Sunday, June 15, 2008

Race Report: Enka Biltmore Sprint Triathlon

"It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly...who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." - Teddy Roosevelt

Well, Saturday's race wasn't quite that dramatic, but this quote came to mind during the run! Here are the details:

After a wonderful Friday night dinner with my family in Asheville, I tossed and turned a bit the night before the race and was wide awake before the alarm went off at 5 a.m. I generally become a classic, type-A triathlete on race morning and got to the race site with PLENTY of time to spare -- along with about 100 other classic, type-A, early-bird triathletes!

Once I arrived on site, I was very calm. The location was beautiful, check-in went smoothly, I was assigned a good bike rack position, and I didn't even have to wait in line at the port-o-potty! All was right with the world.

After setting up transition, my brother-in-law Dave (who was also racing) and I headed out to warm-up on our bikes. As we made our first turn on the bike course and began to climb, I thought, "Hmmmm......course description didn't say anything about a climb out of transition." Little did I know then that the words "Course description didn't say...." would be constantly in my head for the next two hours.

After a quick bike and run, we got good luck hugs from family (where we realized that our camera had dead batteries...but you can see a full gallery HERE and pictures of Dave and me in this post are by Asheville Citizen Times Photographer Jon Fletcher), headed to the water, and got ready to roll.

Perfect open water swimming conditions. Clean, sandy bottom lake surrounded by a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains and bright blue sky. Water temperature of 81 degrees, so no wetsuits allowed.

Just as I had intended, I stepped right up to the front of my wave and took off when the horn sounded. No holding back on the swim this year! The start was very, very crowded and I took my fair share of bumps, kicks, and grabs -- and gave an unintentional few as well. Nevertheless, I remained very calm and simply focused on my breath, form, and sighting.

The course consisted of three legs: Less than 250 yards to the first buoy, left turn, ~ 250 yards to the second buoy, left turn, ~300 yards to home.

Overall, I was very pleased with this my first open water swim of 2008. I felt strong and I sighted very well on the first two legs, getting a wee bit off on the third. Given that I wasn't really winded when I came out of the water, I could have pushed harder, but overall a great day in the water for me -- and my fastest open water swim yet!

750 yards

Why isn't there an event that just consists of transitions? I could really dominate that one! Oh well....

A quick run on sand, grass, asphalt, and tennis court to my bike. Glasses, helmet (an aero helmet on loan from my coach -- a first for me), shoes, bike - GO! 59 seconds later I was riding.

Here's what the course description says about the bike:

The 17.5 mile bike leg will be challenging, providing athletes with a steady mixture of climbing, descents and flat terrain. There are nice climbs at the 3 and 11 mile marks that will separate the field.

Reading it now, I'm thinking, well I guess that's technically accurate, but I would describe it a bit differently:

This race may be a sprint, but if you do not regularly ride in the mountains, this very well may be the hardest bike ride you've ever done. Prepare yourself. The constant climbs are briefly interrupted with screaming descents where your breaks will squeal and you may question your ability to remain upright. You will not find a rhythm. Instead you will either be wishing you had a baby chain ring or maxed out on your big ring, hanging on for dear life. When you see the words SLOW DOWN NOW spray painted on the road, take heed. Practice your descending turns now, because on race day, if you do not find the right line, you will either lose all of your momentum and face another immediate, mentally exhausting climb without the right gearing -- or you will fly off of the road. And yes, there are serious climbs at miles 3 and 11 -- but you will be so tired by the time you reach them, that it won't even register that these are the climbs you thought you prepared for.

Having said all of that, I am quite proud of the way I handled the bike. It WAS the hardest ride I've ever done. Even though it was not what I expected, I stayed mentally in the game and worked my mantras-- both when I was going 36 mph and when I was going 6 mph. I truly raced, playing cat and mouse with several gals in my age group for the first third of the ride before I got angry, said "Enough of this (insert the expletive of your choice)," put the hammer down, and left them for good -- on a hill. I was determined to have an average speed of at least 17 mph -- and just got it, averaging 17.2.

I was SO happy to arrive at T2 -- diaphragm cramping, tight hamstrings, parched throat, mental exhaustion and all. After coming out of the water 11th in my age group, I was ranked 6th at the end of the bike.

17.5 miles

I was there for 44 seconds. It was a blur. Here's a great picture of Dave approaching T2, textbook style.

Coming out of T2, I grabbed a cup of water from the first aid station and threw it over my head in an attempt to clear the bike from my mind. Didn't work. Instead I spent the first mile obsessing about the bike and not focusing on the task at hand. By the time my head cleared somewhat and my legs came around, I hit the massive - as Dave called it "slap in your face"- hill at mile 1. It was demoralizing -- but I kept repeating "small steps, big arm, small steps, big arms" and sloooowwly made my way up.

The rest of run was on beautiful trail around the lake -- and I had plenty of time to notice the scenery, as my legs just wouldn't work. I saw mile 2 and knew that I wanted to speed up. Unfortunately, no juice to be found. Instead, I thought about cadence and kept my head up as 4 gals in my age group passed me. Ugh.

Rounding the last turn for home, Ray was waiting and said, "C'mon Rob, I want to see something!" I scowled, gritted my teeth, and powered the last 45 seconds to the finish line. Slowest 5K in a long, long while, but very happy to be done.

I walked straight through the shoot, back into the lake and sat down.

3.1 miles

A real test in a beautiful setting. An improved swim. A strong bike. A tough day on the run. More muscular endurance work to do. More mental training, "clear the mechanism" attitude to cultivate. A fun day -- by the end!

Oh, and a GREAT post-race lunch for athletes provided one of my old Asheville favorites!

Overall Results
AG: 11/21
Women: 34/92