Expectations for this race were pretty low. First of all, it was really just a training “for fun” day. I had a training load of 7 hours in the 2 days prior and I’m at the end of a multiple week build. So I would be tired, I knew that. Whatever, this was for fun.
Since this was the first off-road tri I’d ever done, I decided that it would be fun to make just about every newbie mistake I could possibly make. Ya know, stay in character. I started with leaving my cyclocross shoes (for the cyclocross bike ya know… cuz I don’t have a mountain bike which I figured everyone else would) at home 8 days prior. Great.
Let’s see what else can I do? 2 days before I did a 4 hour ride w/ 3×30 hard intervals (20+) and a swim after 3:30 (18×100 hardish intervals)… and day before I did 1hr w/ 3×8 real hard intervals (275watts) in the morning and a 45 min run in 95 heat index right before dinner!
Oh yeah, I also didn’t research the course. So I did that right after dinner. Hey wait, CAUTION: HORSES? REALLY? Seriously? What the hell did I get myself into? Are they ATTACK horses? Are they in the way? Is there horse crap all over the course? What exactly am I watching for? Holy horse sh!t.
Hmmm what else… oh yeah, I stayed out late with DW doing a movie (and ate stuff I shouldn’t). Got home around midnight to get up 5am for a race.
Woke at 5, got my stuff ready ate my bagel had my coffee and stretched. Ok, now I’m kind of acting like a racer again. Headed off for the race. 90min drive. Boring. Get there.
See a sign which says $2 per car NO EXCEPTIONS (no surprise, website said that) – they ask if I’m racing – spying the tri and cross bikes on my car (duh) – I say “ya” and they way me through. I guess I AM an exception. Cool. Good start to the day!
as I park, I pass the transition area. Looks pretty small. I wasn’t sure how big the race would be… but I’m guessing there is maybe 100 spots? I park and get my stuff unloaded. Registration is easy. No freebies, just a shirt and race numbers. One for FRONT of bike (front? Really? how’s THAT gonna work) and one for run. No body marking. No chips. Transition is a free for all. Plenty of space and it’s 8am and transition closes 8:30. Wow. Ok, whatever. Go to the potty (no porta’s… just a small bathhouse with 2 stalls + 1 urinal + 1 huge stinky green cloud of stinky stink. King sized. Every single bike there is a mountain bike… except mine. Rock on! Shall I paint a big “L” on my forehead now or wait until later? Didn’t have a pen so I decided to wait.
People were super friendly and so I chatted up some folks. The guy next to me (Terry) had been at Nationals and Worlds, done several Ironmans, etc. Probably in his mid 50s. He was willing to entertain my silly questions.. like “so, how fast did the winners do last year?” to which he says “about 1:45″… oh crap, I had planned 1:30 (hell, it’s only a 10mile bike right?!?!) well… “so how fast are you hoping for” to which he says “under 2″… wowzer. After more querying, the bike is going to be a LOT harder than planned. Great. So glad I brought the right kind of bike… and right kind of shoes… and had actually BEEN on trails training since last year. Oh wait… nope, hadn’t done ANY of that. GREAT! Let’s go!
I get a run warmup… that felt really good actually.. was stiff and muscles tired. Did find another bathroom which isn’t stinky. Cool. Visit it, because I’ve only done that like 10x so far… like every race. Slam a gel and listen to the pre-race. Nothing terribly surprise except no mention of killer horses. I guess they wanted to leave something for a surprise. Multiple warnings about getting off your bike when you need to as there as several course sections which are unridable even by the most skilled. Did he say multiple? yeah. Multiple. And apparently they don’t want to come get your bloody azz out on the course, so they prefer you at least be able to walk back. Fun!
I got a swim warmup, felt so so there, good enough. Got some more stretching in, which is probably my single biggest fear – continue to have back issues only when I don’t properly stretch. And as the workload increases so do the issues. But I was feeling pretty good. 5minutes to start. No national anthem. Huh. I like doing that. Oh well..
