Swim: 0 m/83,300 m
Bike: 18.9/646 miles
Run: 12.1/196 miles
I have a triathlon coming up in about a week, and today was the day to get out on the course and see what I’m in for. The swim is open water, the run is mostly on trails and the ride is, um, hilly. Here’s the scoop:
The ride: I went out today to join a large group for a pre-ride of the course. I set off with my friend John and a couple other riders who had already ridden the 19-mile course once before I arrived. I drove the course a couple weeks ago and knew that it featured a pretty gradual rise on the way out and, therefore, a nice descent for much of the return.
The ride out was pretty uneventful – my legs were really tired from a hard run yesterday and the weight work I’ve been doing for four weeks now, but I was feeling OK on the rolling hills. But then came the Big One – the hill just before the turnaround that has become something of a course legend. It was tough – I was standing and mashing the pedals, and I felt like I would be going faster if I just got off and walked. (Note for next time – switch your front gear to the small ring, dummy.)
The payoff for climbing 9.4 miles is that you get to descend on the way back. Nothing feels better after a hard climb than effortlessly speeding downhill. I reached a top speed of 39 mph, which is the fastest I’ve ever been on a bike. It was a lot of fun. Until about Mile 17, when I crashed.
It all happened pretty quickly – I hit some rough patches of road while riding in aero, which means I couldn’t steer effectively and couldn’t hit the brakes. The rough pavement pushed me toward the right edge of the road, directly into an area where the asphalt was missing two large chunks. I knew I was going down and there was nothing I could do about it except brace myself. I hit the holes dead on and skidded off the side of the road.
Fortunately I wasn’t injured, other than some nice scratches on my arm. But when I fell I heard my wedding ring hit the road and roll away. I was mortified, mainly because it’s been too loose for a while and my wife keeps telling me to get it resized. But then other bikers started showing up. It was amazing – everyone who rode by stopped to see if I was OK. When I told them I was fine but lost my ring, they stopped to help look for it. I was overwhelmed by the friendliness and generosity of the growing crowd of dozens of riders helping me out. Someone finally found it and we all carried on our way.
My right forearm took the brunt of the fall, so it was very painful to get back in aero for the last couple miles. I just rode it out on the flats and ended up covering the entire ride well over 19 mph. Looks like that speedy downhill return really helped balance the slow climbs on the way out.
The run: When I returned to the parking area, a random runner asked if I wanted to run the 5k course. I did, so I said yes. Turns out Bruce was a really nice guy who is also racing his second triathlon. We had many things in common and I enjoyed running and chatting with him. He also held a strong pace – we hit about a 7:18 average for the run, even while chatting.
The course is mostly on trails. They’re nice trails, mostly flat and shady, but still kind of thin for an out-and-back run. There might be some congestion when 500 runners are on the course. There’s also about a half-mile segment on neighborhood roads. It was pretty flat but also pretty hot and sunny on the exposed asphalt. It was a relief to get back on the trail.
The swim: I didn’t swim the course today, but I checked it out a couple weeks ago on the same day I drove the bike course. The race is staged in a local park, and I brought my daughter along on that trip so we could have a little fun. We walked down to the shore and out on the dock, where we splashed in the water and enjoyed the river.
The next day I saw an article in the newspaper that said police had found a dead body at the same park, in the same area where my daughter and I played. And they had found it only a couple hours after we had been there the day before! Not only did this make me wonder how I would have explained it to my 3-year-old if we had seen the body during our visit, but it made me think about making that kind of discovery during my open-water swim!
I don’t mean to make light of the personal tragedy of this man’s life (he had apparently jumped from a bridge just upriver a day earlier), but we triathletes have enough to think about when facing an open-water swim. The last thing I need to worry about is bumping into a corpse while I’m trying to stay afloat!
Despite all that, I’m feeling pretty good about this race. Not because I plan to set the course on fire and place in my age group, but exactly the opposite. I have no expectations for my performance, and my only goal is to get out there and have fun. So what if I take an extra 30 seconds in transition, or if I don’t pass every runner on the trail? It’s going to be a tough race, so I’m just going to give it what I’ve got and be happy with it.
Unless I hit a dead body.