There's probably no distance I'm less qualified to race than the Olympic distance- 3/4 the distance of an half-ironman swim, but less than half the distance of the bike and run. The oversimplified math- more swimming plus less running and biking.
I should probably not have signed up for the race, either. The University where I work now holds move in day on the same Sunday, meaning that by going to the race, I miss this big event, where my staff is responsible for doing a variety of things all of which are likely to fail- although my staff did a great job this year and it ended up neither what they were doing or the prep work I'd down prior caused anything but joy and happiness.
I'm not one of great pre-race athletes in any case. I'm usually pretty quiet, preferring to slip on the ipod headphones, listen to some snow patrol, coldplay, evanescence, get in a short warm-up, and then resign myself to the race. That's right, anything that starts with a swim does not inspire anticipation, only a sort of cold dread. I mean, my goal for the race was to place in my age group, but excitement ? Not really one of my pre-race thoughts- something I should work on.
My warm-up died a quick death when a woman I'd never met started gesturing to me to follow her while I was running. At first I nearly ignored her because I assumed she was either signaling someone else or simply didn't know who I was, however, I turned to follow and there was an athlete collapsed on the ground outside a port-a-potty. He eventually claimed the overwhelmingly horrible smell caused him to become light-headed. This sport is amazing for perspective. I was busy trying not to think about how tired my legs felt after a bad week of work and training, here's a guy that needed to lie by a port-a-potty just to get his legs under him. We walked him back to transition but he refused to go to the medical tent and as far as I can tell, he raced...
So, the swim. I'm going to be honest here because what's the point of having a blog and not being honest ? I really was uncomfortable in the first lap of the two lap swim, so uncomfortable that I could only occasionally keep my head down- you would think after 5 ironmans that the oddly claustrophobic combination of the feelings of being left behind and not being able to breath would no longer be an issue. But it is. I was losing time and I knew it, but I sort of kept going until I was dragging my knuckles on the sand on the way in. At that point I stood up and tried to run- but I was knee deep and I could walk. What a thing- walking. All I could think of was that I was walking during the first 15 minutes of a race...
The second lap went better except for some confusion over whether to head back out sighted on the first or second buoy (this is why I need to learn to breath from both sides...). At the point I realised I was swimming at the wrong buoy, I really had a strong sense that any hope of placing in my age group was out the window. I was really discouraged.
The bike is tough. 5 loops, lots of people. Lots of 'on your left please, on your left please, on your left, MOVE LEFT'. I had to yell fairly harshly at one woman who complained that she was already passing someone. The problem was, she'd executed the pass, had five bike lengths and was still afraid to move back over. Still, I thought there was less clumping (and drafting) than last time I did the race, and except for the podium finisher who passed me on the right for no good reason, it was not a bad ride. I spent five loops trying (and failing) to catch Steve Surprise. When I saw him on the first lap I knew he had 5 minutes on me. Still, I knew I had to ride hard, but not too hard, and just try to move up.
The run- I decided to divide the 10k, which is two loops, into 1.5 mile segments (more or less) and not push too hard. I knew I could easily go out angry at myself, blow up, and end up unable to really run well. I caught Steve, then I started catching people in my age group. I drank Gatorade. I poured water and ice on my head and down my back as the heat crept up and the humidity held at 50% or more. And my age group competitors came back to me. When I passed them, I made no effort to pull away, just kept the pace.
I ran myself into third place.
What did I learn: I can be a pretty clueless triathlete. I went into the race not even knowing how long the bike route was or how long the race might take. When I came in pushing 2:20 I was surprised at how long the race was. Fortunately for me. Patience, not aggressiveness, was the right tact to take, and while the victory was a minor one, I did achieve my goal...
He was in sight when I started the run and I decided