Wednesday, May 16, 2012

San Diego ITU

On May 12 I guided visually impaired triathlete and running free team member Ryan Van Praet at the inaugural San Diego ITU champs.  This was the first race of the season for us and the first opportunity for Ryan to demonstrate to triathlon Canada just how fast he is!  

We arrived in San Diego on Thursday and were excited to get the bike together.  The rest of the day was spent tuning the tandem and trying to not let his aunt and uncle get us drunk!

Friday saw us head down to the venue to get registered.  We ceaselessly amazed how much attention the tandem always receives.  Once the registration necessities were completed, we settled in to watch the women's pro race.  This the first opportunity that I have had to watch an ITU race live. It was exciting and very interesting to see how fast these men and women are.  We were also lucky to watch the men on Saturday which was even more interesting than the women's race.  The whole weekend was filled with pro spotting as many of the top names in triathlon were there.

Saturday arrived with the type of weather you would expect in Southern California, beautiful!  We got the bike settled and transition set up.  This was to be the shortest race Ryan and I had done together.  We were not entirely sure of how things were going to go, as this was early in the season, and the bodies were untested.  There was also the concern of a major hill in the middle of the course. 3km with a large part if that at over 13% grade.  This is really a concern with the tandem as once the grade exceeds 5%, it feels as though we threw an anchor out. We knew we would be tested in this section.

The swim was held in a small bay.  Calm waters greated us.  The start was not too bad as we held the inside line. By the time we hit the first turn buoy the crowds had cleared out.  We had a good strong swim coming in at just under 11:00. This was a pb for Ryan at this distance.  Transiton was very long and we were set up at the swim exit.  We had about 100m to run to the mount line so we just carried our shoes so we didn't destroy the cleats. Once on the bike we started motoring pretty quickly.  The roads were very rough.  We were worried about getting a flat so we took extra care to avoid as much of the potholes and rough patches as possible.

We got to the hill into La Jolla which begins with a long gradual uphill. It then rapidly spikes to 13% and holds there for a couple of km.  This was hard.  Many people got off and walked sections.  We were very thankful to reach the top. The end of the first of the Hill was a relief but there was a short 15% section of 200m before we headed back down again.   Once we made the turn at the top it was time to get on the brakes on the way down.  While a tandem sucks on the way up, it is a rocket on the way down.  We decended relatively conservatively but were still blowing by many of the other competitors.  The decent turned out to be not too technical and in hindsight we could've gone significantly faster.  We still spent a fair amount of time near 70kph.

The rest of the way back was fast and uneventful.  I managed to lose my speedfill A2 at 45kph when we hit a nasty pothole while passing two age groupers.

We made it into transition with a not too stellar 46min on the 26km bike course.  The hill really killed our bike split.  Onto the run we both had some cramping under the ribs which we attribute to climbing on the tandem at those grades.

Things settled and we got into a solid groove and picked our way through the masses of runners.  The run went out along the bay and back along mission beach.  Almost entirely on bikes paths.  This made things challenging as it was hard to get us both by them side by side.  Most athletes were very nice and gave us lots of room to get by.  At about half way through the run we were passed by another paratriathlete for second.  In hindsight we should have tried to stay with him,  but I think we are not used to having to actually race head to head with other athletes in our category as we are normally all alone.  A little lesson for next time as this athlete only beat us by 40seconds.  The course was long (not sure how long, but atleast 500m). We finished the run in 24:00.  Much slower than our goal, however we felt good about it.  We were hoping it would be accurate to get a better gauge as to what we need to do to go sub 20min off the bike.  We ended up 3rd best paratriathlete with most of the top talent in North America there.

All in all it was a great experience and as Ryan says, a great job interview with triathlon Canada.

Next up is a local sprint race and then a trip to nationals in Edmonton which is the important race for the year.