Saturday, June 4, 2022

Somabay Olympic Distance Triathlon

In my last post, I talked about the impact of training volume on my performance. I mentioned that I saw an improvement and compared my performance improvements between 2 consecutive years for the same 2 Cycling events, the Galala challenge, and the same 2 Ultrarunning events, Qarun 66. I also questioned whether I would see a similar improvement on shorter events, specifically at the Somabay Olympic distance triathlon, organized by “The Trifactory” on May 28th, 2022. I have just done this race last weekend and here is my conclusion.

The race went very well. “The Trifactory” has never disappointed in its ability to organize great events. It is great to have them in Egypt. Different to the April race in the year before, the weather did not cause any issues. In 2021, both the swim and the bike legs had to be shortened due to high winds. This year, we were able to complete the whole distance. But, due to the different distance and weather conditions between the 2 years, it is almost impossible to compare and conclude with certainty.

The swim was ok. I never try to be fast on the swim, but my objective is rather to save as much energy as possible. The first 500 meters were somewhat against the current and then we turned around a buoy and had the current with us. I had to stop for a few seconds to adjust my goggles because one side as leaking water in. I finished feeling very well and satisfied with the time when I looked at the watch coming out of the water. Later when I analyzed my result, I saw that I had almost swam 100m longer than the planned race distance of 1500m. I don’t know how that happened, especially when I see that many others had recorded distances that were around 1400m.

Transitioning to the bike, I kept my shoes clipped on the pedals which is not what I usually do. But, I wanted to look a bit more professional. It went fine, but I’ll need to practice that more in the future. It felt like I could have actually been faster just putting my bike shoes on in the transition zone and running out with them. In the 4-lap course we had rather strong wind against us in one direction and with us in the other. I only slowed down slightly before the many road bumps, but was all the time in fear that I’ll suffer a flat tire from one of them anytime. Luckily, that didn’t happen. In the last week before the race, I changed my tri position to be a bit more aggressive. When I look at the results of the bike leg, I think it did help. Compared to the swim and run legs, my rank for the bike leg was 14th overall, which is quite good for me. It wasn’t all due to the position though. I had done more high intensity indoor (zwift) cycling sessions than I used to do before, and I strongly believe this helped.

The transition to the run was very smooth as well. For the first time in an Olympic distance race I took the time to change out of my tri suit into running shorts and shirt. The time investment was probably less than a minute, but it made me feel cleaner, fresher, and simply better on the run. I heard Lionel Sanders arguing similarly when he did the same at the IM world champs in Utah recently. Coming to the race, I had one big concern: Will my knee cause problems? 10 days before the race, I was running on a treadmill during a business trip to Dubai and I had to stop after just 5 minutes due to severe knee pain. I switched to a bike and did not run after that until race day. Luckily, I had no knee pain at all. Sometimes, just doing nothing is the best thing one can do.

Total result: I placed first in my new age group, and I would have been first in my previous age group too, which was my hidden goal. Placing 29th overall and 25th on males was a great result too.

However, back to the initial question: Did I improve versus a year before? The answer is that I cannot say it with certainty. I have definitely not gotten worse, I’m sort of unchanged in the swim, improved on the bike, and unclear in the run. In comparison to others, my run should be the opportunity area. But, doing more running speed work is risky considering my history with knee problems. Without speed work, the only other thing that would help is losing weight. So, it’s a hopeless case.

 A shout-out to Menna and Rana from my Engineering team who raced the sprint distance the following day. Well done!

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