Race Report: BikeSource 2010

Race day never dawned. It just sort of crawled out of the cold and mist and sat in the parking lot in its clammy skin. And 330 of us, duathletes and triathletes donning the duathlete mantle, rubbed its amphibian head for luck and set up our transition areas.

"Huh," I thought, "I haven't given a thought to transition. How hard can it be; I've done this before." Ah, blithe dismissal, so often an element of tragicomedy.

Many questions had buzzed in my head the weeks before this race. How different was my body, really, from last fall? Was all the work I'd done over the winter real, or was it a mirage, with little actual effect? Had I been doing enough running lately? Was I going to be any good on my new bike? How hard could I push?

And the one that haunts me: Am I strong yet?

On race morning, my legs felt like all the questions had been hollowed out of them. My legs felt like a much readier person's legs. Sorry, readier person, I am not giving them back.

For some reason, cat had my tongue both before and after the race. Often when I'm in a good space, I can't do much but grin stupidly at my friends and talk the ears off random strangers. Such was the case. When Zoolander and his teammate (and my new friend) The Major MudBunny rode off on their time machines, aka TT bikes, to warm up, I took off for a slow delightful jog in my warmups. "Good taper," I said to myself.

Nutrition. Lunch the day before, roasted chicken, vegetables, fruit. The night before was party food: barbecue. One bratwurst and a miniscule flutter of salad; a bottle of Boulevard Wheat; and nothing after 6:30 PM. At five in the morning, a Larabar. A couple of Shot Bloks before the race. I wouldn't recommend taking a chance on a bratwurst, but this worked out fine. I didn't feel hungry all morning (even after the race) and never felt that scary mid-race bottomed-out feeling. Fueled and able to burn it all.

The duathletes rocketed off 10 minutes before the larger triathlete pack. Seventy-five percent of the field was men. Since both of last year's tris were all-women, this was a new experience for me. I missed the women. Where were all the women who did the all-women tris? Why weren't they here getting in on the fun?

The Major and I hung out together in the pack. When the horn went off, she jetted forward; her voice still clinging to my short-term memory: "On the first run, hold back three to five percent. Don't worry, you'll use it all up by the end."

So the first run felt slow and measured. A lot of people passed me because I had lined up farther toward the front than usual. I liked this. I liked seeing the field, even if it passed me. When you line up at the back, all you see are the people at the back. Run split: 18:06, 9:03 pace. If you're keeping track, that was my fastest measured pace up to that point.

T1: aka Annie is a circus clown. My feet were wet from running through puddles. I took off my shoes and tried not to get my feet wetter, which was of course impossible in the steady mist. I had no real idea where I'd put anything down on my transition towel. I considered a sock change, decided that was silly. I picked up my glasses. Wear them? It's too foggy on the bike. Put them down. Put one bike shoe on. Then what? Where's my helmet? Oh yeah, I put it here under the towel. Do I want my glasses? No, I guess not. Other shoe. Really? I don't want my glasses? Jeez, I've spent so much time in transition, at this point might as well take a drink of water too.

Typically this uncoordinated effort would leave me frustrated and a little panicky. But once I realized coordination was hopeless, I became very patient with myself, like I was a little kid. The main thing was just getting me onto the bike with all my gear fastened.

Bike: I had fretted a bit about my graceless nature saddling up and clipping in. I needn't have worried. I ran my bike around three people who were having as hard a time as I'd imagined for myself. Then maneuvered out of the mount area past some weaving people. All good, hope they all had amazing rides. My bike split was 43:05, 13.9mph. Yeah, the course was wet and hillier than any I'd ridden in a race, but this was a lot slower than I hoped to be. Time to put some miles on my legs, on this bike. What went right on the bike: I got faster and rode stronger with every lap; I handled the one fast downhill really well and passed people on the uphill after it on every lap; was comfortable on the wet corners. I did as well as I knew how and didn't feel like I'd left anything out. I pushed until my legs were doing all they could and then kept them working there.

Where The Major MudBunny's voice had clung to my memory on the run, Zoolander's voice was more like a rock hammer. "You should be working harder on the bike. You should be so deep in the pain tunnel that you can't think." I didn't go deep in the pain tunnel, but I did get far enough inside the entrance that I couldn't hear ZL's voice. The only thing I could hear was my own Inner Ass-Kicker. "DO NOT GEAR DOWN NOW. GO CATCH HER. TAKE THIS GUY ON THE HILL. DO NOT SLOW DOWN." My IAK curses a lot, so imagine all of that chili-peppered with expletives, counterpointed with my own moaned impolite vocabulary the third time I went up the hard hill, hard.

Also, I was lucky. The bike course was littered with flats, dropped chains, at least on exploded chain, and numerous fatalistic racers walking back to the gate.

I hoped to see The Major on her bike, but we were spaced apart on the course. ZL was off the bike and on his second run, ahead of the field in what must have been a weirdly quiet, wet chill. I loved seeing the super-fast people lapping me on their TT bikes. Those bikes make an odd smooth sound when they approach from behind. It sounds like something that should have claws and a sharp beak.

T2 was unremarkable. I still wasn't sharp, but didn't dither. My legs felt weird now — as I told ZL later, prosthetic yet as though two random animals had been attached where my legs were supposed to be. I definitely wasn't in control, and these crazy things just bolted out of transition. "Are you freaking kidding me?" I was asking my legs at about the time I heard ZL yelling at me that now is when the fun starts. "What are you DOING down there? We can't keep this up."

Yet we did. Around the course, up the hill (God, I love hills) where my legs finally felt like legs again, around the bend and across the dam. The Major had also warned me about the dam, how it would look like it was never going to end. So before I ran up on it I looked across and cut the distance into pieces mentally, choosing the points where I'd pick up speed. And then went into a blind zone down that long white alley where there was no end, only me running as fast as I could, then faster, until my sides hurt and I whimpered aloud and begged for mercy from the distance.

And then stayed there until I crossed the finish. Second run: 26:41, 8:54 pace. This is a number I wouldn't have imagined for myself, particularly after the bike, and makes me sad I won't be working with Trainer Kevin anymore. Am I strong? Everything's relative, but yeah. Let's go ahead and say I am.

I so want more women to race. I would just as soon with my best effort be 350th in a field of 500 incredible athletes as second in a field of ten. The distance, the terrain, and our own bodies are the test, but the field is the energy.

Having said that, placing second was enormous fun and cracked me up because it was so unexpected. And I am proud of myself. That feels good. I stared at the results for a long time, not believing my eyes.

What is as good as a podium spot? Getting bumped up in the ranks because one of the overall winners was from the 40-44 group. That's fantastic. Beautiful work.

What is even better: hanging with the kind of people who will wait shivering and miserable in the rain and cold until your name is called. ZL, first in duathlon Master's, 6th overall and second on the bike, and The Major, second in her tri age group and ready to rip into her first Olympic distance next week. I feel incredibly lucky that I got to learn so much from these two around this race.

I think I should mention Rob, too, because though he might not believe it he taught me something really cool in the 5 minutes or so that he rode with me and The Major out at Heritage Park, which was reinforced on race day. But since I learned it on a bike and this is Bike Week, I am going to save it for another post.


Troy said...

Nice job. You're getting pretty fast on the runs.

Zoolander said...

Congratulations and great report! Its interesting that so often reliving the pain and effort a few days later is so satisfying and enjoyable, when during the event its all suffering.