Friday, May 2, 2014

Race Report: WCC Indoor Triathlon

This past Saturday I did my second indoor triathlon.  (I've now done one outdoor sprint triathlon, and two indoor triathlons).  I was on the fence about doing this one, since I didn't have that much fun doing my first one at the YMCA last month, but I ultimately decided to do it, mainly because of the potential for pretty good haul if I won.  First place female overall wins a 3-month gym membership ($195 value), and first in each age group wins a 1 month membership ($65 value). I am already a paying member at this gym (the Health & Fitness Center at Washtenaw Community College), so it would be like money in my pocket if I won anything. The registration fee was like $40, so I had potential to actually make a profit!  So I registered.  And I was in it to win it!!

This race was a 20 minute swim (pool), 20 minute bike (on a spin bike), and 20 minute run (treadmill), separated by 5-10 minute transitions.  The race was divided into 5-6 person "heats", every 20 minutes.  I was in the very last heat of the day, at noon.  I got there at like 11:30 and picked up my packet.  I was really happy with the race schwag!  Lots of goodies!!

Sorry for the blurry pic.  I actually really love this shirt.  It is a light gray, simple design, but a perfect fit/cut.  Very rare to get a shirt that fits well!  Sorry I didn't take a picture of it on.  You'll have to take my word for it.  
Water bottle, guest pass ($20 value), decal.  
Really nice drawstring bag too!  
They wanted us to be about 10 minutes early to the pool deck to go over rules and regulations, but nobody really went over much.  I definitely felt like the communication and instructions were really lacking at this race, compared to the one I did at the YMCA last month.  There was a lot more confusion here.  Plus the staff were all super quiet and I was always unsure when we were actually starting each event, because they would say something like "You can begin now" all nonchalantly, instead of like a whistle or a horn, or at least a yell or something!

During the swim leg, I was definitely the fastest in my heat, but that doesn't really mean anything because I had no idea how the other heats went.  That's the worst thing about these indoor triathlons.  You have absolutely no idea how you did until much later. (In this case I got my results on Monday, after a Saturday race!) Anyway, I managed 21.5 laps in 20 minutes, or 1075 yards (1:53 per 100 yd pace average).  
Swim data from my Garmin. I do have individual lap data too.  
The transition to the bike ended up taking slightly longer than expected, because one of the racers got locked out of her locker and couldn't change clothes until the staff got it unlocked for her. The bike leg was the most pointless experience of my entire life.  (Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration...).  There is a bit of a backstory here, bear with me.  So, the gym recently got new spin bikes, which they were very excited about, because these bikes had "computers".  Wheee.  Well, the first time I rode them, I realized the computers were pretty useless, because they had no resistance data, just cadence/RPMs.  They also displayed heart rate, but I always wear my heart rate monitor with my Garmin when I spin, so I had that data anyway (and you still need to provide your own HR monitor strap, so it's useless to anybody that didn't have one).  The computers also displayed distance, but without access to resistance data, the distance is just a straight calculation off of cadence, and doesn't really provide any new information.  Anyway, when the gym sent out the information about the race, I noticed that it said that the the bike would be performed on the spin bikes, we would be competing for "distance", and to keep in mind that riding with more resistance makes you go further.  Hmmm.  While that could be true for certain bikes/computers, I was pretty sure that wasn't the case with these.  I wasn't 100% sure though, so I did some controlled experiments on my own a few days before the race (holding cadence and duration constant and changing resistance and comparing distance).  The resistance didn't seem to have any effect.  Because I was "in it to win it" I wanted to be 100% sure so I actually called the company to ask them!  I ended up being on hold for too long and giving up, but that's how invested I was in "riding smart".   Ha!  All my "research" ending up being unnecessary, because they explained at the start of the bike leg that resistance had no effect, that cadence was the only thing that impacted the distance, and that the bike computers didn't register anything above 120 RPM. the obvious way to ride is to spin with minimal resistance at at least 120 RPMs for the whole 20 minutes.  What a freaking joke!  I sat there and talked to my old swim coach and spun it out without even breaking a sweat.  It was basically a 20 minute rest break between the swim and run segments of the race.  I did space out a few times and let my cadence drop to 115 or so a few times, and as soon as I saw it drop I brought it right back up, but I didn't 100% maximize the bike leg as I had planned to.

