Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rattlesnake Olympic Tri Recap

Since I've been quite busy since our tri (seriously, I've worked a lot), I haven't gotten around to blogging about it yet, but here it is! My tri recap! Bear with me, this post is going to be long, monotonous, and maybe even boring...please bear with me.


Leaving the House
We woke up that morning at 4:00 a.m., way too effing early to be getting up on a day off for both of us. But whatever. We had the car pretty much packed the night before, so the morning of was pretty easy in terms of getting most of our stuff together. We made our respective race breakfasts and ironed out the details with T's mom about how to meet up with my parents, who had flown out to observe us participate in the sport we have come to love. That all taken care of, we left the house about 15 minutes later then we wanted to, but still in plenty of time.

When we arrived at the reservoir, we noticed a ridiculously long line of cars waiting to get into the park. And it was just 5:30! Everyone had our idea and got there ass early as well. Bastards! I'd estimate maybe 25-30 cars were ahead of us. We parked the car and decided our best move would be to quickly get our bikes to transition, so at least we'd have a spot staked out in that regard. After a dude checked out our bikes making sure everything was in order, we hustled in and found a spot in mid-transition and right next to each other. I'm 3-3 in that aspect of triathlons, that I get to share my transition spot with the other member of Team Baby Dinosaur. Our bikes racked, we hurried back to the car to get our transition bags and other goodies.

As we were setting up our transition area, I was looking around at the competition. It was insane the people that were participating in this! It's safe to say that we we were stepping up leagues, for sure. If doing a sprint tri is the equivalent of Single A ball, this was definitely AAA, with some of the players having done stints in the Majors. I saw Ironman bikes, Zipp wheels that cost more then I have in my Roth IRA, Ironman transition bags, triathlon club jackets...and the list goes on. Needless to say, it was more than a little intimidating to us both.

We hit the porta-potties for the first time that morning, then went down to the packet pick-up/body marking/chip pick-up. We didn't get body marked that moment, but we did grab our chips and our race numbers. We then headed up to the transition area to take the bikes for a quick spin. T was having some slight cleat issues that morning, so she had the volunteers from Wheat Ridge Cyclery take a look at it. She might be needing cleat replacement soon, but other then that, no big deal. We walked the bikes out, then quick hopped on to spin our legs. Felt really good.

After we came back into transition, we fine-tuned our transition stalls and hit the porta-potties again. Transition was getting really busy at this point, and we were getting closer to race time. We took a walk down to the water to map out our path from leaving the water to transition, and at this point, I called my parents to find out where they were. Turns out they were just getting to the park, so I told them to meet us on the beach.

We tried figuring out the swim course, which was comical, considering there were probably 5 of us talking, and all 5 of us had a different idea how it worked.'s how it worked. Follow the yellow and green lines. That was our swim course. We swam out around the far buoy, turned around, came back to shore, got out of the water, and then went out and around. The red X marks where we were officially done with the swim. Yeah, that was complicated....

At this point, we met up with my parents and T's mom, and we chatted with them for a few minutes and took some pictures together. I'll try to post those shortly. Then we headed back up to transition to prepare ourselves for what was about to come.

I put on my wetsuit and grabbed my swim cap and goggles. I took one last look at my transition stall, and made sure everything was set up the way I wanted it to be. We both then left transition and headed down to the water. We stopped by my parents, who had staked out a picnic table for the time being and took some more pictures. We chatted about the best places they could be during the course of the race, and then the National Anthem came out. In honor of my friend Joseph Horatio Zebedee Urkel Remington Xanadu Almington Ezekiel E Honda Yerdon CXXVIII, Esq., I yelled RED during the National Anthem since he does that as well. I gave a nice SIOUX when it came time for home of the brave, then we worked our way to the swim start.

It was a wave start, and it went females first, then males, in order from oldest to youngest. So I was pretty much going to be one of the last to start. T was going near last for the females, but still way before me, so I hung by her while she waited for her turn. My parents were also there, taking pictures. She got a 3-2-1 GO and she was off. I hung out, watching her head bob in the water, then I lost sight of her. I chatted with my parents a bit more, and then I got lined up. I talked with one other guy who was laughing and joking with me that it was just another training swim. I said goodbye to my parents, heard 3-2-1 GO and off I went. My Olympic tri had begun.

The Swim
I had practiced this scenario about a week prior and had figured out a great way to enter the water, one that worked for me the best. I jogged towards the water, and as soon as my feet hit the water, I walked in. I have figured out this keeps my heart rate low and my body/mind focused. There's no need to get yourself panicky before you even get your swim underway. When the water was up to my chest, I lifted my feet off the bottom and I was off!

So remember how I was chatting with that guy in line? He and I stayed together for at least the first 200 meters. It was a great way to sight. Every time I looked to my right, there he was. We were both dodging slower swimmers as we churned our way through the water.

