Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Faster, thinner people have prettier bikes (Race Report!!!)

Oh man, am I tired. And sore. Oh, and I sprained my foot.

But the Hansen Dam Triathlon was way too much fun. Of course, I don't know if I was thinking that during the swim. Or the run. I wouldn't have minded another bike loop, though.

Anyway.

I had a bit of trouble getting to sleep the night before. Then again, I think everyone does the day before a big race. So I stayed up for a bit, wasting time on the internet, and once midnight hit, I wished my brother a happy birthday on facebook. Then I went to bed.

The day started well. I woke up at 4:45 AM, had breakfast (a Mint Chocolate Chip Clif Bar and an Orange FRS), got dressed, woke up my lovely fiancee (Thanks, Love!) and off we went. She dropped me off at the transition area, and she went back home and back to bed. I was the first one in my wave to show up, so I picked a prime spot and set up my area. Bike racked? Check. Water bottles filled? Helmet and sunglasses sitting on the bike? Check. Clif shot blocks taped to the bike? Tires pumped to proper PSI? Check. Shoes set up and ready? Check.

Groovy. I was ready. I just chilled near my stuff, waiting for the event to start. I looked at the other competitors in my age group, and realized I really was going to get last place. Not so good for my self esteem or confidence going into competition. I chatted for a bit, and eventually Manny showed up. We greeted each other, and I helped him figure out where he needed to go so he could set up his stuff. At 6:45, 15 minutes before the event started, I downed another Clif Bar with some water, put on my swim cap and goggles, and headed down to the lake.

While I was there, I started looking at the spectators, hoping to see my parents or my fiancee. Time was short. I wanted to say a quick hello before the start. Right before the National Anthem, I saw my dad, looking for me. I walked behind him and waited. Then the National Anthem started. After the anthem, he noticed I was right behind him. We hugged, and he took a picture of my mother and me. After we departed, I walked back to my wave, and waited for the start.

As they counted down the seconds before my wave went into the water, I started concentrating on technique, and hoping that the turtles wouldn't bite me (I was told there are turtles in the lake at Hansen Dam, and considering that I was seriously concerned about piranhas in Redondo Beach, its no surprise this popped into my head, too). And then we all ran/hopped into the water. It was so nice and warm! I wasn't in my wetsuit, since that would slow me down significantly during T1, and I seriously wanted to beat 2 hours (but I really wanted to beat 1:45, and the night before, I decided I was going to try to beat my Redondo Beach Tri time of 1:39). I got kicked a couple of times, and somewhere in between everything, my stopwatch stopped. Once again, I had trouble swimming in a straight line, and the lifeguards had to yell at me every now and then to swim TOWARDS the buoy, instead of away from it. Taking their advice to heart, I eventually made it out of the water. Thinking I had had a great swim time, I ran into the transition area. Helmet first, then shoes. My fiancee was waiting for me in the spectator area of the transition area (she was within 3 ft of me and my bike, I told you it was a prime spot!) and she was asking me brief, one answer questions like "How did the swim go?" (Nice) and "How are you feeling?" (Good). I grabbed my bike, and clopped out of transition (I completely forgot my slow pwny strategy). I then mounted my trusty steed and headed off. I immediately passed someone who I think was wearing an LA Tri Club shirt, but I could be wrong. Either way, he looked like he hit the wall. HARD. I shouted words of encouragement as I passed him. I then arrived at the first hill. As I climbed, I started passing people on REALLY nice bikes. And then different people on REALLY REALLY nice bikes started passing me. I tried not to think about it too hard when that happened.

Anyway.

During the course, every time someone would pass me, I would shout "Keep it up!" or other such words of encouragement. I knew I had no chance of winning the thing, so I may as well be a nice guy about it, right? Eventually, they started replying with their own words of encouragement. Which I thought was pretty cool.

As I arrived at the hill before the really awesome downhill, I downshifted, and started climbing. When I noticed my cadence slowing, I downshifted again.

And then my chain dropped.

Meaning, it fell off the chainring.

$@#^!!

