|Stoked to be back.|
Race day began with my customary jar of applesauce, sitting in the darkness of my homestay bedroom, listening to a pretty impressive rain falling outside. It was actually quite welcome, as summer fires in northern Washington had made for a very smoky race-week atmosphere in interior B.C. By the time wetsuits were on and I was putting my little pinky toes in Okanagan Lake, the rain had subsided and the smoke was gone. Conditions were cool and damp for the rest of the day. Perfect.
1. High point of the race: crossing the finish line
Let’s be honest, the end is often the best part of these races. And not because everything that came before it sucked (shame on you for thinking that). But because it’s always immensely gratifying to cross that finish line, hear the crowds cheering, feel the relief as your legs finally spin to a stop, and reflect on the hard work that hopefully paid off. The excitement never goes away; seems like the more of these I do the more fun they get. But to make it even better, the race organizers at Challenge Pen created an awesome finishing area, complete with a sweeping 270-degree turn as you run down a chute lined by circus tents, an 80-piece band, lion tamers, even an entourage of hula-hoopers that were trying to obstruct the line. Although I’ve never been, I’m told it was reminiscent of the extravaganza Challenge throws at Roth every year. (Needless to say, that race is at the top of my bucket list.) Adding to the joy for me: I was happy with how I raced, I felt like I got the most out of my body, and Elena was standing there looking like a millions bucks. So it was a good scene.
2. Extreme Highs:
-Feeling stronger on the bike. A theme that has become painfully obvious to me this summer is that I ride my bike like a softman (allow me to refer you to my outing down at Vineman). But a few focused weeks of bike work since then, and all of a sudden I felt like I had new legs. I knew something was different by about halfway through the bike. There was a short out-and-back section at mile 30 or so, but it couldn’t have been longer than a mile and I figured there wouldn’t be much for me to see there. When I made the sharp right-hand turn after about 80 minutes of hard riding, I was surprised to see a whole lot of guys strung out in front of me. I looked at faces going by in the opposite direction as I approached the turn-around. Dudes who usually out-ride me by 10 minutes or more were within reach! I was thrilled! In the end, eventual winner Brent McMahon (Canadian Olympian and basically the favorite at any race he enters) and Trevor Wurtele (routinely earns the fastest bike split) bested me by 10 minutes, which is 3-4 less than my usual deficit to the top bikers over 56 miles. Chris Bagg, Alistair Eeckman, and Guy Crawford (who outrode me by several minutes at a local olympic-distance event five weeks earlier) all had me by less than two minutes. Ok, Coach Chris may have flatted and lost some time there, but that’s beside the point. There was definite improvement here, and that after a relatively short block of focused training. Improvement is what I need to stay motivated in this game. It’s like that golf shot that you finally caught pure: it might have only happened once in 18 holes, but it keeps you coming back. Now I’m actually looking forward to riding my trainer this winter, because I have hope that it will continue to equate to better performances.
|Good bike shots are so hard to get.|
-Mile 3 of the run. My usual strategy for the run is to stay comfortable for the first few miles and try to lift the effort as things progress. But what usually ends up happening is that I fatigue simultaneously, which means I end up trying to run harder, feeling like I’m running harder, suffering like I’m running harder… but in actuality I’m holding the exact same pace. So I decided to try something different for this race, for better or for worse. My thought was that maybe it would be easier to start at goal pace and hold it, rather than trying to build up to it as my legs tired out. Well… you’ll find out how that worked out for me if you keep reading. But right around mile 3 I was crushing it and feeling awesome. I had knocked out a few 5:45s and it felt totally sustainable, with my HR just below threshold. I was going to close like a freight train and run in to the top-10. Awesome.
-Coming out of the water. After what felt like a pretty sloppy performance, I was happy to glance at my watch as I was running up the beach and see a low-26 minute swim. Just like 2013, the men’s and women’s fields started at the same time, so there were more feet for me to find. But on the flip side, there were also more people to run into, follow in the wrong direction, and get punched by. No joke, after a solid 20 strokes of being squished between a gal on my left and some dude on my right, as I was breathing I noticed him actually try to bring his fist down on my head. He missed. He didn’t know that I have a pretty impressive background in evasive swimming (although most of my expertise is in hiding in hot tubs during high school swim practice). In any case, most of the swim was pretty tumultuous and crowded. I was never able to steer a straight course, and by about halfway through I was pretty tired from all the aggressive jostling. So I was happy to see another improved swim time, only 1-2 minutes down on a bunch of guys who are consistent second pack swimmers or better.
