Friday, April 29, 2011

Way Too Close

You know as a long time distance athlete I've come to terms with the fact that I 'play in the road'. We're not so much in the road as on the side of the road, but I do the vast majority of my training on the road.

Close calls are pretty common, what with cars passing less than a meter away from you. Sometimes even less than a yard. But 'close calls' are usually not really that close. And running is much safer than bike. You get hassled now and then but it's your job to live with it.

A lot of days, especially when I ride, I'll come home and tell some story to Margit, who will just roll her eyes, maybe because I'm not just living with it as much as I should.

I took the day off Friday because you could tell by Tuesday that it was going to be a beautiful day. This time of year, with a lot of days off stored up, I start using Friday for long rides. However, I have a marathon coming in six weeks, so deep down I know that I need to be getting in long runs. So I got up planning to run 90 minutes.

Before I'd left the house I'd upped that to two hours.

Then I got outside. It was more beautiful than I expected. I had the music cranking in my new headphones, I felt really good, I was setting a decent pace and I was running in my Zoots with no socks. The sun was beaming down and I decided I'd run to the end of 146 and back- giving myself one hour and ten minutes to do it.

The run was going really well. I got to the centre of Guilford, ran through it, and headed towards Madison, looking forward to climbing that nice hill that 146 ends on.

There's a 4 way intersection at the base of the hill. It's about 90 seconds or two minutes short of the turn around- you can see the top of the hill where 146 runs into Route 1 and ends. I was headed for the intersection and as I always do, I was evaluating the traffic. It's a four-way stop and there was traffic in the lane opposite me, and a truck coming from my left, an 18 wheeler.

I looked at the truck and was a little annoyed. I was going to get to my stop sign before he did- and I'm a pedestrian, so there was no question I'd have the right of way. So would the car coming from the opposite direction, I thought.

But instead of slowing down, the truck was, I thought, speeding up. Trying to beat me to the stop sign. Or the car or both of us. So I sped up. I was going to assert myself here, not let this guy take advantage of me.

So i was running hard and I got to the sign and-

That was when it hit me. The truck wasn't trying to beat us to the stop sign.

I was about to hurtle into the intersection. I stop short. Just short.

The truck didn't stop. It didn't slow down. It just barreled through the intersection at about 35-40 mph.

I threw my water bottle at it, hitting the back of the trailer, up high. And then watched the spinning bottle, gatorade spurting out of it, thinking not about how close I'd come to being run over, but rather about how I was losing valuable nutrition.

As I started to run up the hill, three people stopped to ask if I was all right, which I thought was kind of funny, because it's not like the truck did hit me. But it gave me an idea just how close this particular encounter was.

Way too close.

It also made me realse that maybe, just maybe, I've developed adequate discretion out there. Or at least I know enough not to mess with an 18-wheeler.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Brian's Beachside Boogie

Well, this is alway a big race for me. I've won the race twice, raced against a lot of pretty good athletes for a small race, and it is usually a good early-season test of where I am.

Where I am ? That's an interesting thought. With a June marathon and a November Ironman, it's hard to decide where I am, or where I even should be, but with only 3 road races under my belt all season, where I was, in my opinion, was not in race shape. A lot of it was this weird winter. I have a good base but I would say the speed just isn't there. Speed comes from racing and I haven't been.

So I was looking forward to racing. And I wasn't.

I saw Charlie Hornak before the race and barely grunted a hello. I just was't feeling it. This was going to be a hard race. It was cold, overcast, windy.

The race started without a lot of fanfare, just a countdown from 10 and a horn.

The start of a duathlon can be the hardest part. The instinct to go out, to blow up that early part of the first run and establish yourself, is always there. The funny thing about that though is the more people go out hard, the less inclined I am to match it. If I have a chance to establish myself as the guy, or one of two or three guys, then I do it, but if ten guys are going to push it early, then I am not going to.

That's what happened. A lot of guys went out hard, and just settled in with a group of about ten people. I knew a lot of the guys in the mix, and two or three exploded into the front, including Mark Hixson. My goal was to just hang in fifth or sixth and wait for the bike to see where I really was. As we got around half a mile into the run, past the campground, I started to move up. There was one young kid who'd gone out hard and I'd expected to fade, however, after falling off slightly he recovered.

I hate that. Making an evaluation of someone that's wrong. But as Eric says 'all you can do is do all you can do'.

I felt better than I expected on the first run, although I was fighting back and forth with one guy to come in from the first run around that sixth spot. I came in and hopped on my bike and I was gone.

Early in the first loop I had to deal with two guys, one who had passed me (for shame, alan!) and one I was about to pass, fishtailing and nearly crashing into each other in the sand.

I was aggravated to have to slow down.

After that, there was no place changing out to Meigs Point. I caught sight of the people in front and behind me at the tear drop. I saw Charlie Hornak was standing in well and chasing.

I also saw a number of people with either aerobars or horns. That's something that people have learned from me. I was the first guy to stick aerobars on his bike and take it to Brians and now a lot of people do it and that's cool. It's an advantage and it's legal. I hauled as much as as I could from the Point to the woods, and then I started the hardest part of the race for me. I set the bike course up but I'm not a great mountain biker and I lost time in the woods. How much time ?

After emerging from the woods, Charlie passed me on the grassy backside of the course. Maybe this should have engendered some panic, but I always get caught by someone back there, and it's about discipline for me. Staying close (but not drafting) and waiting until I get back to the part of the bike that my strength is on (the road).

That's exactly what I did. Charlie led me back through transition but then I passed him on the harder sand. I thought I'd solved the issue, but the Charlie surprised me but he passed my after the point, really going for it, full out. At this point, my race was with Charlie, and I knew it. As long as he was in front of me, he was the only guy I could pass.

We headed into transition one behind the other and went of transition shoulder to shoulder. He said to me 'I don't expect to be able to hold on' or something like that and as a teammate I should have said something like 'Nah, you can do it, come on.'

But I didn't. At that point, we were competitors and we know each other.

Instead I put the hammer down, trying to set the fastest pace I could maintain. Now, I was chasing Mark Hixson. For the rest of the run, he was my focus, and at first, I thought maybe, maybe....

Nah. I'd closed the gap on the run but he crushed me on the second run.

I ran well, my second run felt like the best part of my race and I definitely did what I had to do. I was surprised to not fall apart that second run, after so little racing, however, I was also disappointed. Despite cutting 18 seconds off last year's time, I was just 6th, and a distant third in my age group.

Not a great performance, but I want to give props. Everyone who finished in the top ten had a really good race. It was fun, and it was a wake-up call for me.

I'm looking forward to what the rest of the season has in store...