Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vermilion Harbor Triathlon

I competed in the Vermilion Harbor Triathlon this past Sunday.  It was my 2nd ever Triathlon and my first Olympic distance.  It consisted of a 1500 yard swim, 26 mile bike, and a 6.2 mile run.  That's double the distance of my first Triathlon and half the distance on my next race on 9/9/12.  I haven't said much about it, but since the Cleveland Marathon.  I've been training for Rev3 Sandusky Half Ironman on 9/9/12.  My plan was to train for the event and compete in a sprint distance as well as a olympic distance.  After surviving the Olympic distance, I would then register for the Rev3 race.  Well, that didn't work out so well as there was a price increase of $50 dollars on 8/1.  So, that kinda forced my hand a bit and I registered.  My worry all along wasn't the bike or the run as I've been able to ride/run that distance since completing the marathon.  My issue is swimming.  I've spent most of the summer in the pool and at the lake improving my swim.  I've made great strides and have come a long way, but still struggle at times.  Going into this race, I was very worried about swimming 1500 yards in race conditions.

This was my first trip to Vermilion and I never realized how far away it is from Stow.  Being roughly 60 miles away, made for a very early Sunday morning.  This race consisted of a variety of events to choose from including sprint and olympic versions of Triathlons, Duathlons, and relays.  My race was scheduled to start last, which was about 45 minutes after the first event.  I arrived extra early to ensure decent parking and a rack spot if necessary.  I made my way to the registration and to my surprise, they were already out of S,M, and L race shirts.  I was very disappointed as I was guaranteed a shirt for pre-registering and I was there 2 hours before the event.  They did say I will get it in the mail, but we'll have to see about that.  Still, very poor in my opinion.  Things continued to go South as I arrived at my assigned rack along with what seemed like the whole race in my row.  We were packed like sardines.  Everyone made the best of it and we worked it all out, but our row was by far the most crowded.  Once getting everything set up.  I tried to relax and finally got the courage to look at the Lake.  For those of you not familiar with Lake Erie.  Its a fickle beast and its truly like a box of chocolates.  You never know what your going to get.


From the beach the Lake appeared to be as calm as I've seen it in awhile.  The swim itself began on the beach.  From there we would swim out about a hundred yards make a left and swim about 400 yards or so then another left back to the starting area.  The sprint group would make 1 loop and I would make 2 loops.  I was a little nervous as this would be my first "you can't touch the bottom" race.  I was equipped with the security of my wetsuit, but this would be my first can't touch experience since the drowning incident a few years ago.  As I mentioned earlier.  I've come a long way and can easily swim over this distance, but if you compared it to running.  I'm still run/walking.  I need some breaks to calm down and reset.  Well, this wan't going to happen today.  I lined up in the back of my group, which consisted of clydesdales and men in the 30's.  My swim started out pretty good, but the swells were already throwing me off.  Making the left and heading down the backstretch.  I started to panic.  I wasn't ready for these conditions and not touching.  I tried to swim best I could making it to the next turn.  I took this part a little long, ensuring I could touch.  I felt tired and was not looking forward to the next loop.  At this point, I decided to quit.  I wasn't having fun and didn't want to be in the water any more.  After completing the first loop, I deciding to forge on as I didn't want to dnf my first race.  About half way through the 2nd lap.  I freaked!  I was tired.  My stroke was off and I got water instead of air a couple times.  To calm myself, I flipped over and did the backstroke.  I began to settle until someone started to swim of top of me.  I freaked again.  Swimming for my life.  I made the final left and headed back to shallower waters.  I was wore out and grossly underestimated the difference between swimming in an inland lake and swimming in Lake Erie.

Time:  27:49

Before things got crowded.

Transition 1

I managed this much better than races past.  I had no issues this time and even remembered to take off my Garmin before removing my wetsuit.

