Thursday, July 15, 2010

Boulder Peak Race Report by Evan Macfarlane

First off, I got married a few weeks ago, so that's my exciting news! Now onto the more normal stuff...

The Boulder Peak was my best olympic distance tri to date. I finished 3rd in my age group -- my fourth podium at an Ironman-owned event in a row. Typically I wouldn't be too satisfied with 3rd in my age group, but the Boulder Peak brings out a competitive field. Plus, as a relatively weak swimmer I always struggle to make up the time I lose in the water on the bike and run in olympic distance races.
(This is the picture I refer to below when describing the bike portion of the race. For some reason the blogging software won't let me move the image.)

The good: I completed the swim in 25:25, which I'm pretty sure is a new PR for me. My Zoot Zenith 2.0 wetsuit certainly helped. It's flexibility is fantastic and it slips off with ease in T1. Following the swim, I was only four minutes -- not the typical 7 or 8 minutes -- down on most of the tops guys in my AG. I also felt strong exiting the water, like the swim didn't take much out of me.

The bad: I am still coming out 4 minutes down on my competitors. That's a huge difference to make up in a 2 hour race. I finis
hed as the 8th amateur overall, yet if I swam just 3 minutes faster I would have been 3rd amateur and would have beat some well-respected guys. Still, my swim was in the top 10% overall and I'm making progress.

Also in the "bad" category is my spotting. I breathe
to my left, and fortunately for me most triathlon swims are counter-clockwise. I like that because I can spot while breathing and also because my tendency is to drift to the left, which isn't bad when the drifting just takes me closer to the buoys. At the Boulder Peak, however, the swim is clockwise and my drifting took me off course. Here is the route I believe I traveled:
(Okay, my artistic skills could use some work.)

I kept looking up and seeing that I wasn't where I wanted to be, and I'd make an effort to take an optimal line from my location back to the pack of swimmers. Yet the next time I'd look up I'd still be off course. I need to practice spotting more! I will try to get into the 2 mile swims at Cherry Creek reservoir tomorrow and next week. Anyhow, at least I'm aware of this and I will make sure not to make the same mistake in Louisville.

The Boulder Peak bike course is awesome. I really like the course's climb and descent. Since moving to Denver a few months ago, I've had a lot of practice climbing and descending on my fantastic handling Orbea Ordu. I'm now confident taking corners at 40 mph in the aerobars. Anyhow, my plan for the bike was to go nearly all-out on the first uphill section (designated by the first green line in the diagram above), then get some rest on the middle downhill section (designated by the red line) while still putting in some power where possible, and then to pick the effort back up for the flat section at the end (designated by the second green line).

This strategy worked well because knowing I'd get a little break in the middle allowed me to really push the effort at the beginning and end. Also, it's not so much that I tried to go easy in the middle -- I didn't, and my cadence was 110+ rpm on the downhills in my 53x12 so that I could put out some power -- but that the terrain makes it tough to put out 270 W at some points.

Anyhow, my bike split was a very respectable 1:04 for the >25 mile course, which was the 7th fastest amateur bike split. If you're into data, here's my info:
247 W avg (although a 60 minute average of 256 W -- I had to coast for a while at the end of the ride due to traffic), 266 W normalized, 20 minute max power of 282 W, and over 29 minutes of the rider were at 270+ watts. A solid ride for me.

My bread and butter. I was aiming for a third straight IM-branded race with the fastest amateur run, though I knew it'd be a challenge with the race in Boulder (I make the IM-branded distinction just because IM-branded races usually bring out quality fields.) I felt good despite the hard effort on the bike, but was only able to run to the 3rd fastest amateur run at 5:48/mile. My turnover could be a bit quicker for a race this short, and that's what I'll focus on during my next race, the 5430 Half. Still, a solid run to cap off the day.

Other Notes
(1) One cool thing about the Boulder Peak is how great the race organizers handled the pro race. Instead of having pros start early so that they're never seen by the target audience -- i.e., other racers -- at Boulder Peak the pros started hours after the AGers. As a result, most AGers were done by the time the pros started their run. Then, the organizers altered the run course for the pros so that they did 3 spectator friendly loops. This was a great way to make the pro race add value for AG racers, as the format allowed viewers to actually watch the pros' run unfold. I'd highly recommend entering the Boulder Peak if you haven't done it before, and if you're a race direction this type of format is something to consider.

(2) Zoot's CompressRx Tri shorts are awesome! Before these shorts, I'd tried stuff from DeSoto, Oomph, Craft, and Pearl Izumi. While those brands make nice stuff, the CompressRx tri shorts are my new favorites. I'll be wearing them at Ironman Louisville in a few weeks, and the extra support the shorts provide for my quads will be nice for the 26 mile run. Next time you buy a pair of shorts, I recommend that you check these out.

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