Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Good Two-thirds of a Triathlon (and nine-tenths of a good race report)

I have recovered from yesterday's Lifetime Fitness Tri. Eleven or so hours of sleep help that. Oh, and not having stomach cramps and the accompanying GI issues helps as well, but more on that later. (Settle in - it's another long one. Be careful you don't dose off.)

Wake Up
MS was scheduled to pick me up at about 4:45AM so I set my alarm for 4:00AM. Like I ever need to do that. I got up to let the dog out about 2:30 and then just rolled around until about 3:50 and figured, "Ah, hell, I might just as well get up." Everything was packed and prepared the night before so all I had to do was eat breakfast drink my 24 oz. of Accelerade and get dressed. MS was right on time.

We drove over to CS's house. MS and I took turns trying to destroy the powder room. MS came out singing "Ol' black water, keep on turning..." She's gross. We apologized profusely to CS - she vowed never to have us back. CS lives about a mile from the start so we just parked there, threw our backpacks on and pedaled to transition. 

Set up
We biked to transition. It was jammed already, but we all got good spots. The USTA officials were out in force (something I don't remember from the past) double checking transition set-ups. My number was announced as being racked incorrectly, but a USAT official was standing right there and cleared me, so I have no idea what that was all about. We went to body marking. A blogger friend, Natalie, was supposed to be there, but I didn't see her and I even loitered, uncomfortably, for a little while. I continued to drink whatever I could find (or at least it seemed like that - I think I am a nervous drinker.) As we were milling around our transition areas Greg Bennet walks by. Then Craig Alexander, Matty Reed and Andy Potts. They were walking the transition area so they knew where to go. It was cool to see these guys. They are pretty normal sized. Fit to be sure, but not super thin and wiry. Before we knew it we were kicked out of transition. We grabbed our wetsuits, caps and goggles and headed to the beach. 

As I am standing in line for the porta-potty with my gear in my hands, I suddenly realize I have absolutely NO IDEA what I am doing. I have no idea how I am going to transition from swim to bike. What the hell! I need to work off some nervous energy. 

I suit up to swim even though we have an hour before we start. I just needed to do something. It felt good to be in the water, but man were they liberal on the wetsuit ruling. The pool is cooler on most mornings. But hey, if you are going to allow me an advantage, I am going to take it along with everyone else. Luckily I have a sleeveless wetsuit or I would have been roasting. When I got out I had to pee, but decided I didn't have time to wait in the line for the nearest porta-pottys. I decided it wasn't that bad. I really should have hopped back in the lake and gone. Too late for that, they called my group.

The Swim
First a rant. How the hell do they figure out when each age group goes? My group was wave 30 out of 31 or 32. I did nothing but swim over people, push people out of my and dodge around people for the entire swim. I have no suggestions for solutions. Every age group will have faster and slower swimmers so there really isn't a good way to do it. It just seemed particularly irritating this year. 

The swim start was a huge pain the ass (sorry, a little more ranting, but this nature caused.) The start is time trial style with each person going off in 3 second intervals. The leg to the first buoy was directly in line with the sun. Sighting was absolutely impossible. I was able to stay close to the intermediate buoys and sight off of those but it was extremely difficult. The glare also made it impossible to see people ahead of me. As happened last year (but for other reasons) I found myself swimming half way over people before I realized it. There were also a lot of zigg-zaggers because the sighting was so hard. 

I made the turn at the first buoy and, like I always seem to do at this race, made it too wide. Now I am basically swimming back across to traffic to try to get on the shortest line. More traffic, more inadvertent beating up on competitors, more moving people out of the way. This leg seems to go on for ever, but I did notice the intermediate buoys going by quicker than I recall. 

I make it to the next buoy and am in a traffic jam. I remember that the angle back to the beach is tighter than 90 degrees and get on a good line. There is some chop picking up and and blowing right in my face. I get a couple of huge gulps of water when sighting so now I feel a little sloshy. There are lots of people around and I am hitting a lot of feet, hands, arms, etc. From the color of the caps around I can tell I am coming up through the wave that went over five minutes before me. I feel kind of bad about all the contact but not enough to stop and apologize. I am actually having pretty good luck just pushing people to the side - between me moving them and me moving away from them we both get more space. As we are getting closer to the swim out I feel more contact with my hands and feet. I know I am kicking people and hitting people but hey, I have a race to run. 

I see people standing up plowing through the water. I keep swimming until my hand hits sand a couple of times. I stand up and start "running." I really should have done a couple of dolphin dives because it was still a touch deep. All of the sudden I hear my name being called behind me. It's my friend MS. She tells me someone kicked her goggles off a couple of minutes ago and I fear that it might have been me. 

