I think, at some point in the year, there is an official Race Director's meeting. The organizers keep it private. In order to get in, you must know the secret handshake and password. The agenda of this meeting: Which weekend can we have a race so that our athletes are going to be as tired as possible come Monday?
Last weekend was a bit of a doosy. Not only did I have a 5k, I followed it up immediately with an Intermediate/ Olympic Distance Triathlon known as the Keuka Lake Triathlon. I have done this race in the past and it traditionally marks the first official triathlon of the season.
On race morning, I awoke noticing that several things were amiss. First, my quads were exceptionally tired. I suppose that running 2.5 miles at race intensity with no warm-up will do that to you. They were not sore, mind you, only tired. I was sure that my usual mocha latte, laced with its elixir of caffeine, will help solve that problem.
Second, it was early. Since summer is almost set upon us, the sun has been getting up before me. Also, triathlons are notoriously famous for early starts. KLT was no different. The race was scheduled to start at 7:30 with transition closing at 7:15. With a looming 90 minute drive to the race venue, coupled with the need to eat, poop, and get there early enough to pick up my race packet, the alarm decided that 4:00 am was a good time to buzz.
Third, there was a tickle in my chest. It was in the background. On the right side. Almost like the makings of a chest cold. It felt like it could go either way; full blown sickness or simple scare tactics. The message, I believe, was that dunking booths on the day before a race in sub 60º temps are not that smart.
Fourth, I had no desire to eat. This was new to me starting last year. I don't normally get anxious or nervous about a race. But, apparently my stomach does. I believe in practicing race day nutrition but the GI had a different plan. I tried to force tummy friendly carbs down my gullet. When it was clear that a single bite of bagel was taking roughly 2 minutes to chew and swallow, I gave up. I know full well that the experts suggest that you should heavily chew your food to encourage healthy digestion. This is not the norm for me and I don't think it wise to try out new things on race morning.
When all was said and done, I made it to the race, got my packet, set up in transition, and was on my way to the start by the time they announced a third and final call for my wave. Translation: I was earlier than expected. My belly was still most displeased to be racing.
I had a race plan heading into the swim that went as follows: Go out medium hard to try and avoid the scrum. After about 300 meters, find some feet and hang out there. Cruise around the course.
That was almost exactly what happened. After about 300 meters, I dropped in behind this dude in a wetsuit. Alright, I get that this description doesn't help much as we were all in wetsuits. His wetsuit was black. Fine. All wetsuits were black. Honestly, I'm not sure why I'm even talking about him as he's not important anyway. The guy that is important was swimming immediately to my right. His race plan was exactly the same as mine and he had picked the exact same feet to follow. I'll call this guy, "Tyr" in honor of the name of the wetsuit emblazoned on his chest like Superman's "S".
Tyr and I battled for a little bit, each wanting to gain the same position. I am a strong swimmer and so was Tyr. Since we had not made it to the first buoy and were swimming head first into the waves, I relented. This was a great decision. Tyr took the opportunity to sling shot past the first, unimportant dude. I jumped on Tyr's feet. We hit the rounded the turn, put the wave at our back, and had about 1000 meters of open water. My new coach, Casey the Dog, watched approvingly.
I admit it, Tyr was a better swimmer than I. He was also smarter. After a few hundred meters, Tyr had dragged me around the course keeping the buoys on his left. I was not directly behind him but just a little bit to the right side. This is my breathing side. By positioning myself askew, I could get into a regular breathing pattern without interruption from Tyr's kick. Since I was the follower, I didn't spot as often. I did in the beginning of our relationship but, seriously, Tyr was good. I wrongly put my trust in him.
I think, at one point, Tyr got sick of me and wanted some alone time (I get that a lot). He casually stroked his way to the left. I absentmindedly followed. Plunk. I hit the next buoy right smack in the middle of my forehead. Tyr had gone inside and taken advantage of my position. He steered me into the buoy. I can recover from such a blow. After all, the buoys are just large, orange colored air bags. But, in those few moments that I broke my stroke, Tyr surged alone and I was left to fend for myself.
There were only 2 more buoys left. I got caught by Orca (again, big blue letters on the front of his suit). I hung with him until we exited the water.
Upon exiting, we had to run up 2 flights of stairs to get from the water to the main land. The first flight went well. Right around step #20 of roughly 35, my quad fatigue reminded me that I had done a race yesterday. By step 34, I was no longer running. I did manage to scale the last of the steps but, <breathe-breathe-breathe> it sucked big time. I eventually made my way to transition.I was in 8th place for this wave and would eventually sport the 29th fastest time in the water. Note: My swim time/ place includes those damn stairs.
The air outside was, once again, 58º. I had a decision to make. The forecast called for rain. It was not raining yet but it was rather windy. Water from the sky was inevitable. I am a pansy.
I'm gonna save the details of this transition for my next post. It should be rather informative.
By the time I had exited transition, I had eaten up almost 3 minutes on the clock. There were 340 people who finished the race. 225 of them were faster than me in transition.
Right around mile 1, we turned off the bumpy road and on to heaven on wheels. Last year, they had paved a major part of the course. With the mild winter, the road was still in pristine condition. This would have been pure bliss, except for the simple fact that the wind was smack dab in our faces. I was able to keep my speed but it took considerable effort. This decision would come back to haunt me.
When did the haunting start? Right around mile 9. That's when the hill sloped upwards.
Once we hit the turn around, the wind and rain picked up. But, it was at my back. Return of the speed. In miles 17-24, my slowest pace was just over 24 mph. I had 3 miles straight over 30.
Even with that effort, I was just barely able to average 20 mph. This set me up in 20th position in my wave and gave me the 60th fastest time in the field.
It continued to rain. My quads continued to burn. Unlike the bike course, which was hilly and challenging, the run course is about as easy as you are going to get. It's elevation profile is so boring that I'm not going to waste your time by posting the pic. The total elevation change over the course of the 10k? 73 feet. And, most of that was coming out of transition on to the run course.
This is not to say that the course was bad. Quite the opposite. The road sidelined Keuka Lake. This long, y-shaped finger lake was carved out of the Earth years ago by glaciers. It was a spectacular view.
Not that I could see any of it. I had water in my eyes and focused on maintaining a stead run speed. I did that with un-Banter-like precision. There was a 24 second differential between my fastest mile and my slowest mile. My average pace for the 6.2 mile course was a 7:26 according to Garmin. Each mile was within 15 seconds of that time. I may have gotten the hang of this whole pacing thing.
When I crossed the line, I was in 30th place. There were some pretty good athletes in the race from later waves who knocked me down to 47th. My run was the 109th fastest time, adding fuel to the "I'm not a runner" hypothesis. Some day, I'm gonna have to do something about that.