Monday, September 10, 2012

Tale of 2.5 4th places- Part 2

"Fourth seems like it would be nice, but it’s the worst place you can imagine ..."
-Taylor Phinney,
 American Olympic Cyclist
2012 London

This quote was taken shortly after Taylor finished 4th place in the road race in London. A few days later, he would go on to compete in the time trial. He finished 4th in that race as well. My last couple of races, I have put forth Phinney-esque performances.

This post is the second in a 2.5-ology...

The Sodus Point Triathlon

Chronologically speaking, this post is set exactly 1 day after my 4th place finish at the Summer Sizzler.  The SS was on Saturday. Much to the Wife's dismay, the alarm went of early once again on Sunday. I was heading for this quaint, little community about 20 minutes away from my house called Sodus Point.

I actually showed up on time for this race. I certainly wasn't the first in transition but I had stuff set up well ahead of the bell. Interestingly, I got the second spot out from the "Swim In/ Run Out" arch. This is what is commonly referred to as "Prime Real Estate". You can see my bike on the right, second in with the thicker wheels (near the shoes without a towel).

With everything set-up early, I had no idea what to do with myself. Here were the options:
  • Go for a warm-up ride
  • Go for a warm-up run
  • Go for a warm-up swim
  • Talk to my fellow triathletes
  • Ogle the ladies
What did I choose? Sit on a bench and watch the fresh water waves while the rest of the athletes did all of the above. Sodus Point is a pretty place. The swim is on Lake Ontario next to the inlet of Sodus Bay. There is a nice sandy beach and a light house outcrop. The Lake boasted 2 foot swells, allowing for a technical yet completely manageable swim. There has been several instances in Sodus Points' past that caused chaos and swim cancellations. Not today.

The swim course was triangle shaped. We were originally slated to go counterclockwise around the buoys, but the race director called the audible due to the wave breaks. Clockwise it was (although, after the experience, I think that clockwise would have made for faster times).

The ladies lined up first, followed by the dudes. After the girls went off, the boys had about 5 minutes to make their preparations. It was then that I decided to get off my duff and head down to the water. After enlisting someone to zip my wetsuit, I waded out into the water for a swim warm up.

I must confess that I am probably the world's worst warmer upper. My warm up consisted of roughly 12 yards. I dove into the drink under a wave, broke the surface, and did about 4 strokes. Then I dove back, dolphin style, followed by about 2 strokes. I stopped short of the line and joined my tri-bretheren whist we waited the starting air horn.

Being thoroughly warm, I shot off with the leaders. There were 3 of us. One guy that was the real swimmer/ pacer plus me and another poser. Poser 1 (me) and Poser 2 (other dude) battled for position on the swimmer's feet. For the most part, all contact was incidental and non-detrimental. We continued this way for about 500 yards. Then, around the last buoy, we started the last stretch of our journey and made way for the swim exit. The real swimmer was still in the lead and Poser 2 was on my left. I don't think that P2 was spotting very well. Either that, or he was purposely pushing me off course to the right. I tend to spot every 4th stroke so I could see that I was being pushed. Poser 1 was having none of this. I leaned in with my shoulder to get us back on track. Meanwhile, the real swimmer was getting away from us.

Posers 1 and 2 made it out well behind the real swimmer. I stopped altogether just shy of the beach front and let Poser 2 beat me out of the water. My reason: I was going to remove my wetsuit in the water. I have struggled with wetsuit removal in the past and I know that I suck at that skill.

Removing a wetsuit is technically easier in the water. The liquid acts as a lubricant between your body and the neoprene. However, I had Mother Nature working against me. The waves knocked me off my feet and turned me around. I ignored them and continued on with wetsuit removal. As a bonus, my newly arranged position allowed me to look at the water and make sure no other dudes were ready to pass. I exited the water firmly in 3rd place.

As I reflect on the decision to spend a little extra time in the water, I'm pretty sure it was the right one. Heading into transition, my bike was there on the end. I dropped my suit, put my glasses and helmet on, grabbed my bike, and headed out. When I look at the data, I won transition 1, and by a fairly good margin too. Better, I added my swim time plus transition and compared it to Poser 2's swim time plus transition. I came out in the lead. I was out on the bike with only the real swimmer out in front of me.

