Race Report #101: Clermont Draft Legal Challenge

Well, we had a great race, and got some great pics to prove it  (thanks for the snazzy Christmas camera Brookie, it really helped Em get actual people in these pictures!).

For those of you new to the concept of draft legal racing, the format is a little different than a standard USAT tri. The bike course is looped, and you can hug a wheel and work together to crank out some serious top speed. Each loop takes you through transition, and requires hairpin turn skills and powerful accelerations to maintain group contact. The final loop ends in transition where shoes are slipped on for a foot race of epic proportions.

The neat thing about a draft legal race is the format actually brings people in at the same time for ticker tape photo type finish, as it eliminates the separation that results when strong bikers (like me) pound skinny little cross country stars (like I might have been if I didn't play tennis in HS) into oblivion in the TT portion of a non-drafting race.

The reward in draft-legal racing is for the strong swimmer who can make the first or second bike pack, and also has the bike handling skills and lactic acid flushing power to crank out ~15 one minute intervals at 500 watts to survive with that pack into the footrace. Then, whoever has run the most strategic race and has enough pop left runs a sub 5 minute mile for 5k runs to ultimate victory.

Pretty easy in theory right? Well, lets just say there are some skills required that aren't as easy on paper as they are on race day. Here's a rundown of Team Scrappy's race and what we need to work on to get better at this format:

Yes. There are gators in there. I'm that crazy.
The Swim:
After wavering on temperature all day, and making the girls race wet suit-less at 9 am, the boys were allowed to put on our superhero costumes for a VERY shallow 750 m swim. In my opinion, this was a shameless USAT markettering excuse to get some shots of hot chicks in bathing suits coming out of the water, and squeeze top speed out of the men's group for results purposes. But I digress.

Too bad I left my wet suit at home. And thank god it was shallow so I could run to keep up.

As usual, Brett came out of the water first, and I third to last. Into the main pack for Brett, and catchup time for me.

The Bike:
My fellow hydrophobic triathletes.
Running through transition without a wet suit is awesome. I don't regret for a minute (60 seconds) the 90 seconds I lost in the water, or the 20 seconds I gained back in not having that stupid suit on.

Thankfully everyone at this race was able to do a flying mount and the transition exit was smooth an unobstructed.

Then it was time to make the donuts. Brett had a 20 second lead to protect in the first bike pack, and I needed to rally my poor swimming friends to help me bang out a huge bike.

Brett in hot pursuit
Things never quite go according to plan. My end of the swim wave didn't quite have the bike power to sustain a good peloton, and I only spend about 4 minutes in a choppy 5 man group (which actually was nice to spin down for a while) which I dropped on the climb and completely broke up on the last turn of lap 3. So, it was a long lonely 32 minutes for me, but I do have to say that my new 'TT' bike (Fuji SST 2.0) kept me in the game and helped me move from 48th place up to 28th (estimates here) over the course of this leg. Lesson learned: SWIM FASTER. 24 mph on your own aint gonna cut it in a DL race.

Wishing this guy knew what he was doing so I could stay closer.
Brett had a tough day up front. The lead group of athletes was composed mainly of VERY strong bikers from UCF and Florida proper. And Brett got chewed up and spit out by the two lead biking packs. It wasn't until after the race that it finally donned on us why he got smoked so hard by the  FL troupe. 1. We were up against actual training teams that have been working together on DL style racing, particularly short power type workouts (1' on 1' off at 600 watt type stuff). Advantage FL guys. 2. People in FL have been riding and running in nice cozy weather all winter. March, it seems is their August. Hopefully they'll hit a little 105 degree 200% humidity lull this summer, and they'll get their comeuppance at nationals in Burlington in August.

Hey FL, also, you are all really really nice and that almost makes up for the shelacking you gave us northerners. Nice to meet all of you!

On the Run:
Brilliant form.
Mobil will probably sue us for this new race report column. So, after the abuse endured in the lead packs, Brett was a wobbly old guy. Time to hit the trainer and crank out 20x1' power work and brick it. I'll let him chime in here but it sounds like there's a huge difference in the abuse you sustain from a peloton type bike leg, and if you aren't ready to flush the lactic acid that's bound to build up from a dozen huge pulls, then you're in deep doo doo. Brett's run was on the slower side but in my opinion was still a pretty good showing for March 5th of a race season that doesn't typically start till June. And look at that form right there. Great stuff Nichols.
Getting down to business.

I threw down some pretty good numbers on the run (5:20 pace), due in large part to the sustained speed work I've been doing on the bike this winter at the Bike Hub's indoor computrainer rides. My bike leg was functionally a windy little loop TT, and I'm pretty accustomed to getting of and running away from this kind of workout. My number were 1:10 faster than  5k done last year in May, and I think that's a pretty big deal.

Here's what you will remember most about me.
Something to think about. Both Brett and I finally settled in to the run about 10 minutes in. I really opened things up on the last half lap and put down a half dozen folks ahead of me. There's defintiely a huge correlation between the type of brick work you are doing and your ability to settle in to a run and get down to business. We've been hitting the bike run pretty hard, but our run workouts are early season 'progressives' where you run a stable speed for about 30 minutes and then pick up the final 15 ending at 5k pace. I'd say the first 5 minutes of this are in the 6:15 range and the last 5 are in the 5:00 range. And pretty much that's exactly how we ran our 5k yesterday.

Can you smell what the Rock is cooking?? Business: Part II
Is there room for improvement? Heck yeah. The pros banged out 29 minute bike legs and sub 14 minute 5ks. that's just rediculous. But totally doable. I'm excited out of my mind for my next DL race and will be smarter by the time I get there too. Thanks to USAT and the 4:28 mileing Jarrod Shoemaker for getting this age group tri off the ground.