Data from my watch from the bike leg.  What a joke!  I can't bike at 30 mph in real life!  Hahahaha!! 
Now that I was nice and rested it was time to run.  My goal was about a 7:30 pace, but it's always hard to predict what I'll be able to pull off on the treadmill.  I started the mill at 7.0 mph, quickly ramped it up to 8.0 mph, and kept it there most of the time I think.  It was actually pretty comfortable up until mile 1.75 or so and then I started feeling it.  Everybody around me was doing 6.0 mph or slower, so that didn't help motivate me either.  At the last triathlon I did I was next to a guy that was slightly faster than me so it helped to motivate me a bit.  Anyway, my final distance for the run leg was 2.65 miles in 20 minutes.  I was pretty happy with that, except I didn't really sprint to the "finish" or anything.
Summary of run data from my Garmin footpod.  
I should have probably maxed myself out to 9 or 10 mph for the last bit.  And then....I left.  Red faced and tired, I just walked out to the parking lot.  No finish line satisfaction, no results to check, no friends to hang out with, no post-race food.  All in all....kind of a drag.  All the pain of racing without any of the fun, and with absolutely zero idea how you did.  So I definitely would not recommend indoor triathlons for first time triathletes!  Unless you're really truly terrified of a "real" race environment, and/or are taking it completely easy/relaxed pace.
I could see my own results immediately, but had no idea how I compared to anyone else.  
I felt like I had done well, and was anxious to see the full results, but nothing came all day Saturday or Sunday.  Finally on Monday in the late morning they sent the results.  And I was happy!!

I copied and pasted the top ten finishers.  Check out the first place female!!  
This is a big deal guys! I won $195 in free gym membership, less the $40 registration fee, for a $150 profit.  What?!?  Cash money, yo.  Next thing you know, I'll have Asics sponsoring me or something :P.  Our certificates and awards were not ready for pickup until Wednesday.  Not really an "instant gratification" type of event, eh?  2 days for results, 4 days for winnings.  Worth it since I made $150 though!  Now, you know me, I have to lament something.  My regret at this race is that I let the cadence on the bike drop below 120 a few times, and that I didn't sprint to the finish of the run.  If I had, I could have totally beaten the first place DUDE!  I'm less than 0.7 miles the male winner behind as it is.  D'oh.  Anyway, check out my winnings below:

3 month gym membership.  Wooot!  

Medal for 1st place female! 

Finisher's certificate. 
Okay, so I think I'm done with indoor triathlons now.  They were interesting to try, but I'm over it.  Except for this one, if they keep giving away free memberships, because that's totally worth it.

I had a couple of "suggestions" for this race.  First off, what's with the age groups?  Female 19-31, female 33-39 (where's 32?? Why is 19-31 a 12 year age group and 33-39 is only 6 years?).  But the men have 20-29 and 30-39 (much more normal...).  I suspect that perhaps they grouped the ages based on the number of participants in each group, but I don't really know.

More importantly, I don't like how this race was scored.  At an outdoor triathlon, it is fixed distance and you compete for time.  At this indoor triathlon, it was fixed time and you competed for distance. That's okay hypothetically, if done properly, but in this case they simply summed the distance in miles and ranked the "winners" based on that.  That's a huge problem because it really is not fair to the swimmers, since you're swimming less than one mile.  For example, if somebody swam 0.5 miles, and somebody else swam 1 mile, that is only a 0.5 mile difference in overall finish distance, despite being a HUGE performance gap (one person swam TWICE as far as the other).  Contrast that with the bike, where a 0.5 mile difference is nothing at all, because we're dealing with finish distances on the order of 10 miles, instead of 1 mile.  (And the run is somewhere in between).  So normally, this race would be swayed heavily toward strong cyclists, if they had bikes where you could actually show off your biking skills.  In this case, the bike leg was a wash, because anybody with half a brain and a base level of fitness would max out (or come close to maxing out) the highest achievable distance.  And the swim leg is hard to gain any ground on, since you're dealing with such small numbers.   So....this triathlon was basically a footrace, where the "runners" among us had the biggest advantage.   Good for me, less good for the swimming gals out there :).

I really liked the way the YMCA triathlon did it, where they ranked the finishers within each discipline and gave points according to PLACE not distance in each event, and then summed the POINTS to determine the winner.  That is way more fair, and doesn't give an advantage to one sport over the others.  All the other indoor tri's out there need to follow suit.  IMHO.  :)

Time to finish packing and hop a flight to Cali, run a race, and then hop a boat to Mexico! Whoop whoop!  See ya'll in a week or so!!!


  1. Congrats on the awesome prize! That helps make up for how weak this race was otherwise. Aside from being a worthwhile prize for you, I'd totally understand if you didn't do it again. Maybe feedback will help them improve in the race in the future. The scoring method is totally screwy and it sucks that the bike portion was so pointless. I'm glad you figured out the way to maximize it at least. :) I think I'm okay with doing an indoor tri or two before the outdoor season starts just for the sake of judging my fitness level, but I agree that they can be pretty uneventful.

    I hope your race went well and that you have a good time on the cruise!

  2. Congrats on your win! Great stuff!

  3. Congratulations Ty, you are awesome! I don't think there is a perfect way to score indoor tris, but it is interesting to see how each place does it. Nice job on the swim!!!


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