J-hawk EarlyBird Sprint 04-29

Jhawk Earlybird has been an annual tradition for me for many years now. It’s a small, well run, race that is about a 90min drive. Even though my general rule is to not travel longer TO a race than it will take me to COMPLETE a race… it’s a nice down home deal and I like the vibe. Many of the chicago and Ironman races are just SO crowded and SO competitive.

Also, it’s kind of fun to see a $6,000 tri bike right next to a $200 Wal-Mart hybrid… with a kickstand. LOL. Love it.  This race is very welcoming to newbies and I find myself lending a helping hand to several every year, this year no exception.

This race is unique in that the faster swimmers start later. That works for me, means I get to sleep in! 11:09am was my start time. I arrive around 9. Tons of time right?

I check in, get marked, rack my stuff (get the perfect spot on the end) and visit the bathroom many times (some things never change no matter how many races you’ve done…) and stretch. Due to my ankle issues over the last 9 months, I wanted to have plenty of time to get nice and loose. So me and my foam roller and trigger point rollers get comfy on the sidewalk by the car and get it done. Meet Tim from SubM (Tri team) who was doing the first race since his wreck last year, that was cool. Saw several Alumni Prairie Dogs (my other tri team) but no sign of some of my old buds just yet. Knowing them, they signed up last minute – so I bet they would start even later than me. So my goal would be to not let them pass me :)

I get my bike warmup in and a quick run. I make my final clothing selections and pack away the rest. No problem but I’d like more run time. I go check in with the pool deck because I see about everyone from my rack (so similar swim times… mostly LATER though) going in. They’re running 20+ minutes AHEAD. Crud. Ok, get a quick swim warmup.

Although I’m physically good, I do notice I’m not nervous. I’m not revved up, at all, actually. Super-Zen. Like the BEST ZEN EVER. Feels kind of good. I guess after forty-something races it makes sense. Whatever. I don’t think much about it.

I get lined up to swim, the guy in my lane I swam with last year. We chatted a while, catching up. However, when it’s time to go… no 3rd swimmer. Cool. So we split the lane. Which is probably good. I think I seeded myself 7:50. Probably a bit aggressive. I swam 8:05 at state last weekend… Oh well. I should do about the same. I’m usually within 10s +/- 8minutes.

We go! First 250 felt ok. Hard, but it should be. BUT… after that, I fell apart. My right shoulder (one that’s been bugging me) goes tight. Then left. Then back. CRAP! By 300 I am just fighting for survival. My form has completely fallen apart. I seriously considered backstroke… Probably should have. Finished 8:40? WTF? By far the worst swim time EVER at this race. CRAP. Up and out!

Dash to the bike. HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLY CRAP it’s cold. Wow, I run outside and WHOOOOSH! A huge wind gust pushes me back – and it’s made of ice. Thankfully, Cold I can handle. So off I go. My biceps feel like they’re going to burst they’re so tight, so I start slapping my arms around hoping it helps. It kind of does.  I guess.

Then I done my IM CDA jersey and jacket, my shoes, helmet, and gloves. Then glasses and I’m off. Since I’m using my road bike, I have my mountain bike pedals – so I’m actually able to run – which is nice. But having to put on so much clothing slowed me down, I’m sure. At the mount line I see I’m around 11min. Crap, so T1 was over 2 min. Yeah, gonna hear about that from coach!

I had my bike all set in a small gear, so I started spinning like a crazy man to warm up and get the legs moving. We hit the 2 sister hills right from the outside. Up and over both. No problem. Wind gusts… that’s going to be a problem.

So heading north was ok, but there was a strong cross wind. This course is kind of double edged flag shape, which means that we’ll get a nice boost from the tailwind.. but the headwind is going to suck. And the wind is pretty solid, so this entire north and south trip will have this stupid wind. With gusts. So basically, today will be a slow bike. It normally is at this is at this race , so nothing shocking here. But it is kind of cold. However, I think my clothing choice was fine. Dripping wet the blood was still flowing (unlike prior years when I turned into an icicle!) so we’re good. Legs are doing ok.

So I kept a nice solid pace. I was pretty much by myself for 90% of the bike. I was passed at mile 10 and 12, but that was it. I was easily doing 28 with the tailwind and probably <9 into the headwind. Unfortunately, the later portions were into the headwind. So the legs were trashed.

