Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Stability and Vindication

I'm back in Portland, presently, and it's raining/60s outside, which makes it hard to believe that yesterday I was in Austin, Texas, sweating through the Longhorn 70.3, put on by Keith Jordan and Endorfun Sports.

Harder to believe, for me anyway, was how good a race I had yesterday. It's no secret that 2008 has been a difficult year for me in terms of triathlon, and I had little to no expectation for this race. It was a chance to go somewhere I'd never been before, hang out with Amy for the weekend, and have some fun. I talked Kevin Lisska (from Long Course Worlds fame—he came in 8th, yeah, I know that guy) into coming along for the ride, and he obliged, bringing along his food poisoned girlfriend Linden, who was resolute about competing herself.

A few days before the race Keith posted the entrant list, and scrolling through it one saw a list of triathlon stars past and present: Richie Cunningham, Simon Lessing, Tim DeBoom, Joe Gambles, Keiran Doe, Andrew Yoder, Bjorn Andersson. Yikes. I though Tim DeBoom was ultramarathoning these days...

Still, feeling good about the swim volume I'd put in over the past month (not huge, but of good quality), I resolved to have a good race. Here's a short recap, since it's almost 9:30 and creeping up to my bedtime.

The Swim: The swim was beautiful, but short. Keith must have been taking it easy on me for the long swim at Timberman 2007, which was longer than normal (and cold!). I didn't swim well, regardless, getting bounced around early and losing the front group, and then swimming with a bunch of slower folks. Still, coming out of a HIM swim, looking down at your watch and seeing 20:32 is pretty sweet. Worst part of the day, over in an Olympic distance amount of time. Why can't I still swim? I'm not sure. I hate the scrum of a huge pack, and invariably I swallow a bunch of water and get kicked around. Part of me thinks I should swim towards the outside, where there are fewer people, but I know you're giving up time to swim there. It really is better to get mauled at the center while being pulled along. But I just can't make my brain accept that 1900 meters really isn't that far. It sees buoys and sees miles and slows down. The other day I was swimming 1:11 100s in the pool, no problem, and here I was swimming much slower than that in open water, wearing a speedsuit (thanks, BlueSeventy), not taking flip turns. What gives? As with many of these things, it's all mental, and I think some honest swim soul-searching (plus six months of 15K a week in the pool) will make the difference. Anyway, out of the water in just under 21 minutes, about 2 minutes behind the front-runners.

The Bike: Ah, my proverbial bread and butter. I was excited to race my bike today, seeing it had been months (months!) since I'd been out there mixing it up on my favorite of animals. I'd moved my position back to the pre-FitWerx (sorry, guys, it's the truth) position, with the seat forward and the front low. My Vision aerobars aren't great for that position (Kevin's voice is present as I write this, saying, "Dude, aerobars are, like, fifty bucks." I know, I'm too lazy/broke when it comes to bike maintenance), but if I dangled my hands beyond the shifters, and rode with the tips of my elbows on the pads, I could manage a good forward position and still steer the bike, which was a good thing, because after about fifteen miles I lost track of which direction was which. When I rode towards the sun I could figure it out alright, but other than that I was lost. I started passing people, which felt normal and good. About ten miles in I caught up to Kevin, which meant I was having a good day or he was having a bad one. I tried to get him to come with me, and he rode back there for a bit, but after a while I couldn't see him anymore. I did catch one hanger-on who rode my rear wheel for the better part of 30 miles, until he missed a turn and went, like Lance avoiding Joseba Beloki in the 2003 TdF, into the bushes on the side of the road. I was happy to see him go. I know that controlled drafting is a part of draft-illegal racing, but it sucks to know you're helping someone along. It was good to ditch him (his bib said "Kis," but I didn't see anyone with that name on the results), as the last 5-10 miles of the bike course are flat, fast, and beautiful. He might have been working to catch me up, but he was in the process of blowing himself up, too. Total time: 2:13:48. Not the blazing split of Eagleman, but still only around 2:30-3:00 down from the leaders.

The Run: O.K, my weakest leg. I jogged through transition, trying to get the legs going like pistons, rather than the train wheel-like motion of cycling. I grabbed two gels to hold on the way out of T2, with a few other athletes. I was passed quickly by Dominic Gillen and one other runner, and thought Ah, shit. But my legs started coming back after mile one (and a shaky 6:40 mile split). Soon things were ticking away; I re-passed Gillen (he'd re-pass me right back a few miles on), and quickly I was at mile three. O.K., I thought, one hour to go: just pretend it's a 10-lap cross race and each mile you get to subtract one lap. It's remarkable how well this works. When I think of yesterday, I don't think of suffering, ever (which makes me think I needed to go harder), only working hard. The run course at Austin 70.3 is great: it's an honest 2-loop course (not those double out-and-backs, which are so hard on one mentally) that leads through transition twice, so you never feel like you're in no-man's-land (read: Eagleman). There are hills, it's hot, but it never felt long or miserable. You can break the course up into little chunks, and I was surprised how smoothly I ran, for a somewhat hilly course. I made it back home in 1:23:49. Certainly not world class, but dead center of the professional field, and I did get to run past a self-destructing Andrew Yoder at mile 8 (been there, I thought, as I went by, feeling bad for him). For coming into transition in 17th, I was pretty happy to finish 12th. Sure, top ten would have been great, and each leg is not as sharp as I'd like it to be (what I would have given for just one minute off each leg, which would have slotted me into 10th, right behind early run-leader Kieran Doe (who has amazing dreadlocks, btw).

Final time: 4:01:33, which even if you adjust for a short swim (adding 5 minutes would probably be accurate) works out to a pretty good day in the office.

I would like to say, in closing, that this was one of the best-run races in which I've ever competed. I started off racing in Keith's events, up at Mooseman, and I'm always amazed at the party he puts on. The courses are well marked and well supported (not many other races get the Yellow Mavic Wheel Boys to prowl their courses); the food is great; the music is a huge lift; and the corny signs are, after all these years of seeing them stream by, comforting. I can't wait to return next year, and I'd like to thank Keith for having a big part in giving me something I've had precious little of this year in triathlon: fun.


maura said...

Thinking about this statement and how I am as an athlete: "When I think of yesterday, I don't think of suffering, ever (which makes me think I needed to go harder), only working hard."

For me, that's a sign of a good race...when you can work hard and it doesn't feel like suffering. When I think about races when I've PRed or FH games when I've been "on", I've just stuck to the game plan and everything I've trained to do just flowed. I don't think top athletics is always about suffering...at least in the race stage. I like to get my suffering out in training so that on race/game day, my body is used to working hard and it doesn't feel like suffering. I don't know. I'm certainly not doing anything professionally or for any sort of recognition other than from myself at this point, but races are too damn expensive to be a suffer-fest.

Anonymous said...

You have a blog too !
So cool.