It was a dark and stormy night. Literally. It was one of those nights when you weren't sure that they were going to put on a race tomorrow. Race Directors have something against lightning and Mother Nature was angry that night. When I awoke in the wee hours of the morning, she was still crying and howling. I got on the Internets and checked the race website. No new news. I checked the radar and focused my sights on a town many a mile south of my residence called Penn Yann (which I'm pretty sure is Amish for 'middle of nowhere'). The rain was scheduled to stop in the very near future but had a chance to return later in the morning.
I ate my breakfast, packed the rest of the gear, and got out of the house earlier than predicted. I have a tendency of arriving at the race site near the end of the acceptable period. This morning, I was a little excited about the first triathlon of the season and I wanted to turn over a new leaf. According to my best estimates, I was 15 minutes ahead of my norm (a new Banter record). Ten minutes down the road, I started swearing and promptly turned around. Whereas I did forget to put the Wife in the car (she opted for additional sleep- queue jealousy), I also forgot to put my wallet in the car. You can show up for a running race completely empty handed. For a triathlon, however, you must show your government issued ID and your USAT membership card to get in to the race. Plus, they also ask you for a blood sample, a cheek swab for your DNA, an iris scan, a unique identifying birthmark, and 7 security questions. A failure to provide proper ID= no race for you.
After leaving my driveway, round 2, I was now about 5 minutes behind schedule. AKA- business as usual. I arrived on race site and picked up my packet. To my surprise, I was not the last person to arrive. I was 4th to last. (Only because last place was a relay team which I'm counting as 3 separate competitors.) Welcome to the Keuka Lake Triathlon.
From this moment on, I had about 15 minutes until transition closed. I was about 0.25 miles away from the transition area. No problem. I hopped on my bike, donned my helmet, and covered the distance in a short 2 minutes. The KLT volunteers won't let you in to transition without being body marked. For those of you who don't know what this means- it's one of the nuances of triathlon. Not only do you have a race number on your body. You also have one on your bike. Plus, they feel the need to decorate your skin. I got my race number drawn on both backhands and both quads. Then, on one calf they posted my race age (which is different from your real age for every single triathlete except for a person born on December 31). On the other calf, they put a large "I" signifying that I was racing the Olympic distance event. Makes sense, right?
I set up my stuff in transition, which I do rather efficiently. Years of arriving late helps you learn how to streamline the process. Then, I got into an argument that slowed me down tremendously. The Garmin refused to cooperate. Normally when I turn her on, she beeps, pauses, then starts up. This process takes about 5-10 seconds (see pic at left). Today, she stayed at the start-up screen for a couple of minutes. I turned her off (pic at left) and tried again. No luck after a couple of minutes of hoping (again, pic).
After she won the argument by refusing to start up, I resigned myself to leaving the transition area knowing that I would be racing without the Garmin. It was also quite apparent to me that I was, by far, the last person out of transition. I've been in this situation before.
Since I was the last person out of transition, it makes logical sense that I was also the last person to arrive to the swim start for my wave. I was in the 2nd wave and in no hurry to make it down to the water. Everyone else was in the swim coral but no one was waiting for me. I made it before the 1st wave went off. I.E. Plenty of time.
Off went number 1 and in went #2. We had about 5 minutes before our horn was sounded. Three days ago, the water temperature was 56º. Since then, the atmospheric thermostat had been turned up. The water had risen to 65º. It was still pretty chilly and I was happy for my wetsuit. I did my normal swim warm up of diving down under the surface, stroking for about 10 yards, turning and returning back. Or, roughly 30-45 seconds worth of work. My head was wet. My body was semi-acclimated to the temps. I was ready.
The horn sounded and I went off with the fast pack. The swim is just under a mile long so I knew I had to pace myself early. I also know that there's a bike and a run coming up so I try to manage my energy. I'm confident I could have stroked a little harder but I was concerned about
Thanks to the dude that pulled me around the course. He kept a good pace. He swam straight. He knew how to meander through the back of the early pack. Good work! Here's how the swim looked like after the last buoy, heading for home.
My time out of the water, including the stairs was 24:44. This was good enough for 17th place overall. Further, I won my age group (yes, by only 1 second, but I'll take it).
Even better for me was my improvement in transition 1. Last year, I had a dismal time in T1. T1- 2012 version at this race- was 2 min 55 sec which was the 226th fastest time of that day. T1- 2013 version- was 1 min 39 sec, which was the 27th fastest time of the day. Even better... The Garmin decided that she wanted to race. There she was waiting for me to press her button (where's that pic?). However, she was sitting in a running mood and I had to convince her that we were biking first. This cost me a couple of seconds that I did not mind, since I was no longer racing alone.
