Monday, August 27, 2007

Santa Barbara Long Course Triathlon

I think I'm happy.

After driving down for 5.5 hours to one of the nicest places anywhere in America, I sensed that Santa Barbara was a great location for a race - even if you felt woefully undertrained for one. I'm sort of a baby since I have really only raced sprint distances and one Olympic this season - the long course format was my Ironman: 1 mi/35 mi/10 mi.

I brought my 2 daughters and Mrs P. I think I had talked them into coming out to watch me come in from the run portion of the race - watching a triathlon is the closest thing my wife will do just short of going to hell - I promised that there were palm trees and she could walk 200 meters and she just had to stand and wait. Cocktails were just around the corner I hinted.

I had imagined huge waves - the big kinds that you'd imagine in a tropical location - complete with surfers and sharks. Once I saw the water I realized that I don't even think there was a tide. Apparently the islands offshore break up most of the big wave sets and the swim leg of the race was in a very nice little lagoon like area - sans sharks and surfers.

I did forget and then remembered at 12:30am - the morning of the race - that I had forgotten to put the New Skin stuff on my feet to keep them from blistering. Woke up, set alarm back to 4:45am.

Got up at 4:45am, in a room with 2 sleeping kids and 1 sleeping spouse. Put New Skin on my feet. About 2 mins after application 1 of 3, my wife says 'what is that smell?'. I was in trouble. It works great but smells worse than paint thinner and nail polish. It can also smell up a decent sized hotel room in about 2.4 seconds. I claimed that the air conditioning would make it go away quickly - hoping that I'd be in less trouble. I ate my bagels and drank my coffee. I snuck out the door for the 1/2 mile ride down to the transition area.

The race morning, like all mornings in Santa Barbara was perfect. I didn't even notice if it was warm or cold. There was a lot to think about in order to have a good race. I found a spot in front of the biggest palm tree in the parking lot. I figured that it would be easy to find after the swim. I noticed later that there are about 59,993 other palm trees in the area.

I hopped into the ocean for a short warm up - I always regret NOT doing one, so now it's religious for me. After a few agonizing moments waiting for our wave to queue and spotting one fellow competitor sporting a mask and snorkel - we were off, sprinting into the ocean. The water was cold but after 30 seconds I only noticed the palm trees along the shore as we swam parallel to the short for a 1/2 mile out and then back. I kept and eye on the pack and stayed on course for once - drifting only a few dozen yards out of the optimal line at the most. It was over in 35:30 - not fast but for me it's about getting onto the bike. This was about 530th place out of 750 or so.

I took my time in the transition which included no water to wash the sand off of our feed and a nice little run out of transition and into the street where you would mount up. I struggled to get onto my bike, dropping a shoe, putting it back on the bike and finally sprinting out onto the course. The bike course was fricking hilly. I couldn't keep count of how many hills we climbed - but it was a lot. Luckily there were downhills too. Downhills where you hit over 35mph, on sew up wheels - one of which is a brand new lightweight disc with a field about as packed as an ITU race was interesting. I only yelled at one guy for riding along on the left side of the road as I was splitting groups of riders as a decent clip. I only hoped that when I went between 2 people that they suddenly didn't panic and take me out. I rode 90% of the race on the left side of the road and finally saw some clear road about mile 29 where I put my head down and hammered as hard as I could. At times I was 27-30mph on the flats - a disc wheel makes a world of difference once you're over 23 or so. It's free speed - I'm not sure why more people don't ride one or at least ride aero wheels of some sort. I managed to see Ian who generally whoops me good in the swim by a half-dozen minutes or so regardless of distance. We rode together for about the last 4 miles and headed into transition together. This was about 39th place out of 750 or so.

Since this was a long one - I wasn't going to risk blisters or something that would add an addtional challenge - so I took my time, cleaned the sand off of my feet and put on socks, then shoes. I zipped out of T2 with Ian right on my heels. I think we ran together for about 5 miles until I had to slow down on a long uphill in order to keep from blowing up. Ian is lean and fit whereas I am not lean and sort of fit. I wear black because it's slimming but that doesn't make me any faster on a long uphill run.

Ian dropped me good but I could see him about 100 yards up the road. I slowly put in surges from mile 5 to mile 7 before I could catch him - it really takes a lot to make up time when you're on the limit. He runs steady and fast. I sat on him just looking at his feet from mile 7 until about mile 9.5 where I couldn't continue with his increasing pace. I think I called him a whore for doing that but not sure I said it loud enough.

In the end - he got me by about 30 seconds but I was happy I finished and delighted to have had such a solid run of 1:15 in 10 miles. This was about 105th place out of 750 or so or 25th in our age group of 112.

For once, I was mildly happy with my results. Now I need to improve for next year.

PS - here's a new triatlete who hails from Tiburon. She's the queen bee of our swim group in the Belvedere Lagoon. GO SODA!

PSS - my wife did get her cocktail after the race. I found her with a 2 year old having a fit and a 4 year old with a thumb in her mouth who then asked me if 'she was the fastest still?' (we probably do 2 miles a week of running - mostly sprints together) - she is fast and loves to win. My wife looked at me and said 'it's been a hard morning you know'. What do you say to that? I say, read this blog for some insight into a pretty hilarious trip.

PS(3) - many thanks to Ian Charles who I think is hanging up his tri suit for the season now. He's been a great mentor/coach helping me with everything but my transitions (thank goodness). I'd still be swimming with swim noodle in lane 2 if it wasn't for him. He was a great pacer at Santa Barbara - I just hope I can trick him into either racing at Tinley's on Sept 29th or to sign up for a 1/2 marathon with me this fall.


Ian said...

Loren--you did GREAT and earned a fantastic finish. I think your swim showed a considerable improvement from even two weeks ago and you had a fantastic bike. More importantly, when the going got tough on the run and intensity picked up, you stayed with it. That's an important sign there--its one thing to have speed, it's another to keep the pedal down when it hurts. Nice job my friend! Well done.

Anonymous said...

thanks for pumping my blog, now I might need to write something interesting. Too bad I wasn't around to help Greta out... that was mean to bring her with out help though, those 2 can be a handful, not to mention you.

Sarah said...

Congrats - I'm sure the next one will be even better :)

For your next bike:

"In the top of my thoughts there is always the North: from the Flanders to the Roubaix and the Amstel, they are constructed for a rider like me and I will return to them with the knife between my teeth ready to devour the wheels".

Jessi said...

This post made me miss Santa Barbara. I went to school at UCSB, but sadly back then my idea of a triathlon was smoke, drink, shop. Yuck.