Monday, October 1, 2012

PITA- Swimming

This post is may just be the last of my race reports for the 2012 season. There's a good chance that I'll break it up into 3 separate posts. The reasons for this are as follows:

1. It was a Half Ironman, or 70.3, distance event and I seem to dedicate more writing time to longer races.
2. This may just be my last race report for the 2012 season. It's definitely the last triathlon report. Why would I want to rush that?

Without further adieu, I bring you the

As always, the race report is set several hours before the gun goes off. I originally hemmed and hawed about doing this race, mostly because of the travel time. See, I am a lazy, lazy man and I hate driving any more than 2 hours for a race. This one was roughly 3 hours away and outside of my comfort window. I decided to bite the bullet when I recognized that I had some unfinished business in the sport and there weren't many opportunities left above the Mason-Dixon line.

Having just come off a less than stellar taper and an extra long and arduous week at work, the alarm went off at 3:00 am. I surmised that if I could sit on my arse for 3 hours before a race that I might as well be doing it behind the driver's wheel. Before I left, I made sure to practice good nutrition (I ate some toast with peanut butter) and good hydration (I had 1 cafe mocha in house and one for the road). Here's how the morning went:
  • Before leaving, go to the bathroom
  • Walk outside, notice the chilly 42º air and crystal clear skies.
  • Pee one more time
  • Drive about 90 minutes. Stop to stretch urinate
  • Drink some sports beverage
  • Drive about 60 minutes more. Pull over, turn on flashers, jump out of car, and run to a bush for an emergency liquid evacuation
  • After 2 hours 45 minutes from my departure, finally arrive at the Alleghany State Park
  • First order of business, hit the bathroom to relieve myself
After picking up my race packet, I went to transition to set up. They had assigned areas for the different races happening. The closest group of bikes was reserved for the duathletes, the middle area was for the sprint triathletes, the furthest away was reserved for the idiots half Iron athletes.

Normally when I tri, I am a minimalist. Not so today. Here's a pic of my bike set up (black ride, second in facing you). On the seat, you'll find my shirt. I decided to swim topless (pic unavailable- lousy censors). I reasoned that with the near freezing temps it would be more tolerable on the bike ride if my shirt wasn't pre-saturated with lake water. In the helmet, I placed my usual sunglasses. Then, I added arm-warmers (thank you Mommy for last Christmass' gift!), socks, and gloves (not normally needed for summer racing).

As this was the day after the equinox, Mother Nature decided to prove summer was indeed over by making the high temperature for the day in the low 60s (in hindsight, I doubt it actually got there) and serenading us with no less than 5 separate rain showers over the course of the day. I felt justified with all of the gear.

After racking my bike, I felt it only appropriate to go to the bathroom (it had been only 20 or so minutes since my last potty break). Upon returning, I decided it would be a pretty good idea to crash the duathlon. They were blocking the path between me and my bike. Neither them nor me were too pleased with the situation. Since there were more of them against my lonesome, I decided it would be worth while to move out of the way. 

The swim course was to take place in a small pond. The 2-loop course was tucked nicely under a backdrop of precious landscape. Having never been to the Allegheny Mountains, I was grateful for the view during an otherwise dismal day.

The water temp was a blustery 62º which, while being significantly warmer than the air, was still quite chilly on my feet. This was yet another race that had no good starting position in the water. We waded out to about thigh deep level. Some dude arbitrarily stopped (I think he had to pee) and the rest of us morons stopped with him. There was not a marker or cue. We just lined up next to that guy like a bunch of lemmings ready to charge off the cliff. Most of us were too cold (me) or too busy peeing in our wetsuits (also me) to think deep thoughts about the exact position of the starting line.

Shortly thereafter the horn blew and we were off. There is one thing I can say about the Score-This people in triathlon race organizers, they can find a weed-laden pond in the middle of nowhere and force a group of losers to swim right through with the best of them. The Summer Sizzler featured a well-grown crop of underwater vegetation.

The PITA lived up to its other acronym during the swim portion, mired with clumps of tumble-seaweed. This was the kind of mass patches that, once you realized your weren't being attacked by the Swamp Thing, was debilitating to my stroke. Finding a rhythm was more than a challenge.

To top things off, the back nine wasn't so deep. Should you go askew by even as little as 3 meters from the direct line between the buoys, you'll be met with only 16 inches of water in which to swim. Go on, ask me how I know this. Further, that portion of the lake bottom was quite rocky, which is not so comfortable on now-numb feetsies.

After the second lap, we were able to get out of the weeds as we headed for the swim exit arch. My typical triathlon swim technique calls for me to swim as far into shore as possible. I know how to alter my stroke to get very close to the shore. Once my altered style hits bottom, it's time to stand up. As luck would have it, the PITA continued with its swim course surprises. We only thought we'd reached land. Soon-to-be-benounced to us was the fact that there were about 12 inches of fine, slush-like sediment material coating the pond floor. Naturally, one cannot expect to stand firm on poorly packed silt. Nor can one expect to run quickly though the sludge.

I finally exited the water in just under 33 minutes, which was good enough for 11th place overall. I would have guessed that my swim time would have been significantly slower.

Little did I know that in the very near future, things were about to get much worse for me. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode in the "Banter's Idiocy Chronicles" AKA the PITA-Biking report.

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