Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Cannonman Sprint Triathlon

On Wednesday, August 19, I decided to sign up for my second triathlon (my first one being the disaster that my previous blog post describes). This time around I was hoping for a different outcome, and given that it was a road tri, and a little shorter than the last one, I was hoping to maybe stand on the podium. The only negative at this point was that the race was four days away.

I hit the new Wilson Aquatic Center up at Tenleytown to get a quick 500 meters in and time it to see if I even had a chance on this thing. Twelve minutes later I decided that that time was acceptable and that I was pretty sure I’d be able to make up some time on the bike and run. I had registered as a Clydesdale, a division that was defined by being over 200 pounds (can’t say I’ m the biggest fan of that title, but oh well), this division had 3 more people in it than my age group, so I figured placing in this one would be a little cooler than in a smaller one. That’s just the way my brain works sometimes.

Saturday afternoon I sat in my father’s garage sweating away in the late summer humidity while making sure that this time my bike would stay in one piece. I changed one of the tires, filled both of them with air, latched on my new fancy bike computer, tightened the brakes up a little, and cleaned off the frame; I was ready to go. After packing up the car, grabbing a few Cliff Bars and waters at the nearby gas station, I headed off to Bedford, PA where I’d sleep that night. The next day, I would head about 10 miles west to Shawnee State Park in Schellsburg, PA where the race would be.

Here’s how it all played out. Pulled into a packed Hampton Inn at 11pm. Got my room, arranged my things, got in bed and went to sleep. Woke up at 4:15am, packed my things, ate a toasted bagel with peanut butter and jelly along with a cup of orange juice and headed out for the park. Got to the entrance of the park at 5am, only to find that nothing was there. In fact, the roads were closed. Sweet. Drove around to a side entrance I passed a bit ago and tried that. Success. At 5:25am I parked and walked to the late registration table, got my packet, my timing chip and shirt, and headed back to the car to make sure everything was in order. Pumped up the tires, rearranged my bags (third time, remember that) and headed on down to the transition area to set up.

At 6 am I downed an Odwalla super food drink and started to set up my little space for a smooth transition, just as the sun started to shine through. I placed a large towel right next to the front tire of my bike (the bikes all hang from metal bars, either by the saddle, seat, or handlebars. I chose the saddle, leaving the front tire and handlebars jutting out, and strategically placed all the gear I would need on that towel. My bike shoes were in front, gloves on top, helmet on top of that. Just behind them I put my running shoes, untied. Across from the shoes I placed a smaller towel, a couple pre-opened bags of Cliff Bloks, a water bottle, and my race number, which was attached to a race belt I would snap on as I headed out for the run. Pretty organized, huh? Well, after all that (and the three separate times I rearranged my bag) I finally realized that I forgot my goggles. Go figure, it was going too smoothly up to this point anyway.

Well, whatever, I would either swallow my pride and ask someone if they had an extra set, or “man up” (and wimp out really) and just swim without them. Guess what I did?! The water was really dirty and impossible to see in anyway. Regardless of my problems, at 8am sharp, after checking through a little electronic station to set off our timing chips, we all blasted off for our race. 500 meters swim, 10.5 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run.

The swim sucked. Don’t really have much more to say about that. I finished 56th out of 85. Yeah.

The bike rocked! I ended up passing 44 people in total, nobody passed me, and I felt so good riding along the scenic, country roads. Finishing that leg in just over 34 minutes was nice, and in retrospect, I know there were two or three points where I could have turned it on a bit more, but overall, I was very happy with the ride.

Next came the run. And I was tired. My breathing was very heavy but that’s not what held me back, it was the tightness in my butt - sorry, glutes - and hamstrings (oh right, the two workouts including tire flips and hundreds of reps of squats and lunges on Friday probably wasn’t the smartest move in the world, oh well). About a mile into it the leader passed me coming back. When a counted 10 people I knew I wasn’t in the top ten and it got to me a little, so I picked it up a notch and kept that faster pace to the turn-around and all the way back to the finish. I ran a 25 minute flat run, which is just a few seconds slower than an 8 minute per mile pace (slow for me on a shorter run), and leaving me crossing the finish line at 1:12:52, good enough for 21st overall out of 85.

When the official announcements came in I was happy to see that I came in second in my division (and 4th in my age group)! It was pretty cool being able to stand up on the podium and get a medal.

In the end, I had an amazing time. Triathlon is a great sport and really a test of athleticism that anyone can participate in. I know I’ll be signing up for a good amount of them over the next few years, leading to the ultimate goal of finishing an Ironman (a 2.4 mile swim seems a little too much for me right now - like, waaaay to much). But for the time being, I’ll keep heading on out to the Wilson Aquatic Center, blasting away on my wonderful Cervelo, and getting my runs in left and right. I know that with a little practice I’ll be right up there in the top finishers for some of these sprint races.

Never Stop, GET FIT

Josh Courage

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