Two years later and 25 minutes faster – that is what it comes down to. When the times get lower the difficulty of raising the bar each time increases. This race was a great way to start off the 2012 season and was much different from the race in 2010. Much of this was due to Lance Armstrong being in the field as the crowds of both racers and spectators were massive. In 2010 we parked within 25 yards of transition; this year it was a solid mile away. Awards were presented in front of the merchandise tent on the main walkway and this year there was a full blown stage with seating and everything. But the changes were good, a larger and deeper field was present and that only made for a better, more competitive race. Who wants to say they beat a bunch of slouches? The goal is to race against the best possible competitors and truly see where you stack up.
The lead up to this race had been going quite well since the beginning of the year. I was getting a lot of mileage riding here on the open roads of beautiful Portland and was staying injury free. The weather was cooperating and things were rolling. All good things must come to and end though. Once late February rolled around things began to get a bit colder and wetter and that continued on into March, which eventually led to me getting a bit sick over the last week or so before this race. I was worried that I was going to be in rough shape come race morning, but I was intent on doing everything possible to get better and get to that start line ready to go. I slept and rested as much as possible, while managing to still train as best I could without overdoing it…that was the hard part. In the end, I did what I had to do and got to Texas in the best possible shape I could. There is still much work to be done, but for April 1st I could only be what I was. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
None the less, I was in Texas on Thursday and met my awesome parents, who once again were able to make it to my race. God bless them for always being there for me, I couldn’t do what I do without them! They decided to drive down from NY this year and met me at the airport. It was late, but being the troopers they are we grabbed a late night meal at Denny’s on the way to Galveston. On Friday, I successfully built up my bike for the first time, registered for the race and caught a matinee showing of the Hunger Games with my mom. I honestly can’t remember the last time I went to a matinee. It was great – an almost empty theater, air conditioning, comfy chairs and the movies was pretty darn good! After that was dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, one of my favorite places for some reason…seems to remind me of my younger days, and then an early bedtime.
On Saturday, I headed out as soon as the sun shown for a good bike ride and short run off the bike to get things loosened up. Then I had a big breakfast and basically did the same stuff I do the day before all big races…sat on my butt and chilled.
On race morning I woke up relatively late since my wave was the second to last, starting 1 hour and 3o minutes after the pro men. As I expected, it was congested chaos for the gun. The swim was uneventful but felt long, and I just wanted to be out of the water and on my bike. My time was just under 31minutes which is pretty typical for me. That put me in abut 24th place in my AG and in the hundreds overall…someday I will be a 25 min guy, I promise! At least I had good transitions so that made up some of the time.
The bike started out great. With so many people already on the course it made me feel even faster because I was constantly passing people. However, the downside of constantly passing people is that the chance of getting run into or something bad happening is increased. Luckily, nothing like that happened. I haven’t looked at my files yet, but based on how I felt I would say the bike went like this: Good first 20 miles into the wind and 8 more kind of sloppy miles where it felt hard. On the way back, I got some of my mojo back and even though it wasn’t a true tailwind (more of a crosswind), I increased the mph and felt like I was going hard. I was only passed by one male 23 yo about 15-18 miles into the bike, however I caught him with about 4 miles to go on the bike, so that was a nice confidence booster leading into the run. The ride from the main road to transition was long and slow at the end, as there were some corners and obstacles, which gave me time to think about my dismount. I had previously never done a flying dismount barefoot, but figured I might as well give it a shot on race day…what the hell – it was the season opener and I felt good about it. It went great! I felt like a true triathlete as I smoothly popped off my bike and into a run with my bike in hand. My bike time was 2:20 (a PR), and aided by the fact it that was über flat and a bit of help from the wind on the return trip, I believe I was 4th in my division. I averaged around 23 mph on the way out and just over 26 on the way back. Here is the file on strava.
A mostly empty transition (in my section) had me feeling good about my position. Little did I know I had over 8 minutes to make up on the current 25-29 leader. The leader had laid down a sub 30 swim and a 2:13-ish bike: a very, very good swim/bike. Luckily triathlon is a three sport event. Like the good soldier I am, I stuck to my “plan” and ran smooth. The whole run was steady, never feeling like I was pressing. I have many minutes to gain on the run, but for now a 1:26 will suffice. The course was a three loop circuit with many twists and turns, as well as a section on an airport tarmac that felt like the Sahara…hot and windy one way and then extremely hot and still aired the other…both a tad miserable, but great at the same time. Some hated this section, but I felt that it was such a stark contrast from the rest of the course that it really evened things out. On the runway strip there were no sharp turns, no spectators cheering you on…it was like a mini energy lab even though I have never seen or been to a place like that. For almost a mile it was me against myself. And I had to do it 3 times, something that I confirmed with most racers that was a bit of a surprise, as it was assumed that it would be bypassed on the last lap. However, it was not. Other than that section, the most notable thing from the run was that the aid stations were a complete cluster f#*%. With nearly 2400 people in front of me, I was literally bobbing and weaving the whole way. Especially on the last lap when I literally could not get the water and other nutrition I needed, there were just too many people walking or standing around the aid stations. I don’t want to complain about much because I understand the difficulties of putting on a race like this, but man that ticked me off. Also during the last lap on the tarmac I was going around a u-turn section where about 12 people were strolling around at the same time. I was half a mile from being done and wanted badly to get there as fast as possible. Like the rest of the race this meant doing some creative running to get around them, and at one point I had to make an up the gut move between two women who were practically holding hands. Sure I came up on them like a bat out of hell, but man I did not want to slow down! After I broke free I heard this…”we paid to race too”‘….ahhh lovely!
I crossed the line at 5:50, so backing off 1:30 left me with a 4:20. A good 7 minute improvement from Timberman last year, and a run of 1:26, which was about 1 min off my fastest half iron run, yet good enough for 1st in my division. It was a solid start to the season. And yes, I did catch that kid who had 8 minutes on me. I don’t know when it happened, but I ended up beating him by 2 minutes to take the 25-29 AG win. Of course I have to acknowledge the fact that the toughest competitor in the overall age group race, Pat Wheeler,
buried himself in training the previous week and month, and thus graciously allowed me a moment in the sun (literally..it was pretty hot in TX!). I will take it for now because I know next time we meet it will be a different ball game…and I can’t wait! He’s a Kona veteran with lots of experience and I am a newbie who doesn’t know any better. I should be ok, right? Ha! Ha!
Ahh, it was a good weekend with good friends who I have not seen in a while. I was itching to race and this was just what I needed. This will really help in getting me through the next month and a half of heavy training, as I prepare to continue with the season. I have lofty goals for myself and I know that I need to be on top of my game on many levels to succeed. It’s not easy to get everything in order, but I do have a plan…A GOAL and that’s the first step. I believe in it and you know what they say about when you believe in something…..