On September 15, 2001, I competed in my third Olympic Distance triathlon. It is amazing to me that this is only my third "full" race; Triathlon training has become such a big part of my life that it feels like I've done dozens of these things. But I haven't. In fact, it was only a year ago, at Pacific Grove 2000, when I ran my first ever triathlon!
This race was held less than a week after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York. In the foggy, dim light of dawn, at 6:45AM the race day started with a boat moored in the harbor playing "Taps" across the water of Monterey Bay. After that, a lady sang "The Star Spangled Banner" with no musical accompaniment. It was sad and cheering at the same time. And there wasn't a dry eye in the whole venue by the time it was done.
Since I had done this race before, I had a goal. I wanted to beat my time from last year. Last year, I intended to get 3:10:00 and finished ahead of that at 3:02:24. This year was the year I was going to break 3 hours. Sadly, I failed to meet this goal.
The swim was cold as always. Monterey bay is a chilly swim, much colder than Wildflower, and certainly much colder than the mid-70ish water in the Russian River. The temperature was supposedly just under 60 degrees, which is tepid for the ocean, but it sure felt colder than that. For the first lap of the swim, I kept in the pack of age-groupers fairly well, exiting the water just behind a group of about 10 others. During the second lap, however, I lost it. I fell back, further and further. I kept plugging along though and eventually exited the water with an abysmal 36 minute swim. My feet were number from the cold and running on the cold concrete and dewey grass in transition did nothing to warm them. I was pretty dis-satisfied with my swim performance.
Traditionally (well, in both of the other races I've done) my T1 times have been somewhere between "poor" and "did you die?" This time I did "fair", with only a 5:26 stopover. This time was not great (only a 2 minute improvment over my T1 time at Wildflower) but it was better than about 1/3 of the people in my age-group. Overall, I was happy with this improvement.
My bike ride went moderately well. I forgot to turn on my FlightDeck cyclo-computer at the start of the ride, so my personal reporting was faulty. At the end of the ride, I showed an overall -slower- average speed than last year, and that may have been the case. On top of that, in my rush to improve my T1 time, I forgot to take any kind of food on the bike ride. No GU, No PowerBar, no nothing. I was sucking down G-Push at every aid station trying to load up on sugars. And as the ride went on, I got hungrier and hungrier.... But even at that, this years bike plus BOTH transitions was faster than last year's bike time. I felt that my bike ride this year was much faster, and much improved (even if the average speed doesn't reflect that).
Transiton 2 was slow again. Bicycle shoes do not allow for much foot motion, so my feet never "came back" after the swim. Trying to frantically pull on running shoes when my feet were completely numb was interesting. I grabbed my missing GU packs and ate one right there in transition. The T2 time is a bit misleading at this race because the run-start is actually a good block and a half away from the actual run-out gate. My T2 time was just over 4 minutes, but I'm ok with that, all things considered.
As I ran out of transition, my feet were still completely numb. It felt like i was running on stumps. Not only was this a balance issue ("I'm falling and I can't stop!") but I was a bit concerned that I might injure myself while running and not be aware of it until much later. I had visions of broken toes, bleeding blisters, and assorted nastiness... and I still couldn't feel my feet. As I rounded the first lap, my right foot started to come back to life. no pain, no tingling, just a gradual warming sensation. As I rounded mile 3, my left foot began to follow suit. By the time I finished lap 2, I was a complete person again, with two working feet! I had to complete the last 2-mile lap in 13 minutes to meet my goal. So I turned on the speed. I pushed myself to nearly 8 minute miles a the very end of this race.
The overall time was 3:04:27, a full two minutes SLOWER than last year. :-(
I was pretty bummed out about this. I went home sad and dejected. In the intervening weeks, I've rediscovered my incentive and I plan on training hard and often this winter and breaking 3 hours at the much harder Wildflower race next May. We'll see how that goes.