I trot up the deep sand after leaving the water and start trotting to my bike. MS is right behind me and then passes me in T1. I am feeling kind of sloshy and my legs are not super "runny." I struggle out of my wetsuit - which took waaaay too much time - get the helmet and sunglasses on and grab my bike from the rack and trot to the bike out. 

The Bike
When I get to the bike mount area CS is getting on her bike. She too had started in the wave ahead of me, but she had a much faster transition than me. I uttered some garbled barks and click in her direction that, in my mind, sounded like, "Good luck, kick some ass," but like I can't high five when running, I can talk while trying to mount my bike.

My bike mount wasn't super stylish but it was efficient and I pedaled off with my feet on top of my shoes, gained some speed and got both feet in with little difficulty. Then I kicked ass. Within the first couple of miles I had caught up to MS. I passed her with a friendly, "Get out of my way, Sellke!" (I may be a tad hyper-competitive.)

I knew that my swim was only a couple of minutes faster than last year so I needed to have a strong bike, but not so strong I couldn't run. I was turning a big gear on the flats. On my training rides this year, I found that if I turned a big gear at a moderate cadence I could cruise along for quite awhile. I still suck climbing, but I worked the downhills like a maniac. So that is what I did. I pictured myself like a locomotive - slow to get up to speed, but effective when I get there. I didn't really "push." I found that sweet spot where the speed was high and my legs felt light. It was fantastic! 

I didn't shoot up the hills, but I didn't coast on the backs either so it more than evened out. More than once I had to remind myself that I still had to run and to hold back some. I played tag with another biker from my AG for about half the leg. He would zip ahead and then I would pass him and then he would repass me and back and forth. I have a feeling it was more him than me altering his speed, but it made for a funny distraction. I saw my family twice on the bike. They got a perfect spot on a long straightaway with very few other spectators around. It was at a spot where you double back after a loop around a lake. It was so great to see them cheering.

One thing that has given me endless amounts of pleasure is passing TT bikes. I ride a road bike with aero bars. A middle of the range Trek Madone with stock wheels (that suck, by the way), clip ons and the greatest saddle ever made - a Fizik Arione. I wear a middle of the road Giro helmet - nothing aero, just well vented. And I love to pass Cervelos and Felts with deep rim wheels and guys with aero helmets. As Lance said, "It's not about the bike."

(Disclaimer: I would LOVE to have a TT bike, don't get me wrong. And I have nothing against people owning or racing on them. Everyone makes their own choices. I had limited funds, I bought a bike that is more utilitarian for me. It is just kind of validating to me that you really can't buy speed.)

I was figuring my bike leg would take a little over an hour so I started fueling for the run right away. I was drinking from my aero-bar mounted water bottle and eating shot blocks so that I wouldn't be cramming in nutrition at the end of the ride. At one point we go rocketing over some train tracks and my aero-bar bottle popped out of its cage. I juggled it with one hand and was able get it back in place, but it was pretty funny. I drank the whole 22 ounces of liquid in that bottle and started the second one. At this point I am realizing that I really have to pee - still! I am figuring that during the run I would reabsorb some and the urge would pass. (I like to make up medical/anatomical theories for bodily functions - I have no idea if reabsorption is even possible, but whatever.) 

The bike-in was a thing of beauty. Early enough I started to get my feet out of my shoes and was able to step right off of my bike to run to T2.

Running to rack my bike I had to go from one corner of transition to the diagonal opposite corner. I followed a guy just ahead of me through a couple of relatively open aisles to get to the main corridor. When I got back to my transition area I saw a couple of bikes already racked. Damn it, well off to the run. I got my bike on the rack, got my shoes on, hat on and number belt. Putting my number belt on I ripped the number off one side so I just tucked it in. (On the Fuel Belt number belts, do you leave the short bungies a little loose?)

The Run
Immediately out of transition is a water station - I passed. My legs were actually feeling pretty good, but, man, did I have to pee. I ran on trying not to think about it. 

I could not get my mind off of it. I needed to find a porta-potty. LIKE RIGHT FUCKING NOW! Problem is - there are none. We are running on trails in a park. I am going to have to gut this out. 

I am starting to get a cramp from clenching, but I can't release while I am running. I can't concentrate on anything else. I am going crazy. Why is this happening? Again! Here is what I figure: I drank my usual amount of liquid with breakfast. Then during set-up I drank another bottle. The day was cool and dry. I wasn't sweating nearly as much as when it is even a little warmer. Then I didn't pee before the swim. Then I took two HUGE gulps of lake water, followed by more liquid on the bike. So here I am with an uncomfortably full bladder and no where to go.

