[070] Test run

Swim: 4,500 m/70,500 m

Bike: 45.6/379.8 miles

Run: 3.1/112.1 miles

On Friday I met my riding buddy John at the Shady Grove YMCA – the scene of next month’s sprint triathlon. While this will be my very first triathlon, John has completed many races at this site and he offered to show me the ropes from start to finish.

After getting the lay of the land – checking out the pre-race area, the swim start/finish and the transition area – we saddled up and rode the 12-mile bike course. It starts in a congested area but quickly shifts to two-lane country roads. There are some minor hills, but nothing dramatic, and I’m excited about the potential of this course. We rode at a relatively easy pace and ended up averaging 17.1 mph, although we battled a strong headwind on some parts of the course. We also had to stop for lights and other traffic, which won’t be the case on race day.

Usually when I ride with John we are side-by-side, since we generally ride at West Creek – a very quiet four-lane road with no traffic to worry about. But on Friday’s country roads we rode single-file, with John, who knows the course well, leading the way. This gave me my first real opportunity to experiment with drafting, and it was an eye-opening experience. With the constant presence of a noticeable wind, I could easily tell when I slipped into the protected area behind John. Suddenly it was so easy to cruise at a higher speed, and dipping into aero position accentuated the effect. When I briefly took a turn in front I could tell a huge difference in the effort required to maintain the pace.

The whole point is moot, however, since drafting is illegal in just about any race that I would enter. So it’s going to be up to me. But it was cool to experience the effect of being pulled along by another rider. I hope I can repay the debt to John on a future ride!

After the ride we hit the pool, and I was quickly able to verify that my home pool is not 25 meters long. Where I can usually cross my pool in 18 strokes, it consistently took about 21-22 strokes in the longer pool. And it strikes me that I must be taking about one stroke per second, because I can cross my pool in 17 seconds while my fastest length Friday was 20 seconds.

I had a strong swim at my home pool the night before, and while I was pleased with that effort I regretted it as I swam at the Y less than 12 hours later. Add in the fact that I had just ridden for 40 minutes and hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, and I was pretty spent by the time I got to the pool at the Y.

I have to admit that I was a little discouraged to swim in the longer pool – after swimming thousands of laps in my home pool in recent months, each length is so mechanical and routine that the longer distance threw off my mental rhythm. There are also the variations in the pools’ physical aspects – the contour of the pool floor, the distance of the end of the lane line from the wall, the lack of a horizontal centerline at the Y pool (to let me know when I’m halfway across). It’s surprising that although I’m swimming through the same medium – water – all the other external characteristics can still have a pronounced effect.

I got in 1,500 meters, including an abbreviated ladder set, but it just wasn’t clicking (John swam 2,100 and was finished well before I was). I told John afterward that the water just felt heavier and he seemed to know exactly what I was talking about, so maybe the humid conditions also had an effect on the swim.

In any case, I’m happy that I not only saw the course but got to experience two of the segments firsthand. Now I’ll have some mental imagery to fill those blank areas of my imagination as the race grows ever closer – less than 30 days!

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One Response to [070] Test run

  1. steena says:

    Good idea to hit the actual race site. I had a similar, but opposite experience when I switched gyms, in my new gym I seem to be swimming faster. I doubled checked with the staff, it’s the same length as my old one. Who knows why one pool can change your swim like that.
    Less than a month, the count down is on!

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