It’s finally time for another race report. Despite my lack of updating here on the site, I have been somewhat hard at work on the training plan I posted awhile back. As much as I hate skipping ahead and ruining the end of the story in the first paragraph, let me go ahead and get it out of the way: PODIUM FINISH BABY, YEAH!!
In the days leading up to the race there was a very close eye on the weather. It is unseasonably cold in the mornings and with a cold front blowing in late last week there were some pretty hairy predictions that I wanted no part of. My Dad and I were returning to the race where we started 2 years ago, and one that I knew very well as it shares the same course as a few others I have done. We were literally checking the forecast every 10 minutes hoping and praying for even a single degree of abatement. The race was scheduled for a 7:30am start time. Forecast : 45 degrees at 7:00am, 48 degrees at 8:00am – anything for a delay.
We set our alarms for 5:00am and started with coffee, breakfast of choice, and last minute preparations. By 6:00am wheels were up and we were en route. Upon arrival I warmed up on the turbo trainer for a bit in the parking lot before we headed up and got body marked and entered transition to get setup. Did I mention how difficult it was to say “30” when asked for my age (it’s marked on one calf so your age group can be identified by other competitors)? Harder than I expected… youth is wasted on the young. Feel free to read into as much irony as you can stomach there.
Transition setup was rushed. A marshal was shouting “2 minutes!” at the same time the announced was shouting “5 minutes!”, and let me tell you – the marshal was much scarier sounding. I decided to cope with the cold with arm warmers, fingered gloves, and socks. I laid everything out perfectly, got my shoes clipped in and started fishing for the rubber band ball I keep in my bag for securing my shoes in an optimal position for jumping on the bike as I run out of the transition area. At that point 1 minute was called out and I hadn’t yet gotten my swim gear ready. In the process of switching my focus to getting my goggles and swim cap I completely forgot about the rubber bands and I ran out of transition before the cut-off and accompanying scolding from the race marshal.
Before I was even in the door of the natatorium I knew I had forgotten something. “Oh well, just going to have to roll with it.” The pool start was one that I have done enough to be extremely comfortable with. I wore number 154, so I walked up in the line until there wasn’t a 2XX in sight and took a place in line to assess my surroundings. There were a couple talkative and very friendly guys there who struck up conversation and we ended up chatting until it was time to go. I’m sure that standing in line just a person or three behind the pool entrance in a sprint distance race is merely a glimmer of the nervous excitement that fills ironman competitors as they tread water with 2000 of their closest friends awaiting the roar of the canon that unleashes the fury of a mass start. That said, however, it is a unique feeling that I highly recommend.
The swim went off without a hitch. I swam faster than I did two years ago in this event, which is either impressive or sad since it was only my third time in the pool since September 2012. 4:25.7 for the 250 meter swim, which is 1:46/100m. Anything but the fastest swim of the day, but I was good with it.
T1, or the first transition went well in terms of executing my strategy. I stepped onto my towel and threw the section I had folded over onto the top of my feet and quickly grabbed a hand towel I had to dry off my arms so I could get arm warmers and gloves on. Then, with my feet mostly try I was able to get my socks on with no problem, then sunglasses(completely fogged up), helmet, and off I go. Since I couldn’t see a damn thing as I ran out of transition, I pulled off my glasses and shoved them down my tri top. “I will figure these out in a minute once I’m going.” Run past the mount line, hop on the bike being careful to get my feet on the TOP of my shoes since I didn’t have them rubber banded in place(success), and I was off! 2:56.7 spent in T1
All sounds great so far, right? Right… I quickly find out that despite the fact that I could have used 5 more minutes in transition, it was fine because Murphy himself came right in and finished the job…
Not 300 yards into the bike, and as I’m nearing the turn onto the County Road that makes up the majority of the bike course, I look down and see that my sole water bottle is hanging perilously half out of the cage that is zip tied to my aero bars. “WTF” is my first thought as it takes a second to register what is even happening. Immediately I see that 2 of the 4 zip ties that should be holding the bottle cage in place are absent. I have to deal with this now. I pull over and make a series of quick decisions. 1) “Don’t lose it, everything is fine.” 2) “Don’t lose your Garmin(mounted to the bottle cage). Stick it in your tri top pocket and you’ll have to roll with no data.” 3) “There is no where to put this bottle now, shove it down the tri top and let’s get on with this!” Keep in mind at this point I still don’t even have my feet in my shoes. Since I had to come to a complete stop and I’m right at the turn onto a road that I need to be moving full speed on I decided to jump completely off my bike and put my right shoe all the way on a strap it. I know I can get the other one on while I’m on the go, which proves to work out just fine. I’m guessing this cost me 30 to 45 seconds of time. In all of it, though, I’m proud of how I kept my head and never let myself lose focus. It’s one thing to lose your cool and have to regain composure down the road, it’s another to just keep it through any adversity. I’m happy with it.
