Saturday, August 28, 2004

2004 Charlottesville Off Road Traithlon

The first annual Charlottesville Off Road Traithlon was held in Walnut Creek Park, Charlottesville VA, about 10 miles south of town. This was my 4th triathlon of the season. The distances were 3/4 mile swim, 11.5 mile mountain bike, and a 4 mile trail run.

Setting the stage...
Before I started training this season I decided to write down some goals so I had something to shoot for. Amongst other smaller thing, my main goal for this season was to qualify for the USA Championship held in Lake Tahoe, NV. From the Mid Atlantic region they take the top 8 point getters in the 25-29 age group. For each race if you place in the top 10 of your age group you get a set amount of points based on your place of 1st thru 10th. Heading into this race I was 9th and I needed to put up a good race because all of my competition would be there racing too, so for me this was pivotal race. Personally, I was just happy to be racing for a spot at all...that it was still a possiblity

Day Before
Stacey and I struggled to get out of the DC area, thanks to the clogged traffic arteries, hoping to get down there for a little preride. No such luck though, guess I'd race this one blind, as I have never ridden there. Got to the KOA and met John to head into C-ville for some pre race pizza. We got some great pie down on the downtown mall with about 4,000,000 high schoolers and headed back to camp to get some rest. Surprisingly it was not raining, hey I guess there is a first time for everything.

The next morning we got up around 6 or so, this was also the first pre race night that I was actually able to get a good nights sleep. That means something *has* to go wrong during the race...only time will tell.

Swim (22:30)
Usual pre race jitters as I line up for the swim. My mind starts to drift...hoping the 200 people around me are not peeing in the water...then I slap back into race mode and hope that they wont be swimming all over me. I'm in the front and center (again) and seemed primed for another Febbraro (TM) swim.

The horn blows and off we go. I get a good start and am swimming surprisingly straight for the buoy. I keep waiting for the masses to crush me and make me gasp for air but miraculously that does not happen. We round the first buoy and I feel pretty confident. I'm not swimming that fast, but I'm keeping a good pace. I drop in behind some people for a draft (makes it easier to swim) and follow them for the first lap. I come out of the water and my watch says 11 minutes. Very happy with that, although incredibly disoriented. Going from swimming to running (or biking) does that. A quick run across the beach and back in for another lap. Very uneventful, tried picking up my pace as best I could, but I wanted to save my juice for the rest of the race.

Get out of the water, AMAZED that it went so well, throw on my shoes and run up to the transition, hop on the bike and beat about 30 people out of the transition. I would guess that I'm in the top 40 or so. I'll have to make up some usual.

Bike (1:15)
I get on the bike and start hauling. It's a little chilly all soaking wet, but that goes away real fast. It's getting real hot out. A lot of these trails are tight narrow singletrack so there is not too much room for passing and there are plenty of people ahead of me. I'm keeping a good pace though

For the first 30 minutes I am basically picking people off one by one when I get the smallest chance, but the going is slow. I basically had to go off the trail and through the brush to get around people. There were times that a few people crashed on front of me and I was lucky enough to scoot by them all without getting tangled up. I finally get past the big crowd and off into the trails where I was generally alone for almost then entire bike.

This course is BEAUTIFUL. It is a great day, and in the woods the trails are challenging and perfect. There is a little bit of everything. Big log piles, long climbs, fast decents, rocks, twisy tight corners, and everything is going great. I try not to think about it because I don't want to jinx myself. I was very in the moment loving the riding, feeling great (although a little tired) and kept telling my self to pick up the pace. I come steaming into transition totally pumped because not only did I have a good ride, no crashes, no mechanicals, and felt great, but it was totally fun too. Reminded me of being a little kid again riding my BMX in the woods across the street, jumping any friends that would lay down behind the ramps (we were total idiots). Suffice it to say, it was really incredible and I was so happy to be out there.

I have a super fast transition, chug some Gatorade and off on the run. It is real hot and I'm worried about overheating. I hear someone yell 18th place and I get real excited and head out for 4 grueling miles of running.

Run (31:55)
The run started like all the rest, trying to find my legs and focusing on my breathing. That is the thing with running at this point in a triathlon. You feel like you are going really slow because your legs still think they are biking, but actually the only way I can tell how fast I'm running is by my breathing.

