Friday, June 7, 2013

Redneck Aquathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 13th Edition 
1 mile skied, 1250 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 165.9 miles run in 2013 races
Race: Redneck Aquathon
Place: Tygh Valley, OR
Miles from home: 90 miles
Weather: 50-60s; bright sunshine

I now know how to pronounce a whole slew of places in Oregon which would not evident at first glance.  That is one of the wonderful things about travel.

This weekend, while still not boarding a plane for what seems like a wonderful eternity, I got to experience the much drier, much higher side of Oregon (elevation - I am sure marijuana-wise it is about the same), just a few short hours of driving away.

This was going to be a small race but I wasn’t sure how small.  The aquathon was a newly added event to two other triathlons which already existed. One, the traditional sprint triathlon and the other, a very interesting two-looper.  Basically, in this “Pumice Man” tri you swam, biked, ran, then swam, biked, ran again.  Very interesting. I would definitely give this some thought for the future.

But my race was the aquathon.  Given my tough 50k the week prior, I was more than pleased to be partaking in what would be the shortest of the events for the day. A 750 meter swim was followed by a 5k and I could call it a day.

With a 9:30 a.m. start time and no bike to have to worry about getting properly racked, this would be about as close to a running event in terms of simplicity as one could get. I picked up my number and saw I was given bib number 2.  I then noticed there were only 4 competitors. To me, this meant one of two things: they were all ringers or they were all just jumping into the race like I was.  I ended up being somewhere in the middle in my thinking.

Because there were so few competitors I am going to give you their stories.  First was Max Mann.  (If there is a cooler name out there, I don’t know what it is.)  Max was a 14-year-old fish. He darn near looked me directly in the eye which means he is probably going to be about seven feet talk when he stops growing. His grandfather was one of the official photographers for the race and also provided all the hand-carved medals for participants. His grandmother was there to hand out the packets and do sundry other details. To say that I found this beyond cool would be an understatement.  Involvement by a family in and of itself is quite neat.  But to have it trickle up through generations is even more special.

Before the event started I had the chance to talk with Max for a bit and he seemed like such a wonderful kid. I also learned that he would be swimming the swim leg in nothing but a speedo. Apparently they had purchased him a wetsuit but his slender frame made it too baggy. In hindsight, the water was cold but I think I could have gone with just a swimsuit as well.  After the initial shock, that is. Max would end up swimming an excellent leg, throwing in different strokes (I swear) in the middle of the reservoir. I don’t think he was showing off; rather just getting a hard workout in.

Next was Eric Helser.  Eric introduced himself prior to the race.  It was at least his third year doing this race and he had won both versions of the triathlon in previous years.  I figured he would be a tough one to compete with no matter how much he downplayed his swimming ability. Eric told me a great deal about the campgrounds and the areas and I really got excited about the idea of ding the Pumice Man potentially someday. I had a feeling he had some quick wheels on the run and hoped I could get a minute or so on him during the swim to make for the fact that I had zero oomph in my legs.

Finally there was Marie Young.  The only female competitor in the race, Marie was a total trooper.  I didn’t fully catch her story but I did hear she had a lot of biking equipment stolen so more or less decided last minute to just do this aquathon. She seemed to have zero apprehension telling us she would be pulling up the rear of the race to which I had zero problem telling her that if she finished she would be the top female.
That’s what this race was about: showing up.  I have long said that you can never apologize for who comes to race.  You can only compete against those who are there. I think this thought really buoyed Marie a bit.

Swim: (13:24)

When there are only four people in your race there is a bit of general malaise amongst the competitors. As you can see from above, we all had plenty of time to get to know one another and were obviously quite
friendly. The race director started the countdown to the start: “10, 9, 8, 7, 6…Wait, does anyone have any questions?”  Hearing none, he finished the countdown and away we went.  Almost immediately, I fell in behind Max and tried to keep his feet in sight. The water was cool and crisp but not nearly as bad as it could have been this early in the year. It was also quite clear which allowed me to see I was at least holding steady behind Max.  I could see Eric off to the side but he seemed to fall back a bit after a little way. Soon I was just trailing Max’s bubbles.

