Friday, September 30, 2011

Race Report: Nickel City Triathlon

by Sean McCormick

As I have in-laws in Buffalo, the Elite National Championship was happening during the event, and the Patriots were playing in Buffalo, the first annual Nickel City Age Group Olympic Triathlon (9/24/2011) was beaconing me as a great finish to my second season in triathlon. All of this combined with the fact that I not yet tried the Olympic distance (completed only 2 Sprints and 3 half-Iron distance races to that point) got me very excited.

The weeks preceding the event I had taken on a lighter training load than I had in the past as I was coming off training for Timberman 70.3 and work was becoming extremely busy. As a result I was averaging between 5-6 hours a week of training between Timberman and Nickel City. Heading into the event I was feeling good and had no injuries although I had a very light taper due to work demands.

With the race being on Saturday and mandatory packet pickup on Friday before 8PM I had to leave Thursday night to ensure that nothing would prevent me from being able to race. Good thing I did leave a day early as my car’s fuel pump decided to take a permanent vacation halfway into the trip. I got towed 40 miles to the nearest Audi dealership. I had to stay the night but was on the road before noon on Friday to complete the remaining 4 hours of my trek.

Upon arriving at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center to pick up the race packet, I was surprised to see no lines and not much of an expo at the packet pickup. As it turns out they had only 148 people sign up for the Olympic race and about 110 for the Sprint. I was thinking the Elite race would draw more triathletes to the event but I guess I was wrong.

The night before the race the forecast was cold and rainy. Water temps were expected to be around 68 degrees, so I was struggling to figure out what to wear for the 2.5 hours of racing in the wet and cold. I finally settled on a BTT bike Jersey (thanks Bryan!) with arm warmers as backup. I had been racing with my tri-top under my wetsuit previously so this was a deviation from my training.

The day of the race I woke at 4:15AM ate my breakfast and headed out to the race course. Upon departing I noticed the warmer weather and none of the rain that was in the forecast the night before. I kept my racing gear plan the same just in case the bad weather was coming.

The first wave started at 7AM (only 2 waves: 1st wave was men and 2nd women) and I wasn’t too badly thrashed during the start. My swim was slower than usual (32 min for .9 miles) which I attribute to having to wrestle with seaweed on a good 25% of the 2 loop course. I imagined myself leaving the swim leg looking like a sea monster with all of the seaweed on me. Reality was only a little piece was on me coming out of the water. I bolted out of the water and ran to transition as fast as I could and got the wetsuit off with some trouble L, but the real problem happened when I put on the bike shirt with arm warmers in the pocket. The shirt got all rolled up and didn’t move well as I was very wet and was exacerbated by the items in the pocket. I was all caught up in the shirt like a salmon in a fisherman’s net. Couldn’t get in or get out. I danced around for what felt like hours and finally got the shirt off and took my time getting it back on to prevent a repeat performance. I left T1 frustrated and took the frustration out on the bike. The course was very flat and as a result I was able to maintain 21MPH. The course was 2 loops and the roads were pretty good all in all. I was very happy with my bike performance and heading into T2 was very excited to execute my run plan (2mi (7:30min/mi), 2mi (8 min/mi) moderate, 2.1 mi (7:30min/mi)). T2 was slow, but got out onto the run at a 8 min/mi pace. I was able to get to the pace easily but held back for a bit trying to figure out how the legs felt as I hadn’t raced this distance before. My desired run pace was sub 8 min/miles so I changed the plan and worked to keep my average 10k pace at or below 7:45min/miles. The run felt good, although I was not happy with my not keeping to my plan in the end. I completed the event with a time of ~2hrs 37min and was 7th out of 17 in the M40-44 age group (57 out of 121 overall).

The way the race was run itself was good. Given the level of participation the support was what I would expect. Everyone there was friendly and helpful. I do recommend this race for those who want a late season Olympic distance race.

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