Surf and Turf Race Report by Mike Prentice

Posted: May 17, 2009 in Race Reports

The weekend started with a leisurely drive up to Topsail Beach Friday afternoon.  We’ve had a small place up at Topsail for a few years now so the logistics of this “away” race are convenient and even though it’s out of town I still get to sleep in my own bed.  I stopped in at the pre-event briefing Friday evening to get checked in and as always, the Setup Events team had everything well organized.

For anyone unfamiliar with this event, the course is relatively short, even for a Sprint, with a bike course that’s only 8 miles.  In addition, it’s a little “funky” with the bike and run split in two, so it’s a swim, bike (4 mi), run (2 mi), bike (4 mi),  run (1 mi).  Lots of transitions….damn, needed that transition workshop we have planned for the long weekend one week earlier.  I’m not sure if it’s because of the shortness of the course or not, but in addition to some of the more competitive athletes, there are a lot of “first timers” in this race.  In fact this was my own “first ever” triathlon last spring so it was fun to participate in something a second time around where I knew the course and could refine my race strategy a little and also compare my progress in race results.

Race day was a stereotypical spring/summer day at the beach with a moderate sea breeze from the southwest and temperatures in the low 70s.  Our condo at the beach is close enough that I could ride my bike with to the race site to warm up a little and avoid having to find a place to park.  After getting my gear set up, timing chip strapped on, and body marking done, I wandered over to the beach to check out the ocean conditions.  It’s here where the morning got started on a bit of a tragic note.  A couple of volunteers were in the process of placing the buoys in the water for the swim course and were towing a float out thru the surf on a Sea Doo.  On the way out a wave ripped the large float out of the hand of the volunteer and somehow opened up a vicious gash down his arm.  The driver brought the volunteer straight back to beach where they ran him up and over the cross over where we could see that he’d cut his arm from wrist to his elbow right down to the bone…….yikes.  Fortunately this event is staged at the Surf City Fire Dept location and EMS was close by to treat his injury.  Not an auspicious start to the day.

To say the least this was a little disconcerting, but I headed back to transition to suit up (wet suit legal event, 68 degree water) and then head back to the beach for the start of the race.

The swim course is rectangular where you swim out 150m, turn parallel to the beach for 450m (with the current/wind), then swim the 150m back into the beach.  There were 5 waves to the swim start and I was in wave three.  The injury described above was a bit of a tip-off to the ocean conditions, and while I’ve certainly seen the ocean rougher, it was a bit of a challenging swim leg with 3-5 foot seas.  While I’ve not done a lot of open water swimming, this was certainly the most challenging conditions I’ve swum in while competing or practicing.  I knew it wasn’t a good sign when I saw a couple competitors in the wave in front of me turn back before they reached the first turn buoy and head back to the beach.  When we got started it was clear early on that the strategy for this leg was simply to “get it over with”. It was a bit of a challenge getting thru the breakers and with the buoys only 150m offshore, the larger waves were still breaking as you made the turn up the beach.  Once around the corner conditions improved somewhat and you could get into some sense of a swim rhythm, but it was anything but a normal swim.  It was also very challenging to site your line given the swells/rollers and as a result I was a little all over the place.  Even coming back into the beach was challenging.  With the breakers crashing it required a bit of coordination to take a peak at the waves coming in behind you and time you next breath so that it didn’t coincide with the next wave breaking over your head.  The rest of the race was much more mundane. 

As I mentioned the bike course is short, only 8 miles, it is split up into two 4 mile out/back loops – the bike really is a “sprint”.  While my swim strategy went out the window with the ocean conditions, my strategy with the 2 bike legs was to try and negative split the two loops which I did and managed to cut a few minutes off last years times.

While the bike legs went well, the run portions were pretty average, although again a little better than last year.  After competing in 5 triathlons events now, it’s becoming painfully obvious where my weakness lies… running basically sucks.  My swim, while not great, is usually in the top 30% of the field, I hold my own on the bike, and then drop like a stone in rankings on the run – today was no exception.  While this trend continued it was not unexpected and I simply have to run my own race and try and do my very best (maybe I need to do relays and let one of you run). In the end I finished in 1:10:57 ……. 62 overall out of 131 men, a little better than last year (115 out of 151).

All in all a good day and I certainly enjoyed the “fruits of my labors” with a few cold beers in a lawn chair on the beach during the afternoon.

On to Kerr Lake…

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