Friday, July 25, 2008

Door County Half Iron Distance Triathlon - Sunday, July 20th, 2008

I got to the race site very early. I was the first person to set up in transition. I have to say the whole race was well organized. The transition racks were labeled with each person’s number so there was no issue of space and bike placement. I clipped my shoes onto my bike – I had practiced all week getting into them on the fly and had gotten it down. (This after I tried to do the trick where you put your left foot in your shoe, give a couple of pushes with your right leg to get some momentum and then throw your right leg over your seat and fell - HARD. In front of my kids. I scraped up my palm and knee and had two massive bruises on my inner thighs.)  I put some powder in my bike shoes – too much powder, because they flipped over and dumped powder all over anything near them and continued to dump powder every time I bumped them.  It looked like I was smuggling cocaine across the peninsula and hiding my stash in my bike shoes.  I sat around after I set up and people-watched. There was a lot of bike porn rolling around, but you can’t buy speed, right? It was pretty interesting to see some of the real exotics out there. I ate my pre-race Clif bars and drank. Then decided it was time to hit the water.

The morning was very foggy. They had huge blaze orange buoys which was helpful, but it was still hard to see them from the beach. I got on my wet suit and after I saw at least one person wade out in the water I decided to go as well. I took two steps into the water and really wished I had sleeves - and I was only up to my ankles. The water was COLD! I continued to wade out and then the water hit my zipper. The water was F******G COLD! (Official report - 62 degrees.  Wetsuits required.) It is amazing how quickly you make friends with strangers in freezing cold water as you all exclaim how cold it is. I decided the only way to get over it was to get in and start swimming. Well, I ducked my head and, while it took my breath away for a second, I found I could still move and once I got swimming it wasn’t too bad. I got out and waited around for the start, but then decided I didn’t get too warm so I got back in the water and proceeded to start shivering. I got lined up in wave five. It was still hard to see those buoys – I figured it would be easier when I was out there.

The start was in knee high water so there was no sprint out. I took a wide angle to the first buoy – a sharp right turn – and avoided the melee of the first few hundred meters. I made the turn at the same time as only one other person from my wave. From there the swim went great. I continuously passed swimmers from the earlier waves and was not aware of being passed by anyone from my wave or later waves. The foggy weather and slight chop didn’t affect me and I felt strong and fresh the whole way. In retrospect I could probably have done it faster, but that bike was still looming ahead of me. I ended up 5th in my age group and 36th overall for the swim.

The swim out would prove to be the most exciting part of the race. The swim out was up a boat launch covered with carpet, actually a pretty nice water exit. As a “courtesy” the race had volunteers lined up along the sides of the ramp to help people out of their wet suits. Basically, the drill was to pull your wetsuit to your waist before you get up the ramp and then flop down and a volunteer would pull your wet suit the rest of the way off with your feet in the air. As I am running up the ramp waving volunteers off – I can pull off my own wetsuit, thank you – a participant flops down and a huge guy grabs his wet suit and proceeds to pull with all his weight back into traffic – namely me! He hip checks me and I go down in a full sprawl, rug-burn my elbow and scramble to my feet. Another volunteer apologizes and asks if I want help with my wetsuit – I say no thanks and run on.

I blaze through my transition, get my wetsuit off quick, helmet and sunglasses on, grab my bike off the rack with shoe powder flying (I am sure it looked like I was literally "smoking" out of the transition area) and run to the bike mount area. All of the practice to get into my shoes --was for shit. I had the worst time getting into those fricking shoes. But I did finally get into them as I was peddling and was off. The bike felt pretty good – I kept reminding myself that I would pass people and people would pass me and that was OK (thank you, Stuart Smalley.)  The course was rolling with a couple of pretty big hills, but I stayed within myself and kept thinking about the run and making sure I had enough left in my legs. Miles 30 to 39 were the longest miles EVER. They felt like they would never end. All the miles up to there seemed to just click right off and the miles after that seemed to pick up speed as well, but those ten miles in the middle seemed to be measured in a different dimens
ion – like the Twilight Zone. The bike-in was great, I got my feet out of my shoes no problem and got my running gear on and was off.

The run felt great from the beginning. I kept very close tabs on my splits and made sure I didn’t go out too fast. I kept drinking and eating regularly and felt strong through out. I ran with an older guy for about half the race. His family kept coming by and they were really funny and he was a nice guy. Just after the halfway turn there was a fairly substantial hill. I geared down and got up it without too much trouble. The course flattened out and I picked up the pace for a few miles, then came “The Bluff”. The tag line for this race is “Can’t bluff the Bluff” 
and “Tough enough to conquer The Bluff” - how tough can it be, right? Well I was about to find out. At about mile nine you make a left turn and the volunteers say the bluff is right around the corner. Well, you run down a road and then make another left and there it is. This hill was steep to drive up, much less run up. To make matters worse, the road curves pretty tightly so you can’t see the end. (These pictures don't do it justice, but it was tough.)  I was determined to run up that fricking hill. So I geared down again and took running baby steps up that whole thing. I pretty much red-lined my heart rate monitor. When I got to the top I got a surprise. That’s right, another hill. It was nothing to write home about, but after the monster I just hoofed it up it was an unwelcome sight. It took me two miles to recover from slogging up that hill. My legs felt OK, but my lungs needed some time catching up. Those two miles made the run feel much longer. Then I was on my way to the finish. The last mile cuts through a golf course. Ah, to be riding in a golf cart and chasing a little white ball – and I hate golf. The finish is down a steep winding road. I tested my quads at the top and after a woman jetted by me I just let it go. I freewheeled down the hill hoping I wouldn’t have to stop fast or trip. At the bottom of the hill you have about 400 yards to the finish so I just went with the momentum. Everyone said I looked fresh and seemed to have a lot left at the finish, but I was pretty much on empty.  The race was over, I felt good - no Bataan Death March feeling like after the marathon - and I had a good showing for my first 70.3 dista
nce.  When I took my shoe off I realized I had slammed the big toe on my right foot so hard into the front of my shoe on the down hill that I damn near broke it - ouchy otter.

That cold water that was so painful five hours and twenty minutes earlier felt so good right after the finish. I hung out in the water up to my waist for about ten minutes with a few other finishers – again, cold water makes fast friends of strangers.


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