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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tri the Pee Dee - Mission Accomplished

My primary goal going into the Tri the Pee Dee Sprint Triathlon was to get my 5th SC Series race completed (rankings are based on your top 5 races), have a solid points race (finish close to the overall winner) and thereby have my name move to the #1 position in my age group in the Series Standings, and wrap up my short course season with a win. Very shallow, I know. Much of the desire for my name to be at the top of the list comes from a longing to check off the “be #1 in my age group” goal on my personal goal list. Other reasons include making my dad proud of me and showing my sponsor that they made a worthwhile investment when they invested in me. Of course, my dad is already proud of me, but I wanted him to see his son’s name in the #1 spot for the state series. Mental note: explore why is this so important to me? Anyway, mission accomplished. And hopefully my name stays at the top for the rest of the year.

The day got off to a rough start. I had the alarm on my watch set for 4:00 AM so I could have a relaxing morning with plenty of time to pack a cooler, eat breakfast, drink a few cups of coffee, and maybe read a magazine while emptying the tank. I remember waking up at 2:00 AM, looking at my watch, and thinking “great, I still have 2 more hours to sleep”. The next thing I knew, Jennifer was saying, “Honey, do you know that it’s 10 after 5, and I think Jim (step father-in-law) is at the front door”. Oh crap! My plan was to be pulling out of the driveway at 5:00 AM. After a few minutes of chaos we were on our way at 5:20 AM, breakfast in hand. Not too bad really, except for having to stop and use a convenience store bathroom.

We arrived at the event site and actually had plenty of time to get my packet, sticker up the bike and helmet, setup transition, chat with friends and get a quick warm up swim. Once again my wave was the 3rd to go off which I don’t care for too much so I had some time to stand around and psych myself up for the swim.

Getting psyched

Once the horn sounded I did a few dolphin dives in the shallows and was off to a fast start. When I checked out the situation after a minute or two and I was in the third spot, but not swimming with the two ahead of me. My stroke felt great. I was implementing the changes that I’d been working on last week and I wasn’t going in oxygen debt to do it. After a few minutes I started trying to sight on buoys but couldn’t find them in the fog. At that point I decided I should just follow the swim caps of the two ahead of me. When I caught sight of them they were way off on my right side but nearly even with me. I thought, darn I’m off course. So I put in a HUGE surge to try to bridge the gap over to them. As I was doing that, they had evidently found the turn buoy and realized that they were off course and had made hard slant towards me. When I saw this I realized that I had been on course and that I actually needed to turn back to the left to get around the buoy. I was a little disappointed that I let my chance to pull ahead get away and had cost myself valuable time.

We converged at the buoy and there was a little contact between us. Shortly after the turn we started catching the back of the 2nd wave that went off 4 minutes ahead of us. I lost the other two guys and I think they lost each other as we all had to do our best to weed our way through the other swimmers. This is the primary reason I don’t like racing in the age group division, constantly having your course impeded by slower athletes from previous waves. It’s very hard to maintain a good pack on the swim and I would surmise that I would actually race a little faster if I was going off in the first wave. Swim time: 11:49, OA Rank: #16, AG Rank: #1

The guy behind me is totally stoked with his swim! You can see how foggy it is on the lake.

Once out of the water there was a long run into transition. The transition went smoothly and soon I was off bike in hand. T1 time: 1:25

The bike course starts and finishes with about a mile of dirt road. In an effort to reduce the number of crashes on the mount/dismount section of the dirt road near the transition area, Setup Events laid down a surface covering. This worked well, although there were other loose-sand areas of the road that could have used the covering also. Anyway, once I did the flying mount onto the bike on the dirt road and managed to navigate onto one side of the sports court surface, I had a very hard time getting my right cleat clamped into the pedal. I eventually got it in and quickly picked up speed. The dirt didn’t hinder me too terribly much as I was able to get up to and hold about 22 mph riding the base bar. I thought about getting into the aerobars but decided against it.

I only had to pass 3 or 4 people on the dirt road and gave them plenty of warning that I was coming up on the left. This is not the norm for me since I generally pass a lot of riders on the bike course (strong cyclist + 3rd wave = many riders to pass) and it would take too much energy and concentration away from riding if I warned everyone that I pass that I’m coming. The Zipps help also in that you can hear the whoosh coming.

I’ve come to realize that I love hills. This course was flat and BORING! I can count the number of times I changed gears on one hand, apart from the four turns. I think the main reason I disliked this flat course is because with the lack of decision making required for gear changes, effort, cadence, and positions (standing vs. seated climbs) left nothing for my mind to do except grapple with the effort vs. suffering dilemma. Not fun. The only thing I had to use as a distraction from this battle of mind was the reeling in of other riders. The only interesting thing about this ride, apart from the dirt road and the massive bugs from the fields smacking me in the head, was when a rider's tire flatted just as I passed him after a long time of bringing him in. It was weird that it blew at the exact moment that I was passing him. For a second I didn’t know if it was his tire or mine. Good thing it was his because I wasn’t carrying a spare. I offered my empathy and went on my way up the road. Bike time: 39:16, OA Rank: #8, AG Rank: #1.

When I got back to transition I told my wife about him as I was transitioning so she could let someone know in case he was stranded. Other than that conversation, the transition was uneventful. T2 time: 0:40

Getting into my running shoes

Off to the run. The course was basically a trail run on a mix of grass, dirt road and soft sand. It was way more technical than anything I train on and wasn’t my best run although I put a lot of effort into it.

As soon as I made my way out of transition and into the loop around the lake, the overall leader, Bryan Benitez-Nelson came past me and offered me a nice word of encouragement. I thought, “Wow, he’s killing this run, let’s see how long I can hang with him”. So I ran behind him where I received thorough sand blasting until we reached the grassy section where he began to pull away. By my second loop around the lake it was starting to get more crowded as the wave 2 guys began coming onto the course. It was tricky getting around them at times, however, in a narrow section of the trail that was bordered by trees, 4 or 5 guys completely parted for me to get through which I thought was very, very nice of them. I didn’t really have the breath to say much then, but I really appreciated it. Thanks guys. Run time: 20:43, OA Rank: #14, AG Rank: #2.

Although I don’t feel like I'm on peak form for short course racing at this point of the season and didn’t really care for the course, I’m satisfied with this race. I did what I came to do and had a so much fun doing it and catching up with friends and teammates afterwards. Total Time: 1:13:51, OA Place: #11, AG Place: #1

Fin! ~ Time for a new shirt from my sponsor.


Wes said...

Nice swim there, Nick!! It's hard enough to sight in good weather, but fog too? Blech! I'm surprised they let y'all start in the fog for safety reasons. You sure nailed it, coming out first in age group. Can't wait to hear the rest of the story!!!

David said...

Great job, Nick! You're going to have to change the title of your blog for next year, though. No more "Age Grouper" for you. Unless you are talking fish, that is.

Congrats, bro!

Kevin said...

Great job on the swim. Cant wait to hear the rest of your report

Tri*22 said...

Awesome job :) Congrats on #1!!

Mendy said...

Great job on that race, Nick! I remember that dirt road last year. When we were driving in, we were like "that's soft sand". Guess they got a lot of complaints and decided to cover it up for ya'll this year. That house is pretty nice, huh?

GREAT race! and fantastic report. Congrats on the AG overall placing!