Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nutmegman Half-Ironman, Part I

Sometimes, an A race sneaks up behind you and hits you over the head when you aren't expecting it.

Once again, I want to preface this by saying that this race was really well run. I've been to races 10 time this size that were half as well run. The venue was very well thought out- parking was close to transition, there was a real bathroom, the whole area showed a lot of forethought in the setup. While the crowd that showed up to race was game, I hope that next year there's a bigger turn-out.

I got almost no sleep the night before the race. Could have been anywhere between 15 minutes and two hours, but it was pretty weak. I was dreaming at five am when Margit woke me up- that I was in NYC trying to find someone without a cell phone. This dream, by the way, sucks.

I got up and immediately nearly choked to death on a whole wheat mini-bagel. I didn't know they made whole wheat mini bagels, and I had even less of an idea how freaking dry they are, or how bad an idea it might be to try and gaffle one down after being awake for thirty seconds. I sent one of my host's bananas after down after it and started thinking about how that all would taste coming back at me in the water.

Still, it was great of Helena and Chuck to host us and it's pretty rude for me to complain about their food- but completely right to point out my own stupidity.

The pre-race was pretty laid back. The mist was laying pretty hard on the water and when Mandy announced the half-hour delay there was no bitching and moaning from the assembled athletes. That was good, because as much as a shortened swim is usually good for me, that would have sucked for the race. Margit and I spent some time talking to John about how they'd had to pull the weeds from the first 100 yards of the swim.

Then, it was time to start. That was pretty laid back. The men started off, and we had a fairly good sight line to the first green bouys. There was some jostling early but I just put my head down. So many races the swim starts and there are bodies everywhere and I feel like if I put my head down, someone will kick me, there's no water to catch, and all that. So I put my head down, I started swimming, and wow, that works. You can catch water even when everyone around you is beating the hell out of it. I know anyone who is a swimmer already knows that.

Once we got to the inner markers, it was a little crazy out to the outer markers. There was a boat with police rack lights on it and you couldn't even see that at first. I could also smell the bacteria in the lake- by 9 that night my nose was running faster than I had.

At the turn, I was farther over to the right than anyone around me and one of my competitors yelled 'Hey Buddy, over here.'

Thanks- I had just caught sight of the buoy and the encouragement was welcome.

There were two buoys at the far end of the course and yes, the women who started two minutes behind me where already swimming over me.

I swam back in with a lot more confidence and did my best to get in line with other swimmers and not be so far off to the right it was crazy, with mixed results. I finally climbed out of the water, ran along the beach, and then jumped back in.

Second loop, same as the first. I really felt like I had a good swim, although I have a feeling the course was short. I'd be amazed if I could swim a 1:07:58 in an IRonman, but I'll take a sub-34 half-iron swim, that's for sure.

Transition was slow. Too slow. I decided on a cycling jersey, but putting an unzipped jersey on in transition is not as easy as in my closet. I tried gloves but gave that up as too complicated, then stuffed each pocket of the jersey with one type of item- blocks, gels, and endurolytes. The whole time, John Hirsch, doing great work as MC, was telling me about how big and getting bigger Margit's lead was, suggesting at one point it might be insurmountable.

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