Race Recap: Harvest Sprint Triathlon

It had been over a year since my last triathlon and I was nervous. I was nervous for the packing. I had forgotten just how much logistics and checklists are involved the day before a triathlon. Sometime mid-morning I felt a fluttering panic in my stomach and was sure that I was missing something major, something critical from the list. I had a crystal clear vision of showing up on race morning without my bike or my pants. Something that would be embarrassing and force me out of the race.

Turns out a few deep breaths and some double checking and then triple checking my race day list was all I needed. I drove the hour south to Wareham, just before the bridges to the Cape, still somewhat convinced that I had forgotten something, but I showed up at the race venue, unpacked my gear and found that it was all there. I was ready. It was time to race. 

The Harvest triathlon, organized by Max Performance, a local triathlon/racing outfit, is in its second year and offers a sprint and Olympic distance triathlon along with relays and tri team competitions. Like my recent trail race at Powisett Farm, this race was hosted by A.D. Makepeace Farms with the run course looping through their cranberry bogs. It offered some terrific views and was a great venue for racing. Plenty of space for parking (only negative was having to roll your bike through grass and dirt to transition), lots of rack space in transition, a short walk to the lake swim, plus packed trails for the run. I had no complaints about the venue. 

 

Pre-Race

My only complaint about the whole day was the time the alarm went off in the morning. The venue was about an hour away and with a 7:30 start time, it meant waking up at 4 a.m. That was a little rough. On the plus side after some coffee and breakfast (my traditional Chrissie Wellington porridge – rice cereal, nut butter, banana), the traffic heading toward the Cape was very light.

Parking was in a field adjacent to the farm, so it was a bit of a walk over grass and sandy trails, which wasn’t ideal for the bike. I carried mine most of the way. Once on the farm proper, check-in was a breeze and by 6:15 I had my race packet in hand. 

Nothing unusual about the packet. Bib, helmet and bike sticker, plus ankle chip. Got inked up with my age and number, had the brakes checked and then I was in transition and setting up with an hour to kill to the start time. Better to be early than late, I suppose.

 

The transition area had plenty of space for both races and used un-marked racks. The racks were numbered, but it was first come, first to choose within your row. They also had more spaces than racers so it was possible you’d have an empty rack or two between you and the next racer. This happened to me and I was grateful for the space.

Porta-potty note: They probably could have used a few more. Lines were a little long throughout much of the day.

 

 

The Swim

It was a beautiful morning. Even at 7 a.m. air temperatures were getting close to 70 with low humidity and bright sun. I’m sure I would be cursing the sun and lack of shade by the run, but right now, standing on the edge of the pond, I was thankful. But it also presented me with a big decision. With the warm air and water water temps hovering around 68 degrees, should I go wetsuit or no wetsuit? 

For the Olympic, I would have opted for the wetsuit, no question, but the third of a mile swim for the sprint offered pros and cons. Should I go with buoyancy and a faster time or should I go with a faster transition to the bike?

 

After a practice swim in my trip kit, I opted for just the kit and less hassle in T1 wrestling with a wetsuit. As we walked the short distance to the swim start (It was sort of a point to point swim) I was definitely in the minority. I only saw a handful of others not using a wetsuit. Too late to second guess now.

It was an in-water, mass start by race and gender division. I was up first in the spring men younger than 54. It had been a few years, maybe Rev3 Poconos, since I’d done a start like this. Most of the recent races have changed to time trial starts. 

I’m not sure if it was the start type, the lack of wetsuit, or the lack of open water practice this year, but I had a rough start and a rough swim overall. It took almost to the first buoy to feel comfortable and find some clean water and even then it didn’t get much better. I can typically do a mile in the pool around 1:40/100. I struggled to finish the 550 yards here in just under 1:50/100. I thought I would be around 9 minutes, certainly under 10. I finished in 10:31. I was thankful to reach shore and find my bike. At least I didn’t have the wetsuit to deal with. I was out of T1 in under an minute.

