Here’s looking at you…gentle readers.
Do you remember how I wrote a really whiny post on Friday? Thank you for serving as pseudo-psychotherapists for this highly-educated, highly-neurotic endurance athlete! You really went above and beyond the call of duty, I cannot imagine how tedious it must be to wade through a thousand words of over-alliterative prose over-analyzing the disagreeable aspects of my own athletic pursuits.
Despite all of the strum und drang, Saturday’s race was a SMASHING success. I did not drown on the swim. There were no sasquatch attacks to speak of during the bike. My legs felt great during the run. I even ended up placing third in my age-group. I had a great time start-to finish. I’m sad that it took me almost all summer to finally jump back on the triathlon train: I’m already obsessively checking gametiime.com to try and find a few more local events before the end of the season and return of the rain.
Now that we’ve accepted and acknowledged that Sam is totally off-his-rocker, let’s recap this race!
The Deuces Wild Sprint Triathlon is put on by Joint Base Lewis McChord, an operational Army and Air Force installation one hour south of Seattle. The start was scheduled for 9:00 am so I had plenty of time to enjoy my traditional pre-race hunk-a-hunk of burning carbs breakfast.
I topped off my bike’s tires with air, loaded up my trusty Subaru, and set off southward for a morning of multi-sport.
When I arrived at the base, I was politely, yet firmly, informed that I would need a day-pass to gain entry. Apparently there are rules and regulations about exactly who is allowed to access our nation’s fully-functioning military facilities.
Seeing the soldiers in fatigues made me nervous. I am deeply patriotic, however I also happen to be a card-carrying, birkentock-wearing, politically-liberal, mostly-plant-based, mustachioed, freak-a-zoid on wheels. Could “excessive weirdness” get me sent to Guantanamo? How could I make it clear to the fine men and women serving our country on the base that I support THEM wholeheartedly, even if I have trouble supporting some of their organizations actions abroad? What would a triathlon on a military base be LIKE? Are they going to make me get a haircut?
Luckily, getting a guest-pass was a piece of cake. The main office was organized and efficient. Everyone I interacted with could not have been more courteous, or helpful. My experience at the front gate accurately foreshadowed my entire race experience; it turns out races on military bases are extremely efficient, well organized, and they are staffed by courteous people.
I easily located the starting line, and started setting up my transition.
Setting up the transition area always calms me down. The mindless task of laying out all of my gear just-so occupies my thoughts away from any nervousness. Seeing all of my gear nicely arranged and organized gives the obsessive-compulsive part of my brain that drives my endurance pursuits a particularly pleasing itch. As I unpack for each event I take a chance to visualize and strategize how I can run my best race.
Eventually I reached the point where I could not possibly re-locate my shoes, Gus, and towel into any configuration that I hadn’t come up with three times before. I decided to take a look at the swim course. Seeing the route in person always makes the swim feel less overwhelming and intimidating.
I did a quick dynamic stretching warm up (I like Matt Fitzgerald’s), pulled on my wetsuit, and headed over to hear the pre-race briefing. The pre-race briefing started EXACTLY at 8:45. The race director informed us that the courses had been measured and double-checked for distance accuracy. The race director gave us one warning about the bike course: while the volunteers had cleared the majority of visible rocks from the roads, we should keep an eye out for small pebbles that escaped their sweeping…
Did I mention how efficient, and organized this race was? These military triathletes do NOT mess around.
After the briefing we had five minutes before the start of the swim. I took a few strokes out and back, then got into position with the rest of the wet-suited warriors.
The swim was a mass start. I mentioned on Friday that I find the swim to be the most mentally challenging aspect of triathlons. Open water swimming scares me: under the water is dark, you’re surrounded by a frothing flailing mass of human bodies kicking, and it’s difficult to determine if you are swimming in the correct direction. I stayed with the majority of the pack as we rounded the first buoy. I appreciated that I could use the motion of the pack to chart my course, I pretended to be a fish in a school instead of stressing out about whether I was headed in the right direction. Midway to the second buoy, a guy swam right on top of me and I got an elbow to the nose. At that point I decided I was over playing anchovy, and veered for calmer waters at the outside of the pack. Swimming at the periphery was more relaxing, but I definitely payed the price. I found my flow just after I rounded the second buoy, and decided to give my swim a little stronger effort. I felt like Namor the sub-mariner for a few glorious moments util, I peeked my head out of the water to sight and realized I had veered WAY off course. I changed directions to undo my errant ZAG, where I clearly should have ZIGged. The end of the swim was a breeze. Before I knew it, I was up on the beach and into transition one.
I stripped off my wetsuit, velcroed on my bike shoes, buckled my helmet and mounted my trusty steed. I was SO proud of myself for being speed-demon Sam in the transition area, until I glanced at the clock and realized four minutes had elapsed.
I shook off my chagrin and started spinning. The very first thought through my brain as I got onto the bike course was: “Oh yeah, you really LIKE triathlons.” The bike course itself was flat as a pancake, smooth as glass (I didn’t see a SINGLE errant pebble), and entirely devoid of traffic. I got into my masher gear and started grinding away, quickly overtaking quite a few people within the first three miles. I was mostly focusing on the cyclists in front of me throughout the ride, but at one point I looked up and noticed we were riding alongside an artillery practice field complete with tanks and anti-aircraft guns.
Before I knew it I was back in T1, slamming a margarita flavored shot block down my gullet, and tying up the laces on my mizunos.
My run felt great. I passed a few more people. I definitely had the initial jelly-legs feeling, but I was so jazzed up from the bike ride that I was able to find my flow pretty quickly. The run for a sprint is so short I don’t have time to play mind games, sing songs, or repeat mantras. I told myself: “Suck it up, sugar. This race is almost over, time to slide it in to the finish.”
All told, my time was 1:21:22: enough to earn me 3rd in my age-group. I was disappointed to notice that the guy who came in second beat me by one minute and seven seconds. One minute and seven seconds is basically six decades in the world of endurance sports, but looking at both of our splits it is clear that my extra minute did not come from the bike, or the run. Does this mean that I have to start practicing my transitions?
All in all I had a great race. I always love competing, and getting a little positive reinforcement with a cheesy bronze medal was the cherry on top of the sweaty Sunday. I needed the reminder that I am capable of facing my fears. The scary stories I tell myself aren’t nearly so frightening under the bright endorphin-filled daylight.
I hope everybody had a WONDERFUL weekend! Did anyone else race? Got any PRs or juicy stories to share?