Pre-Race: Muskoka 5150 2013

This weekend is my first triathlon of 2013: The Muskoka 5150!



Though Muskoka is becoming a Triathlon and Multisport hub, and the Muskoka 5150 had it’s inaugural race last year, the Huntsville race site and general venue has had a long history prior to the Ironman 70.3 taking place later in the year.


Compared to last year, this race is taking place nearly a month earlier so everybody, including me (who am I kidding? especially me) has had a little less outdoor training time, especially with the way the winter didn’t seem to want to let go.  The other big difference from last year to this one for me, is that I’m jumping age categories: from Men 35-39 to Men 40-44.  Doing some informal research has led me to believe that I will be comparatively slower within this age group for the same performance: there will be plenty of dads in this group, but most of them will have kids who are older and more independent than mine, allowing for more training volume.  Race stats always tell you how you placed relative to everyone else in your age group, and the way I’d like to look at my relative placement from year to year, race to race is by dividing my placement by the total number of participants within the age group for a percentile: the number reflects the percentage of participants who are faster than me – the lower the number, the better I’m doing.


Breaking down last year’s performance and looking at this year in a new age group:


Swim 1500 m
Time: 34:32 (2:19/100 m)

This put me at 21/28 (75th percentile) in the Men 35-39 Age Category.  In the M40-44 category for the same year, that would have put me at 35/40  (87.5 percentile) which is slower relative to the pack.  I have some pool swims on the order of 1500 m which are somewhat faster so I could optimistically project coming in 31/40 (77.5 percentile).  That’s still slower and it assumes that the time losses I incur for open water (not swimming a straight line, current, waves, dealing with physical contact) balance out with how much faster my wetsuit makes me.

My ‘un-taper‘ tune-up pre-race open water swim was a mixed bag. I ate too soon beforehand, but there are some good straight lines in there, and a sub 2 minute /100m swim pace, but the conditions were pretty much ideal – no wind, no waves, no crowds, no turns to make; it won’t be like that on race day.



The course actually starts in Fairy Lake then works it’s way up the Muskoka River; so you’ve got the open water waves from wind (though motor boat traffic gets minimized at race time), then current and navigational twists and turns in the challenge mix.  The good news is that I’ve done the same course (more or less) not only last year, but in previous Subaru Series events. If I sight frequently and use my memories of the past to reduce my ‘where the heck am I?’ pauses on the course, I think I can get a swim I’ll be really happy with.


Bike 40 km
Time: 1:22:49 (29 km/h)

I forgot that I must have made some gains on the bike last year, because that speed looks good for me historically speaking.  For bike performance I’m in the 85.7 percentile in M35-39 last year, and I honestly feel like I could squeeze out a better performance this year.  I think I’m a little stronger and faster (and lighter!), I just lowered my aero position a little bit, and I’ll be familiar with the course; I might even skip the bit of bad luck where I got stuck behind a car in a traffic jam situation going over a bridge.  Last year’s performance would have placed me at 35/40 in M40-44 or 87.5 percentile.  Again it looks like the new age group is actually a faster one.  But, if I can average 30 km/h, I could have a time of 1:20:00 and move to the 80th percentile.  The ride out to Port Sydney and back is a pretty one, but there are hills (they are inevitable in this area) and I’m not really well trained for that.  Fingers crossed.


Run 10 km
Time: 57:41 (Pace 5:47 per km)

I tend to think of myself as better in the swim than the bike or run, but last year’s race makes my swim and run equal compared to the pack at least.  I placed 21/28 or 75th percentile for running in the M35-39 category.  That pace/time would put me at 33/40 or 82.5 percentile for M40-44.  I don’t have a good prediction for running this year… I could be faster, but I haven’t done enough brick workouts to evaluate my speed off the bike.  That pace doesn’t look too threatening, but factor in the hills and heat, which I’m probably not conditioned for, it’s hard to be optimistic.  I did manage a good pace in my pre-race brick workout. After 32 km on a spin bike, I managed to run 5:25 per km, but only for 4 km. I do think with fuel and mental focus I could keep up that effort level, at least.




After playing around with zero-drop/minimalist footwear, I think I’m going to be wearing my new Salomon XR Missions.  The run course has roads, but also gravel (from segments that use a running track) and trail portions, so their tread will come in handy.  My main reason for choosing them in spite of the extra weight (compared to the Virratas or my Zoot racing flats) is that the cushioning means I can run how I want to.  I think trying minimalist running technique has taught me some about turn-over and not heel striking quite so much, but I never did find my mid-foot, and I don’t really feel like my technique needed that much change – good shoes mean I can run fast (for me), and what else am I really trying to accomplish?


Transitions

I like my transitions efficient but calm.  The only thing left to really affect how quickly I complete transitions (that is within my control, unlike rack placement or course layout) would be to attach my bike shoes to the clips and learn how to put the shoes on during the ride.  I’ve played around with it a little in the past and didn’t feel safe, so I’m not going to try it.  Everything else I think I’ve optimized for my own racing experience.


Overall
Time: 2:59:07

I placed 24/28 overall in M35-39 last year (isn’t it funny how your bike performance is the biggest indicator of your overall performance?).  That time would put me at 34/40 (85th percentile) in M40-44 or let’s say I shave off 3 minutes total from last year (2 for bike, 1 for swim, everything else equal)… it actually puts me in the same place since #33 did it in 2:53, which goes to show how limited this exercise is in terms of usefulness.  I still had fun though… I guess I just like numbers.


While this sort of analysis and prediction helps me stay motivated to give my best on race day, the truth is, without having had enough in-season training including open water swims, rides through hillier terrain and brick workouts, I have to treat this race as a tune-up race: the real goal is the Bracebridge Triathlon in August, it is to be my redemption race.

To prepare myself for the day, I’ve actually set alerts on my Garmin which I never do, but I’m hoping they keep me mentally focused: swim alerts for every 500 m so I know how I’m doing, and a bike alert to let me know if I let my cadence get below 75 RPM.  I wanted one for my run too, but they don’t seem to have one for pace, and the heart rate one is based on Zones as opposed to straight percentage of maximum, and I just didn’t have the confidence to peg my run performance that way.  Some things can still be done by ‘feel’.

Where’s your personal line on how much to go by ‘feel’ and how much to track the numbers? Can a race be a tune-up, or should the attitude always be ‘there is no tomorrow’ on Race Day? Can it be both?

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