Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why Me?!

At the start in the transition area. For the photoset click here.

Part two of the Big Kahuna Triathlon 07

Race started at 7:00 and my wave left at 7:15, men 35-39. Compared to my peers I'm slower in the water but I enjoy open water swimming and very comfortable in the water. I've always enjoyed the swim in Santa Cruz. This was my 3rd Big Kahuna and 5th triathlon in this venue. Because of our warmup I was comfortable right away, the cold water no longer stung my exposed areas; face, neck, hands and feet, and every thing was working like clockwork. Two swimmers keep zig zagging in front of me, doesn't even faze me. I knew it wast them because I was "sighting" every 3 - 6 strokes. For the non-triathletes or open water swimmers. Sighting is the technique of picking your head up just enough for your eyes to clear water so you can keep yourself oriented to a target; buoy, boat or a landmark. It should be smooth and not significantly slow a swimmers progress. This is how open water swimmers find their way and not the side to side motion of breathing. I turn in my fastest swim for this event. At the beach I drop my googles and only realize it 30 seconds later. I keep going and I blame Olga. She taught me how to hustle through aid stations in ultra and now I find myself hustling in everything race related. At the Headlands Hundred I inadvertenly drop my flashlight and never went back the 50 yds to find it since I had a backup. Thank you to Leslie Antonis for sending it back to me.

Running back the 1/8 of a mile to the transition area was a pain on bare feet but they were slightly numb anyway. Many bikes were gone from the transition area but not all of them. I get done with the swim in 39 minutes, they include the time it takes to run back to the transition area. Fastest swim for this event.

Fastest Transition 1 for this race at 5 minutes. I was out of the wetsuit and into the cycling gear 3 minutes faster than last year. Donald in his spectacular race at Vineman about a month ago had touched on the importance of speed in transitions. Transitions is the 4th sport in Triathlon and the most important thing about T1, never leave the transition area without your bike helmet or your bike helmet unstrapped. At the least you will get a warning/penalty at the worst a DQ.

I feel amazingly good on the bike. I felt strong and fast but was cautious from the get go. I focused on keeping my legs and back loose. I'm quad dominant and I end up trashing my quads on the bike if I'm not too careful which of course affects my speed on the run tremendously. I also kept an eye on my heart rate, I wanted it high and level but not at a rate that would burn me out too quickly. We make our way out on coastal highway 1 towards San Francisco, hills to the right, beaches, surfers and the Pacific on the left. The bike course is known to be windy but there was hardly any maybe because it was still early. The skies remained overcast which kept temperatures down. I get passed but I steadily make my way through other cyclists, I gain places more than I lose. At the halfway point I had an inkling that I was way ahead of my times from the previous years but I wasn't sure, you see the bike computer wasn't working. The moment I pulled out of the transition area I noticed my sensor wasn't giving me any readings. I had no info on my rate of speed, my cadence (the rate of turnover on the pedals - rpm), or mileage. Not wanting to stop and trouble shoot I resolved to go by feel. I didn't want to spare the time. Not all gear is necessary, can I get an amen on that?

There was a mileage marker at the 30-mile point and this time I know for sure I'm going faster than in previous years. I was gaining on one guy who I called "biker dude" because he looked more like a road cyclist than a triathlete - nuances in gear. He had passed me earlier, I passed him back, he got pumped, passed me again and kept on going. Either he slowed down or a I got faster because I was right back on his tail heading back toward Santa Cruz. On a big downhill he stops pedaling and crunches down on his bike like a road racer and starts to pull away slowly. I fold down deeper into my aero bars, gaining a similar aerodynamic advantage but I keep pedaling. I'm quad dominant remember, I can push those pedals down like crazy:) I pass him and keep going. As I pull over to the right after the pass I go too far and end up running over gravel and rocks and I hear an ominous sound. The highway is clean, there's no glass or metal debris on the edges of the road but there is rocks and gravel. The rocks didn't puncture the tire but they cause a flat nevertheless. On the next ensuing downhill I feel the flatting tire and quickly pull over to the side. Biker dude rolls on by momentarily as well as other cyclists I meticulously picked off on my ride. I lose my pack of riders, I lose time.

Never having a flat in a race before I was distraught. I felt shame in losing my cool but there was nothing I could do about it. I was also panicking which in any situation always, always makes things worse. My first thought was with the riders quickly slipping away from me; biker dude, green jersey rider, pigtails, pointy helmet and so on. My second thought was the PR time slipping away on the bike and the chance of beating my PR time overall for this race and the half-ironman distance overall. I developed that "why me attitude". Panic, anger, frustration and self-pity set in and I was a nice little pot of negative stew on the side of the road. I started the race laid back and nonchalant and here I was all serious and bent out of shape.

