Friday, June 24, 2011

Park City Tri Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 20th Edition 
292.7 miles raced, 5550 meters swam and 146.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Park City Sprint Tri
Place: Park City, UT     
Miles from home: 35 miles
Weather: 70 degrees; sunny

After the Boise 70.3, I took a vacation of sorts driving 1600 miles all over Idaho, Washington and Montana. This was hardly the way to recover properly from a 70.3 but this trip fit perfectly into my schedule. The weekend after the 70.3 I did not have to travel anywhere in the country so this allowed me to take my time getting home. I visited a plethora of cities I had never been to and met old friends for the first time. As long as I was back by Friday to attend the Park City Tri expo and then race Saturday morning, I could explore a little bit.

After a wonderful trip, I was still unsure, however, if I would even do the triathlon. The ridiculous chafing I had received under my biceps from the swim of the 70.3 had barely made any progression toward healing. I had no idea how I could possibly do 750 meters of swimming in a wetsuit with the abrasions I had.  And wetsuits would be needed as, like the cold water in Boise, the water temperature in Park City was around 56 degrees or so (possibly colder). 

On Friday morning I woke and saw that the ointment a friend have give to me had worked miracles during the night. While far from healed, the biceps were at least in a condition for me to think about participating. I would figure out exactly how I would keep the cuts covered later.  For now, I knew I could at least race. I put my bike on my bike rack and began the short trip to Park City.

Driving from Salt Lake to Park City I realized that we were easily going to be starting this race 2,000 feet higher than my apartment in Salt Lake. I admittingly had not even looked at what the course would be like until I got to the expo. I was in for a rude awakening.

As the expo wore on, it seemed there was a high attrition rate for the race as many were simply opting out of either the Sprint or Olympic distances. I was guessing it was the cool water temperature that turned so many away but one never knows. At the expo, I met many father/child combinations or families who were racing together and it warmed my heart. I had almost forgotten it was Father’s Day this weekend if only because things have been very hairy with my father’s health for the past few months and every day has been Father’s Day for me. I decided right then I would dedicate this race to my father and do everything I could to place in the top three, perhaps even win.

Race Day:

Sleeping in one’s own bed is a luxury that not many really grasp until they spend a great deal of time traveling. I do not care how comfortable a hotel bed is, being at home is a wonderful feeling. As such, even a 5 a.m. wake-up call was not too bad as I spent the previous night sleeping away in bliss.  I realized how much my life has changed in the past few years. Friday and Saturday nights are usually get-to-bed-early-nights instead of go-out-and-party nights. Weekends are meant for racing, not relaxing. Quite a change from previous life experiences.

As I drove from SLC to Park City again, I dipped through this one valley just about 5 miles from my destination. I always love going through here because it is so much colder than everywhere else. You can just watch your temperature gauge click down degree after degree in rapid succession. This morning’s temperature? 38 degrees.  By the time I got to the place where we would drop off our running gear and board the shuttles out to the Jordanelle Reservoir for the swim it was a oh-so-warm 48 degrees. (For just a run, this temperature would be wonderful.  But a swim and a bike changes things for me.) I got into the bus furthest back and when the driver told me this would be the one that sat here the longest. I told him that was the plan. Also, please crank the heat as I am going to go back to sleep. I barely remember the bus moving until it stopped at the reservoir and we were kicked out.

It was slightly warmer here but I knew it did not matter much. The 56-degree water temperature was going to be cold no matter what temperature the air was around it. As I slipped into my wetsuit I again kept my compression socks on, like I had at the Boise 70.3 last week.  First, they would add some warmth. Second, they would allow me to run across rocky terrain when I exited the water.  Finally, I would not have to worry about putting socks on after getting out of the water. Win-win-win! Before too much longer it was time for all the men to line up to take a little dip.

Swim: 12:36

A smaller field of total participants than most tris I have done allowed for all of the men to enter the water together. I loved this simply because this meant that for the first time in my short triathlon career I would know exactly who I would be racing against. No waves, no staggered starts – simply people racing against others. (This of course did not count the female participants, which plays a part later. Stay tuned. Much better writers call this “foreshadowing”.)

Upon the shouted “Go!” from the RD, we were off.  Immediately, one swimmer surged out in front. Between him and myself, another swimmer held his position. With a rectangular-esque course, the water was cold but calm. It was easy to see every participant. By the second turn I had passed second place and while I occasionally felt someone hitting my feet (seriously dude, go around) I held my ground. Every time I would look ahead of me, only one swimmer swam away.

Before even deciding to do this triathlon, when I deemed my abrasions were at least going to allow me to participate, I had tried to figure how to keep them covered. I knew simple lubricants were not going to work for me. So I went with packing tape.