Very uneventful at the start except trying to not get tired, I pass mile one @ 6:15. That is super fast for me on the trails, but like I said, you are almost always running faster than you think. I have the side-stitch cramp alert so I try to maintain my pace and not go balls out because if I cramp in this heat I'll be dead. Every water station I pass is drink one, grab two and pour then over my head, and even that wasn't enough to keep me cool

I finally start to see some people in the distance and I laser in on them. I start reeling in 2 guys and when I pass it is so fast that I feel like I am sprinting past them. Same thing happens with the next guy, I must be fooling myself but I guess I'm running real fast. Mile 2 13:45

I go down a hill and over a log and I go to hop over a root and SPLAT! I trip over a root and slide along the ground on my chest for a good 10 feet. I get up in a panic and start running again, I was totally surprised, shocked, and still a bit dazed. I keep running thankful that I was not broken or bleeding, but feeling dumb. The guy I just passed would have defintely laughed at me if he wasn't so tired.

I pass a few more people on the long climb up out of the park and finally get to the road. I pass mile 3 but am too tired to look at my watch. The road winds down the hills to the finish, nearly all down hill, about 3/4 of a mile, but in DIRECT SUNLIGHT, and it is HOT. Super hot. My head actually feels like it is on fire. All I can focus on is the finish and hopefully qualifying for nationals. My legs start getting real heavy and every step my body feel like it is burning. About 1/4 mile to the finish and I stop running for the finish line. I am now actually running to get to the lake so I can jump in and cool off.

I see the finish and no one I can pass and no one to catch me but I can't slow down, must get to the I near the line raise my hands triumphantly. I did not even realize I was doing it. No.....I did not win....but I crossed the line again, and had a great race. Days like today make this stuff so addicting.

I finished in 2:11:43. That was good enough for12th overall out of about 200, 2nd in my age group (best finish to date), and most importantly I finished 5th in the mid atlantic. Qualified for nationals, and I will be out in Tahoe racing on September 26th. I can't believe I did it.

I jump in the lake to cool off, and I think about the day and the race and I've never been so happy. I wish everyone could feel like this.

See you in Tahoe.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Schiff Scout Triathlon

Well here goes again. I returned to the site of my very first triathlon, in Long Island New York for the Schiff Scout Mountain Bike Traithlon, an Xterra Points Series race, on August 22nd 2004. 1/2 mile swim, 10 mile mountain bike, 3 mile trail run. Eventhough last year was wildly successful for me, I was hoping to do even better, and this would be a good test of how far I had progressed in a year. Last year I finished in 1:36:52, this year I was gunning for 1:20-1:25.

This year my sister Gina and her friend Eve decided to do it with me, and just like everything else Gina does, once she decides to do it, the race does not stand a chance. Her race report will probalby sound much like mine from last year. Never swam in our lives until we decided to do our first tri. It is all about putting yourself in a situation where you are forced to learn something entirely new and foreign and watch your body/mind adapt. It is quite incredible and I'm sure Gina would agree.

We went to preride the course the day before, hoping to beat the rain. It was a humid gross day in the 80s. The rain is supposed to bring cooler weather. We get a swim in, so that Gina and her friend Eve understand that it is no big deal and that they can easily do it, same with the bike. Hey, even Stacey got her first mountain bike ride ever in. The trails are nice and smooth. Not many hills and not very technical. But it is fast. Hopefully the rain wont make it a slimy mess.

After the bike I decide to ride the run course to get a taste of those nasty hills that demoralized me last year. Only this time the sky is begging to open up on me, so instead of paying attention to the trails I am flying to not get soaking wet, and I barely beat the rain. Too bad I could not remember a single thing about the run course.

Race Day
The rain came (and came and came) and went, and left the morning incredibly perfect and chilly like last year. Low 60s, no humidity. We get there early and setup our transitions and warm up. I can feel the anxiousness building, I just want to get it over with already. Kinda not looking forward to the swim after EMS.

Swim (~13 minutes)
I slide into my wetsuit and go into the water to warm up, things feel good, except my goggles wont stop fogging up and the sun is rising directly behind the buoys. I can see this is going to be a great swim. But all I want to do is beat my time of 19 minutes from last year and not be one of the last out of the water. After relieving myself in my wetsuit a few times, (gross I know) we get ready to start the race. Wanting to test myself I move front and center, determined to outswim everyone. I'm smaaaaaaaart.....

