Saturday, July 15, 2006

Race Report (Part 1): Lifetime Fitness Triathlon

So first, this: About 20 minutes before the Pros started, they announced that due to concerns about the heat index and in consultation with their medical advisors blah blah blah, they were shortening the Olympic distance course (excluding the Pros). They'd shave about 3 miles from the bike (though it felt more like 5?), and the run would no longer be a 6 mile, but a 3 mile run.


I'm sorting out my thoughts on that decision and the principle of it in general, but I'll share that process with you at the end of the race report (this being Part 1 - Part 2 will come when the final times and splits are posted online by Lifetime).

So it was indeed a hot damn day. It felt hot, it looked hot, it was hot. I arrived to Transition a little later than I like - about 6:00am instead of 5:30, because I stupidly assumed that I would, as usual, wake up a bit earlier than my 4:30am wake up time. Instead, I slept really well and the alarm jolted me out of bed. But no worries - I still had plenty of time, arrived at my transition "corral" first - and so was able to pick my prime real estate on the end - and really enjoyed my morning. After setting up I went for a quick warm up swim - Lake Nokomis was an astonishing 81 degrees today. I honestly don't take showers that warm. So the wetsuit religious were out of luck (USA Triathlon only allows them under 78 degrees), and all of us had to deal with the odd phenomenon of risking overheating in water. Crazy. After my warmup I returned to transition for the next 45 minutes or so and had a great chat with the guy next to me, was able to find our friend Todd and shoot the breeze a bit with him, and was pleasantly surprised when our friend SLS's husband Steve stopped by and introduced himself. I thought that was so cool - he found me by knowing my number through the blog. So cool, this becoming Ironman. I also wished the woman who's 87 (88?), who raced again this year, good luck and much fun. Pretty cool, that.

When they closed transition I went and sat among many others in a spot in the shade before connecting with the Team. Pretty cool today - many friends, and my mother came, with her husband. My mom's never been to a race, so it was especially fun for me to have her there. Soon I went and arranged myself with the masses for the swim start, and sometime shy of 9:00am I was in the water and racing.

The swim went pretty well. Lifetime hasn't posted the results yet in any kind of readable way, so I'll have to give you splits another time, but I felt good, went easy, and passed far more than I was passed. The sun was low over the Lake, and so bright - I was glad to have my polarized, mirrored lenses. I came out of the water and glanced at my watch - 31:00something - and headed into Transition.

T1 was quick and slick. I headed out on the abbreviated bike with a very high heart rate from the water and T1 - 167 - and settled in to lower my heart rate and hopefully have a fast and fun ride.

About 5 miles into the ride, I approached a flock of volunteers all reinforcing what the bright signage around me said: SHARP LEFT TURN. As I was slowing down to approach the turn, this dude in a spaceship bike came flying by on my left, still tucked in the aero position. He had a super lightweight frame, disc wheels, even an aero helmet - all the go fast toys money can buy. I saw him downshift into an easier gear, and thought to myself "Wow, this guy is amazing that he's going to take this turn this fast." In fact, I watched him a bit to see if I could learn anything from him. Turns out, I did learn quite a bit.

So the above paragraph took 3 seconds in real time, and I was probably 3 bike lengths behind him as he went into the turn. Suddenly - all things happen suddenly, don't they? - his spaceship is out from under him, sliding across the road. He's off the bike, sliding after it. The bike smashes into the curb at ridiculous velocity, sending it sommersaulting into the air, a gleaming child's toy. Dude reaches the curb and is stopped immediately - to which his first response, oddly, is to suddenly sit up (which, if you've ever heard Dane Cook, reminded me of his act about the guy who gets hit by a car only to land on his feet and act like he didn't really just get hit by a car - which is not to say there was anything funny about this, because there wasn't. It's just what came to mind.) Meanwhile I'm slamming on my brakes so I don't become part of his carnage. Finally, I pedal around him while the volunteers try and digest what the hell they just saw. I didn't stop - which wasn't a moral decision, as he was in good hands, was alert and alive, and I wasn't going to do anything for him that others weren't more capable of doing - and as I rode by I experienced a sensation that I hope never to experience again. Something I've heard about watching the Tour de France. The smell of burning flesh. Dude left some of himself on the asphalt.

Anyway, as I continued on, I thought - what a dumb damn thing to do. Dude's not going to win any money here (he was an age group hack, just like me - not elite, not Pro). Even if he clears the turn that fast, he's going to save - what - 2 seconds? 5? Instead he was done for the race, maybe even for the season. Certainly his bike was. Stupid. The moral of the story - it's okay to slow the hell down.

The rest of the bike was uneventful (thankfully). I clipped along at a higher than normal cadence - about 100 rpm much of the time - and spent most of my time at a heart rate around 144 or so. I was never uncomfortable, and never felt like I was working, which is what I wanted to do. I had a lot of fun, and about and hour and 3 minutes later I was heading back into transition, having covered 20-something miles at a pace of about 20mph.

In and out of T2, then (again, I'll give you splits on everything whenever Lifetime posts something sensible on their website...), and out on the hot trail for a 3 mile sprint. No question, it was hot out there. And even in 3 miles, I could feel it affecting me. But the distance basically precluded any necessity for pacing, and even hydration and nutrition could be lax (though I stuck to my plan of Gatorade every 12 minutes, water whenever they had it, and lots of dousing over my head.) The Fire Department was out spraying their hoses here and there to create a mist to run through, and I stuck to a pretty consistent pace sub 8:30. Just about 25 minutes after starting, I sprinted through the finish shoot, high fiving the Team and shouting "This one's for you!" to mom, and crossing the finish line with a time of 2:03:20

It was a good day, all things considered, and I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face - which, I'd be wise to remember should always be objective 1. With the distance changes it wasn't quite the workout I'd have wanted or hoped for, and in honesty I had a pretty easy day out there, the heat never really having time to do its worst. I certainly wouldn't have preferred the change, but there it is.

