My random meandering - stream of consciousness thoughts, ideas, and feelings
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Tagaman 2010 Race Report
Saipan is a small island in the Pacific. So small there isn't even a Starbucks on the island! There is a McDonalds but no BK. It's a place where you can still give your phone number in 7 digits instead of 10, and basically a place like Cheers "where everybody knows your name." This year was my 2nd year racing in Saipan. Last year I did the double racing both the Xterra and Tagaman. This year I opted to just do a relay for the Xterra Race. I arrived late thursday night into saipan after commuting from Manila with a brief day in Guam. Friday was the Sunset 10K trail run - which I ran for fun and was able to win since none of the other pros participated since they were saving their legs for Saturday's race.
For the Xterra I was able to form a team last minute. I did the swim, Mario Galeng did the most arduous task of the mountain bike and Ronald Villafria was the run leg. We won the relay division!
For the Tagaman, there were many last minute entries from Japan and Korea. Takumi Obara an Olympian from Sydney was racing for the first time in 5 years and members from the Korean National Team showed up sporting their ITU outfits. I knew it was going to be hard to replicate my top 5 finish from the 2009 Tagaman. I was going to have to use Long Distance Strength against the ITU speed.
After a fairly stressful setting up transition - we were ready to go at the first break of daylight at 6:15 in the am
at exactly 6:15 in the horn sounded. We dove into the water and spinted all out to the first bouy. I was in good position and found some good feet drafting behind Sam Gardner the XTerra Champion and Mike Vine - we barely got to the first bouy and then our pack of about 10 athletes were called back!! It was a False Start!!!! Since some of the guys were a bit too far to the left of the start buoy, they sounded to the horn to call us back instead of using the megaphone. I was very disappointed. Putting in such a huge effort for nothing! So after about a minute of relaxing the counted was repeated and we went off in typical ITU style. The Koreans pulled out all the dirty tricks- I got my leg pulled back, There was alot of banging around as we were swimming on top of eachother for the first 200m. Finally I got some clean water and found some feet to draft off of - unfortunately my tugboat steered me off course and over some shallow coral reef where I had to skull carefully over to not get cut. By the time I got swimming again we were off the back of the pack!
I decided to choose my own line and swam the second loop of the 2K swim alone. Fortunately I was able to avoid the reefs on the 2nd loop. My finish time I believe was just over 30 minutes
As I only packed one pair of bike shoes this trip in my vain attempt to travel lighter, I had only my 3 strap shoes that I used for the Ironman in Malaysia. 3 straps offer great support, but they are not easy to transition with when they are clipped into the pedals. I wasted about 2 minutes or so trying to get them on. In retrospect I should have just put them on and ran on the cleats.
As it was now an ITU type style race, there was a lot of drafting going on in the Lead group. In a race that is supposed to be draft illegal, this was also disappointing. The Korean team was working well with the lead group that included Vine, Gardner who caught them, and the other British triathlete Mike Hiscott. The bike course starts with a small loop by the airport with some rolling hills and then it's about 20 miles straight into the headwind all the way to the bird island turnaround
During the bike was to try to hold a steady 250 Watts against the headwind, but for some reason, perhaps because I've become too much of a techy, my powertap conked out and I had no power reading! So I had to do old school and go on feel. It was tough since I was pretty much by myself and saw the group up the road riding away from me. To add injury onto insult the winds were even stronger Saturday am and climbing a steady incline into headwind was very hard.
By Bird Island I had caught all the women and was working my way to catch the remainder of the men's field that had fallen of of the lead group. By the Grotto Turnaround, Sam Gardner had already broken away from the pack.
The Other Equipment error I made was to borrow my kuya (older brother) Jazy's front Hed3c wheel. Although a faster wheel than my Stingers, in the crosswinds, it was much more difficult to handle. Had I had the tri spoke in the rear, and stinger in the front, that would have been a better combination.
The Tagaman course is really one of the prettiest courses I've ever raced on as you have these dramatic views of the cliffs and ocean. The Grotto is also another pretty site and famous dive spot:
There is one more out back on Banzai Cliff before we headed to T2 in American Memorial Park
It was a here where the wind was the strongest. I think all in all the bike was windier than Queen K in Hawaii!!
Now Finally heading back downhill with wind on our backs, I was spinning out my 54x11!! going well over 35mph (50kph) ! This was fun - at times I did have to change my grip to hold the bars as the tri-spoke would catch the cross winds. I caught one of the Korean men on the downhill section.
In transition I opted to put on socks. Generally my rule is no socks for olympic distance and down and socks for half IM and up. For a 15K run, it was a judgement call. Last year I opted for no socks and developed bad blisters so I choose with the safer but slower transition with the socks. As a price the Korean I passed on the bike, passed me back in transition.
I used foot pod function on my GPS to monitor my stride rate. Thank God that function worked! I pretty much tried to stay as much over 90spm as I could for the entire run. I eventually reeled in the Korean who had passed my in transition and caught another Korean athlete who was battling with cramps I was now in 8th position overall and the leaders were too far ahead. So I just kept the effort steady - I took a gel at the first turn around point and just tried to hold on the the stride rate. There were a few sections where I started to bonk, but I just tried to shorten the stride length and get the rate back up.
I think all the talks I have been giving on run technique have been helping. I just focused on keeping my feet underneath me, picking up my heels and turning my shoulders. I kept telling myself "stike lightly, quick, balance" I and repeated the manta counting my steps with each inhale and exhale "1,2,3,4-2,2,3,4..." over and over again. There were plenty aid stations on the run and it was nice to hear to cheers of all the Filipino Volunteers and Spectators. The majority of the run is along beach road where you can see the ocean - definitely on of the more scenic run courses
So I just tried to maintain my gap on the runners I had caught, taking gatorade and water as needed and finally got to the finish line. I held under 7min/mile (4min/km) pace which was fine for this time of year and for the 4th fastest run split of the day, my average stride rate was 89spm - but that included some walking and hand standing at the finish line:
The only thing I forgot to do at this point was take a picture with the podium girls:
My Total spilts for the day:
Swim Plc Tran #1 Bike Plc Tran2 Run Plc Total Div Plc
So after a quick Massage and breakfast with Helen Olbes (my homestay from last year) I did a short cool down ride back to the PIC (Pacific Islands Club) where the swim start was. And guess what? My powermeter was working again!!
So now I'm back in Guam and gettting set to race the Xterra here this weekend. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post. Thanks also to everyone who helped me in Saipan: Wolf and Bill from Taga Inc. for putting on this great event, Jeff and Lisa Taylor for hosting me in their lovely mountaintop home, all my fellow saipan based Pinoy athletes esp. Manny, Ron, Butch, Mario, Alex. Thanks to John for his aero helmet and Jazy for the front wheel, EFS, and Optygen, to Twinkle for sending me a new foot pod, Newton running, Rotor Components and of course Elite Bicycles.