Ok, here’s a full on race report!
Yesterday I drove up to Sacramento (Folsom, technically, but close), for an Olympic distance race. I’m now just 20 days away from Worlds, and I wanted to do a low pressure race as a tune up. It also served as a pretty good test ride for my new Blink time trial bike, and a marker for how much my swim workouts with Bob Placak have helped my swim fitness. Here are the results:
I’ll start with a lesson I learned Saturday: When your host says he may be getting sick, STAY AWAY! The illness may be minor, but the vitamin C he consumes can leave you fighting two toddlers tooth-n-nail to get to the HAZMAT suit first.
The elite wave of the race was pretty difficult to get into, you had to check a box on the registration form. Apparently most people didn’t realize this because when we lined up for the wetsuit swim at 7am, there were only three women and one other guy. Right after I made some joke about “this must be why the announcer has been talking up the 40 year old men so much” I heard a comment in the background about “I’ve just found out we have the 2007 National Champion out there in the line up..” Embarrassed I looked at the other guy, who I now know as Steve Sexton of Team Zoom and UC Berkeley, who said, “I take it that’s you?” I think the redness in my face answered his question. So much for being the dark horse.
We start the swim, but with only two guys there’s not much of a sprint off the line. No sprint, but Steve and I are both former Collegiate swimmers, so we pushed the pace a bit harder than I would had he not been close. As we rounded the first corner of the Triangular course I had gained just enough ground to justify continuing to swim ahead, rather than saving some energy and catching a draft. I exited in 17:38 and sprinted up to transition, where I had lucked out with the best bike rack position (there was no elite rack, but for some reason the rack next to the bike exit was nearly empty when I arrived.).
I headed out onto the bike course with a moped leading the way. As we rounded corners I noticed that the moped driver was scraping pegs and sliding on gravel trying to maintain gap between our bikes. I however slowed enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about crashing on gravel in a race that was intended to be fun. As I approached the half way point my legs were killing me. I thought I would blow up and at one point even wondered if I could finish the ride. On what appeared to be only a mild uphill I found myself riding in my lowest gear, out of the aero bars, and breathing like Thumper at a petting zoo. Later I talked to some other competitors who informed me that the false flat was truly a hill, and the head wind was probably what made it so hard, but until I turned around and forced the moped driver to open his throttle, I was sure it was a melt down.
I came into T2 57 minutes after I left, and booked it back out onto the run course. The 10k run was surprisingly similar to that of the Nationals course in Kansas City last year, with a winding bike path along the edge of a man-made lake. Unfortunately the volunteers at the start of the run were just as unclear about the course as I was and lead me to the left at the first fork. 15 seconds later I saw the finish shoot, and realized I had been had. Yelling unintelligible, Ned Flanders style, expletives, I darted back to the course and took the right fork. The trail had plenty of ups and downs, and twists, and turns, and at no point could you see more than about 10 seconds in front or behind, which made it feel like there was always somebody right there behind me. At the turnaround, I found out there was. Steve Sexton had closed about a minute on me in the first 5k, and looked ready to push for the rest of the gap. I smiled as he passed, said “good job” (or “gujhob” as it normally comes out), then gritted my teeth and slapped pavement for the next 17 minutes. I not only held off Steve, but I got back that minute.
My final time of 1:51:23 was 57 seconds better than the previous course record, and two and a half minutes ahead of the next competitor. After my standard ritual of sticking ice down my suit and cooling off in the lake, I talked to some newspaper reporters, found and apologized to the volunteers that had steered me in the wrong direction (just in case they had made sense of my gibberish), then made it back just in time for my chaperones, Loren Pokorny and Ian Charles, to find me as they crossed the finish line. Both Ian and Loren did well, though I’m sure a little less vitamin C would have ensured greater lung efficiency.