Monday, May 07, 2007

Race Report: Chain of Lakes Triathlon

Well first off, thanks one and all for your words of kindness and support with our big news. It was so weird to be going through this huge thing, but not talking about it. Glad to be able to share more freely now all the craziness that is with this thing.

So - had my first race on Saturday. A short little thing that I've done now for the 4th time, and 4 years ago was my first triathlon ever. It's grown each year - not the race, but to me - from that first year just being me and Mike heading down to this year having a good chunk of The Team along for the ride, as well as my good friend and fellow triathlete Todd competing in the race as well. There were 7 of us for the weekend, and the race has become probably the smallest part of it all, though maybe still the reason we have for heading down - the rest of the time is spent in fun and adventure with good friends. Good stuff.

Anyway, so, race day. The weather was in the 50's. Rainy. Windy. Sound familiar? Apparently the triathlon gods have decreed that all my races should be of Ironman meteorology. Though it was warmer this weekend than at Ironman, but it was windier, too.

The swim for this race is in an indoor pool, so they cram 8 lanes with 3 or 4 swimmers each to get us all out the door, but in 8 separate heats. As it happened, both Todd and I ended up in the last heat of the day - 8 - and even in the same lane, which was pretty cool. But with all those swimmers going before us, it was literally 2 hours from the official "start" of the race until our race began. Lots of downtime in between setting up transition and actually getting on with it. And, as luck had it, the rain held off all day until just when we started the swim. Then it came down like the wrath of God.

As we've discussed ad nauseum, I've had the crappiest spring of training ever, so I had no real expectations at all going into the race. In fact, except for my chronograph watch and on-board bike computer, I didn't bring anything else with me on-course to chart pace or time or heartrace. I just wanted to go as hard as I could, wherever that got me.

Anyway, so Todd and I were in Lane 2 together, and I started - he had to wait 7 seconds or so for me to get a few body lengths ahead of him, and then the guy behind him followed us. I started the swim - 600 yards - fast and strong, before settling into my rhythm. I felt pretty good on the swim, if not a shade more winded than I would be in any kind of real "race" conditioning. I jumped out of the water in 10:47, which gave me a 1:48/100 time - certainly as fast as I could hope having zero pool time in the last 6 weeks. I think it's interesting to compare that last year, when I was in Ironman training and in great shape even this early in the season, I swam it in 10:11, for a 1:42 pace. The difference between being in shape and not is more than 35 seconds; 6 seconds/100. That's pretty huge.

I headed out of the pool and into T1, where everything was soaking wet. Because we were the last heat the transition area was pretty empty. Even though I covered my gear with a plastic bag in the morning, it's still such a hassle to get organized in transition when everything is wet. Todd was only a length behind me in the pool, so I expected him to be right behind me coming into transition, but he finally showed up just as I was leaving (I even took time to put a jacket on, which was a good decision for how cold and windy it was) - turns out the idiots inside made him swim an extra lap. So it is in these tiny little triathlons. Happily he had a good attitude about it, though.

So I'm on the bike for maybe the 4th or 5th time all spring, and heading into a nasty 20mph headwind. The rain was falling, and hard...and then the skies opened up with some thunder and lightening and it REALLY came down. Still, I was enjoying myself - I was pretty well protected from cold, and except for my socks getting soaked within the first 2 minutes, I was pretty comfortable. I tried sticking to around a 90rpm cadence, as always, and just enjoyed the ride. But, it was lonely out there - I didn't see another person on the course at all. Then, around mile 7, Todd came flying by on my left side and shouted some well wishes as he cruised ahead.

