Father's Day 2011. Rochester, MN. My friend Matt Russell joined me for the 4th annual Rochesterfest Triathlon. It was a cool, overcast day. Temps in the low 70's. It was an excellent day for the race! I was not nearly as anxious or nervous about this one as I have been in the past. Perhaps because I'm gaining experience. It was going to be a tough race, because I didn't get much sleep the night before. The Boyo slept in the bed with the Wife and I and he sleeps like an octopus - arms and legs all over the place. With Mom having a stroke a week ago and I developing a juicy sinus infection and ear infection, and the blooming allergies, well... I just didn't get much training done between the Pigman and today. Two runs, 4.5 miles. That was it! The last time I had been for a swim was the Pigman. Same with the biking. I figured that I'd just do the best I could, try to keep breathing, and avoid the DNF.
The Olympic distance athletes went first. They waited to start the sprint folks until the last wave of Oly's had done a lap. The Wife and Kiddos had come to watch along with a friend of ours, and I had given my glasses to them to hold. Turns out I did that way early. I was standing at the start line a good twenty minutes before I got to go, relying on my goggles to see. Turns out this is not such a great thing, and I was a little dizzy when they told us we had five minutes to the start of our wave.
My wave had the Clydesdales and Athenas (Those of us over 200 lbs) along with the team swimmers and the elite athletes. Quite a mix of body types and skill levels all entering the water at once. I was talking with another guy as we stood there. It was his first Rochesterfest, too. Then it was tie for the group start.
Swim - 6:46 29/243 overall, 21/127 mens, 2/16 Division
I think I like group starts better than time trials like we did at the Pigman. As our group of thirty or so splashed out and people started diving and swimming, I kept running through the water until I was chest deep and not too far behind a clump of swimmers. I was waiting to see if there would be a good opening. Sure enough, there was, and I dove for a space between two bodies and within a few strokes had passed the clump. As I did my spy-hopping to spot out in front of me, I saw perhaps ten other people ahead of me. The course was laid out to favor those who breathed on the right side, and I didn't need to spot too often because I kept myself about fifteen feet from the markers. This kept me out of the pack trying to swim close to them, and allowed me to relax into my stroke and get some good glide! This was the first race in which I didn't collide with anyone, which was awfully nice! Though I did stop once to flip my wetsuit zipper pull back behind me, because I thought that was important for some reason. The swim was going smoothly, though I was having some breathing troubles from allergies and the sinus infection. But I felt very comfortable and relaxed. Perhaps too relaxed. As I turned the last pylon and headed for the beach I stopped, literally stopped, to look for the Wife and Kiddos on shore to wave to them. I had been thinking that it would be really cool to wave to them from the water, as if I needed to prove that I really was way out in the middle of the lake! After a few seconds it dawned on me that perhaps since this was race day I should put my face down and get going. I mentally kicked myself for the delay, but figured it was no big deal, since I still had a bike and a run to go before I was finished.
As I came out of the water I tried to unzip my wetsuit, but it was stuck for some reason. I spent much of the morning zipping and unzipping it to practice, and now it was stuck! Fortunately, there was my family, cheering me on! They handed me my glasses and helped with the zipper and I was on my way to the transition. Turns out that if I had swam just a little harder, I would have been 1st in my swim division. The guy who beat me crossed the timing mat literally a step ahead of me. Our times are both 6:46, his a few hundredths of a second above mine. Ah well. It was off to T-1!
This has been my slowest transition to date. There were several factors, the main one being that I just could not seem to breathe! As I entered the transition area, my chest felt clogged and junky, as if I had cotton in my lungs. Thanks allergies! So I walked the transition area, took my time stripping off the wetsuit and getting on the bike gear. I had planned on sucking down a gel and some water too, but didn't feel like I should block my mouth too much and inhibit my already wheezy breathing any more. I gave a brief thought to just stopping. Really. My hands were resting on my bike saddle and I thought "What if I just call it a day now? I just finished my good event and can't breathe. What will the bike and run be like?" Then I figured that I could take the bike easy and just treat today like a big brick workout if nothing else. If I felt too lousy I'd just come on home and call it a day. So I walked my bike out to the timing mat and jogged it up to the mount up line. It was time to ride.
