Friday, November 28, 2008

Clearwater Race Report... the finale!

Ok. Try to imagine heading into a race with zero anxiety, zero expectations, and zero pressure. That is exactly how I felt when I toed the line in Clearwater. Let's face it. I was just lucky to be there.

BOOM! The cannon fires!

The night before, Liz and I had specifically discussed the swim start. We had decided that getting caught in the chaos wasn't the best plan considering my shoulder. So, when the cannon went off... I casually strolled behind the mass of 200 elbow-throwing 35 to 39 year olds and entered the water at an easy, high-kneed jog. Once the water was about mid-thigh, I dove in and took my first strokes. I was still in the pack but needed to break out and find some clear water. I accelerated as if nothing had ever happened to my shoulder. Yeah. I KNOW!
Can you believe it? I was all of a sudden clear of the pack and heading out on my own. Not in front... but just behind the really fast guys. I was actually smiling underwater! I hadn't hit my watch at the start... I didn't want to come out of the water looking at my watch and getting dejected... so I was just out there swimmin... comfortably. I exaggerated my reach and body rotation and just swam. As I came up on people... I'd hit the throttle and pass. I had ZERO issues in the water! SO FUN! I came out feeling completely fresh and ready to go to work on the bike.

T1 was actually enjoyable! Wet suit strippers and a little dude following me into the tent to take my stuff... probably the smoothest transition to the bike that I've ever had.

On the bike the plan was to get things warmed up a bit and not go crazy out of the gate. I have had a tendency to go too hard within the first 20 min... so I just took it easy and let people go. I had 4 gels taped to my top tube and a bottle of Gatorade Endurance and water in my bottle cages behind my seat. As I passed the 1 mile marker and was taking a left turn, I hit a pretty serious bump... and launched BOTH of my bottles! Yeah. Seriously? I just started laughing maniacally! I mean really... what ELSE could go wrong in this race? SO... on I pedaled until I reached the first aide station. I was able to grab a Gatorade and a water and get them back in the cages... only to launch my Gatorade 50 yards down the road. Uh huh. See... this is what I'm saying! Its a comedy of errors at this point! Luckily, on a whim I had grabbed some Endurolytes and shoved them in my race kit... I just sucked down a few of those plus some water and I was good to go until the next aide station.

Riding in this race is a LOT like riding your trainer... there's just no letting up. You hammer, hammer, hammer... and then you hammer some more. There's a point where you find a rhythm... and you just go. I was feeling really strong on the bike. I had decided to go without any data whatsoever. No speed. No cadence. No watts. No HR. Just me and my bike. To be honest, it was GREAT! All I had to look at was the road and the scenery and my fellow competitors. I wasn't constantly checking my wattage to make sure I was working hard enough... I was just GOIN! I LOVED it! Liz might say otherwise... but I'm pretty sure that from here on out... I won't be competing with data.

Anywho. The ride was going fine. I won't go into it in detail... but there are a TON of drafting cheater-pants out there! Totally infuriating. I saw some Austrians actually slapping high fives they were working so well together. At times, catching a draft was completely unavoidable. When you're barreling down a residential street 4 deep and you're boxed in both in the front AND the rear... what exactly are you going to do? I found early on that if you put forth the extra effort to surge over and over and over to get out of a group... you'd waste yourself. SO... I did the best I could staying out of the draft and staying legal... I can be confident that I rode the best legal ride that I could have.

Here's where it got interesting. Around mile 30ish of the bike... on a long, flat stretch of the road, I had a guy challenging me coming up on my left. I noticed him a little too late to respond so as soon as his front wheel crossed the plane of mine... I let up. As I backed off on the throttle a little bit, I looked up to see a red car turning directly in front of us. Yeah. Not kidding. At each intersection of this race... you had cones, police, and volunteers ensuring that no one gets in the way of the bikes. Well, this guy snuck through. He came from the opposite direction and took a left-hand turn... STOPPING right in front of us!!! Yeah. Stopping. So the guy on my left is able to squeeze around the backside of the car... me? I can't go left b/c that means taking him out. I can't go right b/c that puts me into the curb. I can't lay the bike down b/c that would definitely mean the end of the race for me. SO... at roughly 25 mph, I lead back and slam on my breaks. I run straight into the right-side passenger door, launch up and over my aero-bars, and slam my upper torso on the roof of the car! I slide back down and launch into the loudest, most profane string of expletives you could ever imagine. I spin my front wheel to make sure its not completely torqued, put my chain back on and take off like a bat outta hell! Pure adrenaline! I was bound and determined to catch the pack that had made it around the car! I might have paid for that surge... about 20 minutes later... the adrenaline abated... and I was TIRED! My attitude was still in tact though... and I actually laughed a little bit. Coming into T2, I knew it was going to be a painful run.

