Ray's Blog

Sunday, February 26, 2006

2004 June 13: San Jose International Triathlon

This was the first race I ever ran that was organized by J&A Productions
It's almost an Olympic
distance triathlon-- the swim leg is 1.25K instead of 1.5K for some
reason (probably because it takes place in a fairly small lake), but
the bike and run legs are official Olympic distance (40K and 10K,

I'd been looking forward to this race for a while because I wanted to
erase the memories of my Wildflower 2004 debacle from my
brain.  (I've also just generally been thinking that maybe Olympic
distance is the "correct" distance for me to be racing.  Or at
least that Ironman distance is almost definitely not the correct distance for me,
and that half-Iron distance is quite likely not the correct distance for me.)

Sunday morning, I drove to the race bright and early (the race started
at 7am!  Considering that it's a [sub-]Olympic distance race, it
would have been kind of nice if it had started a bit later in the
day.  On the other hand, it's nice when a race finishes before the
day gets too hot) with Ambarish, who was competing in his first ever
triathlon.  We had plenty of time to prepare ourselves for the
race, except that I had left my swimcap behind at home, and so I went
over to the registration tent to get another one.  I waited for
around 15 minutes in line there, getting progressively more antsy,
until the woman dealing with the line said, "Anyone who needs a
swimcap: just come around the table and get one!"  So I grabbed
one and walked back to the transition area, where I discovered that I actually hadn't left my
swimcap at home-- I had just put it in a different part of my bag than
I had remembered.  Ah, well.

Chris Gregory had parked his bike right near mine and Ambarish's, so we
chatted a bit with him. Since he's a young 'un, he was starting in the
second wave of racers (the first wave was for the pros).  He
wasn't thrilled about that, but you gotta do what you gotta do. 
The three of us left the transition area and split up to perform our
own personal little pre-race rituals.

The beach was friendly enough and the water was warm enough that I
actually went in some minutes before the race (I don't normally do
that).  When my wave started, I took off at what I hoped was a
reasonable pace, swimming counter-clockwise around the lake.  The
swim course was vaguely Pac-Man shaped: swimmers were supposed to pass
every buoy except the last one with the buoy on their left, and then they were supposed
to head towards the center of the lake where they would pass the final
buoy on their right and then
head to shore.  With the bright morning sun, it was kind of tricky
to see where I was expected to swim, and I actually passed the
penultimate buoy on the wrong side, because I thought that it was the
final buoy.  Pretty much everyone around me did the same thing,
and none of us really shaved any distance off the course, anyway. 
No biggie (it's not like I was gonna get first place because of this!).

Into the transition area and onto my bike.  On the way out, I saw
and exchanged greetings with Mizuki, who was volunteering for the race
by helping to direct traffic flow in the transition area.  (She
was originally going to race, but she took ill a few days beforehand,
and was still recovering.)

The bike course was said to be very flat, with only one hill of about 1
mile.  I felt pretty good at the start of the ride, and was
passing a reasonable number of people without being passed much by
other folks.  At first I was passed so infrequently that I counted
each instance; I remember thinking, "I've been passed by only four
people so far, and three of them had a disc wheel!"  Somewhat
later on the course, I found that plenty of folks were passing me (I
was still passing other folks, too).

There was one out-and-back turnaround on the bike course.  Somehow
it felt like I was fighting the wind on the way out, but after I turned
around, it became pretty clear that I had it all backwards: the return
trip was significantly harder and slower.

The advertised hill was even easier than expected, since it was only .6
miles or so (plus it wasn't too steep).

I finished the bike ride surprised that it took me so long, but feeling
full of energy.  I decided that although the first two legs of my
triathlon had been somewhat leisurely, I was really going to kick me
some butt on the run.  I stepped off my bike and wham!  I realized that my
lower back was really killing me.  It had felt great until the
moment I dismounted, but as of that moment, I was in some real
pain.  I gingerly racked my bike and bike gear and changed into my
running shoes, and then gimped my way out of the transition area. 
I was pretty sure that after a little running, I'd loosen up and feel

Lamentably, I was wrong.  My back pain stuck with me for the
entire run, and so my planned 25-minute 10K became a 45-minute
10K.  (OK, in reality, there is of course no way in hell that I
could ever run 10K in 25 minutes (according to this,
the current world record appears to be 26:20.31, and that doesn't
involve swimming and cycling beforehand) .  But as long as I get
to make up the time here, I might as well make it something ridiculous,
no?  I might as well also say that my back pain slowed my bike
ride down a lot, even though I was unaware of its existence until I
stopped biking.  Who knows?  It might even be true.)

