Hummingbird Triathlon

Please excuse the clouds of dust as I crack open this long-neglected blog. I have been training and racing the last few years, just not as intensely (nutshell: I’m slower). 

The Hummingbird Triathlon in Sierra Vista popped up in my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, and I decided to go for it. I like sprint tris, and it was only $45 total (no website or USAT fees!). I had just completed a 70.3 in Boulder a two weeks ago and had done almost no speed work in the past year (no sprint tris in almost two), so I had no idea how this would go. Sierra Vista is about 2000 feet higher than Tucson, which meant cooler temps (yes!), but might also mean slower times.

The race started at seven, so we left the house at five. The drive was easy, and we picked up our packets and set up our bikes in transition without any issues. There were only 50 individual entrants (along with some relay teams) and maybe nine triathlon-specific bikes, including ours.


After a quick briefing, the slowest swimmers got in the pool. The swim was 800 yards and each person got their own half-lane. The rest of us lined up in no particular order, and as soon as someone exited the water, the next person was called down. Ross and I were toward the back of the line didn’t get into the pool until about an hour later. At least we got to wait indoors and right next to the locker rooms.


When it was my turn, the timer entered my number in her laptop and started me. The athletes did not have ankle chips, so our splits were not recorded in the result, only our finish times.

For the first two hundred yards of the swim, I felt a little out of breath and chalked it up to the altitude. Eventually, I settled into a rhythm and felt pretty good, but had no idea what my pace was. The guy who shared my lane lapped me a couple times and got out when I was about halfway done, while the person in the adjacent lane breast-stroked slowly. I had the full lane to myself for the rest of the swim.

Volunteers counted the laps and put an orange sign into the water when there was one to go. After the swim, it took two tries to hoist and flop myself onto the deck. I had given 14:00 as my estimated time and finished the swim in 14:37 (1:50 / 100 yard).

I made it to transition before Ross (who started later), and he showed up before I left. As I headed onto the bike course, I figured he’d pass me quickly. The course is pretty straightforward: an out-and-back largely on one road. In some parts, we had it to ourselves, other times, we shared it with traffic. Police gave us the right of way at all the intersections. The road was in decent shape, but there were a few rough patches and some cracks.

The course looked flat on the way out, and I was in my big ring and feeling great. Maybe all that 70.3 training and race day magic were making for a great bike performance. It’s hard for me to look at my watch while I’m riding, so I’m not sure how long it took for Ross to catch me, but it felt longer than I was expecting. It seemed like I hadn’t been riding for long at all when I hit the turn-around. Uh oh. Maybe I’d been going downhill and not realizing it. It didn’t take too long to realize that was the case, and I spent most of the way back in the small ring. Since it was a small race with staggered starting, the riders were pretty spread out which was nice–crowded courses and close passing make me nervous. All in all, two people passed me and I passed five. My bike split was 41:59 (18.5 MPH).

During transition, my friend Sean, who was already done and ended up nabbing the top spot, warned me that the run would be hot and to take the water offered at the single aid station.

I had been going for about an hour when I started the run, so I knew my 1:20 goal was out of the question. The run course was on a mix of road, sidewalk, and asphalt multi-use path. It wasn’t hilly, but there were some mild rollers. The heat wasn’t an issue until about halfway, but it wasn’t too bad compared with other runs I’d done over the summer. I felt like I pushed myself, but at the same time, those faster gears just weren’t there, and I wasn’t on the verge of spontaneous combustion like I have been in other races. When I turned back toward the race venue, the finish line was in sight, so I picked up the pace a little bit and felt mildly pukey by the end. My run split was 25:31 (8:14 pace).

20190818_160115.jpgMy overall time was 1:25:34, which was good enough for second in my age group and fifteenth overall. Ross got third in his age group (sixth overall) and beat me by 7:17. I was about fourteen minutes off my sprint PR from six years ago. I knew I was going to be slower, but I didn’t think it would be such a big difference. 

Afterward, oranges, bananas, Oreos, and fresh water were provided. We hung around for the award ceremony and received medals. 

We both had a nice time and are planning to do it again. It’s a friendly, low-cost race and provides a nice respite from the blistering Tucson summer.

We have two more sprint tris coming up later this year (Tri for Acts of Kindness and Anthem Holiday Classic) as well as some running races. I’m taking a break from longer distances for a while, so I hope I can get some of my speed back. I miss going short and fast.

Full results here. Garmin data here



Leveling the Running Field

One thing that I like about running is that it’s a completely objective sport. Want to win? Finish first. It doesn’t matter if your form is in the crapper or the judge from nation X can’t stand your country. On the flip side, certain inequities become apparent. Women are generally slower than men (a topic worthy of its own post). A fifty-year old will usually lose out to a twenty-something. Even people who don’t necessarily care how they stack up against others can become discouraged when age siphons their speed away.

Enter the WAVA tables. Based on age and gender, a person gets a numeric ranking based on a time for distances from 5 to 100 kilometers. A 100 ranking is the theoretical best a person can achieve, and most world records are scored 98 to 99. A 60 is considered “Local Class”. The number has nothing to do with the percentage of people that you’re faster than; it simply compares your speed to the ultimate performance for your peer group. A teenager can face off against his grandmother. Someone who is 20 years past her physical prime might actually be a better runner now.

I started plugging some of my PRs into calculators and was pleasantly surprised to the see the times a 25 year-old man with a matching WAVA score would run. While I will probably never run a sub-3 hour marathon, if I can manage a 3:31:26 next year, it would convert to one. I hope to someday run a sub-20 5K, but with the adjustment, I am already there.

Distance My PR 25 year-old man WAVA Score
5K 20:43 17:35 71.2
10K 44:01 37:43 69.2
1/2 Marathon 1:40:03 1:26:19 66.5
Marathon 3:38:41 3:08:40 63.5

There is a part of me that feels like this is a big cop-out. Like how in Bull Durham, Crash Davis doesn’t want fanfare for breaking the record for minor league home runs. It’s a “dubious honor” that underscores his inability to last in the majors. On the other hand, it has opened my eyes to how impressive some of the local masters runners really are. Our times may be close on the race course, but their level of performance blows mine away. A few races will even award prizes based age-graded times. Ultimately, I think that anything  that brings more motivation and fun to the sport of running is a good thing.

Here are a couple of calculators to play with: