Saturday was my third weekend in a row of racing. I'd done an Oly and a Half Mary the previous two weeks so I wasn't sure how I'd respond in this one. I'd had a solid week of preparation and felt fresh going into the weekend. Personally speaking, I normally like to take the entire day off before a race. Instead, I decided to go to work for half the day Friday morning. This turned out to be a bit stressful, more than usual anyway for a Friday (WTF is PC Load Letter?). Add to that, my quasi-emergency with my bike earlier in the week and trying to get that fixed and back from the shop in time before I headed up north for the race. I wouldn't have been so anxious but I was racing this one with a good friend of mine and a second good friend also made the trip up so it wasn't just my itinerary I needed to keep track of. Needless to say I was a bit rattled by the time we were finally ready to head out of town. Completely my own doing of course.
The three hour trip up to Detroit Lakes was uneventful other than the normal obnoxious banter and more than usual flatulence (Note: I'd probably consumed about 2 boxes of assorted Kashi cereals in the past two days=too much fiber).
We checked in at the community center in DL which took all of 24 seconds. I found it kind of odd for some reason that the guy doing the checking in asked, "long or short course?"
To which I responded, "long."
He replied with, "long? Good for you."
What is that, sprint course people don't get the "good for you" bit? I dunno, that just struck me.
My friend Jesse and I were both slated to go first out of the gates in Heat #1. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, I'd somehow signed up as an Elite.
We arrived at the homestead shortly there after to little fanfare from ma and pa. As always, great hosts they were. Made one last check of my transition bag and off to bed. I haven't had trouble falling asleep before races once this year which has been nice but kind of unnerving. How am I not nervous the night before a race? I don't think that's normal but a solid night of sleep before a race is always a good thing, I'll take it.
Up and at em promptly at 4:15 Saturday morning. Now the forecast before we left called for temps in the upper 40s/lower 50s with rain and 15 mph winds. I poured a cup of coffee and fired up the weather channel. Todd +1, here we go! The temp was already 60 and it wasn't raining yet, still dry out, woo hoo! I fueled, packed and got ready to roll. Not without stopping by the office quick. Jesse and I loaded up the car and off we went. I backed out of the driveway, threw it into drive and "glug glug glug"....STALL...are you SH&%$ING me! WTF just happened? My car just stalled. I nearly burst into tears. Jesse and I stared at each other. I proceeded to start it up and off we went without a glitch. We pretended it didn't even happen.
We arrived at the race site and found some parking on a street about 30 yards from transition. Found our spots near the bike out and started setting up camp. The rain was still holding out but man alive, it was chilly out and the wind was starting to pick up. This race is a pretty small venue with only 100 long course and 133 short course racers. My mom, dad and friend Mike all arrived to wish us well before the pre-race meeting and start.
The lake looked pretty nasty out there. White caps galore. I was freezing my butt off and couldn't stop shivering. The water temp I think was 70 so it was nice to get in and out of the cool breezy air. I did some short warming up and got out to listen to the pre-race meeting. The race director who was explaining things wasn't doing the best job. It seemed no one had a clue where to go for the swim course, myself included. Being I'm a middle of the packer on my best swim day, I wasn't too worried on not knowing where to go as I will NEVER be in the front of the swim so all I need to do here is follow the crowd. Anyway, the swim was pretty much a triangle. Start and swim straight out probably about 600 yards or so, past buoy #1, and then cut straight left about another 600 yards at buoy #2. Then cut it back to the start about another 500 yards or so at buoy #3. You get the gist anyway. If not, post a comment and I'll draw you a picture.
So yah, we are under way. One point of note here is that the lake was really shallow. The first 600 yards or so straight out, you could still stand and touch bottom if you wanted. I think I saw the bottom of the lake for about 85% of the swim. This turned out to be a good thing as it reminded me that I was actually moving. This was one nasty swim. It wasn't so much clustered with arms and legs everywhere but my god, I think I know what it's like to swim in the ocean now. Waves kept coming one right after the other and were fairly big. I was more than hydrated after swallowing half of Detroit Lake. Sighting proved to be difficult as every time I popped my head up to get my bearings, I'd be staring at a wall of water coming down at me. So the straight out to buoy #2 and then straight left to buoy #3, it seemed like I was swimming no where. Directly into waves of water. Flash back to the ability to see the bottom of the lake, which ever so slightly crept by, let me know I was in fact moving, phew. Surprising to me is how well I kept my cool in the water in these conditions. I'm not the strongest swimmer in the world but confident enough in my abilities I guess. Add to the fact of growing up with a cabin on a lake and I propose this would explain it. I tried my best to find a grove and time the waves, doing my best to power forward. My sighting again seemed to be dead on straight. I kept telling myself, "just make it to the far buoy and then I could turn around and ride the waves back into shore." Which is exactly what I did. Made it to the last buoy and in the words of Rocco De Luca, I "swam like I was on fire."
As I approached shore, for some reason in my head it felt like my time was going to be slow and that I was one of the last in my heat to exit. Well I looked down and saw 29 minutes something on my watch which was at this point, my second best swim time ever. My good friend Mike who was watching confirmed this shouting, "three minutes faster than Lifetime" as I ran by. So, I had a quick change of heart and fed off that positive energy into T1. Solid solid swim considering the conditions. Ran into T1 feeling great and ready to ride. Official swim time of 29:21, good for a 1:52/100 yd pace and 37th overall.
