This will be my 7th showing here. First tri ever in 2004. Made it every year except last year, when I was doing Ironman Cda.
Here I am in 2004 before my first tri ever… Look at that belly! I was “down” to 295 that day (from 322 a mere 6 months earlier)
I was looking forward to seeing many familiar faces and enjoying the morning and was not disappointed. However, even race morning I wasn’t sure if I was racing or “participating”. 2 days prior I saw the Doctor because my recovery post flu (3 weeks now) was not ideal. Not to mention almost NO workouts for 3 weeks… just a 4.5hr race. I got a 2nd inhaler because my lungs were just not opening up and I was so freakin’ tired. Well, it worked. Within an hour I felt SO much better. Thursday night I slept better than I had in weeks. Friday I was doing pretty good, so I was optimistic. I stuck to the plan from my coach, no workout Friday anyway. My bike just got back from Alcatraz… so I didn’t even had the pedals back on, but that’s easy enough…
So Sat morning was pretty typical stuff. Got up early so I could get a good spot in transition. Apparently the same Type – A people who sign up for races early all have the same idea! ROFL. The race bibs were based on when you signed up. I was 33.
SIDE NOTE. In 2006, when Logan (son #2) was 3 – My race number was 3. In 2012, when he is 9 my number is 33… or 3 x 3 as we were saying. He was thrilled!
Gave the bike a quick spin and check. I literally hadn’t been on her since Alcatraz so a safety check was more than in order. Luckily all was well, did my warmup and check and I was in good shape. Did a quick run… I also had not run for 2 weeks… and another orthotic adjustment… so this would be interesting. Warmup was pretty typical. Fine for 4-5 min and then I started getting tight in the shin… but it didn’t get worse… but I didn’t go much longer. I wasn’t in great shape, no sense wearing myself out before the race.
I spent a lot of time chatting. I knew several folks from prior years, one was a lady coached by Jen Harrison (local) and so on. Made several new friends. Hung around and helped some folks get settled. There are plenty of newbies and plenty of people freaking out. I was calm and ready for whatever the day would bring. Temps were reasonable and I felt pretty good so… I was going to try to race. If it fell apart, so be it, but I figured why not. It’s “just” a sprint (ok, I know how bad that sounds to some… but the longer one does this stuff and the longer the RACES are…. a sprint doesn’t seem “long” anymore. MOST years I ride 20miles to the race, do the race, run some more… and then ride home. So DRIVING here today… it was going to be a short day!).
Finally time was closing in on me, so I headed out for a short swim warmup. The race was wetsuit legal… barely. I decided to wear the wetsuit, not for flotation and FOR SURE not for warmth but to figure out what I did wrong at Alcatraz. In that race I wore my jersey under the wetsuit and it looks like someone tried to cut my head off. So this time I lubbed up and adjusted things and I figured I would give it a go. Any time saved swimming with the wetsuit is certainly lost with the removal of the wetsuit, but that’s ok. Swim warmup felt good. Hot, but good.
I wandered around for the start. Last stretches.. last bathroom break… the usual.
finally, time for me to go. In water start, but only knee deep. I lined up 2nd row middle. Not real confident in my swim abilities I guess. Normally, I’m front row center or front right. With the more competitive folks (for Clydesdale). We’re off. First thing I notice… I’m running in the water as fast as these cats ahead of me are swimming… Hmmm…. finally it gets too deep and I dive between two guys, basically driving a wedge between them and shoving them off course. Sorry guys! I quickly passed them and gained on the leaders. Within 30seconds I was in the #3 position for my wave. Ok, I seeded myself poorly. A bunch of guys banged into me and tried to jockey for support, but none of them could hold on. I was swimming very well. Breathing was good. Before I knew it, I was past the first marker. Still holding 3rd but now on top of the stragglers from the prior wave (3 minutes ahead). My sighting was spot on and I had a straight line to the boat we turn around.
I was feeling strong and decided yes.. I will indeed race today. Cool! Big smile. I started gaining on #2 but by the time we hit the boat – which seemed like very little time… It was crowded. This is always so, with the slower swimmers really struggling to get around the boat and back to shore. Some contact and a few challengers from behind but I held my own and made a nice clean turn around the boat and then I realized… I couldn’t breath. Crap. I was so in the moment didn’t realized I hadn’t paced at all (which is fine, in a sprint – if you are fit – there is not much pacing – just going!… except I did not have the fitness to support that). I started breathing every stroke left AND right to get some air. I pulled left a bit to avoid the mosh. If I could not breathe, I could not hold the pace. No question. That’s when I realized my lungs had tightened up. The effort was simply too much for me. I was blowing up. Smile gone. Boooooo! Stooooopid body.
So my focus went from trying to catch #2 to trying to breathe and get some semblance of form back. Bad form means more work, more work means burning more oxygen – it’s a vicious spiral. I had to stop the spiral. So I slowed down. I focused on nothing but form. I focused on even breathing. IN and OUT and IN and OUT. Still couldn’t get any real air. Man, it’s a good thing I am very comfortable in the water or i could see someone DNF’ing (did not finish) right then.
the second half of the swim I bet took twice as long as the first half. It was that bad. But I just kept going and kept the focus on FORM and before I knew it, 8:21 had passed and I was standing up. For this course, that’s actually a solid time for me. Paced poorly, but the result was ok. I knew this would place me in the top Clydesdales for the swim.
