The day started like my first triathlon. I woke well before my alarm and got ready to head to the venue. I showered, put my swim suit on and did a final check of my gear. The new wetsuit I bought the day before was the last thing packed and I was glad to have it. A swim in the lake where I usually train a few days before had been so bone chilling that I actually had to stop and get out, feeling dizzy and getting hit with waves of nausea. I practiced for a grand total of around 300 yards with the wetsuit on Saturday, but was hit with that nausea and dizziness again. The wetsuit did raise my hips and legs farther out of the water, and I practiced running out of the lake and getting out of the suit a few times, just to get the feel of it.
I headed out from my folks new house, which sits only a few blocks away from the road leading to Palo, Iowa. I had to wait for a line of cars, almost all of which had bikes attached to them, and squeezed into a gap in the parade. As I turned onto the road leading to the park, I was able to look in my rear view mirror and see the line of cars behind me stretching nearly to the horizon, all headed this way. It was awesome!
For whatever reason, I lucked out and got a parking space in the row next to the transition area. I unloaded my bike, checked the tire pressure, and set my two bags of gear next to it. Heading for the transition entrance, I was greeted by an army of race volunteers, one of whom marked my arms and legs for the race. Lucky number 431! I walked my bike up to a table that held the timing chips and was given mine. Entering the transition area I noted that each wave had it's own rack section. If I had been racing in the individual 40-45 division, I would have been in the last wave, wave 10, like my friend Matt. But I figured if I had to carry around this extra weight, I may as well race this season in the Clydesdale division. As a bonus, the Clydesdale/Athena division was in wave 3! I got a nice spot five rows from the entrance and set up my gear. A good friend from high school found me as I was setting up and we had a nice chat. He had been a Warrior Swimmer too and did the 500 free like I did. An injury was keeping him out of today's event. As I finished setting up, Matt arrived and hiked up to the end of the transition area where wave 10 was camped.
It was shaping up to be a perfect day for a triathlon. Temperature was in the low 80's with little humidity. A patchy cloud cover kept the sun off of us until the run, and the wind was just enough for a cool, refreshing breeze, but left the water like glass and the bike and run resistance free.
I met Matt again at the long line leading to the port-a-potties and after evacuating all remaining excess weight, we headed for the start to scout it out. It was a pretty long run from the beach to the bikes, and I wondered what I should do with my glasses while I swam. We headed back to the transition area for a final check and to get into our wetsuits. I slid mine on to my waist and met Matt again down on the beach. We went for a swim and I toyed with the idea of swimming with my glasses in my wetsuit. The experiment worked somewhat, but I was a bit hesitant. The solution to my problem presented itself moments later as my brother Jason came down to get some pictures of us. He would station himself along the course up to the transition area and hand me my glasses as I passed. My Dad was set up across the beach ready to cheer me on and get pictures. As Matt and I stood ankle deep in the water, and Jason waited on the shore, the Elite triathletes started their waves. We watched and clapped as the men headed out, then the women. Then the team swimmers left. I was still standing there when Matt pointed out that the triathletes entering the water next were the Clydesdale/Athena division.
Whoops! I handed my glasses to Jason, who headed for his spot, and jogged up to the line, squeezing my way into the back of the Clydesdale/Athena section. It was a time trial start, with a racer leaving every two or three seconds, so I actually had plenty of time. But my dilly dallying meant I was fourth from the last Clydesdale to start.
As the line moved up, I was anxious about the swim. How would the wetsuit work? Would I get nauseated and dizzy like my last two swims? Could I get out of this seal skin fast enough for a good transition? Soon I was standing at the starting mat.
"431....GO!" I was off.
I ran out and dove into the water. Within seconds I was passing the guy who started just before me. A few seconds later I passed a couple more. Immediately evident was that the wetsuit held my hips and legs much higher in the water than I was used to. As a result, my head was a little lower in the water, and it took a few strokes to realize I had to rotate more to get a breath. Of course, I was motivated by missing three of the first four breaths I tried to take and choking back some of the water I had sucked in instead. I adapted quickly to the new breathing style and felt pretty good until I got to a spot where one of the boats patrolling the course was stationed. They had their engine idling and the surface of the water was covered with exhaust fumes. That made me gag and swim faster to try and escape the fumes. I had to stop twice to fix my goggles. For whatever reaeson the left side was leaking. After a firm jab to the eye to keep it in place, I had no more troubles with it. I was tracking pretty well when an unusual thing happened. Some guy had decided to roll onto his back to float for a bit, leaving only his face breaking the surface. When I lifted my head to spot, I failed to notice his little nose poking up. Suddenly I swam right onto him like a landing craft hits a beach. We pushed away from each other with a few "sorries" and "are you ok?" As I took off again I wondered why he would choose to float so close to the buoys where everyone was swimming. Apparently that is how breaks are taken at the Pigman, because no sooner had I left him behind than I landed on another back floater! I spent the rest of the swim dodging floaters and passing other swimmers. The wave behind mine was full of 18-24 year olds, but I wasn't passed by too many of them. I finished the swim strong and ran out of the water grasping at the zipper cord for my wetsuit. Jason was right where he said he would be and I grabbed my glasses as he cheered me on. I peeled of my swim cap and started extricating myself from the neoprene.
