Monday, October 8, 2012

Giant Acorn: The Season-Ending Double

I decided to race both an Olympic distance and a sprint on the same weekend, essentially for fun/because I simply love racing. If you want to know more than that, such as why exactly I chose this weekend, why I didn't do anything bigger, here is my explanation.
Anyway, although the race was all the way up in Bumpass (somewhere outside of Richmond, with lots of angry, poorly made political signs along the way that made me fear for my life somewhat), about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Virginia Beach it was a 10 AM start, which meant I got to sleep in my own bed the night before, rather than in the back of my Element (more on that later). Other than the scary political signs, the time leading up to the race was rather uneventful. The weather was pretty nice, and the water was over 78, so no wetsuits. Even though it's early October, this was in the part of the lake that they use to cool the power plant, so the water is always a bit warmer.
The swim went fairly well, except for the long back stretch where I just kind of put my head down to try to charge and surge up to the top couple of swimmers to find some feet, rather than being caught in no-man's land between those guys and the large pack in front of me.  Because I wasn't sighting very much, I actually swam into TWO sighting buoys. Whoops. I'm hoping at least the lifeguards on the kayaks and jetskis got a bit of a chuckle out of that. I exited the water 4th, and if I remember right left T1 in 3rd. By mile 7ish, I was into the lead after shaking another athlete who seemed to think that the pro stagger rules apply. After I politely asked him to please stop sitting on my wheel, he said "I'm sitting off to the left." Well sir, I'd like to point you to the USA Triathlon Competitive Rules which are pretty clear about the requirement to ride to the right.  Anyway, I didn't feel I was particularly overbiking; I actually went a bit softer in the first part of the bike, but once I was in the lead, I pretty much decided to bury myself.  There were lots of twists and turns and false flats on the course, so I was trying to play to the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality.  I came off the bike with somewhere between :45 and 1:00 to the next rider back.  I was pretty excited, as it's been a while since I've actually led a race even.  I headed out onto the run course, the first 1/2 mile or so was some grass and gravel that was kind of rolling, and I could feel I had NOTHING in my legs.  I didn't really understand why, but I decided it'd be best at that point to take it easier and not blow myself up, in the hopes that my legs would eventually wake up.  They never really did, and I just saw person after person pass me. Even by the time I was on the second lap of the run, I was actually getting un-lapped by slower athletes who I was a full lap of the run ahead of, but they were moving faster than I was at the time.  I ended up running a 48:04 into 9th place, which is about 10 minutes slower than I am capable of. WOOF. It felt like it was one of those times where you take a wrong turn on a long run or ride and end up going way farther than you had planned on, and all you wanted to do was get it over with.
The best explanation I can come up with is that I only took two gels on the bike, although I normally have three.  I know that's a lot for an Olympic, but I'm a bigger guy who apparently tends to overbike; I need all the help I can get!  Afterward, I actually passed out in the back of my Element for I'm not really sure how long while I waited for awards. I'm never getting rid of that car.  I still won my age group, but I was pretty bummed about the whole situation.
In between races, I did what I could to try to recover. I drank lots of chocolate milk, tried to take an ice bath although my hotel's bathtub did not have a drain plug, and then I watched some TV and was reminded yet again why I don't have cable anymore. I did, however, eat the most delicious Wawa feast known to man: A pumpkin spice latte (I was so tired at 5:30 that I was afraid I'd fall asleep then wake up wayyyy too early), a turkey bowl with mashed potatoes, a chicken quesadilla, and an apple pie. Anybody who knows me well enough that has ever been to the mid-Atlantic region with me knows my affinity for all things Wawa. That was probably what I missed most when I was in New England, but they have it down here in Virginia. Admittedly, it's not like being in South Jersey where they're as plentiful as Starbucks are in Manhattan, but there are enough to scrape by.
The Wawa feast. What did we do before touch-screen delis?
The following day, I had about an hour drive back from the hotel to the race (did I mention how middle-of-nowhere the race was?) It was somewhere in the mid 40s and it had been raining off and on. I realized that normally I'll have one or two races per year in the rain, and usually another one or two where it's chilly.  So far, I'd only had a chilly one in XTERRA Jersey Devil.  Otherwise, it had pretty much been sunny every other race I had done.  I had always done well in the rain, going all the way back to even my football and baseball days, but even running high school cross country (again, I don't know who actually reads this, but...Delsea anybody? You'll know if you know) So I was pumped. I actually didn't do quite as much of a warmup as I wanted, not quite as much running or active dynamic stretching stuff because the line for packet pickup moved slower because everybody was fumbling around in 19 layers of clothing, plus I left the hotel later than I wanted.
