Saturday, August 19, 2006

W.A.T. Race Report

In January, a group of 8th graders challenged me, a marathoner, to complete a triathlon. The way they saw it, running one more marathon wasn't a new adventure. A non-swimmer entering a triathlon would be. So, I went off on a quest to find a triathlon I could enter. Preferably a really short one. I'm thankful I found a broad range of races. I was concerned that Ironman Kona might be the only option available.

As I searched, the first local race I found was the Waupaca Area Triathlon. Only 45 minutes from home, this was a good possibility. The 20 mile bike, no problem. A run under 5K, piece of cake. Half-mile swim. Without even being sure exactly how far 1/2 mile is, that was sure to be the problem. And a bit of quick math proved my fears. 880 yards. That's a bit long for someone who can't swim 100 yards without dying. Surely there is a shorter triathlon.

After some more digging, I came across the Trinity Triathlon. With a 220 yard swim, that was just what the doctor ordered. Even if I had to dog paddle, I was certain I could complete that distance. History proved me right, though the race certainly had it's share of other excitment. And somewhere along the way of training for Trinity, I found myself hooked by the idea of being a triathlete.

Enter Veeg, and the Oshkosh Area Olympic Distance challenge. Bloggers, it seems, are a bit like my Brigaders. I seem to have an abundance of friends ready to challenge me to grow and improve. Not only did I survive this second race, it was an incredible opportunity for me to see exactly what I can accomplish.

Which brings us to this day. In previous posts, it was mentioned that a co-worker was running the Waupaca race, and that I would be there to support him. At 7:30 last night, he called to let me know that he had switched his girlfriend's registration to my name. That led to a flurry of activities to get me ready for an early departure in the morning.

First, there was a transition bag to be packed. Too bad that was at my office (more on that in a bit). No biggie, that duffle bag is getting worn, I'll just buy a new one when I go to get dishwashing detergent. My wife was quick to point out that I should also pick up new goggles, a swim cap, ear plugs, and anything else that might be in the bag. Ouch, you have to hate it when someone is that right.

So, plans continued to change, and I headed back to the office, which is 28 miles away (remember that, as it will be important, later). An hour and a half later, I was back at home with all my gear (and laundry detergent). I quickly packed my bag, double checked everything, left notes for things to be done in the morning, and got back to work on my sermon for Sunday.

I went to bed in time to get six hours of sleep, knowing that I probably wouldn't sleep all that well, anyway. I was wrong. For once, I slept like a rock the night before a race.

We had another beautiful day for a triathlon. There was a hint of rain (which only amounted to a few minutes of light sprinkles), and the temperature was about 70F with little to no wind.

The swim was an out and back with plenty of lifeguard support. The water was the clearest of any open water swim I've had this year, meaning I could see all the way to my hand. That gave me the ability to actually see bodies and legs BEFORE slamming into them, and even avoid some of them. It went about the same as the Oshkosh race, though I spent more time in the breaststroke. The events of the past 24 hours had left me a bit drained (more on that in a bit). The official results aren't out, yet, and my swim was something like 22 minutes. Add another 1/4 mile and you wind up pretty close to the pace I had during last week's race.

I headed into T1 and chatted with my co-worker. Despite his voiced concerns about the swim, he had done well, beating me out of the water by a minute or two. His form was a bit ragged, but he made up for that with determination and sheer force.

The lessons learned in the past two races helped me get out of T1 a bit more quickly. I used my new race belt, which helped. I took off running, hoping to catch up to my co-worker before he got too far down the road.

The bike course was a pleasant surprise. Much of this race goes over the course of the Trinity Triathlon. It was a nice to see the route from the bike, instead of on foot. The events that left me sapped during the swim had, oddly enough, had less impact on the bike. I finished the (just over) 20 mile route in just under an hour. My computer shows an average pace of 20.6 mph. We'll see what the official results show, when they're available.

I hit T2 in time to see my co-worker, again. I had been chasing him hard on the bike. It appears he understated his abilities on the bike as much as he had on the swim. He headed out almost as soon as I racked my bike. I got out of the helmet, switched shoes, threw on my hat, and headed out for the run. Please note the time saving process of not actually removing my cycling gloves. At least it was only the gloves. My helmet wouldn't have fit in my jersey pockets so nicely.

I caught up with my co-worker after about a quarter mile. While I'm certainly a faster runner, that surprised me. He had dogged me so badly in the swim and bike that I figured I'd spend most the run trying to get past him. As I pulled up beside him, complimenting his progress to that point, he indicated that he was in some fairly severe GI distress (my words, he just said it hurt like hell). His face better conveyed his discomfort.

It seems he had broke one of the rules of racing. Around mile five on the bike, he had used his first ever sports gel. Chased with a bunch of Gatorade, which was also new. Now, on the run, he was learning the lesson of WHY we train the way we race. Rather than continue on, I adjusted my pace and stayed with him on the run.

He was hoping for a quick fix, and the best I could tell him was to get some water at an aid station, and see if that would help. He just wanted to get sick. The water didn't help much, and he never got sick.

Even so, we maintained close to 8:30 miles, and he handled the GI distress to the end. We crossed the finish line just under 2 hours after we started. We were in the same swim wave, and I let him go ahead just at the end. So, in his first race, my co-worker will be able to say he beat me by about one second. He will also be honest enough to point out that the real victory was in his finish. He proved that with training, he can become competitive in his age group. Mostly, he proved that he can also do more than he thought himself capable of.

Oh yeah, I promised some "more on that later." Here's a recipe for turning a shorter race into a real challenge. The day prior to race day, complete not one, but two 28 mile time trials. My co-workers were interested in seeing The Pol-R Express, and, by all appearances, my racing seemed a long shot. So, I bike the 28 miles to work, starting at 5 a.m. I maintained just under 20 mph average, and then worked until 4 p.m. Then, I headed back the same route, hoping to "negative split" the day, bumping the pace closer to 21 mph.

It was this biking that resulted in my gear being at the office. My clothes, toiletries, and nutrition had to be waiting for me, and left there Friday. The 56 miles on the bike, 90 minutes chasing down gear, and relatively late night left me less than 100% for the day. In the end, it wound up being exactly what was needed, as my co-worker was on his own for the swim and bike, and I was there to help him when he most needed it. All in all, a great day at the races.


Cliff said...

great race report. I am sure your co worker is glad u are there wti him in the run.

greyhound said...

Proving once again that triathlon is far from being an individual sport. We compete, that is, we "strive together."

jeanne said...

nice job. sometimes it's just more important to be there for someone than to worry about time.