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Hilton Head Triathlon, Spring05

It was a Sprint Triathlon, 500m swim, 12.5mi ride, 5km run.  Call it an hour, if you’re quick.  They do this race both in the Spring and the Fall.  It was the Spring04 race where I got into an argument with Mr. Drafter, aka Pete West.  He wanted to continue the pissing match during the run, but by then I’d noticed that according to the age marked in ink on his calf, we were in the same division.  And I figured that if I just pissed him off more, he’d be that much harder to crush in the run.

It was Fall04 when Jerry the local District Attorney (recall the saga of Miss Savannah being acquitted for killing her boyfriend with a single round of .40 S&W to the butt), and Pete got into a brawl during the swim.  The lesson there for all is that if you try to pull Jerry’s shorts off, don’t be surprised if he pops you in the nose.

My mother and #1 son also attended.

I’d asked mom to hang around the car/transition area so I could give her the truck keys before the race started.  The conversation went like this.

Mom: “How about I just take the keys now”.

Scott: “Ok, but I’m running back and forth between the truck and transition area, getting all the gear set up.  And all it would take, while you are wandering around the area, is for you to hit the Lock Button on the keyfob and I’m locked away from my gear and the whole race is hosed.”

Mom: “Well, I don’t want that responsibility”.

Scott: “Ok, how about you just hang around the area for a bit and I’ll give you the keys once I’ve got everything set up”.

Mom: “Ok”.

That would be the last time I saw her for 2hrs.  I looked and looked for her, and then finally decided to lock up the truck and just leave the keys under a towel in the transition area.

Parents just don’t respond well to instructions.

There was some wind and a little rain.  So the water was rough as heck and the roads were wet.  That made the swim chaos and the ride cautious.

The swells were big enough that I couldn’t see most of the other swimmers.  On a number of occasions I turned for a breath only to find that I didn't quite clear the water and get air.  The swells kinda threw everyone into each other so there was a lot of swimming on top of one another.  Heck, at the start running into the surf with the crowd, I got knocked off my feet by a big wave coming in.  Then at the end of the swim when I was at the shore and attempted to get up to wade/run the last couple of feet..... a swell hit that turned 3’ deep into 7’ deep and instead of my feet hitting bottom, I sank like a stone.

It was a good 500m run from the beach to the transition area where the bike gear was.  When you come out of the water, your arms have been working hard, but you’re legs tend to be totally unready to run hard up the beach and towards the transition area.  It's also a bit disorienting to swim really hard for 10-25min, jump out of the water and run really hard.  Not to mention that you’re wearing a thick and restraining wet suit. 

Having lost my focus a little, some kid blew by me as I was jogging to the transition area. That brought me to my senses and I started running hard for the transition area.

The swim-to-ride transition went without a major crisis.  I didn’t do any of the stupid things I often do.  Like, stand there looking at my cycling gear and wonder what I should put on first.  Or I suddenly find it impossible to put on a shoe or a shirt.  Or I put glasses on before the helmet.  Such that when I next force the helmet strap over my face, my glasses explode into 10 pieces, all marked “Oakley”.

Didn’t do any of that.  Which for me, is about as good as it gets.

I ran out of the transition area with my bike, and, surprisingly, with Pete West.  He historically outswims me, so seeing him just after getting out of the water means things were going well so far.  He started the ride a couple seconds behind me.  And I never saw him again.  Which is also about as good as it gets.

The ride went pretty well.  I was darn cautious about the wet corners, especially where lines and arrows were painted on the pavement.  Paint on the road becomes slick as ice when wet, and Time Trial tires are usually very narrow “slicks”.  It wouldn’t take much at all for them to go out from under our hero.  It’d all happen so fast that the next thing I’d know I’d be bouncing up off of the pavement, having already gone down, impacted and now in the rebound.  That sort of thing sucks.

The ride course was 4 laps.  The weather was blustery and sprinkling.  Although the 4 lap design made it spectator friendly, the problem that created is that when you come flying around at full blast for the start of lap 2, you suddenly find the course full of the novices that did the 500m in a lieisurely breaststroke.  It’s kinda like racing NASCAR in freeway traffic.  Folks don’t know you’re coming behind them fast, so they don’t know to get out of your way.

I hammered hard down the wet pavement, threaded my way thru hundreds of pokey riders, which occasionally forced me to take some risks dancing around rubber cones and oncoming vehicles, and then treated the corners as if they were slicker then glass.  And I got away with it.

At least I thought I did. 

I was a couple hundred meters out of a turn in lap 3 when it happened.  I was studying hard the flow of folks up ahead of me that I was going to be on top of in a couple seconds.  I was trying to make predictions as to what folks where gonna be where when I hit that turn up ahead.  Then suddenly there was a “BANG” just behind me.  “OH SHIT”, I thought, I’ve flatted.  I looked hard at my rear (disk) wheel for the telltale tire bulge that would indicate a flat.  And really didn’t see it.  But my glasses were soaked with water vapor and spray, and the tires are so narrow that can be hard to tell if they are flat and bulging out.  This was a crisis moment because I had to know in the next second before that turn if I had a flat.  I popped my glasses off and looked down really really hard.  I had to be right.  Because if I hit that wet turn coming up in about 3 seconds with a flat tire, I was going to wake up in the ambulance.  But no matter how I squinted, I just did not see a flat.  So I slowed down and took the corner REALLY gingerly.  And stayed up.  So I figured that whatever the “BANG” was, it wasn’t my rear tire.  And I ramped it back up to ramming speed.

