Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Race Report: Capitol View Triathlon

Saturday was an all-around strange day, and the triathlon seemed tailer made for difficulty. It was a fun day, but a hard day.

There was an increasingly significant South wind between 15-20mph that, sunny and warm (and humid!) though the day was, was churning the lake with huge swells. Not white caps, not choppiness, and really it wasn't all that perceivable until you were out in it. So with the shimmering lake as the backdrop, I went about the ritual of transition preparation with the rest of the athletes. I caught up with some of my friends - RobbyB was doing the Sprint, and Erin and I shared a transition rack, so Chief of Stuff was there too. My buddy Thomps was out there somewhere (I'd see him later on the run), and Simply Stu was the finish line announcer for the day. I went over to shake his hand and say hello - here's the thing about Stu. I've met him several times, but always he has ten thousand other things going on. So I think I'm one of those people who he knows he knows, or at least recognizes, but can't really place. I'm pretty sure he doesn't know my name. So I am to him like my next door neighbor is to me - we can have entire conversations, but as soon as I'm out of earshot I say to Amy, "Is he Mark? Steve?" and Amy will say, "I thought he was Jim?" This totally amuses me, and I hope if I spend time with him at WIBA that I can continue the confusion. Maybe I'll ask my friends to call me different names at random.

Anyway, finally suited up I went to get adjusted to the water temp - it was cold, but I expected worse. I bumped into Erin and she and I hung out while waiting for our wave to start - all Olympic athletes, male and female, age 30-39 started in the same wave. Soon enough, we were off.

It was pretty clear right away that the swim would be an adventure - breathing on the right side became an exercise in hydration. I felt like a bobber on the ocean - I could feel my body rolling in huge motion with the waves, and as often as not I'd catch a face full of water when breathing on the right. So, I tried to breathe on the left and sight to the right - as long as I could see other orange swim caps around me, I knew I was okay.

We rounded the first buoy, and turned directly into the waves. Total insanity. You'd roll up and down these waves, and I kept imagining the movie Perfect Storm (no, they weren't anything like that, but hey - that's where the mind goes). You'd cover some distance, only to have the wave you're on crest and push you back a body-length. This was the longest stretch of the race, distance-wise, and it was really difficult. Two steps forward, one step back. I laughed out loud once when I kept sighting the same boat on my left - which was anchored and standing still - for a solid 30 seconds; as though I didn't move at all. But, everybody else was having the same day, and I never got too far detached from other meandering orange swim caps. We finally turned the last buoy (the swim course was a huge triangle), and now - finally - the waves were at our backs, pushing us along. It was a shorter stretch, but it was a bit like having a tailwind, which was nice after all that hard work into the waves.

Except for the conditions, I actually felt pretty good out there - I didn't feel like my lack of consistent water time was really affecting me much at all. My arms were a little sore the next day, but that was some serious work against the waves, so it's understandable. Otherwise, I felt comfortable - all things considered. My time in the water was 37:29, which without context seems really slow (I was thinking anywhere between 30-35 minutes would be likely, and consistent with past performance - and I would have been thrilled with "consistent with past performance" considering how little I've been in the water). Actually, though, with the conditions it put me just into the back-half of the pack - of the 254 Olympic athletes (men and women combined - this is how the results are provided...I don't know my splits relative to just my age group), My place was 183. Not great, but not too bad. Probably just right, all things being equal.

So - into transition, do my thing, and get out. Felt great to get on the bike, as it always does, and I quickly got comfortable and into a rhythm. It was more insanity on the bike course - mostly we dealt with a cross-wind all day, and a serious one - the kind that suddenly makes you a little off-balance with a big gust, or generally leaves you tilted into the wind as you lean against it. The long stretches were with cross-winds, and some shorter stretches had us going into the wind - which sucked - or will a killer tailwind - I was reaching cruising speeds in some places of 35mph or so. Even without the wind, it wasn't an easy course - a few significant climbs and lost of rolling hills. But, it was a great day to be on a bike. As always.

I came into transition in 1:17:44, with about an average mph in the mid 19's. This again seems a little slow, until you consider that was 54th of the 254 athlete - in the top 25% (ish). The whole field slowed down for the tough day.

I had a glance at my watch as I started the run, and my overall time had just reached 2 hours. I had hoped to finally puncture that 3 hour limit that I've never overcome in an Olympic race. I felt good starting the race, and confident that even if I kept 9 minute miles on the run, I'd have plenty of time to reach my goal. Alas, not to be - it was a friggin' trail run.

By trail run I don't mean some kind of XTerra, single track, Stuff-my-sister-in-law-thrives-in kind of trail - I mean ankle-deep grass, cross-country course-ish, think-really-hilly-golf-course, state-park-walking-trail trail run. I suck at trail running. I'm not saying I don't enjoy it - the single track, mountain-man stuff, I do - even if I'm not good at it. The golf-course thick grass kind, yeah, I don't really enjoy that too much. But in any case, I suck at it. I know that soft ground is good for you and all, but basically - if it ain't asphalt, I might as well be walking. The ground feels too spongey to me, like it's sucking up all my energy. The hills on this course were just constant. Climbing is tough, but there's not that payoff on the descents, because the rough terrain makes it impossible to just open up and let fly. All the switchbacks and twisting makes pacing impossible. These are all the things that I suppose make trail running fun on its own - but for me, in context of a triathlon, not so much. The day was getting increasingly warm - as Erin said later, if we weren't being baked in the wide open, we were being steamed when we'd head into the humid woods. I don't mean to bitch about it - it's not like I was ever miserable or hating the day or anything, just not in my element. Which is okay. It provided for a solid workout. It was quite beautiful. I saw Thomps as he was going and I was coming to a turnaround, and he offered a shout of encouragement, which was welcome because I was working hard.

