Monday, May 23, 2011

A terrific idea

Sat 23 April: My good friend Andrew Lockton calls me up to reminisce about one of our favorite races – the Avia Wildflower Long Course Triathlon. Over the course of the conversation, we realize that I don’t have any major plans for the upcoming weekend. Uh oh…

Sun 24 April: I email the good folks at Tri-California to verify that I can still register as an Elite this close to race day. I know that it is poor form to do so, as races like to promote the size and awesomeness of their elite field… but they were still gracious.

Mon 25 April: after a rather productive day at work, I check with my boss about taking Thursday and Friday off

Tue 26 April: I register for the race and cash in a free ticket on Southwest

Wed 27 April: I ride my TT bike for 20 minutes in order to make sure that there are no glaring mechanical issues. I’d been on this bike once since the 2009 Scott Tinley’s Adventures race. I had a long email thread with five friends about whether I’d be better off just riding my road bike at Wildflower, in order to be more comfortable. But in the end we decided that racing is racing and I should bring my fastest bike for that race. Possibly a mistake in my case.

Thu 28 April: fly to San Jose. My bicycle makes it there with me but somehow my suitcase does not. I decide that “Plan B” is to race in a Speedo. Luckily Andrew hasn’t left his house yet and is able to bring some extra clothes for me, too.

Fri 29 April: shakeout ride & run, race meeting, and a perennial favorite: the Elite Introductions. Julie Moss and Bob Babbitt ran the show this time

Sat 30 April: Race Day


As soon as I got away from the San Jose airport and into the rolling hills, I knew I’d made a great decision. The beautiful scenery always brings back a lot of memories of good times on the Tri-California circuit.

I had no idea what to expect on the swim or bike, but I hoped that my run would be solid. I’ve been doing my GeekFit workout regularly to build strength and aerobic capacity within my muscles, and I’ve done just enough swimming to maintain some feel for the water… but my volume was *way* down from previous years. I’d done eight or ten hard bike rides so far this year whereas in past years I’d do at least that many each month. Only my run volume is comparable to past years – mostly at a social pace, with a long run and a workout maybe every other week, on average.

Race mornings are pretty much automatic for me at this point – my bag is already packed, I instinctively know how much warm-up I need, I can socialize a bit while still being one of the first athletes into the water for swim warm-up.

Swim: I surprised myself by getting out quickly and sitting near the front of the race as we approached the first turn buoy. Things broke up a bit more over the first 1000m but I swam smart and tucked in behind another guy for the second 1000m rather than continuing to swim side-by-side. I was pleasantly surprised to exit the water in roughly 12th place.

bike-5Bike: I tried to build into the ride and to just enjoy myself. I stayed in aero on the flats & downhills but wasn’t shy about sitting on the tops for the many climbs. I didn’t worry about trying to keep up with riders who passed me. I just tried to enjoy the ride. Andrew caught me around mile 37 and we rode side-by-side until Nasty Grade, cracking a few jokes as we rode. We were totally out-of-contention at this point. I’d never rode side-by-side in a race for this long before, and it was a fun change of pace. (BTW- such positioning is completely legal in races that are following the USAT Elite rules.)


run-3 Run: I really hoped to light up the run after running 16:01 for 5k on the track back in March… but my legs and back felt *terrible* in the first few miles of the Wildflower run. The felt so bad that I thought I might DNF. But I managed to work through the tightness and crampiness and soreness and settled into a good pace, picking off a runner about every half mile for the first 4-6 miles. My quads *hated* any uphills or downhills, but I was smooth and comfortable on the flats. Sadly this course has lots of hills! I was probably running low-1:20s pace through 11 or 12 miles, but Wildflower veterans know that the last mile is steeply downhill, and my legs blew apart on that descent. I had to shuffle backwards at times just to make progress, and I got passed back by an athlete who I’d passed four miles earlier. Argh… But eventually I limped over the finish line and was done!

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my friend Jesse Thomas managed to win the race, with Clayton Fettell taking second! Jesse and I volunteer together on the PROTA board of directors and Clayton and I took part in a memorable after-party for last year’s Ishigaki World Cup.

All in all…

  • It was great to be out there racing again.
  • It was great to catch up with a bunch of friends.
  • It was great to be one of the few Seattlites to get a sunburn on April 30th!
  • It was great to find that my swim is still very respectable in spite of focusing a lot of my energy elsewhere lately.

But I did see the difference between focusing most of one’s energy on racing and focusing most of one’s energy on other things. That said, it was very validating to see that I can still have a fantastic time with a race without needing every moment of my home life to be about racing. We’ll see what the next few months and years hold for me, triathlon-wise, but I do expect to be out there at the Monroe and San Francisco ITU races with a giant smile on my face!

(Thanks to the good folks Brightroom for allowing athletes like me to use their thumbnails on our blogs, free of charge!)

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