Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Last Race, First Place (in my age group)

Surprising day at Cranberry Country Tri, that's for sure. We were racing in the middle of the EEE mosquito infestation zone, so first things first: put on the bug dope to avoid any mishaps. This is a nice race in a good venue. Lots of fast people show up here, so I was expecting nothing (coupled with it being my last tri of the year). A sold out field of around 522 added to the atmosphere on a pretty cold day for late August.

The race is set up as a .8m swim, 24.9m bike, 6.2m run. The bike course was altered for our "safety" right before the race, so the bike was a little long

Our group was wave 5 (out of 6), which is brutal because that means there's going to be a lot of traffic on the swim and the bike to weave through. The swim was an odd L shaped thing. I was hoping to have a fast swim, and had a decent start beside being pummeled at the beginning by legs, arms, elbows, the usual. Finally getting in my groove, I thought I was making good progress. Turns out that I "blazed" a 24:38, which was pretty disappointing (148th/522). At the time I didn't know it, but I had my suspicions. Not a great way to start.

Into the transition, I got out pretty quickly (by my standards) to get on the bike and start motoring. Just so happens that so did another person who was exactly the same speed as me. So, I had to ride with this other guy the entire way. Usually, company is great on the bike. But, not when you're not supposed to be drafting, and have to observe a three bike length zone. That meant I had to keep coasting at various points to stay out of his wake. Also, we were passing a ton of people, and over sometimes lousy roads. I tried to go past him, but he would pass me right back. So, I just sat in an figured I would conserve energy rather than waste effort repeatedly sprinting ahead. Ended up with a 1:03:16, good for 7th overall out of the pack.

Quick transition in T2, and onto the road. I was hoping to blitz the run in strong fashion. The legs turned over pretty well, and again I was passing a lot of people. It is a great feeling passing people in your age group. Pretty soon, I didn't see any other guys in my age group ahead of me, which meant (I thought) that the lead age group guys were way up the road and out of sight. I just tried to keep my own rhythm throughout the distance, keeping the effort high. My right Achilles started to twinge, a new feeling this season. I was attributing it to a chip strap that was too tight around my ankle (for timing purposes). Not time to waste to loosen it. I figured it's my last race, so even if I completely screw it up, I have some time to heal. Coming into the finish area, there was another guy in front of me in another age group. I had the momentary feeling of letting him finish ahead, but then dispelled it to race pace him in the finish chute. Went through the 10k in 39:18 for 14th overall.

This gave me a total time of 2:09:32. I wasn't terribly happy with the day after the race, and that feeling kept creeping in after the race. After I looked at the results and saw 1st in the age group, I was shocked. First, my time wouldn't have even placed in the age group last year. But, as Yogi Berra might say, "This year ain't last year." Second, I wasn't happy with my race overall. But, what the heck, someone has to win. The guy who came in second congratulated me and said he couldn't keep up with me on the run when I went by. That's a nice thing to hear. But, on the other hand, I was 14 minutes behind the winner. I know I'm not going to be that fast, but I figure I should be able to limit those loses.

Now that the season is over, there are a lot of positives to think about. I might get Honorable Mention in the USAT rankings. Maybe an outside show at All-American. But, there is a lot of room to improve. Back into the pool. Back on the indoor trainer. Another winter trying to grind out the hours preparing for next year.

In the interim, it's time for cyclocross season!!! Good times, muddy bikes, cold beer, steep hills, high barriers, and overall screwing around. Time to "transition" from tri-geek to cross-geek.

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