by Liz Shelton
There’s a debate among cyclists about the bike. There are many debates, but in particular whether a high-end, fancy bike with all the newest technology makes you a better (faster) rider, and to what extent, and how much the rider makes a difference. This is the chicken and the egg debate. We’ve all been out on group rides and see riders on bikes that belong in a Grand Tour. Is it worth it? I mean, to upgrade your bike or even switch from a road bike with clip-on bars to a tri bike. Well, I learned for myself at JGT at Lake Pflugerville on August 3.
I’ve been itching to race a Sprint for a few weeks now, for several reasons. My last race was an Olympic at the end of May, so it’s been two months too long. Second, I knew I could really use some speed work, given most of my workouts lately have been progressive or tempo runs. But the real reason is that my better half and I recently returned from a vacation in Colorado. Translation: altitude. I came back feeling awesome! I feel stronger, lighter, and more relaxed than I have all year. So I wanted to test myself and see how much faster I’d gotten as a result. I didn’t have specific time goals in mind but wanted to race competitively and really push the run pace.
The swim was a TT start, the first for JGT. I prefer it over a mass start, as I don’t like crowds, so right away I was able to find a rhythm and chase down swimmers. I started to catch the wave ahead of us about halfway through the 500m swim, so that helped my confidence. I veered off course at one point (only happens when I breathe to the left - still working on that!), but overall a good swim.
P2, it’s blue, and it's fast! Oh, and we added electronic shifting. This proved to be a wise choice. I’ll give credit where credit is due…Thank you, honey, for encouraging me to go that direction. It made for a smooth ride, knowing I didn’t have to move around to shift gears. Since Pville was a rolling course, the electronic shifters are a must because you’re constantly moving from small chain ring to the large one and back. Also, you get two shift points on a tri bike, one at the brake levers and the other at the bar-end. But like I said earlier, I was mostly concerned about speed. Did having ES mean I would ride faster? Well, in the end, I did. I got my best bike pace to date, and while not nearly as good as the pros, I’ll take it!!
Transition to the run was a little slower than usual, but that was because I was being careful with my pretty bike and didn’t want to scratch it. I carefully hung it on the rack and then got to business. Grabbed my hat, Gu and belt…running out to the gravel looped path that encircles the lake. Crap! Dropped my Gu. Go back to pick it up (a crutch, yes, but it helps). That probably wasted six or seven seconds, so now I had to run faster to make it up. Started catching runners early on. Kept my eyes down on calves, searching for ages, and just plowing through the crowd. I wondered if or where I would start to slow down, but focused on quick turnover and keeping a constant, steady pace. Like I said earlier, I felt very relaxed ever since Colorado, so I never felt out of control. Caught a large group of guys with about 600m to go, so that made me very happy. And I passed someone a few inches from the finish line.
I had to find out my run time because Logan had announced they were giving out primes for fastest splits and transitions. Sure enough, I had the fastest run of the day for Sprint with a 5:52 pace. Sweet! That time on top of a bike PR just made my day. Head to head competition is fun, just like winning first place is. But real satisfaction comes from beating and bettering yourself. No trophy or medal can compare. So while I am a little slow to open up to those fancy gadgets, iCloud, or social media (I do NOT Facebook, nor do I own a mobile phone), I can say that electronic shifting is the way to go. Now I just need to go train. See you on the road!
Liz was the fastest overall woman at the 2014 Jack's Generic Triathlon. Click here to see results. Read her October 2013 post "The Life of a Runner Turned Cyclist Turned Triathlete" on the ATC blog.