Two weekends ago I headed east for the Chelanman Olympic Distance Triathlon with Lora and Carol. It was kind of a crazy weekend for the Starbuck household. First things first was shipping the ghost dog off to casa Deschenes for some time with little Hunter, then Gabe was packed up (outrigger, mountain bike, wetsuit, and other multisport gear...) and headed to Stevenson, WA for the Gorge Outrigger Races, participating in the 6 man outrigger race with the Bellingham Bay Outrigger Paddlers. And lastly, I threw all of my racing gear in a bag and jumped in the car with the ladies.
We arrived in Chelan around 4 ish, picked up our packets at the transition area, checked in at the hotel in Manson (15 mins up the eastside of Lake Chelan), dumped our bags, donned cycling gear, and headed back to the town of Chelan for a 10 minute spin/10 minute jog to loosen the legs and make sure the bikes were working correctly (wow, that was a long winded sentence). Of course 2 minutes into the spin we all hit a huge section of glass nicely coating the width of the shoulder. Screams and curse words flew and we all just prayed we wouldn't get a flat the night before the race. A thorough check of the bikes after the ride/run seemed to convince us that we were all okay and unscathed. The run, thankfully, was uneventful (all 10 minutes of it). My legs, at this point, simply felt tired. I didn't feel 'race ready'. In fact the left hamstring was incredibly tight, but I figured I would chalk it up to Ironman training and do what I could out on the course the next day.
After the little exercise we headed down to the mandatory race meeting along the water's edge and froze as the sweat cooled and the wind picked up. Thirty minutes later we'd heard enough of the back and forth describing first what the half iron course was like and then the olympic distance course (maybe in the future they'll do two race meetings - each specific to the course). In my mind it was all 'blah, blah, blah'. It was time to eat! Actually, it was well past the time to eat because I already had a headache from lack of nutrition. Back to Manson we went and stopped in at the only 'active' restaurant in town which was a pizza place. Thirty minutes later, or maybe longer, our food arrived. For me - French Dip. There weren't many pre-race options on the menu so I stuck with something super simple.
Food inhaled, we headed back to the hotel to prep our transition bags and call it a night. Knowing that I don't sleep well in new places I brought all the necessary accouterments that would make it a bit more comfortable - my own pillow, eye mask, and ear plugs. I'll never leave home without those things before a race. Apparently it was the right call too as the neighbors next door kept Carol and Lora up fairly late for an early morning race. I was exhausted though and the ear plugs provided just enough muffling of the noise. I think I had one of the best nights of pre-race sleep that I've ever had. No nerves, no race dreams, just sleep.
Of course the next morning came bright and early as the alarm whistled at me at 5 AM. Time to make the water bottles, take in some early morning breakfast to get things going, pack up the car and head to the shuttle bus (there was no parking at the race start so they organized school buses to transport athletes and spectators to and from a massive parking lot in town). The weather was perfect. A bit overcast and relatively cool.
We arrived at transition with plenty of time to get situated. It was by far the most relaxing race prep ever. Usually I'm frantically throwing stuff around my transition area and squeezing into my wetsuit minutes before my wave start. That said, I still didn't take the time to warm up properly. In fact, when I headed out into the water (which I have to say was colder than I had expected it to be) I heard over the loudspeaker that everyone needed to get 'out' of the water and onto the beach. Crap! Opportunity missed.
Swim: 33:09 (eh...not what I hoped but whatever)
As with most races, the swim waves were broken down by age group. I was in the second wave, 30-39. The waves were not broken down by gender though so when you think about it my wave was going to be the biggest. Ugh! I headed into the water with the rest of the 30-39s and then promptly wiggled over to the side. What was I thinking wading right into the MIDDLE of the pack? I seeded myself right next to the buoy line and towards the front. The countdown began and then we were off.
Although I had moved off to the side I don't think I was far enough over. I think next time I will be the LAST person on the side. That should ensure a clean space. This time, however, it was not the case. I wasn't pummeled (unlike Lora who was kicked in the face and had a black eye to prove it) but I didn't have any swimming room. I was moving forward but I didn't feel like it was safe to really get into a rhythm so I stuck to breathing on one side and keeping an eye on the folks around me to make sure they were swimming straight and not into me. It took quite a bit of energy needless to say but there was no moment of panic and I was trying hard not to work too hard (if that makes any sense). Probably 200 yards later I finally found open water and started to get into my stroke and began passing those that obviously shouldn't have been in the front of the pack.
I swam undisturbed for the rest of the race. On the way back I found a guy's feet to hang on to and pretty much stuck with him all the way into T1. I only lost him when he didn't swim straight and I held my course, or when I got sick of him not swimming straight and decided to pass him.
This was my first experience of dizziness coming out of a swim and I didn't even realize I was dizzy until I started walking backwards while I was bent over trying to take my wetsuit off. At that point I decided just to sit down and do it. T1 is always a bit slow because I like to put on my Garmin but this time around it felt (and was) even slower. I felt disorganized.
