Triathlon Season In Review

I competed in my one and only triathlon of the season yesterday.  If you want the numbers, they’re here.  Click on the “results” tab at the top center and then the September 6th Black Hills Olympic Triathlon link.  Long story short, I swam, rode, and ran hard and enjoyed myself.  

The swim.  This is my eighth year in a row of doing this race and I love the swim. Everyone else is always bitching and moaning at the start because you stand in a foot of mud. Fifty people times three waves means the water turns dark brown.  I told people it’s “good for your complexion” which drew a chuckle.  I enjoy the swim because it’s not a particularly fast crowd, there’s not that many people in each starting wave, and I can get into open water easily.  The water was glassy and cool, and the underwater vegetation made things more interesting.  

Some Phelps-like fish took off and 5-7 of us formed a chase group.  I was bilateral breathing for the first 300 meters, just stretching it out, and getting into a comfortable rhythm.  I swam just off a person’s hip to the first buoy, but then pulled away.  I pushed hard coming in, but felt good, and was the second person in the geezer (over 40) wave out of the water.  

Due to the 400 meter rocky transition run, I sat down to put on shoes and fumbled mightily with that most basic of tasks. About 5-6 guys that I was pulling through the swim streamed by. Geezer swimmers, be forewarned: next year, no shoes.  At least the BodyGlide worked brilliantly on my ankles and wrists and the wetsuit came off in record time.

The bike.  I don’t love the bike, but I like it.  We ride the roads a lot so I’m familiar with them.  The good news is I went hard and set a personal record bike split.  I passed a lot of people and only got passed two and half times.  The half was when a 63 year old passed me at mile 26 of 29.3 (adjust mph accordingly).  He shook me out of a lull.  I passed him right back on a climb (saying to myself, “Not today grandpa.”  At least I hope it wasn’t audible.).  What’s the time penalty for ageism? Of course the fastest cyclists were ahead of me since I was in the last swim wave and I got passed by the 5-6 guys in T1.  

The bad news, I still give up too much time in this segment.  I finished 18th overall out of 148, and the first 17 all spanked me on the bike.  I give up time riding on a road bike, no aero bars, no fancy race wheels, no aero helmet, but I don’t know how much.  I also need to ride more to get stronger.  I’m improving. If we all live long enough, I’ll close that gap.  

The run.  Love the run too.  Wooded fire trails and single track with some ups and downs.  And another personal record split.  I felt stronger than normal after a hard bike thanks to Portland marathon training.  I got passed by two very good local triathletes in my wave at mile marker 1 and decided I was on the perfect moderate-hard edge so I let them go.  My two and three mile splits were both 6:40’s so that was a very good decision.  If I had tried to hang with them I would have blown up near the end where there are a few hills.  I ran very even mile splits and went as fast as I could go.

One of the two guys that passed me on the run qualified for the world championships at Ironperson Hawaii by qualifying at Ironperson Coeur d’Alene in Idaho in June.  He beat me by 1:02, but his transitions were 1:24 faster.  Put differently, if I transition as fast as him, I beat him by 22 seconds.  Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

So, I set a new course record at my advanced age so that is pretty cool, but there were an unusually large number of fast guys as old or older than Palin, Byrnes, Obama.  I was 5th out of 15 in my age group.  I would have finished second in the 35-39 year old age group.  So maybe I should fib on my age on my entry form next year.

A highlight this year was carpooling and racing with T who is back in town after a year in D.C.  It was fun to catch up a bit.  His googles snapped seconds before the start and he flung them ashore.  Despite swimming through the muck goggle-less he tore up the course and finished second in his age group.  

A lowlight was the take over of the race by a triathlon company.  Already, the vibe is different.  Yeah, I suppose the new crew is more efficient and organized, but it doesn’t feel like a community gathering or a grass-roots celebration of health like it used to.  No articles in the local paper, no kids race through the old barn, no food tables out where kids could grab a piece of fruit, a higher entry fee, a cheaper t-shirt, and interestingly, about 50 fewer participants than normal.    

It was a successful season, except for the final score.  Distant corporation one, local community zero.

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