Thursday, July 31, 2008

How to Survive the CSG Triathlon

This year's Cornhusker State Games (CSG) Triathlon had a new "Championship Heat" category. It's purpose was to put the aggressive competitors into the first heat to duke it out together for the overall victory. The men and women champions would then be invited to represent Nebraska in the "Best of The US" national sprint distance amateur triathlon later in the fall. Perhaps because it was the first year of the championship heat, some of the faster competitors may have missed the new category designation and signed up for their own age group. As a result, the overall winner came from the male 20-25 age group. My friend Lucas Marshall was third overall but wasn't in the championship heat. Another age grouper was also in the top five. So that's how I ended up third in the Championship Heat but sixth overall.

It was a fun race and well organized. It's great for spectators to see racers six times from the same place. And Team Nebraska Triathlon puts on a nice cookout following the awards ceremony.

As for the competition, there are three types of triathletes at the CSG: 1) The Type-A, 2) the Weekend Warriors and 3) the Fitness / Recreationalists. With over 400 entrants in the CSG race, it is wise to formulate a survival strategy. So without much ado, here are a few freebies:

Nebraska Type-A racers swim 100m intervals at a 1:30 pace and practice multiple times per week. If you can swim like this, you belong at the front of the line in Nebraska triathlons. The weekend warriors - those who swam in high school and currently practice less than once per week will hang with the Type-As for the first 200m before lactic acid overtakes them and the pace falls off. The Fitness and Recreational group is often better prepared than the weekend warrior but lacks the swimming background. They will be more likely to pace themselves for a steady-state effort and even catch many of the weekend warriors. But the fitness group should look out for the warriors who've fallen back -- while the warriors' tired arms may no longer flail with gusto, there's still plenty of kick to take one in the face.

Because each successive loop on the four mile course adds another 100+ cyclists onto the course, it can turn into a war of attrition. By the time the final cyclist is on the road, it's like downtown Bangkok during rush hour. Negotiating the flood of squirrely cyclists while maintaining pace on a boxy and hilly course becomes a real challenge. Ideally, slower racers will stay to the inside and allow the fasties to pass on their left. Also, it'd be nice to think that all cyclists would hold their line, but c'mon we're talking about triathletes here. The fact that we can turn the bike 90 degrees without falling over is a miracle in itself. My advice: stay alert and hope to avoid the pile up when someone suddenly decides to make the full lane sweep in front of you.

By the time you enter the run course, it's likely that you're in a lot of pain. This is especially the case in a sprint triathlon. Complementing your sky rocketing heart rate is the discomfort of switching muscle groups from cycling to running while dealing with the rising heat of the day. It's not a graceful moment that can get ugly. For example, one racer (pictured) attempted to box me out while passing on the run. It wasn't subtle. As I approached, he crowded me to the outside of the path and nearly forced me into the grass. To perhaps his and my surprise, I fought back. I raised a forearm and Heismanned my way to a clear path. It was a steel-cut moment if there was ever one. Was it necessary? Probably not. But neither was crowding me. You mess with the bull...

In truth, this is supposed to be a low key event. Yes, competition is fun and all. And there is some bragging rights to medaling in your age group or finishing among the top 10 overall. But really, this is the CSG. It's a family event. Play nice, smile, thank the volunteers, etc.

For Next Year's Competitors

  • Don't swim over top of slower swimmers; go around them.
  • Don't make violent sweeping turns in front of other cyclists.
  • Mount and Dismount your bike at the marked transition area.
  • Wear your bib number on the run. Don't stuff it in your Speedo to only make it magically reappear from beneath your sweaty lycra loin cloth at the end of the run. I mean, that's just simply gross.

For Race Officials and Volunteers
  • Thank you. It was a well-coordinated Race.
  • Championship heat was a welcomed addition. Consider inviting top 20 next year by email
  • Consider capping it a 400 entrants or change venue
  • Penalize rule breakers
  • Cook out was great. Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. If I ever do a triathlon, I'm going to be Speedo guy. Anybody wanna help me shave?