Bike: 1:14:30, 20 mph, 3rd in my age group
Rocked it! It took a bit to warm up the legs starting out on the bike but after about 10 minutes I was ready to go. I felt strong the whole way and was passing people left and right. The course had more hills than I had envisioned (I actually had no idea what the course profile looked like) but they were rollers and didn't take much to get up and over them. I will say this - the course was crowded. I was constantly checking to make sure I was passing people fast enough and staying out of the draft zone. I remember distinctly thinking about this the ENTIRE ride (which makes me question the penalty - more on this in a minute). I even remember witnessing an entire group of riders go flying past. One of which, at the tail end of that pack, ended up being the overall winner for the women. And yes, this 'group' was ALL drafting. I'm not sure if they were working together but there was not 3 bike lengths between all of them. And...not to belabor this point, but I saw that exact same group of riders as they headed back in to T2. Coincidence, I think not.
Honestly, there isn't much else to say about the bike course. I had a blast out there. I raced hard and have a good time to show for it. Not to mention I had a smile on my face for most of the ride. Oh yeah, and it did drizzle a little which made riding with sunglasses a bit tricky but the rain was refreshing.
T2: 1:05 (pretty transition considering past T2 times of 1:42)
Nothing too exciting to note here. I ditched the watered down sunglasses, swapped out shoes and took off.
Run: 50:08, 8:00 pace, 6th in my age group
Like the bike course the run is an out and back following the same roads. Granted, this is kind of boring but at the same time it's fun to watch all of the other participants throughout the race. Not to mention there was a running race (I think it was a half marathon and maybe a 10k) going on at the same time so there were loads of people to encourage along my trudge out and back.
The first mile was 'interesting'. I had total double vision. I'm blaming it on the caffeine I ingested on the bike but who really knows. I was literally seeing double (two lines that marked the shoulder...only one really existed) for the entire first mile. Needless to say I took it relatively easy. I didn't want to pass out or anything! So, mile 1 was a 9 min pace. Slow but necessary. Not to mention I peeled off and hit the porta pottie at the aid station - it's not good when you've had to pee since the middle of the swim!
The remaining miles I ticked off like clockwork. After settling into a rhythm the double vision went away and I got quickly to the task at hand - reeling people in and negative splitting the run. And boy did it feel good. Every mile felt better than the last and the splits back that up - 8:57, 8:03, 8:00, 7:50, 7:52, 7:37. At the turnaround I knew I had the energy to pick it up and I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to cramp. No worries though, I had a whole handheld water bottle with pickle juice just in case.
The last section of the run is an uphill climb with a sharp left-hand turn downhill into the finishing chute. I had already prepared myself to go as hard as possible on that climb and give it whatever I had left. Right in the middle of the climb I passed a girl with 31 on her calf - 'yes! one more in my age group!' The last quarter mile - 6:26 - SAWEET! Average heart rate - 204. It was worth it.
After crossing the finish line I was on the verge of regurge but I held it together. Surprisingly, only mere minutes later I felt completely fine and not even tired (caffeine must have kicked back in or subsided enough to be a stimulant again). I had just enough time to grab my camera from my transition bag and snap a few photos of Carol and Lora coming across the finish line.
We all celebrated our excellent races (everyone was feeling great) and we cheered as Carol was awarded 3rd in her age group. Lora got 5th in her age group and I got 8th in mine (well, 9th in the end but again more on that in a minute). Then we grabbed our bikes and rode back to the car to chow down on pork jerky (that stuff is AWESOME) and anything else we could get our hands on.
Bikes loaded, transition gear picked up, and we were headed home. We figured we'd hit a truck stop along the way to freshen up a bit (baby wipes are key) and change and then stop in Leavenworth for food. Leavenworth might have been a bit too far for our hungry post-race bodies because by the time we reached the mountain town we were STARVING and on short tempers. I'm pretty sure I cursed at every pedestrian that continued to cross in front of our car as we searched the packed town for a single parking spot. Irritation aside, we found a great Mexican restaurant in the middle of town. Sure, we were looking for beer and brawts but we settled on Mexican because it was right in front of us. And I'm glad we did. The food was excellent and salty chips and salsa are perfect post-race meal additions. So...the next time you're in pretty little Leavenworth stop by South.
One last pit stop before we hit the road was a coffee shop that seemed oddly disorganized. Oh...maybe it's because they were a brand new business that had opened that day. A simple latte took about 10 minutes and I'm not sure the guys behind the counter really knew what the heck they were doing. But, the bonbons were sure good.
At long last we reached home and the whirlwind race weekend was over (at least for me, Gabe wasn't coming home until the next day). I settled in with my dog to watch movies when I received a disturbing text from Lora - 'You got a penalty, what did you do?'. I thought it was a joke so I quickly went to the computer to make sure it wasn't true.
And there it was - the standout 2 minutes over in the far right margin. WTF!? I can only assume that I was either charged with a blocking or drafting penalty, neither of which I believe I did. I've emailed the race director to try and get in contact with the referee to actually hear what it is I did and to learn from it but at this point I haven't heard anything. It's a bummer and a bit of a black mark for an otherwise fantastic race. More to the point, though, it's kind of a black mark for how the race was run. There were 7 penalties issued for the olympic distance race which is way more than most races. On top of that, to not be warned or told you're getting a penalty...I think that's just bad guidance for future racing.
C'est la vie. I had a great race, I enjoyed the course and in my mind I walked away with 8th place in my age group despite the cheating.