Monday, September 29, 2014

Sandman World Championships

Note: I'm told much of what I write doesn't make sense. I'm also told that most of the embedded links aren't clicked. There's a correlation there.
Ah, the hometown race. At this point, it’s the only open-water triathlon left in South Hampton Roads (Smithfield is barely Hampton Roads, but that’s a pool swim anyway). Perhaps my perspective is skewed because I have gotten to know a lot more people within the endurance sports community here within the last year, but it seems like this race has really become a central point for much of the community. After all, it’s a reminder of times past, with 2014 being the 32nd edition of the race. Yes, there are two athletes who have done every single one as well, which is badass. Considering that’s 8 more years than I’ve been on this planet, I cannot actually grasp what that entails, to do the same race 32 years straight. Some local athletes will moan and complain about it being a boring course, or the same roads we ride every day, but that’s special to me. Sandman is the one day of the year I can ride without being terrified of being hit by a car on these roads, although the solo effort reduces my chances to snag a Strava KOM. It's one day we can run on the boardwalk and not have to be as worried about steeplechasing over off-leash children.
The day before the race was a fairly full day actually, with an open water swim in the choppy bay testing out my new wetsuit, playing around with my new tri shoes. I arrived at Final Kick for packet pickup and some other fun events throughout the day, with as grand an entrance as ever.
The afternoon was full of assisting with packet pickup, bike safety inspections, and holding a transition clinic. My answers to questions ranged from "I have no idea how to put socks on quickly" to "There's no good place to 'stash' a bottle of water for a quick drink in transition." I'd like to think I presented transition tips & tricks as more of a continuum, with a tradeoff between comfort and speed, but the important thing is always to be organized, routine, and deliberate.

"At this point, I usually fumble with my helmet straps for a solid 3 seconds, but I worry that it feels like 10 minutes."
I was hoping to defend my title, but I had also been putting in some big, big training since Detroit including an intentional DNF at Patriots Half, so I always knew there was the possibility that could catch up to me. After some deliberation race morning, the race director/head lifeguard announced that there would in fact be a swim, something that was a great delight for me. Surfline was reporting about 4-5 footers with a couple different swells at the 15th St pier, so almost at old-man-returning-soup angry, but not quite. I sought out the rip current and lined up there. I won't lie to you, I was terrified, but I pressed on. As I made it out past the breakers, a strange calm came over me. I made the turn at the buoy. I made the soft right turn, continuing to go a little farther out to sea where the chop was more predictable and there were no breakers at all. Throughout the swim, I built and built on the lead in my life-changing bluseventy Helix (yes, it really is). Without a buoy to sight to because it was lost in the trough between waves most of the time, I kept track of how far I was by the hotels. I still had yet to find the buoy when I noticed the white roof of the 24th St Park was just ahead, and then I finally saw the second turn buoy, much farther inshore than I was, so I turned a bit diagonal towards it again. Again, playing to King Neptune's hand, I went a little past the second turn buoy as well once I saw the breaking waves a bit farther down the beach. I half-caught a couple waves in before, from out of nowhere, a huge tidal wave lifted me, tossed me like a cork, and I found myself face down on the beach. I should add that yes, I am in the Coast Guard, but the only way that predisposes me to good rough-water swimming is that I will usually be stationed in a major port city along the coast. Otherwise, in my job as a marine inspector, it's very, very bad if I'm in the water. It means I missed a ladder rung and am probably about to get run over by the ship I was trying to board anyway. The extent of my job-related training in the water is that I swim (rather, scull because it's so damn restrictive) 100m in a drysuit once a that should quell the "but you're in the Coast Guard so you should know how to swim in water like that.
Previous wetsuits felt more like my annual drysuit swim than they did like my new Helix. Love it.
Really I'm using this just for one lyric. The rest of the song is irrelevant.
This is generally how I envision what my swim track looked like, although the parallel to the beach line was probably WAY more crooked than that.
After navigating the slight maze of the 24th St Park transition area, I got out onto the road and was off. I didn’t get a police escort for a ride along a normal training route, but it was still closed off and mostly lined with people, particularly considering the rainy, cool weather. The power meter was having a bit of issues, so I rode the whole thing on feel en route to the fastest bike split. At the turnaround I ballparked my lead to Scott to be just shy of 2 minutes, which I knew would be plenty of cushion for the run, but I kept going in strong. My new ruby red S-Works Trivents were just as life-changing as the new wetsuit, with getting in and out of the shoes the closest thing to flip-flops I’ve ever seen on a tri shoe. Because my shoes never leave the pedals during a triathlon, I was unable, however, to test whether clicking my heels together and saying “there’s no place like transition” will get me back to T2 quicker. I will try it in training and report back.
Taking off for the run, despite a 2+ minute lead, I had ambitious goals. I intended to negative split and run an all-time boardwalk 5k PB, but neither of those happened. Having a 20 mph headwind on the second half of the course will do that. Being within 10 seconds on the out versus the back portion of the run is, to me, roughly "even" so that will have to do. The less than stellar weather on the day meant there were fewer accidental spectators than the last two years, but it's always fun to get cheers from people way up on the 15th floor of a hotel yelling off their balcony, or to have kids with laser pointers just out-pacing you by pointing them in front of you. There were few high-fives to be given, and no glasses to be flipped up, but I still enjoyed the last few meters of the run, with this quite possibly being my last local race in Virginia.
Aaaaand I don't. To be fair, Alistair Brownlee also has crazy-arms when he runs.
Afterwards, I got to hang around and cheer for others racing, including Meredith who chopped a whole bunch of time off last year despite the much tougher swim, as well as my benefactor from Norofolk Bicycle Works, Paul. Paul and I had a handicapped bet. I won’t reveal the handicap, but I just managed to outdo him on it. Had it been a calmer swim or I put the run in cruise control like last year, he probably would have covered the spread. At one point, a man asked me whether I won a lot of money or even a car, because the one time he was at the NYC Marathon, that's what the winner got. I didn't feel the need to explain the antics of #IMLP7th, local pro Rachel Jastrebsky, or any related matters like the fact that Sandman is about 4% as competitive/significant as the NYC Marathon. I simply smiled and said "I think there used to be a small cash purse here, but now it's just some prizes. I'm not sure what it was this year." (It would turn out to be a Timex Run Trainer 2.0, good on them)
Next year's edition of the jersey/trisuit WILL include the famous unicorn. I promise. I promise because I'm the designer of it. I also chose this because it was the only photo of us that wasn't wholly inappropriate.
She's going to have to teach ME how to have that kind of run form.
So last year, my dad was in town for the weekend of Sandman and his birthday was the day before, so I won. This year, Sandman fell on my mom’s birthday and she was in town, so I won for her. Next year, I hear they’re considering moving Sandman to either my brother’s or Meredith’s birthday…
Anyhow, to put it in a larger perspective, this was a very, very solid showing of how training is progressing with Coach Mace. I'm feeling increasingly confident and happy with how consistent and solid this block of training is going, and I expect that only to continue.

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