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UCD Sprint Race Report 2010 by Cary Craig

Sunday I raced my first multisport event for the 2010 season. An intercollegiate sprint triathlon hosted by UC Davis that is open to non-collegiate athletes. It was a ~750 yard pool swim, 18 mile bike and 4 mile run. It is always a very fun, kind of wild (made wilder by weather this year) event.


Swim course was around the perimeter of a 50 meter pool with the turns at each corner marked with buoys a la open water events. Bike course wound through campus for the first mile then headed out into flat, open farmland before winding back through campus the final mile. Run was a twisty out and back through campus and its arboretum with a handful of short, steep drops and rises tossed in for grins.

Start waves were divided into collegiate and open with collegiate athletes going first since it was actually a collegiate competition.  Then they started 24 and under guys, 24 and under women (yup, it was a young crowd at this race) then 25+ guys and last (but not least!) 25 and up women.  Since each wave had to finish the swim before the next wave could start there was a 17 minute cutoff for the swim with no penalty, ie. when the horn sounded at 17 minutes athletes still swimming just got out of the water wherever they were and ran to their bike to continue racing.  Then the next wave had 3 minutes of warm-up time.  They had to wait for CHP to get in position in the AM so first wave went off 20 min late.  That put my start at 10:40.  A storm was rolling into Northern California that morning. The day dawned overcast and very windy. The weather just got worse and worse as the AM progressed.  At first the winds steadily picked up and then about 30 minutes before my wave it began to sprinkle…

There were about 20 (?) women in my wave.  We had 5 circuits of the pool with the buoys set about a lane's width from the wall in each corner (not room for 20!).  The swim to the first buoy was pretty wild but things spread out quickly. Swimming circles around the pool with the whole group was actually really fun. I found some feet that were just a tad faster than I normally swim and I stuck on those the whole way.  I didn’t really have to navigate because I could see the lane lines and see the ropes holding the buoys in place, so no need to lift my head to sight.  Consequently I really don't know how many women were ahead but I think it was 4 or 5.  I was drifting into a trance until midway a gal tried to steal the feet I was following midway through. I jolted awake to aggressively defend my position until she backed off and settled for my feet.  The remainder of the swim was uneventful and not especially noteworthy. The swim exit was one ladder partially blocked by the bulkhead used to separate the diving pool.  Only one person could get out at a time and it wasn't easy.  Four of us came in together, I was third in line so lost a little time waiting to get out.

I ran unerringly to where I'd racked my bike and got really disoriented when I arrived to find the bike wasn't there =:-O!  At first, as I was scanning the neighboring rows for my bike, I thought I'd made the rookie mistake of forgetting where I'd racked my bike.  I just stood there trying to make sense of the situation.  I finally focused on the ground and spotted my towel and running shoes exactly where they were supposed to be, but my bike was gone!!  Stolen?!?!  Then I saw a heap on the ground two rows over that was a mixture of bicycle, towels, swim caps, goggles and plastic bags.  My bike was the skeleton that the heap was built on.  It had been tossed, either by a competitor or by the wind, a good twenty feet and stuff had been tossed or blown on top of it.  More time lost but I extracted it from the debris and headed out of T1 into the teeth of the wind and the steadily intensifying rain.

25-30 mph winds out of the southeast with stronger gusts according to the weather service.  "The Box" south of town is notorious for being windier than other parts of town and I think it was. The course went south, then east so the first half was very, very tough.  My focus was to play with the wind, not fight it.  So I rode hard but kept a spinning feel to my effort rather than grinding against the wind.  I chewed up and spit out riders trying to push bigger gears.  Passed two women from my wave in the first two miles and I think they were the only two ahead of me because despite taking a bit to find my bike the remainder of my transition had been fast.  Then I started reeling in men who had started 20' ahead of me, then the women's wave that had started 40' ahead of me (granted it was the slow ones).  Finally we turned north, I dropped the effort hammer when the tailies kicked in and flew by folks like they were standing still.  I got a few fun comments/compliments as I blew some guys' doors off ;-).  The rain was coming down harder and the road was getting wet and and corners slippery. This hadn’t been an issue when crawling into a fierce headwind but flying along with a strong tailwind I had to ease up for the turns. Once back on campus I had to really rein things in because the corners were slicker than snot.  My wheels slid a little in the arboretum which backed me off a bit more.  Overall, in the conditions I was happy to ride the 18 miles in 54-ish minutes (I was lucky if I was going about 10-12 mph into the headwind).

Perfect dismount, found my shoes right away but everything was soaked.  Trying to slide soaked feet that have no feeling into soaked lace locked shoes with numb hands is next to impossible.  I took way too long to get my feet in my shoes but finally hit the deck running.   I did not carry a bottle on my bike so I was very ready for some water leaving T2.  Two big blue water jugs, NO CUPS!  I guess this race decided to go totally green (unknown to me).  I shrugged, it was what it was, and forged onward.  I could not believe how good my legs felt.  I was also racing in my Newtons for the first time and they really facilitate a fast turnover.  I felt like my legs were running away from me and I had to struggle to keep up with them.  I kept passing people, waiting for the bubble to burst and reality to set in.  It is not an especially easy run course with a number of very short but steep little ups and downs (like on and off a levee) and twisty turns.  But I ran the whole thing like a metronome averaging 7:30's for every mile.  I haven't done that in years, not even in a straight up 5k.  So I am pretty stoked.  I just found this zone and got stuck in it. I saw a number of Mad Cow clubmates who had started in the wave ahead on the return half of their run. Most looked like they were having a blast as well.

I think my final time was 1:43:xx. I’m happy with this under the conditions. I could have shaved some time with more complication free transitions, but stuff happens. Results won't be posted for a while but I'm pretty sure I smoked my wave unless there was some gal way out there.  I'm curious to see how I compared to the college gals though with their earlier start they had much better race conditions on the bike.

I learn something new with every race I do. The lesson from this one is that I do not need any water in a cool weather sprint. I wanted it at the start of the run but I felt great and ran strong without it.

Hats of to the UCD Tri Club and TriDNA for putting on a fun, well managed event staffed by hardcore and enthusiastic volunteers. Thanks for braving the elements for us!


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