So, to the decision to shorten the distance. Laaaaame. Without wanting to bore you, this is an ongoing issue with USA Triathlon and race directors around the world in general. Last fall the USAT National Championships were cancelled - not postponed but cancelled because of storms, wind, and deluge rain. In January Ironman New Zealand (which is not goverened by USAT, but the World Triathlon Corporation) was actually turned into a Half Iron distance duathlon (bike-run) because storms delayed the event for hours, winds made the seas unsafe for swimming, and ultimately the delay meant they had to shorten the day (imagine that heartbreaking scenario, which many faced - working this hard, going through this much, for what is stolen away into a meaningless distance duathlon). In those cases, the weather created a need to delay the race starts. When you delay the race starts, you compromise the burden you're placing on the city and its resources to close streets, have police at intersections, medical units available, etc. I'll let others debate whether the danger presented by high seas (certainly lightning) or wind is reason to decide for racers (who paid to be there) what is and isn't safe racing conditions. But today's race wasn't about a delay, so that factor wasn't present. It was hot, no doubt. But I'd prefer not to have my ability to race it legislated for me. If I'm too hot, let me decide to quit. It it's too long, let me decide that. The conditions were actually very similar to last year, and they let us race that - though that may have contributed to today's decision, after facing the carnage of all the DNFs and medical emergencies last year. Anyway. I understand it's a sticky issue, a tough situation, and a decision I'm glad I'm not in charge of making. But I go on record saying it was a lame ass call to make today.

I was disappointed, but only a bit - this was a training race for me. It wasn't an A race, it wasn't a priority race. I did miss the opportunity to execute some important heat-related race day strategies. I felt badly, though, for those who had made this race at this distance their ultimate goal, like I had in 2004. I would've felt horrible about a decision like this, then. Anyway, it was what it was.

So, an abbreviated but fun race. I placed something like 26 or 27 (we'll have to wait for the real results to be posted...right now Lifetime only has some kind of "track your athlete" posting that has me listed 10 places after a guy who races in 2:05 something...) out of 160 some in my age group. A solid finishing place, but again - at this distance, it can't mean much. In all it was a short but solid training day, a fun race, and a good day.

Some shout outs: It doesn't look their final times have been posted (so we'll cheer their times and splits in another blog entry), but Todd finished his A race of the year in the Sprint division (whoohoo!) and Steve ("Mr. SLS") raced his first triathlon ever today in the long course! I hope you guys had great days, and check in to tell us how it went if you can!

Many pictures coming - many on the team were snapping away, and between the Team and the on-course photographers, we should have adequate coverage. I'll post them when I get them. And hey Mike! We missed you!


Michael Anderson said...

Congratulations, dude! Glad you adjusted to the heat so well. Wish I could have been there; wish I could have seen your finish smile. I look forward to seeing the pictures.

I'll be offline until I'm home; I look forward to more details then!

Congrats to Todd!! Sorry to miss your second race! I'll make it to one - one of these days! But good job on this one!

Congrats to Steve, Mr. SLS!

Nice race everybody!

abby said...

So happy to hear that everyone made it to the end in a good way... I'm proud of you guys!

Pharmie said...

Hey! Glad to hear that you had a good race. I got to see you come out of the water, but you were too fast for me to shout anything. You and Steve were in such different sections of the race that, even though I tried, I could not see both of you at once. Hopefully we'll actually be able to meet before IM!

I agree with the "lameness" of the decision to change the course. They've been predicting this type of heat for the past 10 days and must have known their decision WAY before the late announcement they decided to make.

Don't have an official time for Steve yet, but all I can say is that I think he's a rock star. He averaged something like 7:30/mile on his run. I keep telling him that it was the sunglasses I lent him :)

With all of the race curve balls you've been thrown this year, Wisconsin will be in the bag!

Todd said...

Thanks Mike!

No worries about not making it to the race. In due time. I hope your trip is going well...happy and safe travels to you.

The race went very well. I had an absolute blast. What a great production Lifetime puts on. The heat was pretty nasty but I prepared well for it and dealt with it pretty with it as best I could. No disasters out there. My goal was 1:25 and I ended up finishing at 1:28.34. So all in all, considering the conditions, I'm gonna call it a success.

FeGirl said...

Wow, Chris, I am glad that you made it and withstood the heat!! :) I can hardly wait to see the pictures!! I am not sure that I would agree with the shortening of the race either!!

But I do have to share, that a friend of mine who raced in Ironman Utah a couple of years ago. I want to konw where there decision making was then!! It was no where!

During this race there were high swells in the water and they still let the race go, there were horrible conditions and someone ended up dying and another person almost drowned. My friend told me that the kayakers in the water were capsizing and they could not help anyone.

Then he said that on the bike, the winds were so bad that they were blowing semis across the roads and the bike was shortened.

I don't remember what he said about the run, but all in all it sounded like a bad day and I am not even sure why they even let the race start!!

Todd, I did not know that you had another race!! that is sooo cool, congrats on your success. Hey Todd do you have a blog also?


Todd said...

Thanks Kathi! Yep, Lifetime was my A-race. All in all it went very well, couldn't be much happier. I think I'm hooked into this triathlon thing. I'm actually doing another one in a month. The Castaway Club triathlon in Detroit Lakes, MN. My goal for next year is to move up and do an Olympic distance race. Unfortunately I don't have a blog, I just mooch off of Chris's here...hehe.