Tri-4-Real #2 was held last weekend. I did "okay", which is actually better than I did in T4R#1, but not as good as I did at T4R#2-2003 (which remains my PR race). I was wearing Karen's HRM which was good because I could split my times more finely than the three-split "official" results, but bad in that I was not 100% comfortable with the equipment and made a big boo-boo in my personal timing.
The Swim
The swim went decently. Karen did her 1km swim the day prior and she reported the water to be bath-water warm, so I did not take a long time to "warm up" (which is usually more accurately described as a cool-down in most of the races I do) in the water. The water was plenty warm, but by skipping that 5-minute 20-stroke swim out-and-back-to-shore, I did not get my wetsuit "set" on my shoulders. Consequently, for the first 1/5 of the swim I felt like my shoulders were being held by rubber bands. In a way, they were. At the frist buoy, I stopped to tread water and wave my arms around and slide the neoprene around a bit. After that, my swim felt a lot more comfortable, but the damage had already been done. The shoulder that was bruised when I got hit by a car a few weeks ago had been intermitently sore since that accident, and the strain of fighting against the wetsuit for 5 minutes had irritated it. I finished the rest of the swim with a gimpy pull on the left side. (On the plus side, this -forced- me to have an efficient stroke in order to preserve my shoulder.)

The official swim split is 31:00, even. When I left the water I hit what I thought was the "split" button on the HRM, but what I actually pushed was the "hold" button. So the stopwatch stopped when I was in T1. I hit the same button when I was leaving transition. When I looked down, it was still flashing "LAP 1" at me, so I knew I had done someting stupid. I finally lap-split the HRM 41.8 seconds later. I learned from my mistakes and split everything else correctly. Despite me being an idiot, because I had -stopped- the timer in T1, I was able to figure out my T1 time by doing some time-arithmatic.

I felt pretty good leaving the swim, and actually jogged the entire way into transition. I felt pretty good doing my transition stuff too. The wetsuit peeled off quickly. Everything was where I expected it to be. I sat down, dried off my feet, pulled on my socks, pulled on my shoes (that I had gotten ready BEFORE the race - first time for everything), grabbed my sunglasses and helmet and bike and jogged (with bike in tow) to the bike start.

The "math determined" T1 time was a mere 2:55, which may be my best ever T1.

The Bike
This bike course is fairly flat. Not as pancake flat as Pacific Grove, but I'd guestimate that there isn't more than 50 feet of elevation difference between the highest point and the lowest. The kicker is that the way out is slightly downhill (overall) and the wind is at your back. Of course, this means that the return trip is generally UP-hill and against the wind. I split my ride on the way out at 36:28.3, plus the erroneous 41.8 seconds that were leftover from the swim/T1 fiasco, gives me a 1st-20km bike split of 37:10.1

Less than a mile after the turnaround, I saw a large group of riders going the opposite direction. I thought that was a bit odd, but didn't give it too much importance. Until they caught me. Now I don't think that it was intentional, but what had developed was a Tour de France style mini-peleton. It was a fast-moving gaggle of riders, maybe six of them, all drafting off of one another, jostling for position, but no one was breaking away. The leader(s) would break the headwind and the followers would "rest" in the draft, until they felt they could break and pass, and the process would repeat. The key thing is that these people were CLEARLY drafting. I did get "stuck" behind them for a short time and automatically fell into the group, doing exactly the same thing. For about two minutes. And then I realized that what was happening was completely and utterly against the rules and contrary to the spirit of triathlon. Sure, I could have worked the group and finished the bike with a lot more energy and saved several minutes on the run. But would that have been an accurate indication of my personal efforts? No. So, on the next uphill, I dropped a gear, let my cadence wind up to 120+ and pulled about a half mile away from the group. Of course, now that I was all alone ahead of them, I was fighting the headwind and they were not. So it only took a few minutes for them to catch me again. This time I did not wait around and as soon as they caught me I pushed again and pulled way out in front. And again, the headwind slowed me enough that the group caught me. Four times this happened.

