Ankles Are Overrated: 2012 Spring Meadows Triathlon Race Report

Yep, it’s been a pretty busy racing month. Today was my first straight up Olympic in a long time, and for this test, I headed down to Helena Montana for the Spring Meadow Olympic Triathlon. I’ve already given an update on how I was feeling and training up to race weekend, so let’s just get to it!


Unlike last time, I managed to end up in Helena without my kids puking all over my car. I took that as a good sign. Now, I know I can’t really compare Helena’s weather to the rest of the country, but I have to admit, the mid 80’s roasted this Montana family yesterday. Instead of doing my usual pre-race ritual of sitting in the corner of my hotel rocking back and forth while playing with the Velcro of my timing chip band (just kidding…I don’t rock), I actually played family man and took the kids and wife to the Exploration Club and the Carousel downtown. I also got to enjoy something of a new love: root beer floats. No, with actual root beer, not regular beer. MMMM.

After doing as well as we could to get everyone settled into the Red Lion closet, I mean hotel room, I got a great eight hours of sleep last night.

I woke up around 6:30 this morning and felt great. After my good GI performance at Alcatraz on an empty stomach, I decided to go the same way for this Olympic. I took down a cup of coffee as well as a Hammer Apple Cinnamon Gel. I had some left over fries from the previous night’s dinner, and then I headed up to the race site.

I arrived about 7:15 and found parking along the road pretty easily. Just to FYI, for next year’s racers, you couldn’t park in the golf course parking lot across the street this year. I wouldn’t count on doing so next year. Fortunately, plenty of space on either side of the road.

I set up near the bike start. Weather was wonderful, but unfortunately breezy. Temp’s around 63. Water temp around the same I would say. After a quick jog around for about five minutes, I took in another gel and got zipped up in my suit. I jumped in the water and found it crystal clear and refreshing. After a slow deep breath, it was finally time to roll.

Swim: 1500y, 26:10 13/74 OA, 39 second PR

I seeded myself right behind the obvious leaders, about ankle deep in mud and duck crap. Countdown occurs and off we went. Again, I decided to start slow and speed things up. At first, space was tighter than my hotel room, but then things opened up fairly well after a minute or two. I did get the hardest hit to the goggles I have ever taken today; luckily everything stayed put, including my eyeballs and jaw.

The course consisted of two clockwise loops around the lake followed by a beach exit. The first couple of buoys went by fine, but when I turned east, I found myself swimming into the sun. I was unable to see the buoys at all, so I just followed the feet in front of me. Fortunately, this seemed to work just fine as I started the second lap.

Overall, I didn’t feel great during the swim. Things didn’t seem smooth and my perceived effort seemed too high. So, I just kept trucking along, drafting the whole way home. After I exited the water, I expected to see most of the bikes missing. Much to my surprise, many of the rides were still there. That was my only feedback on the swim as I didn’t spot the clock on the way out.

T2: 1:22

A little longer than I hoped for but better this time than at the Summer Solstice Triathlon.

Bike: 24 mi, 1:06:41, 10/74, 4:39 PR

So, I had one main goal on in this race: do the bike faster. Familiar with this up and down course, I knew that I needed to suffer on the first half of the ride and then “recover” on the way back. So as soon as I got out of transition, I started hammering. The first couple of miles was all uphill, exposed, and into a headwind. These few miles felt like doing your taxes while getting your teeth drilled. Aka, BAD.

After these first few miles of low grade and high pain, the course turned into rollers up to the turn around. Again, I was able to make good progress on the hills, and I took in about 5-6 riders. After that progress, I found myself in a hole between groups. Just me and the open road. I took this as a good sign. Indeed, as I made it to the turn around, I saw that I was two minutes ahead of my planned time.

After the flip, it was time for the fun. The course is super-fast on the way back. There are a couple of rollers, but these short sections of pain were nothing with the long descents between. I was going so fast that I found my cadence topping out. At that point, I just tucked into an aero bullet as much as possible and concentrated on not playing chicken with a pothole.

I did hit a small bump about 2/3 of the way back, and I ended up ejecting my water bottle. If anyone wants a crappy chronos aero bottle, there is a brand spanking new one somewhere west of Helena.

I finally seemed to be growing some testicles as I was able to power down through the descents. Even the curves. As I headed back to the finish, I couldn’t believe my time. I had hoped to be slightly less than my prior 1:11 from 2010. I was all smiles as I headed into transition. Here are the numbers.

Entire workout (169 watts):
Duration:      1:07:24
Work:          681 kJ
TSS:           97.4 (intensity factor 0.935)
Norm Power:    197
VI:            1.17
Distance:      23.537 mi
Elevation Gain:        801 ft
Elevation Loss:       829 ft
Grade:         -0.0 %  (-33 ft)
Min    Max    Avg
Power:           0    603    169     watts
Cadence:         12    172    88     rpm
Speed:           0    41.5    21.0     mph
Pace             1:27    0:00    2:52     min/mi
Altitude:        3898    4519    4243     ft
Crank Torque:    0    1752    165     lb-in

T2: 1:17

WOH. Way too long here. I got mixed up with fixing my watch. In retrospect, I can do that crap while running. Will have to remember that next time.