En route I drank some water
and whatever the fitness drink of the day was.  I also grabbed a Red Bull from the Red Bull stand
around 3
miles (?) into the run, reasoning that if it truly did give me wings,
that could help me through the pain.  Maybe 4 miles in we ran
around a very oddly colored pond-- it looked like its contents were a
huge raspberry slushy (or maybe the pond was a gigantic toilet bowl
whose contents were colored by one of those bluish toilet bowl
cleaners?).  In general, because of my back trouble,
I was pretty unhappy and unexcited for the entire run, and I didn't
even feel like putting on any kind of a kick at the end.  Too bad,
since for once, I had plenty of energy!

After doing some post-race grubbin' (I ran into Chris again, too), I
sat around, hanging out with Mizuki and Radhika.  When Ambarish
finished cycling, I hobbled back to the transition area to see if he
needed a hand preparing for the run.  He looked to be in good
shape and rarin' to go, so he did; my only assistance to him was to
make him hand me the bag of trail mix (or similar substance) in his
jersey pocket before starting the run (running with a bag in there
make it bounce around and generate no end of annoyance).

My back was actually getting worse, so Mizuki managed to talk me into
visiting the medical tent, where a chiropractor evaluated me, iced my
back, and gave me some advice.  While I was getting iced, Ambarish
finished racing and went to the food area.  Mizuki's husband, Tom,
showed up, and the two of them baby-sat me for a bit during my medical
tent stay and thereafter until they headed out.

When Ambarish was ready to go, I felt pretty ready to head out,
too.  Ambarish and Radhika talked me out of driving myself home,
so Ambarish drove me home in my car.  By the time we got to my
place, I was pretty glad that I hadn't been driving, because my back
was so bad at that point that I couldn't really even stand up. 
After doing a bare minimum of post-race cleanup, I basically lay down
on my back  for the rest of the afternoon.  Lauren came by
with an ice pack and tried to talk me into visiting the emergency room,
but I would have none of it-- things would clearly improve on their own
in short order.

Later that afternoon, after things had gotten yet worse, Lauren came
over and brought me to the emergency room.  I was a pretty
pathetic sight!  Lauren had gotten some of my old ski poles out of
my garage, and I used them to sort of
get around, although my preferred mode of transportation was crawling
on all fours (Lauren had also gotten some volleyball pads out of my
garage, since my knees weren't so happy about crawling).

This is getting to be my life's story, rather than just a quick trip
report, so I'm going to sum things up here.  The doctor at the ER
prescribed a bunch of medicines (muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory,
and pain reliever) for me, and my friend Christina was kind enough to
help me fill the prescriptions (and run some additional errands) the
next day.  One of the prescriptions was unholily (I just checked
to verify that that's a real word!) expensive, and
Christina tried hard to talk me out of squandering my money on it, but
I refused and stupidly emptied my wallet for something I didn't really

By Monday night, I was doing significantly better, and I could stand up
somewhat.  Thursday I was able to hit the gym for some cautious
exercise (exercycles, elliptical trainers, and swimming), and didn't
have any serious issues.  And by today (Saturday), all I have is
some minor lingering pain.  It's a miracle!  I'm cured!

My performance in the actual triathlon (have you forgotten yet that
that's what I'm writing about?) is here
If I can avoid future back troubles and improve my swimming, biking,
and running speed, I'll really be able to get somewhere!  (Well, I
should probably trim a little time off my transitions, too.  A
small matter.)

Oops!  I forgot to mention that my stupid expensive Polar heart
rate monitor was totally useless.  It tracked my heart rate while
I was swimming, but I was unable to look at it at that point,
naturally.  It had no signal for either the bike or run.


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