Triangle Triathlon 7/8/07

(750M/13.8miles/5k – 17:08/2:17/45:15/1:49/25:42) Total time – 1:32:09

My first true sprint tri. The day had arrived, after weeks of inconsistent training. I was really only worried about the 750-Meter swim. I had never swum that long without a pause, except for the Friday before the race – just to reassure myself that I could. Sure, I’ve swum over a mile in the pool, but that’s with many breaks.

Did my anal checks and re-checks the night before, got up at 5 AM. My wife had the consideration to take my son and stay at her mom’s to allow me to get some rest, but I didn’t get much anyway – nerves, I guess. Scarfed my traditional PB & banana on wheat and drank my Earl Grey. Somewhere along the way, or the day before, I made a digestive mistake. But more on that later.

Arrived without incident, rode the ½ mile there. Walked into transition, thinking I’d set up my stuff and go look for somebody who had handlebar end-caps (which the race instructions demanded), but they were actually checking for it as you enter transition. That’s good, I suppose. Thankfully one of the volunteers walked right up, offering them. So I put ‘em in and taped ‘em with the handy electrical tape that always goes in the T-bag. Helped another guy out with some, too. My good deed for the day.

How do you get used to this with Tris? My stuff was ready after a check and six re-checks, and I had an hour until my wave started. I wanted to do a quick warm-up swim, but I didn’t want to walk around for an hour in just my tri-shorts and bare feet. But what else was there to do, sit there? Of course the urge to – shall we say – unload struck me with half an hour left. Not wanting to use the port-a-potties for my mission (I cringe at having to use even clean public restrooms for this uncomfortable but necessary craptivity), I thought I’d see if the nearest park restroom was open. No dice. Some smart soul had locked it and put a sign on it saying “closed until after the race.” Oh well. It would have to wait.

Waited in line twice to use the port-a-potties for the longer-distance activity of peeing, and, man, the lines were long. Should’ve just used the trees, I guess. Saw Bobby, friend and ex-colleague of mine, which was cool. He was volunteering for the race – I guess a sprint tri is far too short for an Iron Man of his ability. There’s more respect than snark in that comment, really.

Swam out to the first buoy and back as a warm-up. The water was a bit mucky and unnaturally warm, I thought, but it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Someone had told me that the lake was uniformly shallow and you could touch bottom in most places, so I tried. But they also said that you probably wouldn’t want to stick your feet in the slimy muck down there. So I did. Slimy, indeed. I downed a Gu gel 15 mins before my swim start, which I think was my first mistake. Don’t do anything new on race day, right? Well, I’d tried Gu before – once or twice – and didn’t feel any ill effects. Didn’t feel any effects at all, really. So it couldn’t hurt, right? Well, it didn’t – for a while. As I was standing in the water with the other Clydesdales, blabbing nervously, mostly about the condition of the water, whose first tri it was, etc., etc., the standard stuff, just as I was saying that I had done a warm-up swim and the water wasn’t nearly as bad as its reputation, a blackened, half-disintegrated Styrofoam coffee cup floated by us. “Well, maybe not,” I muttered, or something equally as futile and idiotic.

And we were off. As always, my rhythm was the first thing out the window. I’d been training to do the alternate-side breathing, i.e., once every three strokes. I tried, but mostly I fell back on the every-other-stroke-breathe-on-the-left-side sort of thing. I started at the back and avoided most of the others, making it to the turnaround without much trouble. Then it got harder. Swim. Breathe. Sight. Correction. Swim. Breathe. Sight. Correction. I could not keep myself going in a straight line for any reward. It went on this way for what seemed hours, with the shore getting no closer. Other people with different-color caps would pass me or I would pass them, but I didn’t know if they were from the wave in front of me or behind me. More likely behind me, for I could have sworn the swim was taking me half an hour. (Turned out to be a bad but not THAT bad 17 minutes or so.)

T1, no issues, out to the mounting line, no issues. But here I made a mistake – concentrated too hard on trying to get my feet in the clips and my gloves on my hands. I should have sped up to a decent speed first and done it as opportunities arose. We learn. Several folks passed me here. Then over the little causeway and a slight hill, and all the breath went out of me. Shit! A short ride like this and I’m gonna have trouble with it? I thought. That’s just sad. But I recovered shortly.

I realize I could maybe have kicked it into a faster gear, but I held back a bit, feeling those gut rumblings, overtiredness from only a few hours of sleep, etc. So I rode at maybe 80-85% of effort. I thought a couple of the hills would hurt, but they really weren’t that bad (I spun in a low gear). I passed one guy who had no helmet and earphones, wondering if he had been dq’d and just didn’t care, or what. Every once in a while a hardcore cyclist would whiz by on a whirring tribike, which was disconcerting, but what can you do? I ate a Gu gel about a mile or two before the end, as planned, and that was a mistake. Disgusting. One more note about the bike: I’ve read in many places that it’s not actually 15 miles, and by my computer, they’re right, it was about 13.8. That’s a long way to be off, and apparently it’s been that way for years. Do the organizers even know? I mean, it doesn’t matter, but either correct the course or SAY that it’s 13.8 miles. Hmm.

T2 was no big deal. Since I have clips or cages on my pedals, I use my running shoes to ride in, and don’t have to change them. Maybe the only benefit to not having clipless pedals (yet). Decided to run without a shirt (which I almost never do because of fear of sunburn) because of the oncoming heat. 5 mins or so into the run my stomach started to rebel against the insanely sweet Gu, and I had to slow down and pace myself more evenly. The course was easy, and I saw Bobby 2x more, but I was hurting towards the end and had no gear left to kick it in. Damn, I was happy to see that finish line. My first true sprint tri complete, and really only nutrition mistakes to mention. Could have been much worse! I had wanted a finish in under 1:30, but the official 1:32:09 would have to do.

