Tuesday, August 25, 2009

That b’ar must have been hungry…

… ‘cause I just got eaten again.  Am I carrying on too long with the Stranger’s classic line from The Big Lebowski?

This past Sunday I raced in the ITU Kelowna Continental Cup in beautiful Kelowna, BC.  I’ve done this race 4 times and I expect to keep doing it for a number of reasons:

  • Beautiful scenery … the view of the lake and the mountains and the town from my friend Liz’s porch is amazing
  • Friendly folks … a bunch of volunteers in the town of Kelowna have been putting on their Apple Triathlon for over 25 years.  I even found mention of the race in a “History of Kelowna” picture book that was published in like 1987.
  • Kelowna is only a 4.5- to 5-hour drive from Redmond – not having to fly makes the trip rather inexpensive and hassle-free

I picked up a mild stomach bug on the Wednesday before the race but figured it would work its way out by Sunday.  I was wrong.  I didn’t really feel it until the run but then, boy, did I ever feel it.  I almost had to stop and walk a few times due to the intense pain in my gut.  Wow… but I can’t blame that for my poor finish – I had contact with the race well before the run started.  I finished 26th of 28 finishers, although about ten dropped out.  Let’s go through it chronologically:

Warm-up: thought I did well here … plenty of time on the bike, a bit shorter run than normal, then did my swim warm-up in the wetsuit.  The water in Kelowna was 21C, just above the wetsuit cutoff, and I’ve gotten a bit cold/tight between warm-up and the race start in past years.

Swim: My run-in was great and I established a decent enough position.  I worked steadily without burying myself and stayed comfortably on the feet in front of me.  I looked up a few times to ensure that I was still with the main group, and I was.  I was basically on the back of this group when guys started getting dropped, but luckily they were all behind me!  The top five or six Canadians got away on the swim, but I was more concerned with staying in the big group.  Being on the back of the group made the run-out tough and I had to work a bit to get back into the group.  Things got a bit quicker on the second lap and I felt like it was too risky to stay on the back, so I tried to move up … but apparently I didn’t try hard enough, so I just stayed next to the back two guys.  Then I drifted right a bit, corrected, got back on their feet, drifted left a bit, corrected, got back on their feet … and with about 250m to go I was dropped.  OUCH.  I swam solo the rest of the way in and could see the big group exiting transition as I ran towards T1.

Bike: I rode very hard for the first bit of the bike, hoping to catch a few riders up the road.  But I coudn’t catch ‘em, and then I got caught from behind and wished that I had built into the bike a bit more.  I didn’t feel weak or helpless on the bike, like I sort of did last week, but my best efforts just weren’t enough as I would ride with each group for a few Ks and then get dropped.  Very lame.  I should have been able to do better.  Two of the groups were riding pretty hard but I felt quite comfortable in the third group and just fell asleep at the switch, a little, and got on the wrong wheel and then couldn’t bridge when he got gapped.  Lame.

Run: Let’s ignore the terrible pain of laps two and three and instead focus on two silly things that I did during the run:

On lap one I was slowly reeling in Leduc from Canada but couldn’t quite close the last 10m.  Then I heard Simon Whitfield coming up behind (yes, I was getting lapped) and I hatched a rather silly and sub-optimal idea: I should go with this guy for as long as I can, and see if I can settle into a faster pace.  I went with Simon for maybe 15 seconds and then settled into a slightly faster pace than before … and then fell apart, more or less … then I did the same thing when Tichelaar, Jones and McMahon came through together – I picked up my pace to try and match theirs but could only do so for 15 or 20 seconds, and then ended up worse off than when I started.  But hey, when you’re already getting lapped you may as well have some fun out there.  Provided, of course, that you don’t get in the way of the guys who are still racing for $$, which of course I didn’t.

The other piece of tomfoolery on the run came in the last 200m.  My stomach started feeling miraculously better on the fourth lap and I picked up my pace a *LOT.*  If my final split was 38:45-ish then I must have been going sub-35:00 pace for that last lap.  I was reeling in Mike Adams of GBR and finally caught him with 150 or 200m to go.  I tried to pass quickly but he’d seen me coming and was ready to respond.  He sat behind me for 100m and then tried to blow past me with 50m to go.  But I had heard him back there so I was ready to respond.  I had a mental picture of the sprint between Chris Lieto and Crowie at Boise 70.3, but for some reason I was identifying with Lieto at the moment.  I put in a pretty good surge but Adams had more in the tank than I did and he nipped me at the line.

“Man, aren’t we a bunch of idiots,” I said.  Sprinting for 25th place out of 28 finishers, long after the race had been decided.  But hey, honor is honor.

I collapsed into a nearby chair, drank about three bottles of Gatorade and thought to myself, “this clearly not your best day, but you gave it your best effort” and I felt surprisingly good about that.  Minimal self-flogging.  Time to look forward to Chicago, Pac Grove, Kirkland, Tinley’s and Longhorn.

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