Tuesday, July 8, 2008

8 Days, 5 Races

Racing every weekend, when you're a cyclist, is normal. Cycling is hard, but it doesn't beat you up the way that running does, especially if there's a lot of descending in the run you're doing. June ended with a trip to the Spirit of Morgantown half-iron, in Morgantown, West Virginia. This is a great race, and if you're looking for a fun, late June event for next year, put this one on your calendar. It's way cheaper than any of the exorbitant 70.3 races, is well-supported, and challenges its participants with a mixture of flats and hills. I'm just going to talk about that race today, and discuss the other four races (the Fitchburg Longsjo Stage Race the following week) tomorrow.

The beginning of the race was a bit of comedy of errors, with the officials telling the pros that we would be running down a six foot wide dock, crossing the timing mats at a sprint, and diving into the river. We would have looked like a bunch of lemmings starting a 5K. We all balked, and, happily, David Thompson took over, suggesting a better way to start the race. We ended up doing a dive start, and I came up between Andrew Hodges (one of my LC Worlds teammates) and David Thompson. The front group, with Andrew Yoder and Kevin Lisska, had already put in a little gap, so Andrew, David, and another swimmer (he was touching my toes during the entire swim) swam at a pretty comfortable pace around the course. It's rare that I actually get myself into a group during a race, and I knew I was right behind D.T., so things were looking good already. Hodges and Thompson put a little gap into me in the final 200M or so, but nothing that I didn't think I could catch back on the bike.

A word about the bike course, because it took some casualties this year: there are some odd twists, and some bad pavement. On the ride out of town, I was glad that I had done some cyclo-cross in the past, the road was so bad. There's also a little two miles out-and-back, which ends in a sharp right hand turn that goes under a tunnel. This is the turn that took out two of the race leaders. On the first lap, David Thompson went straight and ended up cutting the course and abandoning. On the second lap, Andrew Yoder took a pretty nasty fall after riding through what looked to be a very deep puddle. I benefited from these mishaps, and I still don't really feel very good about it. I've been saying, publicly, that staying on course and staying upright are a part of winning races, but I don't believe it. Those two would have beaten me soundly, I think, and triathlon is a race of fitness, not attrition.

Anyway, the bike course, if you stay on it and upright, is a lot of fun. There's a bunch of climbing, some screaming descents, and, this year, torrential rain. I was lucky not to flat in that period when the rain starts forcing little debris into your tires, instead of washing it off. As soon as the skies opened (and I do mean opened), there were tons of people on the side of the road, changing flats. Word was that Kevin Lisska, one of the race leaders, suffered two flats out there on Sunday. I was surprised, in the last few Ks, that my friend and co-Mainer Mike Caiazzo came up to me on the bike. We're about similar while riding, although I usually have a slight edge on him. The course was hilly, though, and I do have to drag around about fifteen extra pounds. Gimme a rolling course and I'll get him any day. Unfortunately, I've yet to see the run course on which I could catch him. Perhaps a cliff. Mike and I came into transition together in 2nd and 3rd place, trailing race leader (and eventual winner), Daniel Bretschler (I'm sure I'm killing that spelling) by about 2:30.

The run was a bit of a suffer-fest. The sun came out and turned all that rain into humidity, and I ended up shedding my jersey about 7 miles into the race, for a decidedly un-PRO barechested look. I ran pretty well for the first 5 miles (which are flat), before crashing right into Morgantown's Sixth Street hill, which doesn't look too bad at first, but is probably in the 12-15% gradient realm. The real killer is you run up it for two cross-streets and then turn right, and look at a longer, but more gradual hill. Since you're running 9:00/mile at this point, your heart rate in the low 170s, and your furnace overheating, that extra hill is a real issue for the old bean. I just took it as slow as I dared and tried not to blow up. After the hill, you run up and down through the campus of WVU, and it's the downhills that really make the second lap painful. By the finish, I'd been caught by Andrew Hodges and faded to 4th place, after running a 1:28 half-marathon. Really, still not good enough yet. But it was nice to collar some prize money, even if I missed out on the podium by only a few minutes.

One post-race novelty was getting an IV drip. I was in pretty bad shape post-race, but getting a drip really cleared things right up. It's not for every one (maybe you don't like needles; I looked away as the Med Tech was saying things like "Wow, I'm making a real mess here," and swabbing my arm with an entire package of gauze), but the recovery train got started right quick.

In any case, things are starting to come around, although they're still not where I'd like them to be. Final splits were approximately as follows: Swim 27:00; Bike 2:16; Run 1:28. Coming down, but not yet coming good.