There are (2) waves… competitors and survivors in this funny shaped course around the outside of the quarry. Water was murky but tasted clean enough (yeah yeah, don’t judge). Based on your prediction as to whether you would be in the top or bottom half of the swim. I’m in the first wave, the competitor wave. All around are mostly hardbodies… and lots of very big guys. Almost no women. Maybe 6? 8? Really very few. I manage to pull a decent start spot. My swim has been the suck lately (maybe it would help if I swam more? huh) so I lined up 2nd row center. Usually I like to be up front so I can get away from everyone, but I wasn’t so sure I could pull it off today and I was here to have fun anyway.
We’re off! The thrash wasn’t too bad and I manage to settle behind some girl feet and some big ugly boy feet. They were neck and neck and holding a nice solid pace so I just rode the wake figuring they’d die off soon enough. Well, girl feet did (BAH!) so I tailed big ugly boy feet (BUGF). Around the first bouy was pretty easy and I was feeling good. BUGF didn’t let us, so I just tailed him. I noticed a lot of people dropping back around us though. Suddenly there was nobody on our right. And to the left the crowd was thining fast by the second bouy. Looking ahead I didn’t see many people ahead of us and looking behind there was a crapload. WEIRD. I totally didn’t expect that. And BUGF was keeping a decent solid pace through the third bouy.. nice. I have NEVER ridden someones wake this long. Usually it’s for a few minutes and then they die or I die. BUGF starts to fade and I’m seriously thinking of passing him. I start to pull around and some jackass decides to cut between us. Which makes NO sense because it is completely off course and he’s fast. Fast, but no sense of aim. Must be a young man… hehe. Anyway, I shove him out of the way and apparently all this crap is pissing BUGF off and he speeds up so I pull back onto his feet and we’re off around the fourth bouy. We’re in the final stretch and I decide I’m going to finally drop BUGF. Well… BUGF disagrees. I never am able to pull around him! Wow… the ENTIRE race. I stand up at 14:30something and start heading to the beach.
We left shoes (my case sandles) there because the path to T1 was rocky. Slip those on and walk/run up the hill. My HR is surprisingly high, in part due to the steep climb up the sandy path to T1. T1 is otherwise uneventful I get my snazzy running shoes on and hopped on my snazzy Cyclocross bike – cuz that’s the way I roll…
Off on the bike immediately onto gravel and an uphill. Ok, wow, if this is a preview this is going to be hard.. then it got hard. Into the woods onto singletrack (look at me and this fancy lingo!). There’s a cliff to the left and trees to the right. So you have 3 choices.
Choice 1- Fall off the cliff and die
Choice 2- Right into a tree and die
Choice 3- Dont do 1 and 2
So I opted for 3. Thank goodness. Anyway, this continued for a while and then opened up to doubletrack (oooooooooooooooh more fancy lingo call me a mountain biker!) and at this point a few people passed me and I managed to pass someone. SWEEET! not even a mile into the race and I pass someone? Yeah fine, like 5 passed me, but still? I’m feeling pretty big of myself. About that time I about eat a tree. Ok, pay attention cocky-boy. I am having to watch the path, the rocks, the trees, AND the other riders. Wow, this is NOTHING like riding on the road – this is like road riding stimulus x 100. Kind of fun actually.
Had to dismount a few times for the downhills and many times on the uphills. my HR was sky high but my legs really weren’t burning. It was the constant change of intensity that was killing me. I was sucking pretty bad on the uphills because I was bouncing off roots and rocks and stuff (later found out my tires were way too high – most guys running around 30-40 and I was running 70) and the skinny azz cyclocross wheels (known as my FATTY WHEELS until today) were just unable to get enough serious grip so I’d spin out. And downhills I was bouncing all OVER the damn place with the rocks and stuff. My chain was making these CHING noises and rocks were flying up and smacking into the frame. Wow crap. This is ROUGH. My azz is taking a beating too.