Stripped off my wetsuit no problem, threw on my helmet and sunglasses and off I went. This race I decided to leave my shoes clipped in and just hop on. This was working out very well. Until somehow I managed to knock my sunglasses off my face which proceeded to fly about 10 yards away. How that happened, I still don't know. So I had to stop to go get those damn things. Still a good mount on the bike sans the shoes. I'm just gonna chalk the dropped sunglasses up to bad luck. A quick official T1 time of 1:13.
Off we go. Feeling good and strong on the bike and I realized that the rain was still holding off even though it was cool, cloudy and breezy. I was in the small chain rung and hammering away, probably only about 4 miles in and decided to go up to the big chain and disaster strikes...I dropped the damn chain! Sons and daughters. So I stopped as fast as I could and put my chain back on while dropping a few F bombs. One dude even gave me an, "ah man, that sucks" as he flew by. Thank you Captain Obvious! Chain on, fingers black, let's roll. Put that behind me and got back in my grove. Yikes, this was a challenging day on the bike to say the least. The winds were relentless. It was one of those days in which every direction you went, there was the wind, right in your face. It started to sprinkle on and off and seemed like the heavens were going to open up but they never did thankfully. About 16 miles in I power up a hill, come to the peak and start my decent down, we're flying baby, 33+ mph! And disaster strikes again. My chain dropped for the second time. Are you kidding me! This time all I could do was laugh. My fingers already black from the first chain dropping incident, I preceded to stop and nearly topple over without unclipping being I was so frustrated. Close call there, that would have been the icing on the cake. Threw the chain back on and away I go. So now, I'm not really sure what I'm thinking or how to react other than to keep pressing. There were numerous rollers and some nice climbs. At one point there was a slight incline that seemed to go on forever. I looked down sheepishly and saw what I expected, a measly 14.3 mph. OUCH! So by now I'm completely crushed and in uber low spirits, just about praying for a car to nail me putting me out of my misery. Thankfully this never happened. As the bike continued, my ego then took a hit. I'm probably about 3 miles from T2 when I literally hear someone coming up from behind with what literally sounds like bells on=crappy bike clinking and clanging like mad. This guy zooms by me who had to be going about 23 mph on a 1987 road bike. Same guy who's knees flail out to the sides while pedaling and the same guy who is 47 years old (clearly visible on his calf)! He passes me like I'm standing still...Jesus, take me now, I quit. Unreal. Times like these I bury my head and focus 10-20 feet in front of my bike and that's it, try to zone everything out. This couldn't end soon enough. Shortly there after, my friend Jesse ran past me in the opposite direction, already 1 mile into the run and was looking strong as ever. I figured he might be in the top 10 as not many runners were out on course at that point, go Jesse! Transition finally came putting me out of my misery. The bike-in was not clearly marked and came up fast so I dang near missed it and had to lock up the brakes. That would have been a perfect ending to a craptacular bike ride, dumping in front of the crowd, parents and all. Thankfully that didn't happen either and I escaped further ego crushing. Official bike split of 1:17:48, good for 19.2 mph. Personally speaking, ouch. I was hoping for 22 mph or better. Tried to spin it as best I could, "at least I finished and can now just run."
I dumped my bike, threw on my shoes and off I went. T2 was nothing fancy, a quick and efficient 1:52. As I started the run, I was thinking to myself that maybe I should screw it and just run nice and easy, trying to enjoy the day and salvage what I could from here (Note: I passed my friend Mike on the bike as I came into T2, holding up my black fingers/hands yelling, "I dropped my damn chain twice."). So as I'm thinking of taking it easy on the run, I pass Mike on the run-out and he yells, "forget it, have a fast run, let's go." or something to that effect. I was like hell yah, that's what I'm gonna do! I locked it down and just ran. I had my Garmin and basically just kept an eye on my HR and speed. I didn't want to blow it early but still wanted to keep it moving fast, not letting it go below 8.5 mph nor higher than a 170 HR, at least for the first 5K. I walked through every water stop and slammed a glass of water. The run flew by in no time. It was a nice course, very flat and protected from the wind, +2 for me as those are my kryptonite. Any sort of wind and/or incline just kill me. I had some slight cramping in my quads but nothing I couldn't power through. I poured it on and finished strong. Official run split of 43:15, good for a 7:13/mile pace which is a 10K PR for me in a tri, woo hoo!
Overall time of 2:33:27, good for 30th out of 100 long course racers and 7th out of 20 in my age group. At first after the race and for most of day, I was quite bitter about the bike troubles I'd had and how that affected my times etc. As the day went on and I had time to reflect, the big picture appeared. The main things were that I kept things moving forward, didn't dwell on the past, didn't panic and only worried about things I could control. So, all in all with the weather conditions and bike mishaps, I will take it. Great race and great way to finish my 2007 tri season. Most importantly, I had fun and a huge smile on my face (well most of the time anyway).
Thanks to ma and pa for the accommodations and Mike and Jesse for making the pilgrimage home with me. Quick props to my friend Jesse who is a freak of nature. Technically speaking, his second season as well in triathlon, he placed 12th overall. Well done.
I'll hopefully post some pics later this week.
Next up is my first Duathlon in about a month.
PS, does anyone have any input on the chain droppings? I've never done that before in my life but am thinking it was most certainly operator error. New time for a chain perhaps? I just dunno.