Monday, May 5, 2008

The Woodstock of Triathlon

Leading up to this Saturday's Avia Wildflower Long Course race I had a bit of bravado about how far my run has come.  I told anyone who would listen that I was hoping to get out there and log a sub-1:20 run split.  I didn't show enough respect for the brutality of that bike and run course, and I felt plenty of remorse for this oversight on Saturday.

My result at the race was actually pretty solid, but I had to push pretty hard to get there.  Things rarely felt smooth and relaxed like I'd planned.  Even when I was able to run at a good clip it was with tired legs and an beaten, overheated core.

At the swim start I found it rather easy to position myself in the middle of the front row.  Enough of the guys knew that they wouldn't swim all that well and stayed in the back.  Nice.  As the swim strung out I decided not to bury myself to move up, and eventually tucked in behind three other swimmers who turned out to be Chris Lieto, David Thompson and Victor Plata.  The lead swim group of about 8-10 exited a minute ahead of us (Bozzone, Andersson, Sexton, Brandon, Hackett, Cotter, ...) and a straggler or two (Macca) were in between.

I took the bike out at a moderate pace, wanting to give my legs and back some time to warm up.  My back still started hurting about five miles in but the pain wasn't quite as severe as last year and I tried to not let it bug me.  About eight riders passed me while on the bike (Hoffman, Legh, Nelson, Stehula, Jensen, ...) but I caught Jeff Piland and Barrett Brandon on Nasty Grade.  Neither was having a great day at that point -- Barrett pulled out two miles into the run and Jeff endured a painful third leg of the race.

I didn't take in enough fluids while on the bike.  Somehow I got a slow start with my drinking and eating and couldn't really "catch up."  I didn't finish my first bottle until 15-20 miles in and I didn't take solid food until mile 30.  This probably hurt me a bit on the run.

Exiting T2 I glanced at my watch and saw a time-of-day of 11:01am.  With the ~8am start I was on pace to hit my goal of 4:20 if I hit my run goal.  I tried to stay smooth and relaxed for the first three miles and ticked off 12:00 and 18:00 at miles 2 and 3.  I knew that the hills of miles 4 and 5 would be a challenge and I lost two minutes during that stretch.  I also had to fight through a crampy left quad but I manage to hobble past Chris Stehula and one other runner.  Bombing down the hill after mile 5 I could see Adam Jensen in the valley ahead.  I expected to pass him based on our past running experiences but he stayed strong in the second half while I faded a bit, despite getting some encouraging words from Ray Maker and Jim Levisky as they biked past.  The mile through Redonda Vista campground was also uplifting, as always, with all of the people lining the route.  I caught another guy around mile 10.5 shortly after Victor Plata came flying past both of us.  I closed on Victor a little in the final two miles but he stayed ahead by 20-30 seconds and I took 19th place.  My run split was 1:23 and my total time was either 4:20 or 4:23, depending on whether I believe the finish line marquee or the printed results.

Given the strength of this year's field I feel pretty good about my result.  I can see opportunities for improvement in each of the three legs but I think that I set myself up well for this year's Tri Cal series.  Most of the guys who beat me at Wildflower won't be doing the series.

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