Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bridgeport Olympic Triathlon

One word. Mosquitos. I parked my car across the road from the beach aviation area that serves as the transition area and finish line. I started waking over with my bike and gear and at first I thought I was imagining a bug on my leg. Reaching down and slapping I killed 3 Mosquitos.

This is how I spent the pre-race, whether it was getting marked, or waiting to go to the bathroom, racking my bike.

I got in the water early. I hadn't raced a tri since Hammerfest almost a year earlier. I had a very poor swim in the team 'race' in very rough water the week before. I needed a good swim, and by good I don't mean fast. The water was flat, eerily flat. I had a really good warm-up and was feeling very confident. The first bout was far from shore, while the tide was out.

I was pretty calm for the start of a swim, and finally as the last stragglers were getting out of the water, and why are there always stragglers, who put their warm-up ahead of starting the rac on time, I actually wanted to start. When I say that I'd had a bad swim the week before, it was crazy bad, really choppy seas and insanely rough. We did this little two loop swim and one of the team members coordinating the race tried to stop me from doing the second loop. So I'd gone out in the sound a couple of time after that and had very good swims, and finally the race started.

The men in the first wave tried all strategies- swimming, running, and everything in between. I kind of watched it and then didn't. I sort want to concentrate on keeping my heart rate down at the start of the race and that requires me to focus on, well, me. Finally our wave was off. I started swimming right away. Because the first buoy was a long way off, it was a nice wide spread and I had no problem getting my own water and working out to the first buoy and making the turn. Frankly, I was surprised at how easy getting there was, how unlike my last crazy swim. Because the course was counter-clockwise, the low sun was in our eyes, and if there is one thing the course could use more bigger, it's buoys. Still, there were enough people around me that I could follow the course, about the halfway mark I found myself coming up on the stragglers from the first wave.

There's not a lot to say about the swim really, because it was surprisingly unremarkable. .

I got out of the water after yet another swim that I'd feared would be a disaster yet was completely ordinary.

I could probably end the race report right there. I needed to have a good, confident swim, and while my time was crap- 28 minutes- I did just that. Now the next athlete with a worse swim time finished 20 places behind me, I still got out of the water and on the bike feeling pretty good, relaxed, and knowing I needed to Hammer.

There could not be a worse bike course for me. Board flat with a bunch of turns, including two 180 degree turns. I mean, I still have a good ride there, and I like the relentless time-trail nature of the course, but honestly, all I could think of as I was plowing through the five loops was that I had not done enough time-trialing this season and Leopard-Trek jersey or not, I was not ready for this course.

Unlike most races, this course is kind of a mess from the get go. The very top guys from wave one are half a loop ahead of you, and the people in front of you are everywhere- and that's just the first lap. Starting with lap two, the chaos is all-encompassing. You can sort of tell who you are competing with, but not exactly. I have to say that I did get passed a few times, and that there was some drafting, but overall, I didn't feel the drafting was as bad as it has been in past years. I think having two engaged officials on the course really helps. On A few occasions I got re-passed by people who just couldn't let it go that someone else was out-riding them, but for the most part it was one of the cleaner races I've ridden. Of course, my bike split totally left me aggravated. It was in the 23 mph area, which is not really acceptable on a flat course. I definitely felt that a lack of racing really hurt me on the bike, where I was working hard, but lacked the fluidity, or the anger, or whatever the hell it is that makes me good on the bike.

I had left transition with only a few bikes on my rack- and my rack was full of people around my age. So when I came back in on the bike and had changed the equation quite a bit, even though I was pissed about the ride I had, I was satisfied I could do my job. I threw on my hammer nutrition cycling cap, grabbed two gels and started running.

Right away I was catching people, both guys in their 40s, and a lot of younger guys. There's something about this run. The sun always comes out and it gets as hot as the proverbial and because it's a 10K, people start walking. I'm more of a long-distance athlete and the thought of walking while running a 10K is kind of- well, whacked. As I headed down the path, the athlete wearing number 1 came back in my direction, who knew how far ahead- only he was walking. You want confidence ? #1 is walking and you are walking. That's confidence.

This is my part of the race. I am looking for one thing at this point, numbers on calves. I have to pass those 40+ men that were in my wave, and the more younger men I pass as well, the better. Still, for all the run is flat, in some ways a long flat 5k with long sight lines, especially when the summer sun comes out and starts beating down on you, is formidable than you might think it would be. I drenched myself at the water station at the quarter point turn around and then simply went back to the task at hand.

The second loop was a lot like the first, only more congested. More people were on the run and I wasn't always sure if I was passing or lapping people. I didn't care either. If you were in front of me, I was passing you, no questions asked, no answers given. I hit the turn around again and somewhere I pawed #[ 1, I think, but I have no idea when. Heading back, I was not thinking about how thrilled I was to be finishing another tri, but rather I was thinking about how damned far away the finish line was.

Good thing too. I passed a couple more guys in my age group and then I got close to the finish line. There was a guy with grey hair in front of me and I was thinking this guy could be in my age group. I really was spent but I found the turbo and passed him 50 meters before the finish line. I was so spent I just stood in the finish area until a volunteer go me a folding chair and a wet washcloth and I then happily sat in the finish area, wet washcloth and ice on my head, the best damn seat in house as I watched people finish.

The guy was 50+, so i'd saved embarrassment, not a place. Just as good.

So I was back- as a triathlete. And liking it....

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