Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New Orleans 5150

Also known as "New Orleans Triathlon," the race this past weekend was a "5150" branded event put on Premier Events in - you guessed it - New Orleans, Louisiana.  My birthplace.  My family's home city.  The Big Easy.

Unfortunately, nothing about this race was easy.

But before I get into that, it's worth noting that the trip itself was great.  It was a welcome relief from what was an extremely stressful week.  Moving is never an easy process, and cramming a move into a race week into a busy work week was not my favorite.  So when Jenny and I hopped in the car on Friday morning for the 11 hour drive to New Orleans I was actually pretty excited to drive.

Jenny took it upon herself to create a video from said driving experiences and this video encapsulates it quite well....

We did the usual pre-race stuff that isn't worth writing about and race morning dawned bright and early.  As we set up our spots I couldn't help but feel unexcited about the race due to the weather conditions.  It was very, very windy and with the bike course as set up it would mean a difficult bike ride and a difficult swim.  Time would only tell, however, if that would prove correct.

I made a slight concession to the prospect of a cold(ish) start of the bike by wearing a Fusion 3/4 sleeved top in addition to my B70 1pc suit all under my wetsuit.  I had never tested this before so I hoped it would have no ill effects on...anything.

The water temperature was stated as being 62 degrees, which is pretty chilly, but luckily I have White Lake 2013 under my belt so now everything else seems like bathwater comparatively.  That being said, it was pretty chilly when we jumped in to line up for the start of the race.

Swim - 24:14

I have been swimming pretty well lately, so despite the very choppy and difficult conditions I was really hoping I would be able to stick with the back of the pack on the swim.  Knowing it was a small field, however (10 male pros), I was not going to have much help around me for drafting purposes.  The course at NOLA is basically an "N" shape, where the start/outbound leg goes out towards the breakwall of the harbor then cuts back to the opposite corner, then heads up along the dock line before turning right towards the stairs.

I sprinted from the gun and was "in the mix" for about 100 meters before falling off the back of the pack. My arms felt surprisingly dead and I had completely lost contact by the time I arrived at the first buoy.  The whole out bound leg was into a strong wind and chop so each sighting attempt was met with a mouthful of water and a spray into the face.  Coming back in towards the other corner was much easier but sighting was still difficult due to the number of "things" above the water line (boats, buoys, docks, pylons, buildings, trees, etc).  Luckily this section passed uneventfully but I could not see any pack throughout this section.  After the next turn it was back into the wind and swell for (thankfully) the last time but it was not made less difficult despite being in the latter stages of the swim.  In fact, this section was more difficult although perhaps it was mainly mental at this point.  I was passed by the lead trio of women (unfortunately Jenny was not among them which further depressed me) and followed them (although definitely not in their draft) in to the finish.  I made it up the stairs uneventfully but ran towards transition being pretty aghast at what I could only assume was a disastrous swim.

I had no watch or time clock to see upon exit so was making that assumption based on the way it "felt" and the fact that the women passed me, a group I assumed I had a 5 minute head start on (I would only find out later it was 3 minutes...not 5).  Blah.
Coming out WAYYY behind, thanks FinisherPix
T1 - 1:29

My transition was pretty decent; it was a fairly long run and I had no issues getting onto my bike.

Bike - 1:02:47

Ahh, the bike.  It was very windy, and with a mostly east/west oriented bike course and a strong NE wind I knew it would make for a tough bike ride.  The way "out" had one big climb up over an overpass, several "awkward" turns that weren't really turns, and about 1/2 bad pavement and 1/2 good pavement.

I don't feel bad embedding my Garmin file into this because it will tell you nothing about me as a cyclist.

Yes, I am happy that I was able to bike decently, but that is so far below what I am capable of I was a little embarassed.  Embarrassed isn't really the right word, but I am far fitter than that and I don't really know what to say.  It took me about 10 minutes to catch the lead women (who I, it turns out, only had a 3 minute head start on; not 5) and from there it was really just a struggle to stay involved in what I was doing.  My watts were quite low and I was really struggling mentally to deal with the strong cross-winds and headwind climbs (4 times up an overpass with a headwind).  The course, in spite of being in NOLA, actually "felt" quite hilly and was relatively difficult.  I never really saw the lead guys, who continued to put more time into me.

I finished lap 1 and was happy for a brief tailwind section before hitting the turnaround and heading back into the winds.  I came into T2 pretty upset with what I had been able to accomplish that day but figured I could salvage a half-way decent run and come away with a positive.

Not sure where this was, but guess what: out of aerobars!
T2 - 0:53

Not too bad, nothing went poorly

Run - 37:08

The run, like the bike, was a double out and back.  Halfway with the wind, halfway into the wind.  Consequently, my first several minutes were probably a little fast.  I did a good job of staying on a solid pace in spite of being so far back of the "race" that I was all by my lonesome.  Out to the turnaround was pretty nice and easy but I had to focus a bit more to maintain on the way back in and reached the turnaround to head out on my second loop.

Towards the end of the "out" section (we ran alongside the bike route here) I was passed by a lady on a road bike with clip ons who was about to head up the overpass when she suddenly crashed pretty hard.  There was nobody else around so I ran over to her and tried to help get her sorted.  She was a bit shaken up but was able to walk over to the side of the road and sit down on the grass and I got her bike out of the middle of the road.  It was the right thing to do and it didn't really affect my race other than give me a slower run time than I would've had otherwise.  I saw her on my way back in and she was sitting on the side talking with a police officer who had driven to her.

Nothing much to say here, I continued on to the finish line and crossed in one of my slower olympic distance times in recent memory but with a good learning experience and workout under my belt.

Looking pretty excited
OA - 2:06:34 (10th MPro, 11th OA)

This race reminded me a lot of NOLA 70.3 last year.  I had a decent race there and repeated that here but all in all it was a pretty lackluster performance.  In both cases, I think my fitness was far and away better than what I was able to showcase at the race itself.

It was great having someone to race with this year, however.  Jenny and I had a good time driving, hanging out with my parents and youngest brother (only one still in high school) and attempting to high-five each other along the run course.  Having my mom and dad there to cheer me on regardless of my performance is always great; even if I am not satisfied with my race they are proud of what I have been able to accomplish.

Basically, a fun trip.  It was definitely good to get away from Charlotte for a weekend.  My next race will be better, I am confident.

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