2006 Got the Nerve? Sprint Triathlon
Before the Race
I woke up and 4.00 in the morning and was too excited to go back to sleep, so I got up and made myself breakfast. Oatmeal, and a turkey bacon and egg sandwich. Took an apple with me, just in case I wanted it. Learning from LAST YEAR (when I arrived with about an hour to prepare) I got to the race at about 6.00, giving me two hours to get registered, focused and ready. I set up my transition area, according to last year’s plan, and remembered some key points from the previous race: roll down my socks, loosen the laces on my running shoes, close my cycling shoes to the first latch so I could slip into them and slam the ratchet home.
They had a DJ, and normally that would be cool, but today I wanted to spend some time on my own, in my head. I went farther away from that area and found a nice quiet area to be alone with my thoughts. This year I found it harder to get into the “spirit” of the event, to get focused on what it was I was there to do. Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t that I was disinterested, or bored. It’s just that last year my focus was so singular, my goal so obvious, and the accompanying adrenaline train so overpowering, that everything else became, not secondary (like this year), but nonexistent.
The other thing about races like this is where you set up. I like to set up back in about the middle of the transition area. There are two reasons for this. First, I get the sense that people who take the “pole position” are very serious about this. The last thing I want to do is tick someone off because my transition area is too big, my shoes reflect the sun wrong or my lobster towel upsets their sensibilities to the point where they can’t compete. Second, I like the people in that second tier of athletes. They’re friendlier, gregarious, and usually in the same area as you. I met a guy named Ray, who made Mt. Gretna his first triathlon last year, just like me. Also like me, we talked jokingly but with pride about losing a lot of weight (he had lost over 60 pounds and looked like an athlete), and wanting to put our bodies to different tests, to see how we measured up. His friend, Teddy, was there for her very first triathlon…at 52. Talking with them helped me take my mind off the vague doubts that had crept in earlier, and I felt ready to go.
The water was 63 degrees.
Okay, maybe not that cold, but again, I was glad I had a wetsuit…I still think it was warmer than last year. I went out pretty quickly, and felt good going around the first buoy (the course is an inverted triangle in Conewago Lake, Mt. Gretna, swimming out to the first buoy, across to the second, then back to the start area). Going around the buoy, though, things bunched up a bit and people started climbing on each other. I freaked out a little, and even took on a little water. It was hard to get my form back at that point, and a lot of my training left me.
I pushed off to the side a little to get out of the crush and pushed on toward the second buoy. I was slowing down a little, and my form was pretty awful, so I started using my legs, knowing that would hurt me in the next two events. I just wanted to get out of the water. Things did get separated by the second buoy, and I came home with a hard push. I was hoping to see my wife and daughter at that point, but did not. As I came out of the water, I took off my swim cap and goggles, and moved on toward the transition area. Then I heard “There’s Daddy!” and looked over to see my family cheering me on—it put more than just a little bounce in my step.
TIME: 12.07 (which seemed fast for me)
T1 went smooooothly. Socks on, shoes all set up to go and slipped those on, grabbed the bike and went. No problems at all. I’m glad I used the Lobster towel, because it was easy to spot, and my placement was great.
So, I hopped on the bike and started pedaling away. About a quarter mile into the course, I hit Pinch Road, with the notorious CLIMB. I was still hurting a little from the swim, but I gritted my teeth and repeated my mantra: “I got no quit in me.” I kept gritting as I passed people up the hill…including more than a few who were walking toward the top. It felt pretty good. There is a brief flat near the top, followed by one last soul-wrenching upward jaunt, and I remembered to get a little speed to attack the hill.
As I coasted down the far side, it occurred to me I had no GU pack, and would have to survive on Gatorade alone. Not such a bad thing for a sprint, but I hate the taste of Gatorade on a ride—too sweet for me. It was a very hilly course, and the wind was brisk (a lot of guys said their bike was MUCH tougher than last year), so a GU pack could have helped.