I wrapped packing tape around each bicep, covering the bandage I had placed underneath. This worked absolutely perfectly. It kept the bandage in place and also acted like a barrier between my arm and whatever it was that it had rubbed against previously causing the cuts and scrapes. Heck, I might even do this in the future when I don’t even have a cut.

As I patted myself on the back for my MacGyver-esque techniques and made the final turn on the course to head home, I saw the lead swimmer was already crawling out of the water. And then there was another swimmer. Wait. How did that happen?  As I scrambled out myself I turned and saw that a few swimmers had cut a corner and were swimming diagonally back to shore. It probably only saved them a few yards but I am guessing my right angle turn (following the course, that is) is what cost me second place here. Perhaps the swimmer just sneaked around me somewhere else, although I don’t think that is possible. Oh well.

T1: 1:56

As we left the boat dock loading area and ran toward the bikes, I was shocked that the race has provided wetsuit strippers for the participants. For those unaware of this crucial duty, check out the video here.  For a race on the smaller side to have such a beneficial amenity says a great deal about the organization of the race. In fact, my hands were so cold, I could not even get my zipper down to help with the stripping process. I have no idea how long it would have taken for me to do this solo.

Now down to my tri suit I raced into the bike area. Again cold hands hindered me clipping my helmet clasp and deathly afraid of any penalty of moving with the bike without a clasped helmet, I fumbled with it much longer than I would have liked. But soon I was pushing my bike out of the area, right on the heels of the first swimmer. It must have taken him forever to get changed given that he had a 30 second lead on me coming out of the water.

Bike: 38:40

I mounted my bike faster than the lead swimmer and began to climb out of the Jordanelle area.  I knew we had a four mile uphill to begin this bike ride with and not one single inch was I looking forward to. Making a turn and listening to a volunteer tell me “he’s just up there!” I figured the second place swimmer had quickly gotten out of T1 first and put some ground between us. However, before I had a second to think, the first place swimmer (who I would later learn was named Matt) passed me and before much longer another, much stockier and muscled cyclist, passed me as well.

We made the turn onto the highway where the shoulder was marked off for the cyclists and the climb became even steeper. The shoulder was a little unnerving being right off of a highway with just a few feet of smooth riding area before rumble stripes would give you a massage.  However, as we were barely going 10 or 11 mph up the hill you had a great deal of time to maneuver. In fact, at this hour in the morning, traffic was very light on the highway (which is more or less in the middle of nowhere and almost always light in traffic anyway) and I never once thought of my safety. Cones marked the entirety of the bike course and it appeared most motorists were moving over to the passing lane to keep their distance.

As we climbed further, another cyclist passed me and for a while I stayed relatively on his tail.  However, as we rapidly approached 7,000 feet above sea level my limited cycling prowess took over and I slipped back a bit. Here one last cyclist passed me near the crest of the hill. No more, I thought.  If I am going to place in this race, I cannot let another person pass me.

Finally cresting the hill, I could no longer see Matt and the muscle cyclist who apparently battled it out for the remaining miles. However, I could see the other two who had passed me and began to use the downhill to my advantage. Ironically, when just out on a ride I am very cautious on a downhill portion. I recently did a ride with a friend that is known as a Category 1 ride which is about the most difficult climb you can do. You can imagine how fast one can go coming down this hill. While my friend left me in his dust, I rode the brakes, rarely topping into the upper 30mphs. Here, however, I let loose. Granted it was just one long straight hill, but I was going with no care for my safety. I am unsure of how fast I did go but I know I hit 49 mph at one point. Soon, I was in the back pocket of the last cyclist to pass me.

Off of the highway and onto some back roads I fell back a touch but felt still within passing distance. However, I could not make much ground. As we came to an intersection where we had to make a right angle turn, I became nervous. There was a truck with a trailer behind it that just made me feel skittish. While the cyclist I was chasing made it through the intersection before him, I was forced to sort of wait.  Even the presence of a police officer directing traffic did not put me at ease (I have seen many an idiot plow through those directing traffic on marathons and my dexterity while tied to a bike is not the same as it is on foot.) So I slowed almost to a stop to make this turn, possibly based on nothing but my own fear. However, by the time I got going again, the cyclist in front of me was gone. Following the course arrows and signs was easy enough but I began to fear I had made a wrong turn as each straightaway revealed no riders in front of me. Finally, with about two miles to go I saw a rider WAY in front of me. At least I was going the right way.

As the sun crested behind us and warmed our shoulders while casting long shadows in front of me, I began mentally preparing for the run. With only 16,421 feet to make up the difference between me and those in front of me, I know I had my work cut out for me. I am only moderately fast to begin with and my speed does not manifest itself in a 5k. I knew I was going to have to make it hurt.

