Sunday, September 2, 2012

It was no Chicago Triathlon but the Chicopee Check for Change Triathlon wore me out.

This past week was chaotic to say the least. Between coming back from the Timberman Triathlon Festival, a new job position to apply for some job and some serious personal matters to boot...I was a little frazzled. I wasn't able to go to Chicago for the Olympic Triathlon there. The folks at Lifetime Fitness Triathlon series were so understanding (they had offered me free entry to Chicago after reading the post about my horrendous experience 3 years ago) and offered me free entry to any of their races this year or next. I haven't had the chance to race one of their events yet but I'm already blown away by what a class act they are!

Even though I couldn't get to Chicago, I had to find some type of race for my sanity. I mean I've been training for Chicago and I could only do so much to address other stuff and a few hours of my being away racing wouldn't hurt the contrary it might be do me some I got on the interwebs and started looking for races. I found the "Check for Change" sprint triathlon out in Chicopee MA and signed up. Even though it wasn't an Olympic distance race, I'd been doing all this training, at least I was racing and since it was local I might have a chance at doing well...and...and...and...I figured its in MA so it should be nice and flat (more on that terrible assumption later). Race morning I roll out of bed at 5am to pack up my gear, snag breakfast for the trip and get on the road.

I get there about 90 minutes before the start. What? If you've ready any post in this blog You KNOW  I have to get there in time to register, setup transition, get in a warm up swim and just chill (don't judge me). So I get registered, get all my stuff, get all my numbers on everything, walk up the hill into the transition area (yes, it was a hill and it would feel even worse later, stay tuned) and get set up. I hate...hate...HATE people who have no idea how to set up a transition area. If the space of your bike and tri gear set out in transition is wider than 14 inches...YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG! Buy a book, check out the interweb for pictures, or better yet...LOOK AROUND at how other people set up their gear! There is nothing I hate more than having to shoehorn my nice gear and my even nicer bike into a tiny space because someone just laid out all their stuff like its a picnic and walked away. Sonuva! Phew, deep breath...moving on...

With everything set up I figured I'd walk down to the water, throw on my wetsuit, swim out to the first buoy to relax and see how that water felt. This has become my ritual and what's weird is it has replaced the ritual of sitting on the shore and dreading the water like its acid. I was even comfortable enough with it to flash J a thumbs up before heading into the water. Weird...I know! So in the water I went, a couple trips out to the first buoy and then talking to the other folks in the water about how the course was laid out. Of course...I was looking for other folks in my age group and trying to identify the strong swimmers. Not to race against of course but to sit off their hips or feet and draft off of. I've gotten to be a better swimmer, not a great swimmer. I need all the help I can get.

0.5 Mile swim - 12:43
So we get lined up in the water...and we're off. Because I have this new found love of swimming, I've started to get up towards the front third of the pack at triathlons so I sighted on the first buoy and got to swimming. The guy beside me couldn't seem to maintain a pace or a straight line and kept bumping into me...which I've come to expect at a mass start swim but undoubtedly he wasn't comfortable with it because he kept trying to push and kick me away as I tried to get around him...but everything changed when he tried to punch me away. Dude, are you serious right now?! We're trying to get through a swim, people are stacked on each other in the equivalent of washing machine-like water conditions and you want to get angry with me?! Well, due to my new found comfort in the water, I changed my line, increased my stroke to try to get around him...and when my right hand come over the top, and even with his head, I made sure to catch the edge of his goggles. Not to pull them off of course but to pull them down...thus making it necessary for him to stop dead in the water and let me, and as I glanced over, a few other swimmers, get by this guy who thought he owned the water. I hope you learned the lesson buddy...lead, follow or get out of the way.

Once I got past the human speed bump, the swim was smooth sailing. The water was a little choppy and I was trying to be faster with my turnover so I ended up taking a breath every 3rd stroke instead of my customary every 6th. As I got out of the water I pulled off my goggles and cap (putting one into the other in one smooth motion, a nifty trick I read about on the interweb) and made my way into transition. Remember that "little hill" I mentioned earlier? Ya, I had to run up that in order to get to my bike. It was just long and steep enough to make take your breath away once you reached the top. As I'm trying to get air into my lungs, I finish pulling off my wetsuit, grab my bike and gear and get out of transition in a harried 1:33.

15 mile bike - 43:57
Getting out on the bike, I was so relieved I didn't have to pee like I did at Timberman. I felt good, my GPS was working and now it was all about settling into a good rhythm and making sure I was staying above 20mph on the course. The course was rolling and while there were no mileage markers there were volunteers and cops at every turn to make sure you stayed in the course. Normally I take a caffeinated gel once I get on the bike for some simple carbs and a little pick me up but instead I focused on drinking as much of the electrolyte drink I had on board. The course was hilly and I was exerting way more energy than I'd planned. At about the 12 mile mark I felt a little dip in my energy level and realized missing that gel was a bad idea. Well, nothing I can do about it now...just pedal faster and get this over. I made it into transition, dumped the bike, and was out on the run in a smooth 49 seconds. Yup, you read that right...49 seconds! I finally put together a good T2 and now I was out on the run.

3.5 mile run - 27:15
Remember the hill we had to run up to get into transition? Well, you guessed it, we had to run down it to start the run. It was so steep and I was running so fast that the gel I stuck in the leg of my tri-suit literally shot out and hit a spectator. Great, so much for a sugar/caffeine shot, nothing to do now but grit my teeth and focus on the run. The course led me out to a hill, which running up, I couldn't see the top...only to be rewarded with what I thought was the top being a false flat and I had to keep climbing. What sadistic motherf'er came up with this course?! I increased my speed, pumped my arms and once I hit the top...tried to not throw up or have my head explode! Thank goodness that was over, now to catch my breath and focus on a good rhythm. I ran the loop, down a hill to the bottom to which I thought would be the left turn to the finish line only to hear the volunteer at the water station say "great job #98, only one more lap to go". me?! I have to do that again?! I thought my heart would explode the 1st time I ran this loop and I have to do it again?! I don't think I've ever wanted to be done with a run so badly.

The only good thing was that on the 2nd loop I saw people to pick off and did so, one by one, in order to occupy my brain. Finally back down the hill a second time, I turned left into the finish, emptying anything I had in the tank, finishing in 1:26:13 and 35th overall. Not bad, not stupendous. I went to check the results and was surprised at the number of folks in front of me because I hadn't realized there were that many and noticed their times were considerably faster. Did I have a bad day? Was two weekends of triathlon racing too much? Even so, I was happy with the swim and bike times and the run wasn't that bad considering it was two laps up and around Mt. Everest! Well... seeing the "official times" posted online a couple days later I saw that I was 27th overall because (wait for it...wait for it...) some of the people who finished in front of me did only ONE LAP of the run course and got disqualified!!! Unbelievable. Part of me understands that it happened but a bigger part of me was relived to see I had run a competitive time and did indeed finished higher overall. No podium but still an effort I can be proud of and another race in the books.

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