With shaded temperatures reaching into the mid-90s, 2500 people from all walks of life subjected themselves to the fourth hardest triathlon course in the USA: the infamous Wildflower triathlon. I was one of those people.
Triathlons come in many shapes and sizes. The event that I participated in over this last weekend was an Olympic distance event, a mid-length even that is significantly shorter than the physical and mental insanity of a Ironman event, yet still long enough to warrant a major effort. For those uninitiated into the ways of a triathlon, a single race involves three back-to-back events, a swim, a bike ride, and, finally, a run. For the Olympic event, the distances are a 1.5km swim, a 40km bike and a 10km run (or for the non-metric reader, .93mi swim, 24.8mi bike and 6.2mi run).
Swim (1500m .93mi) 00:34:19
The first half of the swim went well. My rhythim was perfect. I found another swimmer who was going the precise speed I liked to cruise at and fell into the draft easy. Follow the feet. After the second turn, the wave behind me caught up and suddenly, things got chaotic. I lost my leader and had to break the water myself. My rhythim went all to hell and I slowed significantly. The water on the return seemed to be full of tiny air bubbles, but when I stopped to look up I saw that it was small clumps of algea. Fun stuff. I hate to think how much of it I swallowed. Ick! Overall, not a bad swim.
The first transition was easier than usual. My rack location was a longish distance from the water, and I have learned that while I can save time by jogging to my rack, it's better to recover from the swim by walking that short distance and make up the time on the bike.
Bike (40km 24.8mi) 01:41:10
The bike starts with a 1.5 mile climb out of the lake well, about a 9% grade the whole way. The remainder of the course is moderately hilly with only about 1/4 of it being anything even close to "flat". My training partners had switched out to mountain bike gears on their road bikes (at a SIGNIFICANT cost - one of them paid $800). I did not because I thought the money would have been wasted. After riding the Wildflower course, I think it was a good idea. I feel that I could have saved at least 10 minutes if I had the good gears. As it was, I ended up in my 1-1 gear on every climb and my pedal RPM was down to 40 at least once. That was a lot of wasted effort that could have been used to go faster. I visit my LBS tonight to see about making the switch.
The second transition went slow. The air temperature was nearly up to 90 at this point, and my central califonia coast trained body was complaining about the heat. I saw the elapsed time clock on the transition and was pretty happy with my total time. It looked (at this point) that a 3 hours time was possible!
Run (10km 6.2mi) 01:07:25
The first two miles of the run went well. The run course snakes along by the lakeside, through a wooded glade and a campground full of cheering, half-naked college students. That's good for the ego. And then at mile 2.5, the run turns right, and starts up a 2-mile long 1000-foot vertical climb. In the sun. No shade. No water. I know that it only took 25 minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. My left ankle was in agony. My heart felt as if it were about to burst. My lungs were collapsing. My throat was ragged and torn. I stopped at every aid station and drank 3 to 4 glasses of water, pouring another two on my head and body. The end of the run is the same hill as the bike start, but downhill. Even though it was downhill, I could barely breathe, and running took an amazing level of concentration. Running down the finish chute, I could see the elapsed time clock nearing a minute boundary. That chute seemed to lengthen like a corridor in a nightmare, as the seconds continued to tick by. After what seemed like several minutes of sheer pain, I crossed the line.
When I went into this race weekend, I had two goals. First, I had a "target time" of 3 hours and 46 minutes to finish, and secondly, to finish ahead of Kyle. I'm happy to report that I was able to beat my target time, with an overall finish of 3:34:07. Kyle, however, was slightly faster, finishing at 3:24:12.
My next race is in September. I hope to break the 3-hour barrier there.