Also, if you remember my recap from the Cheyenne Sprint Triathlon, I struggled in the early part of that swim, but I was able to overcome it by talking to myself and slowing it down a bit. This tri, there were no struggles. There was no worrying. I was pulling myself through the water with ease. My breathing was ridiculously solid, considering I was fighting a cold that morning (forgot to mention that earlier). When I turned around to head back in for the first time, I was shocked at how well I was doing and how many people I was passing. I saw people doing all sorts of swim strokes and people all out of whack on the swim. It felt so ridiculously satisfying to see how far I had come in the swim.

When I got out of the water for the first time, I saw my dad take a picture. I repeated my routine and walked into the water again, this time to head out for a bit longer. I didn't have my sighting buddy this time, but my sighting this particular morning was simply ridiculous. I was traveling in a straight line, and again, passing people left and right. When I made the turnaround to head back towards shore, I was getting a bit tired, but still felt amazing. I wouldn't say I was getting stronger as the swim went on, but I definitely wasn't losing significant time either.

As I got close to shore, I dropped to my knees for a couple seconds, just to let my equilibrium stabilize and to take a few breaths before I jogged up the hill to transition. The guys helping people out of the water seemed in a hurry to get me out of the water, but really, I was in no rush. I need this time, and I will allow it every time. I jogged out of the water, saw my mom holding a big green sign cheering us on, gave them a thumbs up, and headed up to transition. My first leg of the tri was over.

Swim times:
First Lap - 15:05
Second Lap - 17:55
Total Time - 32:59

T1 continues to be an Achilles heel for me, for whatever reason. It should be easy, no? Well, for some reason, T1 is a weakness for me. In the Cheyenne Sprint Triathlon, it took me nearly 3 minutes to get out of T1, and in this tri, T1 took 2:30. This T1 distance might have been a bit longer then Cheyenne, but still. Wetsuit strippers though are awesome! I got my wetsuit stripped off, ran up to transition, threw on my cycling jersey, my shoes, and my helmet, and off I went, chatting with my dad, who was up there taking pictures still. He had apparently gotten permission to be in transition and take pictures of me. The next leg had begun.

T1 Time: 2:30

We all know how cycling is definitely not my strong point, and on this day, it was clearly evident. I left transition and was surprised at how comfortable I felt, even with a newer pair of tri shorts and a smaller chamois. But the first mile of the ride was flat/downhill. It would quickly turn into rolling hills of death and humble this newer triathlete to the core.

When I first saw T, she was about 5-10 minutes ahead of me, or roughly 1 mile. No big deal. We shouted a hello to each other and I kept pedaling. You might remember from the My Way or the Tri Way last year that I was passing a lot of people on the bike, and I think by the time the cycling leg was done, had basically passed 17 people. Yeah, that didn't happen on this race. I was getting passed quite a bit, and in turn, I was not passing people the way I was hoping to. It's safe to say I was getting my ass kicked. People I was blowing by in the water were now blowing by me. Yeah, real happy, let me tell you. Real confidence boosting, let me tell you.

When I turned out of the park onto the road that most of the cycling leg was going to be on, I downed a peanut butter cup and some Gatorade/water and attempted to surge ahead. I passed a couple people, but definitely was still getting passed more then I was passing. I was also just trying to spin and go. Not too much else to report here, unfortunately.

I got to the turn around point and realized something awful. I was going to be facing a headwind on the way home. A massive headwind. I also realized that there weren't a lot of cyclists around; most were way ahead of me and were already beginning the run. Yeah, again, not confidence boosting in the least.

The ride back clearly showed how weak I was in the cycling department of the triathlon. I was unable to pick up any speed and was getting weak pretty quickly. I tried every trick in the book and nothing was working. I eventually was able to admit that I wasn't going to have a good bike and my finishing time was not going to be what I had hoped. Thankfully, I was still pedaling, unlike a couple people I saw on the side of the road.

I was trading places with another chick on the bike for a little bit. We were joking with each other that we would be doing this for the rest of the ride, and then I passed her for good eventually.

Coming back into the park, it was eerily quiet. There were very few cyclists and I didn't see any runners. With about a quarter mile to go, I undid my shoes and glided towards transition. I hopped off my bike, not completely demoralized, but damn close.

Cycling Time: 1:41:53
Pace: 14.6 MPH

Thankfully, T2 has been better for me then T1 in my past triathlons. I am pretty quick in getting out there on the run, and this day again was not an exception to that. I was however, further demoralized by seeing all the bikes in transition and realizing that I was one of the last ones in. :-( I threw on my running shoes, shirt, and race belt, as well as my visor, and off I was. Last leg of the tri, and then it would be all over!

