Championship Race — Old Man Pace
I went to Las Vegas, did not hit the numbers I wanted, and still came out ahead.
- I made friends.
- I saw some cool scenery — including within the Lake Meade Recreation Area.
- I went all out — I went for it — and came up snake eyes on the run.
- I caught some sort of bug or virus. All summer long I thought, “What a treat! I get to race at a World Championship. This will be fun.” Now I think, “That was better than a treat. The World Championships are really fun. I MUST QUALIFY again.”
- I came home exhausted.
I swam 1.2 miles in 28:33. The course was rectangular-ish — 800 meters down, over a bit, 1200 meters back — and clockwise. It was pouring rain during the swim so my mirror goggles were of no help. The speed suit by Roka was a big help. I love that suit. I went off the line hard, swam to the front from the second row and drafted for at least 400 of the first 600 meters. By my count at the time, I was in about third place for my group. As it turns out, there were some guys so much faster I didn’t see them go. I finished 7th in my age group, 115th overall and pretty pumped up for the long, sloshy run around the lake to the bikes.
I rode 56.6 miles — yep, the course architect made the route long this year, something about safety and a turn — in 2:42:48. That is an average pace of 20.64 miles per hour which dropped me back to 90th in my age group and 433rd overall. The course description of “rolling hills” reminds me of Bird Ridge that Dana and I hiked in Alaska. It was labeled “moderate” by the locals and is way more difficult than anything we had ever seen in the East. Leaving Lake Las Vegas, the hills began within the first half mile and did not stop until T2. In fact, the last several miles were all uphill. Going into the race I was aiming for a 2:30 split. I had ridden 2:24 in Raleigh and thought the balance of a harder course, heat and improvement through training would mean that 2:30 would be a really good ride. It was clear within the first hour that I wouldn’t be on the projected pace but I didn’t panic or compensate by going harder. I couldn’t. At every juncture when I would assess how I was doing on the bike, I’d ask myself about nutrition, posture and then whether or not I could go harder. I turned myself inside out to ride hard and fast — low to the bike with a smooth cadence — and still was slow.
The rain stopped a few miles from T2. The sun came out and everything steamed — roads, grass, cyclists, the carpet in transition. Everything steamed except my run split.
The run proved to be my downfall. I knew this outcome was very possible. I worked hard on the bike and didn’t hold back. The run would be hot — the temperature climbed up to 92 — and the whole run course is a series of two mile uphill followed by two mile downhill repeats. Cognizant that I might not ever race at this level again, I decided to open up the throttle and go for it all. Probably not the move of a more experienced triathlete. In fact, it probably is a bad strategy all around unless you have reason to be much more confident in your run than I do.
I went out for more than a mile downhill at a 7:12 pace. Miles two through four and a half were slower than I’d like them to be, but they were in the right area because I held down 8:38 and 8:37 paces. Then it all went BOOM and I blew up like a sparkly firecracker from the strip. At this point, a bit more than a third of the way through the run and as the road pointed back uphill, my pace took on two defining attributes. It because highly variable and it became much slower. I turned in one and two mile splits with paces that went 9:24, 9:40, 9:28, 9:15, and 9:58. Then with .9 miles remaining, I buckled down and set aside the atrocious signals my body was sending to my brain. I finished — mostly downhill, by the way — with an all out sprint for the last 300-400 meters and an 8:08 pace. That 8:08, by the way, is what I had planned or hoped to average for the whole run. It didn’t happen even though I got back there in the end.
At the finish, I was able to outsprint two other competitors from my age group. I’ve never done that before. We were in an actual footrace for the line and I passed them both and got there first. It was exciting even if it didn’t amount to a big change in the standings. I finished 166th in my group — 35-39 year old men — and 888th overall.
A Coda or A Look Ahead?
All in all, I spent 5:17:09 getting around the course. This is more than half an hour longer than I had anticipated. No matter, I gave it all I had that day, raced against the best in the world, and came up with a big smile at the end.
Next time. Next time, I’ll do better.