-Seeing a certain someone get a penalty. This may seem like poor form, but I just thought it was so ironic. The person who had scowled angrily around the room at the pro meeting and openly proclaimed “We don’t need any cheating assholes!” was the one who got called for drafting. Life is so sweet sometimes. Yeah, she’s a world champion, but just because you’re a champion doesn’t mean you get to throw stones.
And now for the not so good…
-The pro meeting in general. Pardon my language, but it was ahhh, how do you say… display of poo? Ah yes, it starts with “sh” and rhymes with “it-show.” There were a few important things to address, sure. But then it got painful, sitting there listening to the bickering with the head official. I mean, presumably everyone in the room has raced more than a couple triathlons. So go out and race fairly. No one likes to lose (or win) on account of rule-breaking.
-Mile 7 on the run. This is when I first started to question my new run plan. The first 4 miles were awesome, 5 and 6 were pretty solid, but by mile 7 I could feel things slowing down. Mentally I had divided the race into three 4-mile segments. If I could hold goal pace, I was hoping to cover each of those 4-mile pieces in 23-flat, bringing me to the end of mile 12 – with only a mile to go to the finish – right around 1:09. I figured if I put myself in that position, I could probably suffer through that 13th mile and run a final time somewhere in the 1:15-1:16 range. Well… that would have been awesome, but it didn’t quite unfold how I had planned. Mile 7 was a low point, because it’s when I first started to feel it.
5. Extreme Lows:
|Feeling less good around mile 6.|
-Mile 8 on the run. By this point I knew I was in trouble. After covering the first four miles right on schedule, I clicked through those next four in over 24 minutes, bummer. My mental dialogue was going back and forth:
-“How could I be so foolish? I’ve never run that fast before.”
-“But on the other hand, you run those times in training. And this course is flat as a pancake. Coach Bagg thinks you’ve got it in you. Stay committed.”
And I did. My head was very committed. But my legs were not committed at all. Like the girl you asked to prom, who said yes just to be nice, after some persuasion. As soon as things got a little uncomfortable they started looking for the exit.
6. Low point of the race: miles 9-11 on the run
Ouch town. Main Street in Penticton is pretty straight and disappointingly long. Thank God all the Canadians are so nice, because I was on the struggle bus. Those miles weren’t very fun, or fast, or nice for them to watch. But the people kept cheering (because they’re sweet), telling me I was doing great (I wasn’t), and promising me that I was almost done (which I didn’t believe). Finally I entered that last mile, and could see down the final stretch to the finish area with all the hula-hoopers. I was able to quicken my stride for those final minutes, but that’s mostly because I really wanted to sit down.
When all was said and done, I ended up coming 12th, which I was satisfied with. Not the break-through race I had dreamed about, but probably the result I deserved based on my training. On second thought… maybe a bit better than I deserved, if I’m being honest. Training has been sporadic at best for a long time (click here if you want to see why), and I just finally achieved some consistency over the second half of the summer. And imagine that: this was a greatly improved race over the one I did back in early July. So I’ve gotta be happy with that.
I think my main take-away here – and as Coach Bagg would later point out – this was probably the most complete race I’ve ever put together. With an improved swim and bike, I was in contact with most of the action as the race unfolded. And I can tell you it is a lot more fun to actually see your competitors than it is to be last out of the water, slow on the bike, and then run up through the field towards the end, which is my usual MO. Also, as I look back at my last half-dozen major races, I think it’s fair to say that I have become a consistent 2nd quartile guy. I’m happy to be taking that confidence into the fall and winter months.
What’s next? A bunch of local events here in the Pacific
NorthWET. Got a few footraces on the
calendar, and looking forward to trying my hand at cyclocross this fall. Also planning to enter a swim meet in
November, which will undoubtedly be terrible.
But you gotta do what you gotta do to stay motivated. Enjoy autumn everyone, and thanks for
|The look says it pretty well.|