T2: 39 seconds

Rolling into T2, I was on the very first bike rack on the very end. I knew this could be a quick transition.  Dismount, take off bike shoes and helmet, grab my visor, slip on my K-Swiss Blade Light run shoes and go. Done, done and done. As I left the transition, the volunteers told me I was in 6th place, just as I assumed. Time to go.

Run: 19:36

I should not have cared but I spent the first 15 seconds or so of the run pinning my number back onto my belt. It had become torn somehow and I did not want to lose it during the run. With it securely on my person I was off. The run course consisted of an out and back on a bike path that winded through the backyards of condos of those who were either still sleeping or who had just sauntered onto their porches, scratching their bellies and wiping sleep from their eyes. Robes and cups of coffee adorned the few people I saw, many who looked quite confused that people were out running this hard this early in the morning.

The first ¾ of a mile was so twisty and turny I could see no other participant. Finally, it turned enough that I saw one runner. Then another. And then a third – the muscular guy.  OK, guys  You are all mine.  Right after passing the first mile and ignoring the aid station, I passed this man with an “Attaboy” as I did. Hitting the hill in the middle of the course, I took a deep breath, slowed for a second and then spurted. Having lost sight of the two runners in front of me momentarily I was surprised they had switched positions, the once-lead runner now the same ten yards behind the guy he had been in front of. Then he stooped and grabbed his calf muscle. I felt bad for him but at the same time I had a mission. I slapped him on the back to give some encouragement as I passed him doubled over and pushed on.

Here the overall leader passed me heading the other direction and I knew it wasn’t that far until the turn-around. Soon thereafter, Matt followed suit. A small clearing allowed me to see the third place overall runner in front of me about a hundred yards away. As he made the turnaround on the path and headed back toward me, I caught his eyes and gave him a little head nod. To me, it was a respectful nod that also said “Yep, you are in for a race.”

I made the turn and began my hunt. Hitting the hill, I again paused just for a second, gained my wind and then shot up. I had closed the gap to about twenty yards. I leaned into the small downhill, ignored the burning in my lungs from the 6300 feet of elevation and passed him at the bottom of the hill with one mile to go.Way up ahead I saw Matt and second place but had a feeling I was running out of real estate to make any sort of push to catch him. But logic and common sense has never stopped me from trying things before.

As I got on my giddy-up I saw the lead woman running in the opposite direction. The women had started 5 minutes behind the men and here she was well under 5 minutes behind me. Holy mackerel she was tearing up the course. I could only wonder what her time was going to be.

They tell you to never look back in a race as it is a sign of weakness. To some extent I agree with that.  But not today. I looked back to see what sort of lead I had on the runner behind me and if he was going to make a surge. It did not appear to be the case so all I had to do was try and catch Matt.
Running through the backyards again, I slapped hands with competitors going out for the first part of their run. I pushed and pushed and soon saw the inflatable arch of the finish appear.  There would be no catching Matt or anyone else. Then again, no one was going to catch me.

I pushed through the finish and took third overall in a time of 1:13:24. I had given all I had and had that podium showing for a Father’s Day gift. I know 100% that if not for the desire to do this for my father I would have never taken third. In fact, when all was said and done, I ran the fastest 5k of any runner in the entire race. I was stunned by this fact considering I simply do not have any sort of speed in such an event. However, in talking with some of the other top participants later they mentioned I looked like a man on a mission. I guess I was.   

I mentioned earlier that the women started in a different wave.  Well, at least one of them deserved to running with the men as the overall female winner, Sarah Jarvis, ran the second fast overall time of the day, clocking a 1:10:45.  I knew she was motoring on that run course when I saw her. In fact, Sarah garnered the fastest swim of any competitor on the day. Second place? Eventual fourth-place female overall Rebecca Lau edged Matt by one second for that distinction.   
For me, I still need lots of work on the bike. I was 10th overall in that discipline (while 3rd overall in the swim and tops in the run.) But that is what triathlon is about; putting together all of the disciplines in order to finish on top. I am getting closer to doing that. My transition times are coming down as well. More importantly, I am enjoying the sport. I am enjoying the newness of it all. And I have been extremely lucky to run some well-organized races. Both races of the BBSC Endurance Sports series I have done have been top-notch. As I have always said, when you don’t think about the race management, they have done their job.

They did such a good job I am filling one of my only free weekends of the year with one of their races - the long course (half “ironman” distance race) Mountain Tropic race to be held in Garden City, UT this August. Here I look to crush my first 70.3 time from Boise and do so with a group of organizers who really seemed to know what they are doing.

I look forward to doing another of their races and hopefully see as many repeat runners there from this race as possible. In the meantime, I can only hope my Dad liked his Father’s Day present as much as I enjoyed earning it for him.

Forget cards and ties. Love you, Dad.

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