The swim went off and Max, a fellow 20something fixture in Virginia and former All-American swimmer, took off away from the field. I settled into 5th I think, and this time I didn't run into any buoys.  It was wetsuit legal this time, but the water was a LOT warmer than the air. I can't wait for the pictures, because there was a really cool steam coming off the lake. It made sighting a bit harder, but that was really only Max's problem, not the rest of us. I'm still in that no-man's land though, between the super-swimmers and that main pack. It's why in a more competitive race I'll end up at the back of a larger pack, or maybe in a second smaller pack, but I need to get up there into that front.
I left T1 in third, partly because I didn't need to do anything special for transition. I wore arm warmers under my wetsuit and put toe booties onto my cycling shoes, which were already mounted onto my pedals.  I was amazed at how cold my knees and shins were for the first part of the ride though.  I worked my way into second place, past Stone Dyson, a CRAZY fast swimmer runner little 15 year old. I'm glad I am moving away from Virginia before he turns 18 :)
I took this in my apartment when I was getting everything ready, including "preparing" a new set of toe booties. At my size, even the L/XL booties don't go past the cleat, so I have to cut back that dimpled part to the seam.
I moved into second by I want to say mile 4 or so, but I could only even catch a glimpse of Max on some of the longer straight sections and even then he was pretty far. I could tell I was gaining on him, but not by much. It turns out I gave about 1:20 to him on the swim, so I'm not surprised that I never actually reeled him in. I came into T2 maybe 20 seconds behind him, but not after undoing my shoes too early and letting my little toesies freeze from being outside the shoes.  Max left T2 before me, but I caught him shortly into the run on a slight uphill, but still being careful not to charge it and leave my legs zapped from running hard on soft ground.  We got out onto the road and I was amazed at how much better my legs felt than the day before; I could actually run! I definitely held back a little bit on the bike because of both the rain and the hypothesis that I've been overbiking all season. It catches up with me much worse in Olympic distance races than sprints, which explains part of why I have yet to run anything under I think 41 minutes this year. Anyway, I was fairly certain after the first turnaround, out on the road, that I was not going to be fighting Max or Stone, though Stone was definitely gaining a lot of ground on me. I later realized he ran a 17:39 to my yea, he gained a LOT of time back. However, I was pushing hard knowing that there are always some very quick 40-49s in Virginia, it seems, and they started in the second wave.  I went down another stretch of gravely road for the last out and back, and after that turnaround I kicked it up the hill strong because I had a panic attack and realized Stone was closer than I thought.  After I got up the little rise, my legs were toasted and it was just all momentum that carried me down across the line for what I was hoping would be the win. I knew I was just over 1:02 on the clock, but not by how much, so when a 45 year old came in right around 1:05, I knew it would be very close after removing his 3 minutes for the second wave. It turns out he beat me by 12 seconds, but he and a few other of the guys who raced both days recognized me and remarked how I must have had a great race that day. In hindsight, I am not terribly sure where I could have found 12 seconds and I don't think I had it in me, except that I did not wear an aero helmet after mine broke at Sandman. Oh well, as I learned from my social science education, we can never know the counterfactual, we can only make assumptions on it. So, I'll never know that I would have won that race with an aero helmet, and I don't care a whole lot either way, but I'm glad to have FINALLY closed with a well-executed race. It wasn't the quickest, but it was a great end to a season. There's a school of thought that when you have a terrible performance, there's a yin and yang sort of thing where you can go out and find that great performance you'd been banking on, but in a different venue. For me, the sprint was that venue.
This does not look like the podium for a triathlon. There is far too much clothing.  On another note, I sometimes forget how "loud" my racing flats really are.
I took this for my brother the JMU alum, but I was driving which is why I missed half the sign (yea yea, there was NOBODY else on the road). It was 90 miles to Harrisonburg, and this is the first time since I moved to Virginia that I'd seen a road sign for Harrisonburg.
I don't really wear visors (I prefer my Carmelo Anthony headband if it's warm and sweat may run into my eyes), but Bailey does. This is now hers.

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