It’s not as easy to get a bottle out of your top while you’re biking, and it’s even more not as easy to get it back in than with a bottle cage. I had decent success on the first try, so I all was going well until about the 5-6 mile mark (2-3 miles from the half-way point/turnaround). That’s when I pulled it out to take a drink and while stuffing it back down my tri top I didn’t realize that I pushed down the zipper. The first time I got the pedals around the crank I hit the bottle with my knee and launched it out of my top. I heard three things: the bottle hitting the ground, the bottle breaking and liquid splashing the pavement, and myself – “God-damnit!!”
Obviously this was a day that I was to be tested. Again, I never lost my composure. My immediate reaction was more of a subconscious response to something you never want to do – drop a water bottle off the bike. It took me about 0.5 seconds to take a breath and realize that I would be completely fine finishing the 10 miles I had left. Not to mention, I got the added benefit of a quick weight reduction. I was flying! Disasters included, I finished the 16 mile bike leg in 48:25.2 with an average speed of 19.8mph.
Coming into T2 I decided to play it as safe as possible. I came to a complete stop, dismounted, and ran in my cycling shoes back to my transition area to swap into my running gear. It may have cost me a couple of extra seconds, but I was done with mis-haps. The rest of the transition was uneventful and I got out in 1:30.0
The run really went well. Despite cold, heavy, feet for the first quarter mile, I really found my stride and was able to power through. I did walk a few steps through the aid station to make sure I could really drink water since I took in much less than planned on the bike, but that was the only change from my initial strategy. I kept my heart rate in the low 160’s and finished strong with a time of 24:13.9 and 7:49/mi pace. I have a lot of speed work to do to be really competitive, but my run training has paid off. The track interval workouts are no joke.
All in all I finished with a time of 1:21:31.7 for the 250m swim/16mi bike/5k run sprint.
Of course I didn’t know what my time was until long after I finished, nor did I know where I placed. The award ceremony started about 30 minutes after I finished and I was eager to get results. It started with the costume contest (it’s a Halloween themed triathlon after all!) A dude in a giant minion costume from Despicable Me won, it was pretty awesome. There was also a family dressed up like The Flintstones and two girls dressed as Batman and Robin that took home awards. Good fun. Then came women’s divisions and finally the men…
My dad finished just at the end of the women’s age group awards, which was really cool. I was standing right there and got to cheer him across the finish line and be there to congratulate him. No better father-son activity than hanging out with a couple hundred fellow lycra-clad weirdos – HA!
The awards announcer finally got to my 30-34 age group and began calling names. 1st – not me, nor would I even expect it. 2nd – not me, which I also hadn’t put in my mind as possible. Now I don’t guess that there was any greater length of time between 2nd and 3rd being called compared to any two other awards but it felt like an eternity. I literally closed my eyes and held my hands together in front of my mouth. I think I looked like a finalist on American Idol – you know when they close their eyes and you can literally see them repeating their own name over and over in their heads? Finally she called out: “3rd Place Dan Smith!”
I erupted. “YES!!!” Arms in the air, I pushed through the crowd and claimed my trophy. I had just done over an hour all out, but I don’t know that my heart rate was higher at any point in the day than right then. I hugged my dad, immediately took a picture of the trophy and sent it home.
Wrapping up, this was the perfect “imperfect” race. Better to preservere when everything goes wrong than to just finish when everything goes right. I achieved my goal, and I’m damn proud of it.
Now back to work! It’s a long road to winning these things…