If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all you would see my joy. Watch me from afar run the trails and hills and miles upon miles and you will see ...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Different Kind of Race Report

Most of you who know me know I very rarely go to races just to watch them.  As much as I'd like to it just doesn't seem to work out for one reason or another.  Well for your information I did actually attend a race today and was not a part of it other than to observe the true joy of athletes and their races.
The Exceleration Try-It-Triathlon all started in Vancouver, July 21st, at the Templeton Pool.  The distances were daunting:
100m swim, 4.3km bike, 1km run. 
Intimidating to some, but for these athletes and especially first-timers, it appeared before them like their own personal Everest (remember that one Tracey?).  It did seem that way, of course, because these first-timers were only eight years old.
The nerves on some were apparent, others waited at the start of the pool with a cool aura around them.  The air of "done this before, liked it, and am doing it again".  Nervousness from the competitors was not the only place it was emanating.  The family members of these racers were almost coming unglued from the suspense of watching their little ones do something on their own that had never been attempted before.  Images of babies first time in water, riding a bike with no training wheels, and of course, those first steps ever attempted and accomplished!!  The old saying, "They grow up so fast", never rang more true.  
I focussed on a set of parents watching their twin boy and girl getting ready for their first triathlon.  The mother (we'll call her "Mom"), a dazzling beauty who, at first glance you may not recognize as being the best mother in the world, seemed at ease letting the little ones line up their own shoes and helmets.  The father (oh, let's call him "Dad"), an ordinary-looking sod who may appear to you as possibly, maybe, occasionally entering an event such as this, was a little bit frantic in making sure that things were placed exactly as they wanted and how the kids had practised. 
All was in place and Mom snapped pictures and Dad wrung his hands.  A friend of the parents (let's label her as "Tracey"), a truly amazing friend and mentor to the kids who rarely thinks of herself and gives and gives unconditionally, was there to help all the kids go smoothly through the transitions.  Final instructions were given as to the number of laps for each portion of the event.  The final, final instructions were then voiced and repeated back by all entrants which followed one final reaffirming repetition by the racers so that all understood what was expected of them.  "Fun" was also said many times.
Then the time had come where they slipped into the water and as every fifth second on the clock ticked by, a triathlete was born.  The parents' son (let's go with "The Boy") began in earnest with a strong show of freestyle but switching soon after with the strokeless backstroke in a move he told us was called, "The Pancake".
Their other child (just for something different, "Bean") began a few places later with a head of steam grinding out an impressive front crawl as well which soon after transformed into what was a backstroke minus the strokes with a powerful kick. (Bean is at the top of the picture.)

The look of pride and joy on the faces of Mom and Dad could have been bottled and sold at the fair in a small jar; maybe with that red kind of scottish-looking pattern cloth with an elastic around it and a homemade note that read "Parental Pride and Joy", but Dad's might have been tough to package as a prominent feature of his face may well indeed have inhibited getting the look actually into the jar, which in that case the face would have appeared to be one squished in horror. This would have required a whole new homemade label to go along with it.

The Boy exited slightly before Bean yet they both made it onto the bikes and to the road after a couple of almost wrong turns.  There was also a tiny glitch where The Boy skidded somewhat and Bean bumped his tire and nearly went down on the slippery road.  Not faltering one bit, Bean set off behind her brother, a look of determination boring into the backs of the competition.  Mom and Dad now had a breather to recall the amazing ability and will that their children just demonstrated.  Dad was most impressed by the desire to keep going even in the face of all the other kids swimming in their faces in a giant log-jam that was the swim leg.

The three laps were completed with The Boy smiling away after each one. He headed out strong from transition, forgoing the water station not wanting to waste a single second.

Bean came in not long after, Dad mentally filing away the need to work with her another day on the necessity of changing gears on the downhills to keep up a good speed.  Her transition, too, was impressive and she rocketed out on the run course with a little help from Tracey.
Again Dad awaited for what could be a life-altering accomplishment should they take everything from it and make themselves better by having done this. Mom believed the kids would just say they had fun doing a swim, a bike, and a run. 
At last The Boy appeared from behind the school down the final stretch, a look of steel determination on his face.  He crossed the line smiling and had to be grabbed by a volunteer to stop his momentum to let him know his race was done.  Congratulations were said over and over and there were hugs-a-plenty.
Then Bean came into view, one hand holding her side in a way Dad recognized immediately as a side stitch.  Knowing his daughter like he did, he knew this would in no way hinder her from finishing.  Although, more serious-looking than The Boy from dealing with some adversity, she finished fast as well and collapsed into Dad's arms with the emotions from the race flowing onto his shoulder.
The look on the Mom and Dad's faces needed no explanation - they were indeed happy. 
Congratulations Hannah and Elias!!
"Life is not in having and getting but in being and becoming"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Peach

Sorry to all those who have been sitting on the edge of their computer chairs waiting for the write-up on the Peach last Sunday. Man, I ALMOST finished typing that with a straight face. As it turns out, I wrote it yesterday at work and when I went to send it to our other email address so Carrie could put it on the site, it bounced off into cyber-nowhere-land. I'm sure you know that feeling after writing for a half hour and then realize you have to do it all over again. Needless to say I didn't feel like starting over right then and there. I'll try and duplicate what was a guaranteed award-winning article but sometimes you cannot repeat perfection.