I dismounted, reset the chain, and then struggled to get enough momentum to keep turning the cranks. It took me about 3 tries (I kept stalling out) but eventually I was able to finish the climb. On the downhill, I shifted to a harder gear, and as my cadence went up, I went to harder gears. I was flying. Descending is the best thing about hills. I started passing people on the fancier, more expensive bikes (some were wearing aero helmets, too) and I tried to just enjoy the descent as much as possible (upon further consideration, I feel it is safe to say that my cycling specialty is descending, since people kept passing me on the climbs and the flats but I was the one doing the passing on the downhills). Throughout the ride I was chomping on Orange Clif Shot Blocks, and drinking water from the Aerodrink I had attached to my aero bars. Before I knew it, I was coming back towards the transition area, and I saw my fiancee shouting words of encouragement at me (At least I thought they were words of encouragement, she may have been mad at me for having had to wake up at 5 to drive me to the event). I rolled to the stop point, dismounted, and trotted back to the transition area where I parked my bike, took off my helmet, changed shoes, and ran off.

After a few short minutes on the run course, I realized I should have worn my trail running shoes instead of my Newtons. Or at least some socks. The mesh was allowing pebbles and dust to get into the shoe, which was started to get annoying (obviously). I eventually ran into a mud puddle too (yuck, wet running shoe and no socks). After the halfway point, I was feeling beat. This was the hardest I had ever gone in a race. I resigned myself to start doing 2 minute runs, 1 minute walks. Further along into the run, I saw a familiar figure running towards me. It was Manny! Surprised and happy to see him (I knew he had come to keep me going strong), I just kept running (by this point it looked more like a trot again). He started running next to me, slowly speeding me up, coaching me on my form and my breathing. He didn't let me stop to walk. I am so grateful to him for that. I would not have had the time I did without his help.

He got me through the hills, and eventually, we approached the finish line. With instructions to sprint once I turned the final corner, he let me go off on my own. With the finish line right in front of me, I sprinted as hard as my already exhausted body could.

I never saw the time.

The officials took my timing chip, gave me a finisher's medal, and let me on my way.

I gave my fiancee and big hug, told her I was exhausted, and walked towards the pull to soak my feet. Manny came by with some food and chocolate milk-flavored coconut water (seriously, it tasted like chocolate milk) and we stood in line to have our picture taken together. Manny left shortly after that since he was having breakfast with his family. After packing up my stuff, I was walking out of transition when I saw another cyclist running his bike into transition. Was someone still running the race? I then overheard one of the race officials asking where the final cyclist was. I told him someone had just run in to transition. He then advised me that the last cyclist has an LA County Lifeguard escort so they know who the last person on the road is. Damn, there was still someone out there. I never found out what happened to that person, either.

My fiancee and I stayed for the awards presentation and the raffle (I didn't win anything). On our way out, we chatted for a bit with someone in my age group who ABSOLUTELY DOMINATED the event. He dominated at the Redondo Tri, too. We then walked to the car, and went to her house, where her mother made us omelettes with bacon and hash browns. BEST MEAL EVER. I was so hungry. But excited. My fiancee had told me my times. And she had a huge smile on her face when she told me my completion time. I had beaten my Redondo Beach Tri time! I had a new PR!

For the record, both races had different conditions. Redondo had an ocean swim that was half a mile. Hansen Dam had a 500yd swim in a lake. But, the bike leg of Hansen Dam was 5 miles longer and the run leg was a mile longer.

After breakfast, I started making mental notes of what I needed to do to improve my times for next year.

Swim: I need to practice more. I need to learn bilateral breathing. I need do to more ocean swimming and drag training. And I need to lose weight.

Bike: I need to learn more bike maintenance stuff. I need to become a stronger climber. And I need to lose weight.

Run: I need to improve my endurance. I need to be able to push myself when I think I don't have anything else in the tank. And I need to lose weight.

Figured out the pattern?

Anyway, it was another great learning experience. Another great event. I am done with triathlons for the rest of year, which is definitely a good thing, since I sprained my foot. I went to the doctor yesterday, and bam, sprained plantar fascia. No running for a few weeks.

And he said cycling might be ok, as long as it didn't hurt. I certainly hope it doesn't, considering I am riding a century in October.

Oh well.

In summary, good times were had. Great event, gonna do it again next year.

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