Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Spudman 2/3 Triathlon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 8; 17th Edition 
1 mile skied, 2750 meters swam, 48 miles biked and 250.7 miles run in 2013 races
Race Spudman Triathlon
Place: Burley, ID
Miles from home: 500 miles
Weather: 60-80s; Sunny; Rainy; Weird

I hear people mistakenly refer to 70.3 Triathlons as "half triathlons."  I have joked that unless you stopped halfway through the bike, there is no "half triathlon." Well, last Saturday I did a 2/3 triathlon.

I was asked to join one of the largest Olympic Distance triathlons in the country as a keynote speaker at the Spudman Triathlon many months ago.  As the course really highlighted my strengths, I was happy to take part.  If you have read any of my recaps as of late you know part of the story.  A bad case of staph infection interrupted my racing and training and everything in 2013 has either been canceled, pushed back or, well, changed. Spudman was no different.

I fully intended to take on the entire triathlon in spite of knowing that it would be far from my best effort. I have literally rode my bike outside 3 times since September (all in races) and I am pretty sure that you should train more than that. However, I was approached by the gentleman responsible for me coming to Burley, Mike Tilley who said he was curious if I would be interested in doing a relay.  I would swim, he would bike and I would run.  It took me about 7 nanoseconds to agree to this idea.  Besides removing the one leg I do not like at all, doing a triathlon relay would allow me to be racing for someone other than just myself.  I love combining efforts with other like-minded athletes in racing.  There is something about knowing that others are waiting for you or depending on your efforts that make you pick it up a notch.

Unfortunately, this meant I wouldn't be racing against Mike who I had just squeaked by in last year's Vikingman.  I think he was looking for revenge. Also, I wouldn't be facing my buddy Chris (who I affectionately call Vanilla Bear) for the first time as a competitor.  These were both bummers but we make do. As it turns out, a late arrival and then a subsequent forgetting of his timing chip slowed Vanilla Bear down greatly and it would not have bee a fair fight. So we will have to clash again someday soon.

As I made the long drive from Portland to Burley (roughly 8 hours driving quickly and stopping only to fuel up) I was happy to be doing the relay.  While my time spent in the water this year was barely more than my time on the bike, I know I can always fall back on good swimming genes. That alone will allow me to at least put on a good show. When someone jokingly said they were bringing in a ringer, I said perhaps - if the 10k was turning into a 100k. Dane ain’t got no wheels when it comes to the short stuff.

The day prior to the race was an outdoor packet pickup with a few vendors and myself. I was seeing lots of my Utah and Idaho friends and meeting lots of new ones. I then had the unique pleasure of being the first speaker the Spudman ever had. On top of that, I was talking to a bunch of athletes who were munching on their dinner, on picnic tables, in the round.  It was definitely a different feeling. However, I at least had a few people stick around for the whole speech and those that did had some very kind words.  Even the next day and since then I have had people tell me some really nice things about my speech. It often evokes them to share their own story which is one of the main reasons I do this.  The other is all the money I make. Oodles and oodles of money.  Flush with cash. Just rolling in it.

After the event was over and I signed a few more books, Mike and his family and friends took me out on the river we would be swimming in the next day.  Having done this race multiple times Mike was able to give me the home field advantage of knowing where to swim in the river and how.  The Spudman is known for sometimes having otherworldly times in the swim because of the downstream swim portion.  It all really depends on how swift the current is and in reality it helps less talented swimmers more than it does those who are strong, but in either regard I was excited.

Race Morning:

I have often written about how I personally dislike wave starts for a triathlon because you often have no idea who you are really racing.  However, one of the good parts of having all the relay teams start together at the end was, if I held my own in the swim, I would more or less know what position we were in when Mike got off the bike.  I did notice that it was going to be a little difficult to get from the end of the swim back to the transition from bike to run but I would somehow make it happen.

As wave after wave of swimmers cruised down the Snake River, I tried to put together the knowledge Mike gave me with what I was seeing from the swimmers.  I felt even completely untrained for this I could at least give him a decent start.

Before too long it was time to get into the water.  All morning long whenever each wave would enter the river the announcer would have to tell the swimmers to keep moving back. The “running start” so to speak from the current had swimmers inching more and more downstream.  I have seen that from triathletes in a glass-like pond.  You can only imagine what it was like here.  I swear one wave was a solid 30 yards downstream when the siren went off!

The water was a perfect temperature and a wetsuit would not have been needed by anyone really. But if it is legal, well, I am using it.  I am also eventually going to invest in a half decent one that doesn’t destroy my neck.  Only Body Glide is keeping me from not needing a graft after every swim.  I knew however that my time in the water would be decreased exponentially on this day and hoped to get out with just some second degree burns.


