Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Several years ago the Ironman company tried to do a couple of races in Utah Lake in June. The first year a fellow had a cardiac episode in the choppy conditions and died. The next year they canceled the swim because of the chop, and the next year they moved the race to Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. Two years ago a local group brought the half distance back to Utah with the Utah Half in August, which I skipped. Last year DR talked me into racing the Utah Half with him. There was little wind, but it was scorching hot. I won entry to this year's edition in a raffle, so I was back again this year. The other half distance races I've done this year (Oceanside, CA and Boise, ID) both ended up being windy and cold, so I was actually looking forward to warm weather and calm winds. But, apparently the long-course-triathlon gods hate me. As the start time neared, the wind and clouds picked up to end what had been a pretty calm morning - and ruining any hope of a calm swim. I bobbed in the water as the original start time came and went while the race directors tried to figure out what to do. Then my guts sent me the emergency launch sequence notification. I barely noticed the five minute warning over the din of the alarm bells from my stomach. There was no way I was going to make it through the entire swim, nor any way I could make it to the port-a-pottys all the way over in transition and back in five minutes, even if I wasn't wearing a wetsuit. So, I became a cliche. You know, one of those you-know-you're-a-triathlete-when cliches. Fortunately I have a two-piece wetsuit. So, I swam to the very end of the pier (well away from the other swimmers), pulled down my wetsuit pants, and released what had already become at best a tenuous grip. Unfortunately, I race in a one-piece trisuit. So, strenuous and liberal irrigation was necessary, which I accomplished via the opening in my trisuit. For once, the merkiness of the water worked to my advantage, hiding me and my deeds. I did this all in less than the five minutes I had left before race start. And before they announced again that they were going to wait another fifteen minutes, despite the calm conditions. It bothered me. I mean, apart from the obvious inconvenience, the way I saw it the waves weren't that big since we were swimming in the harbor. Besides, anybody stepping up to the long distance shouldn't be whining about the chop. In my usual, subtle and understated way, I suggested that to one of the race directors that they make the swim optional: "Hey, why don't you make the swim optional? That way, those guys who don't want to swim can go put their pullups on while those of who brought our big boy pants can swim. I'm just saying." Yep, I was making friends and influencing people Saturday morning. The race directors decided on a compromise - instead of cancelling the swim altogether or doing the entire two loop course, we'd swim a single loop. The start line was about 100m from the exit, so my best guess is that the course we did was about 1000m. (1900m=2L+100, Ts=L+100). The swim went better than expected. I was able to stick with the group swimming into the wind until we made the turn. The tailwind pushed me back in. I was to the exit at the ramp in about 18:30. And out of the water at about 21:00 - I couldn't get out of the ramp. My one complaint with the race was the lack of carpeting on the snot slick ramp. I slipped and fell back in no fewer than four times and ended up crawling out of the water. I burned too many matches on the bike, despite the 3:00 flat split. Most of the course wound through the back roads of South County near the lake. I hate that route from having ridden it countless times in punishing crosswinds that seemed to hit me at a yaw angle that negated any tailwind component, regardless of which way I was riding. Saturday was especially bad since I was riding a disc wheel, the winds were at 25+, and I was actually worried about my time. It may also have had something to do with the fact that the rinse cycle portion of the emergency launch process had washed off all of my anti-chafe. 56 miles on a bendover bike with no chamois and no anti-chafe - it sucked a lot. At least the hail on the way back in distracted me from my broken junk. Cold and chafed, I was not happy coming in to T2. Shortly into the run, I met up with DR, who had flatted twice on the bike and called it a day. Despite his official DNF, he decided to run with me anyway. The first lap went well, better than expected even. I slowed a little on the second (and final) lap, but was still on pace for a comfortable PR both on the run and overall. I was also on pace to go sub-six for the first time. And then I paid the price for the bike at mile 11 as I imploded. I was still able to 'run', but was doing so at a pace that was 2:00-3:00/mile slower than my previous pace. I ground it out, with DR's encouragement, coming in at 5:53. It was a good day - a PR day, in fact - despite falling apart on the run. I estimated that if the swim course hadn't been shortened, I'd come in around 6:10. I figured that 18:30 put my 100m times at 1:51, which would put the extra 900m at around 17:00. I'm comfortable with this since I'm always faster after the first 1000m.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I've often lamented by descent into becoming a triathlete, not someone who does triathlons. And I still am. Part of that is because of the stupidity exhibited by tri geeks. They (and I'm not including myself in this discussion of the group) swallow whatever anyone tells them, as long as they promise it'll make them faster. There are several, many of which I'm sure to touch on later. The first one is the best: You should ALWAYS ride in the aero position. This is my absolute favorite - common sense be damned, the tri-geeks persist in this. It seems like common sense that there are three things determine how wind acts on you as you ride: 1) How big of a target you present, 2) How hard the wind is apparently blowing, and 3) the direction the wind is blowing. Apparently, since tri-geeks can only control one of these three things, they believe that presenting as small a target as possible is the solution that makes you faster all the time. Not so much. The aero position only provides an advantage if the apparent head wind is greater than 17-18 mph. Apparent wind is the remaining vector after you factor in your direction of travel and the direction the wind is blowing. With that in mind, there are three common situations where staying in the aero position (which is as uncomfortable or even more so than it looks) is stupid or maybe even dangerous. First is climbing. On a calm day, riding uphill in your aerobars at 12-13 provides no aerodynamic advantage. Yet I see tri-geek after tri-geek grinding away up AF Canyon in their aerobars, convinced in the truth that its faster. You know, because somebody told them it was. Second is descending. A friend of mine, let's call him Jared, called me one day as he left the emergency room to tell me there was a hazardous section on the road up AF Canyon. Apparently hazardous for cyclists anyway. When Jared explained to me where the spot the spot was, I knew it immediately. It's really nothing more than a slight dip. Unless you're in your aerobars. Descending a curvy road. With no access to your brakes. And all of your weight is over your front wheel. Which was exactly what the genius Jared had dropped off at the hospital was doing before Jared found him. Based on the evidence, Jared said it looked like genius had hit the dip and then hit the road, leaving large patches of his face and several teeth as he skidded along before slamming to a stop into the hillside adjacent the road. I prefer to have my weight and hands positioned so I can control my bike when I'm descending, even if it is 1-2 mph slower - I'm picky that way. Third is in a stiff tail wind. At the Vikingman last year, we battled 30+ mph headwinds on the way out. I was lucky to do 12 mph on the flats. With an apparent headwind of 40+ it made sense to 'get aero.' But at the turn, that same headwind turned into a tail wind. I passed scores of people at 30+. You see, they were all tucked away while I made myself as big as possible by sitting straight up to catch the wind. Each person I passed shot me the same confused look, wondering how I could possibly be going faster than him while not being aero. Apparently the idea that wind can push you where you want to go, you know, the sail concept, was completely lost on them. Or at least ignored. Ignorance of the realities of something as basic as wind, that's one of the reasons I hate grouping myself with triathletes.