So it was a tough week of training after the Desert Half leading up to the Peach which would explain why my heart wasn't totally in it. Could be the beginnings of overtraining but I'm feeling a bit better now. If this hadn't been the race that it is - one that I love - I may have not even done it. I left with Pat from work on Saturday morning after the last night shift and set off to the land of the sun. We got up there in the heat and settled into Tracey's condo on the lake after picking up the race packages. I had planned on a quick bike/run but once again was stimied by lack of motivation. So I just cleaned the red rocket and put it to bed til the morning. We did go and hang out at the lake and enjoy the weather, close enough to a workout seeing as it was at least outside.

The day of the race dawned with clouds and only a hint of sun. It later developed into what appeared to be an imminent thunderstorm but it never occurred. For the swim I snuck in behind Tom Evans, Tom Rushton, and Darren Mealing at the start as I figured they knew the best and fastest line to the first buoy. At the Desert I felt like I could have had a faster swim and tried to go a little harder out for the first few minutes. I don't want to say it was a mistake, it just turned out to be my worst-feeling swim of the year. My arms were heavy and I never felt not out of breath. I think it will pay to take out the beginning of IM easier, find my rhythm and then pick my moment to pick it up. Not that it would be very dramatic or noticeable but to feel strong is to be going strong (doesn't really apply to me in the water however). It was nice on the return trip that the sun was behind the clouds because usually you can't sight on anything but the sun as it's right in your eyes. I got out and ran to T1 with Brent Cyr right at my side. That was good as we use each other on the bike to stay focussed, at least I do. I was ahead of him for probably twenty minutes until he passed me, then I passed him, then he passed me, then I DIDN'T pass him. He stayed out in the front the whole rest of the way but I kept him in sight. It was nice to see Pat come by after I did the turnaround as he was doing well. He's doing IM this year too. It will be his third (I think) triathlon. Almost back to T2 Brent just about caught a group of riders but I think they beat him in.

I managed to get out of T2 ahead of Brent even though he got there probably thirty seconds ahead of me. I asked him after and I guess he had problems with his shoes. I actually thought someone else was him running ahead of me but as I got closer I realized it was not. I knew he'd be hot on my heels though. The hill this year didn't feel as bad as other times I'd done this race. In fact this whole race seemed a bit of a blur, just kind of going hard and not seeing anything but the road in front of me. At the turnaround Brent was only about ten seconds behind so I picked it up slightly on the couple little rollers to the top of the downhill. As I made the turn I started going all out to get the ugliness that is the downhill out of the way. At the bottom in the past I've felt flat but today the legs were okay. The last two km's to the finish are mostly straight and you can see who's coming up behind you if you look. Always trying to avoid a sprint finish, I look behind in this race. I could see Brent behind me but I managed to cross slightly ahead of him five seconds under 2:10 but two and a half minutes slower than two years ago. I guess that's age talking (sniff). It was nice to see the guys from work after the turnaround - Pat, Brice, Dave, Peter, and Alex. Even Mike McGee in his last year as a 45-49 age-grouper was powering through the run course.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Desert Half Ironman Report