Swim-wise there is not much to say.  About 100 meters in I could tell I would be chafing my neck from the wetsuit and wanted to minimalize that.  I could tell I was leading most of the swimmers but the effort felt fitful and chunky.  I had been told to expect to finish far faster than I had any reason to expect but I was still trying to conserve a little energy for the second half. Suddenly, I noticed I probably only had about two minutes of swimming left.  A little angry I had left too much in the tank, I took off. I only saw one swimmer in front of me get out of the water but the results seem to show there was another one.  Or, at least, he crossed the timing mat before I did which may have happened.  All told, to swim a 1500 meter in right around 15 minutes, which is just a ridiculously fast time. With virtually no time spent in the water the past few months, my finish made me more than happy.  I handed the timing chip to Mike and
away he went.

I had made some new friends the previous day who were also staying with Mike.  Merrell and Kim were vising from Boise with Merrell participating in the bike leg of the tri and Kim being a great spectator.  Kim also was my chauffeur entrusted with getting me back to the start of the swim. This was far easier said than done because of road closures, cyclists and whatnot.  However, she got me as close as allowed and I hightailed it (in full wetsuit) about another quarter of a mile before realizing I had plenty of time to get ready for the run.

I changed into regular running gear (I felt no need to wear tri gear since I was not coming off of a bike) and readied myself for Mike to arrive. Meanwhile, the elite finishers were already pulling into the finish. Speedy, speedy.  When all was said and done I have a feeling I could have placed in the top 5 if I had been in shape and those gents were all in the “elite” category.  Blast.

Before too long I saw Mike coming at me in an usual manner.  His tire was off his bike and his bike was on his shoulder.  He handed me the timing chip and told me we had to DQ.  But go get ‘em!  I would later learn another cyclist had run into this back wheel breaking his derailleur. About two miles from the finish he tried to sift and it came right off.  Fortunately, no one was hurt or even fell down but he was done. He caught a ride back to the finish and handed the chip to me.  Of course, I only learned that later. As for now, I had a 10k to run.


I won’t say that I slowed some knowing my effort was all for naught but I definitely slowed some knowing my effort was all for naught. Even though I wanted to give my all, knowing that no matter what happened the race (with regards to finishing time) wouldn’t technically exist took a little wind out of my sails.
The run itself was, let’s say “interesting”. Starting with a big uphill, I knew I was in for a doozy of a run as nearly 3000 people were already in front of me. A great deal of the race would be contested on some narrower roadways and some dirt paths which were fine for people of like abilities slowly jockeying for position. For relay runners like myself, however, they left a little to be desired.  Doing my absolute best to pass as quickly as possible while also allowing those in front of me enjoy the course they also paid for and had a right to run at their own pace (while silently cursing the 2-to-3-abreasters) I began picking off people in large amounts.  My time might not count but I wanted to give all I could nonetheless. Mike’s adventure with the bike had allowed him to catch a ride back to the exchange but he had gotten there almost exactly when he would have if not for the mishap. So, in my mind, if I could hold off any other relay team, we would technically win.

After a slightly nerve wracking parallel crossing of the road the cyclists were traversing and then a hop over some train tracks, it was a mile long dirt rutted road ahead for the runners. Here I have to stop to mention the weather. Virtually 99% of the run course is exposed to the elements. On any other race day (literally) runners will be experience warm temperatures and bright sunshine. Today, however, for the first time in Spudman history it had already drizzled a touch and was rather cool and cloudy.  This was nature’s cool twist of the already deep dagger in my side of not being able to actually compete as a solo athlete. As I raced along the dirt path and then back out onto the soft paved roads, I could only think about how wonderful this overcast weather was. Later on, just mere minutes after I would finish, the skies would open up and drench everything in the vicinity. Nearly an hour later the skies would be perfectly clear and blue and the temperature would rise by about 15 degrees.  Very odd weather day indeed.

But with a little over a mile left, I was just trying to dig deep.  As I passed triathletes some would recognize me from the talk the night before and shout a word of encouragement.  Others, who I am sure had no idea who I was would do the same.  This is what I said about the racing community in my speech the night before: so few people are actually pricks. The ones who are, well, we all know who you are. And you are welcome to go to hell. The other 99% are going to continue to be awesome.

The race ends on a screaming 100 meter downhill portion which is run parallel to the big hill you climbed up to begin.  It is a tiny little tunnel of trees and for a second feels like you are trail running.  Then you burst out onto the well-manicured grass of Riverfront Park between teeming crowds of people shouting your name.
I finished in a time that was a bit disappointing for me given how hard I had worked for it but such is life. (I also remembered that I now live at sea level and this event takes place around 4300 feet above that. Oh yeah!) The swim had been wonderful, the previous day’s experiences had been just as exquisite and even though my time would not count I was ecstatic that Mike had survived a brush with danger.  While I did not ride the bike portion and cannot comment on it, I think this is an excellent event for any triathlete to do. I would like to see what the run course is like without having to wade through tons of runners but I would definitely call it fair. All told, it is a well-oiled machine in its 27th year of competition and there seems to be no reason why it won’t be even better next year.

I may actually get a Spudman trophy someday.

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