What was pissing me off the most was I couldn’t see. It was overcast and I had my normal sunny day frames. I forgot to bring my sunglass holder which has the clear frames. So I stopped and shoved them into my trishirt.
Several more crazy uphills and downhills and even through a creek. The only thing that I felt really good about was the long flat section in the middle. I launched myself down that section and made my legs burn. I threw it into the big gear and ripped past probably a dozen people who’d recently past me. It felt great. THIS was my playground BIATCHES!!!! Ok, yeah they passed me again soon enough after. Oh well, I enjoyed it.
Another thing that was funny is how many people told me how “HardCore” I was for riding a cross bike “Holy shit man, that’s insane!” and similar.. Hehe, Apparently there is a very fine line between HARDCORE and STUPID MORON – and even though I corrected a few people, eventually I shut up and went with it!
I may not have much experience with mountain biking… oh wait, I have NO experience mountain biking – but I am a quick learn and I do have the fitness to do this, so I was learning as I went. I managed to pick up the pace and stop making as many stupid mistakes, and learned a few new ones along the way. Finished the first loop in 37 or something. Man I cannot tell you how happy I was to be there… and how sad when I realized I was JUST HALF WAY DONE. Holy cow. I was covered in mud and grime and my water bottles were nasty chunky. Yes, I said chunky.
I passed some more, I got passed. Terry from transition passed me about 1/2 way through the first lap. He was walking it up a hill and I yelled some encouragement and he flew by me on the flats.
Second loop was more of the same, just a lot faster. I managed to do a lot better, learning from the first loop. Managed it in 32. I bet with some practice I could get it down to 26 or so.
T2 was super speedy since I didn’t have to change my soggy shoes or anything and I zipped in and out.
The run was a trail run 2 loops of 2miles – much of the same type of stuff as the mountain bike but wider trails. Nice. I trotted along at a nice pace, cruising along. Got passed and passed a couple. Yes, I actually passed 2. Wow. It wasn’t easy but not impossible. Long uphill sections were a beast, but the soft surface was nice. Until…. THE HILL. Yes, all caps is required. It’s about 50-75ft? and I literally had to use my hands to climb up at spots. My legs were burning bad at that point. And then the balance of the loop was all downhill which just tore up my legs. Terry passed me at the very end of the loop and gave high fives – he was hoping for 8min miles – I was logging some solid 14min miles WOOT!
the final loop was the same, except I got off track a bit and extended the course and drug a few people behind me. Hope they were in my AG – hehe.
I was in a nice zone. i could have continued at this pace for ages – so during the final downhill section after THE HILL – PART DEUX – I let loose and ripped off some 10min mile pace work for about a mile and the finished it strong.
So, 2:23 was far longer than I planned, but a real solid effort today. It was hot and humid, but the sun wasn’t out, so it wasn’t nearly as nasty as it had been in the last week. I didn’t see any horses and didn’t notice any horse crap.
I hung out for a while talking to others and learning all the stuff I did which was dumb… next time, and there will be a next time, I’ll be far better prepared. Firstly, I think maybe I’ll TRAIN for this before embarking on another. Second, I really need a mountain bike. I think I may play with this stuff after IM Cda next year. Got several more congrats for doing the course on a Cross bike on the way out
So, this is described as an EASY course. REALLY? Dayum. That means I have a lot to learn before I play too heavy in this area. But still, seems like an interesting diversion. However, the amount of blood on the course… and there was a fair amount… is enough to really make me think about the right time and place to do this stuff. 4 weeks before my A race? ehhhh not so smart. During IM training? No chance. So although I think I will get back into it, I’ll have to think about when. In the mean time I will plot to get a mountain bike so I can ride with my kids… yeah yeah that’s the ticket!
So, nasty dirty (another newb mistake – no change of clothes, no showers) and I made the 90 min stinky ride back home to go kayaking with the kids (and I got an ice cream).
Today was a good day.