Anyway, I roll through the bike course as I expected right up until the last mile and a half or so. It was on the last major climb that I looked up and saw a marshal letting a truck onto the course! I’m still not sure what he was thinking—it seemed a REALLY idiotic move to me, as it was supposed to be a closed course. A car followed right behind the truck. So the riders were trying to get up the last hill, with an eighteen-wheeler on the course, passing him on the right. I decided to use my head and hold back just a little to see what happened. We crested the hill, and I remembered a tight right turn at the bottom, followed by one last moderate, but long climb. I started mentally prepping for that.
As I approached the turn, I saw another marshal in the middle of the road, directing traffic in a new direction. “What the heck was going on,” I thought. I found out later there was an accident (no details, but I have my suspicions that one of those cars got tangled with a bike or two) and they redirected the race so they could attend to the scene. This added an extra two miles to the course…and one more climb…just for fun.
Linguine legs! Oh my goodness…I did this last year, and had it a little, but this year was like learning to walk again. Still, I busted into the transition area, threw on my shoes, sucked a GU and went.
TIME: 1.53 THAT IS FAST!!! 49th fastest in the entire competition!
Last year, I didn’t have to battle “linguine legs” but it took a long time to find my stride. This year, the wobble was, obviously, much worse, but I found my stride more quickly. I also knew from last year that going out (it’s an out and back course on a rail-trail) there was a false flat going downhill on the course. Last year I was thoroughly demoralized when I turned and realized I needed to go uphill. This year I was ready for it, so that was better.
I reached the turnaround and I was hurting. I went a little farther and I was really suffering. The pain in my legs was really intense (lactic acid is fuel, my butt!) and my lungs were burning. I started thinking about pain, and my mind wandered to a lot of places. I said my mantra: “I got no quit in me.” Up ahead, I saw a place on the trail I remembered (one of the tough things about this trail is it all looks the same) and knew I was getting closer. I pushed it a little harder and the pain ratcheted up a notch. “I got no quit in me.” I thought about Lance, and Chris Kaag, and Jesus, and about the nature of pain and suffering. “I got no quit in me.” I hit the tarmac, which is about half a mile from the finish, and I started lengthening my stride a little, stretching it out just a bit more. I have been hurt worse before (blew out my ACL in a football game) but I don’t recall ever hurting this badly for this long. I looked up and saw the turn for home up ahead, and I really started pushing it. “I got no quit in me.” I made the turn, down the stretch and saw the clock—I was approaching 1:56 and change. I actually did a quick measurement in my head and took off our staggered start times (the mind really is incredible…) and realized I could make it in less than 1:50 if I pushed it…so I did. I finished and felt, pain, but also elation. I had done it…again. “I got no quit in me.”
TIME: 32.31 I felt good about this, and was surprised it was that quick, given how much I was hurting.
TOTAL TIME: 1.48.07 (up from 1.42.50 last year, but there was an extra 2 miles and a hill on the bike)
Note: Numbers do not include those who DNF (Did not Finish)
Overall Place: 297/498
Place by Age: 41/57 (which I don’t think is bad, since I’m 39, racing in the 35-39 category...though I'd like to be stronger, next year!)
Place by Sex: 239/342
Thoughts and Ruminations
After the race, I stopped at a local Giant supermarket. If you ever want a study in contrasts, go to a sporting event with participants and then go to a grocery store. I was shocked by all of those lean, toned athletes who train and work to get to a point of competition, how they set themselves apart from others. I stood in line at the store, my race numbers still on my arm, the last of my runners high still in my body, as I watched…you know what? I can’t even go there. It was too depressing.
The next day, I went out and bought The Triathlete’s Training Bible by Joe Friel. I want to start doing this, and I want to do it right…better. Science seems like a good place to start. I also looked for triathlon magazines, which were not available at my bookstore. Funny thing, though: There were the usual magazines: Bicycle, Runner’s World, that sort of thing. But, they were tucked away in the back of the rack. The front of the rack? It was stuffed with Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy Football. I had to laugh as I walked away, thinking how much more amazing reality is.
My friend Ogedei finished his first triathlon this weekend. My friend Eric is talking about doing one. Why not you?