This past Saturday (5/19) was the Galena Triathlon. This is the unofficial kickoff race here the Chicago area. It’s a fun weekend where you race on Saturday morning, there are parties in the afternoon and evening, we do a training ride on Sunday and finally head home. Staying in a house with a big group of Well-Fit teammates for the weekend, things were all set for good times all around.
The area is beautiful, with farms, fields and some short but steep hills. A few of us went for a ride on Friday morning to shake out the cobwebs from the drive and make sure our bikes were all set for race day. We did about 30 minutes of riding, followed by a trip to check in our bikes and get in a swim. No wetsuits were needed as the water was comfortable at about 70 degrees. We swam the 660yd swim course, followed by a simulated race start from the beach where we sprinted to the first buoy (about 150-200 yards). After a group dinner and packing up for race morning, it was an early lights out for everyone.
Race morning delivered great weather (unseasonably warm), expected to reach the 80’s by midday with clear skies and a decent amount of humidity in the air. The water felt great during about a warm-up swim and I was thinking positive thoughts about my race. I was in the 4th wave, the first of two for the men’s 30-34 age group. I stood first row right in the middle at the start line. The horn sounded and we ran into the water. After one dolphin dive I sprinted for that first buoy at max effort, just as planned. I had one swimmer to my right and on my hip, while another was on my left about even with me. By the time we hit that first buoy, the guy to my right dropped back out of my line of sight, so I figured he was on my feet. The guy to my left was still there, but had dropped back onto my hip. I turned the buoy and gradually backed off to my race pace, breathing to both sides to try to sneak a peek at the two guys who went with me on the swim. After passing a marker buoy, I didn’t see anyone to either side of me at all. Leading my wave during the swim is new territory for me, but I resisted my curiosity and did not take a stroke to look behind me to check on my position. I swam through the previous waves and after a few more turn buoys, approached the swim finish. I again turned up the effort until the water was too shallow, then ran out and headed for T1. I dropped my swim cap as I took it off about halfway down the carpet, turning back a few steps to pick it up and avoid any potential penalty. The timing mat is there as you enter transition and I crossed it at 9:01. I ran all the way back through transition (the gravel in that parking lot sucks every year too), seeing a couple of guys coming toward transition. I guesstimated that I came out of the water maybe 15 seconds ahead of them, but I’m not sure.
At the Galena Tri, they require that you pack your wetsuit and anything else into a plastic bag before leaving T1, so I did that. It wasn’t my fastest transition and I noticed that the guy who came into T2 just behind me beat me out of transition on his bike. I hopped on with a slow flying mount and pedaled up the short, steep hill leaving Apple Canyon Lake, in my small ring and not pushing it too hard right away.
I immediately shifted to my big ring but kept the effort light the first few minutes, to try to settle down my HR from the swim and T1. Taking in some Gatorade, I then began pushing at my race effort. My goal for Galena was to keep an eye on my heart rate, not really dictate my effort based on watts and instead, push myself to bike as hard as I felt I could sustain for the entire race course. I stayed in the big ring almost exclusively with I think one exception, where I wanted to keep a steady effort but not grind too slowly to save my legs a bit. It wasn’t the windiest ride I’ve ever had, but there were definitely strong headwinds and crosswinds for most of the course. I just tried to keep my head down as much as possible, staying in the aero position to climb all but one hill. I did look at my bike time as I neared T2 and knew that I would have approximately the same bike split as in 2011, though I felt I had worked harder. Chalk that up to the winds and heat (I didn’t feel COOKED, but I could have used a little more than the 20oz of Gatorade I had on board). Overall, I felt pretty strong the entire ride and passed many people from the previous 3 waves. I was passed about 4 miles into the ride by a guy from my age group. I tried to match his pace after being passed, but just couldn’t hang on and decided to race my own race. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t stick in my mind immediately that there were two guys in my age group up the road, not to mention another full wave starting 3 mins behind me. But again, I tried to force myself to focus on the road ahead and not the end result and let the day continue to unfold.