There is a point on the run course where you come off the path in the park and go half way down a bridge and make a u-turn then reenter the path in the park. As I am leaving the path the get on bridge I see two porta-pottys on the opposite corner - at the end of the u-turn. That stretch was the longest stretch of road I have ever run. I knew relief was waiting but there was no short cut. 

I get to the end of the u-turn, head toward the porta-pottys and am beat there by a step by someone else. SHIT! Both are occupied. The clock is ticking - quickly. The two of us wait. Finally, one door opens and the other guy goes in. Apparently, the person in the other one was having some real issues because they never came out even after this other guy left and I was done. I figure I dropped 5 minutes, just standing there and then peeing.

Once, I finished I was a new man. I took off, but I knew that my run was toast. Funny thing is, I caught up with the guy I was playing tag with on the bike. Turns out he was doing the short course as he peeled off to finish and I had one more lap to go. 

I was running OK but not quite as fast as I wanted. I wasted a lot of energy early on and now was starting to feel some more GI issues. I think it was a combination of things, as I wasn't running that hard and I had never had these issues at previous tris. (Running races are a different story, but I have come to expect these issues and prepare accordingly. For this I didn't.)

Finally, I was coming up to the finish. I was determined to push it hard down the chute and finish strong. I had also decided I would finish with my hands high over my head instead of my usual "run through." As I am running down the chute, who do I see? My family! They right on the barricade leaning over to give me high fives. (I tried and failed miserably. AGAIN!) I think that was easily the highlight of the day.

Post Race
Ugh, cramps! Almost immediately after finishing I was getting stomach cramps. Nothing debilitating, but not exactly enjoyable. I walked over to find my family and just missed MS and then CS finish as I was walking up behind them. 

My family and I then walked back to the finish area to try and catch MS and CS and then to find out our results. I ended up seeing the girls in the results line. MS came in 5th in her AG, CS came in 7th in the same AG. We all qualified to race at the Lifetime Fitness Challenge Championships down in Dallas, but none of us will (Dallas, ugh.) 

The girls were off finding their families and my fam and I were hanging around and who walks up but Natalie! She is super cool. And petite. For some reason I figured her to be taller. We all chatted for awhile. I had heard her cheering a couple of times on the course. (She is a much better spectathlete than I am. She was able to pick out my number or what I was wearing before I got to her - I always end up cheering after the person has gone by.) Hopefully Natalie will get a chance to race this year now that her vertigo has abated somewhat. 

My wife and kids were real troopers but they were getting restless so I cut them loose. We still had to pack up transition and find massages and pros. I personally needed to find a porta-potty and this couldn't wait. 

I just need to cut to the chase - I crapped a couple of times, the second time was kind of colorful so I thought it might be a little bloody as I hadn't been eating a lot of beets or anything. On my way back to find the girls ran into this guy:

Greg Bennet

This girl:
Pip Taylor

And this girl:
Sarah Haskins

They were all talking to people so I just took photos and moved on.

When I found the girls at the massage tent I sat down and waited for them to be done. Who walks by - Steve of Steve in a Speedo. We chatted for a little while - he is super nice.

That about raps it up. Next Sunday I get do a HIM distance race in Door County, Wisconsin. Imagine how long that race report will be. (Sorry this one kind of lost steam at the end, I will be more entertaining while I am on vacation.)


D said...

Those stomach cramps are karma for not "going" in your pants. Always just go. Then write about it so I can laugh at you.
Don't worry... I shit my pants in a race once. And I was only 10!

Steve Stenzel said...

Nice job!!! I hear ya about passing REALLY sweet bikes - it's a sick sort of pleasure...

And that stinks about having to GO so bad on the run! Ha!

Nice job out there!

Charisa said...

Passing people on disc wheels, tripped out bikes and with aero helmets on is always fun. And just pee on the bike!!

Question Authority. said...

Congrats to you! The swimming part sounds really fun. I would be so dead on the bottom of the lake. (Are they good about getting the dead people out of the lake each year?)

NJ said...

Thanks for the mention! Nope...I'm a shorty, I mean, vertically challenged. I enjoyed meeting you and your family!

I saw Bennett back by the stage shortly after talking to you.

I loved watching the race and decided that it has to go into the plans for next year (which I am determined will turn out better than this one)!

Good luck at Chisago...I might come spectate there too since it is my old stomping grounds!

NJ said...

Action Sports has photos up from the race. There's one of you on the bike where you arms look so ripped! (#45847-223-013). I didn't realize how many people wore a red 2XU shirt just like yours.