Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Race Report: Saddle Up

I hate this feeling. As soon as I am relieved and proud to have finished another open water swim, the transition area inevitably reminds me that my relative accomplishment is in fact only relative. Nearly all the bikes in my age group are already gone. I know that will be the case, but I never like it when it happens.

(Note to self: masters swim team. Even though I am not competitive in the sense that I have to win, do you get the impression that I cannot abide the thought of sucking?)

That feeling does not last long, because as I am wriggling from my hobbit-sized wetsuit I see a line of handcycles, and one athlete being helped into one. Greyhound, everything is coming up roses for you. Mount Carmen Tequilo and have some fun.

And I knew that fun is what it would be. I drove the course the day before and knew exactly what was out there. (This is HIGHLY recommended). I even took my bike up the two steep hills immediately outside the transition area, so I knew that I could take the short burn of lactic acid and recover without difficulty.

Carmen was already in a low gear so I merely stood in the stirrups and she sprang to the top of the first climb like a fawn, screamed down the descent like a perrigrin falcon and topped the second climb to head for the exit and the open road.

The lightening and high winds were gone, but once out on the open road, there was a decent cross wind and then a head wind on the outward bound leg. Carmen entreated me to snuggle the aero bars and pick a gear where the cadence would be high. In fact, the focus for nearly everything except the climbs was simply to find that gear in which we could hold a 90+ RPM cadence.

Landmarks on the flats passed, and before I knew it we had dived into and out of the first canyon leg, a nice 30+ mph descent down, climb out the other side, turn around, descend down, and climb out the way you came in. I might have embarassed Carmen, but I could not stand on decorum. Those descents deserved a good, Texas, rebel yell and I let it all hang out. This was play time at its 9 year old best. Cowboys and indians on a bike! Chasing Jesse James into a box canyon.

Things were going well. 20 miles into the bike leg, and I had not expended 2 hours on the race course! If I make it back to T2 by 4:00 I might knock this thing out in 6 hours!

Then, as I hung a right to head for the second canyon leg, it happened. WHOOSH! The pros are on their way home. WHOOSH! WHOOSH! One after the other, manned spacecraft on two wheels fly past in the opposite direction with the wind at their back. A silver blur, a yellow whoosh, and I new Natascha Badmann had flown by on her way to certain victory.

Is this sport cool or what?

In the second canyon I actually saw M&M on the two turn arounds and I gave her the rebel yell as I descended and she climbed. I also saw a lady climbing the road I was descending who must have been 65 years old if she was a day. She's probably someone's sweet grandma, but by the look on her face, she could have been an airborn ranger intent on breaking things and killing people. It was totally inspiring

40 miles in and I have expended about 3 hours on the race course. I can still make a 6 hour half-iron in my first time out! At least that's what I thought . . . .

I knew the climb out of the second canyon is the longest climb of the day, so I metered my effort and determined that it would not beat me. But . . .

In the time I had spent in the second canyon, the wind had shifted somewhat more northerly and appeared to have picked up. Even after topping the canyon wall, you were effectively still climbing because the wind was directly into your face for several miles. That, and I was almost out of food, taking gatorade for calories.

That unexpected effort broke my mojo and my chance for a 20 mph average on the bike. It was not as if it was beyond my reach physically. It was beyond my mental capabilities. I did not quit the race, but I quit racing. More on this later, because it is the part of the race that frustrated me.

The bright spot of the long, flat trip over the moonscape back to T2 was the Cajun Tri-Chica, otherwise known as Robo-Christy. Robo-Christy is a phenomenon. She's 25 but looks 15. Five foot nothing, she's cute as a bug, and yet don't be fooled. She's smarter than smart and an extremely motivated and successful engineer--totally making it in a male dominated workplace. She is exactly the kind of confident woman I want my own daughter to be some day. In the triathlon world, she won her age group at nationals and intends to compete at the ITU long course championships and Ironman Florida. Imagine Katie Couric at age 15 but with a killer instinct. A perky assassin. Robo-Christy's got game.

I had not seen Robo-Christy in the canyons, but as I am hauling myself back to T2 and feeling a bit more sorry for myself than I had a right to, I hear my name. "Hey [Greyhound]! Is that you!!! Hey [Greyhound], looking good! Keep going!" She gives me the woohoo and the high wattage smile as she passes on her way to a 5:37 finish!


In triathlon, as in life, sometimes all you need is a little encouragement. I was back in 3:09, slightly undernourised, 17.7 mph average, but capable of running.

To be continued . . . .


Scott said...

What a great read at 5:52 am preparing for my own morning workout to fuel my marathon dreaming... I can't wait for the conclusion.

Jessi said...

Another great installment. I really like how you write about each split separately...

You asked about posting pics within the text. I use free software called Hello (http://hello.com/). You can post the pics to your blog as separate posts. Then, if you want the pics to actually be embedded in a text post, go into "Edit Posts" in Blogger, then choose the picture post. At the top of the picture post there are two tabs: "Edit Html" and "Compose." Go to Edit Html and there you find the html for your pic. Simply cut and paste into the text post!

If you have any questions let me know.

TriBoomer said...

Challenging courses can do that to you. The race shifts from you against the other athletes to you against the course. Can't let that get under you saddle, tho. Don't forget, everybody covers the same ground and nobody gets through without paying their dues. You were not alone in the fight.

Stay tuned...

Veeg said...

I am all-too-familiar with the "not leaving the race, but no longer racing" feeling. It's my biggest struggle, I think.

Myles said...

Great post! I'm gaining more enjoyment from reflecting on my own race at Buff Springs while reading your account of your race. Thanks!

Those shifting winds were a real energy zapper, weren't they?

Iron Pol said...

The nice thing about firsts is that they are a personal best. Whether you feel like it was, or not. And they provide tons of experience to draw upon down the road.

The race, primarily, is against yourself. To me, giving 80% and succeeding is worse than giving everything I have and failing. From where I sit, you did awesome, and the times were solid for the first race.

Carrie said...

Greyhound, you paint an amazing picture with your words! Thanks for sharing your strengths and exposing your weaknesses. It makes all of us say, "Thank God I'm not the only one!" Can't wait for Part 3. I have a feeling that is when it gets really interesting.