Team OAM Now’s Alex Vanias and Kaitlyn Patterson Take on the Draft Legal Detroit Tri

August 21st, 2014 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors

By Alex Vanias, Team OAM Now Triathlete

When I saw that there was a draft-legal elite development triathlon in Detroit, I couldn’t pass it up. Since I was going, teammate Kaitlyn Patterson decided it would be a good experience and decided to race as well. It’s worth noting that draft-legal sprint triathlons are not what we have been training for, especially with the MI Titanium 140.6/70.3 the week after the Detroit Tri.

Kaitlynne and Alex

Kaitlyn and Alex

There was a mandatory pre-race meeting for all the draft-legal participants the day before the race so we had to head down Belle Isle early. We used the opportunity to check out the course and pick up our race packets. The race was labeled as U25, but there were quite a few exceptions for racers older than 25. Kaitlyn, for example, was going to compete against a 30-year old woman who recently won the Olympic distance age group nationals.

The men’s and women’s races were held separately. I started at 7:45am while Kaitlyn started at 8:45. The water temperature was 70 degrees so wetsuits were not allowed. All the draft legal men were called up to the line on the beach, one by one, and before I knew it the race started! I hadn’t gotten in the water before the start which turned out to be a major mistake. The 70 degree water took my breath away, and as much as I tried to catch my breath, I just couldn’t. I found myself hanging in the back of the swimming group. As we made our way farther out into the Detroit River, waves appeared out of nowhere and started choking me. Already in oxygen debt, I had to slow down. It was frustrating not being able to go as hard as I knew I could. Not only did the waves make sighting a green buoy against the shoreline difficult, but the river current also took everyone off course while swimming back to shore. I came out of the water 4 minutes behind the leader- not so good.

I hopped on my bike and immediately started hammering to make up time. I passed roughly half the field on the bike leg without drafting anybody and without letting anybody draft me. A pace line of 10 guys tried to bring me back, but they failed. I knew I was having a good day on the bike, but I didn’t realize at the time that I set a new threshold power record while riding a non-aero road bike at an average of 27.5mph, and had the fastest bike leg!

Of course, having to ride so hard in a draft legal race put me at a disadvantage on the run compared to the leaders who were mostly drafting. While running, I felt okay, but not great. My goal pace was 5:10/mile, but I only managed to average 5:20/mile. I still overtook several people on the run for the 7th fastest run leg of the day. This put me in 12th place out of roughly 30 Elite Development racers, but still about 3 minutes behind the winner.

Kaitlyn’s race went similar to mine. With a crazy fast and competitive field, Kaitlyn still finished solid and in 6th place overall.

I was hoping for a top 10 finish and was only a few seconds away from that goal. I now know how fast I need to swim now in order to be successful in draft legal racing. I look forward to continuing my swim training with Athletic Mentors to work out my issues and make me efficient!

Ed note: Team OAM NOW’s Professional Triathlete Raquel Torres offers some great swim training advice here.


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