I seemed to forget Ron’s Laws for Sprints though…

  1. If it doesn’t hurt. GO FASTER.
  2. If you can breathe. GO FASTER.

So although I kept my legs in a somewhat painful state, I had no breathing issues. This is a problem. I was not pushing as hard as I could. Hmmmm….

The ride was pretty uneventful overall. I was happy it was done, but I was not pleased about my time. When I got to the finish I saw 58. So a 47min bike? WTF? It should be around 41-43. Oh well. Was it the road bike? Did I slack? Was it the 3 hour ride yesterday? We’ll never know… there was NO taper NO rest, today was a training day and I need to remember that.

T2 was like clockwork, but slower than it could be. I started running the bike in, but my ass cramped up. Yeah, butt-cramp was cramping my style here… so I walked it in, did the change, and then ran out.  1:01 on the clock. Ah crap. Slow slow slow. Was that another 2min transition? Did I order a pizza? What the HECK?

Well, the run started as it always did. Rough. That’s ok, I’ve done ZERO bricks (a bike ride followed by run) in training this year. So clearly, this part won’t be nice.

Mia (Prairie Dog Alumni and Swim team bud) passed me. She looked GREAT. Speed Speed Speed is all I hear as she zooms by. Woot!

We hit the first little hill quick. At this point, my lower legs are already starting to get stiff. Ruh Roh. I know where this is going. This is too soon. I pull back on the pace. However, the camber (tilt) of the path is LEFT. That’s bad. I’m still not in my new orthotics, so I know I have to have a RIGHT camber or I’m gonna cramp.

Glenn zooms by! Hi Glenn!

Guess what? I cramped. Every dang muscle from the knee down decided to rebel, pretty much at the same time. But luckily, they all did it together so it wasn’t so much a cramp as a whole-leg-tight-experience. Crap. So I experimented. Slow down. Speed up. Walk. Stretch. Nothing lasted more than seconds.

At this point I decide this is just gonna suck, so deal with it. So I just kind of trudge through it. I know at this point, any hopes of a decent time are gone, so I just need to reset expectations and put it all in perspective.

There goes Jaynie! Hi Jaynie!

So… during my trudge fest I thought about a few things

  1. I am grateful I can do this stuff. Period. My own words come to mind. “REJOICE! And Whine Not! Today you shall do what others only dream”. Thinking of all the newbies out there terrified they won’t finish. They can’t do it. They’re too fat. Too slow. Too weak. Too scared. Too… whatever. Seeing their broad smiles and looks of accomplishment, that’s just freaking golden.
  2. I am grateful that even if I’m slow, I can do this without taper and heck, without real specific training. I could rip out a sprint tri any time, any day, and survive it. And heck, not even be remotely last.

So I put a smile on my face, kept running (mostly) and just worked through it.

There goes Pat! Hi Pat!

So I managed through the rest. I managed a reasonable, motivated, sprint for the last 1/3 mile. However, I just didn’t have that FIRE I normally do when I compete.


So that was really the big lesson. Although I did everything reasonably well for the BODY I hadn’t done a DARN thing for the mind. I was not revved up to COMPETE. I was just there to enjoy the day. Where I failed was making that distinction before I got to the finish. I knew I was in sub-par running shape. I’m 80% through a major rebuild phase. But I’m not quite to the point of SEEING the results… that’s soon. I think knowing this, I didn’t want to get my expectations up.

Fine… but if you’re not going to be COMPETING on a given day then maybe I could go a better job COMPLETING the day with a smile the entire way. Maybe I could have run back on the course and cheered on newbies. Maybe I really could have/should have embraced the day. Maybe I should have spent more time socializing. Something. But half-ass competing is not good for the soul.

So… no matter how many of these things you do… there’s always something to learn.

And since I learned something, today was indeed a good day.

11th/14 Clydes

138 Ron Searle Hoffman Estates IL 41 M

8:57 (swim, although my WORST swim, still 1st Place for Clydes)

2:15 (t1, middle of pack for Clydes)

51:03 (bike 16.0 OMG, middle of pack for Clydes)

1:44 (t2, middle of pack for Clydes)

41:37  (run) 13:26 (hey about same as ironman pace… ouch – oh and 2nd to LAST in Clydes grrrr. )

TOTAL 1:45:33 (NOTE: I think this is wrong by 2.5minutes – all on bike. My Garmin has total time 1:43:01).

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