Race report – The Silicon Valley International Triathlon
There’s a saying in triathlon that it’s better to be 20% under trained rather than 10% over trained. Why? Because being over trained leads to injury and possibly, a less than stellar performance on the race course. I found myself at yesterday’s race approximately 30% under trained. I could probably narrow it down to poor organizational skills and a really bad diet. I’ve also determined that I’m approximately 10-12 pounds over my optimum race weight (stay tuned for future postings on this subject). Yes, I’m making excuses but everyone’s allowed a few moments of self reflection and criticism. I really deviated from my training plan over the last month or so and should have spent more time training at race pace intensity. This lends further credence to the fact that a structured, goal-oriented plan is much better than some random “what do I feel like doing today?” sort of situation. I finished the race as a middle of the packer but hey., there’s nothing wrong with finishing in the middle of your age group. For some people, training for a race like this is a journey that takes them months and even years of hard training. The important thing is that I gave it my all and raced hard. I have no regrets and now know what to focus on for next time. Here’s the report:
The Silicon Valley International Triathlon is an event that’s been put on by USA Productions since 2004. It’s an olympic distance race (1500m swim-24.9 mile bike and 6.2 mile run) that’s held at Almaden Lake Park in the southern part of the city of San Jose, CA. Race day conditions were warm and by 7 am, the temperature was already in the low 70′s. When I went to the course the day before to pick up my race packet, the temperature was in the 90′s so I knew that come race day, I would be sweating my butt off. Picking up the packet up the day before provides you with good intel on what race-day conditions will be like. The swim would take place in Almaden Lake, a smallish, rather funky smelling pond filled with Canadian geese. Water temperature that day was probably in the low 70′s so wetsuits weren’t necessary. Naturally however, out of the 92 athletes in 40-49 age group category (the mid-life crisis category) there was only 1 guy without a suit. What a purist… I say, if you can wear a wetsuit, do it because the additional buoyancy it provides will help come race day. Following the swim, the racers run several hundred yards to T1 and then proceed onto the bike course which meanders through the pancake-flat residential neighborhoods of San Jose. Halfway through the bike, riders encounter a medium size hilly section of approximately 1 to 1.5 miles followed by a nice downhill onto the once again, mostly flat course for the return to the transition area. The 10K is an out and back affair, also very flat and very fast.
The elite wave went off promptly at 7am and the 40-49ers waited for approximately 30 minutes or so for our turn. This was a deep water start so we all waded out to the starting buoys and waited for the horn to sound. Almost immediately, everyone started to wrinkle their noses at the fragrant water (Eau de Canadian Geese?) We all got into position and then we were off. I immediately faced the usual battering of arms and legs from the other swimmers but found some open water and a nice rhythm pretty quickly. The course was well monitored by lifeguards and a few of the geese and we managed to make our way fairly quickly around the turn buoys and back to the beach and the water exit. Regarding the water quality, I have to say it again and then I’ll drop it: Gross! Maybe I took my gel a little too soon before the swim start and my stomach was over reacting. I did however gag a few times in the water but managed to keep it together. Post-race, I could hear others making comments about the water quality thing so who knows what the deal was….
T1 went well but I positioned myself way at the back of the racks and had to clump along in my cycling shoes for a considerable distance before I got to the bike mount line. I finally got underway, went aero almost immediately and stayed that way for a good 15 miles or so. Course support was great with the San Jose PD and race volunteers holding up traffic at all of the intersections that we crossed. Kudos to them for a job well done. I thought that I did pretty well on the bike and was averaging around 24 MPH or so for most of the flat portions of the course. We all were hammering it pretty good until we got to the hilly section which seemed to catch everyone off guard. Shifting into the small chain ring, we worked our way up the course until we got to the top and started downhill. It was here that we encountered our one and only aid station on the bike course. Remember, it was dang hot that day so most of us were guzzling our on-board water supply at a pretty good pace. I was fairly prepared however. On the front of my bike, I had an Aero-bottle filled with water and 2 NUUN tablets. On the back of the bike, I had another bottle filled with Cytomax and a second with Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem fuel. Still, supplies were limited and I was starting to think about some serious rationing. Then, here comes the aid station. The only problem was that it was unmanned and consisted only of a smallish table with a bunch of regular twist top water bottles, the kind you get at COSTCO. I could see racers swerving towards the table and trying to snatch a bottle off of it en route. Few succeeded and those that did were unsuccessful in twisting off the plastic cap. Unopened bottles littered the road and it was starting to get a little dangerous as we all maneuvered around each other, avoiding fallen bottles and cursing. I never got any water. The remainder of the course was nice and flat and ended fairly quickly back at Almaden Lake park.
T2 went pretty quickly but my legs were a little trashed and not quite ready for the run portion of the course. I noticed that a lot of folks were grimacing so it was a combination of the heat and a little too much gear mashing out on the bike course. Don’t underestimate a flat bike course. You end up pushing yourself a little too much in an effort to gain speed but eventually, you realize that you got the speed you were looking for plus exhausted legs to boot. Shoe, shoe, hat, race number belt, gel some water I had stashed at transition and then I was off. I was pretty pleased with the run. I really paced myself but managed to stay just below my lactate threshold. The grodyness I had felt during the swim was gone and I was feeling pretty good with the exception of some tired legs. I started to pick off others in my age group and even managed to pass up a bunch of guys that had passed me earlier on the bike portion (aero wheels, aero helmet, and all). I was a little nervous about the length of the course because I had heard from a bunch of folks that last year’s run portion was at least a 1 mile longer than the 6.2 that SVIT had advertised (somebody really messed up). I never got a good explanation as to what happened but the organizers did a good job this year to prevent that from happening. The run portion was well organized with LOTS of aid stations and plenty of water and gels. I was able to stay hydrated and pushed hard through to the end. I recently bought my third pair of Newtons and used them for the first time during this race. Here’s what I got, the Sir Isaac S. Note that they have a lady’s version called the Lady Isaac.
I love these shoes and plan on talking more about them in the future. In my review of the YANKZ! laces, you can see how battered my other pair of Newtons are. They definitely needed to be replaced. Anyways, I digress…. I finished the run portion as hard as I could, gave a hook-em-horns to the Brighroom Photography guy stationed at the finish line and got my medal. I then wandered around the post-race venue, ate some food, hung out and then had to take off because my wife and the kids were waiting for me at home.
The SVIT is a good race. Other than the water quality (something they have no control over) and the aid station issue on the bike course, I thought that they put on a pretty sweet event. The support during the swim and the run was perfect… couldn’t ask for any better. It was a well organized event and a lot of fun. I look forward to doing it again next year and would especially recommend it to anyone looking to do their first triathlon. Following the race, event organizers put on a fairly respectable post-race party complete with beer, food and music. This is a great race for spectators. The only thing that should be taken into consideration is that parking is off site. Expect a walk of approximately 15 minutes or so to the race venue. Bring your strollers, bathing suits, sunscreen, and plenty of snacks/drinks for the kids. I neglected to mention earlier that they also have a sprint distance event the day prior. Check out the USA productions website here for more details.
T1: 3:11 (Not sure why I was so slow here. Probably because I was trying to towel off the funky water from the swim)
Total time: 2:38:49