I wasn't racing against Todd, even though we were in the same lane and heat - I'm not opposed to the competition of it, but it wasn't my reason for being out there yesterday, I'm in no condition to have a competitive attidude just now, and he has goals for the season that I'm trying, wherever possible, to help him with - not get in the way of by battling against. So I was genuinely glad to see he was looking strong on the bike, and even in the crappy race conditions seemed to have a positive attitude and was looking solid. Still, having him suddenly in front of me gave me a new angle of concentration, and I deterimined to stay with him. I hung about 200 yards behind him most of the rest of the 13 miles, and we were the only two out there. It was a blast. I tried to make a move to catch him once or twice, and knew I was pushing hard...and would ultimately pay for it on the run...but I didn't care. I was having a blast. At one point I looked down and we were flying slightly downhill, wind at our backs, in pouring rain, at around 32 mph. That was some crazy exhilaration.

I cruised into T2 just behind him, in 38:25 - an average of 20.3mph. Last year I'd already had an 80 miler in the bank by the time this race rolled around, and it showed; I was 36:08 last year. More than 2 minutes slower, and I attribute that to me, not the weather - last year the wind was really similar, and I don't think the rain affected me much.

In T2 Todd said he was freezing, and I think his cold fingers meant he was taking a long time getting his Garmin 305 off his handlebars. I know Todd's naturally a faster runner than I am, even when I'm in peak condition, so I told him I didn't think I could hang with him on the run and that he'd have to walk some to keep up with me. It was pretty cool that to this point we were really running neck and neck - again, not for the competition of it, but for the shared experience. I've never raced with a friend before, and it was fun to be so close together and be able to share a word here or there. And because it's such a small, early race, nobody was so game-face that we couldn't share a laugh now and then. I was really having fun.

I left Todd behind me in T2 and headed out on the run. It occurred to me then that this was my first brick workout of the year, and I felt like a total hack. My legs were jelly underneath me, and it took me a long time to get into a sensible rhythm, though I never was comfortable on the run. About half a mile in Todd flew by me looking really strong, and we shouted words of encouragement as he settled in in front of me. I tried to let him pace me for a bit, but after maybe a quarter mile I couldn't sustain - he was flying, and looking really strong. I resolved just to run as fast and hard as I could for these 3 miles. On the out and back at the 1.5 mile mark Todd passed me coming back, and I told him to finish fast and strong - he looked great. Relaxed and breezy. I felt like I was struggling to keep my pace, but that's to be expected with the limited training I've had, especially no brick workouts. I finished with a 7:51/mile pace in 23:33 - far faster than I think I had a right to with my crap training - almost a full minute slower than last year, and :20/mile slower. I finished the race in 1:15:43, more than 5 minutes slower than last year's 1:10:22.

I keep bringing up last year's numbers not because I was competing with those times, but because I think that's what I got most out of this race - the difference between the well-conditioned version of me, and the not-nearly-so version that I am right now. And as I've said - that's okay. I understand that my life this year is different than last year, that every year for me can't be an Ironman year, and I'm not beating myself up about anything. In fact, I find it really really useful - you wonder sometimes, when you're out there working so hard, just what it means. Just what it's doing for you. Just how tangible the conditioning is. This is really the first time that I can look at the numbers and say - the difference, at least in a sprint - is 5 whopping minutes. That's pretty huge, and good motivation, I think, for consistency.

So, that's it - the first race, in the books. Like I said, I hope it can kickstart a more consistent early summer for me now, but I expect all my races this year will be a bit like this one - slower, more relaxed, less intense, and a few minutes different. S'okay. I think, with baby on the way, that '07 and '08 will be different years for me now, as I'll become a different triathlete, with different priorities. And that'll be part of my continued learning experience - how to figure out how to be all the things I like to be, and that it's important to me that I be. You know?

Big shout out to Todd, who had just a great race, even with the extra lap they made him swim. His run pace was absurd - 6:49/mile, and he finished the race in 1:12:40 - think maybe 1:12:00 or even 1:11:45 or so without that weird lap. He looked strong and relaxed throughout, and with Olympic distances coming up later this summer - his first time at that distance - I think he had a great beginning. Well done dude, and thanks for racing with me. I had a blast.


Todd said...

The pleasure was all mine, what a weekend!

That's 1:12:and change, of constant smiling, most fun I've had in a race by far, looking forward to next year already.

Steve S. said...

Congrats! One down in 2007!!