Run: 6.2 mi, 47:18, 19/74

Well, this is where my race went bad. I hit the pavement and I was feeling good. I have started calling the 1st mile after T2 “Dyson” because it never stops SUCKING. This time though, I felt a little better than normal. My pace was around 7:30, right where I wanted it to be. However, I seemed to be protecting and limiting my stride more than usual. The course was mainly gravel with some typical trail turns; I’m not sure if this played a role in my stride. As I went through 1.5 miles, I started having a rather unfamiliar feeling. I felt completely dry, hot inside, and I didn’t seem to be sweating. It then dawned on me that I had taken two sips of HEED the entire morning, and the temps were rising. Ruh roh.

Fortunately, right then, I came across the lone aid station and grabbed both a HEED and a water. HEED went down okay. Water to rinse the mouth and cool the head. That went down okay without any tummy troubles. More gravel after that for about another half a mile, then it was on to some heavenly asphalt. There is a switch back around 2.5 miles and I got a chance to look at the competition closing behind me. Fortunately, I didn’t see anyone menacing and my confidence built as I headed back to transition to end the first lap.

As I headed back to transition, there was a large crowd gathered. The announcer called out my name as I entered the party and I gave a smile to the surprisingly loud cheers as I started the second lap. Then, on a slight downhill grassy slope, my right foot hit some sort of ditch/root. This resulted in me severely inverting my right ankle. Now, this was no normal stumble. I was going roughly 8 miles an hour, downhill, on grass when I did this and I went flailing forward. I attempted to catch myself and found myself scrambling/bouncing back and forth between my outstretched hands and feet. The spectacle, which occurred over a good twenty feet, was amazing enough to draw an audible gasp from not only the crowd, but also a speaker assisted “WOH!!!!” from the announcer. SMOOTH.

I managed to stay upright relatively and a quick few steps on my foot revealed that I could still run. I shook my head in disbelief and tried to pick up my pace. Naturally, this threw me off a little but I seemed to speed back up over the next few hundred yards. Then, wouldn’t you know it, as I moved to pass someone, my right foot landed on a the side of a rock in the trail and in my ankle went again. This time, I was able to resist a tumbling out of control event, but it was enough to set my nerves on fire.

Things really started going downhill for me after this. I was getting pretty hot and my body felt bone dry. My pace slowed down to around 8:00 as I made it back to the aid station and I grabbed two cups of water. I got a sip in, followed by half the cup going up my nostrils. Then my attempt to dump my second cup on my head failed miserablely as it sailed over my noggin and landed on the ground behind me. Just no luck on the run this day.

As I headed back towards the last half mile, my dehydration problems began to become serious as I started having my first ever quad cramp in my left leg. I just told myself to hold on at this point. I figured as long as I kept running, I could keep my PR.

As I headed back towards the finish, I gave a quick glance to see who was behind me. Last time I did this race, I got passed in the chute and ended up missing third place by 2 seconds. I wasn’t about to let that happen this time. Unbelievably I saw no competition. I didn’t care though. I picked up my sprint and brought it home. Cramping, overheated, dry to the bone, and with a sore ankle, I collapsed to the grass…another first.

Synopsis: 2:22:48, 1st in AG, 11/74 OA, PR 5:23

Unbelievably, somehow today I ended up taking first in my AG. I couldn’t believe it. I had looked at the field before the race, and I felt I may have had a chance of placing. But I hadn’t expected first. Yes, I fully admit that this AG placing all depend on who shows up. But hey, I showed up, so I will take it. This is my first ever 1st, so I am enjoying plenty of beer tonight.

More importantly and more diagnostic, I am thrilled to have a plus five minute PR on this course. The numbers are pretty telling about this year of training and racing. My swim was minimally faster. Makes sense as I still don’t have a good swim regimen. Honestly, it is minimally more than swimming hard for 2000 yards a couple of times a week. My run has improved some but not nearly as well as my bike. My bike has made big gains this year, thanks to the combination of T6P, Sufferfest, and Trainer Road sessions. It is really nice and gratifying to see the results of the hard sessions, and I am looking forward to more progress this winter.

Despite the PR and the 1st in AG, it was not a perfect race. My swim form was off. And that run totally sucked. I know I can put out a 46 on that course at least and today’s run performance was the result of poor hydration planning and lack of focus. I really need to focus more on my run; I’m already tired of the run becoming a test of survival.

Still though, it was a fun day. I highly recommend anyone considering an Olympic to give this a whirl. Team Great Divide and Great Divide Cyclery know how to put on a great race. Plus, they had a cool kids triathlon after that ended with a slip and slide. I REALLY wished the Olympic had ended with one also. Plus, the bike course rocks. You get hills at the way out, and then an amazing descent back into town. It was awesome to hear the wind flowing smoothly and quietly over my aero helmet as I tucked my chin into my elbows while cruising 40mph.

So I know you are just dying to hear how my ankle is doing. Well, right now, it is wincing pretty bad if I try to plantar flex my foot. I have compression socks on, a bag of frozen broccoli on my foot, and an Inversion IPA in my hand. Hopefully, this is all it will need to get mended.

Things I Learned:

  1. Pay more attention to hydration with my new higher intensity.
  2. Change my downtube water bottle for short races. Seriously, this is the second time I have ejected a bottle from the chronos carrier.
  3. Join everyone else swimming, running and riding. I need some of the local fast guys to learn me some new pain. (Yes that’s you Ted and Marcello)
  4. Ankle proprioception and strengthening exercises.

About Ironvan

From couch potato to Ironman triathlete in 2 years.

Posted on July 1, 2012, in Race Reports and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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