A 30min ride is pretty much  a sprint the whole way.  Every second you have to keep the pressure on your pace such that you're just a tad below flat out. You can't let your mind wander for a second.  The intensity level is such that, inside, you're shrieking at yourself "GO GO GO GO" the whole way.

As I approached the ride-run transition I remembered my plan to pull my feet out of the cycling shoes before the dismount.  It would have been nice if I’d practiced this move, but I’d been insufficiently motivated to practice and as a result it took me a lot of fumbling to get my darn feet out of my shoes.  The route of the last couple of hundred yards of winding thru a parking lot to get to the transition area had all changed since last year.  They added a couple sharp turns.  Which would normally not have been a big deal, but I was on a temperamental and unstable time trial bike, my feet were on, not in, the cycling shoes (seriously limiting control), and the road was so slick that if I attempted to slow down with a sense of purpose, the tires would likely break free and down I’d go.

What I didn’t remember to do is to vault off my bike while it was still moving and hit the ground running.  Practice would have been useful there too.  But practice is for wusses.  And heck, once I finally figured out where the new dismount point was, it was everything I could do just to get the bike halted fast, yet not let the wheels lock up and slide out from under me.  So I didn’t gracefully vault off of the moving bike.  But I didn’t end up on my head either.

The ride-run transition turned out to be a struggle to get wet running shoes on to wet feet.  But it worked out.

I ran out of the transition area with Nick the 17yr old swim phenom.  He crushed me so badly in the swim in the Parris Island triathlon last month that I couldn’t catch back up.  Frankly I couldn’t, just then, remember how strong his running was, but the smart money was not on the 42yr old father of 3.  And to reinforce that bet, he immediately adopted a brutal pace.  I knew immediately that I was hosed.  I wouldn’t, I thought, be able to maintain that pace for long.

But then his pace started slacking off.  I tried to give the youngster some encouragement (Typical Scott PsyWar move).  If the guy racing next to you has spare strength enough that he can give you words of encouragement, you know he’s gonna crush you).  So I gave him words of encouragement.  By the first mile marker, PsyWar had drawn blood and Nick the phenom had dropped back.

At about halfway thru the run, I figured that I was pretty much in the place that I was gonna finish in.  I could see a guy up ahead, but he was so far up there that unless he stopped for lunch, he was safe from me.  So I just kept up a good clip so folks behind me wouldn’t get any ideas.  If they sense weakness, you’re a dead man.  It was the first run, since my return to triathlon last year, where I didn’t lose a position or two during the run.  Felt nice to not get passed for a change.  God how I hate being passed.

I ended up getting an age-group 2nd.  First went to a buddy that, 10yrs ago, was on Duathlon Team USA.  (Duathlons are for triathletes that can’t swim.).  They used to call them Biathlons, but that caused a confrontation with folks in another sport.  And in that other sport they have rifles.  Sure, I was at the triathlon world championships in that same time frame, but I was a wreck in the decade that followed.  You lose a lot of fitness in a decade.  Mr. Duathlon Team USA crushed me in a 5k run last month.  A couple days after that 5k he turned 40 and entered my age division.  I was kinda hoping that his swimming sucked more then mine.  Reasonable because I never see him at the pool.  But now that I’ve seen the results I know that he crushed me in the swim, I made most of the time back on the bike, and then he crushed me again in the run.

I found out later that Mr. Team Duathlon USA was an Age Group All American swimmer as a youngster.  He says that he finds that he really doesn’t to swim much anymore to remain a reasonably strong swimmer, <groan>.  I have to swim my ass off just not to suck more.

What was cool tho, is that there is a guy that lives in the region that is a Masters National Swim Champion.  Last Fall he beat me because, once again, I couldn’t make up all the time I lost in the swim.  But this time I punched his ticket. 

Saga ends.


Fall05 addendum.  The Masters National Swim Champion was the Fall version of this same race (it’s held twice a season) last month.  I missed it because my absence of injuries in my Jan-Jul horrific training regimen, a product of carefully building in enough recovery, meant that this year I didn’t have the many weeks of no training associated with last year’s injuries.  And the absence of those weeks off meant I just kept training hard.  Which led to total burn-out by the end of July.  My swimming and cycling were ok, but my running was just shot.

Anyways, he, a strong competitor was at a race that I missed.  He had heat problems and collapsed a ¼ mile from the finish.  After 3 weeks in the hospital he, died.  Leaving a widow and two little girls.  That really got my attention.

I was in a race the month previous, totally burned out, but trying to help the Savannah Triathlon Team humiliate the Jacksonville Triathlon team.  It was pretty damn hot, but not deathly so.  But I had serious problems and went deep into the red.  It was a death march where I was reduced to nothing better then a shuffle, yet I was sucking wind like a jet turbine.  I barely made it across the finish line, stumbled to the paramedics tent and just laid down on their bench for a while.  I pressed that one a little too close.