Posted by: bradhammond | August 29, 2010

Lake Sammamish Sprint 2010


This is my 5th year in a row of doing the Lake Sammamish Sprint Triathlon!  When I did it 4 years ago, it was my first triathlon in Washington state, and it is still the course that I am most familiar with, as I often ride my bike around Lake Sammamish.  It  usually falls on the same weekend as Ironman Canada, so a lot of the fast people from this area are up in BC, but there are still a lot of people doing this race.

Past results:

2006  399 finishers, I was 100 overall and 4th in age group

2007 439 finishers, I was 74 overall and 3rd in age group

2008 540 finishers, I was 34 overall and 2nd in age group

2009 632 finishers, I was 34 overall and 2nd in age group

My bike times were steadily getting better, I made fairly steady improvements in swimming, and my running pace got faster in some years and slower in others. (7:35, 7:37, 7:09, 7:13)  So far this season I seem to be biking a little slower than last year, swimming a little faster, and running a bit slower.


Usually my warmup consists of a little bit of stretching and swimming, but today I did a little bit of running and biking to warm up, and didn’t swim a stroke before the race.  My hamstrings were sore the day before the race, but they didn’t really bother me during the race.  After I got my stuff set up in the transition area and put on my wet suit I mostly visited with  Chris Pothering until the start.

I saw Celia from swim class, and she took my picture along with some of the other triathletes from the Pro Club.  (She wasn’t racing today, but she often wins the female 60-64 age group – won it in a big race in Oregon last weekend.)  I saw Amadeo from swim class as well – I told him that he’d have to try to catch me on the bike, because my wave was 3 minutes before his, and I wasn’t that much slower in the swim.  He is only 30 and very fast, so I expected him to catch up at some point in the race.


The swim did not look very long to me – I swam 1.2 at Lake Stevens and 2.5 in the swim for life, so I expected a 1/4 mile swim to look short to me and it did.  I lined up in the front row for my wave, a bit to the right of center.  I hyperventilated a little bit before the start, and settled on breathing every 4th stroke for the first part.  I didn’t collide with anyone, but at one point I was getting very close to someone on my left so I dropped right behind them and tried to draft a little.

After the first turn I switched to bilateral breathing – every 3 strokes take a breath – and it felt like I was ahead of most of my wave.  After turning the last corner I had a little trouble seeing exactly where the swim finish was, but after my 3rd peek I noticed a large yellow float that seemed like a good thing to head towards.  I drafted a little off someone who was to my right and half a body length ahead, then I had to squeeze past a slower swimmer from the first wave who was doing the back stroke at that point.

I swam until the water was waist deep, did a couple of dolphin dives, and came running out of the water.  Some people wade out like they’re in no real hurry, but I sprint out of the water!  I heard Celia yell “Go Brad!” and ring her cowbell.  I felt like I had a really good swim.  Looking at the swim times makes me think the swim was shorter than last year, but I think I swam better as well.

Last year the fastest times were a little bit under 6 minutes and my time was 8:04, 113th fastest.  This year there were a few swimmers at 4 minutes or faster, and my time of 5:48 was 78th fastest.  Two years ago there were a few swimmers at 4 minutes or faster and my time was 5:50, 104th fastest.  So, this was my best swim but not quite as big an improvement as the raw times might indicate…


I didn’t have any trouble getting my wetsuit off or putting my helmet on, so it was a smooth transition.  My time was 1:12, which was faster than most of the people in my age group.


I got to pass some people fairly soon on the bike – probably all people from the first wave – but there were a few people passing me as well.  I noticed a couple of guys in my age group passing me, which doesn’t usually happen to me in the sprint triathlons.  I managed to pass one of them back just after the turn-around, but he passed me again on a hill climb and I couldn’t catch him on the downhill.  I had looked at a list of competitors the day before the race, and I had actually googled his name and was impressed by his times in the Boston Marathon the past few years, so I was not overly optimistic about catching him on the run.

Chris had sent me a link to an article about using the last 10 minutes of the bike to get your legs ready for running, so I tried applying it a little bit.  Each time we came to a corner in the last few miles I would coast in and then stand up for a little while to accelerate out of the corner – standing helps involve more of the running muscles and get more of the blood flowing to them – then I would sit back down and try to spin at a fairly high cadence.  I loosened my shoes in the last mile and pulled my feet out to pedal with my feet on top of the shoes.  That way, when I got close to the dismount line I slowed down to running speed and hit the ground running barefoot.

I averaged 21.2 mph on the bike, which was exactly the same as I averaged last year.  Last years bike was a little bit shorter than this year and all of the other years due to road construction.  Two years ago my timing chip didn’t register as I left T1, so I can’t compare to that year, and I was much slower the first 2 years.  This year I had the 37th fastest bike split and last year I was 23rd fastest, so maybe the competition is getting tougher, but it made me feel a bit slower to have people in my age group pass me.


As I got to my bike rack, I could see my 53 year old competitor heading out on the run, so I knew I wouldn’t be passing him in transition.  I sat down to put my shoes on and got out of there as fast as I could.  My time of 1:02 is not great, but o.k.


I was a little worried at the start of the run; I had felt some gas pain in the last part of the bike, so I worried that my gut would hurt.  Something about riding bent over in an aerodynamic position makes it harder to burp, but once I got running I found out that I was o.k.  I passed a few people early in the run, but there were usually a couple people between me and the guy I was trying to catch in my age group.  Soon we were winding around on paths and I couldn’t see him at all.  I felt pretty good, but I didn’t have a very good sense for how fast I was going.

There is one waterstop on the course, at about 1.5 miles, followed by a sharp U-turn onto a sidewalk.  Amadeo said hi and passed me just after the waterstop, and there were a couple spectators on the sidewalk so I didn’t have room to try and run beside him.  He pulled away, but I managed to keep him in sight for a long time.  We turned off the sidewalk and ran by the edge of some soccer fields, and I got passed by 2 more guys in the 30-34 age group, but Amadeo was able to hold them off and get 2nd in his age group!  I was starting the last soccer field as he left it, so I had managed to stay only about 120 yards back over the course of a mile.  When we got onto the parking lot road I knew the end was near, but I didn’t see anyone in front of me that I had a chance of catching.  I probably should have started my finishing kick a little sooner, but I waited until I could hear the announcer at the finish line and I sprinted the last 100 yards or so.

My run split was 22:12 for 5K, for about 7:09 pace.  That’s a little faster than I ran last year, and the same pace as I ran 2 years ago.  It’s a lot faster than I had been running in my previous sprint triathlons this summer, so I am pretty happy with it!


Wow, the competition is getting tougher!  I swam better, ran better, and biked the same speed as last year but I was only 43rd overall and 4 th in my age group this year.  Within my age group I had the 2nd fastest swim, and 4th fastest in both bike and run.  I had a lot of fun!  Everyone who beat me was younger than me – who knows, maybe when I am in the 55-59 age group next year I can get some more firsts…

Oh, continuing my nerdy analytic behavior, I will compare my time with the median time to see how good a race it was:  Last year 1:12:31 / 1:29:51 = .807, this year 1:11:12 / 1:28:48 = .801.  So by that measure I definitely had a better race this year!  Hurray!


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