All in all, the race was well-done, decent course, well-organized. The tons of fruit and bagels and donuts and drinks were great. Complaints? There’ve always gotta be some. Having the pre-race meeting the day before is definitely NOT convenient, but I can understand it with a big race. Not enough port-a-potties, bike course too short, water disgusting. That last one is not the organizer’s fault, of course. Will I do it again next year? Perhaps, but the prospect of swimming in lake Crabtree again is not a nice thought. Next on the agenda: an Olympic or International Tri.

Race for the Cure 6/9/07

There’s not all that much to report here. My wife volunteered for the race, as she’s started to do every year, and my mother-in-law was a participant as a survivor, so I figured why not try for a PR in the 5k? I ran around trying to get my son Spenser situated; he had to stay with his mother during the run. There were soo many people. But that’s good, right? Got ready at the starting line of the run, and I must have been 200 yards back. Must have been thousands of people in the race, by far the hugest I’ve ever done. And the gun went off. I had set myself farther back than I thought , so I was passing a lot of people. Sure it felt good, but would I pay for it? The summer heat was already starting to crank up. I thought I might try for a PR – even though I hadn’t trained vigorously for a 5k – which meant a goal of 22:54. I was on target and doing OK until the end of the 2nd mile, when the heat really started to get to me. Thankfully, there was a team of kids on the side, ready with a hose to spray those who wanted it. I’ll take some of that, please! Crom bless thee. The long, slow uphill at the end before you turn the corner back into Meredith (if I remember it right) was murderous, but I was able to maintain my pace and sprint it home after the turn, even though I misjudged the distance to the finish line. I was so out of breath I couldn’t even bend down right away to help the volunteer take the damned chip off of my shoe! But I looked at my watch and, holy shitbrick, shmatman! 22:38! Wow. I was impressed with myself, because the end sure felt hard. Now if that run had taken place in my preferred running weather (about 52 degrees, overcast, drizzly, low humidity, naked cheerleaders), I might have toyed with breaking 22:00! Maybe someday, but I’m not getting any younger. That tantalizing 19:59 may be out of reach in this life (especially for a man who usually weighs 208-220 lbs.).

A great race, well-executed despite its size, and fundraising goals were exceeded, I understand. Kudos to all involved, especially to the survivors. And double credit to the survivors who raced, many of whom were much faster than I!

As the bumper stickers on the cars of my wife, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law proclaim proudly, “Save the Ta-Tas!” Maybe I’ll get one for my car that just says, “Hooray for Boobies.”

Finish Strong Challenge 4/15/07

I’ve been admonished by my anal-retentive German genes that I really should jot down a race report for every race, even though it will never be read, except by me, and maybe not even that. Finish Strong Challenge/Banks D. Kerr YMCA Triathlon 4-15-07 A first-time tri, the first for its organizers, and my first road tri. How appropriate. They did a good job, despite the threat of large storms. But someone (Tom Robbins?) said it – the weather is to be celebrated or ignored.

This was all new to me, but the nerves weren’t overwhelming because of that debacle of an Xterra I did 10 months ago – after that one, I knew a road tri would be child’s play. But I’m really not a great swimmer, and even the tiny 200-yard swim had me a little worried. Mostly if I would get passed by three people in the staggered pool swim. But as worries usually are, these were unwarranted. I didn’t do great, lost all rhythm after the third length, but I passed one guy instead of getting passed. I could have cut off 10-20 seconds if my damned watch hadn’t kept coming off! Excuses. Can’t do flip-turns, so didn’t even try. Passing under ropes was hard to get used to. The pool was very warm, almost too warm. We were staggered according to projected swim times, so it worked out fine. I suppose that’s how they always organize pool swims. It was a long run to T1, all wet parking lot on bare feet, so slow I went. No big problems, except for everything being wet, even though I had covered stuff with trash bags. Drying feet and lacing up shoes took the longest. Had to be reminded to fasten helmet strap before leaving.

Wasn’t looking forward to being drenched on the bike. Had only had my road bike for a couple of months, so I wasn’t too used to it. But it held off, luckily. The wet roads made me a bit more cautious, but I passed many, many folks. Pretty nice 10.5-mile course, through some posh suburbs (ex-urbs?) of multi-million $ homes. Got passed twice about a mile from T2, although I was going hard. Didn’t have much trouble with the hated pedal clips, which don’t like my running shoes much, but it does allow for a quick T2.

Off on the run. One of the two guys who had passed me on the bike said “You’ll be passing me in about four minutes.” I thought, nah. Couldn’t feel my legs for a few minutes, and for a second, felt like a fist was squeezing my chest, trying to force my heart out through my throat. Thankfully, that went away. I passed the guy, who said, “You’re ahead of schedule.” Tried to respond with encouragement, but no breath. Passed the other guy later, so that felt good. Felt like the course was 75% uphill, but it also felt too short. I bested my stand-alone 5k time by a minute! That makes me think that the course was maybe 2.7-2.8 miles or so, rather than a full 5k. Who knows?

I went to breakfast with my wife and son and didn’t stay for awards, never expected anything. Don’t think there were awards for it, but it turns out I was 2nd in the Clydesdales (only 6 or 7 of us), and if I had gone with age group (35-39), I would’ve been 2nd, too! Argh!

I expected a road tri to be much easier than the Xterra Sport, and it was, by far. But only relatively.

Official results: \r\nSwim 200 Y 4:11/T1 4:11/Bike 10.5 Miles 36:27/T2 0:49/Run 5k 21:56\r\nOverall 38/93, Clydesdale 2/7 (Age group 35-39 2/?)

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