2016 Icebreaker Indoor Triathlon

The Walnut Creek YMCA Ice Breaker indoor triathlon is a great way to start a new training year.  It’s held in January, and is very friendly to new triathlon competitors.  The event is a 400 yard swim, “10 mile” bike ride (spinning bike) and a 2 mile treadmill run.

Results:    Swim       Bike         Run          Total          Notes
2016          0:06:11    0:16:43     0:13:45     0:36:39      No excuses… 🙂
2015          0:06:17    0:16:44     0:16:22     0:39:23      1st Tri after knee surgery
2014          0:06:14    0:17:57     0:13:01     0:37:12      Running focus at that time
2013          0:06:19    0:17:29     0:14:02     0:37:50      1st Tri after my accident

For me, the 2016 Icebreaker was a redemption race.  During the last year, I gradually worked my knee into usable shape via modified … a.k.a. “ugly”… running form, a lot of PT / stabilizing exercises and a really slow and gradual increase in mileage.  Although I enjoyed the race last year, I was hoping to at least move back into contention for my age group.

One thing I did differently this off-season was to quit swimming from September through early December.  I did some adventure races and increased rowing in the interim for prep for those races, and then did more cycling and running late in the fall.  When I started swimming again, it took a while to get back to “normal”.  I was swimming relatively short swims (around 1500y) two to three times a week and my 400 pacing was stuck around 6:35-6:45.  About 2 weeks before the event, my swimming finally started to click.  I managed a 6:13 400 in practice and felt race ready again.  On race day I was hoping for a TriRacer teammate I could draft off… but no such luck (instead my lane mate drafted off me).  I started off quick but controlled and then just tried to hold on to a reasonable pace.  In the end, I was happy with my 6:11 time.  It wasn’t a “breakthrough” time, but clearly my 3 months off didn’t hurt me compared to prior years.  Part of optimizing your overall racing speed is simply figuring out where to best invest your limited training hours.

Since they do not count transition time in this race, I always find it a good opportunity to take my time changing clothes and getting my HR down.  I also take the time to rinse my Tri shirt off and run it through the swimsuit centrifugal drier, so it’s damp (but not dripping) when I put it on.  This works great to help keep me cool in the warm spinning room.

I had another good ride this year.  I really hadn’t done any high speed spinning practice at all (which would probably help), but had managed to pick up the 30 watts I had lost in the offseason, with some dedicated interval work in November and December (remember… I cut back swimming and invested the time to rebuild my bike & run fitness).  The bike race strategy is simple… try to hang on to 120 rpm as long as you can.  I always push harder during the last couple of minutes, and in retrospect I failed to start the final push early enough.  I had more in me, and found myself banging on the 140 rpm upper limit a lot near the end.  I finished at 16:43 and had the fastest male time in the event.  My threshold HR is around 163 bpm on the bike, and I rather quickly got to 165 bpm and had a steady rise to 173 bpm at the end.  With the high rpm spinning of this ride, you need to expect higher than normal HR’s on the bike.

Again, I took a little time to get my HR down between the bike and run.  I went to the locker room to change shoes, walked around slowly and soaked my head to cool down.

I knew my running fitness was much better than last year, but still have been running about 30s per mile slower than pre-surgery.  I haven’t done any dedicated running interval or tempo work since my surgery, as I’ve wanted to build a strong base (and strength) to minimize the chance of injury.  This made setting my pacing interesting.  I simply looked at how my endurance HR/pace relationship has changed, and estimated my current threshold pace. I then picked a speed about 30s per mile faster, since the distance was short and the treadmill didn’t have an incline.  I felt his was a little more aggressive than I could hold, but generally like to start out quick and back off a tenth or two as I go, and then build up again near the end.  I set my treadmill at 8.7 mph, and decided to try to hang on.  I made it… decided to go another 1/4… and then just held on to that pace until 1.5 miles.  My plan was then to start to increase my speed with a push hard until the end.  Unfortunately I lost focus, got sloppy and jammed my knee where my cartilage is missing.  Not wanting to trash my knee, I got a little conservative and then didn’t increase until I had less than 1/4 mile to go. My original goal was sub 14:00 on the run, and I finished at 13:45.  It’s a long way from the 13:01 from 2014, but I was still happy with the run based on my current running fitness.  My HR threshold is around 168 bpm, and I hit this in mile 1, with a peak HR of 174 bpm at the end.

In the end I finished as the 2nd place overall male, missing first place by a total of 1.7 seconds to my TriRacer teammate, Andy.  Clearly his will to win made the difference… which he demonstrated by emptying his stomach after the run.  🙂  Overall it was great to be competitive again, it was awesome to win entry to the Copper Creek Triathlon, and it is always fun to race with my TriRacer teammates and my daughter.  Another great day of racing!