Anyway, I gave the best I had, which were 10:01/minute miles. I finished in 3:01:15 - missed my goal by just over a minute. Good for 107/254 overall, 10 of 19 in my age group. Just a middle-o-the-pack kind of day, and where I placed indicates the kind of overall day it looks like everybody had.

At the finish line I caught up with my buddy Mike and Amy and Dakota - D had been going about 5 hours now without her normal morning nap, so she was losing humor. Was great to celebrate the finish with the Team, and I always enjoy trading the "how was it out there" with Mike.

Favorite Things That May Interest Only Me:

1. Having friends racing, to catch up with before and after in transition, to shout out to on the course. That's all new for me this year. I love it. Changes the whole game for me.

2. Walking near the beach while waiting for the Sprint swimmers to finish their waves, this dude stops me and says, "Hey, do you have a YouTube video?" "Uh, yeah?" "Dude! I totally watched that whole thing this morning to get psyched out for the race!" "Really? Uh, how did you know that was me?" "Just, recognized your face." "Huh. Cool!" His name was Jeff. Hope you had a killer day Jeff. Kind of blew my mind right then.

3. Super tricked out white Corvette in the athlete's parking lot, with killer wheels and performance tires that were shiny with car. IM Lake Placid license plate frame with personalized plates that read ENDURE. Sweet.

4. "So Stu, you're announcing today!" "Yup!" "So Stu, you organized this whole race?" "Uh, no, just announcing." "So let me get this straight - you're announcing, and you organized the whole race, and you're doing the Sprint and Olympic courses?" "No. Just announcing." Not only is Stu not really sure who I am, he totally does not get my humor. Hilarious.

5. My man RobbyB was first out of the water. This dude is a JEDI. Big ups, RobbyB, way to go dude -

Later That Same Day...

Right, so with all this juicy humid air, severe weather was a no-brainer of later that afternoon. Who knew, though, that a tornado would blow through my backyard!!!! What the hell! Seems at this point the weather experts can't agree whether it was a tornado or straight line winds, but I can tell you that the whole house felt like a huge wave just pummeled it as me, Mike, and Dakota went sprinting down to the basement (well, D was with me, not much for sprinting on her own just yet). When we emerged after the storm, I had an uprooted tree in my backyard, massive branches off of big old oaks snapped like twigs, and younger trees in the woods behind my house uprooted or snapped in half. My neighbor is lucky he still has a house - huge, big, timeless oaks fell right across his back yard, and a huge branch ("branch" is too small a word - think "third of a tree") snapped off of one of my trees, ricocheted off another tree, and landed just a few feet from going through part of his house. The the tornado/wind kept climbing the woods behind our houses - snapping apart more trees as it went - and tearing through the yards of my neighbors behind us, with more massive trees being uprooted. About a mile away, on my Grandpa's street, 2 hours 3 block away from him lost roofs. And a barn just behind his house is nothing but ruins. Total insanity. Thankfully, nobody in town was hurt. Anyway, any more training for the weekend was lost to storm cleanup and chain-sawing. Crazy.

Anyway - another race is up for next weekend, and I have thoughts about it, so I'll have another post coming up soon. Hope everybody else had a happy -and safe! - weekend!


Tri-Thomps said...

It was good to see you on Saturday. Nice job on the bike. That was about the hardest run course I've ever ran.

Maybe they should re-think the orange caps! It made sighting for orange buoys challenging.

Glad you're OK after the bad weather.

Team Brazo said...

Great job -- thankfully they got the race in before the real nasty weather came through. Now that is my type of run course -- love those trail runs -- helps even me out a bit with the rest of the competition.

Erin said...

wow. Sorry to hear about your backyard, but great showing out there. And thanks for the company before and after.

Don't worry. I'll be all set to go with my head on straight for Racine. Promise.

Pharmie said...

Great job at the race! I'm so jealous that you have such great bloggy friends at all of your tris! Alas, I only get to see you guys at WIBA...

Triteacher said...

Woof. What a race - sounds fairly brutal. Spongy trail runs aren't my bag either. You put it well; they soak up my energy too.

Fuuunny character portrait. And too bad re: the storms. My parents lost a barn and a tree.

Hope this weekend's race is friendlier.

Iris said...

10 minute miles on trails is great!Sounds like an adventure of the best kind. When are you going to come out to the mountains and run with me????

Also, glad to hear you and the family are doing OK after the tornado craziness. We got dumped on - not rain, snow! How crazy is that?

RobbyB said...

Glad to hear you're all safe. That was some crazy fo' sure.

Good work on the race. I don't think the organizers knew just how tough that course would be.