Friday, October 5, 2012

PITA- Biking

At this stage in Banter history, I'm dead smack in the middle of a half-Iron distance triathlon called the Pain in the Alleghenies, belovedly know as the PITA. Thus far, I have dropped enough fertilizer to cover half the state of Iowa, swam through a forest of clumpy things that I hope were weeds, stubbed my toe on some shallow water rocks, and submerged myself in some muck. All in all, it's been a rather enjoyable, if not chilly, morning.

I came out of the water just behind Mike. Normally, I would have let a fellow competitor run his way into transition all by his lonesome. I'm not that quick in changing from swimming to running and I completely suck at removing my wetsuit. Most of the time, I'll stop in or near the water to disrobe. Not today. It was cold outside and I wanted to keep my neoprene jacket on as long as I could.

Luckily, Mike wasn't in a hurry either. We were both in the front row of the bike rack, his was just further down the alley. Watching us compete through transition would have been akin to watching a foot race between two slugs. I am proud to report that this slug won that race by a good 10 seconds (Aside: This should not be taken as a brag- it was a pretty horrible T1 time. At least I was warm. Except for my feet, which I couldn't feel anyway. End Aside.)

Heading out onto the bike, I was ready. Until about 1/3 of a mile later when I met this lady on her bike (Mike was right behind me). She was at an intersection and yelling out, "Do you guys know which way to go?" Honestly, I didn't. I had looked at the map. But, the road in real life looks much different than the little blue line, especially when you arrive on site before sunrise. She yells again, "I went both ways and saw nothing."

It was Banter-decision-making time, which is never really a good time. I turned right. True to the report, there was nothing. Not a marker, cone, sign, nor dead deer (whereas I'm not sure exactly how that last one would have helped me, I can attest that there was indeed no carcass).

Roughly a 1/2 mile down the road I hit pay dirt. I found a volunteer. And a cop. And a cone. (Still no meat.) Both the cop and volunteer pointed to turn down the bike path, a left hand turn. I do remember a left hand turn on the map. I'm on my way.

I followed the path for a short distance. It was a beautiful ride through the middle of a forest. Even better, none of the real cyclists were catching me just yet. I powered on thinking that I was going to get passed anytime soon, as is the norm for my races. The bike path ended onto a road. Since there was no sign or person stating otherwise, I kept the same general bearing. At one point, I risked a look back over my shoulder as I was certain someone was coming soon. Nothing. No one in front. No one behind. This was my first ping that things were not as they should be (which should have happened roughly 1.5 miles back).

I soon received my second, extra-loud ping: my road was coming to an end as it merged onto Route 86. Now, I don't claim to be an expert in, well, anything but I'm pretty darn sure that they don't allow triathlons to compete on the interstate. I turned around and headed back.

I finally made it back to where the volunteer and cop were stationed. I stopped and chatted with a different officer, "Do you happen to have a map?" Nope. But, he did admit that someone, his words now, "F____ed up." (Yup, me.) He told me that they had someone out there directing traffic now and there were many people who went askew on the ride. I should just head back and they'll point me in the right direction.

I was livid. I wanted revenge. I was ready to go on the war path. I was going to settle for nothing less than any of the following options:
  • Refunded entry fee
  • Free entry to next year's race
  • My extra time biking to Jamestown, PA removed from my overall time
  • The RD's first born child
I finally made it back to the real bike course and my Garmin said it was just over 20 minutes and just over 5 miles. (The map at the right, starting from the lake to the "Red House" was unique to only my route.) Having reached this spot after about 2 minutes into the race, simple math told me that I was only 18 minutes out of the way. I was darn near ready to call it a day as I knew the RD would never grant me his first born.

Ya wanna know what kept me in the race? (Hint: it wasn't the pleasant day and warm temperatures.) It was the drive. I didn't want to get back in the car and drive the near 3 hours back home having done less than 1 hour of racing. I now understand my 2 hour rule more clearly. I want my race to be longer than my one-way commute. Glad I nailed that down. Now, it was time to ride.

I had looked at the elevation profile many times in the past month. It does not do the ride justice. What you see (assuming you ignore the first 5 miles), but do not feel, is a 6 mile winding climb for the part of the bike. Then a 6 mile downhill. Then a brief, semi-flat (compared to the rest of the ride) out-and-back. Then an 8-mile climb. Succeeded by an 8-mile descent. And, just when you are starting to feel good about yourself, you have to start all over. When finished, you'll have climbed for 3800 feet.

I got to pass many, many people (including Mike). By the time I made it to the second loop, I noticed a couple of things. 1) There was indeed someone out there directing traffic to ensure losers hit the course correctly. 2) Fellow competitors were few and far between. 3) Biking in the rain and then the sun and then the rain and then the sun and then the rain and then the sun isn't that great when the temps have climbed only into the low 50s. It was the second fact disturbed me a little bit. Since I was late getting to the climb, I had no idea where I stood in this race. I assumed that the top athletes were almost done.

Shortly after starting the last climb, some woman in a car came by in the opposite. She announced that I was in 12th place. I had a hard time believing this intel. How could I have risen this far in the ranks? I remained skeptical. Not far off on the hill were 2 other cyclists (one of these people was the lady who started my ride before I went off in the wrong direction). I eventually passed them and deluded myself into thinking I was in 10th place.

Sure enough, I posted the 12th fastest bike time, even with the bonehead time penalty. According to the race results, I hopped off the bike in 10th place. I choose not to be too excited about my position. I had just biked 61 miles compared to the field's 56. I am not that good of a runner and have blown up several times over the course of 13.1 miles.

But, there was a carrot hanging out in front of me. I knew that the sponsors of the PITA had put up some really great prizes.
1st= Disc wheel.
2nd= New Wetsuit (hopefully one that could come off over your ankles).
3rd= Aero Helmet.
4th= Zoot triathlon shoes.
5th= Fuel belt.
6th-Infinity= Finishers medal and possibly age group award. 
If I were to get a good prize, I had to net pass 5 people. I did come home with a prize. I'll tell you what in the very near future.

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