The horn blows and off we go, me too. Things are going great, I don't feel anoyone around me really, but then I start to get a little tired and slow a bit. Well here comes the rest of world swimming on top of me making for another Febbraro (TM) Swim. I start to drink a bit of delicious lake water, and lose my breath a bit. Then I need to tread water, and can't get much of a breast stroke going much less take a breath of air and everyone starts getting further and further away. I decide to dunk my head and just got for it, and slowly I get my rhythm back. Now if I could only get that rhythm all swim I'd be fine.

I finish my first lap and see 6:15 on the clock. WOW! way faster than I thought. I wave to my family and go out for another lap. Feeling good with no problems, but a little tired from going out too hard in the beiginning. I get in behind someone and draft them most of the way to conserve energy. I get out of the water and the clock says 13:30. Hells yeah! About 6 minutes faster then last year.

I get down to put my shoes on for the run to T1 and who sits down next to me? That's right, the guy from last year who I offered lake water to so he could clean off his feet and he drank it. BAH-haahahaha! Well this year, I used tap water just in case, but he leans over and thanks me for the tip from last year becuase he has his own bottle of water. I run up to T1 past my dad and stepmonster (hi real fast) then get into the racks. Unlike last year there were bikes everywhere, SWEET, this year I was not too far behind, I'd estimate maybe 30th or so out of the water. Hop on the bike and time to make up for the Febbraro (TM) swim.

Bike (~45 minutes)
Still soaking wet I take off on the bike, and it is friggin freezing. But I just charge on because there are a few people around me and all I want to do is pass them. I start flying, and to be honest the bike ride is a total blur, I was at my limit the whole time, the spot just before you legs feel like they are burning, any harder and I'll start getting tired, and slower...and well....screw slower.

All I know is that I focused very hard on not using my brakes at all, just keeping my momentum and passing as many as I could. After the first lap my dad yells that I'm in 14th place (holy crap!!!!) and I can still see people around me, bad thing is the people I'm passing now are people that I am lapping on the bike so I have no idea who I'm actually passing anymore. No matter, I just keep going hard and figure it'll all be sorted out on the run.

I fly into T2 and throw my shoes on, and off I am. My fastest transition yet, now I need to find my legs.

Run (~20 minutes)
I take off on the run and just focus on breathing, there is someone right on my heels but I drop him pretty quick. I just focus on my breathing (trying to not pant like a dog) and hope that my legs stop feeling so rubbery, at least that feeling is getting familiar. I look down at the 1 mile mark and realize that I ran it in about 6:15, super fast for me. Maybe I can keep it up, hopefully I wont get tired.

Now come the roller coaster hills that kicked my arse last year. Some straight up walls of dirt that slow you to a crawl, then you come flying down the other side faster than you legs can move. I finally see someone in the distance and I focus on reeling him in. I come up on Jay Hachadoorian. This guy is one hell of an athlete. He just raced out in Big Bear the weekend before, got into a sick wreck, and has over 60 stiches in his arm and a sprained wrist and who knows what else, and he was still killing the field. After a few minutes I pull even with him, gasp some word of encouragement and take off. The one thing I am realizing about these races is if you can catch up to someone on the run and pass them, there is really no fear of them finding some mysterious fountain of energy. Everyone is well blasted at this point, at their red line.

After about a mile more, the run takes us into the lake, that's right INTO the lake for about 50 feet or so. Just like Richmond, my feet now weigh 50 lbs each...soggy, sopping wet and all I want is for the race to be over, every step is a torture. Just up ahead I can see another runner, and I know there is about 1/2 mile left so I pick up my pace as best I can. My legs are on fire now and I feel my thighs starting to cramp, but I'm so close now. I finally reel him in and pass him and now all I want to see if the finish line, just around the corner and there is it!!!

Head down, trying to not think of my legs I go for it and finally cross the finish line, 1:25:18, nearly 12 minutes better than last year. I finish in 3rd place for my age group (30-34, getting old) and 12th place overall. The crazy thing is that as soon as I cross the finish line I am not even tired anymore, it was amazing. My thoughts immeidately turn to my sister, I hope she is doing well.

Stacey meets me at the finish line (woohoo!) and tells me that my sister is still on the bike so we run over there to cheer her on, and off she goes on the run. She doesn't even look tired...amazing. Gina finishes in 1:54:50, 6th in her age group (censored). Fantastic for her first triathlon ever. Mother of four, wife, business owner, trainer, marathon triathlete. Ironman is defintely in her future.

Yet again another great day, another challenge met and this time shared with my sister who has been, still is, and always will be my inspriation. Now what's better than that?