An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Friday, September 6, 2013

Kids vs the coach

So as you know, I did a sprint triathlon last Saturday, the Bonney Lake Labor of Love triathlon in Bonney Lake (duh). I'd put out a challenge to the entire RockSteady Junior Triathlon team (which I help coach on a volunteer basis) for this event, saying that any of the kids that beat me in the sprint would get something "pretty cool". One guy asked me if it was a car... "Not that cool."

I know there are at least two of the boys who would hand my backside to me. And there's one of the girls who, if she's anywhere near my in the second transition, could very well take me on the run.

Add on the fact that I was "aging up" this year to the 50-54 division, and I was wanting to set a new standard there...

No pressure, right?

This is my fifth time doing this event, and with the exception of one year, I've done the sprint course each time. I'm pretty familiar with the course, though each year there are small differences in road surfaces (one year had a LOT of fresh chip-seal to deal with), weather, and water chop. Turns out that this is the fifth edition of this race as well, so it feels good to have support a race in every year of its running.

My swim training is meager, at best. Aside from the tri I did in June, I think I've put in 4 total swims, all in open water. At least this swim is short, so I wouldn't lose too much time to the kids.

I was using my full-on tri bike, race wheels and all, but with one exception -- no bike computer. I had no idea how fast I was going at any time. I was going into the bike leg with only one thought, "ride faster". Much like Greg Lemond in the 1989 Tour final time trial, I didn't want any feedback, I just wanted to concentrate of riding as fast as I could.

Race morning dawned warm and clear, unusual for this time of year. I got to the race site just as first light was showing on the horizon, and was the third bike into the transition area. Got the end spot on the assigned rack, set up a few things, and then milled around, chatting with the kids, getting the day's vibe and putting my game face on.

It was kind of funny when the head coach asked if I would take the kids on their warm up run. I politely declined, saying that I really do very little in the way of warm up for races. So that left him, who has done very little running, and always declines when I invite him to stick around for the Monday run workouts (he's a swimmer by background).

Anyway, the kids disappear, and I take one more cruise around the area, checking the transition zone one more time, before putting on my wetsuit and heading over to the lake shore.

The lake temperature was comfortable, and we were headed almost directly into the sun for the turn-around buoy. I started out relaxed, and had to remind myself several times to glide more and flail less... I'm not the best swimmer, but I do okay. The turn around buoy arrived much sooner than I expected (later, looking at the swim times, it seems the swim course was a little shorter than years past), and even on the return, things went faster than "normal".

Exiting the water, heading to the transition zone, peeling off the seal skin, putting on the helmet and shoes, then grabbing the bike. NOW I'm in familiar territory.

I'm used to passing people on the bike leg. Having a relatively weak swim compared to the bike and run, it's normal for me to click off competition once I get out of the water. Today was a little different, though -- I got passed. Sure, I passed several people, but I got the feeling that I was being passed more this year. At one point (about 4 miles into the 12 mile leg), I felt like I bogged down some, and clicked down a gear to get a little break. Still keeping the cadence up, but without the speed number to tell me whether I was still going quickly, I was starting to get that sinking feeling that it was going to be a long day.

After another mile, however, the course took a little downhill, and I was back on top of everything. Only rising out of my aero position for the sharp corners, I pushed through. There is one hill that is a bit of a surprise, as it comes right after a corner -- you don't see it coming, and so can get caught in too high a gear. I did bog down a little bit there, and had to stand up to keep on top of the gear.

Coming into the transition area again, as every year there are MANY people warning of the upcoming turn and dismount, imploring me to slow down. Hey, I'll slow down when I need to, okay? My brakes work just fine and I don't need a quarter mile to do it! Anyway, I jumped off the bike (at least it felt that way -- it probably looked more like I was falling off), ran to my rack, hung the bike and helmet, swapped shoes, and hit the road for the 5K run.

And immediately my calves started to lock up. Three times in the first quarter mile I almost face-planted because my calves were cramping. Did I mention this run course is full of short, steep hills in the first half? Oh, this was going to be fun...

It took a while, but by the time I got a mile out, my calves were fine, and I could really hit my stride. I was passed by several runners, none of which were in my age group, but also some of them peeled off to the Olympic run course. Phew!

At the highest point of the run course, I had that puke feeling. Like I was gonna hurl. It had been HOURS since I'd eaten anything besides the gel about 15 minutes before the start, so I knew there wasn't anything to actually empty out. Didn't make me feel any better.

But I've always said you know when you're going hard enough in a sprint tri: You can taste it. And there I was. I pushed on, and the feeling eased somewhat. Final two rises, then the long gentle downhill to the finish, no one around me. I kept having the feeling like some one was gaining on my going down that last stretch, but the next person behind me was some 30 seconds back. Ghosts, I guess. At least it kept me pushing all the way to the finish line.

My final time was almost two and a half minutes faster than my previous best on this course, some attributed to an average speed on the bike .7mph faster, and a run leg 4 seconds per mile faster. I finished first in the 50-54 age group by a good two minutes, though my 11th place overall was two back from last year. I guess more fast guys showed up this year. Good stuff. Especially for an old man.

And the kids? One of them was ahead of me the whole way. On a road bike. He's an awesome kid with a LOT of talent, and if he sticks with it, he could really go places in this sport. His reward? I offered him the choice of $100 cash or a pizza feed for him and three friends, as well as an aero fit to help him dial in his tri position. He chose the cash to help him buy race wheels, and we're working on arranging the fitting.

Maybe next year I'll have to step up to the Olympic distance again.

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