The swim was an acute angle out and back and I was doing a decent job of sighting as we went out to the turnaround. Max had definitely put some distance in between us but I was beginning to feel like I was in a groove.  As we made the loop around the bright orange orb bobbing in the water, I realized we would be swimming directly back into the sun. This would make sighting much more difficult on the way back.
That’s the way it would be as I continually found myself swimming off the line I wanted to be on. I was doing my best to find something to keep my body straight but was not succeeding.  I continued to swim for a bit, look up and see I was off course and correct myself.  This happened for the vast majority of the swim home as the sun, low in the sky, made seeing while in motion pretty difficult.

Up ahead I could see Max getting out of the water and realized the ramp up to the bikes and shoes was what I should have been aiming for all along. As I started getting into the last few dozen yards all of a sudden Eric appeared from my side. My good friend Shannon had accompanied me to the race and said, from the shore, you could see Eric had made a much straighter line back to the shore than I. Rather than keep the tact I had on the way out I had zig-zagged back and forth.  It was to my understanding there would be some lane lines. (No, not really, but that would have been sweet.)

Eric and I popped out of the water virtually side-by-side. Max was still getting into his running gear.  This was his first ever multi-sport event and I have a feeling his learning curve was steep.

Transition: 1:20

This transition went as smooth as a rusty saw. From the time I got out of the water until I hit the transition areas was probably no more than 15 seconds.

From there on, however, it was a joke. I flat out could not get my wetsuit off. I fumbled and struggled until I finally just sat down. I got one leg off but the other was quite stubborn.  It finally gave way as Eric took off.  I quickly had my shoes on and began putting my shirt on as I ran after him.  It was going to be a battle

Run: (20:54)

As we left the transition area, Eric probably had about a 30 yard lead on me. We first went down a slight hill which I knew we would have to finish on and I was already dreading that.  I gained a few steps on Eric and thought perhaps I might be able to pull him closer. However, that was as close as I would get.

The rest of the run was, as they say, me basically playing out the string. The weather was warm, my legs were tired and Eric was too much for me on this day.  I made an effort right before the turn around to make up some distance but I simply had nothing to pull from.  I slapped hands with Eric as he headed back home. Eschewing the aid station assistance, I decided I would just suffer for the remaining ten minutes or so. And suffer I did.

However, running back, I got to see both Max and finally Marie.  I shouted encouragement to both of them and Max looked like he was having a rather enjoyable time, even if running was not his strongest suit. Marie actually had some real racing gear this year rather than running in a sundress and sandals like she did last year (Seriously.  So awesome.)

A slow gradual uphill darn near sapped me and I began wondering how this could only be a 5k. Another thing I have said when people say they are only doing this long of a run and it should be easy is that if you run any distance hard enough, it will hurt.  As the aquathon started an hour after Pumice Man and 30 minutes after the sprint tri, I was now heading home when many of the others were heading out on their run.  It was so cool to see so many of the different sizes and shapes of people out here pushing themselves.

One final uphill didn’t slow me nearly as much as I thought it might and I pushed it home hard to make sure to get the 5k under 21 minutes. My overall time was 35:53 and I have no idea how 36 minutes of effort can hurt so darn much. Eric simply blistered me in the run by better than two minutes. I can see I would have had to been in much better shape to give him a run for his money. Great work goes out to him.

After the race I stayed by to sign books and also be involved in the raffle.  The gentleman who won my book captivated me with a hard-luck story.  I can only hope that the book he got from me provides him the inspiration he needed to continue forward.  The mere fact that he was participating in this race tells me he is made of tougher stuff than he perhaps thinks he is.

Which I think is a great motto for most of us.