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Monday, May 24, 2004

Just like NASCAR!

The alarm went off at a time I normally go to sleep, not wake up. Running the bike, wetsuit, and day pack full of gear to the car; zooming down the 405 with the bike bouncing on every bump. The plan was that if I did get pulled over, hop on the bike and outrun the cop. Missed the exit, turned around on an exit that would have gotten me there anyway, managed to find the way there before the roads were closed.

At least this time I got there on time.

The swim was in the Newport "back bay", which really was a back bay, more like a lagoon. Unfortunately, besides the swimming area there was a marina right there, which made the water and the bottom pretty yucky. As my wave, the last, stepped into the water we let out a collective "Ug" and sank to our knees in the muck. The starting line was 10 yards out into the water where we could tread and not have to deal with the crap under us.
"Hey, we're getting a free mud bath!"
"People pay hundreds of dollars for this!"
"Hey, we paid a hundred dollars for this too, might as well use it"
Then the bell rang and we were off. I was in the back of the pack, getting smacked around as everyone found their pace. Pack swimming is something I hadn't done before, and it wasn't easy. You couldn't see anything, and you tried to move up and get a good position but of course the other people couldn't move to get out of your way. As the pack thinned out over the distance it got a little easier, but not that much. When I rounded the first buoy I really started to regret not getting in more time training with the wetsuit, the resistance it gave me in the hips was starting to kill me. I'm used to fighting to stay afloat, but with the wetsuit I was well supported - another thing I wasn't too used to. So the swim, for all my practice and clinics, kicked my ass. I took it easy so I wouldn't kill myself for the next two legs.

In the transition to the bike I did manage to get the wetsuit off in less than 5 minutes, which was almost a miracle. A quick shot of fresh water on my face, gear on, and off I went. The first part of the bike leg was up a long, killer hill. The day before I was down there to check out parking and parts of the course, unfortunately this was the only part of the bike leg I had seen in advance. I made it up the Jamboree hill fine, but little did I know that all 12 miles were hills. There were no flats on this course, and I wasn't prepared for that. Climbing up a hill on a road bike was new to me, though I have done it plenty on mountain bikes. The way the bike leg loops were laid out was confusing as hell, and you lost track of who was who. Did that guy pass me on the last loop? Was he in my wave or one ahead of me? It was impossible to tell with bike traffic going both ways. The real problem though was the other riders.

In the second loop there was a short flat section through a parking structure on Fashion Island. It was a good chance to get some water before hitting the hills again. At that point I was planning on catching my breath before I tried to accelerate into the next hill. As I was thinking that, two people passed on my left, very close, a guy and a girl. The girl was about 8 inches from my elbow, which for me was uncomfortably close at 35mph. She was looking to her left and talking to her friend. For some reason she decided to then get right in front of me - RIGHT in front of me. For half a second she was in front of me, then her rear wheel made contact with my front wheel with a SCREEEEE of metal as she slowed down. With that my front wheel went right, and I flew left, thankfully unlocking from the pedals. I hit the asphalt at about 25-30mph and the bike was sliding on it's side 20 feet in front of me. I got back on as fast as I could and looked right as I got into the pedals again. There was an office building there, and the weekend shift of maintenance guys were watching the race. They stared back at me with dropped jaws as blood streaming from my knee and arm.
"Hey, it's all about the crashes, right? Just like NASCAR!" I yelled out as my legs pumped me back to speed again. They roared with cheers. Every time I passed them from then on, I got some serious cheering.

I made it through the rest of the bike leg as best I could. Climbing made some of the bleeding worse and to some extent my legs didn't want to work quite right. I didn't know then how bad I had been scraped, but I could feel that familiar road rash burning when I was getting up the hills. I made it down Jamboree again as fast as I could stay in control and dismounted. I tried to run the bike in on foot, but bike shoes, especially mine, aren't for running. I had to take them off and run in socks to my stuff, where I got out of bike gear and into running gear as fast as I could. By then I was really starting to feel the injuries as sweat poured into them.

Even though I was talking to Rich as I went, the transition from run to bike was pretty fast. I set out on the trail and kept reminding myself that the first 10 minutes of a run are the hardest. After that you can just keep running, your body starts to shut down your feelings of pain until you run out of fuel. The course followed some cliffs and curved quite a bit, and you could never see the end of it. Just more runners. I ended up running next to a guy in my wave and we trudged on as best we could not knowing how much was left. He saw the cones that marked the turnaround point before I did.
"I've never been so happy to see traffic cones in my life!" I was so gone then it took me a minute to figure out what he meant.
"You mean this ends? I've been wondering just how long this is for ten minutes!"
After the halfway point it seemed like things were moving quickly, but I had to slow down at several points to absorb the pain in my butt, knee, and arm. I kept going. And going. And going.

Of course I finished.
Bloody, sweaty, and out of breath I made it across the finish and turned in my timing chip.

I made a good time. I would have done better if I had trained better. I would have done 3 to 4 minutes better if I hadn't been run into. Overall the riders on the bike leg were assholes. A lot of them passed WAY too close, and several times I got passed on both sides at the same time by people talking to each other. Apparently they didn't know about the keep right rule. Next race down here I'm going to get a baseball bat mount for the bike, because apparently Californians ride like they drive - with a callous disregard for safety.

What factors affected my time the most?

Pack swimming
I hadn't done any ocean swims in a pack, and it showed. I definitely need to do some of the MB or SM LATC swims soon.

I had only practiced enty and exit with the wetsuit, not ocean swims. That worked against me - all I needed was practice and I would not have been fighting the suit as much. The suit itself performed great and I'd recommend the Orca Speedsuit to anyone. I had [good reasons] for not getting in practice in open water though. Damn those grunion. Between the pack and the wetsuit my swim sucked, and I could have done better. I was one of the last people out of the water, and I don't think that's good enough.

Sadly, there aren't any hills to practice on at the beach for running or cycling. I didn't have up to date hills skills for a road bike, nor did I have the kind of endurance you need to hit a lot of hills. I have to find a way to change that.
Leg turnover
With both running and cycling, my leg turnover sucks. Always has. I may not be a fast runner, but I can run forever. When I do try to go fast for more than a few hundred yards I burn out though - I need to change that. [Powercranks] and cycling to work might fix that. If I could get a cheap bike for training and commuting and get those on there I think I could see some big improvement.

I did improve over CSULB, and I sure did have fun though!
Except the pain and bleeding parts.

5/24/2004 09:06:00 PM ] [  0 comments  ]
A good quick laugh