Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Escaped... from the Gorge!

Now REALLY get comfortable... this one will definitely take a while!

After Matt's presentation on Saturday I packed my transition bag and my bike and headed up to Portland. Met up with some college friends and watched the Ducks kick the living CRAP out of Michigan! THAT was shocking huh?!

After that, Slimmer (Gary to those that know him post college), Matt, and I headed out to Cascade Locks for packet pick-up. For those of you that don't know, this was my very first triathlon EVER last year! That's where it all started! Basically it has now turned into an annual event that myself and 3 of my college buddies plan to do until we can barely walk b/c we've had so many hip replacements and we've taken out stock in Geritol!

This is an absolutely GORGEOUS venue for a race. In a nut-shell, you jump off a stern-wheeler into the Columbia River, swim 1.5 miles with the current, hop out and take off on a 18 mile bike that includes rolling hills as well as one KILLER hill of about a 9% grade that lasts for 1.5 miles, then take off on an 8 mile run along a paved trail that's extremely hilly, (though the race description says something along the lines of "slightly rolling hills"), it also includes 4 flights of stairs! ("Don't hate the hills! Hate the race director!" Thanks Bo!) I think the idea is that its supposed to mimic Escape from Alcatraz. If you place within the top 2 of your AG you're awarded a slot to race Alcatraz in June of '09. We were all really happy to see that it was warm and sunny... with little to no wind! Hood River is just to the North and is world famous for its killer windsurfing... i.e. high winds. Last year the weather cooperated and the water was like glass... we had no reason to think that it would be any other way!

After that we hooked up with the 4th Musketeer Jim, he did the Pacific Crest 1/2 IM with me earlier this year, and headed out to some hole in the wall Italian restaurant for last minute carbo-loading. Went back to Matt's house and set-up the bikes... one less thing to do in the morning. After all that pasta I didn't have any trouble falling asleep!

Wake-up was a 0400! Got dressed. Threw the bike in the car and took off for the race... about a 40 min drive. I admit... it's probably b/c I still don't really know what I'm doing... but I like to get to the transition area about 1 1/2 hours before the race! Annoying but true. Anyway... when we got out to the site... it was totally freezing and the wind was HOWLING! No kidding. It was still dark as we set up our transitions (brought the headlamp). We couldn't believe it! After we got our transition set-up we actually piled back into the car and turned on the heat... you know me and the cold... we just don't mix. As the sun began to come up... we looked out onto the river and couldn't believe how rough it was... this was going to be a LONG swim! The race director actually announced that the buoys that he had placed the day before had been blown down-river! That means that the wind was strong enough to actually drag the anchors! CRAP! Eh... who cares... it'll make for a good story! Quick jog for a warm-up, wet suit on, and onto the boat for the trip up river!

The Olympic distance racers board the stern-wheeler first and head to the upper decks. Then the sprinters board. The boat takes off and goes about a 1/4 mile up-river. So we're heading up the river and ALL of us are like, "Holy CRAP this is gonna SUCK!". It was that bad. The boat strains to get about a 1/4 mile up stream and steadies itself for the sprint wave to start. BAM... the gun goes off and they're in the water... looking like a bunch of corks in a bathtub with a fat kid splashing around in it! It was crazy! The kayakers refused to go out on the water it was so rough so they had one jet-ski out there for safety support. We were all watching from the upper deck as they began to pull people out of the water. From what I understand... 7 had to be pulled for safety reasons.... all were ok though. Not exactly a good confidence booster. You could really tell who was new to open-water swimming b/c they were breaking out in a cold sweat. All of a sudden Bo (race director) announced over the loudspeaker that he was shortening the swim to a 1/2 mile! Most of us breathed a sigh of relief. Stern-wheeler headed up-river again, steadied itself... and BAM! There goes the gun.

Swim: I shuffle to the door and jump spread-eagle into the water! FUN! Took a quick look up to find a reference point on the shore and took off... sighting off a peak in the distance that was in the general direction of the water exit every tenth stroke. The waves were unbelievable! You could actually body surf a bit if you caught the right wave. I just overemphasized high elbows and had no trouble with my stroke. What was weird was the amount of "salad" I was grabbing! When things are that rough on the water... I guess things on the bottom get churned up as well. I was with one guy with a neoprene swimming cap the entire time... which was kinda fun actually. Forget about drafting and all that... it felt more like a survival swim. "Steady, high elbow, pull, roll, smooth." I feel my hands dig into some gravel and pop up out of the water... up the steep bank... and I'm sprinting to T1!

Total Swim time: 14:49.9 (1/2 mi, 1:38/100yd pace)

T1: The distance from the water to T1 is roughly a 1/4 mile. I left some trainers at the top of the bank, slipped them on and took off! The shoes were key! (Thnx Matt) Got into the transition area: wetsuit off, shoes on, helmet on, glasses on, gel in mouth, GONE!