I started walking to the bike, working on removing the wetsuit, calming my heart rate, and getting my breath. My hope was if I took this easy I would be able to breath by the time I got to the bike. Well, that didn’t work out. The HR was dropping by the time I hit the timing mat for transition, but the breathing was no better. Worse yet, I could not get a deep breath so how can I use the inhaler? Well, I tried. Coughed so hard I thought I was going to puke. Did another slug (more coughs) and tossed in my jersey. Got shoes, glasses, bike, and go. Ran to the end of transition, even though I couldn’t breathe – I knew the heart rate was low enough I should be running. Running didn’t make it any worse (or better) so at least my transition time wouldn’t be “AS” slow. Although with the walking to the bike and the coughing fit, it was LONG anyway. Whatever… If I cannot get the breath back during the bike, I’d just switch to PARTICIPANT mode. I was still hopeful though!
Mount the bike, small flat area in which to spin out the legs and get them reminded of the job to come. I had it in a fairly easy gear and so this went well. However there is a 90 degree turn and a steep (short) hill right after. I spun up that… but had to downshift due to the lack of oxygen. I took that same hill, during warmup, in a WAY bigger gear – so I know the oxygen deprivation was already taking it’s toll.
Onto the main stretch I got comfortable and just focused on getting into a groove. About mile 3 I finally caught it. I was passing people steadily but a few people were passing me. Boooo! Then I noticed my splits… 3:15… 3:20… 3:30…. 3:00 would be a 20mph pace, which is about right for this course (ALWAYS a crazy cross wind)… so I was well below that. 3:30 is a 17.5mph pace. Well, I was in the biggest gear… I was spinning my legs fast… the bike just had nothing more to give. My legs did, but the bike didn’t. Ok, maybe I could have spun FASTER, but that’s not something I’ve trained for. Well, THAT’S different. I focused on doing what I could, but in the end I only pulled off an 18mph pace – far below the 20 I normally can do. I wish I had my Tri bike :(. But the good news was I could breath again, so I was RACING. However, my brain knew that with a slow bike… there would be no stellar times today. And I was OK with that. I really didn’t deserve better right now, based on the last month of training (or lack) and so I was going to focus on having a good time.
The bike was, overall, pretty uneventful. I did what I could do and I was satisfied that – with this bike – I’d never see stellar times. After all, it’s a cyclocross bike. It’s not even designed for speed over a long distance. It’s designed to take a beating, provide a measure of speed in a large variety of short bursts. This fall, we’ll test that out too! But I realized… I won’t be able to do any road racing with it the way it is now. 18mph is not enough to stay with the road riders. I need 20-22mph minimum. So I need to change the gearing or get a road bike for that….
WAIT, I’m racing! CRAP! Stop thinking dummy! BACK TO THE RACE!
Ok, so on the final couple miles you head back into town and there are some sharp turns and zippy sections. I had a BLAST and flew through these sections. I’ve ridden them many times before and I knew what was coming, this allowed me to gain on several guys and eventually pass. The final section is right down the main street of Winona and the spectators were out in force. I started doing the WOOT WOOT WOOT and got them all riled up as I came in. No fancy dismount, just got done, got off and ran it in.
Drop off bike, put on socks (I hate socks… can’t wait until I tame this Orthotic and keep it from trying to chew through my foot) and got my shoes on and grabbed the rest of my stuff. As I ran I put on race number belt, Amphipods (water), and hat. Cross transition mat. That seemed like a decent transition for me… but still it was slow. Slower than T1…. 1:52. Gawd I’m slow.
So off on the run. Within 5 minutes my shin was tight, hamstring tighter, and my breathing was forced. So I slowed down… only helped the breathing. Every time I would push the pace, I’d start gasping. Even though I had my inhaler, I wasn’t inclined to use it. The lungs were not tight, I was just gassed each time I would push the pace. I think this is more a testiment to my lack of running… made worse by incomplete breathing. The first mile I pretty much ran… changing up the pace… and the tight shin and tight hammy just haunted me but never got worse. 12:55 pace. Was hoping for a sub12.. but I don’t know why.
At 1.5 you come out of the nice wooded path area and move into the subdivision – which is totally exposed. One mile, all open, and it was suddenly HOT. REALLY HOT. I walked the aid station and found myself walking/running/walking. The heat just made everything hurt worse. Breathing was pissing me off but it wasn’t really getting better or worse – I was just getting tired. Next mile mark came at 13:52. Ick. Talked to lots of people as we ran… many compliments on my Tatoo
Alternating walk/run as needed. I could NOT get anything loose so I was kind of miserable. At least at 2.5 we got back in the shade, I felt MUCH better… but it’s hilly. Boo again. I was hoping to just trot in a 13min.. or 14… nope, I was walk/run. I could not seem to sustain any one pace for very long. Mile 3 comes on top of a big uphill. Not nice!! Anyway, slowed to a 14:27 pace for that one. Ug.
Only 1/2 mile left but I just had nothing much… I “sped” back up to a 13:56 pace but it was walk run. Once the crowed was lining the streets, it was a little easier to hold the pace. Started looking for my cheering sqad and I found them!! Yelled howdy to my wife, kids, and mother in law who came to see the finish.
But AAAACCCKKKKK! Some dude is moving the finish chute as I’m coming in? WTF?!?!?! I screamed WHOA WHOA as I ran around him and into the finish. I turned around to see what the heck and saw an ambulance coming. Then looked to my right and saw an older gentleman all bloodied and on the ground to the side. I see now! Ok! Forgot to stop my watch but whatever, no records set today.
Went over to see the family and take out annual pictures. This is one of the few races my family comes to – I race too often to ask them to come to every race… but this one is special, it was my first race EVER back in 2004. Ever since the kids were big enough, we’ve been taking a picture of the boys and I posing in front of this tree. However… the tree was gone. So we picked a new one and took our picture anyway!
Rejoice and whine not. For Today, you have accomplished that which many only dream.