'93 US Military (Europe) Triathlon Championships
Our US Military Championships was being held within one of the World Cup Series races so the competition was brutal. You could tell us military types from the others if you knew what group of race numbers to look for. And as an “International Distance” race the distances were 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run.
Triathlons always start with some pushing and shoving as everyone piles into each other at the swim start. This time, though, the swim seemed like as much wrestling, 'cause the pushing and shoving never really ended. To swim fast your form has to be good, otherwise you're just churning water and barely moving. But just you try to concentrate on reaching out for good glides and deep, deep breaths when your getting bumped into, crawled upon and getting kicked in the head. It may make you feel a little better when you feel your foot smacks into someone else’s head for a change, but it doesn’t help your concentration any. But, all in all, the swim went as well as I could hope for. It was not a goatscrew and I finished behind the pack (as usual) yet ahead of the people who were drowning.
Then I did the usual stumbling and flailing to get out of the water, tried to see where I was going and figure out where the heck my gear was among the hundreds other sets of gear.
Nothing could be more different than the swim and the ride. When swimming you are in your own universe (except when being kicked in the head) and you focus on staying controlled. You have to concentrate on smooth, perfect form while keeping up the intensity. You have to keep telling yourself to back away from pushing like a maniac. Keep it calm and controlled so you don't go into oxygen debt and your form goes to chit.
Then you get on your bike and turn into Jack the Ripper.
When you are riding you can see the ENEMY. You ATTACK and you CRUSH them. You CRUSH them on the climbs because they are WEAK, you CRUSH them on the flats because PAIN IS YOUR FRIEND and you CRUSH them on the descents because you are a MADMAN. You have a lot of them to crush because you are a LOUSY swimmer.
It was certain that some Americans had beat me out of the water, so I absolutely had to catch them during the ride and pound... them...into...the...dirt. I had to humble them so badly that they would just let me go, and instead focus on the folks behind them.
I was on a new time trial bike for this race. It was new as in it's virgin ride was the day before. I'd found that it was so frighteningly skittish that all you had to do was look at your watch and you were on the other side of the street. 4lbs lighter then the roadbike with small aero wheels and oh-mi-god was it fast. It was newly dubbed "The Time Machine" (as in HG Wells).
The combination of a rocket-sled bike and thousands of brutal training miles and we were reeling in people left and right. We were devouring them. We were eating them alive. The problem was, none of them seemed to be Americans.
Over and over again I pushed to the limit to get that next guy, only to find another European race #.. I was getting desperate. I was halfway through the ride, riding harder and harder, desperately chasing unseen Americans that HAD to be just around the next corner. I was starting to panic. "Damn! These guys must be as hard as woodpecker lips!" If I couldn’t chase them down in my strongest event, I was hosed. So I rode harder and harder, reeling in European after European race number, but never an American.
Just before I caught up to two more guys, the ride was over, and I raced into the transition area on their heels.
The first couple of kilometers of the run is always brutal while your quads struggle to adjust to running, but I thought that one of those two had to be American so I charged after them. They weren't. Then I saw another guy 400m ahead. It took me a while to reel him in though, because by now I was deep into my reserves, but.... Another Euro. "WHERE ARE THE AMERICANS???!!"
If you must stay cool during the swim and become a psychopath on the bike; you die a thousand deaths during the run. I was thrashed. I didn't see anyone else right ahead of me, but whoever was up there, he had nothing to worry about from me. I was falling apart.
We had to be nearing the run turn-around so soon I was going to see exactly who was in front of me, as they headed back for the finish. I hit a long hill, and immediately fell to pieces. The hardest thing to do after riding hard...is running hills. The hill-running and cycling muscle groups are very similar, so they just...didn't... have... anything... ..left. The weekly ride-run death workouts had been tailored to fix this. Yet there I was barely moving and gasping for air. Sucked.
Then...THERE'S THE FIRST GUY. He passes me going back down the hill. European. #2 and #3...European. Then suddenly I could see the turn- around in front of me. NO AMERICANS!!! NO AMERICANS!!! The last 5km were a coast.
'94 US Military Triathlon Championships (needs work yet)
Heidelberg (also needs work)