The danger of a sport filled with metrics -- pace, heart-rate, watts, splits, cadence, T1/T2, etc. -- is that once you understand the data, it's easier to objectively analyze your true performance. The metrics indicate that I finished sixth in my age group out of 20 for the sprint portion of the 11th Annual Desert Triathlon today, good for top 22% of all males and top 13% overall.
However, my individual pace times tell the real story. And for two out of the three events, I woefully underperformed. As you know, my swim T-pace has steadily decreased the past several weeks, to the point of 1:55 per 100 yards. I was most excited to see how much time I'd shave from my overall finish thanks to my new-found swimming prowess. Today, for my first open water swim of the year, I swam at a 2:14 pace. Wow. Worse yet, for the 14-mile bike portion of the triathlon, my pace was 17 mph. Are you f-ing kidding me? Granted, I brought my "beater" bike, the one I use on the trainer at home, since I didn't want to risk crashing in the rain on my prized Colnago. My Scott Speedster is a veritable tank compared to many of the other tri-bikes I was competing against. (For the record, it also probably saved my life when I crashed last year!) But still, I wouldn't have expected such a decrease in speed. No excuses either way. I pedaled hard, but rode slow.
Fortunately, the run was a different story. I've never run a faster three miles, not by a longshot. My pace was an astonishing 6:36, which is 21 seconds faster than my previous fastest recorded mile time.
In that regard, I can definitely see my training paying off. That, and the fact that I'm not remotely sore tonight as I'm sitting on my couch typing.
Still, I can't help but feel a little disappointed in my performance. I realize it's the first race of the year, and I'm definitely happy I placed so high given this was a competition between two huge Southern California triathlon clubs, Los Angeles and San Diego. On the other hand, I have a lot of training left to do. A lot of ground to gain.
I think my biggest lesson learned today was to arrive to the race more prepared. I missed packet pick-up yesterday due to printing the wrong email from an LA Tri Club dispatch and screwing up the cut-off time. So, I was a frazzled upon arrival, scrambling to put the appropriate tags and stickers on my bike minutes before needing to meet at the starting point. This left me little time to warm-up, let alone use the restroom for my ritual pre-race jitters. There's a fine line between being relaxed before a race and being careless and unfocused. Before I knew it, I was at the starting point playing with my goggles when the gun went off unexpectedly (no countdown warning?!) to start the swim. I wasn't even ready! Being caught off-guard in a sprint triathlon shotgun swim start is not a good way to place high. As a result, the rest of the swim I felt like I was playing catch-up. It wasn't until I was halfway finished with the swim (about the 250 meter point) that I started to hit a comfortable T-pace groove. And by then it was too late.
Fortunately, the race itself wasn't even the highlight of the day, or the weekend. While the best part of the weekend was sharing the experience with Stephanie, a close second was bonding even more with my Fortius Coaching teammates and Twitter buddies (@fittorrent, @chaibot, @rcmcoach). What a talented and fun bunch! Each member of the group brings a healthy attitude and friendly spirit to every practice, meeting, party and event. It's so much better training with people you care about than slogging through the experience solo. There were so many memorable moments with them: Saturday night at our pre-race meal, cheering wildly for each other during the rainy, cold race, and partying together afterwards for a three-hour Mexican food feast.
In the end, my teammates and Stephanie made the Desert Tri a special experience. Not the metrics themselves.
Funny that the best thing about a race can be the parts you can't measure.
261 days and counting.