Monday, September 30, 2013

Bloggin for Doug and my Mom

Yesterday I raced a local Olympic distance race in Carpinteria. Doug and my Mom wanted more details so, since I love you guys, here are more details than you ever cared to know-

It was my first race since May, so I was itching to get out there.  Fitness is good, especially on the bike thanks to Larry and Terenzo.  Those boys have taken me to a new world of pain in bike intervals and I have been feeling different for the last month.  Sort of like I had broken through a plateau. I was excited to see how the training would translate to the race. The course is an out and back ocean swim, a hilly and slow 40k bike, and a 10k through a neighborhood and then onto some dirt paths before doubling back and finishing in the downtown area.

Swim: I had a mild revelation at the start that my past swim strategy was garbage.  Usually I red line to the first turn buoy and then try settle in.  The idea is to get to clean water with no one around.  What ends up happening is my heart rate goes nuts, my arms blow apart, and I end up not having clean water any way because I’m not fast enough to separate.  Then I go backwards through the field.  The reason it doesn't work is that I have a feeble V02 max and I am not a fast swimmer. For some reason it took me about 5 years to realize that this wasn’t a good plan.  I decided to ease into the pace and see if I could go steady.  Turns out that makes things work a lot better.  I relaxed into the swim and just kept strong and relaxed. 

By 500m, I was sitting in 3rd with the first two guys about 15 yards ahead. We hit a random turn buoy that was multicolored. They turned so I followed.  After another 30 seconds to a minute of swimming, I was slapped on the head by a surf life saver who told me we turned too early… @#!$.   My first thought was that I had screwed my race before it had started.   I turned around and did the mental wrestling of either faking a turnaround and not going the full course or doing the right thing and going to the proper buoy.  I thought the surf life saver hadn’t caught the leaders and they would be miles up the road by the time I was out of the swim.  I begrudgingly went to the proper turn buoyr and came back.  I got through the course and out of the swim in a pack of 4, depressed that I had given the race up with a wrong turn.

Bike: Onto the bike, I was still in the pack of 4.  I moved through the guys pretty quickly and started following a motorcycle who seemed to be directing us. As I passed the leader of our group, I asked him where we were in the race.

“Well, now you’re in first.”

Whoa! Hmm… after the swim snafu, I didn’t fully believe him. Either way, I had to get up the road either to bank time on them or to catch the unseen leaders.  I tore off after the motorcycle.  Legs felt good and I was pedaling smooth circles, trying to keep my speed up.  The course is both horribly and beautifully without rhythm.  It has everything: false flats, rolling hills, true flats, a couple 1-2 mile climbs, tons of sharp corners, and  even a sketchy descent or two.  It has more variety than any other tri course I’ve done.  In short, it’s one of the best triathlon courses I have ever done if biking is your thing.

My buddy Kyle had done the race last year and I checked his results to see what time I should expect.  I use him as a benchmark because he’s ridiculously consistent and ridiculously fast. If I can be in the ballpark, I know I’m doing ok. He went 1:05 on the bike so I knew it was going to be a hard course to get a fast time.  I was figuring if I could go around there, that would be solid.  If I could go 1:03, that would be AWESOME and I might win.

I kept the pressure on, trying to make time on the field with every climb, descent, and corner.  I was super aggressive and switched on the whole time.  It really helped to follow the motorcycle as I didn’t have to think about the course. I just followed and tried to pick the best lines.  There was no rhythm to be found and my legs were getting tortured as I was trying to juice all the speed I could out of my bike.  I had 2 mile sections where I was riding 8 mph and 2 mile sections where I was riding 42mph.  As I was coming into town, I looked down and saw 59:xx on the clock with a couple minutes to go!  I had a feeling that I was going good, but now I knew I had lit the course up.  I finished the bike in 1:01 which was way faster than expected and probably the best bike performance I’ve ever had.  I got excited and nearly crashed my bike as I tried to dismount.  The bike seat basically went up my @$$ and my shoes and pedals scraped the ground.  After feeling super pleased with myself for my clever bike riding, I was quickly reminded how much of a goober I am.

Run: Turns out with my excitement during the bike and focus on the course, I had completely forgotten about the run.  I jammed through transition and out onto the course.  After a half mile or so, it felt like my legs were moving fine so I looked at my speed on my watch. Immediate thought- “Oh no…This isn’t good. Well maybe you’ll come around after a mile or so.Mile 2 came and went and that was not the case.  Now, I was feeling the pressure and paying the heavy price that comes with fast riding. I was a mule pretending to be a race horse and had somehow found myself in the front.  I realized I had forgotten how to race!  To make matters worse, there were no calories at any of the aid stations- just water. I was running on fumes and deteriorating rapidly as the course got a bit tougher and onto the dirt. The course was by no means difficult, but I was shelled and it sure seemed hilly and hard.  I checked my watch at the turn around to see where the field was and started the clock.  After a minute or so, I saw the next runner.  I ran by and heard a “Johnnnyyy” from behind me.  I hadn’t recognized him as I was too busy trying to look like my insides weren’t about to come out my ears, but it was Sam!  I had met him on a hard training ride a month back or so.  I knew he was an excellent runner from T.  Usually a 2 minute lead is gravy, but the way I was running nothing was a guarantee.  I put in a surge to get through to mile 5 with as much of my lead intact as possible. The internal dialogue went something like this-
“Don’t screw this up. Caitlin got up at 5am for this nonsense.  Don’t waste her time and cough this up in the last mile.  No one is going to be happy if you let this go after leading for so long...well, maybe Sam will. ”
I tried to keep the form together until ¼ mile to go. I looked back and no one was in sight as I saw the finishing chute.  I saw Caitlin going nuts as I crossed the line in relief. Laying down, I looked into the sky and smiled as I waited for my heart to stop machine-gun beating.

Post-race:  Usually when I have a garbage run, my immediate reaction is disgust with the race overall.  This is the first time where my bike was so good that it actually didn’t matter.  That being said, Triathlons are like little lessons.  You always get exposed in some form or fashion. This time my lessons were:

  • Speed is the only thing that matters on the bike.  There are no awards for the highest normalized power. Bike handling and taking the right lines on the course help in juicing every ounce of speed out of the bike.
  •  Don’t go absolutely harry hardnuts on the bike.  Save a little something so you can save your dignity on the run.
  •  Run more.  The race showed me that I am transforming from a triathlete into a biker.  I need to balance it back out again.  Quads are too big or something.
  • Aggression and fear help me race better

Damn it is fun to ride a bike like that.  Thanks to Quintana Roo for making the CD0.1 so freakin fast and stable. Thanks to Zipp for making wheels so fast they should be illegal.  And finally, thanks to everyone for the support... especially Cait.

PS-How dare I forget this, but arguably the most important experience of my day, if not my life, was Phil (of Hypercat fame) letting me use his recovery pump and fetching me Ahi Tuna from God knows where. Even if it was from the garbage, it was splendid.  Let it be known, bloggers, that he is very close to me and instrumental in my life.