By the time I entered the transition area I had the wetsuit down to my thighs. It came off with no problem. I found that I was only a little dizzy and had hardly any nausea. But I took the transition slowly and methodically to let my head clear as much as I could before I peddled off. Jason appeared at the transition edge to get more pictures and cheer me on. After dressing, I grabbed my trusty yellow $99 Wal-Mart special and headed for the exit. I planned on jogging out and made it half way there, but the dizziness returned a bit and I decided that finishing was more important than running my bike out! But no problems in the transition other than being a bit slow.
The bike started out with a nice ride through the park, a small hill to climb and a few little rollers in the park. As we exited the park, the road led down a long hill heading for the town of Palo. As I was exiting, someone yelled "ON YOUR LEFT! ON YOUR LEFT!" in a very shrill voice. Now, it was a right turn out of the park, and she was passing as we took the turn. I had slowed slightly so as not to shoot out to the left on the turn, but she chose that moment to pass. She was about 90 pounds soaking wet and was pedaling furiously as she passed me. She then cut right in front of me, forcing me to hit the brakes or hit her. Then we came to the hill. "She has no concept of physics," I thought to myself as I started gaining speed. She was still pedaling comically for all she was worth, and I was coasting, but I was still gaining on her pretty quickly. So as I approached I called out "On your left!" and steered that way to pass her. I saw her look into her little rear view mirror and then... SHE MOVED LEFT AND CUT ME OFF! I hit the brakes and fell back, a little stunned that she had done that. I pedaled a little to regain my speed and once again caught up with her. "ON YOUR LEFT!" I yelled, thinking that perhaps she didn't see me. But again she looked into her mirror, made eye contact and saw it was me and veered left to cut me off. I braked again. Now I was a little peeved. Amazed by her rudeness I tried one last time to pass her, and as she veered left I veered right to try and cut around her but she whipped her bike to the right to cut me off again. Finally we were at the bottom of the hill and I thought for sure that she would pull away from me and I could be rid of her. No such luck though. She continued to pedal at top speed, but it just wasn't my top speed. So after being passed by a few speedier bikers, I veered wide to the left and moved on by her. The urge to teach her a lesson in physics by making my mass bounce into her mass and observe the results was brief, but satisfying. I didn't see her again for the rest of the race.
After the big downhill, the course became as flat as a pancake, and I felt pretty good pedaling into and around Palo and heading back to the hill. From a distance the hill looks long and steep. It is not an optical illusion though, and even up close it looks long and steep. Some people were walking their bikes up, and I had a brief pang of fear about having to stop and walk. But I downshifted and powered through it. I think I averaged about 5 or 6 MPH climbing that hill, but I did it! Then it was another long, steep downhill on the other side. Ahhh, gravity! My bike, in it's top gear with me pedalling as hard and fast as I can tops out around 25 MPH, so I was coasting at well over 30 MPH in no time. After the steep descent there was a long shallow downhill followed by more very flat road. I felt like I was making really great time, and had hopes of breaking an hour. Then we turned around and in no time that long shallow downhill became a long shallow uphill, and that excellent steep, long descent became just the opposite. Ahhh, gravity... you heartless wench. My speed dropped drastically, but I did manage to pedal that entire hill also. Heading back into the park, I was wiped out. My legs were achy and tired, and I knew that the run would be grim. I passed Dad and Jason, who cheered me on loudly and bolstered my courage for what was about to come.
I racked my bike and patted her seat, thanking her for staying in one piece for the ride. After quickly stripping out of my bike shorts and helmet and into my running shorts, I was off. I skipped the gel experience this time. I hobbled up the hill that was the transition area and headed for the open road.
As expected, my legs revolted before the first turn onto the long street leading across the dam. It was sheer willpower that kept me jogging past Dad and Jason and around the corner, but then they gave up the ghost. I just about collapsed, and slowed to a walk. The sun was shining brightly now, and the temperature was climbing. But almost everyone else was running, so I figured I'd better get to it. The run course was hilly and all on pavement. I have been running on flat land, so the hills were the challenge. I'd run up as far as I could get, walk to the top, and run on the downhills. My calves felt like tennis balls and my quads were burning through the whole thing. My friend Matt passed me just after the turn around, on his way to a 1:29:10 finish 214/648 overall. And I kept on going. At the water station I grabbed a cup and walked a bit. As I emptied the cup over my head, my foot found the edge of the blacktop and I went down hard, scraping my hand a little. Embarrassment brought me to my feet in an instant, and I walked off the turned ankle, shaking my head. I passed Dad somewhere along the final stretch but was so focused on getting to the finish that I missed him. Finally that big red inflatable arch came into view, and it was literally downhill to the finish! I picked up the pace as much as I could, which wasn't much, and finished as hard as I could go.
Rochesterfest Triathlon is in two weeks. I'm going to try and shed a dozen pounds by then, and work on my biking and running and the transition from one to the next. My swim is pretty dang strong for a guy my size. Now I need to improve those other two.