My tire and rim setup is difficult to change. The rim is either slightly too big or the tires are slightly too small, either way it's a major pain. On top of that it's the back tire so I had to deal with the bike chain and derailleur. It takes minutes wrestling with the tire just to get the tube out, another 5 min before I'm rolling again. An extra minute was spent stuffing the old and not fully deflated inner tube back in my bike pouch. I was gonna leave it on the road but the sight of the Pacific Ocean shamed me into picking up my own trash. Thankfully I wasn't so far gone into my funk to commit littering. I don't do it on the trail so why would I do it on the road. I decided on not being an ass by leaving trash, thank God for the bit of rational tinking. Despite emptying a full cylinder of C02 gas to inflate the tire it was still lacking a bit of air but I was scared to partially use the contents of another cylinder in case I blew out the tire accidentally so I rode it anyway. I made second stop because I actually thought I was losing air. Less than optimal tire pressure means more rolling resistance with translates to slower speed.

The next 20 miles finds me trying to get my head back into the game - "Settle down Beavis!!!". I was in turmoil. I nearly ran off the road I was so distracted. The last time I lost my cool in a race was my first Miwok 100k in 2004. I was running with a runner from Oregon named John. At 48 miles we were celebrating the fact that we were going to come in earlier than our expected times. At 50 we get lost and lose :45 minutes. We came back on the course defeated and silent. I rallied in the end. Since then I have made it a priority never to lose my cool in a race. I don't need that kind of weight on my shoulders.

Slowly but surely I bleed out the negativity. I clean myself a bit with my water bottle. Sprayed some on my face to refresh me. I say a prayer and the fire inside comes back. It was snuffed out but now re-lit. I pull in to the bike area still ahead of schedule but not by much. I find out later through the official results that I PR'd on the bike despite the 9 minutes it took to fix the flat. I ride a 2:48 for the 56-mile bike ride.

Transition 2, bike to run gear only takes me a minute, again faster than any T2's I've done in the past. I needed to pee but forgo the stop because the portable toilets was in the back of the transition area. I run out still fiddling with my gear and nutrition, nothing that can't be taken care of on the course. Timer on my watch tells me that it's 3:35 into my race. I had to run the half-marathon in under 2:01 to come under 5:36 - the time to beat. My first year at this race, 3 years ago, I managed a 7:50 per mile for a 1:42 for the half-marathon. Last year both my lower back muscles cramped on mile two of the run forcing me to run jog until mile 9 effectively putting the PR out of reach and a total run time of 2:01. So based on my history it could go either way. Hoping that my back was going to hold along with everything else I keep charging.

Alas the conclusion has yet to be written.

Seriously not purposely creating suspense:) I'll be back for the final conclusion to the story.


  1. From below post"I was unfocused. I was admiring the female athletes"
    lolol u dog:-)

    FOCUS, it's RACE DAY!!(slap, slap)

    Bummer about the flat tire, after u had a good transition & rolling good... well another lesson learned huh. way to re-group & focus back in!!

  2. sure you're not trying to create suspense ;)

    How lame about that flat tire! But amazing that you still ended up with a pr :). Its funny how sometimes despite our best efforts we still end up seeing a training race as a serious competition. Human nature I think!

    Looking forward to the *hopefully* last installment :D

  3. If you're in a "snafu" situation,best thing to do is take 3 deep breaths,look up to the clear blue sky & say thank you Lord for the gift of life.What could be more important than that? I always get my focus back.Try it.
    Seems that you got out of it ok...

  4. Yeah, right, all my fault. Including flat tire and getting lost for 45 min (well, that's definitely my fault, bc I do it all the time). Wonder what happendd on the run? Did you fall on your hands and knees and crawled? Did you hop on one leg? Did a cute girl distracted you enough for some side-scenery?

  5. I didnt know there could be so such drama during a tri, but I guess when you're dealing with mechanical stuff, anything can happen.

    I'll be glued to the computer until you finish this post.

  6. Sorry I missed the race this year ...

    That's a pretty solid split for having a flat and multiple stops. And I think you do transitions WAY better than I do.

  7. My goodness Rick, you are a biking superstar! Congratulations on the PR! (We already know you can run!) : )

  8. Sounds like you did pretty well despite the mishaps! Now stop the suspense and get on with the story. : )

  9. As you read that is now my nightmare (tire). You made it though. Awesome job! Thanks for stopping by!