This report may be a bit shorter than usual and you'll have to be the judge if it's sweeter as I'm at work where it's 12:30am Saturday morning. Just back from a call and probably the first time I've had since the Desert Half Ironman last Sunday to sit and write anything. Therefore, it may be a bit abridged.
I'm not sure if the heat from being at Shuswap and Penticton in the days leading up to Osoyoos helped a whole lot but it couldn't have hurt. I still felt sluggish on the run during the race. Of course it may have been due to a two hour hard, hot, hilly run Tuesday before the race followed by a similar bike on Wednesday plus an hour lake swim thrown in. I took it easy on Wednesday and the morning we left Shuswap Carrie, Karen, and I did a 45 minute run at 10am where it was already around 30 degrees.
In Penticton it was hot but there was always a breeze. Tracey, Barb, Sandy, Shannon, Michaelie, and myself swam on Thursday morning at OK lake with a fair chop in the water. A different experience and one I hoped wouldn't be repeated at Osoyoos or even Ironman for that matter. Every Ironman I've watched or done in Penticton has had great water conditions at the start. A few short rides before the race and it was time to go.
It was predicted to be hot on the day but it turned out very pleasant for the swim and bike. I felt like I was going harder in the water than in Victoria but as we exited the water after the first loop my time was 15 minutes, right on pace with my other race. We jumped back in where I saw nothing but one guy's feet for the whole next lap. I caught a glimpse of the lead group ahead and wish now I had tried to go harder to maybe catch them (dreaming?). Tracey says I swim straighter when I'm going harder so I'll try that at the Peach tomorrow. My swim turned out to be 32 minutes but I'm not sure if that was with transition. Like I said, it felt faster. A few people after the race were commenting on the distance and how they thought it was a bit long. I whipped through T1 I'd say twice as fast as New Balance so it paid off having done a few races already.
I felt awesome heading onto the bike and began passing a few riders before Richter. True to her word, there was Trish from Peninsula Runners at the first pull out going up the pass with her tiny boom box blaring out the tunes and cheering on riders. As a total opposite of riding the course the other week, we had headwinds all the way out to Cawston. I spoke with other riders before and after the race and I guess the headwinds were standard all week going in that direction. All I could hope for was a solid tail- or at least non-headwind on the way back. Maybe a nice diagonal cross to change things up a bit. It was lonely on the rollers after the big climbs as not many riders were in sight. Those I did see I couldn't catch. One rider, 63, came past me but I returned the favour five minutes later. It took me seven minutes longer to reach the turnaround point in the race than in the training day.
On the return trip the gods of wind were treating us to some tail which was well received. The rollers and 8 percenters didn't seem so bad without the wind. I was amazed at how happy and evergetic the athletes going the other way still heading out to the turnaround were. Most were looking in my direction, maybe for recognition attempts, maybe for a change in scenery, maybe to say, "you #@$%!, already done with these headwinds!" A few even gave the head nod in greeting. There was a guy ahead of me that I could barely start to catch on the flatter parts and then more on the hills, but on the down he just took off. It took until the final long stretches up to the top of the pass for me to overtake him and even then I thought he'd be right there the rest of the way. I saw him on the run later. To my surprise (I don't know why, though, because I never look back anyways) after I passed that guy, good old 63 went past me and man, was he flying up the hill. I felt demoralized. Then we started on the down and he kept putting more time into me. I lost sight of him before T2.
I have this transition down to an art as it's simply running hat, running shoes, running belt with bottle and I'm off. I heard Steve King announce that Brent Cyr was just heading out of transition and then it all came together - Brent and I are pretty much equals when it comes to racing over the years. He's in an age group below me so it's more of a fun rivalry. We raced the Peach two years ago and came out of T2 exactly the same way, with me slightly ahead. Like that race, he eventually passed me on this day. It did take about 10kms to do it this time.
I felt great the first loop on the run. I went by Tracey who was, as always, helping out with the race instead of just watching it. Generous as can be. She announced I was sixteenth but I wasn't too interested in the stats. The temperature went from 24 at the begiinning of the bike to 30 at T2. It was now mid-thirties but still with a breeze blowing on most parts of the run. Brent passed me and we ran for a few minutes chatting until he dropped me. My pace remained slow and steady until the 18km mark where, like New Balance, I thought about going a bit faster and still remaining below the hurt zone. I passed two guys who turned out to be in my age group, with one of them saying, "Look out, he's making his move". I had to laugh and said back, "Don't blink". I felt slow at that point and I think they had just slowed more due to the heat. Anyways, I eventually ended up catching one last guy in front of me and we had a sprint finish to the end, both tied with the same time. Turns out the guy, Rob, was the one who had beaten me by 10 seconds to take second in our age group in Victoria three weeks earlier. At the awards Joe Dixon the race director generously gave us both second place. Rob and his wife are expecting in a few weeks so we won't be racing against each other at Ironman, thankfully. There at the finish line were of course Carrie and the kids, happy as ever for me to be done so they could grab some post-race goodies, mainly water and Gatorade as it was smokin' hot at this point. Also at the line was my Uncle Joe who lives ten minutes from the race finish. That was a nice surprise as we visited them the day before and he said he'd try to make it. Apparently he was at the swim start too but as we all look the same, who can blame him for not seeing me and me not seeing him.
I took away a lot from this race. I know that with a few more long rides I'll be able to push hard on the IM bike. I know the heat will be a mental thing, something to push aside and focus on the task. I also know that should I choose to speed up at the end of the run I'll be able to in order to get my time goal. The legs are still a bit tired from this week's workouts so the Peach this weekend is a crapshoot. I love the race, though, and can't think for a minute why I won't love it (when I'm done).