The fun started friday afternoon when I was shaving up for the race and sliced my right nipple open pretty hard. Yep, that really hurt. If that was a sign for how the rest of the weekend was going to go down I was really in trouble. Earlier in the week Bigun had developed a bad cough from a sinus thing and was kind enough to pass it around some. So all day Friday I was coughing with a sore throat, headache, and that kind of upper body hate crime that comes with a sinus infection. I had high hopes that it would clear up in the afternoon, but after cutting my chest like that I knew I was just going to be in some discomfort for a while. that's the shakes sometimes.
We got into Canton, NC where the race was about 7:15 friday night after packet pickup closed at 7 pm. We should have done something faster for dinner and made it there on time. Oh well, nothing difficult about race morning packet pickup. We got to Kelley's Mom's house in Maggie Valley soon after that, and watched the Olympics until bedtime. You never sleep really well the night before a big race, but we were quite comfortable and got enough rest to put out a good race the next day.
|I cannot overstate how beautiful this venue is. Absolutely incredible race site!|
Still, 5 am came really early. really really early. I had everything we needed laid out from the night before, so it was easy to get up and out the door, and get to the race site about 6:15. From the minute we got there everything seemed to be timed exactly right. I got air in the bike tires, got my packet & timing chip, got the TA setup, hit the port-a-let line, and everything fell into place right on time. Eerily on time.
|Setting up TA|
|Taping my 2 gels to the bike|
|One last check in transition before getting back to the swim start area|
Swim: Goal: 28 minutes, 2011: 30:48, Actual: 25:15 Success!!!
This swim also included a quarter mile run up to the TA after getting out of the water, so the real swim time was about a minute faster than that. And for reals? Five and a half minutes faster than last year? That really happened.
|I'm one of the blue caps about to start|
|I know this was before the race because I'm still smiling.|
That water was FREEZING cold. Much colder than I expected. They said the water temps were supposed to be around 70, it felt like maybe 65, more like 63. I knew the race was going to be wetsuit legal, but if it's going to be over 70 I don't like to wear the wetsuit, it doesn't give me that much of an advantage and you lose a ton of time in T1 getting it stripped off. I didn't wear it last year and left it in Raleigh this year. I should have worn the wetsuit.
The start was pretty clean. I was really glad to be moving so I could finally generate some heat after sitting in that shockingly cold water for 3 minutes after the elite's started. Some other people got in my way, but the contact really wasn't that bad. I started near the front on the right hand side, stayed on course pretty well, and had a clean swim to the first turn. My wave was all men under 39, and it got crowded between the bouys but that was about it for the most part. Swim 500 meters out, turn right, swim about 100 meters, turn right again. That actually felt like the longest part of the course. The remaining 900 meters felt like it went by faster than the first 600 did.
Coming back to the swim finish was really clean. There is a bridge that separates the lake from the river that feeds the lake, and the river water was significantly colder than the lake water. That was some serious motivation to swim faster. And check this out:
That's all the debris right in front of the bridge. After the elite and fast swimmers came through there and chopped all of that stuff up, it got really nasty. There were whole branches in there over an inch in diameter! Come on organizers, somebody's got to have a net hanging around somewhere. Of course the bridge creates a bottleneck so the swimmers get congregated right when the water gets cold and nasty. It threw everybody off. The guy in front of me apparently slowed down, so I ran up on his feet and got kicked in the face. Apparently the debris came from a few days worth of heavy rainfall. So after swimming over the floating trees and getting kicked in the face I just pulled off to the right and went water polo style (face out of the water) to the dock and pulled myself up out of the water.
T1: 2:41, 2011: 2:54
|Looking strong coming out of the water|
|So pretty out there. Glad to be done with the swim.|
Bike: Goal 1:10, 2011: 1:08:51, Actual: 1:13:34 Fail!
|Ready to ride!|
There are only two climbs on opposite sides of the same hill right next to the park. I came out and made it up the first climb, took the big descent on the other side pretty carefully, and then started getting passed on the flats heading into downtown Canton. I was trying to watch for my own age group, and I got passed by lots of older and a few younger people as well as by two people in my age group. I just kept a steady cadence and tried to keep my speed as high as possible for as long as I could.
Everything was really pretty smooth so far. I had to play it conservatively because it had been raining the entire time. Not really hard, but when you hit that screaming descent that should be done around 45 mph and the roads are very wet and it's still coming down, yea you slow down a bit. The rain let up for about 3 mintues when we hit downtown Canton, then picked up again as we went out to the next town. Luckily it stopped again when I was in downtown Bethel as well, as these small town downtowns are the only places with any other automotive traffic or spectators and have the tightest turns on the course. So the only place it was dry was the only place you did not want to wipe out. That was pure luck.