After a flying dismount, which I’ve gotten much better at after a second fall/winter of cyclocross racing, I ran into T2 and quickly found my spot on the bike racks. I slipped on the run shoes, grabbed a hat (no sunburn to my scalp this weekend, thanks) and my race belt and GPS watch and headed out of T2. The run at Galena is very hilly and challenging, so it’s hard to settle into a pace right out of transition. You run down a steep hill and then up an equally steep one, followed by a gradual incline and path that sort of rolls to the one-mile marker. There’s an aid station and I took a sip from a cup of Gatorade and splashed a cup of water on my face and hat, hoping to stay cool. The sun was rocking, as it was now after 10AM and had to be close to 80 degrees. The hat didn’t last much longer, as I really started to feel some heat. My pace that first mile was slower than I’d hoped given my run off the bike in San Diego a week earlier, so I wanted to increase the pace. Lucky for me the second mile starts with a fairly long downhill. I’ve gotten better at these, so I leaned into it and let gravity do its work. There are some rolling inclines and declines and no shade, but I was pushing to maintain a 6:30-6:40 pace the rest of the run. The downhill helped increase my turnover and my legs started coming around immediately. Around mile 2.5 or so I was passed by a guy in my age group. I dropped in behind him and matched his pace for a couple minutes, but could feel myself start to reach blow-up territory, so I backed it off just a bit and let him get away from me. Again, I fought the negative thoughts that now there were 3 guys from my age group ahead of me. There’s a small cul de sac turnaround at mile 3, where you get a look at the competition. By this point I was running and just mentally hoping to push it as hard as possible to the finish without completely blowing up. Passing the mile 3 aid station coming out of the turnaround I saw Dan, a guy I know from my age group who is a better runner. I picked it up immediately as we passed each other, knowing I had just over a mile to go. I dropped to a 6:15-6:30 pace and knew that there were some steady downhills coming the last mile of the course, and hoped to limit any time he’d be picking up on me. It also occurred to me that he could have started in the wave behind mine, so I was also thinking maybe I could regain some time, knowing that I was very unlikely to finish over 3 minutes ahead of him. That 4th mile was tough as I really pushed myself physically and mentally, just reminding myself this was no worse than any track workout where I can run my 800s and 1200s at 5:50-6:05 pace consistently. That was all I had left and with the slight downhill grade to the finish, I just forced myself to ignore that my legs were burning and the engine was running very hot. I sprinted across the line and stopped my watch, not totally sure what my race time was. I saw two of the guys who had finished ahead of me there, along with some friends. I had to stop for about 30 seconds to collect myself, as my legs were shaking from the effort that last mile. After some Gatorade, water and a banana, I was chatting with friends and already sharing race stories. Dan crossed the line not too far behind me, maybe a minute or so, and we chatted briefly. He smiled and said that yes, he started in wave 5, so I knew he had finished faster than me as well. My distant thought of a possible top 3 in my age group faded, but I wasn’t too disappointed. Galena is a fun race and I had a TON of friends there, so I headed off to one of the last turns on the run course, about 1/4 mile from the finish line, to cheer in athletes. After a few minutes, two teammates and I went for a very easy cooldown jog of about a mile.
Having had a few days to consider my race, the splits and results, there’s nothing I would have done differently. Oddly enough, my overall time and splits for the swim, bike and run are all nearly identical to last year, as are my age group and overall placing for the race. I wasn’t sore from racing San Diego a week earlier and I took a good amount of recovery time and rest last week, so I was feeling very good on race day. There were some very good elements, like leading my wave out of the water by a good 15 seconds or so. My transitions weren’t terrible, but they could have been a bit faster…giving up that position leaving T1 isn’t something I want to happen in future racing, if I can help it. My effort on the bike is what I wanted it to be and the power file from my Garmin bike computer confirmed that I rode strong. My normalized power for the approx 16.8 mile course was 289 watts, which is above my FTP. My run split was also almost identical, albeit a little slower than last year. I averaged 6:45/mile this year (compared to 6:38 last year) which is consistent, but that first mile of the run felt pretty awful. I’m happy I dug within myself to run faster the rest of the way, especially after getting passed once on the run, but I know I can run faster off the bike. Also, I see the challenge of dealing with positive and negative thoughts while racing as growth for me. I’ve not had up until maybe last year, any real experience with racing at the front of my age group and paying real attention to those around me. Staying within myself and taking measured risks throughout the race, as I did during this year’s Galena Triathlon, is something I will need to keep working on this year leading up to Ironman Louisville. Managing my own thoughts and staying with my own race plan is monumentally more important at the iron distance, so this is again an area where I am looking at Galena as a valuable step in the right direction.
The weekend wrapped up with the typically crazy and fun post-race party at the Well-Fit house, including the hot tub, ping pong baseball, slip-n-slide (ouch) and even Rock Band and Dance Central on an Xbox 360. A two-hour ride on Sunday closed out training in Galena, but I am looking forward to going back for more training and racing in the future.
STATS FROM GALENA 2012
Bike: 47:30 (NP was 289w)
Run: 28:58 (6:45/mile)
Men’s 30-34 Age Group: 8th of 102 racers
Overall: 27th of 674 racers
For reference, my 2012 vs 2011 splits…eerily similar:
2012 – 9:01 – 2011 – 9:00
2012 – 1:42 – 2011 – 1:26
2012 – 47:30 – 2011 – 47:28
2012 – 1:30 – 2011 – 1:40
2012 – 28:58 (6:45/mi) – 2011 – 28:29 (6:38/mi)
2012 – 1:28:39 – 2011 – 1:28:01