I haven't done this race in a couple of years. They changed the bike course. If I recall correctly, the old course was rectangular and was mainly and east to west route that wound us through farm fields while taking us up and down some nifty hills. The new course was more of a north/ south route (see right) with less of a rolling atmosphere. The initial miles were mostly uphill, and on race day, against the wind. My quads were still a little bit sore from yesterday's effort but nothing that was too detrimental.

For those of you who are competitive by nature, you know what I mean when I say that I keep a running count of my position whenever possible. I knew (or believed I knew) that I was in 2nd place coming out of transition. Right around mile 2, I got passed. I had no idea if this was Poser 2 or some other dude. (Aside: After analyzing the data, it was a new guy. It's just that I had no way of knowing that until the pdf was posted. End aside.)

From that point on, I mostly rode alone. There were a few ladies from the earlier wave that I went by. I did not catch either the first or second place blokes. For a very long period of time, I saw no one except the occasional volunteer, graciously directing and holding traffic. All while smiling and cheering at the tops of their lungs. I love these people!

When I got back to the transition area, I flew off my bike and found my spot. Even if my shoes were covered by a towel, I could have found them quickly. The only thing stopping me from a fast transition was if someone had interfered with my gear. Guess what? One of my running shoes was at least 3 feet from the other. And there were 2 wetsuits draped over the bar where my bike was supposed to go. I suspect that I'm just not meant to have a fast T2. Luckily, both of these problems were overcome rather efficiently. They still cost me some time, maybe a total of 5 seconds. No big deal, right? Just wait until the next part of this tale.

I came out of transition holding firmly in 3rd place. Understand that I really want an overall podium position. I have never done so in a race so I was extra motivated to get running. The run course took us down the road, made us do 2 laps around this cute little community (of whom the race proceeds benefit), and back to the beach. The finish line is located at the right-most blue bubble in the course map. The left-most blue bubble marks the location of the laps.

The blue bubble also marks the hill. As I ran down the straight away, I could hear a guy breathing behind me. Worse, his breathing was getting louder. Understand that I do not have a history of being a fast runner. I thought I had a bigger gap on my nearest competition. I had clearly deluded myself as some guy in a red and white singlet was gaining. Until we hit the hill. Much to my surprise, I reached the top of the slope still in front of my adversary only now his breathing was inaudible. I outran someone in a race!

Even though I was feeling good, the threat of the red and white guy was ominous. I decided that I could not let up. At one point, I was hoping that I could close the gap on the 2nd place guy. I ran as fast as my feeble legs would carry me. Down the hill, the course turned and went back up for a second round. I pushed.

After the second lap, we hit the left-most blue bubble, turned right and headed for home. At this stage of the race, spectators are plentiful. Up until this point, I had picked up a nickname, "Runner." They would yell out, "Good job Runner" or "Looking good Runner." This was new to me. First, I was shocked that someone mistook me for a runner. Second, I doubt that I actually looked good. I bet they were just being polite as "Way to go Gargoyle" would be infinitely more accurate but can be mistaken as an insult.

In this last stretch, something changed. They were now shouting out, "Good job Runners." As in plural. As in I was not alone. I sped up. Even more shouts, "Good race Guys." Crap. I sped up even more. There was only about 1/3 of a mile left when I made the right hand turn. At about the 1/4 mile mark, I put myself in my top gear. With an 1/8th of a mile left, I was in a near sprint. With 20 yards left, I was still in 3rd place. All other senses ceased to exist. It was only me, my burning legs, and the finish line. 10 yards to go. Podium, here I come. Then 5. Bam- I got passed. He snuck in at his top speed, which was toppier than mine, at the last possible moment.

Just for the record, I do not blame my transition mates for my shoes or their wetsuits. All of this is part of the game. From my perspective, I played well. I ran an average of 6:35 min/ mile which is mind boggling for me. Andy, the guy who stole my spot, ran a minute twenty-five faster than me. He was clearly the superior runner and earned his position.

The official race results list his race time at 1:07.15.496. Mine is posted at 1:07.16.053. He got me and my podium spot by a half second. I was, for the second time that weekend, in 4th place.


  1. I blame your bike time. How did you not catch or even see the #1 and #2 guys on the bike?

    1. Just to give your trolling the benefit of the doubt, I checked the data again. I think you are right (rescinding 'trolling' accusation). I finished 8th place in the bike leg. I clearly have work to do.

  2. I troll because I care, oh and because I'm right.