Bike - 10 miles, 41:39 201/234 Overall, 123/127 Mens, 15/16 Division
The bike path is pretty interesting. A five mile series of mostly going uphill, but then five miles of coming mostly downhill! The five miles out was painfully slow for me, as I was going slower than I normally would just to give my lungs a break. By the turn around I was still pretty wheezy, and was thinking that unless I could breathe better by T-2. that 5K was going to be a walk instead of any running. Thankfully the long slow and steady uphills went the other way and I was cruising along at top speed for much of the way home. I even passed a couple of people. But mostly spent the ride getting passed. I noted a serious difference between my $99 Denali and the much higher priced tri bikes out there. On the stretches that were pretty flat but with a slight downhill trend, I could get my bike up to its highest gear and be pedalling furiously until there was no way to add power to the speed. My max speed is 25 mph like that. As I was doing this on one stretch, I was passed by a VERY fast biker. I noted that his pedals were rotating much slower than mine, so he could still add power to his speed. I just couldn't. I'm not sure Lance Armstrong could get my bike much past 25 mph. The gearing just isn't there. So I may have to do some upgrading on the bike next season, or when my fitness level warrants a speedier bike!
As I approached the dismount, I saw my family cheering me on again. It was very fun and motivating to see them smiling and encouraging me to keep going. So I jogged my bike most of the way back to my transition spot and got ready for my run.
As I pulled off my bike shorts and slipped on my run shorts I took stock of my lungs. Still cottony, and a deep breath triggered a coughing jag that brought up globs of goo. But I was only a 5K away from finishing. Heck, I can WALK a 5K if I have too! I tore open the vanilla gel I had meant to eat before my bike and swallowed most of it, followed by water and Gatorade. It was time to get running.
Run - 42:02 220/234 Overall, 115/127 Men, 14/16 Division
As I jogged over the timing mat, I saw my happy, cheering faces again and that boosted me quite a bit. I ran out of the park. I ran down the street. I ran much farther than I thought I could! Then I realized that I was inhaling and exhaling with every stride. Way too fast, and it sounded way too wheezy. So I slowed to a walk and wheezed for a minute until my respiratory rate was below 50 breaths per minute again. It was going to be a LONG 5K! Once my breathing was somewhat better, I took off again. Interestingly, my jelly legs were not my greatest concern, as I was keeping close tabs on y breathing! By mile 1 though, I was starting to feel OK, and jogged more than I walked for the second mile. At the turn around I saw a medic that I had worked with at Zumbrota Ambulance cheering people on. It was fun to hear him cheering me on by name! Then everybody around me knew just who they were passing!
I usually try to walk the water stations, but I was feeling good in my jog and didn't want to stop. In fact, for over a half mile in that second mile, I actually felt good and able to keep on going. I wasn't thinking about anything about controlling my breathing, and when I realized that I had run probably 3/4 mile I suddenly wanted to remember what I was thinking about or doing or whatever that let me just keep going. This of course led me to focus on my stride, breathing, lungs, hips, shinsplints, and I was soon walking again. I split the remaining mile into jogs and walks, sure that I was going to be crossing the finish around two hours anyway and mostly just wanting to be able to breathe when I did it. As I approached the corner that led to the park I decided to just run and see how far I could get. Turns out I could get all the way to the finish.
About 50 yards from that beautiful inflatable arch I decided to "turn on the speed" and sprint to the finish line! My brain called for full speed ahead. My body went no faster. A little voice came back from wherever the engineering room is in my body, speaking with a Scottish accent. "We're givin' it all we've got, Ca'ptin!" Meh. So this was my top speed. OK, so be it. I saw my beautiful wife and kids cheering for me and my smile got even bigger! I crossed the finish line in 1:38:06, smiling and breathing!
I improved my swim time from the Pigman (based on time to swim 100 yards, I went from 1:37 per 100 yds, to 1:32 per 100 today.) And I actually shaved 42 seconds off of my run! Improvement in two of the disciplines!
I am pleased with my time, as I had been wanting to be around 1:45:00. And considering the allergies and the illness, it was a pretty good performance. A fun race, well worth doing again next year!