Now, the thing that was abundantly clear to me during all of this was that I was a stronger cyclist than all of them. When I pulled out in front, any of them could have followed me, which would have broken up the pack (or at least spread it out some, which would have had the same effect). But they didn't, or couldn't. Clearly, in my mind, I "won" the bike leg against all of the people in that pack. Of course, two freaking miles from the end of the bike leg, the fastest one in the pack (who was a girl) FINALLY broke away... followed at about 30-second, non-drafting distance intervals by everyone else in the pack. On an uphill. And of course, since they were all "fresh" (they weren't working half as hard as I was on the main ride since they were all drafting, and thus had a lot more left in the tank) they were all able to drop me on the last stretch. To my own credit, I was able to re-pass two of them before we finally pulled into transition. Those guys were CLEARLY getting benefit from the draft-pack; I was faster than them one they were on their own, even with me being far more tired than them.

My 2nd-20km bike split was recorded as 38:16.7, about one minute slower than the first half, and the overall "official" bike time was 1:19:34 (which includes both transitions). That's a new PR for the bike leg!

Contrasted with my first transition, my T2 was completely confused. I couldn't focus on changing. I had trouble figureing out how to change my shoes: okay, bike shoe off, okay, sit down, no wait, don't sit down, stand up, okay, pick up running shoe, wait, I'm still wearing one bike shoe, put down running shoe, sit down, no wait, stand up, take off bike shoe, no wait, I should put the running shoe on first, pick up running shoe.... I was a bit blurry about the whole process. I do recall that the fast people from the drafting group were leaving transition at least a full minute ahead of me.

The HRM claims that I was only in T2 for a bit over a minute at 1:08.8. I think it is lying about that. I'm pretty sure I was wandering around aimlessly for a lot longer than that.

The Run
The run was pure hell. It was (as Nancy says) "afrika hot", dry, dusty, and the run is on a rocky dirt trail with rolling hills and poor footing. I split every mile and kept a running tally in my mind of how far above or below my target 10-minute pace I was.
Mile 1 - 8:52.7 - Looking good! I'm hot, I'm tired, and I'm feeling mighty slow, but I'm running. I walked from the 1-mile mark until the clock hit 1 minute, putting that "mile" at 8 seconds under my pace.
Mile 2 - 10:43.1 - There was an aide station in this mile, and I walked while I drank a dixie cup of Cytomax. Between that walk and the initial stroll, this mile sucked. I'm now 35 seconds slow.
Mile 3 - 9:26.1 - There was an aide station in this mile too, and I stopped to drink there, too. But I'm pushing hard to make up that 35 seconds and actually did it! Yay me! I'm back "on track" for my pace. Well, not completely, I'm actually still 1 second slow, but I can make up one second, right?
Mile 4 - 10:00.5 - Apparantly not. The aide station was right at mile 4, so it did not impact this split. Regardless, I'm only holding steady and not gaining back that one second deficit.
Mile 5 - 10:17.1 - The fatigue is getting to me now. I get passed by a two or three guys in my age group and a half-dozen women. I'm not passing anyone anymore like I was early in the run, but I'm not losing ground to those that I've already passed. I went through the aide station that Karen was working and got a kiss on my way by. She says that my face is beet red and asks if I'm okay-- apparantly I look like I'm about to pass out. I feel hot and I'm hurting, but otherwise fine. I'm now 18 seconds behind and I'm thinking I'm not going to be able to make that up.
Mile 6 - 9:51.4 - Pulling out ALL the stops here, I was able to gain back nine whole seconds off my pace. I only did that because I knew that it was almost over and I could rest at the end. Even though I was almost sprinting this mile, I was still only just barely under a 10-minute pace and did not make any significant comeback on my deficit. I'm only 9 seconds under my pace, but for some reason I lost my mind and thought I was a minute behind.
Mile 6.2 - 1:24.1 - This should have been a two-minute leg, but I was thinking I only had one-minute to do it so I pushed REALLLY HARD here. It was the finish chute so I let my stride go long, pulled my stride and did my best "finish strong" imitation. I ended up beating my pace by a whopping 25 seconds!!
The "official" run split was 1:00:31
The results
This was race #2 of a three race series. I'm not fast, finishing 48th in a field of only 56 people. But in order to be considered for the series, they had to have finished race #1 ahead of me. Removing all of the people that did not compete in race #1, I'm ranked 16th in my age group. Awards are given five deep, so I'm only 11 places away from a podium. I've never gotten an award before. This makes me want to do well in race #3. I suspect that I won't be able to move up 11 places, but it's a nice dream.

My finish time was 2:51:05, which is only 0:03:08 slower than my PR (which was this same race one year ago). My REAL goal is to beat that PR time in three weeks when I do Tri 4 Real #3 on August 8. But I'd settle for a podium spot, too.