to hurt. At the same time, focusing on increasing threshold and time at threshold always help.

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