Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Welcome Home! Pittsburgh Triathlon!

The family and I were all fired up for a return to Pittsburgh to visit my brother and sister-in-law's home with triplets and all.  They are getting big and I was a bit afraid Charlie, Katelyn and Sarah were going to wear me out at the pool before the race even started like they did in Kona last year.  Getting back east is always a treat though and I was happy to do it while it was actually warm out and enjoy some things I never get to do living in SF where it is perpetually 60 degrees it seems.

Off to packet pickup Saturday, and I love getting into the burg in the summer time. Everything's so green and down by the ballparks has been done over to be a great place for a race.  The Olympic race has a third upstream, then two thirds downstream, finishing in front of Heinz Field.
Swim start up-stream to Roberto Clemente Bridge

Dad and Chuck are happy the Sprint only goes down-stream

Finish at the old railroad crossing in front of Heinz
Back home and dinner with all the family then to bed early with a 3:30 am wake-up call.  Race starts at 6:45!  Only had that form IM's, but that's how they roll out here where it gets hot and humid.

Morning comes and my normal bagel with peanut butter and honey.  In the car and down to the burg we go.  Nerves were building on me as this race has two of my favorite things going for it.  Non-wetsuit in fresh water did not agree with me in Texas, but I've been working hard in the pool for the last month, so lets see how I hold up.

Heading into the Allegheny for a deep water start, everything was mellow and it was really cool to be out in the middle of the river.  The Allegheny is the "cleaner" of the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, but we found out later that they found a body in the river in the wee hours of the morning.  (Glad they kept that to themselves)  Not much of a current which was both good and bad.  Good for heading up-stream, but bad for any major swim PR for the down-stream portion.  3, 2, 1 and we were off.  I charged in on the right side for some clear water, but a pack of seriously fast swimmers were charging up the middle and took off.  Felt better in the water than Texas, and I was staying flat in the water!  Around the bouy at Roberto Clemente Bridge, cruising downstream, and swim straight toward Heinz Field.  Out of the water and nothing spectacular, but  happy with a 27 minute non-wetsuit swim.
Time - 27:43, 93rd overall

Up next, a rip-roaring roller coaster ride on my bike.  This course involved the blocked off section of the HOV (Carpool lane for all the West Coasters).  Grind uphill for nearly six miles, then downhill for another six.  Completely fun 2 laps except for the amount of lap traffic you run into with three races going on at the same time.  Add to that rumble strips.  Wow, hitting a rumble strip at over 30 MPH nearly shakes your teeth out.  With the setup of the cones separating incoming and outgoing racers, it made a lot of people crowd near the cones, fearing the strips which made me do a lot of yelling "ON THE LEFT!" which I hope they heard, but near 40 MPH at times, I don't think they could.

Crushing the course and averaging 300 watts (350 up, 250 down) I started looking at my splits and an hour bike leg for an Olympic race was in reach!  Letting up a little on the short flats before finishing the second loop I see that opportunity slip by, but I still have to run 6.2 miles.

Bike - 1:00:27, 3rd Overall

1,400 feet gain

Feeling great off the bike, it was time to put in some work in the pain cave.  With a flat out and back along the river I knew I could open up and hold an crazy pace and not die, so it was on.  Passing a few guys here and there, but I'm not sure if they are in the Sprint or Olympic race so until I hit the 5k turnaround where people peel off, its just all mental and pushing.  Once at the Sprint turnaround there is a spotter who tells me I'm 7th and 7 minutes back from the leader.  There is a long straightaway ahead of me and I can't see anyone!  Head games start in to "take it easy", but I didn't fly all the way out to Pittsburgh to mail it in at the last minute.  All or nothing.

Finally after pressing for another mile I start seeing the leaders returning, but also catch someone on their way out.  Success!  With about 200 yards to the turnaround I see another runner and that is where I set my goal for the day, CATCH HIM!  Taking in some Gatorade at the aid station, I don't want much in my stomach for fear of puking on the way in.  I look at my watch and its going below 6 min pace.  I see my Mom out on the course here and she gives a great cheer.  Maxing out my effort and I finally see my target at around the 2 mile mark.  I plan to reel him in over the next mile and make the catch at the 1 mile marker and I do.  Unfortunately I start grunting when I'm over exerting myself and it gave me away withing 10 yards which gave him the opportunity to pick it up.  He turned when he heard me and it was a race.  Both of us are at our limits and we go blowing by my Dad finishing up the Sprint.  He gave me a "GO GET HIM BRETT!"

With the last 100 yards coming up, we were withing 10 yards of each other, but  the extended effort had finally taken its tool on me, I couldn't accelerate for a final sprint.  This was a great experience to actually race hard for the last mile of a tri, but it wouldn't be my win.  Crossing the line it was still a successful trip, 6th Overall and 3rd Age Group! (They gave me the 2nd place medal because the top Overall people are taken out of the AG standings).
Run - 37:28 2nd Overall

The guy I raced against is Ben Erdeljac who my Dad and I talked to after the race.  A good guy who is on his way to Vegas for the 70.3 Championships.  He'll do do great out there and here is his race report where he shares his bit from our battle mile.

The fun graph for the day, heart rate for the run!  I think I finally nailed down how to pace for an Olympic and not have anything left at the end.  Its been a while since an Olympic has been my A race, as I've been training for longer distances, and ignoring speed, but over the past two month I've gone back to shorter, more concentrated workouts to help build speed and threshold pacing.

Next up is Canada and then Kona.  Its been a long, but great year so far.  Canada won't be anything spectacular unless a miracle happens, but all plans go towards a strong and healthy Kona.  This was a great way to cap of the "fun" portion of my year and I was glad to do it with family.  Mom and Dad were out, along with my brother.  His family and in-laws were out to cheer us on too so all in all a great day.


  1. Nice report. Great job on the race!

  2. Great race report Brett! It was fun racing the last mile. I think we both became better triathletes for it. Good luck in Canada and Kona!

  3. Interesting to read your blog. I raced Pittsburgh as well. Good luck with the rest of the season. FYI: the splits on the website are your overall rankings for that portion of the race so you should feel better about your swim being 54th best. Were you in the group that had to go back out to get the last buoy? Heard a volunteer told the lead pack to skip the last yellow turn marker

    Chandler Carranza

  4. Thanks Chandler. It was fun to race back in my home town, especially in the river. The lead pack were the only ones who got turned around fortunately. Not sure how much time they gave up as a result. Fun day overall, I'm just much more used to swimming in my cold bay here in SF.