This was my first race in an aero helmet. I recently purchased a Giro Attack. These things are expensive and supposed to make you a little faster. Completely worth it! One of the benefits of the helmet is that it comes with a shield. A shield can be used to thwart off men on horses with spears, dudes in armor with swords, or bugs on a bike ride. It basically replaces sunglasses. I waxed my lens with Rain-X before the race, just in case the rain forecast held true. Collateral benefit- sweat wicks off the lens faster.
The ride starts off with a short, slight downhill. Then, we turn on to the main road and are greeted with 2 main challenges. First, there is a climb. Second, there is a steady head wind. The winds were in our face at ~10 mph for roughly miles 1-9. At mile 9, we turned around. But, that when we started the longer, steady climb.
At this point, we had the dual benefit of going downhill with a tail wind. It started to rain slightly around this point. I didn't care. I was in a good position and heading in the right direction. Water was beading off my lens. Between miles 17 and miles 24, my slowest split was 26 mph.
When I dismounted my bike, I had completed the ride with the 27th fastest time on the day. My average pace was 21 mph with a time of 1:11.40. As a comparison, last year, under similar conditions (less wind but more rain), I held 20.1 mph on the same course and was 3 minutes slower. That aero helmet is looking better now.
I hopped off my bike and headed for T2. I found my spot, racked my bike, put socks and shoes on my feet, and headed out to the run. My T2 time was a whopping 57 sec, which was the 28th fastest time on the day (I'm seeing a trend here).
I was hoping to hold 7 minutes per mile. I thought this within my skill set. I set out at what I considered a hard, but comfortable pace. My first mile clocked in at 6:58. How's that for pacing?!
At around the 1.5 mile mark, the crowd thinned out. No, not because I'm awesome and my blazingly hot pace put the others in the dust. It's because that was where the duathletes and sprinters turned around and headed for home. I was exceptionally jealous. My orange cone was still way off in the distance. I paced on and hit my second mile on a 7:03. I had slipped a little.
Something worse happened. The rain stopped and the sun came out. Now I'm saturated in a combination of my own filth and the grime that Mother Nature provided, while running down the road next to a lake, as the heat is starting to rise. The humidity was relatively close to the max meaning that sweat wasn't able to do it's job. I was starting to boil in my own excrement and I still had a couple of miles left to go.
I'd be lying if I told you that I didn't want to stop and walk. My right brain was rationalizing the decision to slow my pace drastically at an aid station, take in some water, and cool off. My left brain was saying that there was only 2 miles left, or about 15 minutes, and that I can suffer through almost anything for that duration (save a Nicholas Cage movie). Apparently the neuroscientists people might have been correct. I'm right handed and therefore my dominant left brain won the war. I didn't stop.
That's not to say that I kept my pace. I was suffering pretty good and I slowed from sub-7 to low-7 and then to mid-7. I would scoop up a cup of water from the handy volunteers. A little for the mouth and the rest for my head. The cool sensation of the liquid flowing down my drenched clothes had never been so welcoming.
When I made it to the finisher's arc, I crossed the line with as much satisfaction as I could muster. It was clear that I left nothing on the course. My run time of 44.55 was welcomed as I traditionally have a sub-45 min goal which I rarely accomplish. My run was the 51st fastest in the field (more proof that I really need to do some long term run improvement).
I crossed the line in 22nd place overall and 3rd in my age group. My clock time was 2:23.35. This was a good 7 minutes faster than last year's race. I had bested my previous swim time, T1 time, bike time, and run time and by good margins too. The only aspect of the race that was slower than a year ago was T2. In 2012, T2= 56 sec. In 2013, T2= 57 sec. I'm slipping.
I scanned the results sheet only to see that the #1 and #2 guys in my AG were in 5th and 6th overall and significantly better cyclists and runners than me. I had no hope of catching them anytime soon. At least I beat them out of the water.
I stuck around race campus for a while. This gave me a chance to meet Al. It also gave me a chance to take advantage of the best post-race food on the planet. (Seriously. I'd recommend this race to anyone and everyone, if for nothing else than to get invited to the smorgasbord of happiness that they serve in the cafeteria.)
I was debating about leaving after brunch but before the awards. I was a little nervous about getting an award. Last time I did a race by the Score-This people (who, by the way, have never failed to put on a high quality show!), they handed out bricks as prizes. Whereas I could use a few more bricks to build a patio... Anyway, I was talked in to staying by a couple of other racers. It's a good thing that I did. Here's what they had to offer.