I rolled into T2, passed off my bike to one of the catchers, got my shoes on and sprinted to the porta potty! Yeah... I don't know about you... but I've never successfully peed on the bike in a race. SO... I spent the next 5 minutes trying to empty my very cramped bladder! LOL... I was cracking up in the porta potty... and got the oddest looks from the volunteers when I came out.

So, my plan for the run? I threw that thing out the window. Mentally and physically I was in survival mode. So much had happened and I just wanted to run as well as I could. The first mile clicked by and I nailed the pace... I was right on target... but that didn't last long. Apparently, when I had hit the car and launched up onto the roof, my left quad and my right knee had caught the aero bars on the way up... as a result... my quad was in a cramped state the entire run. I just couldn't hold the pace that I started with and and struggled to hold a 7:30/mile pace. I was cramping in my left quad, my right hamstring, and my right calf... and slowing down or walking didn't help in the least. I simply kept running and took in as much fluid as I could at each aide station. It was a hot day. According to Bigun it was in the low 80's. It FELT to me like it was in the 90s! Though I wasn't hammering the run as I had hoped... I was working as hard as I possibly could. Because its a two loop run... I got to see Liz out there workin hard... she even managed to grunt at me once. I also saw Mirinda... who didn't look terribly happy... but I told her she looked fabulous anyway. When I hit the final turn-around... I was kinda done. I did a little mental wrestling with myself. I knew I was on the home stretch. I also knew that I was having a crap run... so the question was, do I finish hard... with a push? Or do I just kinda glide in. I looked up and I saw a guy who's back I had looked at the entire race. His name was Jason. I wanted to beat Jason. So I pushed. As I passed the 12 mile marker... I got to see Tacboy and Bigun... though it was good to see them... I couldn't manage more than a grunt at that point. I caught Jason... he was fading. As I got on his shoulder, I paused there. He was cramping and not having a good time. "Come on Jason... let's go". THAT was a mistake! The little encouragement that I gave him made him take OFF! The bastard. I kept my eye on him and didn't drop my pace... catching him in the last quarter mile and passing him. We had a good laugh about it later.

I crossed the line... completely spent... and completely happy. I still had no true perspective on what my actual time was. Of course I wanted to know... but to be honest... just finishing this particular race was enough for me. Starting on Wednesday morning, everything seemed to be lining up against me... and I saw it through. That was a big deal. I didn't have my standard emotional reaction to finishing... I was just glad to have done it.

Turns out that I did ok. I PR'd the swim by 4 minutes and the bike by 12 minutes. Overall... I set a 17 minute PR at this distance with a total time of 4:40: n change. Yeah... you could say I was happy. But... just think what I could have done had I been healthy!!!!! *wink wink*

Hey! Thanks for reading! I know that my race reports can be long and drawn out... but that's how I am. I take my time. Its more enjoyable that way.

Here's to the off-season! I'm in the process of eating... and eating... and eating. Hope you're all happy, healthy, and whole.



beth said...

Who cares about your time? (even if it is TOTALLY badass as it is) look HOT and that's always what counts.

Molly said...

Nice job. I can't imagine anyone else dislocating their shoulder, losing their bottles, and hitting a car yet coming out so darn happy AND with a kickass time.

E.L.F. said...

Rob, you overcame more obstacles in 48 hours than most people do in a year. You have proven, once again, that you are a champ. Plus you're damn funny to boot. Now, get back to eating your pie!

Jamie said...

Awesome race Rob! I can't imagine racing without any data. I guess I've gotten too defendant on my HRM.

I'll definitely have to try that one day, but not for my A race!

E.L.F. said...

PS - Rob, I'm not a huge fan of data during races...I am a big fan of having fun and doing what you know how to do on race day, that which you have practiced in training and seen in my your mind for months.

Al said...

Frickin amazing...going over the roof of the car on top of your airport crash...GEEZ!! Way to stay with it and you still crushed everything. Nice report!

Anonymous said...

ok - ok....really?
Are you kidding?
Are you typically accident prone? I ask because that is just...well...nuts! What an accomplishment to PR with all that chaos!! Great job Rob.
Just year? Maybe you can set your sights on: being chased by a shark, attempting to run over a squirrel on your bike and running without shoes. It seems you like the challenge!

Di said...

Strong Work! Despite the many obstacles you overcame them and went out there and performed like a triathlete should...and you are an inspiration. Enjoy the off-season and several holiday pies. Looking forward to your blogs in 2009.