Total T1 time: 01:12.1

Bike: I got to the mounting point, clipped in and hit it! Exiting the transition and out onto the road is a fairly short and steep uphill so it was pretty slow going. I actually got passed quite a bit on that little section... but I told myself to relax and let them go... for the time-being. Up onto the flats I opened it up a bit but still kept it under control. Then I realized something, "Hey... its only an 18 mile bike! GO!" BLAM! Now I'm hammering and scorching by guys and gals alike. Knowing that the mother of all hills was coming up I had the fleeting thought that maybe I was going a bit hard... but I ignored it. As I made the final turn before the hill... my motivation faded! It was really weird. My back started to give me a little problem and looking up the 1.5 mile 9% grade hill kinda killed me mentally. It was a really odd thing to be going through in the middle of a race. I just wasn't into it. Then I got passed, the guy says, "Rolling hills my A@$!" I looked to my left and realized it was a guy that I knew in college... not a friend... but the kind of guy that you knew b/c he was a cocky AS*%$#*@! "Oh hey Steve. Nice bike" (a sweet full-carbon Cervelo), "Oh hey... what's up Rob? Later!" Ohhhhhhhh.... that really chapped my hide! Ok pal. It's ON! I let him climb to 3 bike lengths then held him. We continued to grind through the gears and at about 100 yds from the crest of the hill... his cadence faltered... and I accelerated. I went by him.... didn't look over.... didn't say anything... just listened to him sucking for air. The next time I saw him was after the turn-around and I was headed in the opposite direction! SO sweet! I guess that's what I needed... a nemesis... as Drew calls them. I felt great. Didn't take in any more gels after T1 and just sipped some HEED from my aero bottle. I felt kind of full actually... which was strange... but overall I felt great. In the last couple of miles my legs started to fatigue... but it was pretty much flat... so I hammered on into T2!

Total Bike time: 51:27.1 (18 miles, 21 mph avg pace)

T2: Fancy legoverthesaddle dismount and into transition. Helmet off, glasses off, cycling shoes off, running shoes on, grab visor, number belt, and GO!

Total T2 time: 00:56.8

Run: Like I said... this mocks Escape from Alcatraz... so there are hills... go figure. Out of transition my legs felt pretty good considering the distinct lack of bricks I did during the months of August and September. I was right with a guy that I recognized from the Blue Lake Olympic in June earlier this year. We went through our first mile at 7:22... Oooooops... time to pick it up. I left him and was all alone for a bit... then the talkers joined me! I'm runnin along and these two guys come up on me and one of them is an "Excited Loud-Talker"... you know the guy, "YEAH! THIS IS AWESOME! TWO GELS AND SOME GATORADE... I COULD GO FOREVER MAN! HEY! WHAT'S UP! WE COMIN FOR YA! YEAHHHHHH!" you know... that guy. Anyway... he and his quiet buddy pass me on a down hill and I let them go thinkin, boy is THAT dude wasting a lot of energy! Anyway... I ran on and kept the loud guy in site... again... his cadence faltered and I passed him on an uphill. Ok... new nemesis needed! Saw a guy in front of me who had a really nice stride and decided to catch him and hang on for as long as I could. As I got on his heals I looked at his right calf... 43 years old! That dude was hardly breathing! We started chatting and turns out that he did the Pacific Crest 1/2 IM too. We hit the stairs at that point. Now this is something that completely destroys some people's will. Basically you have to run up 4 flights of 10-12 stairs each. It feels straight UP! OUCH! After that it was about 3/4 of a mile to the turn-around. We stayed with each other and started heading back. He slowed for a drink and told me to go... I made a weak attempt at a surge and he quickly caught up and said he was moving on. Told him thanks for the pace and the conversation and let him go. He opened up the gap between us to about 30 yds... and I held him there. The last couple of miles are a gradual uphill. I started to chip away at his lead during that time and caught him with less than a 1/4 mile to go. "Nice JOB!" He said, "Thanks." I said. Then the tape was in sight, "You take it." I said. "Nah, go ahead" he said... and I took off. I felt like Brett minus the Hornet Juice and crossed the line feeling more fresh than I should have!

Total Run time: 57:32.2 (8 miles, 7:11/mile pace)

Final Results:
  • Total Time: 02:06:20.5
  • AG: 3 of 16
  • OA: 16 of 88
Pretty happy about the whole thing actually. We always think that we could have gone a bit faster... pushed a bit harder. My only disappointment is in the run. Considering the amount of talking I did with my buddy... plus how fresh I felt at the finish line... I should have been running sub 7 min miles. This seems to have become a common theme for me. I think it mostly has to do with lack of experience, (4th triathlon) and not knowing exactly how hard I can/should go in a race like this. The absolute WORST part of the whole thing is that I missed qualifying for an Escape from Alcatraz slot by 1 place!!!!! CRAP! Oh well... there's always next year right?

Thanks for reading! I'd love some feedback if you have the time! I'll follow up with some actual race pictures as soon as possible!



kt said...

Way to go stud! Nice race. Sounds to me like you do a lot of thinking when you race. =0) Not always a bad things but when you train do you ever get into the zone. You know the one. Like when you are running at a decent pace, but not totally killing yourself and all of a sudden you have gone 3 or 4 miles without knowing it? That is what I shoot for when I am racing. Get into the moment. Think only about what you are doing right then. (Wouldn't Brett be proud? Very Zen.) Usually if I start to compare my race to those around me, I start to get flustered although I know there are times when a "nemisis" is just what I need. Just some thoughts.

blink140pnt6 said...

Gots to have the nemesis, Whether self inflicted or actual.

Pacing is something you just learn over time. It's individual to yourself and the race your doing.

Looks like your ahead of the curve on that.

Sweet report and Great Race!


Al said...

Great report. Sounds like if you do the race again, you'll hammer it out because knowing the course on the run is always a big plus.

Matt said...

You are the man- man. Good work, sounds like that race was the spittin image of Alcatraz, brutal. For a guy with as much on his plate, and for this not being a focus race- brilliant. That bike was blazin fast. Key thing man, sounds like you had a blast, keeping things fun! The 4 oclock wake up is a bit nuts, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I only wake up that early for fishing!! Next year I will give you even more insider info, and you will win that thing. You are the shizzle my nizzle- Matt