Swim: 10:31 (1:48/100) – 70/222 for the swim

 

The Bike

The good news, you don’t win or lose a triathlon in the swim. You can win or lose a triathlon on the bike and this winter I had put in the first really serious chunk of time in improving my bike strength. I had raised my rather embarrassing (for my fitness level) FTP from 175 to a more average 243. I was hoping, even over the short 14 mile sprint course, to see some improvement.

I had three goals on the bike. First, as my old coach used to say, to really race the bike. Her goal was always to be above 20 mph. Second, related to the first, put down some watts close to that FTP. Third, use a high cadence to try to put some of the effort on the lungs and save some of the legs for the run. 

The bike course hit a few main roads in the beginning, though there were plenty of volunteers and police officers to help with traffic, before moving onto less trafficked side roads. I was never really bothered by cars. The pavement I’d say was average for New England. There were a few re-paved sections, a few pock marked sections and rarely any sections you could tune out and go on autopilot. No chip seal, however. I was thankful for that.

One gripe at the very end of the bike was that a truck pulled into the farm entrance just as a group of us were coming (pretty fast) toward the end of the bike section and then sort of dawdled on the road and forced many of us to slam on the brakes and careen onto the grass to avoid hitting the back of the truck. Just an odd coincidence of timing, perhaps, but it jangled the nerves.

In the end, even with the truck incident, I was really happy with the bike. I was still passed a few times (definitely more room to improve the bike muscles), but I also passed a few people and held my speed a few ticks over 20 mph. I also averaged a 95 cadence and 245 watts. Pretty much right in line with my bike race goals. 

Bike: 40:00 (20.4 mph) – 43/222 for the bike

 

The Run

Oddly, my T2 was the exact same (0:57) as T1. A good omen? I’m not sure. The run was all on grass and trails with the first part after transition a modest uphill climb through shaded woods to the water stop at 1.5 miles (Gatorade or water). After that, you hit the cranberry bogs and the sun and the sand, both of which were not welcome by this point. I did my best to stay on the firmer ground, but sometimes the sandy loam bordering the bogs was unavoidable. It was a nice little diabolical challenge to end the day. 

One guy flew by me early on with an easy fluid stride and I automatically let him go. No way was I staying with someone that was running like that at this point. I was feeling okay, but working pretty hard. I passed a handful of people early, but once again, found myself relatively alone between packs of people for the second two miles. I could just see a woman up ahead to chase and when I peeked (only once) behind me, could see a few runners a couple hundred yards back.

All in all, the run went very well. I didn’t feel super-strong, but I felt strong enough to be fast and steady throughout the race. My GAP paces reflect that, too: 6:56, 6:58, 6:54 for the three miles.

Run: 21:08 (7:03 / mile) – 16/222 for the run

Overall: 1:13:30, 27/222 overall, 3rd in my AG

 

Post-race

After the race, at the finish line, they handed out water bottles and medals (a nice unique medal with barn doors). There was also bananas, watermelon, grapes and Gatorade.

Once you had cooled down and re-fueled a little, there was a post-race party area that offered a few vendors (Krave jerky, Bark snack chocolate), a massage table, the beer garden and the BBQ buffet. 

 

One advantage to the sprint event is the short lines for food, beer and massage. In exchange for my email address, I got a nice leg rubdown with minimal wait. 

The beer vendor was Bad Martha and your race entry provided for 2 free beers. Nothing like a couple beers before 10 a.m.

I did appreciate that they had vegetarian options for the food buffet so I wasn’t left scrounging sides.

My third place age group prize a branded mason jar mug.

 

Summary

I was really impressed with the entire event. This is my first event run by Max Performance (I’ve done many by Sun Multisport, a similar local outfit) and the level of volunteers, enthusiasm, organization and venue choice was all top-notch. I can see why this won Best New Event last year. I will definitely be back to race again and would recommend it to any local athlete looking for an early season triathlon.

 

MIKE'S WINDOW

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