I knew my nutrition strategy was to drink one bottle of sports drink and one bottle of water on the bike. For some reason the sports drink tasted disgusting, so that was kind of tough. I needed to take one gel at mile 5, and another after mile 20. With no garmin to give me the distance markers this was a total guess. On the way out I noticed one intersection with a "no outlet" sign and no street name sign, and made a mental note to take the second gel when I got back to that intersection. No outlet and no name, time to shoot the Roctane. That one actually worked, I found the intersection on the way back and was able to take both gel's at the right time.
After Bethel the course lollipop'd back towards the park. The first screaming descent done in the rain became the second climb done in the rain. I still put up a pretty strong climb. Decent, but not great. After getting up that big climb (it was bigger than the first climb) I got my feet out of the shoes. Then realized there was still one more uphill section that I would have to muscle through, oh well. That made for a soggy run in my socks from the dismount line back into T2. I got passed by one more person from my age group right before the climb.
|Actually I'm still wearing shoes there. This was still before the bike ride.|
T2: 58 seconds, Goal: < 5 minutes total, 2011: 4:50, Actual: 3:39 Success!
Drop off the bike and helmet, running shoes on, race belt on, grab the hat and go run.
Run: Goal 45 minutes, 2011: 48:47, Actual 49:53 Fail!
|Running over the same bridge that I swam under earlier in the day|
It felt like I kept a pretty even 8 minute pace going uphill, but of course I have nothing to verify that with. I did pass several people in the first half of the run, but nobody in my age group. I felt pretty good when I hit the turnaround and did actually drop the hammer to come home.
Unfortunately, I think I may have dropped that hammer on my foot. About 4.5 miles into the run I got totally deflated. With no more calories left to burn off, I had bonked and was walking. Slouched, couldn't really hold my head upright anymore, something about all of that rain and nasty mess on the course had left me gone. I would try my best to shake it off and recover, get in some more distance, then slouch over again. On the way out, I noticed a landmark and said that when I got back there I would run hard into the finish. Some of the early walking was preemptive so I'd be able to run that last bit with energy.
When I did hit that landmark I was able to run it into the finish. I got passed by one guy in my age group and got a bit deflated I thought that was my spot to USAT nationals that he was taking, and I couldn't get it back. But after I hit the landmark to run that last half mile back in, I actually passed somebody else from my age group. It turned out to be the first guy that passed me on the bike! He ran out of steam and was in worse shape than I was. I'll take it.
As I turned from the road onto a gravel point somebody else passed and told me to sprint hard to the finish with him. I tried, but he still beat me out with the sprint by about 20 feet.
|That guy. Stupid sprint finish. I thought I was going to puke.|
|Glad to be crossing that line! Clock actually says 2:35 something, my wave started 3 minutes in.|
|I can barely stand up|
Sure, I didn't make that goal time but I'm not going to call a PR a fail.
|That guy freaking made it!|
|Completely spent. Found a bench to sit on. This is what happyness looks like.|
|Finally I can rehydrate.|
|Kelley thinks that look on my face is hilarious|
So I finished 95 out of 193 men, and 14 out of 24 in my age group. My biggest goal for the race was to qualify for the USAT Age Group Nationals short course race, which meant that I had to be in the top third of my age group here. Last year I finished 14th of 39 men age 35-39. With only 24 people in the field Saturday I had to finish in the top 8 to qualify. Ironically? Only 6 minutes separated me in 14th place from the 8th place qualifier. and I was 5 minutes slower on the bike and 1 minute slower on the run. If I had last year's bike and run times with this year's swim and transitions I would have been in. You can't control who's going to show up on race day so I really can't beat myself up too bad about that one, but it's still a goal fail. I could have been 6 minutes faster.
I also could have been much slower. Crap in the water? Rain on the bike? Ran out of gas on the run? It could have been much worse. I did still average 20.3 mph on the bike, making the goal of finishing over 20 mph. And you will rarely hear me complain about a 10k run under 50 minutes. That swim time is pretty amazing, with a 1:42/100m pace. Last year's race times were all around a 2:03 pace.
The rest of the weekend was spent like this:
|Recovering, drinking coffee on the deck|
|You can see the handrail for the deck here, and there are 15 waterfalls like this within earshot|
|Seriously, 15 waterfalls can get really loud.|
|Fer? really? you're going to put FER' on your sign? I have to make fun of that.|