Sacramento International Triathlon
This was my first triathlon in over a dozen years. I stopped racing tri’s to race bikes exclusively (as a Cat 3) and because I hated water and running. Fast forward 12 years, move 3,000 miles and here I am at the Sac. Intl Tri. It was truly international as I heard a handful of Aussie’s talking about something in ‘nohn-teehn-nonny-non’ – which roughly translates to '1999'.
A lot has changed in 12+ years. First of all, there are a LOT of people who can swim, bike and run – but luckily not all at the same level. I used to be a ‘runner’ back then – if you weren’t a runner, you were a swimmer (they were terrible at everything but swimming then) or a biker – but not really a lot of ‘triathletes’. These days, I’m really a Triathlete who is good at biking, has genetics to smoke the run and I still hate swimming.
Ok, it’s about 6am and there are some 500-600 people milling about as they do, sizing each other up and drooling over the cool bikes (I think of mine as one of the drool bikes – a HED V04 w/HED TT bars, DA parts and HED Stinger 60s – HED has taken great care of me) and many of the guys over the collegiate women. The swim was in a river I think, I didn’t see a current, but am told it was a river. Just days before I told my wife that all triathlons are held in nice locations: at beaches and state parks, along golf courses, in Hawaii, and in pristine lakes. The Sac Intl Tri was no exception – except that the pictures from the year before did not show that it was really in the middle of a freaking INDUSTRIAL MINING COMPLEX. Yeah, that’s right – bulldozers, big trucks, dirt, rocks and lots of scrap metal looking chunks. The swim was in the aforementioned ‘river’ which was down a dirt road, down a paved road and then down a gravel path. After the first trip down I realized that the 1/3 mile run+ would be better with flats on – so I ran back (as a warm up I guess) to grab my sneakers.
It’s 8am, swim start. I don’t like water, I don’t like open water and I don’t like water that you can’t see your own hand when it’s 2 feet from your face. Luckily, this race had all that and more. It was murky – like gravy but thicker and less tasty. Swim start: kick, kick, left arm, right arm… cough, panic. It wasn’t pretty. I did eventually get to buoy #1 somewhere in 150th place (out of 163). I passed a handful of people who actually stopped to hold on to the swim buoy to have a quick conversation. The water flail continued for what seemed to be a shortened version of eternity (think about when you had to go shopping with your mom for clothes for HER when you were a kid – it seemed THAT LONG). I finally figured out that I just had to swim like I do 3-4 days a week and it just started to work. I finished the swim in 126th place – I looked back and there must have been 20 people who drowned because there weren’t many people left.
I (so wickedly smart) got my shoes on and hauled it with a HR of 189 from the water to the transition area – passing some 20-30 people who ran that long distance in bare feet (Lesson 1 learned, recon of the transition areas). I had a lightning fast transition (because I actually practice them 4-5 days a week – no joke) and was out on the bike. I’m at home on the bike like nowhere else – so it was now more fun except for the wind. Actually, for me the wind isn’t bad. I’m 177 lbs and commute in a brutal headwind along the San Francisco waterfront, across the Golden Gate bridge and through Sausalito. I’ve training in 20-40mph headwinds every single day. The course was a clover leaf so you had a headwind then a sidewind and then a tailwind (my friend Stu would call this a ‘wickedly fast’ tailwind). Into the headwind I could hold 18-21mph, sidewind was 22-23 and the tailwind was 27-33+mph. The good part about being a bad swimmer and a good cyclist is that you can pass a LOT of people. I passed well over 100 people in 16 miles. It was fun. But then I had to run. (it was the #2 bike split BTW and I’ve been training 10 months total).
After leaping gazelle-like-gracefully off my bike at EXACTLY the bike dismount line (which again I practice 2x a day x 6 days a week) I T2’d into my shoes and was off. Within 20 meters I realized that I had changed my Yankz! but didn’t adjust them to actually fit my foot (remember that really old lesson about not changing squat before race day? – I didn’t think I could screw up lacing, but then again I did it with my 2 year old daughter on my lap). My feet were asleep before I even hit the run course proper. Since I was there to race, I just kept running. I ran and ran and found out that I could run ok with no feeling in my feet – 2 less things hurting. I passed more people saw my HR go from a delightful 174 on the bike (my max is 194 and my AT is 174) to 180… 182…186 – which was fine because my max was 194. I hit the turn around, grabbed some water and got it all over myself (I still don’t understand how you’re supposed to run and drink from a cup). Heading back I looked down and saw that I had 2 feet still and a HR of 196…198…203. Yah, new max HR. I started thinking about whether or not I could afford to die and figured that since I had already registered for a race on May 20th that I should slow down a tick and try and make it for the next race (I could not see my wife getting a refund from a race direction since they most-always post that ‘NO REFUNDS’ thing which would make my death all that more painful). The finish is now just ahead of me and 4 jackals sprint past me with 200m to go –but I remembered that it was a long season. (it was the #3 run split).
Then end. It was over. I was 5th overall. 126th at the swim exit and 5th overall. It’s a long season.
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