It seems like it's easier to find time to train than it is time to right race reports, but Griskus is the sort of race you actually want to write about.
I've had a lot of bad races there. I've gotten lost in transition. I've gotten lost on the swim course. I've cut my hand open on my bladed spokes during the bike. It makes me wonder why Tom Wilkas would stick a guy like me in the elite wave. He explained that he expected me to be a top 75 finisher, which took a lot of pressure off.
Until I showed up at the race, and picked up my number.
Man, these low numbers. I love to get them, but I feel, uh, so unworthy sometimes.
I'd drove up to the race with @poycc and we'd gotten there early enough that I had time get my number, hit the loo, buy a race belt (yes, another race belt, grrr, but it was only 10.00), get my wetsuit on and swim all the way out to the second of the five buoys on the swim course. The more buoys I hit pre-race, the more comfortable I usually am during the race.
I saw Carl Russell in transition (check out his blog), racked a few bikes down from me, before I started the swim and it was great to see a fellow EH athlete. He was- as always- in good spirits and looking forward to the challenge ahead that I was probably dreading.
I had a good swim warm up, but I was really nervous. My last race had gone well- I'd come back from a massive panic attack in the water followed by boot camp in the pool to place in my age group at an Olympic race, and here I was, standing on the beach and frak. There was Chris Thomas. Dom Gillen. Ian Ray. Joe Whelan. Finally I found myself standing next to Chris Schulten, another awesome triathlete and we were joking with each other about why we weren't standing right in front and being uncomfortable in the water.
That really helped me a lot. Chris is such a nice guy,a great positive attitude and really humble. We were laughing about how his dad and I always see each other when we're working out and it really took that nervous edge off. Normally I want to be left alone with my thoughts before a race starts and resent any sort of intrusion, so extra props to Chris...
I didn't feel that good on the swim out to the far buoy. I was short of breath and looking up a lot. Of course, I was worried about how badly I was being left behind and constantly checking to see that yes, there were other pink caps (yes pink, we're guys, so why we we pink and the women purple ?) around me. I was also convinced that Ian, Chris, Dom and the other elites would be slamming head on into me by the third buoy.
I hit the turn around and everything changed. Suddenly I was swimming- actually on someone's feet, using their draft, swimming strong. I had to dodge a few people going out in the other waves, but I had a good straight swim back in. I did not cross the women's side and slam into a floating dock. I didn't cramp. and I was 13th of 39 in my age group in the swim.
Oh yeah. I got my ass kick by 5-6 minutes by the actual elite athletes.
Then I got lost in transition again. No Bill Murray, no Scarlett Johnassen. Just the jarring dislocation of not being to find a time trial helmet or an orange bike that say 'Starbuck' on them. Which is half the reason those things are there.
Time lost: 10-15 seconds.
I started out hammering the bike. I passed @poycc and hit 30 mph. I stayed in that ranged until the turn, then started really bearing down on people after the turn. Except for one small uphill section, it's mostly downhill. I was really working, and my bike was making a ton of noise. I'd spent about half an hour cleaning and lubing the chain and adjusting the shifting, but no time fixing my disintegrating x-lab (thank you, Route 146), which was rattling like the chains in a medieval rack- a piece would fall off a few rides later.
I really had a good opening half of the bike. As always, there were tons of people to pass, I worked the downhills a little harder than I usually do, and I took some risks, which actually aren't risks as much as me trusting my reflexes and actually racing the bike, as opposed to just riding it.
I have to admit though that I was waiting for the sharp left-hand turn- and waiting, and waiting. It's always later than I think.
Then the climbing starts. On the plus side, there was no point in the race where I felt the need to consult the small ring on the front.
On the minus side, as I climbed my way through the pack, I lost my temper with someone who was, quite honestly, drafting. In my opinion at least.
I was well behind but closing on a woman, a man, and another man who was passing the other two. As the faster rider passed, the woman pulled out and followed. Both were on the yellow line or close to it- there were other riders that became engaged, and finally, as I closed, I'd had enough. I felt that this woman was playing off the faster rider, both blocking and drafting.
I shold have left my impression of what was going on in my head and said politely 'On your left.' Or 'on yer left.' (Check out On Yer Left online). Instead I, as loud as I could, and that loud, trust me, yelled 'Get off his wheel.'
I didn't. What I did was ill-considered.
I kept climbing.
Finally, you take a right-hand turn, get a break from the hills, even get some downhills. I passed Gary Rodebaug. It's a real honour to race against this guy and have him as a teammate- he's a multiple Team-USA athlete, and he kicks my ass in the swim. And when I am lucky enough to pass him he encourages me to get moving.
At the top of the last hill, Bethel had a car. the was a guy in front of me and I knew I needed to pass him before we crested the hill, that if I didn't, I wouldn't be able to take him on the downhill. I was slow getting past him, so I left the saddle, made a very angry face, and found the extra rpms I needs to get the job done, rocking the bike. It felt good. Afterwards, I was told that I am 'the angriest looking cyclist' and you'd never think I was the same guy that was standing around casually chatting after the race.
Well, I was angry. At me.
I got into and out of transition in much better order than the T1.
On the way out from the park I saw Robyn Passander, another top-notch teammate, the second place woman, and Mike Maxichenko. I wanted to pass all three, so I started turning it up. I was tired, but I'd had a Clif Shot so I was felling good. Ian and Margit were at the turn, but I didn't even look at them. I just turned the corner, waved, and ran. I made the pass on all three of them quickly and then I was on the downhill.
I hammered the downhill. I passed a bunch of guys and the first woman and I just kept running hard and pretty much all out to the turn-around, knowing that the climb back out would be brutal.
When it happened.
And that's the funny thing about the run back. It's not uphill all the way, in fact, it's not really uphill until you're near the overpass and that's like halfway back. So I think I undersold the return trip.
As I was climbing I had Oakes Ames, John Wilson, and Don Gustavason in front of me. John and Oakes are awesome athletes but I had to run them down. I passed them after the end of the climb, not know Oakes had two minutes on me and therefore had me in the can. I was chasing Don but I never quite got there.
Overall, I was really psyched about the race, finsihing 15th overall and 3rd in my age group. This was my best Griskus ever.
Of course, once I saw my splits, I was unhappy with how I climbed and could see places where I could have shaved maybe a minute off the whole race. That's the peril of being me. I am never quite happy, even when I am.
But if a sprint race in July is something that can be built on, then this was just that.