Sunday, August 24, 2014

The D: Detroit Tri

After coming off a disappointing race in Milwaukee, I was fortunate enough to have a little bit of down time out in the Midwest. The next stop after Milwaukee was Chicago. We spent a couple days with pretty much no agenda, which was mind-blowing for the service academy graduate and the cardiac surgery ICU nurse whose normal days are a constant jump from activity to activity. Instead, we just lazily played around on the Divvy bikes, which are kind of like Citibikes for my family and friends from the greater NYC area, only we did not see anybody running off-brand Soulcycle classes for homeless people on them. We sat at a cafe beside the Chicago River and boat-watched while I explained the difference between T, K, and H boats to Meredith and tried to figure out what each tour boat that went by was. She was feeding pigeons the whole time. I made another attempt at explaining baseball to Meredith at a Cubs game.
I had enough time to snap a photo before dropping the hammer to earn that Strava KOM.
Meredith's phone not only takes better pictures, she's more overdue for an upgrade so we wouldn't have been as upset if the stranger who took this for us had run off with it.
In hindsight, we could have just hitched a ride on the Brewers' team bus rather than driving from Milwaukee to Chicago
We saw a comedy show that brought back memories of my two brief forays into drama, being my one theater course in high school and then my job as Aquaman and Batman at Six Flags Great Adventure, only in both of those instances I never got to talk about Buzzfeed or use four-letter words.
Those few days in the Windy City were a great way to leave behind my bad race in Milwaukee and move on before Detroit because it really helped me recharge and refocus on just enjoying things rather than getting so caught up in the exact end points. A similar feeling came over me after we spent the last few days before the Detroit race with friend Will in Ann Arbor, MI. Fortunately most of the students hadn't come back yet, so the town was fairly quiet. By again having little to no real responsibility or agenda, and after some back and forth phone calls and emails with Coach Mace, I was really starting to feel reinvigorated, confident, and positive about the upcoming race.
It's a delicate balance heading into a race. On one hand, you want to have realistic expectations so as not to set yourself up for failure. On the other hand, to be a competitor, you need to believe you're capable of winning any and every time you're on the start line. I had largely lost that part over the last couple of years due to injury and simply not progressing as fast as I thought I should have been that really eroded my confidence.

Ok, now that I got my existential and probably more interesting writing out of the way, the race itself:
I lined up near a couple of the guys I knew to be the strongest swimmers in the field, hoping I would be able to hang on for absolute dear life as long as possible. That was my plan. Instead, displaying my lack of seamanship because I never went afloat except for 5 weeks aboard the now-decommissioned USCGC Block Island, I did not account for the current. I was very far to the inside of the lineup, so when we all swam out towards the first buoy, we got pushed to the left, downstream and inside of the turn buoy. We didn't realize it, but Meredith has photographic evidence to prove it. The super-swimmers were largely able to recover and still make it to the buoy before everybody, but instead I went through the turn buoy in about 15th place, getting absolutely clobbered when I would have preferred something more like 5th with semi-clean water. I lost track of how many guys I passed on the long down current stretch and actually felt like I was picking ground back up on the little group just up ahead, hoping maybe I could close it back down to what I believed to be the lead group. I exited the water about :17 back of the last guy. It turned out that it was not, however, the lead lead group, but the first main chase.
The yellow was the turn, and we were pretty much inside of the orange from what Meredith tells me
Nevertheless, I yelled a word of encouragement to the Canadian who exited the water shortly after me, but that was the last time I saw him. I was out on the road trying to bridge up to the group tantalizingly close that included Gil from UNC, whom I knew to be a strong rider in his own right. I still saw his group riding away up the road, but he was dropping off, playing with his shoes or something. He explained it quite well here, but I came around him just as he got settled, and we got to work.
Throughout the bike, we kept the next group up the road in sight, eventually picking up and dropping one passenger whose pulls slowed us down each time, then picking up another dropped-off rider and allowing him to sit in. We tried to get this next one to contribute, but we realized he too was slowing us down, so we attacked early on the last lap with him just barely dangling on the back.
About right: Gil hammering away, me holding on for dear life.
We arrived into T2 as a trio as number 7, 8, and 9 off the bike. As I threw my helmet off, I heard a cheer of "c'mon Will" and saw Will and his chase pack had made it into T2 just after us. Oh well. The race was on at this point. I made it out of T2 first in the group, but then got passed by Gil. I resolved to stay with Gil, as I knew I had run with him before in races. Then Will and the front of his group came by at a pace much richer than ours and Gil went with them. My heart and mind went with Gil and Will, but my legs did not. That said, I never felt like I was shutting down the way I did in Milwaukee, and I'm pretty pleased with my run split, all things told. I didn't have my best run time-wise, but Gil and I rode HARD. Maybe we could have each gotten a couple more seconds out of our run splits had we sat up from the get-go and let the group catch us because they basically did anyway, but that's perfect hindsight. We were more focused on the guys up the road, and to his credit, Gil had an incredible run and held off that whole chase pack except for Will and one other.
As for me, I held on just barely, but in a positive place mentally, which was more important. Of course I would have liked to be farther up in the standings, but I actually finished the race exhausted, as opposed to Milwaukee where I felt defeated. I owe a lot of that to Meredith and Mace kind of talking me down from the ledge in the days leading up to the race, so it really put my mind at ease.

I'm feeling a lot better now about training, perspective, and all that than I have in quite some time, at least a couple years. Detroit may not have been my fastest race ever, but it allowed me to prove to myself that I had a much better race in me than I showed in Detroit or many of the races over the last few years, for that matter.
On a related note, Meredith had another excellent race, finishing and near-collapsing, a new feeling for her after not only running the whole 5k again, but trying to push hard the last part of the race and negative split, as well as an AG podium!

GET IN THE DROPS MERE! (Otherwise, great job, dear)
Somebody had to come away with the hardware
Most importantly, the two of us drove halfway across the country and back over the course of a week and a half, with stops in Raphine, Milwaukee, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Pittsburgh, and we didn't strangle each other once!
She had just finished, but I'd been spending the 3 hours after my race with a Solo cup in hand, so I was actually leaning on her...
Funny how delirious you get after so much driving...
The Fit was a champ. Absolute champ. Obviously Ele still holds a special place in my heart, but I'm not sure it (never took on a gender for my car) would have survived such a trip.

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