Time:  1:51


I went out aggressive on the bike.  I needed to make up for a crap swim and wanted to take advantage of the flat roads.  Or so I thought.  According to the race, this course was 386 feet of climbing.  Well, thats true if you were judging from the low point to the high point.  This course was full of rollers and it involved a lot of climbing.  To make things even more technical.  All the large descents had turns at the bottom.  This was a hard course and it took a lot of concentration.  A few roads were chipped and you had to search around for smooth parts.  Around mile 5, I had a major fail.  I recently purchased a aero helmet on eBay.  It was working out well, but a screw came loose and my sunglass shield separated on on one side.  I quickly move it behind me to save it, but only flapped around.  I had no other choice than unscrew it and toss it into someones yard and spent the next 21 miles riding with no eye protection.  I managed to ride pretty well.  Some riders tried to pass and then would squat right in front.  This was fairly annoying.  Luckily, I caught a second wind and rode away from everyone to the end.

Time:  1:17:12

Transition 2

The ride into transition 2 was really cool as it was a flat road surrounded by townspeople on each side cheering me on.  I had another great transition and even got my socks on with ease.


The plan was to establish a nice endurance pace for the first 3.1 miles.  The route was a little annoying as it was on grass the first few tenths and I was paranoid about twisting an ankle.  I ran the first mile in 8:50 and felt pretty good.  I didn't realize how well I was doing until I started to get passed repeatedly by racers in team uniforms.  They were all really supportive and I continued to clomp along on my 9 minute per mile pace.  It was a fairly flat route and had a ton of water stops.  It was really nice to have.  I didn't have any issues until mile 4 when stomach cramps began to set in.  These cost me a few minutes towards the end.  Once arriving at the last turn, I saw my buddy Alex video taping the finish. As I turned, I almost made a Tosh.O moment as I tripped over a rock.  After recovering from the near disaster, I sprinted to the finish for a time of 2:46:21

Time:  57:48


This race was insane!  A lot harder than I had expected it be.  My thoughts were that it would be comparable to running a half marathon, but it was harder than that.  I can't say enough good things about Vermillion.  The town support was the best I have ever seen and there were more volunteers here than any race i've done.  It was really nice and allowed us to concentrate on racing.  I was pleased with my overall time.  It was good enough to win my clydesdale group.  Better yet, my time was good enough to beat all the groups that chose to race by weight over age!  The only problem was the swim.  I feel like I dodged a bullet on that one.  Being in open water with out the being able to touch is not fun for me.  That kind of ruined the day for me and I wasn't a happy camper after the race.  I'm not sure what I am going to do about Sandusky now.  I emailed them about doing a shorter event or deferring to next year and they said no.  Hopefully after another 3 weeks of hard swim training.  I'll change my mind, but right now.  I have zero desire to step foot in that lake again.  Its a shame I feel that way because I wish I could celebrate what was a great accomplishment, but I can't get over the fear and panic I felt.

Christmas Ale and my winner's medal!


inspirunning said...

Lake Erie is creepy scary. I give you a ton of credit getting out there and racing. When I get to my tri, which I will eventually, I will not be swimming in Lake Erie. I think you should do what's best for you. Everyone is proud of you!

Jacob Moskowitz said...

I have found when biking that people are passing in order to help with the wind and drafting and working together. Once they slow down a little you are supposed to hop in front and push them along. Teamwork!

Matty O said...

I get it man. It's a fear factor and scary when you start to panic in water. I have heard from numerous people that freak in the water.

You did all the right things. They typically have kayaks in the water or pontoon boats you can hang on to too to catch your breath and relax. One thing you could probably do too at Cedar Point is to request to swim w/ the last group. Tell them that you have anxiety swimming w/ large groups and want to be in the back.

Great job overall though! Trust me, as soon as you can kind of zone your mind out of the swim you will be SET! I always go for the main pack and get in the shuffle on the swim, but you should swim far away from the buoys, extra swimming but pretty much zero contact.

Anonymous said...

Overall you did amazing! Conquered the swim, didn't give up and rocked the bike like you always do and then completed a run after probably being pretty exhausted.
My advice, from a non-swimmer, swim as much as you can these next couple weeks. And get in the lake and swim. Get used to those conditions! But don't go alone. Take someone with you. I'd go but I wouldn't last long on the swim. Would probably end up laying on the beach instead :)

Jen said...

Hey you finished! It was tough but you made it and I think you learned a lot. Decide what's best for you - maybe another tri and maybe a duathlon. Maybe, maybe. I think you need to process this while thing first. Be proud, that's simply amazing!