Sunday, August 5, 2007

Triathlons are hard.

I competed took part in my first-ever triathlon yesterday, the Top Notch Triathlon up in Franconia, NH.

It sounded so easy - 6.5 miles of biking (3.5 on paved roads, 3 on trails), followed by a half mile swim, then a 2.5 mile run/hike. I'm a fat lazy guy and I'm pretty sure that I could do that in my sleep.

And then I found out that there's a 1040 vertical foot rise in the cycling part. And 2280 more in the hike. (Thankfully, the swim was pretty level (har har)) I probably should have looked into that before I went out there.

I didn't really have much in the way of goals for the triathlon. You may not have known this about me if you skimmed above, but I'm fat and lazy and really all I did to prepare for this was ride my sweet new bike a lot. Unfortunately, that was about all the preparation I did for the race.

I took a look at the numbers (before I noticed the vertical climb advertised) and I wasn't even going to bother swimming in preparation because I'm fat and fat floats and I could swim all day when I was 10 years old. I wasn't going to run because I don't like to run all that much anymore. The little running I did didn't help, but I'm glad I got a few laps in swimming before I got out in the lake so I wasn't in for such a huge slow surprise.

The second-biggest surprise of the day was how poorly I did biking - I started at the back of the second pack and was passing suckers left and right on the road portion. I was keeping a pretty leisurely pace - I knew that it was only 6.5 miles, but I also knew that I didn't want to burn myself out cycling. The trail ride was a different story.

I've never ridden in packs off-road. I've ridden with two or three people, but mostly on fire roads or where we had the luxury of spacing out well enough to not interfere with one another, and with people at about the same skill level as me. The trails we were on were double-track in some parts, but mostly single-track with roots and rocks and muck on the other side for passing lanes (where there were any), which meant you had to work considerably harder to pass people. I was trying to conserve energy, so I didn't do a whole lot of passing.

Except I sort of had to, because there were people who were really slow and really unsteady out there. I was not prepared for people to be slowing down for every mid-sized rock, every root, every mud bank out there and had to dab a couple of times and fell once when someone abruptly braked and cut left across my front wheel for no good reason. It was tough on me because riding alone, I'm used to keeping up the cadence that I want to keep up and go the speed I like. Out here, I was constricted to keep up an awkward cadence and go slower than I would have liked - it wasn't until well into it (maybe a mile left) that the light bulb went on above my head and I realized "hey, maybe I should shift up to an easier gear to keep up the cadence I want even at this pretty crawling pace" and things got easier at that point.

Then on to the swimming! I knew I'd be slow because I'm in such awful shape that I can't even maintain a freestyle for more than a few hundred yards. Can I blame that one on the broken collarbone and ribs circa 16 months ago even though they don't hurt me? The water was 70 degrees and felt pretty damned nice to get into right after I got off my bike. I was going as slow as I expected to go, but I wasn't gassed by the time I got out of the water, so I figured I was doing pretty OK.

I'm not in as much pain as I look here, just squeegeeing my hair and trying to keep the water from getting in my eyes/contacts. OK, maybe I am as tired as I look. Thankfully, there are no 10 year old girls racing ahead of me in this picture.

I expected there to be some change station where I could get my other change of clothes on for the third leg but there wasn't, so I just toweled off a little, dried my feet and put on my socks, strapped on my camelbak, and started up the mountain in my bike shorts. For anyone that was stuck behind me, I'm so very sorry about that.

I'd run a whopping 10 miles in preparation for this, so I figured I'd run as far up the mountain as I could. Once I got a look at the first hill you take off up and its vertical incline, that thought went straight out the window.

The hike was, well. Kind of brutal. At parts it was sand and loose rocks, not a winning combination by any stretch of the imagination. Other parts it was ledge (exposed slabs of rock). All of it was steep, steep, steep. There were a few short legs where it flattened out or had a slight decline, but mostly it was uphill and then some. The early part of it wasn't that bad - I wasn't trying to sprint up there, so I slowed down a bit and chatted with a few people on the way up and that was alright.

By the time I'd made it to the first water station, I was wondering how much further it was. By the time I passed the second water station, I was worrying how much further it was because I was starting to get worried. There were other people stopping to take a break from time to time and I wanted to as well, but my legs were starting to tighten up pretty bad and I was worried that if I stopped, I'd cramp up and make my life a hell of a lot tougher.

In my head before the race, no sweat. I'll run as much as I can, hike the rest and sprint to the finish. There was no sprint to the finish. I grabbed a bottle of whatever bottled water they were handing out on the finish line (even though I still had a good 30 oz. of water in my camelbak) because my brain was fairly mush at that point. As in - me even dumber than usual which is hard to compute.

I am as tired and confused as I look in this picture. And then some.

The cramps were still creeping up on me, so I stood in the shade for a few minutes sipping my water and started to feel better, so we took the tram back down the mountain to go collect my bike and head back to the starting point so I could change out of my bike shorts and sweaty shirt and check my final time.

I scatterbrained the post-race tie-up activities multiple times, so it was multiple trips back there and eventually they had my time posted - 2 hours, 4 minutes. I finished 195th (198th? again, scatterbrained) out of, uh. I don't know how many people. My number was 318, so I'm employing my advanced mathematics training and figure that I finished in the top 2/3rds of the race which is a gentleman's pass any way you slice it. I remember that I was 178th in the biking and 20th out of 22 in my age division (WHAT ABOUT BMI DIVISION, BIGOTS?), neither of which I'm really proud of. The biking especially I'd like to make excuses for - I didn't know how hard I could push, the cadence thing throwing me for a loop, yadda yadda, but whatever. I wasn't competing, it just seemed like something fun to do. And it was.

Except for that goddamned hike.

Now that I've swam a lake and climbed a mountain, picking up functional programming should be a piece of cake, amiritefolks?

1 comment:

Desserts said...

Hey Dave,

I found you... not sure how... but I love this post about the triathalon! :) So brave to put sweaty running exhausted pictures up there too LOL. Great job completing it!

Hope all is well and your holidays are going smoothly.

Talk to you soon!