T2 Time: 1:41

In My Way, the run was my 2nd weakest point, right after the swim. In Cheyenne, both my swim and my run were the strongest. In this tri, it was right in the middle. I pushed out of transition and got my legs under me pretty quickly. I was surprised at how fast the first mile went. I stopped of course at the first water station and grabbed two cups of water, one for my head and one to drink.

In Mile 2, I was still churning along good. People running in were giving us all encouragement, which felt really good. I passed a porta-potty which I really needed to use, but chose not to. Bad decision I'll talk about later. Good news - I was still running and I thought 3:30 was still a possibility.

Coming up to the 5K point, I saw T ahead of me. It looked like I was going to be able to catch her, as I still was not walking. I was also figuring I was averaging about 10:00-10:30 minute miles (I don't know, I wasn't looking at my watch. I refused to.) When I got near the 5K point, T and I stopped to talk briefly. She was struggling, and at this point, I was struggling too. She was convinced I would catch her, which I was not sure about. I told her to keep going and I would see her soon.

At the turnaround point, I grabbed more water and started back. I began chatting with another runner who told me he had recently completed his first half-Ironman. He told me the Olympic distance was tougher, in his mind, because of the training that you undergo for the Olympic is deceptive. He asked me what my swim time was and when I told him, he was impressed. (keep in mind I didn't know what it was, but I guesstimated 34 minutes.) He told me to get stronger on the bike and I would have no problem with the half-Iron. He also told me that at my age, I had a great future in this sport and would go great lengths cause of my passion. That was really inspiring to hear, even though I was basically walk/running at this point. He told me he would see me at the finish and off he went.

I kept T in my sights, but could never catch up to her. Every time I wanted to run, my legs and body felt like I was moving a ton of iron. It literally felt like I had a piano on my back. At this point, I was less then 2 miles from the finish and was walking more then I was running. I finally came around to that porta-potty and damn near hugged it I was so relieved to see it. I took probably a 45-50 second pee, and had a surprising surge of strength that lasted me for a bit.

With a mile to go, there were 3 of us running back and forth, playing cat and mouse. A 54 year old guy, a 27 year old girl, and myself. We were all congratulating each other on finishing a ridiculously difficult race. For all of us, it was our first Olympic distance. The girl had never done a triathlon before, and her personal trainer recommended she do an Olympic. The guy had only recently gotten into the sport, like myself. We were joking that we would play this game to the finish, and who amongst us would finish first? They were both convinced it would be me.

When I rounded the last corner and saw the finish line, I was overjoyed, though my race photos don't show that at all. :-) I ran towards the finish and heard the Aussie guy that was doing the race announcing call my name out. I heard people cheering and saw my parents and T and her mom. I ran towards the finish and as I got close, kissed my hand and touched the finish sign. I stepped across the mat and officially became an Olympic triathlete.

Run Time:1:17:19
Pace: 12:29 per mile

Le Aftermath
There were hugs, congratulations, etc. all around from the cheering section for Team Baby Dino. It felt really good to be an Olympic triathlete, because now, in my mind, we have stepped up our game and become truer to the sport and to ourselves. And yet, there is a lot to discuss.

First off: this race was extremely humbling.
For as hard and as much as we trained, it certainly wasn't enough on this day. I'm willing to chock up some of my lousy cycling to the wind, maybe a loss of 1 mile an hour to the wind. That would have slashed my cycling time. But it's not an excuse. We didn't train hard enough in the wind this year. And it's clear we didn't train enough on the bike as a whole. We are going to fix that this offseason though, I promise.

Also, regarding the run. I don't want to say that our running wasn't good this year. In fact, I won't say that. Not at all. However, what I will say, is that our running base still isn't quite there. While we put in a lot of miles already on the road, most of them came in April/May when we were training for the BolderBoulder 10K. Our mileage slacked in June/July for reasons that we all know. I think had we switched the months around, our running might have been better on this race.

The swim. Wow. Dramatic improvement for me. Chock it up to the wetsuit, to the ridiculous swim mileage of the year, the lots of open waters, whatever you want. The point is, I nailed the swim this year. I truly don't think I could have done much better on it. I mean, would I like to average 30:00 a mile? Yes, of course, but for this year, I don't think I could have done much more. I am EXTREMELY happy with the swim, so I can take that away as a huge positive.

T and I both immersed ourselves in a giant ice bath after the race, which I am convinced helped us recover pretty quickly. We're easing our way back into the swing of exercise this week, and for the rest of the month. Come September, we are going to do one more tri, basically as a last-ditch race more then anything. I'm planning on using it as a more fun time; to experiment a little bit with things and most importantly, end the season on a high note. After that, it's time to train for Vegas 1/2 marathon that we will be doing with our friend Kris.

Thanks for all the support, everyone. :-)

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