Ray's Blog

Friday, June 01, 2007

2007 May 20: Auburn International Triathlon

This was another excellent Auburn event. Brad Kearns been putting on his half-iron-length World's Toughest Triathlon for a few years, but for 2007, he decided to put on an Olympic-length event (and a duathlon) as well. Since I think that that's exactly the right length for a triathlon, I signed up for that, instead of the grueling half-iron course.

Robbe & I met up in Auburn-- he flew my plane down, and I drove down. I picked up both our race packets and was amused to see that Brad had given me and Robbe bib numbers 1 and 2, respectively, because I'm a friend of his and because Big George Ventures is a sponsor of his races. Just a wee bit of pressure, there! Well, not really-- much as I would love to be a contender in events like this, such a thing is quite far from reality.

Robbe & I had a very tasty-- and extremely lengthy!-- African-style meal at Latitudes in Auburn. Then we went to our hotel room, tried on the Big George Ventures tri suits that Brad had gotten for us (!), plotted strategy for the next day, and hit the sack. Robbe asked me how fast I figured I'd do the race, and I decided to shoot for 3:15-- I hadn't been doing that much biking (er, or swimming or running, now that I think about it), had had a sick spell and two recent weeks on a ridiculous diet, it's a very hilly course, and a litany of other excuses. Plus it's always better to under-promise and over-deliver.

The next day, we got going a little later than we should have. We had to pull our stuff together, eat a little bit, get dressed for the race, check out of the hotel, drive to the T2 area, set up our transition spots, bike around 7 miles (most of it admittedly downhill) to the T1 area, set up our transition spots, get race numbers and sunblock on, hit the Porta-Potty, put on our wetsuits, and get into the water. We were actually so last-minute that although we were indeed in the water, we were still slowly making our way to the start line when our wave started. (So in fairness, you should consider taking around a minute off our swim times.)

I believe that originally, the course was two 750-meter laps around a loop, but it was re-jiggered very shortly before the race began to be a single 1500-meter lap around three buoys. (Maybe it would have been a good idea for me to attend the meeting beforehand where Brad discussed the particulars of the course!) Since I wasn't exactly the fastest swimmer in the water that day, I didn't have to worry about trailblazing and figuring out the correct path all on my own-- I had plenty of people to follow. Nevertheless, until very close to the end of the swim, I continued to wonder if I hadn't somehow screwed up, or if I was going super-slow and actually did have another (slow!) lap to do. Anyway, the swim went pretty well, although it would sure help my triathlons if I learned to swim at a decent clip.

Next up: the bike leg! While I was in the transition area getting ready to ride, Brad offered copious commentary about Big George Ventures and how I really seemed to understand that rushing through the transition can hurt your overall triathlon, since I sure was taking my sweet time transitioning. Eventually I got going and began the gradual climb away from Folsom Lake.

Good bike leg (although faster would certainly have been welcome)! Nice scenery, mostly well-kept roads, helpful volunteers, the works. It felt great to be out there zooming along on my tri bike, which I really don't ride often enough over the course of the year. I finished up with plenty of umph left over-- I have a bad habit of doggin' it a bit too much on the bike leg and having a little too much zip at the start of the run. At least, I do that for Olympic-length triathlons. Empirically, for longer triathlons, I guess I don't really have too much juice for the run.

I ran with my bike over to my running shoes and saw Brad hanging out there. We exchanged a few words as I transitioned, and then Robbe showed up on his bike. It turned out that the cough that had been bugging him on and off for months had started acting up a few miles into the bike road, and so he had wisely decided to bail out on the rest of the day's amusements. This was a tough call for him, because it marked the first time in his long and distinguished career that he DNFed. It was probably even tougher since he was totin' bib #2. But every endurance racer knows that he who bails and walks away lives to race another day, right?

OK, just a 6.2-mile run left. I started running towards the bathroom, prompting both Brad and Robbe to yell at me something like, "No, other way, other way!" By signs and gestures and words I made them understand my short-term mission, which I accomplished admirably. Then I headed onto the trail and into the depths of the run. If I didn't dawdle and take too much more than 50 minutes, I'd break 3 hours, which sounded like a decent goal at that point.

I was shortly pleased to be able to take a right turn at a fork in the trail. Why pleased? Because the Olympic-length run course consisted of a single loop, but the half-iron-length course had two loops-- a first loop to the left, and then a second loop to the right (the run leg in a half-iron triathlon is very close to twice as long as the run leg in an Olympic triathlon). I have memories of that half-iron course from the past few years, and it's a rather long and hilly and difficult run. So it felt good to be able to skip the first loop!

Most of the first half of the run was downhill, although not brutally so. It was pleasant, although it kind of made me think about the fun I was going to be in for on the second half! I was feeling very healthy and energetic for most of the first half, though-- and how hard could it be to rattle off a little 3-mile uphill, after all? Especially when I'm used to living up high at 7400+ feet!

Unfortunately, shortly before the turnaround point, my IT band started bugging me. This is a symptom with which I am all too familiar, but it doesn't normally start acting up during such a short run. From that point on, I had to "run-walk" the rest of the course-- I ran until the IT band got to be too painful, and then walked for a bit to ease it down, and then repeated. I saw my goal of 3 hours slipping away from me! But my Garmin GPS watch kept me informed about my pace, and it seemed like I was making reasonable speed even when I walked,even when the course went uphill (which was most of the time). Perhaps I could make it after all!

Until the very end, I wasn't sure about that 3-hour mark. But you can see here my proud 67th-place finish in an official time of 2:57:58.6.

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