Monday, October 10, 2011

So You Think You Can Run?

"First off the bike". Spend enough time with triathletes and you are bound to hear this phrase bounced around. A few words that say "catch me if you can"; that say you've swum and ridden faster than anyone; a few words that used to sound really cool and exciting. Now they sound tough. They sound heavy. A few words that bore down on my shoulders yesterday like Rubio with a deck of 'special' playing cards. That will make sense if you know Rubio. Anyway...

Bribie Triathlon - race one. We couldn't have dialed in a better day for racing. The sky was clear and blue, the air still and the water cool enough for a wetsuit. Perfect. While it doesn't seem to get any easier waking up at 4:15am to get ready, the trip there was easy and Adz was nice enough to give me a lift. The first debate of the day was 'to wetsuit, or not'. Everything pointed to not. A) It's Bribie, and tide assisted. B) It's only 750m. C) IT'S BRIBIE! So we wetsuited-up. I know, right? I tried to justify it as taking the opportunity to practice racing in a wetsuit and getting the transition right but really it is just hard to pass up the chance to float a bit more! Lance's justification was that he paid 'x' amount for a wetsuit, so why not wear it when you can as in sunny QLD opportunities are pretty sparse. And Adz... well, I think he just went with the flow. 

The game plan was pretty simple. Checking my times from this race last year I finished 2nd to a guy (TG) who I knew was racing this time. After talking with a few people the plan was to hold on as long as I could in the swim, kill it on the bike to catch him, and then duke it out on the run.

Once it the water I'll admit it didn't feel that cold. For the first time I positioned myself right at the front and ready to roll. I'm here to win! (thanks Macca for that quote). Adz and I started side by side and TG was there as well. A few handshakes later and we were off. For the first half of the swim Adz and I matched it stroke for stroke - a pretty quick tempo and one that had me wondering if I could keep it up for another 5 minutes or so. I could see TG pulling away up ahead with the Hawaii Ironman World Champion Macca's nemesis, Yo-Yo. I realized that I had slowly drawn closer to the shore, so angled back out a bit so I could make the most of the flowing current. For some reason I was really giving it in the kick - I think seeing TG up ahead made me push harder to minimize the damage! Around the final buoy and before I knew it was fingers dragged across sand and I was up on my feet and gunning it to my bike. At the time I was thinking I could be mistaken, but I think I was 3rd out of the water! (Turns out I was third out of the water, 36 seconds behind TG).

Focused when I got to the bike - wanting to get the wetsuit off quickly but knowing that when I try to rush the brain and hands don't talk to each other very well. Relaxed. But fast. Getting that balance right is a fine art! Pretty happy with that part of my transition, I got the wetsuit off easy enough, helmet on and out onto the bike course. The part for me to improve on is to keep the pace going and jumping on the bike, and also getting my feet into my shoes. I had pushed down hard on my shoes so when I tried to get my feet in, the top of the shoes were pushed in which made it hard to make the smooth transition. Once I was sorted though, I focused on the task at hand - a hard 20k TT! Having raced at Bribie a bit over the years I feel like I know the course layout pretty well - which is great because I can focus on hitting the corners smoothly and accelerating at the right time. No sign of TG for the entire first lap, but at the turnaround heading back for the second lap I caught sight of him - only 100m or so between us. Decision time. With nothing to lose I thought "let's see what these legs can do" and I made a determined effort to close the gap. The E-114 leaped under me and as the k's ticked over the gap was getting shorter and shorter and I knew I was going to catch him. Decision time 2. I decided to keep the pressure on and keep pushing past him. It wasn't until the final 200m or so I kicked it up to an easier gear to spin my legs at a high cadence to get ready for the task ahead. A quick transition and off onto the run course with about 8 seconds up my sleeve. First off the bike. But at what cost?

Decision time 3. I decided to put the foot down and gun it. Running is my thing, right? 5k I know I can do. Hard. I wanted TG to see me burn off into the distance and give up there are then. That would be a great plan if A) I hadn't just ridden a tough 20k like there was no run (which it was quite apparent now that there is!) and B) TG was a crap runner (which it is also apparent now not to be true!). I managed to hold him off until the last k or so, but man I was hurting. It has been a long time since I was in that much pain. Not just physically but mentally. My mind had a microphone this time - stop running you fool! - and it took a lot to get the positives to kick in - less than 10 minutes to go, you can do this. Pretty weak positives but that was about all I could muster! Picking off people one by one to help tick over the time and keep my mind occupied. When he passed me I had nothing. My heart felt like it was going into overdrive! It was pretty scary actually and for a moment I thought I'd have to stop. A look over my shoulder with 500m to go and I knew third was a long way off so I eased off and slipped the ol' rig back a gear. Something I have never done before but I was busted! So you think you can run? Apparently not as well as I thought.

Second place and a really good battle on the course! Some people race to train and others train to race - I am definitely the latter! In the end TG won by 16 seconds.

Swim 10:08 (3rd) Bike 28:53 (1st) Run 18:48 (2nd) Overall 57:51 (2nd).

Some lessons learned - a change of nutrition and adding caffeine pre-race may have influenced how my body felt late in the run. Also, I have a better idea of what my body can handle in terms of riding hard and then trying to run. With that in mind I knocked out the 2nd fastest bike time overall (1st in my category). Lastly, the need to be really mindful of what is happening around me. Maybe if I hadn't gone alpha male off the bike I could have eased off, caught my breath and waited for TG, then run shoulder to shoulder with him and made him set the pace. A bit of a breather may have let me reset enough to be able to push when I needed to on the run. 
Always something to take away from a race. Some lessons learned. And sometimes a pottery mug. 

Thanks ChainGang for an awesome steed and pre-race prep, and Reddog for getting me to the start line ready to rumble.

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